Edburton: Church

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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'Edburton: Church', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987) pp. 51-52. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol6/pt3/pp51-52 [accessed 24 April 2024]


The benefice was a rectory by 1270. (fn. 1) As an archiepiscopal peculiar Edburton lay in Canterbury diocese until 1846, when it was transferred to Chichester diocese. (fn. 2) Between 1957 and 1982 the living was held in plurality with that of Poynings, (fn. 3) and in the latter year it became part of the united benefice of Poynings with Edburton, Newtimber, and Pyecombe, the parishes remaining distinct. (fn. 4)

The advowson always apparently belonged to the archbishop. The Crown presented during vacancies in 1270, 1278, and 1486, and also in 1561, (fn. 5) and the Lord Protector nominated in 1656. (fn. 6) From 1982 the right of presentation to the new united benefice was to be exercised alternately by the Lord Chancellor and by the archbishop and bishop jointly. (fn. 7)

Tithes at Fulking and Perching were granted to Lewes priory in the late 11th century; (fn. 8) in 1341 they were worth 2 marks. (fn. 9) In 1368 they were exchanged for a pension of £3 3s. 4d., (fn. 10) which was still paid to the Crown, as successor in title to Lewes priory, in 1627. (fn. 11) The living was valued at £14 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 12) In 1341 the rector had tithes from a ploughland at Truleigh worth 13s. 4d. which had previously been tithed to Woodmancote; (fn. 13) the rector of Woodmancote, however, took tithe from 2 a. of hay in the Edburton common meads in 1675. (fn. 14) In 1535 the living was said to be worth £16 net. (fn. 15) The average net income c. 1830 was £379. (fn. 16) About 1841 the tithes were commuted for £420. (fn. 17)

There was glebe valued at 10s. in 1341; (fn. 18) in the 19th century it comprised only 3 a., but c. 1841 the rector also leased 4 a. of adjacent land from the Crown. (fn. 19) A rectory house existed in 1664, when it had five hearths. (fn. 20) The existing building, called Edburton House in 1984, incorporates walling of the 17th century or earlier at the west end of its main range. In the early 18th century the house was described as 'old and crazy and low', and part of it collapsed c. 1710. (fn. 21) The building appears to have been reconstructed at various dates in the 18th and 19th centuries. The central portion was heightened early in the 18th century, presumably soon after c. 1710. A 'very good room and hall' and an additional stable were put up between 1754 and 1782. (fn. 22) In the early 19th century the entrance was moved from the south to the east side, (fn. 23) and extensions were made at the west end, including the addition of a stair block; those alterations seem to have been carried out partly to accommodate pupils taken by the rector. (fn. 24) The kitchen wing on the north side is later 19th-century. The rectory house was sold presumably c. 1957, after which the incumbent lived at Poynings. (fn. 25)

At least two medieval rectors were absentees, (fn. 26) one being a penitentiary in South Malling collegiate church. John Thomson, rector from 1521, was master of the Maison Dieu at Dover in 1543, (fn. 27) and his successor served through a curate in 1548. (fn. 28) A later rector was resident in 1563, (fn. 29) but was deprived for unlicensed pluralism in 1569. Most rectors between the later 16th century and the earlier 19th seem to have been pluralists, many living elsewhere. Robert Spalding, rector 1606-25, was regius professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, and his successor was chaplain successively to the Electress Palatine and King Charles I, continuing to serve until his ejection in 1655, though another man signed the protestation as minister in 1642. (fn. 30) The next incumbent, Nicholas Shepherd, conformed at the Restoration. The Scot George Keith, rector 1705-16 and a former Quaker, held no other benefice but was forced by the poverty of the living to sell part of his library. (fn. 31) Another early 18th-century rector, while living at Cliffe near Lewes, personally read alternate morning and afternoon Sunday services at Edburton in 1717; there were then c. 20 communicants, but parishioners went to Poynings church for other Sunday services. (fn. 32) Assistant curates were often recorded from the early 18th century. (fn. 33) Charles Baker, rector 1754-84, had previously served as curate, and after 1770 was master of Steyning grammar school. In 1758 he held a service with sermon every Sunday and communion eight times a year for 35 or 40 communicants. (fn. 34)

The parish choir, of eight or ten singers together with instruments, was well regarded in the neighbourhood c. 1835. (fn. 35) On Census Sunday in 1851 the morning service was attended by 80 and the afternoon one by 122. (fn. 36) Communion was then still held eight times a year, but by 1903 weekly. (fn. 37) During the 20th century there has been a strong High Church tradition in the parish. A mid-morning Sunday eucharist with vestments was established, (fn. 38) and the successful campaign of opposition to union with Poynings in the 1930s was fuelled partly by differences in forms of worship. (fn. 39) Church attendance, however, declined after the opening before 1903 of a mission room at Fulking accommodating 50; it was replaced by another building in 1925, (fn. 40) which was not used after 1983. (fn. 41)

A chantry on the north side of Edburton church was founded c. 1320 by William of Northo with an endowment of a house, a yardland, and 60s. rent in Edburton, Southwick, and elsewhere; (fn. 42) in 1357-8 it bore a dedication to St. Catherine. (fn. 43) The income was 31s. net c. 1548, (fn. 44) the lands afterwards being resumed into the Truleigh manor demesne farm. (fn. 45)

The church of ST. ANDREW (the dedication is recorded from 1320) (fn. 46) is of flint and stone, and comprises a chancel and a nave with north transept, west tower, and south porch.

The existing building is chiefly late 13th- and early 14th-century, and is of simple and unified design; its scale presumably reflects its archiepiscopal patronage rather than a putative larger medieval population of the parish. Portions of walling remain from an earlier church, to which the remarkable font evidently belonged; it is of lead, decorated with an arcade and scrolls, and was made c. 1180. (fn. 47) The tall nave is late 13th-century, and the chancel, tower, south porch, and north transept or chantry chapel are early 14th-century. The east and west windows were renewed in the later Middle Ages.

The church was said in 1620 to be very ruinous and likely to fall down, chiefly it seems because of the poor condition of the north transept. (fn. 48) A ceiling had been inserted by 1782. (fn. 49) The chancel was restored in the 1830s, (fn. 50) and the east window was replaced c. 1868. (fn. 51) The chief 19th-century restoration, however, dates from the years 1878-80, and was carried out by Norman Shaw. The whole church was reroofed, and new fittings were added, including benches and stalls in 17th-century style. (fn. 52) In 1938 the north transept, which had hitherto remained private property, was repaired and restored for worship, (fn. 53) fittings of a High Church character being installed c. 1941. (fn. 54)

Medieval fittings besides the font and two bells are three piscinae and a stoup. The pulpit and the communion rails are early 17th-century. Memorials in the church include the baroque wall monument to William Hippisley of Truleigh (d. 1657), which was restored from fragments in 1957-8; (fn. 55) those in the churchyard include a stone monument to George Keith, rector 1705-16, which was designed c. 1930 by W. H. Godfrey. (fn. 56)

Two of the three bells are medieval, the other being of 1639. (fn. 57) None of the plate is earlier than 18thcentury. (fn. 58) The registers begin in 1558. (fn. 59)


  • 1. Cal. Pat. 1266-72, 500.
  • 2. Dioc. of Chich.: Cat. of Rec. of Bp., Archdeacons, etc. comp. F. W. Steer and I. M. Kirby, p. xxii.
  • 3. Chich. Dioc. Dir. (1957-8 and later edns.).
  • 4. Inf. from Chich. Dioc. Regy.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1266-72, 500; 1272-81, 268; S.A.C. xxvi. 30-4.
  • 6. S.A.C. xxxiii. 213.
  • 7. Inf. from Chich. Dioc. Regy.
  • 8. S.R.S. xxxviii. 13.
  • 9. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 391.
  • 10. S.R.S. xl. 105-6.
  • 11. Guildhall R.O., R.C.E. Papers, no. 123, f. [15v.]; cf. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, p. 242. The sum was wrongly given as 40s. in 1535: Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 338.
  • 12. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 138.
  • 13. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 382.
  • 14. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/17/148.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 338.
  • 16. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, 193.
  • 17. W.S.R.O., TD/W 168.
  • 18. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 391.
  • 19. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 238; W.S.R.O., TD/W 168.
  • 20. P.R.O., E 179/258/14, f. 33; cf. S.A.C. xxvi. 32.
  • 21. Howe, Edburton, 33.
  • 22. B.L. Add. MS. 5698, f. 193; cf. S.A.C. xxvi. 32.
  • 23. Howe, Edburton, 33.
  • 24. Ibid. 50.
  • 25. Chich. Dioc. Dir. (1957-8 and later edns.); inf. from Chich. Dioc. Regy.
  • 26. Para. based mainly on S.A.C. xxvi. 30-4; Howe, Edburton, 39-49.
  • 27. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xviii (1), p. 195.
  • 28. S.R.S. xlii. 123.
  • 29. S.A.C. lxi. 118.
  • 30. S.R.S. v. 77.
  • 31. D.N.B.
  • 32. Lamb. Pal. Libr., 1115/34.
  • 33. Howe, Edburton, 48-50; W.S.R.O., Par. 78/5/2, 4.
  • 34. Lamb. Pal. Libr., 1134/5, f. 105.
  • 35. Blaker, Reminiscences, 23.
  • 36. P.R.O., HO 129/86/2/4/6.
  • 37. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/14A/1 (1856, 1903).
  • 38. Howe, Edburton, 59-60.
  • 39. W.S.R.O., Par. 78/7/13; Par. 451/6/10.
  • 40. Ibid. Ep. II/14A/1 (1903); ibid. Par. 78/7/8; Howe, Edburton, 60.
  • 41. Inf. from Mrs. R. L. Windus, Truleigh Fm.
  • 42. P.R.O., C 143/140, no. 14; Rot. Parl. i. 400; Cal. Pat. 1324-7, 181; for the location, S.R.S. xxxvi. 168.
  • 43. S.R.S. xxiii, p. 142.
  • 44. Ibid. xxxvi. 129.
  • 45. Ibid. xxix, p. 83.
  • 46. P.R.O., C 143/140, no. 14. For the ch., S.N.Q. iv. 53-5; Howe, Edburton, 51-5; above, pl. facing p. 48.
  • 47. S.A.C. xxxii. 75-8.
  • 48. Ibid. I. 42-3.
  • 49. B.L. Add. MS. 5698, f. 193.
  • 50. Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1849); cf. S.A.C. xxvi. 33-4.
  • 51. Howe, Edburton, 52, 83 n. 9.
  • 52. A. Saint, Richard Norman Shaw, 420; Brighton and Suss. Daily Post, 29 Oct. 1880 (copy in W.S.R.O., Par. 78/7/5).
  • 53. Howe, Edburton, 84 n. 6; W.S.R.O., Par. 78/4/4.
  • 54. W.S.R.O., Par. 78/4/8.
  • 55. Ibid. Add. MS. 19913 (TS. cat.); S.A.C. xxxv. 196-7.
  • 56. S.C.M. vi. 367.
  • 57. Howe, Edburton, 53-4; Elphick, Bells, 55, 303.
  • 58. S.A.C. liv. 238-9.
  • 59. W.S.R.O., Par. 78/1.