Nuthurst: Economic history

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1987.

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'Nuthurst: Economic history', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987) pp. 103-106. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]

In this section


Agriculture. Much of the parish originally provided woodland pasture for manors in the south of the county: thus land in the centre belonged to Fécamp abbey, lord of Steyning, while Sedgewick in Little Broadwater belonged to Broadwater manor. (fn. 1) Tenants of Fécamp at Steyning still apparently practised transhumance to Nuthurst in 1228, (fn. 2) and pannage was still being taken in the 15th century. (fn. 3) By 1326 or earlier part of the parish was evidently included in Sedgewick park. (fn. 4) There was also arable in the parish by the 14th century, (fn. 5) though the 50 a. recorded at Newells farm in 1350 were described as 'very sterile' and often too wet to work. (fn. 6)

The dominant manor in the Middle Ages was Shortsfield in Horsham, representing the Wealden portion of the Fécamp estates. Its extent in Nuthurst can be deduced from the location of lands belonging to it in later centuries which included Saxtons farm near Monk's Gate and land at Mannings Heath and at Birchen bridge in the north part of the parish, and Micklepage farm and other land at Maplehurst in the south. (fn. 7) In the east much land belonged to Nutham manor, also in Horsham; tenements held of it in the 18th century included Newells and Cooks farms, and Reynold's farm and Swallowfield near Monk's Gate. (fn. 8) In 1830 Shortsfield and Nutham manors were said to extend over most of the parish, (fn. 9) and in 1870-1 there were still 13 tenants of one or other manor in the parish. (fn. 10)

There were tenants of Sedgewick manor apparently as early as 1222; (fn. 11) later their lands lay not only in Little Broadwater, but also in Nuthurst parish, including Rickfield and Mannings farms in the north and Botting's farm west of Nuthurst village. (fn. 12) In the 15th century or later there were tenements in the parish of the manors of West Grinstead, (fn. 13) Wallhurst (in Cowfold), (fn. 14) Knepp (in Shipley), (fn. 15) Denne in Warnham, (fn. 16) and Chancton (in Washington), of which land at Copsale was held in the 19th century. (fn. 17)

Between 1549 and 1573 Sedgewick park, which lay in Little Broadwater, Nuthurst, and Horsham, was disparked, (fn. 18) and divided into small farms which in 1650 were of between 11 a. and 136 a. in area, the demesne lands attached to Sedgewick Lodge comprising 324 a. at the same date. (fn. 19) In 1608 the former park had lain largely in closes of between 1 a. and 20 a. in size, mostly smaller rather than larger; most of the land was then pasture, the 100 a. held by Edward Botting, perhaps the same as the later Botting's farm, being entirely so. (fn. 20) Part of the rest of the parish was perhaps assarted at about the same time, for several rural farmhouses of the 16th or 17th century survived in 1981. By c. 1700 there were over 60 farms in the parish, (fn. 21) more apparently than at any later date. Crops grown in the 17th century included wheat, oats, peas, and beans, while sheep, cows, and pigs were kept. (fn. 22) Marling the land was practised by 1632. (fn. 23)

The extreme north-east part of the parish, including Holme farm, was largely reclaimed from heathland between 1724 and 1795. (fn. 24) In the 18th century farms seem to have remained generally under 100 a.: Newells farm had 80 a. in 1714, Copsale farm 90 a. in 1733, (fn. 25) and Seaman's farm and Swallowfield in the north-east 80 a. each in 1743. (fn. 26) One larger farm at the end of the century was Cooks, which had 248 a. in 1795. (fn. 27) In 1830, however, most farms were said to be less than 150 a. in area. (fn. 28) In the 1840s the parish together with Little Broadwater was dominated by three big estates, those of J. T. Nelthorpe of Sedgewick in the centre, Robert Aldridge of St. Leonard's house (in Lower Beeding) in the northeast part, and the Burrells of West Grinstead in the south. Most of the land was tenanted, there being at least 40 farms, some as small as 10 or 12 a. in area. (fn. 29) In 1851 twenty-five farmers held farms of between 4 a. and 350 a. but mostly less than 100 a. (fn. 30) Three in 1855 doubled as blacksmith, miller, or grocer. (fn. 31) Leases of 14 and 17 years had been recorded in the 18th century. (fn. 32) In 1862, however, the 8 farms into which the Sedgewick estate was divided were all held on yearly tenancies, (fn. 33) as were some farms on the St. Leonard's house estate in 1878. (fn. 34) In the late 18th century wheat was said to produce on average 16 bu. an acre. (fn. 35) Wheat and oats were the chief crops returned as grown in the parish in 1801, besides some peas, but little barley. (fn. 36) Two years later c. 270 head of cattle, 811 sheep, and 289 pigs were listed. (fn. 37) One farm in the 1830s grew wheat, oats, barley, beans, peas, and tares; sheep, pigs, and cattle were kept. (fn. 38) By the 1840s arable land dominated the tithable area of the parish and of Little Broadwater: c. 1,950 a. in the two places were then cultivated, while less than 650 a. were meadow or pasture. (fn. 39) In 1849 wheat raised in the parish was said to be 'exceedingly fine'. (fn. 40)

Between the mid 19th century and the mid 20th some farms in the parish were large. Two on the Sedgewick estate each comprised between 240 a. and 300 a. in 1867-8. (fn. 41) Of 51 holdings in the parish in 1909, however, only one was over 300 a., (fn. 42) and in 1938 there were five farms over 150 a. (fn. 43) Four chief landowners still dominated the parish in 1867. (fn. 44) Part at least of the Aldridges' estate was kept in hand in 1866, and in 1874 part of the Sedgewick estate was managed by a farm bailiff. By 1909, when some smaller landowners also employed bailiffs, (fn. 45) the amount of owner-occupied land was about the same as that of rented land. (fn. 46) Fifty years later, on the other hand, eight of the ten farms on the Sedgewick estate, which then comprised much of the parish, were let. (fn. 47)

Meanwhile the character of agriculture in the parish had changed from predominantly arable to predominantly pastoral, supplying milk for the London market. (fn. 48) In 1875 the area of crops returned was 1,697 a., chiefly wheat and oats, while only 759 a. was permanent grass, 334 cattle, 503 sheep, and 153 pigs being listed. By 1909 the area under permanent grass had risen to 1,824 a., with increased numbers of livestock, while the arable acreage was much reduced. (fn. 49) Rickfield farm in the north-west corner of the parish near the river Arun was chiefly meadow in 1897. (fn. 50) The quality of the grassland in the parish, however, was said in 1906 to be poor. (fn. 51) In 1938 one cattle breeder was listed, besides a pig breeder and a pig dealer. (fn. 52) In 1959 most of the farms on the Sedgewick estate specialized in raising livestock or dairying, (fn. 53) a herd of pedigree Guernseys there having been built up since the Second World War. (fn. 54) Other sorts of agriculture were also practised in the parish from the later 19th century. There were 10½ a. of orchards and market gardens in 1875, and 11 a. of orchards in 1909, producing especially apples and pears. (fn. 55) There were nurserymen in 1938 at Mannings Heath and at Copsale. Poultry farmers were recorded at Monk's Gate in 1895, and there were two poultry farmers in the parish in 1938. (fn. 56)

In the mid 1960s there were c. 36 holdings in the parish, including over 20 milk producers, but also a poultry farmer and tomato and mushroom growers at Copsale. In 1977 milk production and the raising of beef cattle continued, but sheep had increased in numbers; poultry farming meanwhile had declined, but there was still a turkey farm rearing c. 4,000 birds a year. (fn. 57)


The parish presumably supplied both timber and underwood in the Middle Ages. (fn. 58) In 1579 Thomas Fry as lessee was licensed to take 1,200 cords of underwood annually at Sedgewick and elsewhere. (fn. 59) In the early 1590s timber trees were being felled at Sedgewick to repair the manor houses of Sedgewick and Chesworth in Horsham. (fn. 60) A Berkshire timber merchant bought 440 oaks standing on land at Nuthurst in 1735, (fn. 61) and two timber merchants were mentioned in the parish in 1728 and 1766. (fn. 62) Underwood, however, was perhaps a more important product in the 18th and 19th centuries than timber. Four coppices were recorded on Cooks farm near Nuthurst village in 1795, (fn. 63) and several others were named in the 1870s in the north half of the parish. (fn. 64) Hazel and chestnut were still coppiced in the mid 20th century. (fn. 65)

Besides the timber merchants mentioned, other parishioners whose living came from the abundant woodland were carpenters recorded from 1553, (fn. 66) 'colliers' (i.e. charcoal makers) from 1585, (fn. 67) and wheelwrights from 1720. (fn. 68) In the second decade of the 19th century there were two carpenters, a wheelwright, a sawyer, and a broom maker. (fn. 69) A charcoal burner was mentioned in 1845, and a wood dealer in 1882, who in 1895 also sold hoops and brooms. There was still a firewood dealer in 1938, (fn. 70) and a hurdle maker after the Second World War. (fn. 71) After the break-up of the Sedgewick estate in 1959 (fn. 72) there was much re-afforestation north-east of Sedgewick Park house. In 1981 much of that area was managed by a private company, and other woodland in the east and north-east by the Forestry Commission; both hardwoods and conifers were grown. (fn. 73)


The mill recorded on Sedgewick manor in 1326 (fn. 74) may have been at Birchen bridge since the iron forge that later occupied that site was apparently held of Sedgewick. (fn. 75) The forge had been succeeded before 1719 (fn. 76) by another corn mill, which existed for the next two centuries. In 1855 the miller was also a farmer. (fn. 77) By 1937, though still working, the mill was no longer water-powered. (fn. 78) It ceased to operate apparently soon afterwards (fn. 79) and the mill building was later demolished. Another water mill existed at Copsale in the 1840s, but was disused by 1896. (fn. 80) It was demolished before 1981, when the mill pond was largely dry.

Other trade and industry.

Stone was being quarried at Sedgewick in the early 15th century and possibly in the early 16th. (fn. 81) Field names including the elements 'stone pit' were recorded in the 1840s near Sedgewick Park. (fn. 82) The right to dig for stone at Sedgewick was leased by the Crown in 1583, (fn. 83) and was reserved in 1642. (fn. 84) A stoneheler and a stonelayer were recorded in the later 17th century, (fn. 85) when stone was apparently being quarried on Mannings heath. (fn. 86) In 1830 large amounts of sandstone were being quarried at Sedgewick for paving and roofing, (fn. 87) and in the last quarter of the 19th century quarrying was being carried on east of Mannings Heath, where a stone merchant was recorded in 1874 and 1895. (fn. 88) The activity apparently ceased soon afterwards, and in 1977 no stone was being quarried in the parish. (fn. 89)

In the 16th and 17th centuries there was an iron forge at Birchen bridge, for which a large pond was created. It existed in 1598 (fn. 90) and perhaps also in 1583 when the Crown leased the right to dig for iron ore on Sedgewick manor. (fn. 91) An iron-ore digger was mentioned in the parish in 1588. (fn. 92) The forge at Birchen bridge was apparently recorded again in 1627, (fn. 93) and perhaps still existed in 1642, when the right to dig for ore at Sedgewick was reserved by the Crown in a lease of the estate. (fn. 94) The forge had gone, however, apparently by 1653 (fn. 95) and certainly by 1715. (fn. 96) Two fields called 'iron field' north of Copsale hamlet in 1845 perhaps also supplied ore. (fn. 97)

Other tradesmen recorded before 1700 were tailors in 1450 and later, (fn. 98) tanners in 1591 and 1662, (fn. 99) weavers in 1643 and 1684, two blacksmiths c. 1690, and a shoemaker in 1694. (fn. 100) In the 18th and early 19th centuries there were usually several tradesmen in the parish at any time; (fn. 101) one less common trade was that of glovemaker recorded in 1818. (fn. 102) In 1821 one in eleven families in work was supported chiefly by non-agricultural employment, and in 1831 one in four. (fn. 103)

After the mid 19th century tradesmen were to be found in the newer hamlets of the parish rather than in Nuthurst village. In the 1840s Maplehurst and Mannings Heath each had a smith and a wheelwright, (fn. 104) and in 1874 Mannings Heath also had a shopkeeper, a general dealer, and a butcher. At Monk's Gate there were a shoemaker in 1862 and a shopkeeper in 1874. By the late 19th century the two last named places were the chief centres of trade in the parish. Two corn merchants, each with other interests besides, were recorded in the parish in 1882 and 1895, and an earthenware dealer and a plumber in 1895. (fn. 105)

In the earlier 20th century there continued to be various tradesmen in the four hamlets, for instance a blacksmith at Maplehurst. (fn. 106) In 1981 there were a builder, a firm making industrial clothing, and a garage at Monk's Gate, but the only shops then remaining in the parish were at Copsale and at Mannings Heath. (fn. 107) Much employment before the Second World War was also provided by the large landed estates, (fn. 108) the Sedgewick estate having at one time 3 gamekeepers, several grooms, a chauffeur, and 8 gardeners, besides indoor staff. (fn. 109) There was a stud farm at Copsale in 1922, and a riding school in the parish in 1977. (fn. 110) After 1945 the population included a growing number who travelled daily to work in Horsham, London, or elsewhere; in 1965 it could, nevertheless, still be said that farming was the chief occupation. (fn. 111)


  • 1. Above, manor; cf. below.
  • 2. Pat. R. 1225-32, 219. The link between Steyning and Nuthurst survived in the late 15th cent. when one man owned an estate in Steyning and 60 a. of pasture at Copsale in Nuthurst: P.R.O., C 1/93/45.
  • 3. Arundel Cast. MS. A 1851; P.R.O., SC 6/1035/16, rot. 2.
  • 4. Above, manor.
  • 5. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 392.
  • 6. Cal. Inq. p. m. ix, p. 270.
  • 7. W.S.R.O., Hurst MSS., Shortsfield man. rentals, 1668, 1715, undated (18th-cent.); cf. Westm. Abbey Mun. 4021; B.L. Add. Ch. 8903.
  • 8. W.S.R.O., Hurst MSS., Nutham man. rentals, 1715, c. 1735.
  • 9. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 361.
  • 10. W.S.R.O., QDD/6/W 39.
  • 11. S.R.S. ii, p. 44.
  • 12. Cal. Inq. p. m. vi, p. 436; Arundel Cast. MSS. A 1851-2, 2139; Horsham Mus. MS. 1124; P.R.O., C 136/ 86, no. 7; ibid. LR 2/196, ff. 8v.-9v. Tenements of Chesworth (in Horsham) were mentioned in the par. in 1608, but since the cts. of Sedgewick and Chesworth had for long been held together it seems likely that the tenements of the two mans. had become confused: P.R.O., LR 2/203, ff. 156-7; below, local govt.
  • 13. Cal. Close, 1435-41, 363.
  • 14. S.A.C. lxii. 195; W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 22964, f. [20v.].
  • 15. Cal. Pat. 1572-5, p. 398; W.S.R.O., Burrell MSS., Knepp man. ct. bk. 1622-1915, pp. 13, 135.
  • 16. S.R.S. xxxiii, p. 46; li. 32, 48; Horsham Mus. MSS. SP 89, 112.
  • 17. Horsham Mus. MS. SP 82.
  • 18. Above, intro.
  • 19. S.A.C. xxv. 43-53. Few fms. are identifiable, since only the names of their tenants are given.
  • 20. P.R.O., LR 2/196, ff. 8v.-9v.
  • 21. W.S.R.O., Par. 143/30/1, ff. 1-1a.
  • 22. e.g. ibid. Ep. I/29/143/9, 43, 49, 59; S.R.S. xlix. 94.
  • 23. S.R.S. xxi. 404.
  • 24. Above, intro.; Holme fm. was apparently not included in the 17th-cent. list of fms. in the par. cited above: W.S.R.O., Par. 143/30/1, ff. 1-1a.
  • 25. W.S.R.O., Add. MSS. 5272, 11058 (TS. cat.).
  • 26. Wiston Archives, i, p. 228.
  • 27. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 1999.
  • 28. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 361.
  • 29. W.S.R.O., TD/W 21, 92.
  • 30. Ibid. MF 44, ff. 88-115.
  • 31. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1855).
  • 32. W.S.R.O., Add. MSS. 11058-9 (TS. cat.).
  • 33. Horsham Mus. MS. SP 133.
  • 34. Ibid. SP 203; cf. ibid. SP 104.
  • 35. Young, Agric. of Suss. 92.
  • 36. P.R.O., HO 67/7, nos. 166, 168.
  • 37. E.S.R.O., LCG/3/EW 2, f. [1].
  • 38. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 27532 (TS. cat.).
  • 39. Ibid. TD/W 21, 92.
  • 40. Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1849).
  • 41. W.S.R.O., Rawlinson and Butler MSS., leases of Drybuildings fm. and of Sedgewick and Bull's fms.
  • 42. P.R.O., MAF 68/2371.
  • 43. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1938).
  • 44. Rep. Com. Children and Women in Agric. 81.
  • 45. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1866 and later edns.).
  • 46. P.R.O., MAF 68/2371.
  • 47. W. Suss. Gaz. 25 Sept. 1958.
  • 48. Rep. on Decline of Agric. Pop. 1881-1906 [Cd. 3273], p. 102, H.C. (1906), xcvi.
  • 49. P.R.O., MAF 68/433, 2371.
  • 50. Horsham Mus. MS. SP 234.
  • 51. Rep. on Decline of Agric. Pop. 102.
  • 52. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1938).
  • 53. E.S.R.O., SAS/PS 224.
  • 54. W. Suss. Gaz. 20 Mar. 1958.
  • 55. P.R.O., MAF 68/433, 2371.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1895 and later edns.).
  • 57. W.S.R.O., MP 846; Nuthurst, 1977 (Nuthurst par. council), 17, 39-43, 63-4 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.); cf. W. Suss. Gaz. 20 Jan. 1983.
  • 58. e.g. Cur. Reg. R. xiii, pp. 306-7; Arundel Cast. MS. A 430, rot. 4.
  • 59. P.R.O., E 310/25/143, rot. 23.
  • 60. Ibid. E 101/151/9.
  • 61. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 19517 (TS. cat.).
  • 62. Danny Archives, ed. J. Wooldridge, p. 50; W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 17076 (TS. cat.).
  • 63. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 1999.
  • 64. O.S. Map 6", Suss. XIV, XXIV, XXV (1879 edn.).
  • 65. Inf. from Mr. G. Tittensor, Nuthurst.
  • 66. S.R.S. xxii. 113; xliii. 257; liv. 187; Wiston Archives, i, p. 25; P.R.O., E 134/15 Chas. II Mich./34, m. 5v.
  • 67. P.R.O., E 134/27 Eliz. I East./16, rot. 5; E 134/22 Jas. I East./10, rot. 5.
  • 68. S.R.S. xxviii. 68, 75, 124; Horsham Mus. MS. 2231 (MS. cat.); cf. below.
  • 69. W.S.R.O., Par. 143/1/2/1.
  • 70. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845 and later edns.); W.S.R.O., E 143A/16/1.
  • 71. Inf. from Mr. Tittensor.
  • 72. Nuthurst, 1977, 39.
  • 73. W.S.R.O., MP 846, f. [13v.]; Nuthurst, 1977, 17, 42-3, 89; inf. from Dist. Officer, Suss., Forestry Com., and from Mr. D. Walker, English Woodlands Ltd.
  • 74. Cal. Inq. p. m. vi, p. 436.
  • 75. Guildhall R.O., R.C.E. Papers, no. 123, f. [4]. Birchen bridge itself lay in Sedgewick tithing in 1538: Arundel Cast. MS. M 279, m. 2. The mill was, however, said to be held of Shortsfield man. in 1776, and the 'lands where Birchenbridge hammer stood' of Nutham man. in 1715: W.S.R.O., Hurst MSS., Shortsfield and Nutham man. rentals.
  • 76. Horsham Mus. MS. 1855.
  • 77. Budgen, Suss. Map (1724); cf. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 6624 (TS. cat.); ibid. TD/W 92; E.S.R.O., LCG/3/EW 2, f. [5v.]; S.R.S. li. 92; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845 and later edns.).
  • 78. S.C.M. xi. 375; xxv. 395.
  • 79. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1938).
  • 80. W.S.R.O., TD/W 92; O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXIV (1879 edn.); XXIV. NE. (1898 edn.).
  • 81. V.C.H. Suss. ii. 230; Arundel Cast. MSS. A 1851-3.
  • 82. W.S.R.O., TD/W 92; cf. O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXIV (1879 edn.).
  • 83. P.R.O., E 310/25/143, rot. 15.
  • 84. S.A.C. xxv. 45.
  • 85. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/143/42, 67.
  • 86. B.L. Add. MS. 28243, f. 169.
  • 87. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), p. viii.
  • 88. Horsham Mus. MS. SP 203; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1874, 1895); O.S. Map 6", Suss. XIV. SW. (1899 edn.).
  • 89. Nuthurst, 1977, 14.
  • 90. B.L. Add. Ch. 18883.
  • 91. P.R.O., E 310/25/143, rot. 15.
  • 92. Ibid. E 134/30 Eliz. I East./8, rot. 4.
  • 93. Guildhall R.O., R.C.E. Papers, no. 123, f. [4].
  • 94. S.A.C. xxv. 45.
  • 95. It was not in the list of Suss. ironworks existing in that yr.: Wealden Iron (Wealden Iron Res. Group), viii. 2-7.
  • 96. W.S.R.O., Hurst MSS., Nutham man. rental, 1715.
  • 97. Ibid. TD/W 92.
  • 98. Cal. Pat. 1446-52, 340; S.R.S. xxii. 114; W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/143/74.
  • 99. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/143/39; Ep. IV/3/1.
  • 100. Ibid. Ep. I/29/143/33, 60, 62, 65, 73.
  • 101. e.g. ibid. Add. MSS. 5259, 5262-5 (TS. cat.); ibid. Ep. I/29/143/84, 95, 99; ibid. Par. 143/1/2/1; S.R.S. li. 22.
  • 102. W.S.R.O., Par. 143/1/2/1.
  • 103. Census, 1821-31.
  • 104. W.S.R.O., TD/W 92.
  • 105. Horsham Mus. MS. SP 135; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1874 and later edns.).
  • 106. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1903 and later edns.); Nuthurst, 1977, 83.
  • 107. Cf. Nuthurst, 1977, 57, 62-4.
  • 108. e.g. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1938).
  • 109. Nuthurst, 1977, 24.
  • 110. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1922); Nuthurst, 1977, 66.
  • 111. W.S.R.O., MP 846, f. [1]; Nuthurst, 1977, 16.