Angmering Park & the Knights Hospitaller

by RW Standing

That Angmering Park was a sort of No Man’s Land, or rather Any Man’s Land, in the distant past has been broadly hinted at in previous articles.  A large wooded area between Angmering proper on the coastal plain and Barpham on the downs, utilised and eventually divided between several manors and parishes.  East Preston, Rustington, Poling to a large extent, and indeed the several manors that made up Angmering before they became indistinguishable. In addition, the farm at Pryors Lease, which such evidence as there is, points to having belonged to Calceto - the Augustinian priory at Lyminster.

Now, with the recent cataloguing of a large collection of deeds and other documents from Parham, an even more interesting complication to the story unfolds.  A series of manor court rolls for Angmering are included, dating from before 1540, when Syon owned Ecclesden and West Angmering. Fortunately for those with little time and less Latin, these have were translated into English, and one brief note in 1508 refers to a block of land belonging to the Prior of St John of Jerusalem in England.

"And order was made to distrain the Prior of St John of Jerusalem in England to make satisfaction to the lady for 20d rent by the year  for one assart of land on 'le Down' lying between land of the Earl of Arundel on the west and land of the tithing of Rustyngton on the east, land of Edward Palmer called Est down on the north, and the highway called Buttellesstrete on the south, which has been withdrawn by him for a long time past, and also for the arrears thereof, before next Court etc."

There is reference to another area of priory land in Angmering. The Fitzalan Survey of c1405 has the prior of Tortington owning  'Brodecroftes' at 20d freehold rent. The Fitzalan manor was east Angmering, and therefore unconnected with the Syon manors or indeed with Hospitaller lands.

The Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Order of Hospitallers or simply Hospitallers, were a group of men attached to a hospital in Jerusalem that was founded by Blessed Gerard around 1023 out of which two major Orders of Chivalry evolved, the Order of the Knights of St. Lazarus and the Order of the Knights of St. John, later to be known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The prior of the order, in England, at the time was Thomas Docwra 1502-27, his headquarters church St John’s, Clerkenwell.  Docwra succeeded Sir John Kendal as Grand Prior in England, taking responsibility for all their property in England,  reversing the policy of leasing out property to secular tenants. He was very much involved with Henry VIII and his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Perhaps problems with tenancy had brought about the non-payment of the 20d freehold rent complained about. With the surviving Angmering rolls ending at this time, nothing more is recorded of the property

But where and what was this land owned by the Knights Hospitaller?  An assart of land tells us nothing about the extent in acreage, the term merely indicates an ancient enclosure out of forest. The fact of its being on the Down, signifies some area north of Angmering on or below the hills at Barpham. If it assumed the Rustington manor and parish land has long been fixed, its location clearly places the assart as at the south-west corner of Angmering Park, between the Dover and the field belonging to Rustington.  The highway called ‘Buttellesstrete’, can be assumed as the lane still today running east from the Dover.  And it may not be a coincidence that the part of the Park involved was called Butlers Piece, of some 35 acres, in the c1840 tithe map.

As mentioned by Nicholas Gould in Angmering Place Names, the name Butler does suggest an owner or occupier.  The Place Names of Sussex (1929) may in fact have been correct in suggesting Simon le Butelir, or his family, as listed in 1296 and later Subsidies or taxations. There is a close correspondence between that and Buttelles Strete, which may be interpreted as the street adjoining Butelir’s land. Several highways in the manor rolls are simply described according to the properties they link with.

What happened to the land after 1540 is obscure. Hospitaller property owned by the Preceptory of Poling, some of which survives in well known buildings north of the village, were given to the College of Arundel and shortly afterwards to the Earl of Arundel. (VCH 5/2).  The Angmering Park enclosure may have passed to the Palmer and Shelley families with the park in general.


RW Standing
May 2011


"A translation of the Court Rolls of Angmering Sussex (with Ecclesden and Wiggonholt) 1483-1714" [WSRO: Parham 3/1/2]

Page first uploaded:2 May 2011