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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About 1200 Robert Bonet granted Ifield church to Rusper priory, (fn. 1) which had appropriated it by 1247 when a vicarage was endowed. (fn. 2)
The advowson of the vicarage descended with the rectory until the early 19th century. (fn. 3) The bishop presented by lapse in 1560 and 1716; John Hatley and Giles Cuddington presented for a turn in 1638, and William Peck in 1738. (fn. 4) From the vicar Spencer James Lewin, who had it c. 1830, (fn. 5) the advowson had passed by 1842 to Eliza Whitehorn Dehany, and by 1850 to the vicar G. H. C. Scott. He sold it in or after 1850 to Mrs. Blaker, mother of his presentee R. N. Blaker, and at her death in 1864 she devised it to her son, who sold it in 1875 to S. R. Lewin, grandson of S. J. Lewin. By 1887 it had passed to Lewin's aunt Mary Emily, wife of Thomas Lewin. (fn. 6) After her death in 1909 it followed the descent of a moiety of the rectory to Sir John Drughorn (d. 1943). (fn. 7) About 1962 his executors conveyed it to the bishop. (fn. 8)
The vicarage endowment made in 1247 included most small tithes, tithes of mills present and future, the great tithes arising on certain lands in the parish, and only corn tithes from Rusper priory's lands; in return the vicar was to render 5 lb. of wax every Palm Sunday to the sacrist of the priory. (fn. 9) In 1291 the living was valued at £5; (fn. 10) in 1341 it included £3 from offerings. (fn. 11) In 1532 the descriptions of lands given in the 1247 endowment were brought up to date; among those lands from which the vicar was to receive all the tithes were Ifield park and the Ifield manor demesne. (fn. 12) The corn and hay tithes were usually taken in kind in 1636, but the small tithes were then partly compounded for. (fn. 13) The valuation given for the living in 1535 was £6 8s. 1d. net. (fn. 14) A vicarage house and garden were mentioned in 1532 (fn. 15) and 1637; (fn. 16) the house was taxed on eight hearths in 1664. (fn. 17) There were said to be 3 a. of glebe in 1636 (fn. 18) and 1830, (fn. 19) 2 a. in 1724, (fn. 20) and 4 a. c. 1840. (fn. 21) The present vicarage house has a front door surround of c. 1700, but was rebuilt in the early 19th century, the garden front being rendered later in the century; (fn. 22) the building is two-storeyed with attics and a mansard roof. The net value of the living was said to be £108 in 1808, (fn. 23) and £180 on average c. 1830. (fn. 24) In 1841 the vicar's share of tithe was commuted at £216 15s. (fn. 25)
The vicar in 1288 was exonerated on a charge of killing an archdeacon. (fn. 26) Another vicar was deprived in 1486, and two later ones were Austin canons. (fn. 27) Some inhabitants of the south-east part of the parish presumably attended Crawley church in the Middle Ages, as later. (fn. 28) Only five vicars held the living between 1505 and the mid 17th century. William Wright, 1560-96, was resident in 1563, but was licensed to hold two benefices in 1569. Benjamin Browne, 1596-1638, was a licensed preacher, who resided in 1637. His successor, however, (fn. 29) was presented in 1639 for absenting himself for two or three weeks at a time; he was also said to be negligent in reading prayers, in visiting the sick, and in almsgiving. (fn. 30) In 1646 he was charged with an assault. (fn. 31) Henry Halliwell was apparently serving in 1651; he had previously been rector of Crawley, and retained Ifield until his death in 1667, being succeeded by his son and namesake. (fn. 32)
In 1724 two Sunday services were held by an assistant curate, and there was communion three times a year for c. 20 communicants; (fn. 33) another curate was mentioned in 1732. (fn. 34) Two mid 18th-century vicars held other livings, one being vice-principal of Magdalen Hall, Oxford. S. J. Lewin, vicar 1790- 1842, held two other livings, one of which was Crawley, (fn. 35) and resided in 1808 and later, though not in the vicarage, which was too small for his family; (fn. 36) as impropriator he built, and evidently lived in, what was later called the Old Rectory. (fn. 37) In 1808 Sunday morning and evening services were held alternately at Ifield and at Crawley, and communion at Ifield was celebrated at least four times a year. (fn. 38) A curate was licensed for Ifield and Crawley in 1834, with the use of the Ifield vicarage house, which Lewin evidently rebuilt; (fn. 39) on Lewin's death he succeeded as vicar of Ifield. (fn. 40)
Congregations at Ifield on Census Sunday 1851 were 100 in the morning and 160 in the afternoon, besides Sunday schoolchildren. (fn. 41) Monthly communion was held in 1856, and in 1875 morning prayer every saint's day. There was then no assistant curate, (fn. 42) but one was appointed in 1878, his stipend being perhaps raised from subscriptions, as later. (fn. 43) Communion was weekly by 1903. (fn. 44) West Crawley, representing the urban part of Ifield, became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1901. (fn. 45) With the expansion of Crawley new town after 1947 daughter churches were opened in Ifield parish: St. Leonard, Langley Green, in 1955, and St. Alban, Gossops Green, in 1962, the latter succeeding a temporary building in which services were held from 1958. (fn. 46) There were a vicar and two curates in 1967, and in 1984 a team rector, a team vicar, and two curates; at the latter date, besides the three churches, services were also held at Bewbush. (fn. 47)
The church of ST. MARGARET (the dedication is recorded from 1489) (fn. 48) is roughcast with stone dressings, and consists of wide chancel, wide aisled and clerestoried nave, north porch, and west tower with short pyramidal shingled spire. The existence of a 12th-century church is suggested by the surviving font of that date. The present chancel is early 13th-century, as are some lancets in the nave; the three-bayed nave arcades, however, are late 13th- or early 14th-century. The crown-post roof of the nave is medieval, and the pitch is particularly high and steep, which for one 19th-century writer gave the church a foreign appearance. (fn. 49) Some windows were renewed in the later Middle Ages, and a north porch was built at the east end of the nave in the 15th century. (fn. 50) The chantry mentioned at the church c. 1548 (fn. 51) possibly occupied one of the aisles. A low wooden bell turret at the west end of the nave was depicted in the later 18th century, (fn. 52) and was possibly the same as the steeple described as decayed in the 1680s, (fn. 53) which was unable to bear the weight of all three bells in 1724. (fn. 54)
The church was repaired and 'beautified' in 1785. (fn. 55) In the later 18th century the two aisles were called the north and south Holles aisles, after the former lords of the manor. (fn. 56) A low tower with a short spire was built over the porch to replace the bell turret c. 1846. (fn. 57) The church's restoration in 1883 was carried out to the designs of Somers Clarke and Micklethwaite. The nave was lengthened by 23 ft., various minor alterations were carried out, including the removal of a west gallery, and the tower and spire of c. 1846 were removed. A new west tower was built, a broach spire being intended eventually to replace the present temporary one. (fn. 58)
The fine 12th-century font has a square Sussex marble bowl and four corner columns with delicately carved capitals. There is an early 13th-century piscina in the chancel, and from a late medieval screen survives the rood-stair doorway on the south side of the chancel, which in 1985 formed the entrance to the pulpit; there are indications that the chancel arch above the screen was filled with solid boarding. (fn. 59) The church was repewed c. 1770 with pews from St. Margaret's church, Westminster, (fn. 60) parts of which were preserved in the tower in 1985. The lectern is an eccentric 19th-century compilation from pieces of 17th-century carving, and the vestry screen is said to have been made from the County oak on Lowfield heath, cut down c. 1850. (fn. 61) Most other fittings are late 19th-century. Monuments include the mid 14thcentury recumbent stone effigies supposed to be of John of Ifield and his wife, both by one sculptor and of a higher than average standard, (fn. 62) and wall monuments to other landowners, patrons, and vicars, including Nicholas Spencer (d. 1783) and Spencer James Lewin (d. 1842). The two surviving bells are of 1600 and 1618. (fn. 63) The plate includes a cup of 1560 and a paten cover of 1573. (fn. 64) The registers begin in 1568. (fn. 65)
The church of ST. PETER, West Crawley, succeeded an earlier mission chapel of 1880. With the great increase of population in the urban part of the parish, some parishioners had evidently been attending Crawley church. A chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene (fn. 66) was built in 1880, at the vicar's expense; designed by Somers Clarke, (fn. 67) it stood in what was later Prospect Place, south-west of West green. (fn. 68) The first curate in charge was the vicar's son, (fn. 69) who had a house next to the church, (fn. 70) and the character of churchmanship was High, with communion on saint's days, thrice-weekly evensong, and a surpliced choir which sang Gregorian music. (fn. 71) In 1882 the building could seat 240. (fn. 72) The next vicar at his appointment in 1888 declined to buy the chapel from his predecessor because of its inconvenient situation, and instead money was raised for a new building (fn. 73) to occupy the triangular island site provided by West green itself. The old chapel was used as a parish room between 1898 and 1962 or later. (fn. 74) St. Peter's church was opened in 1893 and is of local sandstone in 13th-century style, with a brick interior; it comprises chancel with north vestry, and nave with north aisle and west bell turret. (fn. 75) A parish was assigned out of Ifield in 1901, (fn. 76) the bishop being the patron. A vicarage house was provided c. 1902, (fn. 77) possibly the building in Springfield Road still apparently used for that purpose in 1946. (fn. 78) The vicar's stipend in 1903 was £150, of which two thirds came from Queen Anne's Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The vicar then himself felt great need of a curate, because of the size of the parish's population, even though many parishioners continued to attend Crawley church. (fn. 79)
In 1924 the living was united with that of Crawley, with effect from the next voidance of both; the parishes were to remain distinct, and the right of presentation was to be exercised alternately by the bishop and the patron of Crawley. (fn. 80) The two cures were held as one from 1929; after 1955 incumbents were called rectors of Crawley. (fn. 81) The character of worship at St. Peter's was still High in 1985, with reservation of the sacrament.