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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ALBOURNE (fn. 1) lies on the west side of the London- Brighton road two miles (3.2 km.) north of the South Downs, and forms a salient of Bramber rape into Lewes rape. In 1881 it had 1,763 a., and in 1971 the area was given as 713 ha. (fn. 2) In 1985 some land was gained from Woodmancote. (fn. 3) Albourne was in West Sussex from 1889, but in 1908 was transferred to East Sussex, (fn. 4) being returned to West Sussex in 1974. The ancient parish was roughly rectangular in shape, c. 2½ miles (4 km.) from north to south and 1¼ miles (2 km.) from east to west. The western boundary had an irregular outline near Wick Farmhouse, through the dining room of which it ran; (fn. 5) Wick manor was apparently said to be in Albourne in 1267, (fn. 6) but seems always thereafter to have been described as in Woodmancote. After 1985 the whole farmhouse lay in Albourne. Much of the eastern boundary followed the modern London-Brighton road.
The southern half of the parish, (fn. 7) lying on the Gault clay and Lower Greensand outcrops, is rolling country with steep-sided valleys, rising to over 150 ft. near the southern boundary, and dominated by Wolstonbury Hill on the south-east horizon. The Lower Greensand, which is capped by thin spreads of plateau gravel, forms two ridges, one of which carries Albourne Place and Bishops Place, the two chief manor houses of the parish, while the other gives the site for the modern village at Albourne Street, as it does for the village of Hurstpierpoint further east. The northern half of the parish, on Weald clay, is flatter and lies mostly below 100 ft.
The parish drains northwards and westwards to the river Adur. The chief stream runs roughly east- west between the two Lower Greensand ridges. It seems likely to be the 'alder stream' from which the parish derives its name, (fn. 8) and was certainly the Albourne brook in which trout were caught in 1715; (fn. 9) it may also be the Spertbrook river mentioned in 1650. (fn. 10) It was called Cutlers brook in 1758 and later. (fn. 11) In 1875 it was said to overflow periodically, when it prevented many parishioners from attending church. (fn. 12) Tenants evidently of Bishopshurst manor in 1737 had the right to take water from a spring south-west of Albourne Street beside the cottage called Spring Cottage; (fn. 13) by 1976 the spring had been enclosed in a brick structure. (fn. 14) The soil of the parish was said in 1830 to be more productive than was usual in the Weald. (fn. 15) In 1984 land use was divided nearly equally between pasture and arable. (fn. 16)
Shooting in woods at Albourne and at Wick (in Woodmancote) was mentioned in 1714-15. (fn. 17) The Albourne woods were presumably in the south, where most woodland lay later. (fn. 18) In 1838 there were 120 a. of woods in Albourne. (fn. 19)
A park at Albourne manor was mentioned in 1502; (fn. 20) in 1578 (fn. 21) and apparently earlier (fn. 22) it was leased. It still seems to have existed as a park in the 17th century, (fn. 23) but by 1743 had been thrown into Albourne Place farm. (fn. 24) The park seems to have surrounded Albourne Place on all sides, extending northwards as far as Northpark Farm; (fn. 25) land called North parks formed part of Albourne Place farm in 1779. (fn. 26) A serpentine fish pond lay north of the house c. 1840; (fn. 27) by 1875 it had been divided into three linked ponds. (fn. 28) There was still parkland all round Albourne Place in the 1870s, but by 1909 its extent had been reduced, (fn. 29) and by the mid 20th century the park had gone. (fn. 30)
Albourne church lies in the centre of the parish, on a road running north-south which seems to be old, (fn. 31) and near the alder stream which gave the parish its name. (fn. 32) There is no evidence, however, for a nucleated settlement near it in the Middle Ages, and the manor house and Albourne Place farm are ¼ to ½ mile to the south-west. In 1679 there were two houses by the church, the rectory to the south-west, and a house to the west (fn. 33) which survived in 1850, when there was also a house north of the church. (fn. 34) The house to the west had gone by 1875. (fn. 35) In 1984 there were only the former rectory and a house north-east of the church. Traces of other houses are said to have been found along the road south of the former rectory. (fn. 36)
The modern village lies ½ mile north-east of the church near the eastern parish boundary. The name Albourne Street was used in 1594, apparently to describe what was later the village street; it was called the village street of Albourne in 1619. (fn. 37) The fact that that street lies parallel to the then existing main road, the modern London-Brighton road, and the regular layout of houses and plots there, all of which in 1681 apparently belonged to tenants of Bishopshurst manor, (fn. 38) suggests the possibility that Albourne was a planned settlement laid out by the lord of Bishopshurst. There were c. 13 houses in 1681, (fn. 39) and in 1984 several buildings of the 17th century or earlier survived in the Street, which forms a hollow-way at its southern end. A notable example is Gallops on the east side, whose low north range may incorporate part of the timber frame of a late medieval hall house. The south cross wing is 17thcentury, and is contemporary with a rebuilding of the north range, in which some earlier features, notably a dais beam, were incorporated. The former entrance door has the date 1661 formed in nails, together with the initials E.K., presumably for Edward Kempe, a mid 17th-century tenant of Bishopshurst. (fn. 40) There is much red brick herringbone infill, and some sandstone. The house was restored by W. H. Godfrey c. 1935, when 17th-century figured paintings, perhaps representing the story of the Prodigal Son, were discovered on the parlour wall plaster; they were transferred to Barbican House Museum, Lewes, where they remained in 1986. (fn. 41) Bounty Cottage and Souches on the west side are 16thcentury in origin. Bounty Cottage was a four-bayed house whose two central bays, one long and one short, were for a hall and smoke bay. A plain crownpost roof survives over all but the north end. A chimney was inserted into the smoke bay perhaps in 1713, (fn. 42) and the house has also been extended at both ends and at the back. Souches, of five bays, had a central hall of one and a half bays and a smoke bay. In the later 16th century or earlier 17th a brick chimneystack was built in the smoke bay and a further bay was added on the north. Manor Cottage, south-east of the village on the London-Brighton road, was a small four-bayed building perhaps of the 14th century, containing a two-bayed hall with a central truss consisting of large arched braces, a sharply cambered collar beam, and a diminutive crown post; there was a two-storeyed bay at each end. The house was last inhabited c. 1937, and was used in 1956 as a nurseryman's store; (fn. 43) it was later demolished. Yew Tree House at the south end of the village was built c. 1830.
Around Albourne Green 300 yd. north of Albourne Street there were three or four houses in 1681 (fn. 44) and six or seven in the mid 19th century. (fn. 45) Goldsmiths, on the east side of the former green, is a 15th-century house of four-bayed plan, the two central bays being an open hall with crown-post roof. One hall bay was later made into a smoke bay, and perhaps c. 1600 a brick chimneystack was inserted in it, and an upper floor put into the hall. Inholmes Cottage, on the north side of the green, is probably 17th-century, and like Goldsmiths is faced with brick.
Further houses were built around Albourne Street and Albourne Green in the later 19th century and the 20th, including estates of privately owned and council houses. The two settlements thus by the mid 20th century became a single one, which in 1984 was still secluded despite its nearness to the London- Brighton road.
There has been much scattered settlement in the parish besides. Gardenland Farm and Holland were settlement sites in the 13th century; (fn. 46) Gardenland farmhouse remained in 1984, when it was called Priestfield Farm, but Holland had then been demolished. Albourne Place Farm is a timber-framed house, probably of the 17th century, with 19th- and 20th-century alterations. At least one house stood beside the modern London-Brighton road in 1679, (fn. 47) and by c. 1840 there were three or four, including the King's Head inn, on the Albourne side of the road, besides others on the Hurstpierpoint side. (fn. 48) Land fronting the Brighton road was offered for sale for building in 1899. (fn. 49) There was ribbon development along other roads by 1813, (fn. 50) which continued in the later 19th and 20th centuries. (fn. 51) A terrace of four brick cottages was built c. 1925 at High Cross in the north-west corner of the parish for workers on Reeds farm, (fn. 52) and two small groups of council houss were put up nearby in 1933. (fn. 53) Two larger houses were built on isolated sites in the 19th century: Lanehurst, on a low ridge in the north-west corner of the parish, an early 19th-century stuccoed building, which had a small park by 1896; and Clifton Down, built south of High Cross before 1896 (fn. 54) and replaced in 1918 (fn. 55) by the house called Woodpeckers in 1984, which has 'half-timbering' and hung tiles.
Thirty-five persons were taxed in Albourne in 1327, 24 in 1332, (fn. 56) and 33 in 1524. (fn. 57) There were c. 80 communicants in 1603 (fn. 58) and 100 adults in 1676; (fn. 59) 33 adult male parishioners took the protestation in 1642. (fn. 60) In 1724 there were 25 families. (fn. 61) The population rose from 253 in 1801 to 395 in 1841, afterwards falling to 277 in 1901. A rapid and unexplained rise to 369 in 1911 was followed by another fall, after which the population rose steadily from 319 in 1921 to 637 in 1971. In 1981 it was 541. (fn. 62)
The Roman Greensand Way crossed the south end of the parish, traces of its agger being visible east of Shaves Farm. (fn. 63) The medieval east-west road from Hurstpierpoint to Henfield (fn. 64) passed through the parish further north; its route is not certain, though Church Lane was called the road from Hurstpierpoint to Albourne church in 1615. (fn. 65) The road from High Cross in the north-west to Sayers Common in Hurstpierpoint existed by 1681, (fn. 66) and that from High Cross to Albourne Green by 1724. The place name High Cross was recorded in 1724, (fn. 67) but the crossroads apparently alluded to does not lie on high ground. The High Cross to Albourne Green road was a turnpike between 1777 and 1868. (fn. 68) Hog Lane, named in 1620, (fn. 69) survived in 1984 as a footpath leading west from Albourne Street.
The north-south road which forms part of the western boundary of the parish was described as the Bolney-Poynings road in 1768. (fn. 70) The section south of High Cross was turnpiked in 1777 (fn. 71) and the northern continuation in 1798; (fn. 72) both sections were disturnpiked in 1876. (fn. 73) Much of the eastern boundary of the parish follows the modern London-Brighton road, of which that section is therefore old. It was called the road from Newtimber to Sayers Common c. 1680. (fn. 74) The road was a turnpike between 1808 and 1880. (fn. 75) The section which bounds the parish was widened in the early 1930s. (fn. 76) A third north-south road was that past the church, which seems also to be old. (fn. 77) It was called Copyhold Lane in the 18th century (fn. 78) and in 1984.
The road through the southern tip of the parish from Muddleswood in Newtimber on the London- Brighton road towards Woodmancote was a turnpike from 1834, part being of new construction. (fn. 79)
There were three carriers to Brighton in 1903 and 1922. Motor buses ran to Brighton daily by 1927, (fn. 80) and in the early 1960s there were daily services to Lewes and Haywards Heath as well. (fn. 81)
The King's Head inn existed by 1825. (fn. 82) The original building, with two polygonal bay windows in its faôade, fronted directly on the London- Brighton road. (fn. 83) It was replaced in the 1930s by a new building set back from the road, in modernistic style, and with canted wings and a copper dome. (fn. 84)
An iron reading room at Albourne Green was built by the Borrer family before 1909, (fn. 85) and survived in 1984 as a house. A building east of the Street belonging to Sidney Hole of Inholmes Farm was used as a village hall between c. 1925 (fn. 86) and 1977; in the latter year a new village hall was built nearby, (fn. 87) with a recreation ground to the east. There was a cricket ground south of Albourne Street c. 1955. (fn. 88) In 1959 the village cricket club amalgamated with that at Sayers Common in Hurstpierpoint, where matches were later played. (fn. 89)
Water was supplied to part of the parish from the Burgess Hill waterworks by 1909. (fn. 90)
James Starley (1831-81), inventor of the differential gearing used in bicycles, was born at Albourne. (fn. 91)