Parishes: Keymer

Pages 179-181

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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Chemere, Kimera, Kiemera (xi cent.); Kymere, Kymer (xiv cent.).

The parish has an area of 1,464 acres. (fn. 1) The main part of the parish has an elevation of little over 100 ft., but it rises in the south, extending in a long, narrow strip up the side of the South Downs to a height of over 700 ft. and continuing for a short distance beyond the crest of the hill. The village is in the centre of the parish, where the road from Lewes to Hurstpierpoint crosses that from Burgess Hill to Lodge Farm. The church is to the north-east of the cross-roads. Few of the houses are ancient. A timber-framed cottage, now called 'Old Thatch', may be of the 16th century; the Greyhound Inn has a few old ceiling-beams and a wide fire-place bearing the date 1595; and 'The Old Manor House' is probably of the early 17th century. Around the railway station of Hassocks, on the line from London to Brighton, much building development is taking place.

Ockley Manor, an early-18th-century house of red brick with rusticated stone angle-dressings, and possessing a contemporary brick dovecote, is on the east side of the road running from the village to Burgess Hill; and on the hill above it stands Oldland Mill, (fn. 2) an 18thcentury structure, recently restored and now the property of the Sussex Archaeological Trust.

In 1894 the portion of the civil parish within the Urban District of Burgess Hill was constituted a civil parish called Keymer Urban. In 1934 a detached portion of the parish was transferred to Cuckfield Rural.

A Congregational Church was built at Hassocks in 1885.

The soil of the parish is loam and sand, except the downland, which is chalk, and the subsoil is sand and clay. The principal crops are wheat, oats, barley, peas, and turnips.

BURGESS HILL (fn. 3) became the separate ecclesiastical parish of St. John's Common, with the church of St. John the Evangelist, a red-brick building in the style of the 13th century, by T. Talbot Bury, in 1863, but was not made a civil parish until 1933. The Urban District, formed in 1879, now has an area of 2,013 acres, and comprises the northern portions of the parishes of Clayton and Keymer. In 1934 parts of Clayton, Ditchling, and Wivelsfield were added. St. Andrew's ecclesiastical parish was formed in 1902 from portions of St. John's Common and Ditchling. The church, consisting of a nave and transepts in red brick with stone dressings, was consecrated in 1908, and was extended eastwards in 1924 by the addition of a sanctuary, to the memory of men of the parish who died in the war of 1914–18. St. Alban's Mission Room, Fairfield Road, was built in 1885 and enlarged in 1907. There are Congregational, Plymouth Brethren, and Baptist chapels in the town, and the Roman Catholic church of St. Wilfred in Grove Road.

The road from Keymer runs north through the town, and a main road from Brighton to Redhill parallel to it at a distance of about ¾ mile; and the town lies along these two roads and those connecting them. The church of St. John is midway between the two, with a Recreation Ground west of it. The railway station, on the Brighton line, is a little west of the Keymer road, and south of the town a road runs east to Ditchling Common. There are brick and tile works between the station and the London Road.


The manor of KEYMER, assessed for 14 hides, was held of King Edward the Confessor by Azor, and in 1086 of William de Warenne by William de Watevile. (fn. 4) It was probably held shortly afterwards by Ralph de Chesney, who succeeded William de Watevile in many of his lands, and who gave the church of Keymer to Lewes Priory. (fn. 5) Subsequently it was retained as a demesne manor by the Warennes, although the first reference to it as such occurs in 1316. It descended with the barony, falling to the share of Edmund Lenthall, (fn. 6) and by 1566 half was held by Lord Bergavenny, a quarter by the Duke of Norfolk, one eighth by the Earl of Derby, and the remaining eighth by George Goring of Ovingdean, successor of the Wingfields. (fn. 7)

The Bergavenny moiety of Keymer descended with the half of the barony until 1627, (fn. 8) when it formed part of the lands set aside for the jointure of Frances, wife of Sir Thomas Nevill, heir apparent of Henry, Lord Bergavenny, and to pay their debts and provide for their younger children. (fn. 9) Sir Thomas died in 1628, (fn. 10) and in the following year the moiety was sold by Lord Bergavenny and trustees to Sir Richard Michelborne, (fn. 11) who had already acquired the Norfolk quarter from Thomas, Earl of Arundel, and his brothers in 1610. (fn. 12) The Derby eighth had been sold to George Goring in 1575, and was acquired from his son's trustees in 1618–19 by Sir Richard, (fn. 13) who thus became possessed of seveneighths of the manor. Sir Richard died in 1638, (fn. 14) and in 1652 his sons William, Abraham, and Francis conveyed the property to Robert Bowyer, (fn. 15) who immediately parted with it to Bray Chowne. (fn. 16) In 1655, however, it was acquired from him by John Anstey, clerk, who also obtained a release from William Michelborne. (fn. 17) From John Anstey it passed to his son Isaac, who settled it on his wife Sarah in 1672, but it eventually passed to his sister Aphorah, the wife of Thomas Battishill. (fn. 18) In 1677 Aphorah and Thomas sold it to Thomas Northmore. (fn. 19)

The remaining eighth of the manor, originally belonging to the Wingfields, passed from the Gorings of Ovingdean to the Bellinghams, (fn. 20) and was sold by Edward Bellingham in 1620 to George Luxford (fn. 21) of Ockley. The latter died in 1631, leaving the property to his second son Richard, who died in 1653, and his son George conveyed the portion to John Attree in 1655. (fn. 22) John died in 1665, (fn. 23) in debt, and his son and heir Edmund was sued in 1666 by John Luxford, son of the elder George, who was permitted to distrain upon the 1/8 manor for the money owing to him. (fn. 24) In 1674 Edmund Attree granted the 1/8 manor outright to Edward Luxford, heir and executor of John, (fn. 25) and in 1682 he conveyed it to Thomas Northmore, (fn. 26) who thus became possessed of the whole manor. At his death in 1713 Keymer passed to his nephew William Northmore, (fn. 27) who sold it in 1720 to Abraham Addams. (fn. 28) Thomas Addams, 'Doctor of Physick', succeeded his father in 1740, and died in 1785, (fn. 29) and his son Abraham Gray Addams sold the manor in 1788 to Thomas and James Cooke of Southwark. (fn. 30) Of these brothers James died in 1813 and Thomas in 1817, when his property passed to James's daughter Elizabeth Ward Cooke, who in 1818 married Henry Nailand. (fn. 31) As the affairs of the Cooke family had become much involved, the manor was, in 1824, vested in John Nailand and Charles Lee in trust for sale, and in 1826 was bought by the Rev. Henry Bayntun. (fn. 32) From Henry Bayntun it passed to Somers Clarke, (fn. 33) who acquired one moiety in 1853 and the rest in 1862. (fn. 34) On his death in 1892 his son, Somers Clarke, became lord of the manor. He died in 1926 and bequeathed the manor to his nephew, the late Colonel C. SomersClarke, (fn. 35) on whose death in July 1936 his widow, Mrs. M. C. Somers-Clarke, became lady of the manor. (fn. 36)

Of the two mills mentioned in 1086, one was still remaining, on Valebridge Common, in 1835, and the other is said to have been near the source of a spring issuing from the Downs, but to have disappeared many years before. (fn. 37)

The custom of Borough English obtained in the manor. (fn. 38) The manorial courts were held at Brookland, a farmhouse on Valebridge Common. (fn. 39)

The manor of OCKLEY [Okle, Occle (xiv-xv cent.); Occlaye (xvi cent.)] was held as half a knight's fee of the barony of Lewes. (fn. 40) The overlordship descended with the rape. It formed part of Edmund Lenthall's share of the barony (fn. 41) and was assigned to his widow in dower. (fn. 42) After her death the ½ fee followed the descent of the rest of the Lenthall inheritance and ultimately that of Keymer. (fn. 43)

The earliest-known tenant is Nicholas de Nugun or Nogon, who held the half fee in 1242. (fn. 44) By the last quarter of the 13th century it had evidently come into the hands of a family taking their name from it, for Walter de Okeleye or Ocle had lands in Keymer in 1279 and 1283, (fn. 45) and his widow Isabel was still living in 1319. (fn. 46) Their son Thomas de Ocle succeeded, (fn. 47) and was living in 1324, when he was holding a watermill in Keymer of Aylmer de Valence, of the manor of East Sutton in Kent. (fn. 48) Ockley seems to have remained in the same family until early in the 15th century, John Ockley holding a court there in 1404. (fn. 49) It is then lost sight of until the following century. In 1513 John Awood (fn. 50) of Clayton purchased from Thomas Hardys or Hardes an estate of 130 acres in Keymer which was perhaps part of Ockley, for his son Thomas Awood or Thurstan, who inherited in 1528, died in 1539 holding a messuage and 293 acres in Keymer and Cuckfield, of the Barony of Lewes, for half a fee and three arrows yearly, which identifies it with Ockley. (fn. 51) His son Sir John died in 1559 leaving the manor to his son Nicholas, whose son John succeeded in 1582 but was obliged to sell Ockley (fn. 52) in 1602 to Stephen Barnham and Alice, presumably his mother. (fn. 53) Stephen died seised of it in 1608, (fn. 54) and his son Martin sold it in 1615 to George Luxford. (fn. 55) John Luxford, eldest son of George, succeeded his father in 1631 (fn. 56) and died in 1673, (fn. 57) and his son Edward sold the manor in 1718 to James Wood of East Mascalls. (fn. 58) James died in 1759, and his son John, rector of Rusper, at his death in 1791 left Ockley to his cousin James Wood of Hickstead. (fn. 59) From the latter it passed in 1806 to his second son John, who died in 1818 leaving Ockley to his son James, who lived until 1897. (fn. 60) At the death of his widow in 1910 it passed to their great-nephew Mr. Randall George Davidson, the present owner.


The parish church of SS. COSMAS AND DAMIAN has an apsidal chancel, with flint walls, of the 12th century, but the remainder of the structure was rebuilt in 1866 from the designs of Edmund Scott. The church consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower with a small spire above it. The east window of the chancel has ancient angle-dressings to the inner splays and a chamfered segmental reararch with old voussoirs, but otherwise all the stone dressings have been renewed.

All the fittings are modern, but possibly a piscina(?) in the south-east of the apse is ancient. It is all plastered and has a chamfered two-centred head: there is no basin.

There are six bells, one of 1791, one of 1866, and four of 1911.

The communion plate consists of a cup of 1635; two patens of 1838; a flagon of 1752, given in that year by Elizabeth White; and a silver alms-dish of 1861, given in 1866. (fn. 61)

The registers date from 1601.


The church of Keymer is mentioned in 1086, (fn. 62) and was granted to the Priory of St. Pancras at Lewes by Ralph de Chesney about 1093. (fn. 63) The rectory has always been attached to that of Clayton (q.v.), the advowson now being held by Brasenose College, Oxford.

The church of St. John the Evangelist, Burgess Hill, is a vicarage in the gift of the rector of Clayton cum Keymer. The church of St. Andrew, Burgess Hill, is a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Chichester and the representatives of S. Copestake.


Parish Clerk's Land. By a deed dated 4 April 1804 land at Keymer, commonly called the Clerk's Field, containing about 2 acres, was conveyed to trustees for the benefit of the parish clerk. The land is now let on a lease for 21 years at an annual rent of £5, which is applied in payment of the parish clerk's salary.


  • 1. Year Bk. 1935–6.
  • 2. Suss. N. & Q. iii, 197–201.
  • 3. Burgeshill is mentioned in 1524; and in 1605 Thomas Aderton, gentleman, forfeited 1½ yardlands called Hatters alias Burgeshill for the murder of his wife: Egerton MS. 1967, fols. 35, 36.
  • 4. V.C.H. Suss. i, 441.
  • 5. Ibid. note; Lewes Chart. i, 17, 21.
  • 6. Cal. Pat. 1313–17, p. 483; Cat. Anc. Deeds, A. 5917.
  • 7. Suss. Rec. Soc. iii, 40; and see above under Rape.
  • 8. Stat. Realm (Rec. Com.), v, 52.
  • 9. 'The Manor of Keymer', Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 14.
  • 10. G.E.C. Complete Peerage (1st ed.), i, 37, 41.
  • 11. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 14–15; Add. MS. 5683, fol. 199.
  • 12. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 251. This part of the manor had been granted to Sir Richard Sackville in 1553 after the attainder of Thos. D. of Norfolk: Cal. Pat. 1553, pp. 297, 115.
  • 13. Ibid.; Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 16.
  • 14. Cf. Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv, 729.
  • 15. Comber, Suss. Gen. (Ardingly), 263–4; Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 251; Egerton MS. 1967, fol. 35.
  • 16. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 18.
  • 17. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 252.
  • 18. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 18.
  • 19. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 252; Cal. Newn. Doc. Lewes, ii. 20.
  • 20. Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv, 482; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cclxxxii, 28; see under Rape.
  • 21. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 19; Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 251.
  • 22. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 20; Comber, Suss. Gen. (Lewes, 165–7.
  • 23. Ibid. (Ardingly), 13.
  • 24. Recov. R. Hil. 19–20 Chas. II, ro. 58.
  • 25. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 20–1.
  • 26. Ibid. 21.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 252.
  • 29. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 21; Cal. Deeds N. Lewes, 107.
  • 30. Ibid. 132; Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 22.
  • 31. Ibid. 23.
  • 32. Ibid.; Cal. Deeds N. Lewes, 134–5.
  • 33. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 24.
  • 34. Ex. inf. Robert A. Dendy, esq.
  • 35. Cf. Suss. N. & Q. iii, 98.
  • 36. E inf. Robert A. Dendy, esq.
  • 37. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 242.
  • 38. Suss. Arch. Coll. vi, 180.
  • 39. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 242.
  • 40. Wood MSS., Hove Public Library; Bk. of Fees, 691 (where the name is missing); Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 33, 192, 196. It is said to have been held of Keymer by payment of 3 barbed arrows, in 1555: ibid. 33. In 1559 it was said to be held of the manor of Ditchling: ibid.
  • 41. Ibid. 187.
  • 42. Chan. Inq. p.m. 1 Ric. III, no. 43; cf. Cal. Inq. (Rec. Com.), iv, 417. It is here entered as 1 fee.
  • 43. Cf. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiii, 25.
  • 44. Ibid. xxxiv, 192, 187; Bk. of Fees, 691.
  • 45. Lewes Chart. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), ii, 44 and 63; Assize R. 1260 m. 2. Richard de Okle is mentioned in 1288 and Adam in 1310: Lewes Chart. ii, 44, 62.
  • 46. Cat. Anc. Deeds, C. 3490.
  • 47. Ibid. C. 3489.
  • 48. Feud. Aids, v, 137; Chan. Inq. p.m. 17 Edw. II, no. 75.
  • 49. Add. MS. 5684, fol. 37.
  • 50. Cf. Comber, Suss. Gen. (Horsham), 372.
  • 51. Wood MSS. Hove Public Library; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), lxxi, 142; cf. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 33.
  • 52. Wood MSS.
  • 53. Suss. Rec. Soc. xx, 327; Add. MS. 39381, fol. 88.
  • 54. Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv, 86.
  • 55. Ibid. xx, 327; Comber, Suss. Gen. (Lewes), 165.
  • 56. Ibid. 167; Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv, 680.
  • 57. Comber, Suss. Gen. (Lewes), 167; Cal. Deeds N. Lewes, 2.
  • 58. Wood MSS.
  • 59. Cal. Deeds N. 43, Lewes.
  • 60. Comber, Suss. Gen. (Horsham), 381.
  • 61. Suss. Arch. Coll. liv, 238.
  • 62. V.C.H. Suss. i, 441.
  • 63. Lewes Chart, i, 17, 40.