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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Intermittent tillage in the Anglo-Saxon period may be suggested by a field name in the north-east quarter of the parish. (fn. 1) Land belonging to Beeding manor, in the same quarter, was agriculturally productive by 1210, yielding corn and having a mill at which to grind it. (fn. 2) In the late 13th century and early 14th the farms of Wallhurst manor, which included a demesne farm, had horses, oxen, cows and calves, sheep, pigs, and grain including oats. (fn. 3) Sheep were unimportant in the parish in the mid 14th century compared with grain, hay, cider, dairying, and flax and hemp. (fn. 4) The arable was evidently used mostly for growing oats, which possibly used twice as much land as wheat and as barley and peas together in 1374 (fn. 5) and were mentioned in 1400 along with barley (fn. 6) and in 1500. (fn. 7) Rents of oats which seven copyholds of Beeding manor owed in the mid 18th century (fn. 8) presumably reflect traditional patterns of cropping. The arable may not have been extensive: in 1733 it was less than half of the north-eastern sixth of the parish, where a sixth of the land was meadow. (fn. 9) Even so, in the earlier 18th century the numbers of horses and working oxen kept by the farmers in proportion to the number of cattle, sheep, and pigs suggests that arable was then important. There were roughly equal numbers of horses and working oxen, but twice as many horse-harrows as ox-harrows. The farmers burnt chalk to lime the ground, and carted dung to the fields. Wheat accounted for nearly half the value of the crops, and oats for rather more than hay. Most farms had dairying and cheesemaking equipment. On the 15 farms recorded as having cows there were 7 bulls. Cattle, sheep, and pigs were fattened; (fn. 10) one farmer had 25 fattening sheep and 30 Dorset sheep. (fn. 11)
The medieval tenants appear to have had small holdings. On Wallhurst manor in 1309 the two largest were of 1 ferling and ½ ferling respectively. (fn. 12) The 15 tenants in Cowfold of Stretham manor seem to have shared 5 yardlands in 1374, two having 1 yardland each, two having ½ each, seven having ¼ each, and four sharing the remaining ¼ yardland. (fn. 13) The unfree tenants in Cowfold of Beeding manor were described as neifs in 1400, when their standard holding was ½ ferling and their customary works, by then commuted, included brewing. (fn. 14) The 12 tenements of Wallhurst manor were held by eight tenants in the early 15th century and by seven in 1506. (fn. 15) The copyholds of Stretham manor in 1614 were heritable and could be sublet; (fn. 16) those of High Hurst in the mid 17th century were said to be of inheritance (fn. 17) but were also held for lives. (fn. 18)
In 1682 there were 38 landholders in the parish who were assessed, on a total of 68 estates, for maintaining each a length of the churchyard fence. (fn. 19) The assessment did not include High Hurst, where in 1704 there were 6 free and 2 customary tenants. (fn. 20) In the late 17th and early 18th century most agricultural holdings were between 25 a. and 100 a. Copyholds well outnumbered freeholds, of which none were recorded of Stretham manor. (fn. 21) One freehold of Shermanbury manor, in which two earlier estates were merged, Hedgeland and Kings, was reputedly 140 a., (fn. 22) and a freeholder of Beeding manor had a small copyhold bringing his holding on that manor to 124 a. (fn. 23) The copyholds of Wallhurst manor, which descended by borough English, were enfranchised between 1831 and 1852, (fn. 24) those of Stretham between c. 1850 and 1921, (fn. 25) those of High Hurst after 1866, (fn. 26) and those of Ewhurst between 1873 and 1901. (fn. 27) Copyholds of Shermanbury were enfranchised in 1872, 1874, 1905, and 1914; (fn. 28) Beeding manor in 1888 had several copyholds, of which Goodyers was enfranchised in 1892. (fn. 29)
In the early 19th century four families out of five were supported chiefly by agriculture; in 1831 the inhabitants included 22 agricultural occupiers, of whom all but four employed labour, and 119 adult male labourers on the farms. (fn. 30) By 1839 there were 35 occupiers of more than 20 a., but a high proportion may have lived outside the parish, in which 5 had no house more than a cottage and others may have used farmhouses to accommodate their labourers. Medium-sized holdings predominated: 18 were of 50-150 a., 7 of 150-300 a., and 1 of 568 a. (fn. 31) In 1875 returns were made of 44 holdings, many of which are likely to have been small; of 54 for which returns were made in 1909, there were 10 under 5 a., 21 of 5-50 a., and 21 of 50-300 a. (fn. 32) Occupiers of more than 20 a. numbered 28 in 1910, of whom 2 had more than 500 a., another 5 more than 150 a., and 8 less than 50 a. (fn. 33) The number of farmers entered under Cowfold in directories increased steadily from 10 in 1867 to 25 in 1930, and 3 out of 25 in 1938 were said to have more than 150 a., (fn. 34) though the proportion was probably higher. In 1975 of 23 farms recorded 10 were less than 50 ha., 8 of 50-100 ha., 4 of 100- 200 ha., and 1 of 200-300 ha.; four fifths of their land was owner-occupied. (fn. 35)
The main crops grown in 1801 were wheat (653 a.) and oats (571 a.), with smaller amounts of peas (53 a.) and turnips or rape (15 a.) and no barley or potatoes. The estimated yield of wheat was high, and the price in Horsham market led to the sowing of a larger acreage than usual. (fn. 36) There were then over 100 dairy cattle, c. 50 fattening oxen, c. 200 steers, heifers, and calves, over 500 sheep, and c. 300 pigs. (fn. 37) In 1839 there were reckoned to be 2,151 a. of arable, on which a four-course rotation was mainly followed, 754 a. of meadow and pasture, and 933 a. of woodland; (fn. 38) the calculation of areas evidently underestimated by at least a tenth. The proportion of arable declined in the late 19th century. Returns for three quarters of the parish in 1875, the woodland being excluded, showed 1,056 a. under permanent grass, 2,552 a. of arable, 13¼ a. of orchard, and 3 a. of market gardens and nurseries. The chief crops were wheat (677 a.), oats (514 a.), clover (473 a.), vetch (189 a.), roots (172 a.), and peas and beans (166 a.), while bare fallow accounted for 288 a. There were 153 horses, 600 cattle of which 183 were in milk or in calf, 933 sheep and lambs, and 235 pigs. Figures for 1909, relating to only half the area of the parish, indicate that half the cultivated area was permanent grassland, of which only a small part was for mowing, and only between 200 a. and 300 a. were returned as sown with each of the main crops, oats, wheat, and clover. Orchards had increased to 29 a., including 22 a. of apples. The numbers of horses (179) and pigs (279) had increased moderately, of cattle (927, with 241 in milk or in calf) and of sheep and lambs (1,927) more markedly. (fn. 39) By 1935 three quarters of the land was meadow and permanent grassland, and much of the remainder was woodland. (fn. 40) In 1975 more than two thirds of the parish was under grass; barley (173 ha.) took nearly five times the area of wheat (35 ha.). There were 2,367 cows, 1,705 sheep, 171 pigs, 38,000 laying hens, and 1,000 turkeys. (fn. 41) Other poultry in 1984 included geese and reared pheasants. In the 1930s there was a fine herd of Jersey cattle at Woldringfold. (fn. 42) At High Hurst there had been a stud farm since 1895 or earlier. (fn. 43)
A market for corn was said in 1849 to be held every alternate Wednesday in Cowfold, (fn. 44) but no other record of it has been found.
In the early 13th century a mill in Cowfold belonged to Beeding manor. (fn. 45) It was perhaps the same mill which Robert the miller held in fee of Wallhurst manor in 1310 (fn. 46) and from which tithes were paid in 1341. (fn. 47) Gosden mill, on the Cowfold stream where it enters the parish in the north, was mentioned in Beeding manor accounts of 1400 (fn. 48) and 1439. (fn. 49) Later there were two water mills at Gosden. The upper mill was held of Beeding manor, apparently by copyhold, (fn. 50) and was possibly the water mill recorded in Cowfold in 1576. (fn. 51) It was fed by the Furnace pond and was evidently used as a forge in conjunction with an iron-smelting furnace in Lower Beeding in the 1580s; (fn. 52) during the 17th century an ironworker of Cowfold was fined for working on Sunday. (fn. 53) In 1816 there was a question about the tenancy of Gosden (fn. 54) or the upper mill, and about that date it was used as a flour mill. (fn. 55) In 1839 it was referred to as Gosden House and was in the same ownership and occupation as the lower mill. (fn. 56) It was a flour mill in 1874 but was disused by 1896, (fn. 57) at which period it was known as Little Gosden mill; (fn. 58) the last miller moved to an oil-powered mill in Mill Lane, which was burnt down in 1933. (fn. 59) The lower mill was copyhold of Beeding manor; it was built or rebuilt between 1597 and 1605, known as Marles mill in 1733 and 1825 (fn. 60) and as Gosden mill in 1839 (fn. 61) and 1901, (fn. 62) and used as a corn mill until 1895 (fn. 63) or later. By 1981 there was no sign of the lower mill, apart from traces of stonework in the bank of the pond. A windmill at Gosden apparently existed by 1790, being owned in 1854 (fn. 64) with Marles mill, and survived until 1882 or later. (fn. 65) The windmill which the lessee of High Hurst was licensed to pull down in 1592 (fn. 66) may have been in what was later part of Cowfold.
Smiths and shoemakers were recorded in Cowfold between 1296 and 1346. (fn. 67) In the 16th century the parish may have had a small share in the cloth industry, with a weaver in 1525 (fn. 68) and a shearman in 1570. (fn. 69) There was a butcher in the mid 16th century, (fn. 70) and the lessee of High Hurst in 1565 was described as a butterman. (fn. 71) Cowfold had at least eight mercers in the period 1615-1747; four of them were members of the Lintott family, of whom one of the two named in 1674 was also described as a merchant, and two were of the Steele family. (fn. 72) Mary Steele (d. 1719), widow, left goods which exceeded in value those in all but two of the surviving probate inventories for Cowfold of the earlier 18th century; they comprised almost entirely trade debts (£239) and the stock in her shop and warehouses (£490), mostly silks, linens, and other textiles but also haberdashery, grocery, chandlery, crockery, tobacco, brandy, gunpowder, and shot. John Lintott (d. 1721-2) of Oakendene, gentleman, had shop furniture but no stock in the old shop house at Cowfold street. (fn. 73) The houses of at least 10 parishioners, mostly yeomen or husbandmen, in the period 1711- 53 contained quantities of sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, and napkins far in excess of ordinary household requirements, suggesting that the goods had been received for finishing, for casual trading, or as payment or surety for debts. There were also quantities of yarn, flax, and hemp tow and tear and spinning wheels for linen, but there is no evidence of weaving. (fn. 74) Other 17th-century occupations were carpenter, cooper, 'bullock leech', (fn. 75) mason, tailor, (fn. 76) and butcher, (fn. 77) and from the earlier 18th century the village seems to have supported many tradesmen, including 2 blacksmiths, one of whom had 12 books at his death in 1730, 2 butchers, 3 carpenters, 2 wheelwrights, 2 tailors, (fn. 78) and a brickmaker. (fn. 79) In 1831 retail trade and handicraft employed 40 out of a working male population of 211. (fn. 80) A victualler recorded in 1786 may later have become a blacksmith; (fn. 81) there was a timber merchant in 1794. There were shopkeepers in 1814 (fn. 82) and 1839, (fn. 83) and one in 1855 was called a grocer. (fn. 84) The number of shopkeepers rose from five in 1867 to ten in 1938, and in that period other occupations included tailor, bootmaker, saddler, flour dealer, accountant, estate agent, and surgeon. (fn. 85) There were two smithies in the 1890s and west of the village a bone mill. (fn. 86) In the 1980s businesses in the village included c. 10 shops, 3 garages, Steves Motor Cycles, Fiberester Ltd., A. J. Walter (Aviation) Ltd., and a substantial building firm, Fowler Bros.; that firm, which also specialized in swimming pools, had been started by Stephen Fowler in 1853. (fn. 87) In 1981 Horsham district council found that former agricultural buildings at Oakendene had been used since 1980 as an industrial estate by c. 30 small businesses without planning permission, and in 1982 allowed the use to continue. In 1984 the 38 units were occupied by 28 firms engaged predominantly in light engineering. (fn. 88)
Oak trees on Wallhurst manor were cut in 1329 without the lord's licence, and Oakendene wood was coppice in 1506. (fn. 89) The availability of timber in Cowfold evidently brought there the maker of ship's planks recorded in 1588. (fn. 90) A licence to fell and cart away 36 timber trees on the High Hurst estate was granted in 1594, (fn. 91) and in 1614 the right to cut and carry the great trees on 90 a. elsewhere in Cowfold was sold to ironmasters for making charcoal. (fn. 92) In 1614 also the copyholders of Stretham manor challenged what appears to have been an attempt by the bishop of Chichester as lord to fell and sell timber growing on the copyholds, which Chancery decreed to be for the several use of the tenants. (fn. 93) About the same time timber worth c. £30 on Dragons copyhold was sold. (fn. 94) In the earlier 18th century the farmers exploited the woodland for fuel and grew furze for the same purpose. (fn. 95) John Roberts of Welches at his death in 1739 had a stock of timber, mostly already sawn or shaped, that represented nearly a third of the value of his goods. (fn. 96)
Stretham manor included a warren near Gervaise in 1647; (fn. 97) two warrens on the west side, but not including that one, and one on the east side of the parish were recorded by fields named Coneybury in 1839. (fn. 98)