Parishes: Stanmer

Pages 238-240

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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STANMER (fn. 1)

Stanmere (viii cent. onwards); Stammer (xvii cent.).

Stanmer is a Downland parish lying on the southern slopes of the main range, below Ditchling Beacon. The parish stretches from south-west to north-east for about 2½ miles. Its shape is approximately a rhombus, its greatest width being about 1½ miles. The total area is 1,583 acres. The highest part of the parish is at the north-east end, known as Stanmer Down, rather over 500 ft. in height. This is all Downland sheep-pasture, and is separated by a belt of woodland from the part containing the village of Stanmer and its park, part of which is arable land. South-west of the park is Stanmer Great Wood. Stanmer Down is covered with old field-systems of the Early Iron Age and RomanoBritish periods. (fn. 2)

The present village is situated at the mouth of a coombe with two heads, each of which has a track passing up it, the eastern of which crosses the Downs in the direction of Patcham, and the northern climbs up to Plumpton Plain. These two lanes meet at the centre of the village, where there is a small lake, the parish church, and Stanmer Place. The north-bound road is the main street of the village, containing most of the dozen or so cottages which house the population of the parish, which, in 1931, was 93. The only means of access to the village at present is by a drive cut through the park from the Brighton-Lewes road. On the opposite side of this from the church is a large barn. Adjoining the church is the village well, covered by a modern Gothic stone well-house containing an old 'donkey-wheel' for raising the water.

Stanmer Place (fn. 3) adjoins the church on its southwest side. It was built about 1724, presumably on the site of the original manor house, of which, however, no traces remain. It is a large stone-built house, the seat of the Earls of Chichester. The north-east front contains the main entrance, covered by a small porch, and giving access to a large 'front hall' or salon, which occupies the central portion of the ground floor on this front. To the left of this, as one enters, is a small drawing-room, and at the opposite end is the library. Behind the south-east front is the principal drawing-room and the diningroom, the service end of which is cut off by a colonnade of two pairs of lofty Corinthian columns. Access to this from the kitchen wing, at the opposite side of the house, is by a low passage enclosing a small courtyard. The kitchen wing is not faced in ashlar, as are the two main fronts. The main staircase is at the back of the salon, in a staircase hall joining the two wings, which are furthermore connected at their opposite ends by a lofty colonnade above the service passage. The kitchen wing adjoins a somewhat older building in which was once the brew-house. The house contains a good collection of portraits. West of the house are the gardens, in which are the remains of an orangery. A large stableyard extends from the kitchen wing to the lane beyond. In the east angle of the yard is the well, covered by an old timber well-house which was repaired and embellished when the present house was built. The wellrope passes over a roller and is wound round a vertical capstan fixed, at either end, to the floor and to the roof timbers. On this vertical axle a small wooden wheel is attached, and projecting across this is a long arm, having at either end a yoke for a draught animal. The whole apparatus is possibly of the 17th century.

Among the farm-buildings on the opposite side of the lane north of the stables is a rectangular pigeon-house of late date, with accommodation for about 450 nests. (fn. 4)


Land at Stanmer was given in about 765 by Alduulf, King of the South Saxons, to Earl Hunlabe for the purpose of endowing a monastery, probably that of South Mailing. (fn. 5) In 1086 'Stanmere', then in Falmer Hundred, was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury and of him by the canons of South Mailing. It was assessed for 20 hides and to it belonged 7 haws in Lewes, yielding 21 pence yearly. (fn. 6) This land continued in the possession of the college until it was surrendered with the rest of the site and possessions of the canons to Henry VIII, who in 1545 granted these to Sir Thomas Palmer for services and for 1,000 marks paid to the king's own hands. (fn. 7) Sir Thomas made an exchange of the manor of STANMER with King Edward VI (fn. 8) and Queen Elizabeth in 1588 granted it to Richard Branthwaite of London and Richard Bromley of Bagworth Park, co. Leicester. (fn. 9) In the following year they reconveyed it to the queen. (fn. 10) In 1594 the manor was conveyed by George Michelborne to Richard Amherst. (fn. 11) In February 1614 King James I granted an annual rent from the manor, of £18 8s. 8d., to Queen Anne for life, (fn. 12) but in February 1615 he granted the manor, here named STANMER alias AUDEWICK, to George Lowe and Edward Sawyer of London, at a rent of £18 8s. 8d., (fn. 13) and they on 10 May following sold it to John Michelborne of London. (fn. 14) Sir Richard Michelborne of Broadhurst is said to have sold the manor to trustees for the five orphan children of Anthony Walters, a merchant of London, in February 1625, but in July 1631, prior to the marriage of his son William and Anne, only daughter of Laurence Ashburnham, Sir Richard settled the manor on them and their heirs. (fn. 15) Sir Richard died in 1638; his wife Cordelia survived him and his heir was his son William. (fn. 16) William Michelborne by his will, dated 19 December 1656 and proved in January 1657, left it to his brother-in-law Denny Ashburnham and his son Edward Michelborne, after the death of his wife, to be sold. (fn. 17) In 1670 Edward Michelborne and Anne Michelborne, widow, mortgaged Stanmer to Thomas Shelley, (fn. 18) but in 1700, after the death of Edward Michelborne, (fn. 19) his sisters and heirs, Sybil, wife of John Martin, and Bridget Michelborne sold the manor, described as STAMMER alias STANMER alias AUDWYKE, to Peter Gott of Hatton Gardens (fn. 20) for £8,000. (fn. 21) Peter Gott, Receiver-General of Sussex, shot himself. (fn. 22) His eldest son Samuel, together with Robert Western and Anne Western, widow, sold the manor to Henry Pelham of Lewes for £7,500 in May 1713. (fn. 23) Thomas Pelham built a new house there, partly with the materials of Kennards, the old family seat of the Chaloners in the parish of Lindfield Arches. (fn. 24) The manor has descended in the Pelham family, afterwards Earls of Chichester, (fn. 25) to the present day.

Pelham. Azure three pelicans argent, quartering Gules two buckles with their straps argent.

In 1835 the manor was coextensive with the parish. (fn. 26) In 1608 there was also a copyhold of 86 acres called Robertsham in Ringmer, held by Thomas Parker. (fn. 27)


The parish church, of which the invocation is unknown, stands to the east of the village street and northeast of Stanmer Place. At the beginning of the last century, the church consisted of a 14th-century nave and chancel and a west tower. (fn. 28) The structure was, however, entirely rebuilt in 1838, in flint with stone dressings, and consisting of a nave with two transepts projecting from the side walls, a chancel, and a west tower with spire. Part of the north transept is used as a vestry. On the north wall of the nave is a memorial to Sir John Pelham, died 1580, and his son Oliver, died 1584. Sir John's wife kneels opposite him. This memorial was removed from Holy Trinity, Minories, London. On the north wall is also an inscription on brass to 'Deborah wife of Stephen Goffe, Preacher of Gods Word', died 1626.

There are two bells, dated 1791. (fn. 29)

The plate consists of a silver chalice presented by the Earl of Chichester in 1817; two patens, of 1759 and 1762 respectively, presented at the same time; and a silver flagon presented in 1884. In 1888 the church also possessed a fine silver gilt 'steeple' cup, of secular origin, of 1623, but it was afterwards sold. (fn. 30)

The registers begin in 1588.


The living of Stanmer is a rectory, united since 1835 with that of Falmer (q.v.). While it was a possession of the College of South Mailing the archbishop, as nominal head of the collegiate church, (fn. 31) collated to the benefice. (fn. 32) In 1232 the church of Stanmer was attached to the prebend of the penitentiary of South Mailing. (fn. 33) Subsequently, and down to 1450 at least, it was held by the precentor, but in 1481 it was again annexed to the penitentiary, with which it remained until the Dissolution. (fn. 34) The value of the rectory in 1291 was £10 13s. 4d., (fn. 35) in 1341 £11 11s. or 17s. 8d. more than the amount of the taxation, (fn. 36) and by the time of the Dissolution the value was assessed at £16. (fn. 37) In 1545 the rectory was granted to Sir Thomas Palmer with the rest of the possessions of the college, (fn. 38) but presumably it was restored to the archbishop in 1552 with other property that had been held by the canons of the archbishop. (fn. 39) He collated in 1553, (fn. 40) and continued to hold the patronage (fn. 41) until the union with Falmer in 1835, after which time he continued for some years to present alternately with the Earl of Chichester, the patron of Falmer (q.v.). By an Order in Council, dated 20 November 1894, the archbishop exchanged his alternate right of presentation for the vicarage of Hellingly, so that the present sole patron of Stanmer cum Falmer is the Earl of Chichester. (fn. 42)


  • 1. Stanmer, having been from very early times a prebendal estate of the College of South Mailing, was and still is a detached portion of Ringmer Hundred in the Rape of Pevensey.
  • 2. See paper by G. A. Holleyman in Antiquity, ix, map opposite p. 448.
  • 3. See Suss. County Mag. iv, 349–56; Country Life, lxxi, 14, 66.
  • 4. Brighton and Hove Archaeologist, iii, 141.
  • 5. Birch, Cart. Sax. i, 197; V.C.H. Suss. ii, 117.
  • 6. Ibid. i, 388b.
  • 7. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxi, 172–3; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xx (1), g. 1335 (31); Suss. Arch. Trust, Cal. Deeds A., Lewes, nos. 12, 13. Cf. P.R.O. Court Rolls, Gen. Ser. ccvi, 33 (14–19 Hen. VIII).
  • 8. Add. MS. 39502, fol. 287.
  • 9. Ibid.; Pat. R. 30 Eliz. pt. xvi.
  • 10. Add. MS. 39502, fol. 287.
  • 11. Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xx), 414.
  • 12. Add. MS. 39502, fol. 288.
  • 13. Pat. R. 12 Jas. I, pt. xi; Add. MS. 39502, fol. 287.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid.; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), dccxliii, 13.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Add. MS. 39502, fol. 289; Comber, Suss. Gen. (Ardingly), 264.
  • 18. Add. MS. 5684, fols. 118–20; Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xx), 414.
  • 19. Comber, loc. cit.
  • 20. Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xx), 414; Add. MS. 39502, fol. 189.
  • 21. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 184.
  • 22. Add. MS. 5684, fol. 121.
  • 23. Ibid. 39502, fol. 289. According to Horsfield, Sussex, i, 184, and Suss. Arch. Coll. liii, 279, Thomas Pelham was the buyer.
  • 24. Horsfield, loc. cit.
  • 25. Ibid.; Recov. R. Hil. 24 Geo. II, ro. 149; Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xx), 411; Recov. R. Mich. 9 Geo. iv, ro. 299.
  • 26. Horsfield, Sussex, i, 184.
  • 27. Add. MS. 5684, fol. 117.
  • 28. See illustration in the Sharpe Collection of views of Sussex churches.
  • 29. Suss. Arch. Coll. xvi, 224.
  • 30. Ibid. liv, 227. See also ibid. liii, 219.
  • 31. V.C.H. Suss. ii, 118.
  • 32. Cf. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxvi, 84–6.
  • 33. Pat. Rolls, 1225–32, p. 492.
  • 34. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxvi, 86.
  • 35. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 138.
  • 36. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 375; cf. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxvi, 85–6.
  • 37. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 337.
  • 38. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxi, 172; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xx (1), g. 1335 (31); cf. Pat. R. 30 Eliz. pt. xvi.
  • 39. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxi, 173–4; V.C.H. Suss, ii, 118.
  • 40. Suss. Arch. Coll. xxvi, 87.
  • 41. Ibid. 87–90; Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.).
  • 42. Ex inf. Messrs. Blaker, Son & Young.