Albourne: 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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Albourne: 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. 127-129. British History Online [accessed 25 April 2024]


The Albourne manor demesne farm had 316 a., including woodland, c. 1265. (fn. 1) In 1743, when it was called Albourne Place farm, it included the former Albourne park and comprised 400 a., (fn. 2) and in 1787, when it had 260 a., it was leased for 21 years. (fn. 3) In the 1820s and 1830s the farm was in hand. (fn. 4) There was presumably a demesne farm at Bishopshurst manor too in the Middle Ages. In the mid 17th century it had c. 255 a. and occupied the south-east quarter of the parish. (fn. 5) By 1872 it had increased in size to c. 290 a. (fn. 6) Wick farm, the home farm of Wickensands manor in Woodmancote, included land in the west part in 1768 and later. (fn. 7)

Fixed rents at Albourne manor brought in 20s. a year c. 1265. (fn. 8) Some tenements were evidently later engrossed into the demesne farm, for by 1760 free and copyhold tenements of the manor comprised only c. 35 a. divided between four tenants. (fn. 9) In the 19th century tenements included pieces of free and copyhold land which had been granted from the manorial waste. (fn. 10) At least one tenement remained, at High Cross, in 1923. (fn. 11) Tenements of Bishopshurst manor of 50 a. were mentioned in 1472 and later. (fn. 12) In 1650 eleven copyholders held 13 tenements totalling 313 a.; most tenements were then described as 16, 35, or 40 a. in area, and one other copyhold of 10 a. had been engrossed into the demesne farm. (fn. 13) In 1681 the holdings were in scattered parcels in the north-east quarter of the parish, most tenants having houses in Albourne Street. (fn. 14) By 1730 one tenant had come to hold 188 a. of manorial land; (fn. 15) that and other land passed between 1796 and 1854 to the Borrer family, for whom c. 250 a. held of the manor, including at least one parcel of former waste, were enfranchised in the latter year. (fn. 16) Only c. 33 a. of land, four houses or cottages, and two other tenements were held under manorial tenures in 1872. (fn. 17)

There were small tenements of Stretham manor (in Henfield) in 1374, including Sharnwick or Shernwick, (fn. 18) which by 1553 had apparently been incorporated in Albourne park. (fn. 19) Other manors of which land in the parish was held were Saddlescombe in Newtimber, (fn. 20) Pakyns in Hurstpierpoint, (fn. 21) and Perching in Fulking, of which Truslers Hill farm was held copyhold in 1812. (fn. 22)

Tithe income from sheaves was 19 times that from fleeces and lambs in 1340, when apples were also grown. (fn. 23) At least three landowners had land in a field called the Laine, evidently a common field, in the mid 13th century, (fn. 24) and Hotfield, in which land was held of Bishopshurst manor in 1401, (fn. 25) may also have been a common field. Closes in the north-east called the laines or the north laines 'part of the green' in 1681 (fn. 26) may have included the land mentioned in the mid 13th century. (fn. 27) Wheat, oats, and peas were grown in the early 18th century. (fn. 28) Yields per acre in the later 18th century were said to be 32 bu. of wheat and 24 bu. of peas. (fn. 29)

No common meadow is known in the parish. There was several meadow on the Albourne manor demesne farm c. 1265 (fn. 30) and on the rectory estate in 1341. (fn. 31) In 1679 meadow belonging to the Bishopshurst home farm lay along a tributary of Cutlers brook between pasture to the south and arable to the north. (fn. 32) There was presumably common pasture for tenants of Bishopshurst at Albourne Green, mentioned from 1594. (fn. 33) In 1681 it was a small triangular piece of land, but it seems originally to have been much larger; closes to south-east and north-east were described in that year as 'part of the green', as also were other closes between the green and the northern parish boundary. (fn. 34) Land formerly part of the green was mentioned in the mid 19th century. (fn. 35) One farmer in 1714 had at least 56 sheep and lambs. (fn. 36) About 130 cattle, apart from draught animals, were listed in the parish in 1801, 795 sheep, and 37 pigs. (fn. 37)

About 1840 the four largest farms in the parish, all tenanted, were Bishops Place farm, of 307 a., Albourne Place farm, including Holland, of 190 a., Reeds farm, mentioned from 1790, of 151 a., and William Borrer's land in the north-east quarter, of 204 a. Nine other farms, mostly tenanted, were over 40 a. in area. (fn. 38) Yew Tree House farm, which evidently represented Borrer's land, had 250 a. in 1851, when nine men and boys were employed there. (fn. 39) The tithable area of the parish at that date had more arable than pasture; a four-course rotation was used, and crops grown were wheat, oats, seeds, including clover, tares, and turnips. (fn. 40) Thereafter the proportion of pasture increased. In 1875 there were 717 a. of permanent grassland to 527 a. of arable, 288 cattle and 538 sheep being listed. By 1909 the corresponding figures were 1,198 a. and 366 a., the number of cattle having nearly doubled. More than four times as much land was then rented as was in owner occupation, and 11 holdings were over 50 a. in area, including one over 300 a. (fn. 41)

In the early 1960s grass for dairying was the chief crop, other crops being wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and sugar beet. (fn. 42) In 1975 more than half the parish was apparently under grass, 2,336 cattle, 695 sheep, and 1,533 pigs being listed. Of 19 holdings then based in the parish, most of which were under 30 ha. in area, four specialized, and one was mainly involved, in dairying, and on another livestock, chiefly cattle, were reared and fattened. (fn. 43) Sidney Hole (d. 1956), tenant of Inholmes farm by 1910, (fn. 44) built up a large milk distribution business in Brighton, with farms in and around Brighton and Lewes. (fn. 45) In the 1940s and 1950s he and his sons farmed Inholmes, Yew Tree House, Bishops Place, High Cross, and Northpark farms in Albourne, and other land in Hurstpierpoint. (fn. 46) In the early 1960s Inholmes and Reeds farms, both in the north, were dairy farms, the latter with four fifths of its area under grass leys, while Albourne Place farm had both dairy and beef cattle. (fn. 47) Some of the East Sussex county council smallholdings set up after 1918 along the Poynings to High Cross road then ran successful small dairy herds. (fn. 48) Since the 1960s, however, arable acreage has increased, the chief crops being wheat and barley, with some oats and oilseed rape. In 1984 pasture and arable were of roughly equal importance. Albourne Place farm was then predominantly arable, while Inholmes farm, of 294 a., was an arable and sheep farm, the main crop being winter wheat. In 1985 Albourne Place, Bishops Place, and Jammeson (formerly Coldharbour) farms were farmed by the same man. (fn. 49)

A poultry farmer was mentioned in the parish in 1918, and another in 1934. (fn. 50) Most of the 44,466 head of poultry listed in the parish in 1975 were kept at a large egg farm, Whiteoaks farm, in the north. (fn. 51)

Two field names recorded south of Albourne Street c. 1840 indicate the previous cultivation of hops. (fn. 52) The same area of the parish, on the Lower Greensand outcrop, was later used for market gardening. (fn. 53)

There were four market gardeners in 1845, (fn. 54) and by the 1870s 12 a., chiefly along the Brighton road south of Albourne Street, were cultivated as market gardens, and there was 1 a. of orchard land. (fn. 55) In 1909 there were 7 a. of small fruit, chiefly currants and gooseberries, and 14 a. of orchards growing apples and plums. (fn. 56) By 1944 market gardening was the chief employer in the parish after agriculture. (fn. 57) In the 1950s there were three chief nurseries in the parish, including Hazelden's on the Brighton road, which grew trees and shrubs, (fn. 58) and which survived in 1984. In 1975 were listed 14 ha. of horticultural crops, including 5 ha. of orchards and small fruit, especially strawberries and raspberries, and 6 ha. of hardy nursery stock. (fn. 59) In 1984 there were two 'pick your own' holdings on the Poynings to High Cross road.

The surname Millward was recorded in 1327, (fn. 60) and there were millers in Bishopshurst tithing in 1527 and 1560. (fn. 61) A water mill mentioned at Albourne in 1552 (fn. 62) possibly occupied the mill site on Cutlers brook north-east of the church which is indicated by the field name Old mill ground recorded c. 1840 (fn. 63) and by earthworks which survived in 1984. (fn. 64) That site had apparently ceased to be used by 1615 since, though it adjoined the glebe on the north-east, it was not then mentioned among its bounds. The mill mentioned in 1615 (fn. 65) seems most likely to have occupied the site of the later Albourne mill further downstream on the Poynings to High Cross road, which existed by 1608, and which belonged to the Albourne manor estate in 1691 and later. (fn. 66) Alternatively called Truslers mill, it was worked by members of the Wickham family between c. 1840 and 1927, closing evidently soon afterwards. (fn. 67) The long and narrow mill pond (fn. 68) was overgrown in 1984.

The surnames Smith, Thatcher, and Carter recorded in 1327 (fn. 69) may indicate trades then practised in the parish. Two brewers and a butcher were mentioned in Bishopshurst tithing in 1560. (fn. 70) Trades named in the 17th and 18th centuries were those of butcher, (fn. 71) maltster, (fn. 72) mason, (fn. 73) carpenter, wheelwright, (fn. 74) and blacksmith. The smithy, at Albourne Green, was kept by members of the King family in the late 18th century and early 19th. (fn. 75) In 1811 one in 17 families was supported chiefly by non-agricultural occupations, and in 1821 and 1831 one in nine. (fn. 76) There was a grocer in 1845 and a shopkeeper in 1878. Less usual trades recorded between the mid 19th century and the mid 20th were those of horse dealer and haulage contractor. There was a vet from 1855, and a coal merchant in the early 1960s at Albourne Green. (fn. 77) The smithy at Albourne Green was apparently used by the succession of wheelwrights, coachbuilders, smiths, and farriers recorded between 1845 and 1938. (fn. 78) An agricultural engineering business there was mentioned in 1957, (fn. 79) and the village store and post office survived until 1977. (fn. 80) A brickfield and a sandpit existed in the south-east corner of the parish c. 1840; sand was also quarried elsewhere later. (fn. 81) The large landed estates of the parish gave employment in the later 19th century and earlier 20th to, among others, a farm bailiff, a gardener, a gamekeeper, and an estate carpenter.


  • 1. P.R.O., C 145/30, no. 49.
  • 2. Wiston Archives, i. pp. 385-6.
  • 3. Ibid, p. 4.
  • 4. Ibid. i, pp. 462-4; ii, p. 56.
  • 5. W.S.R.O., Cap. I/29/18; Cap. I/30/2, ff. 424-8.
  • 6. Ibid. Wiston MS. 5797.
  • 7. Ibid. Add. MS. 17101; ibid. SP 829.
  • 8. P.R.O., C 145/30, no. 49.
  • 9. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 5194, f. [12v.].
  • 10. Ibid. 5197, back cover; 5586 (13); B.L. Add. MS. 39472, f. 4; Wiston Archives, i, p. 4.
  • 11. Wiston Archives, i, p. 439.
  • 12. B.L. Add. Ch. 19149, 19151, 19161.
  • 13. W.S.R.O., Cap. I/30/2, ff. 428-31.
  • 14. Ibid. Cap. I/29/19.
  • 15. Ibid. S.A.S. MS. OR 46.
  • 16. Ibid. Wiston MS. 5199, pp. 39-47.
  • 17. Ibid. 5797.
  • 18. S.R.S. xxxi. 105, 124; see also above, manors (Albourne).
  • 19. W.S.R.O., Ep. VI/4/1, f. 51.
  • 20. Ibid. PHA 984, ff. [22-3]; S.A.C. lxvi. 193.
  • 21. W.S.R.O., S.A.S. MS. OR 80 (TS. cat.).
  • 22. E.S.R.O., SAS/N 685 (TS. cat.); Wiston Archives, i, p. 5.
  • 23. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 383.
  • 24. W.S.R.O., Ep. VI/1/4, f. 105v.
  • 25. B.L. Add. Ch. 19148.
  • 26. W.S.R.O., Cap. I/29/19; cf. ibid. TD/E 104.
  • 27. Cf. below.
  • 28. E.S.R.O., W/INV/547, 2113.
  • 29. Young, Agric. of Suss. 92, 103.
  • 30. P.R.O., C 145/30, no. 49.
  • 31. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 383.
  • 32. W.S.R.O., Cap. I/29/18; cf. Gardner, Suss. Map (1778-83).
  • 33. W.S.R.O., S.A.S. MS. OR 48, f. [5v.]; cf. S.A.S. MS. OR 124 (TS. cat.).
  • 34. Ibid. Cap. I/29/19; see pl. opposite.
  • 35. W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 5199, p. 46; cf. ibid. S.A.S. MS. WA 211 (TS. cat.).
  • 36. E.S.R.O., W/INV/547.
  • 37. Ibid. LCG/3/EW 1, f. [lv.].
  • 38. W.S.R.O., TD/E 104; E.S.R.O., SAS/EG 249 (TS. cat.).
  • 39. W.S.R.O., MF 59, f. 382v.
  • 40. Ibid. MP 935; P.R.O., IR 18/10219.
  • 41. P.R.O., MAF 68/433, 2371.
  • 42. W. D. Starley and M. Holt, Albourne Village Guide [early 1960s], 3.
  • 43. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 44. W.S.R.O., IR 1, f. 3; local inf.; cf. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1927 and later edns.).
  • 45. Starley and Holt, Albourne, 12; Jesse, Agric. of Suss. 133.
  • 46. Local inf.
  • 47. W.S.R.O., SP 534, 790, 1021.
  • 48. Jesse, Agric. of Suss. 18, 121; Starley and Holt, Albourne, 6.
  • 49. Inf. from Cdr. Lewis.
  • 50. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1918, 1934).
  • 51. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975; inf. from Cdr. Lewis.
  • 52. W.S.R.O., TD/E 104.
  • 53. e.g. O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVIII (1879 edn.); Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1895).
  • 54. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845).
  • 55. P.R.O., MAF 68/433; O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVIII (1879 edn.); W.S.R.O., Wiston MS. 5797.
  • 56. P.R.O., MAF 68/2371.
  • 57. S.N.Q. x. 19. The land on which flower seeds were grown from c. 1949 was chiefly in Hurstpierpoint: Jesse, Agric. of Suss. 18, 42, 92; inf. from Mr. P. Nelson, Hurstpierpoint.
  • 58. O.S. Map, 6" TQ 21. NE. (1963 edn.); Starley and Holt, Albourne, 3.
  • 59. M.A.F.F., agric. statistics, 1975.
  • 60. S.R.S. x. 165.
  • 61. W.S.R.O., Ep. VI/12/2, f. 12; Ep. VI/12/6, p. 22.
  • 62. P.R.O., CP 25(2)/526, no. 13.
  • 63. W.S.R.O., TD/E 104.
  • 64. Cf. S.A.C. cxiv. 328.
  • 65. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/17/62.
  • 66. Ibid. TD/E 104; ibid. Wiston MSS. 1, 5; Wiston Archives, i, pp. 385-6.
  • 67. W.S.R.O., TD/E 104; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845 and later edns.).
  • 68. O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVIII (1879 edn.).
  • 69. S.R.S. x. 165.
  • 70. W.S.R.O., Ep. VI/12/6, p. 22.
  • 71. E.S.R.O., SAS/N 536 (TS. cat.).
  • 72. Ibid. SAS/FA 917 (TS. cat.); S.A.C. lxiii. 144.
  • 73. W.S.R.O., S.A.S. MS. OR 88 (TS. cat.).
  • 74. S.R.S. xxviii. 11, 149; Hickstead Pla. Archives, ed. J. Brent, pp. 111-12.
  • 75. W.S.R.O., S.A.S. MSS. OR 18, 22, 29, 31, 33, 38 (TS. cat.); ibid. TD/E 104; ibid. Wiston MS. 5199, p. 46. A ref. to a fuller at Albourne in 1623 has not been traced: V.C.H. Suss. ii. 257.
  • 76. Census, 1811-31. Rest of para. based mainly on Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845 and later edns.).
  • 77. Starley and Holt, Albourne, 14.
  • 78. Cf. W.S.R.O., TD/E 104; O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXXVIII. SE. (1912 edn.).
  • 79. Southern Wkly. News, 19 July 1957.
  • 80. W. Suss. Gaz. 10 June 1976; inf. from Cdr. Lewis.
  • 81. W.S.R.O., TD/E 104; ibid. SP 790; ibid. Wiston MS. 5797.