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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'Rusper', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987) pp. 109-112. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]


The parish of Rusper, (fn. 1) the site of a medieval priory, lies in the extreme north of Bramber rape on the Surrey border. Formerly 3,122 a. in area, it was enlarged in 1956 by the addition of 2,114 a., part of Crawley parish, comprising land which had formerly been in Ifield parish. In 1971-2 land was exchanged in the west with Warnham, the Horsham-Dorking railway line becoming the new boundary. In 1981 Rusper contained 2,085 ha. (5,152 a.). (fn. 2) The present article deals with the history of the ancient parish, together with that of the hamlet of Faygate, which lies partly in Horsham ancient parish. Part of the former western boundary follows the modern Horsham-Dorking road; part of the northern boundary, which is also the county boundary, similarly follows a ridge road which may have been one of the medieval roads from Horsham to London. (fn. 3)

The land of the ancient parish was nearly all above 200 ft. In its centre the Horsham-Newdigate road through Rusper village follows a ridge over 400 ft. high, which forms the watershed between tributaries of the Arun to the west and of the Mole to the east, and which gives wide views over Crawley in the east and towards Leith Hill near Dorking in the northwest. The parish lies chiefly on the Weald clay, with outcrops of Tunbridge Wells sand and of Paludina limestone. (fn. 4) In the earlier 19th century it was described as 'a very dirty country', (fn. 5) with a cold soil. (fn. 6) Most of the land was presumably formerly covered by woods: the place names Rusper and Ashfolds both suggest inclosures in forest land. (fn. 7) From AngloSaxon or medieval times the land was gradually cleared by assarting. (fn. 8) In 1724 the south part was depicted as abounding in oak woodland, but c. 1800 relatively little woodland was recorded. Horsegills wood west of Rusper village and Orltons copse in the north-east corner were apparently planted during the next 30 years, (fn. 9) and in 1830 timber was again said to be particularly luxuriant. (fn. 10) In 1842 roughly a quarter of the parish was in oak timber or underwood. (fn. 11) There was still much woodland in the early 1870s, including many shaws or belts of woodland between fields. In 1975, however, only 116 ha. (287 a.) of woodland were returned. (fn. 12)

As in other parishes in the Weald, several settlements in Rusper originated as outliers of manors in the south of the county. (fn. 13) Gotwick in the north-east, for instance, seems from its name to have been an outlying settlement (wic), perhaps specializing in goat breeding. (fn. 14) Besides surviving medieval houses on isolated sites mentioned elsewhere, (fn. 15) Saykers, south-west of Lambs Green, is a three-bayed, apparently 15th-century house extended in the 19th century, and Baldhorns Park, south of Rusper village, is a small medieval house much enlarged at the same period. Scattered settlement remained typical of the parish in later times, and many isolated 16th- or 17th-century timber-framed houses survive, for instance Porter's Farm near Friday Street in the west, Caryll's Lea Farm, the former Faygate Farm, near Faygate in the south-east, and a group of houses in the north-east: Peter's Farm, Venters, and Chowles, of which the last two were later greatly enlarged. (fn. 16)

The name Rusper was recorded from c. 1200, when it described the Benedictine priory founded shortly before. (fn. 17) The modern village lies 1 mile north-east. It may have existed by 1223 when a personal name 'of Rusper' was recorded in connexion with estates in Surrey, (fn. 18) but the first certain reference to a settlement, apparently on the same site as the modern village, is of 1299. (fn. 19) In 1381 and in the 16th century the parish was alternatively described from its situation as High Rusper. (fn. 20)

There are several buildings in the village of the 16th or 17th century, including the L-shaped Avery's and Sweet Briar on the west side of the street, the Plough inn on the east side, and the Star inn in the angle of the Horsham and Faygate roads at the south end. The large Ghyll Manor hotel on the east side comprises a 17th-century building at its centre, a separate 19th-century building to the north, and a relocated timber-framed building, possibly originally a barn, to the south. (fn. 21) There are several houses and cottages of the late 19th century.

Of the three hamlets in the parish Lambs Green is apparently the earliest. Lambs Cottages, a twobayed hall house with crown-post roof, is probably 15th-century, and was partly cased in stone in the 17th century. Putticks Cottage and Old Chellows are probably 16th-century. By 1795 the hamlet had five or six houses. (fn. 22) The name Lambs Green has not been found before 1874. (fn. 23) A resident of Faygate was mentioned in 1614, (fn. 24) and by 1795 there were two or three buildings at the site of the modern hamlet. (fn. 25) Friday Street in the west end was presumably so called because of its distance from the village; (fn. 26) the name occurs in 1747. (fn. 27) Little Benhams, Little Benhams Cottage, and Howell's Farmhouse are 16th- or 17th-century. By 1795 there were c. 5 houses there. (fn. 28)

After the mid 19th century Rusper became preeminently a parish for people of means to reside in or retire to. Already by 1845 Orltons on the northern boundary was the seat of a gentleman, (fn. 29) and in 1851 the farmhouse called Hile and Butts in the village street, later part of Ghyll Manor mentioned above, was occupied by a non-practising barrister. (fn. 30) In 1866 three 'private residents' were listed, and by 1874 there were nine. Thereafter the number rose to 16 in 1887, 21 in 1903, and 35 in 1938. (fn. 31) Typical was G. C. Knight, who moved from London to Baldhorns Park c. 1865 and became a leading figure in the local government of the parish. (fn. 32) The new 'gentry' could also be indigenous: Normans, east of the village, was the seat of the Mutton family, who had been parish tradesmen in the 17th and 18th centuries, (fn. 33) but whose risen fortunes enabled William Mutton to be described in 1866 as a gentleman and confectioner of Rusper and Brighton, and Thomas Mutton in 1876 as a hat manufacturer of Rusper and London. (fn. 34)

Some gentlemen's seats were old farmhouses, like Orltons or Hile and Butts mentioned above, and between 1851 and 1909 several farmhouses were similarly converted. (fn. 35) Often they were rebuilt or extensively enlarged in the process: among those so treated, besides Court House and Carylls mentioned below, (fn. 36) were Langhurst, rebuilt in the mid 19th century, Venters, enlarged between 1905 and 1910, (fn. 37) and Normans, which was greatly enlarged in stages between c. 1885 and 1915. (fn. 38) Other gentlemen built large new houses for themselves. The most favoured area was the ridge north of Faygate, where several big houses were built between 1875 and 1896, including Faygate Place and Culross, a new road being cut from the Rusper-Faygate road westwards to give access to them. (fn. 39) Besides their elevated site and their south aspect (fn. 40) the new houses there had the advantage of proximity to Faygate railway station and to St. Leonard's Forest, which provided shooting and other sport. (fn. 41)

The architectural style chosen for the new houses and for alterations to old ones was almost always the revived vernacular, characterized by the use of red brick and tile, timber framing, turrets, and bargeboards. (fn. 42) Many of the new or rebuilt houses were complemented by parkland. In the 1870s there were parks at Baldhorns Park and at Orltons; the latter had 34 a. in 1885. (fn. 43) The park at Baldhorns was enlarged before 1896 and again before 1909. By the latter date Court House also had parkland attached, while at Carylls there was a deer park. Among the new houses Faygate Place had 22 a. of parkland in 1919, including specimen trees and shrubs. (fn. 44) Much of the parkland which then existed still remained in 1981.

Smaller houses also increased greatly in number in the parish from the late 19th century; in the 1890s the total number of houses increased by 13 per cent. (fn. 45) Though many cottages were built outside the centres of settlement, those too were enlarged. Attempts to sell land for building large houses both north and south of the village in the 1890s (fn. 46) were mostly abortive, though between the 1870s and 1896 there had been some development along the roads out of it to the south and east. During the early 20th century there was further building along both roads, and soon after the Second World War (fn. 47) two small estates of council houses were built south of the village. More houses were built between them for private ownership in the 1970s, but infilling in the centre of the village was being resisted in 1975. (fn. 48)

At Faygate, where two or three houses existed south of the station in the 1870s, several semidetached houses were built before 1896. Further houses were built during the next 50 years, and after 1945 a new street of houses was laid out east of the hamlet, some council houses being built both there and in the main street. Plans made in 1971 for a very large housing development at Faygate were rejected in order to preserve a 'green belt' between Crawley and Horsham. (fn. 49) At Lambs Green, meanwhile, many new houses had been built between 1896 and 1909, and the hamlet's appearance in 1981 was very much of the 20th century.

Seventeen persons were taxed in Rusper vill in 1327. (fn. 50) There were 77 adult males in 1642 (fn. 51) and 168 adult inhabitants in 1676. (fn. 52) Sixty-five families are estimated to have lived in the parish in 1724. (fn. 53) From 399 in 1801 the population rose rapidly at first and then more slowly to reach 564 in 1841. During the rest of the 19th century the total fluctuated between 520 and 600. From 522 in 1901 it rose to 720 in 1921, and after a drop during the 1920s rose again to 782 in 1951. The new area of the parish as constituted in 1956 had had 1,239 inhabitants in 1951; thereafter the number fell to 1,205 in 1971. In 1981 the population was 2,678. (fn. 54)

Most roads and tracks in Rusper in the past, like other roads in the Weald, trended roughly south to north, and despite the building of one new road in the 19th century east-west internal communications remained poor in 1981. The most important road in the parish in the Middle Ages led from Horsham to London via Dorking (Surr.). (fn. 55) From the north end of the village there were two possible routes. One bore left, then ran westwards along the ridge that formed the parish and county boundary, turning northwards again near Stammerham Farm. (fn. 56) The other, bearing right, passed through Newdigate (Surr.); it was still used in the early 19th century, (fn. 57) when Rusper was said to lie in the high road from Horsham to Dorking. (fn. 58) Other roads mentioned before 1700 were one from Rusper to Ifield and Crawley (fn. 59) and one past Wimland Farm to Roffey in Horsham. (fn. 60) A road from Rusper to St. Leonard's Forest via Faygate was mentioned in 1726, (fn. 61) and the roads through Friday Street and from Lambs Green to Orltons Farm were depicted in 1795. (fn. 62)

In the early 16th century the roads were good enough to allow a servant from Rusper to go to the market at West Tarring near Worthing, and presumably back again, in one day. (fn. 63) By the early 19th century the increased use of wheeled traffic had caused a great deterioration, (fn. 64) so that the parish was said to be scarcely accessible; (fn. 65) in March 1824 the Dorking road was impassable by even a light vehicle, (fn. 66) and at about the same time the road to Newdigate could accommodate even horse traffic only at midsummer. (fn. 67) Soon afterwards, however, the chief landowners greatly improved the roads, on their own initiative and apparently at their own expense, and in 1830 communications with Horsham and Dorking were said to be good. (fn. 68) Further improvement was achieved later in the 19th century by the provision of two new roads, one shortening the distance between the village and Faygate in 1868, (fn. 69) and the other linking Wimland Farm with the Rusper-Faygate road c. 1877. (fn. 70)

There was a carrier living at Lambs Green in 1845. (fn. 71) A bus service to Rusper village existed by 1935, but was then very infrequent. (fn. 72) Buses still linked the village to Horsham in 1976; at the same date there was also an hourly service through Faygate from Horsham to Crawley and East Grinstead. (fn. 73)

Faygate station, on the Three Bridges to Horsham railway, was opened in Horsham parish in 1848. The west part of Rusper parish was served after 1867 by Ockley and Warnham stations on the Horsham- Dorking line opened in that year. (fn. 74) All three stations were still open in 1981.

The Star inn in the village was an inn by 1842, (fn. 75) and in 1874 was described as an old-established commercial house. (fn. 76) In 1851 it was kept by the miller Charles Read. (fn. 77) The Holmbush inn at Faygate existed by 1855; in that year the publican was described as also a shopkeeper, and in 1895 his successor dealt in corn, coal, manure, and building materials. (fn. 78) The Plough inn in the village existed as an inn by 1892, (fn. 79) and the Lamb inn at Lambs Green by 1896. (fn. 80) In 1903 there were five public houses in the parish, (fn. 81) as there were in 1981: the Star, the Holmbush, the Plough, the Lamb, and at Friday Street the Royal Oak.

A cricket team from Rusper played against Horsham in the 1770s. (fn. 82) There was a lending library in 1833, attached to the village school. (fn. 83) A village hall was built c. 1910, (fn. 84) and in 1913 included a reading room; it was enlarged c. 1930, and in 1938 the main hall could seat 150. (fn. 85) A recreation ground east of the village street was provided by the owner of Ghyll Manor in 1943, and a playing field north of the church was leased to the parish council by R. L. Hurst in 1959. (fn. 86) Both remained in use in 1981, when there were several clubs and societies in the village. (fn. 87) There was a village hall at Faygate too by 1957, when the county council ran a small branch library there. (fn. 88) The building was of iron, and in 1981 was to be replaced.

A pump and well outside the Star inn in the village was presented to the parish by the brewer Henry Michell of Horsham in 1898. (fn. 89) In 1920 most houses there had wells, which gave an inadequate supply of water of poor quality. A proposal to extend the mains supply from the Surrey border at that time was not taken up; (fn. 90) by 1938, however, the Horsham rural district council was supplying water. (fn. 91) The Horley District Gas Co. was empowered to supply gas to the parish in 1886; (fn. 92) the Horsham urban district council was empowered in 1930 to supply electricity, (fn. 93) and by c. 1933 was supplying Faygate. (fn. 94) By 1935 electricity had reached the village, (fn. 95) and by c. 1950 main drainage as well. (fn. 96)

Sixteen men of Rusper, including four described as gentlemen, were pardoned for their part in Cade's rebellion in 1450, (fn. 97) evidently a high proportion of the males in the parish. There was a small R.A.F. station beside the railway at Faygate during the Second World War. (fn. 98)


  • 1. This article was written in 1981 and revised in 1985. Topographical details in introductory section based mainly on O.S. Maps 1/25,000, TQ 03/13, 23/33 (1982-3 edn.); 6", Suss. II-III (1874-9 and later edns.). Map, above, p. 96.
  • 2. Census, 1921-81; W.S.R.O., WOC/CC/7/3/14A-B.
  • 3. Below.
  • 4. Geol. Surv. Map 1", solid and drift, sheet 302 (1972 edn.).
  • 5. Edwards, Brighton Rd. 68.
  • 6. P.R.O., IR 18/10454.
  • 7. P.N. Suss. (E.P.N.S.), i. 233-4.
  • 8. Below, econ. hist.
  • 9. 250 Yrs. of Mapmaking in Suss. ed. H. Margary, pls. 6, 16, 24.
  • 10. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 373; cf. Horsham Mus. MS. SP 48.
  • 11. P.R.O., IR 18/10454.
  • 12. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 13. Below, manors.
  • 14. S. Saxons, ed. P. Brandon, 143; Eng. P.N. Elements (E.P.N.S.), ii. 259.
  • 15. Below, manors (Le Court, Gardiners Fm.).
  • 16. Cf. below.
  • 17. Chich. Acta (Cant. & York Soc.), p. 181.
  • 18. Cur. Reg. R. xi, p. 263.
  • 19. Cat. Anct. D. iii, C 3255.
  • 20. Cal. Pat. 1377-81, 624; S.R.S. xvi. 81; xlv. 46; B.L. Add. MS. 39344, f. 122.
  • 21. For the two in situ buildings, W.S.R.O., TD/W 104.
  • 22. Gardner, Suss. Map (1795).
  • 23. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1874).
  • 24. Hurst, Horsham (1868), 165.
  • 25. Gardner, Suss. Map (1795).
  • 26. P.N. Suss. ii. 446.
  • 27. W.S.R.O., Par. 163/31/13.
  • 28. Gardner, Suss. Map (1795).
  • 29. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845).
  • 30. W.S.R.O., MF 45, f. 419; cf. ibid. TD/W 104.
  • 31. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1866 and later edns.).
  • 32. Suss. Historical, Biographical, and Pictorial (publ. A. North, 1907); cf. Suss. in 20th Cent. 267, 273, 282.
  • 33. Below, econ. hist.
  • 34. W.S.R.O., Add. MSS. 6694, 6705 (TS. cat.); Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1866); cf. ibid. (1874), s.v. Brighton.
  • 35. W.S.R.O., MF 45, ff. 411-27; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1909).
  • 36. Below, manors.
  • 37. Suss. in 20th Cent. 183.
  • 38. Builder, 20 Aug. 1915, pp. 137-40.
  • 39. Below.
  • 40. e.g. Suss. in 20th Cent. 94.
  • 41. Cf. Horsham Mus. MS. SP 243; above, Lower Beeding, intro.
  • 42. e.g. W.S.R.O., PH 1080; ibid. SP 1.
  • 43. B.L. Maps 137. b. 8. (5).
  • 44. W.S.R.O., SP 1.
  • 45. Census, 1891-1901.
  • 46. W.S.R.O., SP 631; Worthing Ref. Libr., sale cats. 1890-1, no. 36.
  • 47. B. Underhill, Rusper Yesterday and Today (c. 1950), 27 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.).
  • 48. W. Suss. Gaz. 17 July 1975.
  • 49. Brighton Evening Argus, 6 Nov. 1971; cf. W. Suss. Gaz. 7 Oct. 1982.
  • 50. S.R.S. x. 154-5. Rusper was not assessed separately to the 1296 or 1332 subsidies, to the 1378 poll tax, or to the subsidies of 1524-5. In 1332 some Rusper names were listed under Warnham: S.A.C. l. 168 n.
  • 51. S.R.S. v. 147-8.
  • 52. S.A.C. xlv. 147.
  • 53. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 17.
  • 54. Census, 1801-1981.
  • 55. Cat. Anct. D. vi, C 4482.
  • 56. The causeway at Stammerham mentioned in 1532 may therefore have been in Rusper rather than at Stammerham in Horsham: S.A.C. v. 259.
  • 57. Edwards, Brighton Rd. 68; cf. Budgen, Suss. Map (1724).
  • 58. Camden, Brit. (1806), i. 301; cf. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 373.
  • 59. Cat. Anct. D. vi, C 3853, 3902, 4482; cf. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 8770 (TS. cat.); Budgen, Suss. Map (1724).
  • 60. Cat. Anct. D. vi, C 7354; E.S.R.O., SAS/HA 10 (TS. cat.).
  • 61. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 8773 (TS. cat.).
  • 62. Gardner, Suss. Map (1795).
  • 63. S.R.S. xvi. 81.
  • 64. e.g. [J. Lawrence], Mod. Land Steward (1801), 289.
  • 65. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 373.
  • 66. W.S.R.O., Par. 163/41/1.
  • 67. Edwards, Brighton Rd. 68.
  • 68. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 373; W.S.R.O., Par. 163/41/1.
  • 69. W.S.R.O., Par. 163/12/2, ff. 97v.-98; cf. ibid. TD/W 104.
  • 70. Ibid. Par. 163/12/2, f. 146; the rd. is not shown in O.S. Map 6", Suss. III (1874-9 edn.).
  • 71. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845).
  • 72. W. Suss. Gaz. 28 Aug. 1975.
  • 73. Local inf.
  • 74. Southern Region Rec. comp. R. H. Clark, 74, 82, 90.
  • 75. W.S.R.O., TD/W 104.
  • 76. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1874).
  • 77. W.S.R.O., MF 45, f. 422v.
  • 78. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1855); ibid. (1895), s.v. Roffey.
  • 79. W.S.R.O., Rawlinson and Butler MSS., lease, 1892.
  • 80. O.S. Map 6", Suss. III. SW. (1899 edn.).
  • 81. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/2 (1903).
  • 82. J. Marshall, Suss. Cricket, 14.
  • 83. Educ. Enq. Abstract, 979.
  • 84. Char. Com. files.
  • 85. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1913, 1938).
  • 86. Char. Com. files.
  • 87. Local inf.
  • 88. Kelly's Dir. Horsham (1957).
  • 89. Inscr. in situ.
  • 90. W.S.R.O., Par. 163/54/4.
  • 91. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1938).
  • 92. 50 Vic. c. 19 (Local).
  • 93. Horsham Electricity (Extension) Spec. Order, 1930.
  • 94. Horsham: Official Guide (1933-5), 8.
  • 95. W. Suss. Gaz. 28 Aug. 1975.
  • 96. Underhill, Rusper, 27.
  • 97. Cal. Pat. 1446-52, 368.
  • 98. Underhill, Rusper, 26; inf. from Miss B. Hurst, Rusper.