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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Shermanbury lies on the south side of the Weald, mid way between Horsham and Shoreham. The parish, compact in shape and measuring 2½ miles (4 km.) east-west and a maximum of 2¼ miles (3.6 km.) north-south, covers 775 ha. (1,914 a.). Its boundaries have remained constant: that with Cowfold to the north in part follows minor watercourses, notably the Cowfold stream, that on the east is marked by Wyndham Lane, which also separated West from East Sussex until 1974 and Bramber from Lewes rape, that on the west mostly follows field boundaries, and the parish is separated from Henfield to the south by the eastern arm of the river Adur and the former line of a southern tributary, across which it stretches in the south-east to the road which divides it from Woodmancote. (fn. 1) The administrative and tenurial links between Shermanbury and Cowfold were strong, and the northern boundary of the parish was for long less significant than that between Ewhurst manor, occupying the western third of the parish, and Shermanbury manor and the other lands east of the Cowfold stream. (fn. 2)
The parish lies on the Weald clay, with a narrow band of alluvium along the Adur. (fn. 3) The land is low, falling to less than 20 ft. above O.D. in the southwest and rising, without marked relief, to 125 ft. in the north-east. The Adur, which was navigable in the past below Mock bridge (fn. 4) and which is tidal for another 600 yd. above the bridge, (fn. 5) has been channelled further upstream into mill leats and drainage cuts. A little north of the junction of the Cowfold stream with the Adur a tributary of the stream forms a pond, where there were once three ponds, (fn. 6) and feeds the moat of Ewhurst Manor.
In the 13th and 14th centuries the parish included extensive arable, some of which lay in open fields. (fn. 7) A significant proportion of the land, however, was parkland, and the warrens or chases of Wyndham belonging in the late 14th century to the earl of Arundel (fn. 8) and to the bishop of Chichester (fn. 9) are likely to have extended into Shermanbury. The park at Ewhurst was recorded in 1274, (fn. 10) during the 14th century, (fn. 11) and in 1538. (fn. 12) The deer there were destroyed between 1545 and 1570, (fn. 13) but in 1627 when it had been disparked and the land grew corn and hay it was said to have had deer until 1588. (fn. 14) At Shermanbury manor a small deer park was recorded in 1361, (fn. 15) and Shermanbury park extended into Cowfold before 1682. (fn. 16) It was c. 70 a. in 1874 (fn. 17) and 135 a. in 1922, (fn. 18) being enlarged between 1875 and 1896, as was a park at Shermanbury Grange. (fn. 19) The parish is dotted with pieces of woodland and has many hedgerow trees. Nicholas Underwood, presented at Ewhurst manor court in 1394 for cutting down two oaks on the land which he held for term of life, was exonerated because the bailiff had given him one oak for the repair of his tenement. (fn. 20) In 1837 mature oak trees standing marked for felling and offered for sale numbered 394 on Ewhurst farm and 135 on Furzefield farm. (fn. 21)
Settlement by the mid 20th century was mostly strung along the roads marking the eastern boundary and close to the western boundary, but was earlier scattered over most of the area of the parish. Shermanbury has been listed as a deserted medieval village, (fn. 22) but it is unlikely that there was ever a nucleated settlement. The name presumably derives from the low natural mound in the neck of land between the Adur and the Cowfold stream, which provided defence on three sides while the eastern side was protected by a bank and ditch. (fn. 23) The site includes the parish church and the manor house of an estate which was recorded, with a little church belonging to it, in 1086. (fn. 24) Whatever the nature of the shireman whose burh it was, (fn. 25) it seems to represent colonization of the Weald from the downland or the coastal strip to the south. There is, however, no evidence of a village there: other nearby estates recorded in the 11th century, at Sakeham, Morley, and Woolfly (fn. 26) south of the Adur, the last two being in neighbouring parishes, (fn. 27) were based on scattered farmsteads; other early settlement in the parish was at Ewhurst, close to but distinct from the Shermanbury site, and at Wyndham; (fn. 28) and in the 13th century the vill within which the site lay was called not Shermanbury but Wyndham. (fn. 29)
A single reference to the vill of Shermanbury, between 1222 and 1244, is unlikely to relate to settlement near the church, where the landscape favours an east-west axis, since it records a messuage belonging to Sele priory and lying between a shop of the priory on the south and the land of John Beauchamp on the north. (fn. 30) That fits better with settlement along one of the north-south roads or lanes which continue the pattern described for Cowfold. (fn. 31) The king's highway near Ewhurst, recorded in 1352, (fn. 32) was presumably the Henfield-Cowfold road, which crosses the Adur by Mock bridge. (fn. 33) The road called Harness way from Ewhurst park to St. Leonard's Forest recorded in 1567 may have been the same road. (fn. 34) Wyndham Lane was by 1389 carried over the Adur by Wyndham bridge, (fn. 35) and it is likely to have been Wyndham Lane on which in 1538 a bridge was to be made at Sake Ride and the highway raised. (fn. 36) Parallel to Wyndham Lane on the west are Buckhatch Lane, repaired in 1649, and another north-south lane, nearer to Wyndham Lane. The second may have been either Boblers Lane or Reads Lane, both repaired in 1648 and 1649. (fn. 37) The north-south routes were linked by east-west lanes, of which the most important, Frylands Lane, led in 1389 from Wyndham Lane along the north bank of the Adur to Shermanbury church and manor house; (fn. 38) to the north Kent Street ran west from Wyndham Lane before turning north to join Buckhatch Lane, while to the south Sake Ride Lane cut across the southeast corner of the parish (fn. 39) and the road on the boundary existed by 1600. (fn. 40) The road from Cornerhouse to Partridge Green existed before it was turnpiked, (fn. 41) along with the Henfield-Cowfold road, in 1771. Both roads were disturnpiked in 1877. (fn. 42)
At Ewhurst, where finds of Roman coins (fn. 43) indicate earlier human activity, there may have been a settlement by 1073 when the name seems to have been recorded. (fn. 44) The settlement there is unlikely to have comprised more than the manor house (fn. 45) and a farmstead.
At Wyndham, usually called Wineham in the 20th century perhaps by assimilation to neighbouring Twineham, the houses are strung out on both sides of the road but mostly on the west, those on the east being in Twineham parish and Lewes rape. Wyndham hospital, founded in the 13th century, (fn. 46) may have been near the road ¼ mile north of Frylands Lane, where the site was recorded in the 1870s, (fn. 47) or ¼ mile further north, where Hospital field lies behind the Royal Oak; (fn. 48) no trace of the building has been found. (fn. 49) The hospital had a church and a graveyard, (fn. 50) and was presumably the place in Wyndham where an inquisition was held c. 1300. (fn. 51)
The eastern half of the parish contains most of the older surviving farmhouses, all timber-framed, including Abbeylands and Sakeham (fn. 52) south of the Adur and, in and around the rectangle formed by Wyndham, Frylands, and Buckhatch lanes and Kent Street, the houses called Fairoakland, Frylands, Oaklands, Park Farm, Pooks, Potts, Springlands, Vadgers, and Wyndham Pool. Frylands apparently took its name from William Fryland, a taxpayer in 1327, (fn. 53) and is a house of the 16th and 17th centuries; the south-west chimney stack bears the date 1693 and the initials V/HM, presumably for Hugh Vincent, who paid tithes for Frylands, (fn. 54) and his wife. Wyndham Pool is a small house of the later 16th century with a smoke bay into which a chimney was later built. Springlands, called Taylor's Farm in 1635 and until the early 20th century, has been much enlarged, and is also said to have a smoke-blackened roof. (fn. 55) At Kent Street, the name of which suggests more concentrated settlement than is evident before the 20th century elsewhere in the parish, a group of dwellings extends into Cowfold; it includes two small 17th-century houses, Potts Farm and Vadgers, and a terrace of three 18th- and 19th-century cottages, Barrack Cottages, while nearby were two medieval cottages at Snake's Harbour, demolished in the 20th century, and Buffords, which was wholly rebuilt then. (fn. 56) Oaklands, built in the mid 16th century and containing plasterwork painted with early 17th-century texts, (fn. 57) belonged to John Leeds of Wappingthorn in Steyning in 1606 (fn. 58) and to Thomas Beard in 1635. (fn. 59) To the east, Fairoakland was the freehold of Henry Agate in 1640; (fn. 60) the house is apparently of the late 18th century. Park Farm is a house of the late 17th or early 18th century. Pooks is a medieval house, mentioned below. (fn. 61) At the south-west corner of the rectangle is the former rectory, (fn. 62) ¾ mile from the church, and on the east side is the Royal Oak, the only public house in the parish, recorded from 1800, (fn. 63) of which the light framing suggests an 18th-century date. The Royal Oak and other small houses along the west side of Wyndham Lane between it and Fairoakland were built on roadside waste, being marked as within the boundaries of the road in 1787 when the triangle of woodland between the Royal Oak and Kent Street, used as a holiday caravan site in 1984, was part of the roadway. (fn. 64) The houses, described c. 1840 as 3 cottages, 8 tenements, and 2 workshops, were mostly replaced in the 20th century, when there were a dozen houses along the west side of the road and four pairs of cottages were built on the north side of Frylands Lane, making Wineham a relatively compact settlement. Also built on roadside waste were cottages or tenements, four c. 1840, (fn. 65) in the extreme south-east corner of the parish, where there were 10 small houses in Shermanbury in 1984, and the cottages called Old Doctors on the east side of Wyndham Lane but within the parish near the northern boundary. Old Doctors, called Doctor's House c. 1800, (fn. 66) is a low-built timber-framed structure apparently of the 18th century, which is said by tradition to have been named from a herbalist who lived there. In the same corner of the parish, on rising ground, Ellison Webb had built to his own design c. 1913 (fn. 67) a large house called the Hatch, later Quin, from old materials, the south front having a brick lower storey with close studding above. A few isolated houses were built in the 19th and 20th centuries in the area of Frylands Lane.
In the western part of the parish the houses away from Shermanbury manor house and Ewhurst were mostly spread along the Henfield-Cowfold road. Of 4 tenements, 2 cottages, and 2 workshops strung out c. 1840 on the east side of the central section of the road, only Cornerhouse survived in 1984, a nearly symmetrical pair of cottages with spindly framing except for close studding beneath the ground-floor windows. It was two tenements c. 1840, when the name Cornerhouse belonged, as in 1685 and 1727, to Wymarks, the house in the angle of the Cowfold and Partridge Green roads. (fn. 68) Wymarks, recorded from 1629, (fn. 69) was rebuilt in the 19th century but retains at least part of a 17th-century stone chimney against the north gable end. It was converted c. 1970 as a home for 16 old people. (fn. 70) Morley, formerly Morleys Farm or Morleys, near the northern boundary, was recorded from c. 1650 (fn. 71) and was perhaps named from the family of John Morley, a parishioner in 1642; (fn. 72) its core is a two-bayed timber-framed building of the late 15th or early 16th century with a chimney on the south gable end, lengthened to north and south perhaps soon afterwards, and later given an L shape with a north wing running west. About 1840 it was a farmhouse in two tenements on Sir Timothy Shelley's estate, (fn. 73) and after 1875 (fn. 74) it was much enlarged on the west, part being demolished in the 1970s. (fn. 75) Near the southern boundary Oatlands (Outlands in the late 19th and early 20th century) is a substantial L-shaped timber-framed farmhouse of which the extremities appear to be 17th-century cottages. Between Morley and Wymarks a terrace of cottages, three tenements c. 1840 and later called the Barracks or Barrack Cottages, retains early 19th-century window-frames and doorhoods. A homestead on the Partridge Green road and three farmyards with cottages or tenements lay away from the Cowfold road to the west c. 1840, by which time sites beside that road may have been preferred; between then and 1875 the homestead and two farmyards were abandoned, the site of one being taken for Shermanbury Grange and two others being included in the park belonging to that house, for which a new farmstead was built while another new farmhouse was built in the north-west corner of the parish. (fn. 76) Wychwood, a large house in extensive grounds, was built north of Oatlands c. 1937, (fn. 77) and between 1919 and 1939 the east side of the road was subjected to ribbon development: 34 houses, mostly bungalows in narrow plots, were built south of Cornerhouse and 14, partly in Woodside Close off the road, north-east of the Barracks. Each group was later enlarged by c. 10 houses. Seven single-storeyed houses were built opposite Morley apparently in the 1950s, (fn. 78) and three larger ones later there and near Cornerhouse.
A post office was opened between 1859 and 1862, (fn. 79) probably then, as in the earlier 20th century, at Cornerhouse, where a men's club was established in 1888 by Forrester Britten of Shermanbury Grange. (fn. 80) Another post office and shop was at Wyndham Pool in 1938, (fn. 81) and closed c. 1960. Gas was provided under an order of 1936, and a sewage works at Wyndham was built in 1964. (fn. 82)
Only seven households were said to live in the parish in 1428. (fn. 83) There were 52 adult males in 1642, (fn. 84) 19 households assessed for hearth tax in 1664, (fn. 85) 110 adults in 1676, (fn. 86) and 29 families in 1724. (fn. 87) From 270 in 53 families in 1811 the population rose steadily to 464 in 1861, fell sharply to 388 in 1871, and rose again after 1931 to over 400. In 1981 there were 425 residents, of whom all but 15 lived in private households. (fn. 88)