Parishes: Pyecombe

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: Pyecombe', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, (London, 1940) pp. 212-214. British History Online [accessed 22 May 2024].

. "Parishes: Pyecombe", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, (London, 1940) 212-214. British History Online, accessed May 22, 2024,

. "Parishes: Pyecombe", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, (London, 1940). 212-214. British History Online. Web. 22 May 2024,

In this section


Picumba (xi cent.); Piccumbe (xiii cent.); Pykecombe, Pycombe (xvi cent.).

The small river Wellesbourne, to-day shrunken to inconsiderable proportions, seems once to have flowed down a long deep coombe to reach the sea at Brighton. The parish of Pyecombe covers an irregularly shaped area, 2,286 acres in extent, inclosing the head of this coombe and the Downs to east and west. In the northwest corner of the parish is Wolstonbury Hill, 677 ft. in height, and the Downs on the eastern side of the parish rise to over 700 ft. They are penetrated by a small lateral coombe containing the farm of Pangdean. With the exception of this and a farm in the village, the parish is mostly chalk Downland utilized only for pasturage. On the summit of Wolstonbury Hill is a fortified hill-town, of the Early Iron Age, to the east of which are traces of early field systems. Among these has been found a late Romano-British settlement, originally approached by a deeply sunken trackway. (fn. 1) There is a solitary barrow on the hill-top.

An ancient road crosses the parish from the col between Wolstonbury Hill and the Downs above Clayton, skirts the eastern flank of the former in a series of deeply-cut terrace-ways, and descends the coombe to climb Newtimber Hill at the south-western corner of the parish on its way to Saddlescombe. The medieval village may have been on this road, near the point where the church now stands, overlooking the head of the coombe, in the very centre of the parish. Pyecombe, however, appears to have declined towards the end of the medieval period, and there is some indication that after the 15th century the village was revived a quarter of a mile westwards of the earlier site, and on the col dividing Wolstonbury from Newtimber Hill. The present village, which in 1931 contained 313 inhabitants, is thus in two portions. To the north of the church is the smithy, notable for its production of a famous type of sheep-crooks, but showing no signs of antiquity, and a few early-17th-century cottages, now deserted and falling to ruin. Nearby are a few modern cottages.

The greater portion of the village, however, is formed by a group of cottages a quarter of a mile west of this. Several of these are of 17th-century date, and one, now known as No. 12, is of particular interest, being a fragment of a large house, possibly the manor-house, of midor late-16th-century date. Only one room remains complete, and this has a good timber ceiling in two bays, separated by a heavily-moulded beam, and having the joists all stop-chamfered. In the north-east corner is a doorway having moulded jambs and head; this is now filled by a smaller modern door, and adjoins the chimney-stack, itself apparently an insertion. The outer walls are half-timber in large square panels with a few wind-braces. The site of another room remains to the east side, but it has nearly all been rebuilt, although the old timbering may be clearly seen on the north side of the upper floor.

On the east side of the village is the Old Rectory, a large 18th-century building of no architectural interest. On the south side of the parish is Pangdean farm-house, which shows no traces of antiquity. The main road from Brighton passes to the west of the house, dividing just south of Pyecombe church into three roads, the western, which is the main London road, to Newtimber and Bolney, the eastern to Clayton and Haywards Heath. The middle road is the old trackway passing the church, just north of which is another road joining all three. An inn stands at the road junction south of the church.


The manor of PYECOMBE may have derived from one or both of the two manors of Pangdean held in 1086 by William son of Rainald of Earl Warenne. (fn. 2) Thomas de Poynings, a successor of William son of Rainald, held land at Pyecombe in 1248. (fn. 3) In 1284 Luke de Poynings, and in 1316 Margery widow of Michael de Poynings, were returned as holding Pyecombe of the Earl Warenne by military service. (fn. 4) By July 1316, however, a manor of Pyecombe was held in demesne by John de Warenne, (fn. 5) and it continued in the hands of the lords of the rape, passing to the Duke of Norfolk in 1439, (fn. 6) and coming eventually in 1476 to Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk, after the death of her husband. (fn. 7) Pyecombe was one of the manors which, in consideration of the marriage of her infant daughter Anne with Richard son of Edward IV, she surrendered to the queen in 1478. (fn. 8) It does not, however, appear to have been among those settled on the young Richard, (fn. 9) nor is it to be found among the possessions of the four heirs to the Mowbray half of the barony after his death in 1483. (fn. 10)

A reference to a manor of 'Picombe alias Pingdeane', held by Viscount Montagu, (fn. 11) suggests that by this time the manor had become merged in that of Pangdean (q.v.). In the early 19th century it was said that Pyecombe had not been reckoned as a manor in the memory of man, but that it lay in the manors of Pangdean, Clayton, Poynings, and Saddlescombe. (fn. 12)

There were two manors of PANGDEAN (fn. 13) in 1086, both of them held by William son of Rainald of Earl Warenne. One, assessed at 10 hides, was held before the Conquest by Levfel of King Edward; the other, of 9 hides, was held by Osward of the same king. (fn. 14) To what extent the later manor was derived from these it seems impossible to decide. (fn. 15) The overlordship descended with the rape along with the manor of Pyecombe, being held in 1455 by John, Duke of Norfolk, (fn. 16) but by the beginning of the 16th century the manor appears to have become separated from the barony of Lewes.

Pangdean was held by Thomas de Poynings on his death in 1339, by the service of inclosing 2 perches round Earl Warenne's park at Ditchling and ½ perch round the park of Cuckfield. There were 3 acres of park attached to the manor. (fn. 17) It descended with the manor of Poynings (q.v.), (fn. 18) lapsing to the Crown in 1797, after which a lease of the manor farm was made to William Stephen Poyntz and his wife, who were still tenants in 1834.

Soon after the Conquest, land in Standean (fn. 19) [Standena (xi cent.); Staunden (xiii cent.); Standen (xv cent.)] was held by Fredesend daughter of Hugh son of Rainer. (fn. 20) Early in the 13th century land in Standean was held in fee by Robert de Freavill, a Norman, of Earl Warenne, who in 1228 was permitted to resume possession of it. (fn. 21) Very soon afterwards the earl appears to have bestowed the land as half a knight's fee upon William de Munceus or Monceux, possibly a descendant of Edith daughter of the 1st William de Warenne and his wife Gundrada. (fn. 22) The overlordship of this half-fee devolved in 1439 upon the Duke of Norfolk, (fn. 23) and was still held by his successor, the Earl of Arundel, in 1465. (fn. 24) After that its history is uncertain, though about 1625 it still owed suit at the castle of Lewes. (fn. 25)

After being in the tenancy of William de Monceux in the 13th century, ST ANDEAN, now referred to as a manor, was in 1448 settled upon Philippa, younger daughter of Sir Thomas Dacre, and her husband Robert Fiennes, with remainder to the elder daughter Joan wife of Richard Fiennes. (fn. 26) Joan survived her husband and died holding the manor in 1487. (fn. 27) The manor subsequently descended as Hurstpierpoint (q.v.), being held in 1571 by Gregory Fiennes, Lord Dacre. (fn. 28)

Fiennes. Azure three lions or.

Meanwhile, however, Thomas Nudygatt or Newdegate was seised at the time of his death in 1559 of the tenement of 'Haselholte otherwise called Standen'. (fn. 29) His heir in 1575 was holding a free tenement containing about 56 acres and a sheep pasture called Standen in Pyecombe of Francis Carew, the lord of the manor of Plumpton and son of Sir Nicholas Carew, who held Pangdean as Receiver of the Crown. (fn. 30) This had formerly, it is said, been held 'by copy of Court Roll'. (fn. 31) The link between the Dacre and Carew ownership does not appear.

In 1617 Francis More died seised of a messuage and lands called 'Haselholt alias Standen' in the parish of Pyecombe and was succeeded by his son Thomas (fn. 32) who was subsequently included among the free suitors of Lewes Castle for lands called UPPER STANDEAN in Piecombe, formerly of Lord Dacre and once held by William Monceux as half a knight's fee. (fn. 33)

Lower Standean, in the parish of Ditchling, is mentioned in 1537. (fn. 34)

The hamlet of Standean is now owned by Capt. George Bernard Nickson.


Pyecombe Church, of which the invocation is unknown, stands in an isolated position on the southern slopes of Wolstonbury Hill and on the west side of the ancient way, which crosses its eastern end. The church consists of nave, chancel, and western tower, a north porch, and a small modern vestry north of the chancel arch. The whole building is covered with rough-cast, and the stone-work of the windows is all modern. It is thus difficult to date the portions of the church with certainty, but from internal evidence it would appear that nave and chancel are 12th century and the western tower 13th century. The nave has two windows on either side, each being a 15th-century two-light window in a rectangular frame with a label-mould, all the stonework being a renewal. A similar window in the west wall of the tower lights the tower space, and the east window was originally of this form. (fn. 35) The chancel has two single-light windows on either side. The westernmost of these may be copies of early-14th-century originals, but the eastern windows are almost certainly modern copies of their neighbours replacing the original 12th-century windows. The east window is modern pseudo-Norman. The tower is small and plain, except for two very large buttresses supporting the western angles, probably additions of the 14th century or later. Part of a 13th-century tombstone has been built into the lower part of the south buttress. The tower has a simple pyramidal roof of low pitch, and its upper stages are lit by very small windows, appearing to-day merely as holes through the rough-cast facing. The upper half of the blocked early-14th-century south doorway of the nave remains externally as a shallow recess with a segmental head. The north porch is very plain, with a Horsham stone roof and a simple pointed-arched doorway, probably of post-Reformation date. (fn. 36) Within it is the north doorway of the nave, a simple pointed archway, the stones of which have all been coarsely re-tooled and given draughted margins. Its scoinson arch is segmental and similarly tooled.


The lofty tower arch is plain and has neither responds nor imposts. The chancel arch is 12th-century and quite plain, the semicircular arch rising from simple impost mouldings which have been entirely re-tooled, as has the whole of the arch and its responds, with coarse chiselling and draughted margins. On either side of the arch are lateral arches, apparently entirely modern. In the usual position in the chancel is a good piscina of 14th-century date, with an elaborately foliated ogee head and double basins, fluted internally. The font has a lead bowl, of late-12th-century date, with elaborate patterning of scroll-work. The base is modern. The church was restored in 1844, 1897, and again in 1914.

The tower contains one old bell, invoking St. Katherine, and believed to date from the 15th century. (fn. 37)

The church possesses a much-altered communion cup, the stem of which is Elizabethan, possibly of the year 1568, the bowl 17th century, and the foot probably 18th century; the paten cover may be Elizabethan; there are also a chalice and flagon of 1883; a paten of 1854; a pewter flagon dated 1733; and a pewter plate given in 1765. (fn. 38)

The registers begin in 1561.


The church of 'Pingeden' was granted to the Priory of St. Pancras at Lewes by Adam de Poynings and his wife Beatrice, and this grant was confirmed by successive Earls Warenne in about 1095 and 1140. (fn. 39) Another Adam de Poynings in 1180 renounced to the same priory all his rights in the church of Pyecombe, (fn. 40) and in 1272–3 Luke de Poynings made a similar renunciation. (fn. 41) It would appear that all these grants refer to the same church, which continued in the hands of the priory until, as the church of Pyecombe, it was surrendered to the king in 1537. (fn. 42) In 1538 it was granted to Thomas Cromwell, (fn. 43) but returned again to the Crown, in whose hands it remained. (fn. 44) The living was annexed in 1933 to Newtimber (q.v.) and is now in the gift of the Lord Chancellor and Mrs. Hort alternately.


  • 1. See Antiquity, ix, 452.
  • 2. V.C.H. Suss. i, 440; cf. Farrer, Honors and Knights' Fees, iii, 327.
  • 3. Close R. 1247–51, p. 122. Cf. Farrer, Honors and Knight's Fees, iii, 327.
  • 4. Feud. Aids, v, 129, 136–7. Cf. Pangdean, below.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1313–17, p. 483; Cat. Anct. D. iii, A. 5917.
  • 6. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 187.
  • 7. Ibid. xxiii, 3212.
  • 8. Ibid.; Rot. Parl. (Rec. Com.), vi, 169.
  • 9. Ibid. 168–9.
  • 10. See under rape.
  • 11. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 2, 76.
  • 12. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 182.
  • 13. Pinchedene, Pinhedene, Pinwedene (xi cent.); Pengedene (xiv cent.).
  • 14. V.C.H. Suss. i, 440.
  • 15. Cf. Farrer, Honors and Knights' Fees, iii, 327.
  • 16. Chan. Inq. p.m. 33 Hen. VI, no. 35.
  • 17. Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, 231; Suss. N. & Q. v, 82. This may be the land previously held as 'Pikcomb' or 'Picoumb' by Michael and Margery de Poynings in 1284 and 1316 respectively: Feud. Aids, v, 129, 136.
  • 18. See references quoted under Poynings; also Suss. Arch. Coll. lxxvii, 256.
  • 19. Upper Standean lies in Pyecombe parish and Lower Standean in that of Ditchling: Tithe Map of 1840 in possession of the Rev. G. T. Ritherdon, Rector of Newtimber with Pyecombe.
  • 20. Lewes Chart. (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxviii), 13. Cf. Hugh son of Rannulf lord of Plumpton, who may be identical with this Hugh: V.C.H. Suss. i, 392 n., 441.
  • 21. Pat. R. 1225–32, p. 190.
  • 22. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 189, 192, 196. One authority gives it as ½ fee in 'Herst': Bk. of Fees, 691; Suss. Arch. Coll. lviii, 64. Edith married Drogo de Monceux.
  • 23. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 189; cf. Chan. Inq. p.m. 18 Hen. VI, no. 28.
  • 24. Ibid. 4 Edw. IV, no. 72.
  • 25. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 196.
  • 26. Feet of F. Div. Co. East. 26 Hen. VI, no. 63. For connexions between the families of Monceux, Hoo, Fiennes, Dacre, and also Carew see Suss. Arch. Coll. viii, 108, &c.; lviii, 64, &c.; lix, 128–9.
  • 27. Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv, 437. The manor is here called 'Standon alias Stansted'.
  • 28. Ibid. xix, 83.
  • 29. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxxvi, 27–8.
  • 30. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, g. 1256 (37); cf. ibid. xiv (2), g. 113 (5).
  • 31. Suss. N. & Q. iii, 139, from Add. MS. 37688.
  • 32. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccclxxix, 93.
  • 33. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiv, 196.
  • 34. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 182 note; cf. Pl.Names Suss. ii, 302.
  • 35. See the Sharpe Collection of Views of Sussex Churches.
  • 36. In 1609 it was presented that the east wall of the church was in part fallen down and two porches were much decayed: Add. MS. 39447, fol. 41.
  • 37. Suss. Arch. Coll. xvi, 151, 220.
  • 38. Ibid. liv, 245.
  • 39. Lewes Chart. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), i, 21, 30; ii, 61; cf. ibid. 125.
  • 40. Ibid. 55.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid. xx, 426–7.
  • 43. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), g. 384 (74).
  • 44. Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.).