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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Blechinton (xiii cent.); Blachyngton (xv cent.); Blechington (xvi cent.).
This one-time lonely Downland parish lies immediately north-west of Hove, the building development from which is rapidly swallowing up its fields. The area of the parish was 873 acres, but in 1928 about 130 acres were transferred to Brighton and the remainder to the borough of Hove.
The parish extends northwards to include a deep coombe known as Toad's Hole, beyond which it climbs the Downs to a height of over 500 ft. Southwards, the parish slopes towards the sea, from which it is separated by Aldrington. The whole area was farmland until a year or two ago, but the southern portion has now been developed as far as the old village, through an arterial road which has been driven from Portslade to join up with another passing along Toad's Hole and climbs the Downs on its way from Hove to the Dyke. The northern part of the parish is covered with ancient fields, and finds of Roman pottery have been made on the summit of the low hill which marks its extreme northern limits. (fn. 1)
Most of the ancient villages in the district have been founded along old trackways passing down the spurs which run southwards from the main range of the Downs. West Blatchington was founded on the lower slopes of such a spur, descending from Round Hill and the Dyke Hill, along which there appears to have been a way leaving the old track from Saddlescombe to Portslade at the point where the vanished village of Hangleton once stood, and sweeping thence eastwards towards Preston. A Roman villa was discovered in 1818 a quarter of a mile north-west of the church, just where the old way enters the parish. (fn. 2) The church and manor-house stand at a point where this route is intersected by another passing between Portslade and Patcham, but the former seems to have been the main street of the tiny village, as a few old cottages, one of which is partly stone-built and may be of medieval origin, line its south-west side.
Behind these is the manor-house, now known as Court Farm, surrounded by extensive farm buildings, including an old windmill, erected in 1833. (fn. 3) Although in present appearance quite modern, the house is built round a core which is apparently of the late 15th century. The remains of this are best seen on the northwest side of the house, where is a large angle buttress, with two set-offs and a moulded plinth, partly covered with modern cement plaster. The medieval wall continues along the north-east side of the house, with the remains of two more large buttresses. Inside there is little to be seen, but the medieval portion can be traced, of a stone-built structure of two bays with an entrance doorway at the east end of the south-west wall. The original outer arch of this has been hacked away, but the inner three-centred arch with its simple chamfer is plainly visible. This part of the house is in two stories, the first floor being supported by large coarsely chamfered beams with stopped ends. At the west end of the south-east wall, on the upper floor, are the remains of a similar arch to another doorway, or possibly window. The modern wing which covers the southeast end of the medieval building clearly replaces one or more destroyed bays of this, and the appearance of the external walls and buttresses suggests that the building was originally higher. No old windows are visible to-day, but a window with a foliated head is said to have existed until quite recently. (fn. 4)
West Blatchington is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, and it may have been part of the land at Patcham (q.v.) held by Richard and his knight, for Richard gave a hide of land at Blatchington to the monks of Lewes. (fn. 5) The overlordship of what was variously described as or knight's fee in Blatchington descended with the rape, (fn. 6) being shared by the three heirs in 1439. (fn. 7) From 1502 the manor appears to have been held directly of the Crown and no longer of the barony of Lewes. (fn. 8)
The manor of WEST BLATCHINGTON was called BLATCHINGTON-WAYFIELD from a family, members of which are found witnessing charters by the Earls Warenne from about 1215. (fn. 9) Richard de Wiauill was the earl's steward in about 1230, (fn. 10) and in 12423 Richard de Wyavill held one-third of a knight's fee in Blatchington. (fn. 11) Earl Warenne himself was said to be holding Blatchington in 12845, (fn. 12) but in 1412 the manor was held by Richard Weyvile. (fn. 13)
As at Catsfield (q.v.), (fn. 14) the Weyviles seem to have been succeeded by the family of Hardresse, or Hardres, and about 1485 the manor was conveyed to Thomas Combe, who sued James Hardres for detaining the title-deeds. (fn. 15) Thomas Combe was dead before 1501, when his son Thomas sued his trustees, stating that the manor had been settled upon him and his brothers John and Edward. The trustees were ordered by the court to make a conveyance of the manor to Thomas and his brothers in tail male successively, with remainder to the right heirs of John de Combe, late of Combe in the parish of Hastings. (fn. 16) In 1502 Thomas Combe and his wife Elizabeth conveyed the manor to certain persons, including Richard Emson and Edmund Dudley, probably feoffees to the use of the king, and Sir John Fyneux, chief justice of King's Bench, made a similar conveyance. (fn. 17) Presumably as a result of these transactions the manor was subsequently held of the Crown as of the manor of Falmer (q.v.). (fn. 18)
The manor came into the hands of George, Lord Bergavenny, before 1535. (fn. 19) In 1608 and 1617 Lord Bergavenny paid a rent of 21s. 4d. for this manor to the manor of Falmer. (fn. 20) In the later year it was said to consist of sundry decayed tenements. It remained in the family of the Lords Bergavenny, and in 1835 the manor consisted of one large farm. (fn. 21) The present lord of the manor is the Marquess of Abergavenny. (fn. 22)
A small freehold property in West Blatchington called Lewkenors Croft (fn. 23) probably originated in the land at Blatchington given by Richard the Archdeacon to the monks of Lewes, (fn. 24) and later part of the priors' manor of Falmer. (fn. 25) It appears to have been leased before the end of the 15th century to the Scrase family, and afterwards became their property. (fn. 26) Richard Scrase of Hangleton in 1500 left to his son Richard the manor of Blatchington and such store of corn, &c., and such stock as he would need 'to mayntene his housholdrye there'. (fn. 27) Presumably he had a lease of Blatchington Wayvill Manor, and on 4 November 1529 George, Lord Bergavenny, granted a lease of it for 57 years to the son, Richard Scrase, (fn. 28) who in 1534 was holding the prior's estate at Blatchington. (fn. 29) Richard died in 1549, and his widow Mary in 1552. (fn. 30) His son Edward also had a lease of the manor from Lord Bergavenny, but when he died in 1576, his son Richard being a minor, Edward Covert, the overseer of his will, by misrepresentations obtained in 1583 a new lease for three lives. Richard Scrase on attaining his majority recovered possession. (fn. 31) He died in 1625, (fn. 32) his son Tuppen Scrase in 1633, and his grandson Richard in 1634. (fn. 33) Tuppen had other sons but West Blatchington seems to have passed to his younger brother Henry Scrase, who died in 1641 leaving a widow, Joan, who continued to live there with her sons. (fn. 34) They suffered for their faith as Quakers and were repeatedly imprisoned. (fn. 35) Members of the Scrase family continued as tenants of Blatchington Manor, until the tenancy passed by marriage to the Hodsons, Mrs. Hodson, the tenant in 1830, being the granddaughter of a Scrase. (fn. 36) The family were still tenants as late as 1882. (fn. 37)
The church of ST. PETER stands about a hundred yards to the north-west of the manor-house. It consists of a nave, chancel with a vestry to the south, a south porch, and a large square bell-turret with a squat spire over the west end of the nave. To the west of this may be seen the lower parts of the walling of a curious annexe to the nave.
The church consisted originally of a 12th-century nave and chancel. The western annexe appears to be contemporary with the nave itself. The chancel was rebuilt later in the medieval period, and provided with a south chapel. In 1596 the church had been practically disused for fifty years and was regarded as a chapel to the manor-house, the only dwelling-house in the parish, for whose benefit occasional services were held. (fn. 38) By 1700 there were no doors or windows, bell or other furniture. (fn. 39) Soon after this, the church seems to have fallen entirely to ruin, (fn. 40) remaining so until 1890, when it was rebuilt.
The nave with its annexe appears to be of 12thcentury date. Of the nave proper only the south wall and the lower part of the north wall appear to be ancient, and are of flint with stone dressings. The quoins of the west wall, with the walling adjoining them, are probably of the 12th century, and the wall contains two round-headed 12th-century windows with deep internal splays. The south doorway of the nave is 15th-century and four-centred without spandrels or hood-mould. East of this is a modern single-light window inserted in 1890 in place of the original 12thcentury window. (fn. 41)
The chancel, vestry, and porch are modern and of brick with flint facing.
There are no other old features within the church, but built into the interior face of the north wall, opposite the south door, are a number of architectural fragments, including portions of a 12th-century arch showing roll-and-billet mouldings, (fn. 42) portions of tracery, and what appears to be part of a medieval grave slab.
The remains of the western annexe are featureless except for the lower part of its west doorway, which appears to have been of the 14th century.
During the period when the church was derelict, a brass plate commemorating one Richard Scrase of Hangleton, another of Blatchington, and Edward Scrase of Blatchington, who died in 1499, 1519, and 1579 respectively, was found in the ruins and taken to Portslade Church, where it may be seen fixed to the east wall of the south aisle. (fn. 42a)
The church of West Blatchington was given to the monks of Lewes by William de Warenne, the 2nd earl. (fn. 43) In 1252 and 1318 presentations made in error by successive Earls Warenne were revoked by them. (fn. 44) The priors of Lewes remained in possession of the advowson until the Dissolution, (fn. 45) when it was granted to Thomas Cromwell in 1538, (fn. 46) and on his attainder it reverted to the Crown. In 1557 the advowson was granted to John and Richard Kyme, who sold it in the same year to Edward Bellingham. (fn. 47) The living was joined for a short time to that of Hangleton (q.v.) by Archbishop Whitgift in June 1585. (fn. 48) In 1619 Sir Edward Bellingham sold the advowson of West Blatchington to Thomas Bishop and Robert Percehay (fn. 49) who presented in 1620 and 1625. (fn. 50) In 1627 Sir Edward Bishop sold it to Christopher Butler of Wisborough Green, clerk, and Thomas Carr of Oving, clerk, (fn. 51) and in 1662 Carr sold to Sir John Stapeley, (fn. 52) who presented in May 1664. (fn. 53) John Dunstall was patron in 1694, (fn. 54) and in 1707 he conveyed the advowson to Henry Pelham and others, (fn. 55) with the intention that it should be annexed to the vicarage of Brighton. (fn. 56) The union was effected by deed of 1 Aug. 1744. Presentation to the united benefice was to be in turn by the Bishop of Chichester and Henry Campion; but although the latter presented in 1804 all later presentations have been made by the Bishop. (fn. 57) The two livings are shortly to be disunited. (fn. 58)