Ifield: Local government and public services

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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'Ifield: Local government and public services', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987) pp. 67-68. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol6/pt3/pp67-68 [accessed 25 April 2024]


There are court rolls for Ifield manor for the years 1534–5 (fn. 1) and 1739–1949. (fn. 2) Already by the 16th century courts were apparently held only annually. (fn. 3) Between 1739 and 1894, the date of the last court, only 21 courts are recorded. Business was being dealt with out of court from 1879. In the later 18th century the court met at Ifield Court. (fn. 4) A headborough was recorded in the 16th century, (fn. 5) and in the later 18th and earlier 19th centuries was described as the headborough for Stanford in Slaugham, Ifield, and Bewbush in Lower Beeding; (fn. 6) the beadle recorded from 1739 and the reeve mentioned in the 1840s presumably held the same office under other names. A pound keeper was recorded between 1761 and 1881; in 1840 he was a Quaker. What was presumably the manor pound stood on the southeast corner of Ifield green in 1839. (fn. 7) In the 18th and 19th centuries, besides dealing with land transactions, the court managed the common wastes. (fn. 8)

There are court rolls of Prestwood manor for various years between 1362 and 1491, and for the years 1578–88. By the 15th century not more than one court was generally held in each year. A bailiff was mentioned at that period. In the later 16th century the court was held by the demesne lessee, and oversaw the upkeep of hedges and ditches. (fn. 9)

Nothing is known of any courts for Bonwicks or Langleys manors.

Two churchwardens were recorded from the late 16th, and two overseers and two surveyors of highways from the early 17th century. (fn. 10) A house for the parish clerk was built beside the churchyard before 1711. (fn. 11) In 1713, besides rate income, rent was received from a house or land owned by the parish. (fn. 12)

Pauper children were apprenticed in the 17th century. (fn. 13) In the 18th century paupers received weekly doles, and in addition the parish paid for boarding out and for clothing, fuel, and medical care. (fn. 14) There was a workhouse by 1739, possibly on the site on Ifield green which it occupied in 1793. (fn. 15) The inmates received weekly doles in 1785; (fn. 16) in the early 1810s they numbered c. 25. (fn. 17) A labour rate was in operation during the winter of 1832–3, to objections from small tradesmen and grassland farmers who needed little labour. (fn. 18) In 1834 c. 12 labourers were out of work in summer, and c. 24 in winter, work being provided for them on the roads. The workhouse then had 15 inmates, and in one week c. 50 parishioners received out relief. (fn. 19) Besides the workhouse the parish in the 1830s owned several houses for occupation by paupers. All apparently stood on commons or wastes, and had presumably originated as encroachments; (fn. 20) one which survived in 1985 was Oak Tree Farm in Ifield wood. About 1840 the parish also owned arable closes on the edges of Lowfield heath and Ifield green. (fn. 21)

From 1835 Ifield was in Horsham union. (fn. 22) The division of the growing village, later town, of Crawley between Ifield and Crawley parishes caused administrative difficulties, especially before 1880 when the two parishes were in different unions. (fn. 23) The Lighting and Watching Act, 1833, was adopted by Crawley parish in or before 1859, (fn. 24) and for the urban part of Ifield in 1868. (fn. 25) In the mid 1880s the Ifield lighting inspectors met roughly once a month, at the Railway hotel. Their duties were taken over in 1896 by the newly appointed parish council. (fn. 26) A joint parochial committee for Ifield and Crawley was set up in 1904, with powers apparently only over refuse collection, street watering, and the like; (fn. 27) in 1916 it comprised the members of both parish councils and the representatives of both parishes on Horsham rural district council. (fn. 28) Various abortive attempts were made in the later 19th and earlier 20th centuries to obtain urban powers for Crawley town. (fn. 29) Not until 1933 was the urban area under a single parish authority, and the new Crawley parish became an urban district only in 1956. (fn. 30)

Before the 20th century water in Ifield, including the urban part, (fn. 31) was obtained from wells. In 1898 the Crawley and District Water Co. was formed, by members of the Longley family among others; a well was sunk, and a pumping station built, c. ⅓ mile south-west of the railway station in Ifield parish. The company was never profitable, but by 1910 it supplied three quarters of Crawley town. In 1925 it was taken over by Horsham rural district council, (fn. 32) which in 1928 supplied Crawley and parts of Worth and Ifield parishes from the waterworks in Ifield. (fn. 33) In 1943 mains water was available on the Ifield manor estate, most houses and cottages being supplied with it. (fn. 34) The pumping station was disused by 1946. (fn. 35)

The rapid growth of Crawley in the later 19th century caused problems over sewage disposal in the early 1880s, (fn. 36) for instance at West Green. A scheme prepared by Ifield vestry was refused sanction by the Local Government Board in 1882, (fn. 37) but in the following year Horsham union as sanitary authority was empowered to buy land in Ifield for disposing of sewage from both Ifield and Crawley. (fn. 38) The system laid down presumably at that time was extended c. 1907, when new sewage disposal works were constructed in the north-east corner of the parish. (fn. 39) Much of the Ifield manor estate had a main sewer in 1943. (fn. 40)

Gas street lighting was introduced in Crawley parish in 1859, (fn. 41) the Crawley Gas Co.'s works being north of the village on the London Road, (fn. 42) and was extended to part of Ifield from 1868. (fn. 43) In 1886 the Horley District Gas Co. was empowered to supply Ifield parish, (fn. 44) and in 1901 it absorbed the Crawley company's undertaking. (fn. 45) The quality of street lighting in Crawley town was much criticized in the early 20th century. In 1910 the Sussex Electricity Supply Co. of Burgess Hill opened a works in Crawley, (fn. 46) and by 1916 electric lighting and power were easily available. (fn. 47) The company was empowered to supply the rural part of Ifield parish in 1923, (fn. 48) and by 1943 most houses and cottages on the Ifield manor estate had electricity. (fn. 49)

There was a thrice-weekly post to Ifield and Crawley in the 1790s; the Ifield post was ended soon afterwards, (fn. 50) but Crawley had a daily exchange of letters with London and Brighton c. 1832. (fn. 51) In the mid 19th century the post office stood on the east side of High Street; a new building in Post Office Road (the modern Robinson Road) was opened in 1895, and was itself replaced by another new building in High Street near the station, opened in 1928. (fn. 52)

A volunteer fire brigade for Crawley was founded in 1866 under the inspiration of Mark Lemon. (fn. 53) The fire engine house stood on the north side of Ifield Road by 1874; it was demolished in the 1960s. In 1895 there were a superintendent and 20 men. (fn. 54) In 1932, when there were two engines, fire protection duties passed to a committee which levied a rate on the parishes of Crawley, Ifield, Rusper, and Worth. (fn. 55)

A cottage hospital in New Road (the modern Robinson Road) was established in 1896 with six beds; the building it occupied had previously been a training home for young female servants founded by Mrs. Sarah Robinson of Crawley Manor House. The hospital was enlarged in 1908, and in 1913 had nine beds and a cot; in 1922, when there was also an operating theatre, twelve patients could be accommodated, paying according to their means. (fn. 56) In the 1930s the hospital was moved to Ifield Lodge on the outskirts of the town. (fn. 57) The building in Robinson Road was used in the 1950s and 1960s as the offices of Crawley parish council, later urban district, and survived in 1983. (fn. 58)

A police station of the county force was opened in Station Road in Ifield parish by 1899 (fn. 59) and was replaced in 1963. (fn. 60)

Crawley cemetery was laid out in Ifield parish by 1932, beside the route later to be taken by the Crawley bypass road. (fn. 61)


  • 1. B.L. Eg. Roll 8549.
  • 2. W.S.R.O., Add. MSS. 16873–4 (photocopy of orig. ct. bk. in possession of Mr. J. A. Farmer, Ifield), on which rest of para. mainly based.
  • 3. B.L. Eg. Roll 8549.
  • 4. e.g. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 16873, p. 13.
  • 5. Arundel Cast. MSS. M 279, rot. 3d.; M 280, rot. 4.
  • 6. Horsham Mus. MS. 243; E.S.R.O., QCR/2/1/EW 3; for Stanford, ibid. SAS/C 803 (TS. cat.).
  • 7. W.S.R.O., TD/W 156.
  • 8. e.g. ibid. Add. MS. 16873, pp. 11–12, 22, 60, 70; cf. above, intro.; econ. hist. (agric.).
  • 9. P.R.O., SC 2/206/29–32.
  • 10. W.S.R.O., Par. 109/11/1, ff. 5v.–19; cf. e.g. Par. 109/ 31/1.
  • 11. Ibid. Ep. II/15/10, f. 6.
  • 12. Ibid. Par. 109/1/1/1, f. 37.
  • 13. Ibid. ff. 32–3; S.R.S. liv. 96, 121.
  • 14. W.S.R.O., Par. 109/1/1/1, ff. 37–8; Par. 109/31/1.
  • 15. Ibid. Add. MS. 16873, pp. 4, 10, 23.
  • 16. Ibid. Par. 109/31/1.
  • 17. Poor Law Abstract, 1818, 456–7.
  • 18. Rep. Com. Poor Laws, H.C. 44, pp. 171–4 (1834), xxxviii.
  • 19. Ibid. p. 513 (1834), xxx.
  • 20. W.S.R.O., Par. 109/12/1, ff. 1–2; ibid. TD/W 156.
  • 21. Ibid. TD/W 156.
  • 22. Suss. Poor Law Rec. 39.
  • 23. Ibid.; Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 24.
  • 24. Below.
  • 25. W.S.R.O., Par. 109/12/1, ff. 111v.–113.
  • 26. Ibid. Par. 109/43/1; cf. Par. 109/51/1. The Crawley inspectors survived until 1921: ibid. Par. 60/43/1.
  • 27. Ibid. Par. 60/54/1–2; Horsham, Crawley and Surrounding Dists. Dir. (1929–30).
  • 28. Willett's Dir., Almanack and Diary (1916), 77 (copy in Crawley Ref. Libr.).
  • 29. Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 25.
  • 30. Above, intro.
  • 31. Crawley, ed. Gray, 51.
  • 32. 61 & 62 Vic. c. 123 (Local); [Smith], Longleys of Crawley, 22–3; Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 19; O.S. Map 6", Suss. III. SE. (1912 edn.).
  • 33. F. H. Edmunds, Wells and Springs of Suss. 31.
  • 34. W.S.R.O., SP 474.
  • 35. O.S. Map 6", Suss. III. SE. (1946 edn.).
  • 36. Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 26.
  • 37. W.S.R.O., Par. 109/12/1, ff. 190v.–191.
  • 38. L.G.B. Prov. Orders Conf. Act, 1883, 46 & 47 Vic. c. 18.
  • 39. W.S.R.O., RD/HO 12/2; O.S. Map 6", Suss. III. NE. (1912 edn.).
  • 40. W.S.R.O., SP 474.
  • 41. A. A. Adrian, Mark Lemon, 152; cf. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1862), s.v. Crawley.
  • 42. O.S. Map 6", Suss. III (1874–9 edn.).
  • 43. Above.
  • 44. 50 Vic. c. 19 (Local).
  • 45. 1 Edw. VII, c. 20 (Local).
  • 46. Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 17.
  • 47. Willett's Dir., Almanack and Diary (1916), p. iii.
  • 48. Crawley and Dist. Electricity Spec. Order, 1923.
  • 49. W.S.R.O., SP 474.
  • 50. J. Greenwood, Posts of Suss., Chich. Branch, 41, 55.
  • 51. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1832–4), 1026.
  • 52. Bastable, Crawley, 27, 67, 123; Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 27.
  • 53. S.C.M. vi. 229–30.
  • 54. O.S. Map 6", Suss. III (1874–9 edn.); Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1874, 1895), s.v. Crawley; Bastable, Crawley, 125–6.
  • 55. S.C.M. vi. 229–30.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1903, 1913), s.v. Crawley; Bastable, Crawley, 128; Hobley, Crawley and Dist. 26.
  • 57. Bastable, Crawley, 128; cf. O.S. Map 6", Suss. III. SE. (1946 edn.). For later hist., below, Crawley new town, public servs.
  • 58. Bastable, Crawley, 128; Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 36.
  • 59. Pike's Horsham, Crawley and Dist. Blue Bk. and Local Dir. (1899) (inf. from Mr. Kay).
  • 60. Brighton Evening Argus, 8 July 1963.
  • 61. O.S. Map 6", Suss. III. SE. (1932 edn.); TQ 23 NE. (1963 edn.).