Sitting in a box in the storeroom of the museum is a transcript of a document that gives a great insight to the life of the inhabitants of Henfield in the 17th century.
230 years ago, just after the execution of Charles I, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell sent surveyors out to all parts of the country. The aim was to identify land owned by the Bishops and Archbishops and to sell it off to people who were favourably disposed towards the Commonwealth.
In 1647 all the Bishop’s land in Henfield was surveyed prior to its sale to Colonel John Downes MP for Arundel, the same John Downes that signed the King’s death warrant.
The officials of Henfield assembled in the White Hart to answer a series of questions about the manor. The land for the sole use of the Bishop was 310 acres and in 1641 was worth £200/annum plus woods and timber valued at £90.
The surveyors first had to establish the boundaries of the manor which proved difficult to ascertain - ‘the manor lies in the diocese of Chichester and the Deanery of Lewes and that divers other manors lye intermixed’. These included the Manor of Wareham (Oreham), Wantlye, Moustow, Deeding, Ewhurst and Shermanbury.
The Leasehold Property known as the Manor House (Streatham) was the centre of local administration and the seat of the Court Leet (the Bishops of Chichester also lodged here). The manor “farme house is situate neer a navigable river which runneth to the sea”. The survey then goes on to describe the house in detail, outbuildings - one great barn, one stable (thatched), an old decaying dovehouse one end of which is fallen down. New Hall, south east of Stretham, was built for the Bishop to reside in until the manor house was repaired, at the time of the survey it was occupied by George Rainsford Esq. There follows a list of ten freeholders - the first of which is Henry Bysshopp holding Catsland Farm. The freehold tenures are not large and most were held by soccage tenure, (a free tenure without the obligation of military service, which could be inherited without restriction).
Three commons were within the limits of the manor, Henfield, Broadmere and Oreham. “All customary tenants of the manor have used time out of mind to have common upon said commons for horses, bullocks, sheep, hoggs, geese or cattle”.
There were between fifty and sixty customary tenants holding their property on customary dues, (land held by custom and not by the will of the lord) and thirty cottagers and smaller tenements all with the acreage and value listed in the survey. The surveyors remarked that “the soyle is not all over the manor of one and the same nature, but part clay, gravell, marsh and in some parts sand,” they then say “land that hath once been improved by manuring if it be worn out by our ploughing is not caperble of improvement again for many years”.
STEVE ROBOTHAM (ASSISTANT CURATOR)
Extract from the April 17 edition of The Parish Magazine.
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