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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Cowfold lies in the Weald, 8½ miles (13.5 km.) south-south-east of Horsham. The parish is compact and regular in shape, stretching 3 miles (5 km.) both north-south and east-west. It has been closely associated with Shermanbury to the south. The boundary between the two parishes in part follows minor watercourses, notably the Cowfold stream. That on the east, which also separated West from East Sussex until 1974 and Bramber rape from Lewes rape, is marked for two stretches by Spronketts Lane and Wyndham Lane, and that on the west largely followed minor roads until 1933. (fn. 1) The area of the parish was 4,501 a. (1,821 ha.) until that year, when the 121 a. (49 ha.) of High Hurst, lying beside the north-west corner of Cowfold parish, was added to it. (fn. 2) High Hurst had previously been a detached part of Nuthurst parish; the reason for that affiliation may have been that High Hurst was settled, requiring access to church services and being able to pay tithes, before Cowfold church was founded. Geographically and economically it belongs more with Cowfold than with Nuthurst: it was regarded as part of Cowfold in the 16th century, (fn. 3) and its history is included in the present account.
The land is gently undulating, falling from 300 ft. in the north-east tip to 25 ft. in the south. (fn. 4) It is drained by the Cowfold stream, which enters the parish just below the man-made Furnace pond in Lower Beeding and runs slightly west of south. Weald clay predominates in the parish, overlying the Upper Tunbridge Wells Sand except along a tongue of land running from the north-east corner almost to the centre; there are two patches of gravel in the south-east quarter, and five narrow bands of Horsham Stone run east-west across the parish. (fn. 5) There were brickworks in 1875 and 1909 in the north part just east of the Horsham road, the site marked in 1984 by Brickkiln Cottages, and brickfields southwest of the church at the centre of the parish in 1896 and 1909. About 1890 stone was quarried at High Hurst and at three places in the north-east quarter, and there were gravel pits towards the north-east corner and a sandpit near the south-west corner. None of those sites seems to have been in use in 1909, (fn. 6) but the quarries at High Hurst had by 1922 been revived for a time. (fn. 7)
No documentary evidence earlier than the 13th century has been found for Cowfold or any place within it. In the 11th and 12th centuries the land seems to have been used for woodland pasture, as is suggested by the place names incorporating the words den, fold, and hurst, (fn. 8) and for hunting. The possibility that Wallhurst was named as the Britons' wood suggests an early date for such exploitation, (fn. 9) in an area that had undergone prehistoric occupation. (fn. 10) Herbage rights in the Weald belonging to Beeding manor in 1210 were presumably in Cowfold, where that manor later had outlying farms, rather than in Lower Beeding, where it did not. (fn. 11) In 1256 the bishop of Chichester's chase called Gosden chase extended down the whole east side of Cowfold parish between Warninglid (in Slaugham) and Wyndham, across to the south-west corner at Mockford, and thence to Parkgate near the centre of the northern boundary of the parish. Each of the bishop's customary tenants owed service of carting brushwood from the chase. (fn. 12) It is not clear how much of the parish later belonging to other lords, particularly the north-east and southeast corners, respectively parts of Beeding and Shermanbury manors, (fn. 13) was excluded from the bishop's chase. The parks of Shermanbury and Ewhurst extended from Shermanbury parish over the south side of Cowfold. (fn. 14) A park at Littleworth recorded in 1484-5, evidently part of the Littleworth manor recorded in 1439-40, (fn. 15) is unlikely to have been at Littleworth in the south-west corner of Cowfold parish, (fn. 16) of which no other early record has been found. In 1329 oak trees were growing on Wallhurst manor in the north-east quarter. (fn. 17) In 1733 about a third of the Beeding manor estate comprising the north-eastern sixth of the parish was woodland or orchard. (fn. 18) The proportion of the whole parish that was woodland remained high, amounting to a quarter in 1839. (fn. 19) The woodland was most extensive in the north-east, and in 1974 covered almost exactly the same ground as in 1874. (fn. 20) No evidence has been found of open fields in Cowfold. Eight small pieces of waste in the south-west corner of the parish, just over 1 a. in all, were inclosed by an award of 1872 which related mainly to West Grinstead. (fn. 21) A large part of the north-west quarter of the parish, belonging to the Woldringfold estate, was made, apparently in the 1870s, (fn. 22) into parkland of which vestiges remained in 1984, together with the west, south, and east lodge cottages.
The roads running north and south through the parish and along its boundaries are ancient. That called Spronketts Lane and Wyndham Lane marks the eastern boundary of the parish at its north and south ends, and is likely to have been the 13thcentury way to Shoreham beside which a stranger was found dead, two men from Warninglid being suspected. (fn. 23) Peacocks Hill Lane and Burnthouse Lane at the north end and Littleworth Lane at the south end mark the western boundary. The highway running north past the church near the centre of the parish and on to St. Leonard's Forest was mentioned in 1530, (fn. 24) and in 1560 its upkeep between Upper Beeding and Peppersgate, apparently an entrance into the forest on the northern boundary of Cowfold, was the object of a bequest. (fn. 25) That was presumably the king's highway beside the churchyard mentioned in 1603, (fn. 26) the king's highway from Mock bridge to St. Leonard's Forest and Horsham in 1635, (fn. 27) and the road that was used by the travellers recorded in the parish registers between 1635 and 1807. (fn. 28) In 1724 it was carried over minor streams north and south of the village by Cotlands bridge and Bull's bridge, and the western boundary lane had Trenchmore bridge; those were the only two roads in the parish marked on the county map of that year, (fn. 29) but Wyndham Lane or another near it remained important in the late 17th century, for the parish roads were the responsibility of three waywardens, one each for East Lane, Middle Lane, and West Lane. (fn. 30) The other lane along the east side of the parish was Kentstreet Lane, indicated as the king's highway in 1598, (fn. 31) which ran north from Kent Street in Shermanbury to Smith's Cross whence Bull's Lane led east, Sandy Lane north, and Pound Lane west. The lane to the west was part of the king's highway from Wyndham to Parkgate in 1292; (fn. 32) it may have followed either Bull's Lane or Kentstreet Lane between Wyndham and Smith's Cross. Perryfield Lane was so called by 1840. (fn. 33)
The north-south road along the axis of the parish was turnpiked in 1771 as part of the Handcross- Henfield road, which was linked from Cornerhouse in Shermanbury with the Horsham-Steyning turnpike road (fn. 34) and in 1830 was given a branch from Crabtree in Lower Beeding to Horsham. (fn. 35) Those roads were disturnpiked in 1877. (fn. 36) The east-west route through Cowfold village was turnpiked in 1825 as part of the road from Cuckfield to Buck Barn in West Grinstead. (fn. 37) Previously it existed only as short stretches for local access: west of the village it was called a cross lane in 1635, (fn. 38) and the turnpike road west of Brownings replaced Trenchmore Lane (fn. 39) as the road from the village to Burnthouse Lane, while east of Oakendene the turnpike road followed a new straight course where there was no road c. 1800. (fn. 40) It was disturnpiked in 1876. (fn. 41) A bridle path northwards from the church and west of the vicarage was mentioned in 1635. (fn. 42) The nearest railway station, giving a name to Station Road, was 2 miles west of the village in West Grinstead parish on the Horsham- Shoreham line, opened in 1861; after its closure in 1966 (fn. 43) the nearest stations were at Horsham (6 miles) and Haywards Heath (8 miles). In 1903 an omnibus for Cowfold met trains at West Grinstead; (fn. 44) a service between Brighton and Horsham began in 1920, (fn. 45) and in 1984 buses stopped at Cowfold eight times a day in each direction.
The scattered settlement of Cowfold parish may represent the gradual and progressive establishment of outlying farms on what had been woodland pastures belonging to manors centred further south. Across the southern side of the parish nearly all the farms in the east and most of those in the centre belonged respectively to Shermanbury and Ewhurst manors, whose other lands lay immediately south, while those in the west belonged to Stretham in Henfield, centred 4½ miles due south. In the northern two thirds of Cowfold parish the estates of those three manors were intermingled, except that the farms in the eastern half of the northern third all belonged to Beeding manor, (fn. 46) centred 9 miles away south by west. The geographical relationships confirm the suggestion that the pattern of settlement was influenced by earlier transhumance from wealden-edge and downland parishes using routes that were kept as short as practicable.
The enclosure for cattle which gave the parish its name (fn. 47) is likely to have been within Beeding manor (fn. 48) and may have been either in the north-east quarter where the manor's lands were concentrated or near the site of the church where the manor had waste ground in the 15th century. (fn. 49) By 1210 the perquisites and tallage payable from the vill of Cowfold to the lord of Beeding manor indicate a permanent settlement from that manor, (fn. 50) and by 1257 the Cowfold tenants, customary and free, of Stretham manor formed a group distinct from their fellows in Henfield. (fn. 51) The place names Gosden, Oakendene, Patchgate (later Parkgate), Picknoll (later Parkminster), and Wallhurst were used as surnames from the late 13th century, suggesting that those places were already habitations. The personal names King and Walsh, recorded in 1296, (fn. 52) Swain, in 1309, (fn. 53) and Arnold, in 1327 (fn. 54) were later used in the names of farms, Arnolds becoming known later as Capons. (fn. 55) By the early 14th century farmsteads were widely scattered through the parish, if taxpayers may be assumed to have lived on the sites for which their surnames were later used. Six or seven sites linked nominally with taxpayers of 1327 and 1332 form a line running north-south in the eastern half of the parish, Gosden, Goodyers, Welches (later Long House), Wallhurst, Oakendene, Westridge, and possibly Kings, while Eastridge in the south-east corner may be linked with the surname atte Ridge. In the western half is another north-south line of sites similarly linked, Woldringfold, Brownings, Capons, Gervaise, Godshill, and Parkminster, with Swains lying off the line to the west. Between the two lines are Frithknowle, reflecting the name atte Frith, and Parkgate in the north, and in the south Gratwicke and Crateman's (earlier Croftman's), both surnames of taxpayers in 1327. (fn. 56) It is noticeable and surprising that the two lines of farmsteads lie not along but between the through routes running north and south. Parkgate is alone among the farmsteads in being beside one of the routes.
Several of the farmhouse sites apparently recorded in the late 13th and early 14th century retained into the 20th parts of medieval buildings, all timber-framed. Capons has a hall of two bays, perhaps of the late 13th century; it appears to have had north and south aisles that were removed in the 15th century when the western solar wing was added. The eastern bay of the hall was floored in the 16th century, when a medieval building was brought from elsewhere and added on the south-east. Belonging to the house is a double barn of the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 57) Swains has a main range which was rebuilt perhaps c. 1600 on a late medieval plan, and the subsidiary north-east wing, which may have been the kitchen, has a late medieval crown-post roof. Parkgate is a small 15th-century hall house, enlarged to north and south and divided into two cottages; its medieval barn was removed to another site in 1984. Godshill, burnt down in 1966, had an aisled hall and two cross wings. (fn. 58) Crateman's appears to contain some medieval walling but is mainly an early 17thcentury house with moulded and chamfered ceiling beams of relatively high quality; on the upper floor the two transverse walls have long S braces which are placed to allow for a passage along the north side. Goodyers, Long House, Wallhurst, Oakendene, Kings, Woldringfold, Brownings, Gervaise, Parkminster, and Gratwicke were the centres of estates discussed below. In the later 14th century Lydford was recorded as an estate and people were recorded whose surnames were later used for the farmhouses called Drewitts and Trenchmores. (fn. 59) Lydford, also called Fowles and in the 20th century Bankfield Farm, was rebuilt or remodelled in the 16th century; Trenchmores was three cottages in 1875 but in 1984 was again a single house; both may retain medieval structures. (fn. 60)
Other buildings, of which no medieval record has been found, retained medieval timber framing. Bridge Cottages by Bull's bridge were demolished after 1950. (fn. 61) John Bull's House, formerly Homelands, includes a two-bayed hall of the late 14th or early 15th century, part of a two-centred doorway surviving on the north side; the house, which once extended further west, was enlarged to the east and given a crown-post roof in the early 16th century, and at about the same time a detached hall of two bays, perhaps a kitchen or a separate dwelling, was built c. 10 ft. south of the original hall, the space between being filled with a chimney in the 17th century. Mockford incorporates a late medieval house of four bays with part of the screens passage surviving at the west end. At Peppersgate Farm, which is in fact just north of the parish boundary in Lower Beeding though its farm buildings and most of the associated settlement are in Cowfold, the main north-south range was evidently built before the north-west wing, which has a late medieval and heavily smoke-blackened crown-post roof. Pict's Cottages, formerly Pict's Farm and possibly the house of the Pick family recorded in the 15th and 17th centuries, (fn. 62) comprises a larger, northern building of three bays with formerly a central open hall which extended under an upper room at the south end and may have had a smoke bay against the gable end; (fn. 63) aligned with that building but originally detached from it is a smaller-scale two-bayed hall or kitchen with a smoke-blackened roof. A 15th-century barn survived at Avery's Farm until removed in 1980 to the Open Air Museum at Singleton near Chichester. (fn. 64) Some of the medieval farmhouses were rebuilt or enlarged in the late 16th and early 17th century, when houses were built or rebuilt at Brook Farm, Hookland, and Chatfield's Farm, of which no medieval record has been found. Brook Farm, on an irregular H plan, was restored and extended in 1911 to designs by F. Wheeler of Horsham; (fn. 65) from 1656 to 1722 it belonged to the Michell family, being owned with Little Oakendene from the earlier 17th to the late 18th century. In 1841 it was acquired by the botanist William Borrer, apparently for his son William, who by 1843 was living at Brookhill House. Brook Farm had alternatively been called Bull's (fn. 66) after a family which lived in Cowfold in 1332 (fn. 67) and is commemorated by several place names there. The Clock House, built near the western boundary in 1913-14, incorporates a 16th-century building moved from a few fields away. (fn. 68) At least two small brick farmhouses, Baldwins and Graffields, were built in the 18th century and the timber-framed Chates was apparently built after 1733 (fn. 69) as two symmetrical cottages with a central stack.
The farmhouses were fairly evenly scattered through the parish in the 17th century, but some seem to have been sited in pairs or to have been divided between two farming families. Capons and Godshill appear to be examples of conjoined dwellings; (fn. 70) several farm names were paired, as North and South Haines (both later Hill farm), Gervaise and Little Gervaise, Frithknowle and North Frithknowle, Singers and East Singers; (fn. 71) Allfreys and Avery's Farm, which lie close together, may share a common etymology; there seem to have been two estates called Woldringfold, (fn. 72) and three called Homelands were held of Shermanbury manor. (fn. 73) At Homelands, later John Bull's House, and elsewhere detached buildings, some of which have the appearance of free-standing kitchens, (fn. 74) may have been separate dwellings. A single substantive name, however, may have been used of widely dispersed sites: Eastridge and Westridge seem both to have been called Ridgelands, (fn. 75) and Oakendene Manor is on a site distinct from Oakendene Farm. Little Picknoll was possibly the later Little Parkminster rather than being close to Parkminster Farm (earlier Great Picknoll), though Little Parkminster was called Piddinghoe c. 1840. (fn. 76)
In the later 19th century and earlier 20th some of the farmhouses were rebuilt on a larger scale as gentry houses. In addition to Brook Farm, Woldringfold, Parkminster, Long House, and Wallhurst, mentioned above or below, Allfreys, a late 18thcentury timber-framed house, was given an elaborate Gothic front and Drewitts and Eastridge were rebuilt, while new gentry houses were built close to farmhouses which survived at Bankfield and Hill Farm. Eastridge and Hill Farm House were both private homes for old people in 1984, and apparently by 1971. (fn. 77) Other small farmhouses were converted into cottages or demolished. From the 18th century the timber-framed houses were cased in brick, with tile-hanging or weatherboarding usually above the ground-floor windows; (fn. 78) in the 20th century most but not all of the boarding was replaced by tiles. (fn. 79)
The number of dispersed farmsteads that are known to have existed by the 16th century, in a parish without a particularly large population, suggests that there was little medieval settlement on the site of the village. That suggestion is strengthened by the shape of the village, which is near the centre of the parish where by the 13th century the church had been built (fn. 80) west of the modern Henfield to Lower Beeding road. The roads running east and west from the village leave that road at different points and did not form a through route until 1825. (fn. 81) The churchyard is separated from the roads north and east of it by houses which have such restricted sites that they are likely to have been built on roadside waste or as encroachments on the churchyard. The site of a house near the church may be indicated by the surname Church (de ecclesia) used in the 14th century, (fn. 82) and in 1499-1500 a house next to the churchyard was said to have been lately built on the waste ground of Beeding manor. (fn. 83) The group of buildings on the east side of the churchyard includes a late medieval timber-framed hall parallel to the street and divided by 1984 into three occupations. West of the south, parlour, end is a late 16th-century building with a gable stack and a probably contemporary passage linking it to the hall. The range west from the north end is probably early 17th-century. Local tradition that part of the building was the priest's house is not known to have any foundation other than the position on the edge of the churchyard; in 1635 the churchyard was bounded on the east by a single house, that of Henry Lintott, mercer, and the vicarage was north of the churchyard beyond the lane (fn. 84) (later Station Road), evidently on the site which it occupied in the 19th century. (fn. 85) Near the south-east corner of the churchyard a large house, which in 1984 was the Cowfold Stores, was built or recased at the end of the 17th century and Church Farm House is a small timber-framed two-bayed house of the 17th century.
The cottages in Church Path along the north side of the churchyard, on which they front, are of the 17th century and later, except perhaps for one of the 16th. There were only four dwellings there in 1635, (fn. 86) and another six were perhaps being built in 1637. (fn. 87) The houses in Church Path were rebuilt at various periods. In the 18th century the village was enlarged with half a dozen small houses on the east side of the street. Among them is the Red Lion, which was built or rebuilt then and later remodelled; it formerly contained a fireback dated 1657. (fn. 88) In the early 19th century Steyne House, square and stuccoed with a pillared porch, was built south of the churchyard, while north of Bull's bridge and at that time detached from the rest of the village were built the later Hare and Hounds inn and a house called in the later 19th century Noah's Ark and in the 20th Wood Grange, stuccoed and with a pillared porch. The village stretched north in the mid 19th century with a few substantial houses, and two large houses in extensive grounds were built at the extremities, Brookhill House on the ridge to the north and Cowfold Lodge south of Bull's bridge; (fn. 89) Brookhill House was built c. 1842 apparently for William Borrer the younger, (fn. 90) who in 1891 published The Birds of Sussex (fn. 91) and died at Brookhill in 1898. (fn. 92)
St. Hugh's monastery at Parkminster was founded in 1873 when the Carthusian order bought the estate formerly called Picknoll. (fn. 93) The building, the only Carthusian monastery in post-Reformation England, was put up in a single campaign from 1876 to 1883 to a design by a French architect on an extensive plan with a vast inner cloister, a tall chapel, and a lofty spire visible from far around; the style has been described as French Gothic Revival at its weakest and harshest. (fn. 94) There were 30 monks c. 1883 and 70 in 1928. (fn. 95) The monastery provided Roman Catholic services for local residents in 1984, when there were 22 monks. (fn. 96)
Minor groups of small houses were established in the later 19th century on the Horsham and Henfield roads at Little Parkminster and Peppersgate.
In the village electricity became available under a scheme of 1927 (fn. 97) and gas under an order of 1936; piped water was supplied by 1938, (fn. 98) and a sewage works was built south-east of the village on a site used for a sewage farm by 1896. (fn. 99) As a result there was a great enlargement of the village in the mid and late 20th century. The north-east quadrant was used mainly for council houses, of which there were 90 in 1983, (fn. 100) while private estates were built on the site of the old vicarage in the north-west quadrant and in the south-west quadrant. The village was linked by continuous building with the houses at Bull's bridge, and in 1984 a private estate was under construction in the south-east quadrant, behind rather earlier houses along the Henfield and Bolney roads. Notwithstanding the extensive building and the large amount of traffic at the village centre where the north-south and east-west routes cross, supporting a transport café at Little Parkminster, the village retained in the 1980s an open aspect that resulted partly from the presence of the churchyard and even more from that of the green in the angle of the Horsham and Bolney roads and the large recreation ground to the east. The recreation ground was given in trust in 1945. (fn. 101)
The Red Lion public house at the centre of the village, reputedly established in the 1650s, (fn. 102) was by 1786 the meeting place of Wyndham half-hundred. (fn. 103) It was also the place where the vestry met in 1807 and 1840, (fn. 104) and in 1841 was used for treating parliamentary electors, (fn. 105) Cowfold being one of the polling places for the enlarged New Shoreham constituency until 1863. (fn. 106) The Red Lion survived in 1984 along with the Hare and Hounds, which sold beer from 1851 and was a public house by 1903. (fn. 107) The Jolly Farmer had been closed as a public house in 1900. (fn. 108) In 1984 there was a restaurant in the village and the shops included two antique shops.
The village had a small public reading room in 1867. F. D. Godman of South Lodge in Lower Beeding, the naturalist, provided a new village hall and reading room, with a lending library, in 1896; (fn. 109) it stands prominently in the centre of the village. A bowling alley adjoined the churchyard on the west in 1635. (fn. 110) A Cowfold cricket team played at a ground at Oakendene in 1721 and until 1815, (fn. 111) and the cricket field there was still discernible in 1926; (fn. 112) Cowfold cricket club was recorded in 1905 and was active in 1984. The village had a rifle range east of the village hall in 1909. There was a branch of the Sussex Hearts of Oak benefit society in 1870 and 1938. (fn. 113) In 1984 there was a variety of social and recreational clubs. (fn. 114)
The population of the parish, on the evidence of the registers, increased in the 16th century, when the average decennial excess of baptisms over burials between 1561 and 1600 was 42; it declined slightly in the period 1601-80 with an average decennial excess of burials over baptisms of 2.5, and rose strongly after 1720, with an average decennial excess of baptisms over burials of 75 up to 1812. (fn. 115) In accord with that evidence are the figures of 200 communicants in 1603, (fn. 116) 124 adult males in 1642, (fn. 117) c. 40 households assessed for hearth tax in the 1660s, (fn. 118) and 60 families in 1724, (fn. 119) but the figure of 300 conformists and nonconformists in 1676, (fn. 120) unless it implies migration to and from the parish before and after that date, either is an overestimate or includes children. A doubling of the population during the 18th century is suggested by the figure of 601 people living in 121 families in 85 houses in 1801, but the natural increase in the following decade was evidently offset by emigration, for while the number of families had increased by 1811 to 136 and that of houses to 124, there were only 614 people. From 822 in 1821 the population rose gradually to 1,042 in 1881 before falling slightly; it was back to 1,152 in 1911, and fluctuated near that total until 1951. The population of the area of High Hurst added in 1933 was 15 in 1931. Numbers in the whole parish increased to 1,399 in 1971 but had fallen to 1,259 residents in 1981, all except 75 of them living in private households. (fn. 121)
Burnthouse Farm and Hillsfoot are said to have been occupied by smugglers in the late 18th century. (fn. 122) A labourers' assembly was held at Cowfold in 1830, when the farmers agreed to a settlement of wages by the mob and the vicar's proposal to reduce his tithes by 15 per cent was rejected as insufficient. (fn. 123)