Parishes: Clayton

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1940.

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, 'Parishes: Clayton', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, (London, 1940) pp. 140-144. British History Online [accessed 28 May 2024].

. "Parishes: Clayton", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, (London, 1940) 140-144. British History Online, accessed May 28, 2024,

. "Parishes: Clayton", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, (London, 1940). 140-144. British History Online. Web. 28 May 2024,

In this section


Claitune, Claitona (xi cent.).

This parish has an area of 1,414 acres and is a long, narrow, irregularly shaped strip running up the side of the South Downs to an altitude of 700 ft. On the Downs are two disused windmills. (fn. 1) To the north the parish slopes downwards, and the main part has a level of about 100 ft. The village is at the southern end, at the foot of the Downs, at a height of between 200 and 300 ft. Here the road from Ditchling joins the road from the north going over Clayton Hill to Brighton, and the Southern Railway enters a tunnel close by. The church is a little to the east, on a lane running at the foot of the Downs. There are waterworks on the slopes a little farther east. In the centre of the parish, a mile north of the village, the road from Lewes to Hurstpierpoint crosses the road running north from Brighton at a point known as Stone Pound, because the parish pound was formerly situated near by. (fn. 2) Buttinghill, the mound where the Hundred Courts were anciently held, is beside the road to Hurst, behind Ham Farm. Clayton Wickham lies to the north-west of the cross-roads. The nearest station is Hassocks, a mile to the north-east of the village.

Under the Local Government Act of 1894 two civil parishes were formed, of Clayton, and Clayton Urban, the latter being included in Burgess Hill Urban District. (fn. 3) In 1934 a further part was transferred to Burgess Hill, and detached portions to Cuckfield Rural.

The soil is loam and sand, and the subsoil clay and sand. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, and turnips.

Hammonds Place, (fn. 4) now included in Burgess Hill, incorporates a timber-framed building of c. 1500 of rectangular plan, facing north, with a staircase wing on the south side. It was faced at both ends in 1566 in brick. The east front is built of red brick-work with diaper ornament in blue-grey bricks and has stone angle-dressings and plinth: this brick-work is continued round the north-east angle to meet the earlier timberframing. The south end of the wall has a broken edge where it meets the modern brick-work of the south-east wing. In front is a two-storied porch-wing of similar material. It has a stone entrance with ornamental pilasters and brackets and a fluted frieze to the head. Above it is a small stone panel carved with fluted pilasters and a shield charged with a cheveron engrailed between three harts' heads razed (Farnfold) (fn. 5) and below it the date 1566. Above is a stone window. The head is gabled and bears the same date in modern figures. There are old stone mullioned windows in the main wall north of the porch; the roof is covered with Horsham slabs. The north elevation is of timber-framing, the easternmost bay is gabled: the framing is mostly of square panels, but in the head of the gable the panels are ornamented with ogee struts. In the middle is a large modern square bay-window to the dining room. Next the gabled part is a central chimneystack of square plan with a plain pilaster on each face. The west end is of diapered brick and above it is a chimney-stack of two square shafts close together. The south side, with the stair wing, is of old timber-framing. A window to the upper story appears to be original: it is of two lights but was formerly of four. A window recently discovered in the east side of the stair wing (covered by the south-east wing) is of two lights with moulded mullions, and there was another of four lights to the second floor.

The east entrance doorway within the porch has an old moulded oak frame and opens into a passage running westwards. Immediately to the right in the north wall of the passage is a pair of oak moulded doorways, close together, into a small chamber which may have been a kind of buttery for a hall on the site of the modern wing to the south. The chamber has a 17th-century fire-place and the chamber next west, with the large bay-window, has an open-timbered ceiling, but the fire-place is modern. The westernmost room, the kitchen, has a great wide fire-place with an oak bressummer, and next south of it a large oven. The same stack has on the first floor a stone fire-place of the 1566 period with moulded jambs and straight-sided Tudor arch in a square head; the spandrels are carved with grapes and vine-leaves. The staircase in the south wing has square newels with moulded square heads and moulded hand-rails of late-16th-century date, but the balusters are probably comparatively modern. The roof has plain side-purlins with straight wind-braces in some of the bays.

Clayton Church

East of the church is a group of seven or eight houses, one of which is probably of the early 17th century and has square-panelled timber-framing in the upper story. The roof is thatched on the west side and tiled on the east side, and above it is a fine central chimney-stack of local rebated type with a V-shaped pilaster in the middle of one face.


The manor of CLAYTON was held of King Edward the Confessor by Azor, and after the Conquest was held of William de Warenne by the wife of William de Watevile, (fn. 6) owner of the neighbouring manor of Keymer. After her death it was evidently retained in demesne by the Earls of Surrey, (fn. 7) and descended with the barony of Lewes (q.v.) until the division of that property in 1415. Clayton then fell to the Duke of Norfolk and descended with that portion of the barony. In the 16th century it was thus held half by the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel, and the other half by the Earls of Derby. In 1575 Henry, Earl of Derby, sold his moiety of Clayton to Richard Culpeper, (fn. 8) and in 1588 he and others conveyed it to Anthony, Viscount Montagu. (fn. 9) The other moiety was sold in 1610 to Edward Michelborne of Hammonds Place. (fn. 10) He mortgaged it in 1621 to Robert Bromfield, (fn. 11) and by 1666 it was in the hands of Sir Edward Bromfield, bart., (fn. 12) who in 1678 sold it to Francis, Viscount Montagu, (fn. 13) who thus became possessed of the whole manor.

Clayton then descended with the Viscounts Montagu until the end of the 18th century, (fn. 14) and after the death of the eighth and last viscount in 1793 seems to have been conveyed for a time in 1800 to Sir Richard Bedingfield, son of his aunt Mary, sister of the 7th viscount. (fn. 15) It reverted, however, to Elizabeth Mary sister of the 8th viscount and wife of William Stephen Poyntz, (fn. 16) for in 1825 she and her husband and their daughters conveyed Clayton to George Courthope, (fn. 17) from whom it was acquired immediately afterwards by William John Campion. (fn. 18) It then descended with the Campions of Danny, Hurstpierpoint, the present lord of the manor being Col. Sir William Campion, K.C.M.G., D.S.O.

Browne, Viscount Montagu. Sable three lions passant bendwise between double cotices argent.

The custom of Borough English obtained in the manor. (fn. 19) Fairs for cattle, sheep, and hogs were still held on St. John's Common, on July 6th and Sept. 26th, in 1835, (fn. 20) but these had ceased before 1888. (fn. 21)

The manor of CLAYTON WICKHAM [Wicham (xi cent.); Great Wykham (xvi cent.)] also belonged to Azor before the Conquest, and to the wife of William de Watevile in 1086, and was held of both of them by Alwin. (fn. 22) It was in 1565 held of the lords of the barony of Lewes by service of 1/10 of a knight's fee. (fn. 23) In the 14th century it was held by the family of Wysham. (fn. 24) In 1327 John de Wysham and Hawise his wife were possessed of land in Clayton; (fn. 25) in 1356 orders were given to distrain the heir of John Wysham for relief for half a fee in Wykham; (fn. 26) in 1398 Sir William Wysham gave seisin of a manor of 'Wykham' to Robert Oxenbridge and others. (fn. 27) Nothing further, however, is known of it until John Culpeper died seised of it in 1565, leaving it to his son Thomas, (fn. 28) who was succeeded in 1571 by his son Edward. (fn. 29) The latter died in 1630 (fn. 30) and his son Sir William Culpeper mortgaged it in 1647 to Walter Burrell. (fn. 31) In 1649 it was acquired from the two last-named by John Vinall, (fn. 32) and William Vinall was holding it in 1664. (fn. 33) In that family it remained until 1717, (fn. 34) when William Vinall sold the manor to John Bridger. (fn. 35) Wickham remained in the Bridger family (fn. 36) until the early 19th century, when it was sold by Harry Bridger to William J. Campion, about 1825, (fn. 37) and thereafter was united to the manor of Clayton (q.v.).

Bridger. Argent a cheveron engrailed between three crabs gules.

The custom of Borough English obtained in the manor. (fn. 38)


The parish church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST consists of a chancel, a lofty nave, north porch, and modern south vestry. The walls are of flints with much mortar and with large angle-dressings on the south side of the nave. The chancel walls and the north wall of the nave are coated outside with cement, concealing the angledressings. The south wall of the nave has a thinner coating through which some of the flints are visible. The lower parts of the nave-roof and north side of the chancel roof are covered with old Horsham slabs; the remainder is red tiling. Above the west end of the nave is a shingled square turret with a pyramidal roof.

The nave and probably part of the chancel, with the chancel-arch, are of pre-Conquest date: as may be also the north doorway to the nave. In the 12th century a small transeptal chapel was added north of the nave: parts of the arch to it are still visible, and its size was ascertained by excavation in 1918. Recesses, presumably for side altars, were also cut in the wall on either side of the chancel-arch. Early in the 13th century another transeptal-chapel was added south of the nave. Later in that century the chancel was lengthened and lancet windows inserted. The north porch was a 15thcentury addition or replacement, and probably the bell turret is of the period of the two 15th-century bells. The church was restored in 1893, when the unusually extensive painting of the Doom was discovered in the upper parts of the nave.

The chancel (19½ ft. by 13¼ ft.) has a modern east window in the form of a triplet of lancets: the jambs and mullions are shafted. It has a four-centred moulded label outside, perhaps of a former 15th-century window, and a segmental, chamfered rear-arch also with a moulded label with head-stops. In the north wall are two lancets of the 13th century with chamfered external jambs and head: the splays inside have a recessed order with nook-shafts cut from the solid; the foliage capitals and moulded rear-arches are modern. In the south wall are two lancets, similar but without the nook-shafts; the rear-arches are hollow-chamfered and have hood-moulds with modern head-stops. The roof is modern and has a panelled ceiling with moulded ribs and carved bosses.

The 11th-century chancel-arch has jambs and round head of similar section, a square order with an attached half-round 10-in. shaft or roll on each of three faces, so that those to the east and west project from the main wall faces: they are interrupted by plain chamfered imposts of square plan. The bases are plain square blocks of modern stone or cement. On either side of the archway, towards the nave, is a round-headed recess. The northern retains some ancient plaster: its sill is 3 ft. 7 in. above the floor and it is 3 ft. 11 in. high. The southern is completely of modern plaster.

At the east end of the north wall of the nave is a blocked round-headed archway to the former 12thcentury chapel. Outside, the stones of the jambs and springing stones of the arch are exposed, and inside are seen two voussoirs above the west jamb. It seems to have had a square-headed window inserted in the filling in the 14th or 15th century, and the filling-in of this has a modern one-light window. Above the blocked archway outside are the marks of the gabled roof of the former chapel. The second window in this wall is of two lights and tracery, all modern: it is set high in the wall: the third, near the west end, is another low piercing of one light. The north doorway, between the second and third windows, is a plain 3-ft. opening with square jambs and round head. In the south wall is a blocked larger archway with a pointed head, which opened into the former south chapel. The apex and voussoirs of the west half of the arch are exposed inside: outside it is nearly all hidden by cement facing and a deep, modern buttress. In the filling is a modern one-light window and high up in the middle of the wall is a pointed two-light window like that opposite. A doorway farther west opens on to steps leading up to a modern vestry. In the west wall is a 14th-century window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights under a square head, with a moulded label outside.


The bell-turret is carried on four modern posts of pitch-pine inside the nave, but there are two ancient beams in the soffit.

East of the bell-turret the roof is of three bays of 15th-century framing. It has three trusses with heavy plain cambered tie-beams, and king-posts with curved longitudinal braces under a central purlin: in the easternmost and the third truss the king-posts are also supported by struts from the tie-beams; the common rafters, collar-beams, and braces between them are all ancient wide timbers laid flatwise: the boarding is modern. The wall-plates (ancient) are continued up to the west wall.

The north porch is of about 1500, remodelled or perhaps rebuilt in modern times. The side-walls are of old timber-framing, plastered, on modern dwarf walls, and the east wall has modern brick facing outside. The north front with the entrance is modern. There is one ancient truss to the gabled roof, close to the early north doorway. The tie-beam which formerly crossed the doorway has had its middle part removed and an arch of wood has been put in to match the door-head. The tie has curved braces below it.

In the north doorway is a medieval door hung on plain strap-hinges: it is of plain battens and has ancient moulded back-rails and an oak lock. The font and other furniture are modern. On the west bay of the nave, on north, south, and west walls, is a high dado of early-17th-century panelling.

In the chancel are two brasses. (fn. 39) One is the figure of a priest in mass vestments and holding a chalice and wafer: below is the black-letter inscription:—'Of yor charite pray for the soule of Mayst' Rychard Idon pson of Clayton & Pykecu whiche decessed the vi day of January the yere of our lord god Ml v and xxiii on whose soule Jhu have mercy Amen.' The other, in the floor, is an inscription only, to Thomas a Wode, 1508–9.

On the east and north and south walls of the nave are the remarkable paintings discovered in 1893. (fn. 40) Above the chancel-arch is a vesica piscis with the seated figure of Christ in judgement, flanked by worshipping Saints: below it is a band of foliage which also borders the chancel-arch. Below this, on either side of the chancel-arch, are (south) another richly vested figure of Our Lord with cross-nimbus and a red cross—a chalice to the south of Him, and (north) a kneeling figure, probably of St. Peter, receiving the keys of heaven and hell.

On the north wall, at the east end, is a hexagonal enclosure with trefoiled arches in which are three nimbed figures thought to represent the Holy Trinity. East of it is a large angel and west of it St. Peter with a pastoral staff. West of him is another angel facing three men in ecclesiastical vestments, and then a procession of figures with low crowns or caps, and at the west end an angel blowing a trumpet. Below the latter half is an angel with red wings assisting the dead to rise from their tombs. On the south wall are angels, a large red cross with several saints worshipping, four richly vested ecclesiastics, and a number of other persons as on the north.

Below the north paintings appears to be an Elizabethan panel with a black-letter text.

In the churchyard lies a large round stone, 3 ft. 8 in. diameter and about 11 in. thick, pierced through the centre, reputed to be the base of an early font. Two tapering flat slabs close to it may be old coffin-lids.

Of the three bells, two are of pre-Reformation date: the first, inscribed 'Sancte Toma Ora Pro Nobis', has the foundry mark of Henry Jurdan of London, c. 1470, and the third the mark of Richard Hille of London, c. 1420–40. The second is by Samuel Knight of Reading or London 1713. (fn. 41)

The communion plate includes a cup of 1796 and two patens of 1744. (fn. 42)

The registers are said to date from 1601.


The churches of Clayton and Keymer, which have always been connected, were given by William de Warenne to the Priory of St. Pancras at Lewes about 1093, (fn. 43) and remained with that monastery until the Dissolution.

In 1342 John de Warenne, overlord of Clayton, claimed right of presentation by grant of the king, who had taken the advowsons held by Lewes Priory into his hands on account of the war with France. (fn. 44) In 1353 it was enacted that the Prior of Lewes was to receive half the tithes of certain fields in Clayton and the rector the other half. (fn. 45) In 1537 the advowson was surrendered by the prior to the king, (fn. 46) and in the following year was granted to Thomas Cromwell. (fn. 47) In 1553 it was granted to William Sackville, (fn. 48) and in 1559 John Sackville presented. (fn. 49) In 1577 Edward Knight was the patron, (fn. 50) but it was acquired subsequently by John Whitinge, who died in 1599, holding it of the queen in chief by knight's service. (fn. 51) His son Thomas was holding it in 1602 (fn. 52) but shortly afterwards parted with it or leased it to the Michelbornes. Edward Michelborne, who had presented for this turn in 1601, (fn. 53) was holding it in 1610, (fn. 54) and in 1614 conveyed it to Henry Campion. (fn. 55) It seems to have been acquired shortly afterwards by John Batner. In 1626 presentation was made by Richard Batner, and in 1638 by Anne Batner, widow of the late incumbent, who as Anne Chowne, widow, presented in 1640. (fn. 56) William Newton, surviving trustee of John Batner, is said to have sold the advowson to Anne's third husband Magnus Byne, and in 1671 Stephen Byne his son presented. (fn. 57) He sold it to Edward Blaker, who presented in 1677, and in 1682 William Blaker. (fn. 58) In 1691 Edward Luxford held it, but apparently in trust for his sister Anne Watson, widow, daughter of John Luxford, and she presented in 1715. (fn. 59) By 1720 the advowson had been acquired by William Northmore, lord of the manor of Keymer, who in that year conveyed it to Abraham Addams, (fn. 60) but by 1724 it had come into the hands of another Stephen Byne, together with Laurence Price, the second husband of Anne Watson. (fn. 61) Price in 1726 conveyed it to Thomas Browne, (fn. 62) in trust for Brasenose College, Oxford, (fn. 63) who made their first presentation in 1752, (fn. 64) and still hold it.


  • 1. Suss. County Mag. x, 219.
  • 2. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 240.
  • 3. For description see under Keymer.
  • 4. Suss. County Mag. vii, 693–6.
  • 5. Edward Michelborne, not being at this date armigerous, made use of his wife's arms: Suss. Arch. Coll. 1, 102.
  • 6. V.C.H. Suss. i, 441.
  • 7. Farrer, Honors and Knights' Fees, iii, 339.
  • 8. Feet of F. Mich. 17–18, Eliz.; Recov. R. Hil. 18 Eliz. ro. 929.
  • 9. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 105.
  • 10. Add. MS. 39490, fol. 180.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 105.
  • 13. Ibid.; G.E.C. Baronetage, iii, 179. Possibly, therefore, his father Sir John Bromfield had held it.
  • 14. Recov. R. Hil. 4 Geo. I, ro. 160; ibid. Trin. 7 Geo. III, ro. 281; Add. MS. 5683, fol. 82.
  • 15. G.E.C. Baronetage, iii, 152; Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 107.
  • 16. G.E.C. Complete Peerage (2nd ed.), ix, 103; Recov. R. East. 5 Geo. IV, ro. 228.
  • 17. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 105.
  • 18. Recov. R. Trin. 7 Geo. IV, ro. 265.
  • 19. Suss. Arch. Coll. vi, 179.
  • 20. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 241.
  • 21. Roy. Com. on Market Rights, 208.
  • 22. V.C.H. Suss. i. 441; Farrer, op. cit. iii, 339.
  • 23. Suss. Rec. Soc. iii, 26, 73.
  • 24. Cf. Blomfield, Norfolk, ii. 288.
  • 25. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii, 1703.
  • 26. Lewes Ct. R. (Norfolk muniments).
  • 27. Cal. Close, 1396–9, p. 420. The document is dated at Clayton.
  • 28. Suss. Rec. Soc. iii, 26.
  • 29. Ibid 73.
  • 30. Ibid. xiv, 317.
  • 31. Ibid. xx, 489.
  • 32. Add. MS. 39504, fol. 202.
  • 33. Ibid.; Suss. Rec. Soc. xx, 489.
  • 34. Add. MS. 5684, fol. 165.
  • 35. Suss. Rec. Soc. xx, 489.
  • 36. Add. MS. 39504, fol. 202; ibid. 5684, fol. 165.
  • 37. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 240; Lower, Sussex, i, 116.
  • 38. Suss. Arch. Coll. vi, 180.
  • 39. Suss. Arch. Coll. lxxvii, 147–8.
  • 40. Described (Suss. Arch. Coll. xl, 211) by the late C. E. Keyser; he attributed them to the late 13th or early 14th century, but found traces of earlier decoration in the form of shafts and round arches.
  • 41. Suss. Arch. Coll. xvi, 205; lvii, 25.
  • 42. Ibid. liv. 237.
  • 43. Lewes Ch. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), i, 21,40.
  • 44. Cal. Pat. 1340–3, p. 543.
  • 45. Lewes Ch. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), ii. 57.
  • 46. Feet of F. Div. Co. Mich. 29 Hen. VIII.
  • 47. Pat. R. 29 Hen. VIII, pt. ii.
  • 48. Ibid. 7 Edw. VI, pt. xii.
  • 49. Add. MS. 39332, fol. 84.
  • 50. Ibid.
  • 51. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cclviii, 108.
  • 52. Fine R. 44 Eliz. pt. i, no. 37.
  • 53. Add. MS. 39332, fol. 85.
  • 54. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 104. Richard Michelborne died in 1607 seised of 'certain great and small tithes' in Clayton: Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccci, 83. His son Sir Richard is said to have taken advantage of the lameness of the incumbent to exact more than his fair proportion of tithes. Lawsuits were held between Sir Richard and John Batner touching tithes: Exch. Dep. by Com. Hil. 21 and 22 Chas. I, no. 2.
  • 55. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 104.
  • 56. Add. MS. 39332, fol. 85. But in 1626 Nicholas Challoner is named as the 'true patron'. He presented John Batner, who in 1628 married Anne Wane. He died in 1638 and his widow married William Chowne and later Magnus Byne, both clerks. She died in 1662: Suss. Arch. Coll. lv, 223.
  • 57. Ibid. liv, 29.
  • 58. Add. MS. 39332, fol. 86; Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.).
  • 59. Ibid.; Suss. Arch. Coll. liv. 30.
  • 60. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 252.
  • 61. Ibid. 104; Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 30.
  • 62. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 252.
  • 63. Brasenose Quater-Centenary Monographs (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), vi, 50.
  • 64. Add. MS. 39332, fol. 86; Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.).