Victoria County History



L.F. Salzman (editor)

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'Chithurst', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester (1953), pp. 4-6. URL: Date accessed: 18 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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This parish of 1,200 acres is very long and narrow, extending about 2½ miles from north to south, with an average width of about ½ mile. It contains about 360 acres of waste and woodland, the southern portion with Kingsham and Borden Woods being heavily wooded. The village is in the extreme south of the parish on the left bank of the Rother. The Hammer Stream passes from north to south through the parish and forms its eastern boundary for the last mile before joining the Rother, which is the southern boundary of the parish. A mill mentioned in 1086 does not otherwise occur in the records. A large pond called the Hammer Pond is partly in this parish and partly in Iping. Detached parts of Stedham, Steep, Trotton, and Terwick were added in 1879 to Chithurst, and a detached part of Chithurst was annexed to Iping.

Some 220 acres of Chithurst Common and Marsh were inclosed under an Act of 1859. (fn. 1)

The old Manor House, now called Chithurst Abbey, (fn. 2) bought in 1951 by Mrs. d'Udy, lies west of the church. It is of T-shaped plan. A two-storied block, probably of 15th-century date, runs north and south, and a cross-wing of four bays projects east and west at the north end. The latter was added during the second half of the 16th century, and consists of two stories with cellar and attics; it is of cut sand stone with a chamfered plinth, and is the least-altered part of the house. Most of the original windows remain here; they have hollow-chamfered mullions and the square labels are chamfered with a hollow underside. In reopening one of these windows which had been blocked an interesting contemporary traceried ventilating panel of lead was found. (fn. 3)

At its east end the north wing has a window of five transomed lights to the ground floor, and a three-light above with 18th-century brick jambs. These show in Grimm's drawing of 'Chithurst Place' dated 1791, (fn. 4) but in his time the attic three-light was blocked. This gable is tile-hung, and on this side the quoins are of stone. The part of the south wall here visible has a three-light window with label and restored mullion.

The north elevation shows two external brick stacks on a stone base, each with two rebuilt chimneys, diagonally set. Between there is a three-light window to each floor, and there are two others farther west. The first-floor windows have no labels, and are of wood with filleted-roll mouldings. Most of this upper floor is rough-cast, with stone walling below. The west face has a five-light window to both ground and first floors, a three-light in the gable, and a straight chamfered three-light with label to the cellar, which lies under the two west bays. The quoins here are of narrow brick. There are similar three-lights with labels on the south return of this wing.

The west front of the south block is apparently a rebuild of the late 17th or 18th century, in stone with brick dressings. The ground-floor windows have elliptical relieving arches, and there is a blocked window and insertion over the doorway. The door has fleur-de-lis straps. The east front of this range still retains a slight overhang. Grimm's drawing shows many of the windows blocked, and applied foliated decoration or pargetting on the first floor. This is now rough-cast and the windows are apparently modern. The roof contains the medieval timbers of what was apparently the hall; two trusses, forming a narrow bay, were plastered as far as the tie-beams, making a funnel to convey the smoke to the louvre. The fine brick stack was inserted in this bay probably c. 1600: it has diagonal projections on each face. There are 18th-century and modern outbuildings at the south end.

The north wing consists of two rooms on each floor. There are four-centred fire-places on the north wall, some late-16th-century panelling, part with a carved frieze, timber-framed partitions in wide panels, and some original doors. Stop-chamfered beams are also visible in the south range, where there is a latticed cupboard dating from c. 1600. Straight windbraces show in the attic.

In the garden is a lead cistern dated 1727, and a stone and brick archway in a piece of old walling projecting from the north-east corner.

Chithurst, or Church, Farm, east of the church, is a late-16th- or 17th-century house of three bays, with later additions to north and east. It was altered in the 18th century, when the south bay was modernized and the sashes and door-hood added to the front. The interior shows wide fire-places to the central stack, stopchamfered beams, and joists. There is a cellar under the south bay. Behind is a small wooden farm-building of some antiquity.


Before the Conquest Almar held CHITHURST of Earl Godwin as an alod. In 1086 Morin held it of Earl Roger, lord of Arundel. The manor was assessed for 4 hides and to it was attached a haw at Chichester. (fn. 5) Chithurst manor was probably the knight's fee which Morin de Chithurst held of the Earl of Arundel in 1166, (fn. 6) but it subsequently became part of the manor of Harting, (fn. 7) and was held by the Husees of the honor of Arundel (fn. 8) until 1349 or later. It was said in 1614 and 1640 to be held of the manor of Wenham. (fn. 9)

Under the Husees the manor was held by the family of Vesseler. In 1304 John le Vesseler, parson of the church of Chithurst, conveyed land there and the advowson of the church to William le Vesseler. (fn. 10) John le Vesseler was holding the manor in 1316, (fn. 11) and in 1320 a messuage and 23 acres of land at Chithurst were settled upon John for his life with remainder to John, brother of Robert le Vesseler, and to Alice, sister of 'the said John', in tail successively, with contingent remainder to Richard de Slefhurst. (fn. 12) Another settle ment was made of the manor of Chithurst in 1330, on John le Vesseler for life. This John was probably the brother of Robert mentioned in the fine of 1320. After his death the manor was to pass under the settlement of 1330 to John de Elkham and Alice his wife (presumably the sister of John) and the children of Alice, with contingent remainder in tail to John, son of Richard de Slefhurst, or to Henry, son of Henry Husee. (fn. 13) John le Vesseler seems to have died between 1327, when he was the chief tax-payer in Chithurst, (fn. 14) and 1332, when none of the family figure in the Subsidy Roll. (fn. 15)

William Vesseler and John de Elkham held the knight's fee jointly in 1349. (fn. 16) William's holding may have been the land conveyed to him in 1304, while John de Elkham held the manor, for in 1398 Agnes, widow of (perhaps a later) John de Elkham, was in possession of the manor, which was claimed against her by Robert, son of John Slef hurst, as kinsman and heir of John, brother of Robert le Vesseler. (fn. 17) Robert claimed that the manor had belonged in the time of King Edward I to Sir Robert le Vesseler, who gave it to his son Robert: that the younger Robert had three sons Robert, Henry, and John who all died without issue. Richard de Slefhurst was son of Juliana, sister and heiress of John Vesseler, and grandfather of Robert, the claimant. (fn. 18)

In 1404 and 1405 John Hebbe presented to the church of Chithurst, and in 1408 William Duke alias Fraunceys was patron. (fn. 19) They were probably holding the manor, as the advowson belonged to the lords before and after that time. The manor afterwards passed to Alice, wife of John Dene of Prinsted, and Elizabeth, wife of William Compton of Lavant, but they complained in 1423 that they had at Whitsuntide 1419 been ousted from the manor by Richard Buterley and John Lylye of Fittleworth. (fn. 20) Buterley and Lylye were trustees of Henry Hussey, (fn. 21) and it seems probable that the manor had come to the Husseys through failure of heirs to the Vesselers and had been the subject of a series of grants for lives or for a term of years.

By 1494 the manor was in the hands of James Bartelott, who in that year bequeathed it to his nephew Thomas Burdeville (son of his sister Elizabeth and John Burdeville). In default of issue to Thomas or his brother Richard it was to revert to the testator's nephew, Thomas Bartelott. (fn. 22) Thomas Burdeville conveyed it in 1532 to John Warde and others (fn. 23) ; but this was presumably in trust for a settlement, as in 1542 Thomas Bartelott sold it to Sir William Goring, (fn. 24) whose son George Goring, (fn. 25) and his wife Mary, sold it in 1579 to Peter Bettesworth. (fn. 26) Peter was third son of Peter Bettesworth of Fyning, and died seised of Chithurst manor in October 1613. (fn. 27) His son Peter, who succeeded, died in 1634, leaving an only son Arthur Bettesworth, then aged 19. (fn. 28) Thomas Bettesworth, grandson of Arthur, was joint owner of the manor with John Colebrook of Midhurst, clerk, in 1743, (fn. 29) and in 1758 Bettesworth's share was purchased by James Peachey of St. James's, Westminster. (fn. 30) By his will dated December 1769 James Peachey bequeathed his estates to his nephew Sir James Peachey, bart., (fn. 31) who was created Lord Selsey in 1794, (fn. 32) and in 1802 Lord Selsey and his son John Peachey sold half the manor of Chithurst to James Piggott of Fitzhall. (fn. 33)

John Colebrook bequeathed his half of the manor in 1772 to his wife Anne for life, and after her death to his son John, who in 1775 was holding the manor jointly with Sir James Peachey, bart. (fn. 34) The Colebrooks' moiety was also acquired by James Piggott, who was in possession of the whole manor in 1815, when he bequeathed it by his will to his only son James. (fn. 35) The latter died in 1822 and his elder daughter Jane married Simon Frazer Cooke, who took the name of Piggott. (fn. 36) From them it was bought by Capt. Henry King, R.N., who built Chithurst House in 1862 and was still lord of the manor in 1891 but had been succeeded by Anthony Montague King by 1895, after whose death, c. 1916, it remained in the hands of his trustees. (fn. 37)


The church (fn. 38) (invocation unknown) stands on a mound, probably artificial, north of the river Rother and west of the road; it consists of chancel and nave, both of the 11th century (evidently the very ecclesiola mentioned in Domesday Book), (fn. 39) and a modern west porch. It is built of rubble, with some herring-bone work, plastered, and roofed with tile.

The east window (14th-century) is of two ogee trefoil lights with segmental rear-arch; north of this is a plain image-bracket. On the south side is a piscina with round arch and deep V-shaped sink, the projecting part having been cut off. West of this is a lancet window with interior rebates and concentric splay, like the piscina, early-13th-century. On the north side is a plain recess with pointed arch and no door rebate, perhaps a credence and of the 14th century. Next is an 11thcentury window with round-arched head, concentric splay, and no original provision for glazing. West of this is a (blocked) priest's door, probably 14th-century, but the outer stonework was removed in the 19th century and only the interior jambs remain. The chancel arch (11th-century) is semicircular, of one order, resting on square responds with plain imposts; this, like much ancient work in the church, was re-tooled in the 19th century. North of it is a squint with square head, of doubtful date, perhaps 14th-century. The roof (ancient) has a plain tie-beam at each end and trussed rafters.

Till 1911 there were four modern raking buttresses at the western corners of the nave; all have now been removed except that to the south, which is partly of brick. In the south wall are two windows of two lights each, with ogee trefoiled heads, net tracery, and pointed rear-arches; the western is probably 14th-century, the eastern a modern copy of it. (fn. 40) In the north wall is a one-light cinquefoil-headed window with segmental pointed rear-arch, also probably 14th-century. The west door, of the same date, has a plain pointed arch and segmental rear-arch; over this was at one time a round window, brought from Iping Church in about 1885, now blocked. There is a modern stone bell-cote on the west wall. The nave roof (ancient) has three plain tie-beams and trussed rafters.

Chithurst Church

Chithurst Church

The west porch (modern) is timber-framed.

The altar rails are perhaps 18th-century; on the south side of the nave are some ancient benches of the 16th century; the font (12th-century, but re-tooled in modern times) is tub-shaped on an octagonal base and square sub-base; the other fittings are modern.

On the west wall are the Royal Arms as borne 1810–37.

Outside the church are several ancient tombstones, some with double crosses, (fn. 41) perhaps as old as the 12th century.

The registers begin in 1628.


There was a chapel or little church (ecclesiola) at Chithurst in 1086. The advowson was conveyed, nominally, with the manor in 1542 when the latter was sold to Sir William Goring; (fn. 43) but already, before 1482, the living of Chithurst was annexed to Iping, (fn. 44) and the advowson then descended with that of Iping (q.v.).

The church was omitted from the Taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1291 because of its poverty, and in 1341 the rector had only glebe worth 20s., great tithes yielding 20s., and small tithes of the average yearly value of 26s. 8d. (fn. 45) In 1535 Chithurst was merely a chapel of Iping. (fn. 46)

The priors of Pynham claimed a rent of 5s. due for tithes from Chithurst. In 1285 it was agreed between the prior and John le Vesseler, the rector of Chithurst, that these tithes were held by the rectors of Chithurst under the priors at a rent of 5s. a year, but from thenceforth the rent should be only 4s. (fn. 47)


1 22 Vict. cap. 3. Inclosure Award 1862: Suss. Arch. Coll. lxxxviii, 151.
2 Suss. Co. Mag. vi, 411–16.
3 Suss. N. & Q. iii, 93.
4 Add. MS. 5678, fol. 3.
5 V.C.H. Suss. i, 422.
6 Red Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), 201.
7 Cal. Inq. p.m. iv, 106.
8 Cal. Close, 1307–13, p. 102; Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, 332; ix, 222.
9 Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccxli, 17; dcclii, 207.
10 Suss. Rec. Soc. vii, 1176. This is presumably the William who was one of the largest tax-payers in Chithurst in 1296: ibid. x, 85.
11 Feud. Aids, v, 141.
12 Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii, 1564. While it is not clear to which John Alice was sister, it would seem to be the John upon whom the land was settled.
13 Ibid. 1753.
14 Ibid. x, 114.
15 Ibid. 238.
16 Cal. Inq. p.m. ix, 222. Their names appear in 1341 as two of the leading parishioners of Chithurst for assessing the subsidy of a ninth: Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 350. John de Elkham was aged 40 in 1363: Cal. Inq. p.m. xi, 549. William Vesseler still held property in Chithurst in 1358: Coram Rege R. 390, m. 39.
17 Add. MS. 39490, fol. 141, from De Banco R. Trin. 22 Ric. II, m. 140.
18 Add. MS. 39490, fol. 141.
19 Add. MS. 39404 A.
20 Early Chan. Proc. 4, no. 87.
21 Ct. R. (P.R.O.), 126, no. 1882.
22 Suss. Arch. Coll. xxviii, 204.
23 Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 101. John Warde was kinsman and eventual coheir of Thomas Burdeville: ibid. xiv, no. 193.
24 Ibid. xix, 101.
25 Suss. Arch. Coll. xxii, 223.
26 Suss. Rec. Soc. xix, 101.
27 Berry, Suss. Gen. 34; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccxli, 17.
28 Ibid. dcclii, 207.
29 The division of the manor probably dates from 1634, when Peter Bettesworth conveyed a moiety thereof to Henry Smyth of Woodmans Green and Thomas Starky of London: C.P. Recov. R. Hil. 9 Chas. I, m. 3 d.
30 Add. MS. 39490, fol. 143; Elwes, Manor Houses of West Sussex, 64.
31 Recov. R., D. Enr. Hil. 42 Geo. III, m. 111.
32 G.E.C. Complete Baronetage, v, 80.
33 Recov. R., D. Enr. Hil. 42 Geo. III m. 111.
34 Add. MS. 39490, fol. 143.
35 Ibid. fol. 148.
36 Ibid.
37 Kelly, Directories of Sussex.
38 See a paper by P. M. Johnston in Suss. Arch. Coll. lv, 97–107, from which much of this description is taken.
39 V.C.H. Suss. i, 422.
40 Grimm's drawing of 1791 (Add. MS. 5678, fol. 3) shows one only, about in the middle of the wall; perhaps this was refixed farther west when the second was added.
41 Illustrated Suss. Arch. Coll. lv, 104.
42 V.C.H. Suss. i, 422.
43 Feet of F. Suss. Trin. 34 Hen. VIII.
44 Add. MS. 39404 A.
45 Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 350.
46 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 324.
47 Suss. Arch. Coll. xi, 99–100.