Ecclesden Green & Village and other hamlets of Angmering

(by RW Standing)

Let our imagination go back a generation, to when that scar on the landscape through Ecclesden Common that is the A27, and the bypass cutting off Ecclesden Manor from Angmering, did not exist. Then ignore all the development that is sprawling eastwards towards that old community. But also remove from mind the early 19th century coaching road extending Water Lane through to Clapham, in the valley through which Ecclesden Stream or brook winds, We may then begin to imagine Ecclesden as it was some three hundred years ago.

In that distant time, all that linked the hamlet at Ecclesden with the outer world, was a highway extending east from Angmering Street, past Ecclesden Manor house, and so to Upper Ecclesden across fields where almost nothing of this way now survives. Apart from that there existed nothing more than bridleways to Ferring, a drove way adjoining the brook, and Cow Lane south from Ecclesden Manor, just west of the present bypass, where is now a mere footway.

Of ancient houses there, no more than a handful spring to mind. Ecclesden Manor itself, Upper and recently demolished Lower Ecclesden, and very little else. Was it ever so?

Look at any old map, and extending from Upper Ecclesden farm down to the stream, was some five acres of meadow, known as Ecclesden Green. This was no mere vanity associated with the farmhouse, but a more genuine village green than ever existed at what is today called Angmering Square.

About the year 1724 it is recorded that the whole of Angmering had a grand total of 64 households. Such a number of dwellings might be found in one street today, but for that more sober era Angmering was a large community in this locality. Most villages were half that size and less, with only Arundel a town of note.

But Angmering was itself more than one community. In the far north it encompassed the two Barphams with their well known decayed village, reduced to a farmhouse and a handful of cottages. Just south and east of Angmering Park were the tiny hamlets of Hammer Pot and Swillage respectively. Not least of all the hamlets, what is now barely recalled as a farm and park owned by Gratwicke and others, at Ham, was originally a common field village in the south-west of the parish. How much its population had reduced by the early 18th century, is difficult to say, but people there and in Angmering proper still owned plots of land in the South and other open fields.

On the whole it may be doubted that more than half of the parishes sixty-four households were located in Angmering village proper, and those largely distributed from the church through the High Street. The present streetscape of dwellings standing cheek by jowl, existed only in part, with houses more commonly set apart within their own crofts.

It will be known that Angmering was divided between East and West Manors, but they intimately shared the one village. Skeet, in his excellent book, quotes a description of the boundaries of these manors, and these are plain enough, apart from the boundary between east and west, which is left vague in the extreme. As he goes on to quote, there were many properties belonging to the west manor entirely within the eastern lands. The very Court House of West Angmering was located on the north side of the High Street opposite Ivy Cottage.

There is, however, some certain knowledge of Ecclesden from a few years earlier, at the end of the 17th century. Here we are presented with a traditional village green, no doubt poor and decaying, but of rustic beauty. Some few houses and cottages, with gardens and crofts as may be, overlooking a central open space, and the nearby brook, while others were dotted along the street as it cut its sunken way to Ecclesden Manor house and beyond. How much the hamlet had decayed already is yet to become evident, but a century later, by about 1810, and almost all the dwellings by the green had gone, with but a couple more adjoining the street above Ecclesden Manor house, soon to go.

Quite apart from minor cottages about which nothing may be recorded, there were several major farmsteads grouped about the Green. On the side towards Angmering Mary Huling with her orchard and croft. South of the Green William Young and Richard Penfold with their crofts, orchards and barns. Over on the east William Palmer, owned although perhaps did not live at his farm by Ecclesden Brook. It is far from certain but the sole remaining farmstead there, Upper Ecclesden, may have been William Young's. Its location and an eroded datestone suggest this.

Several other houses were either by the brook on the Angmering side of the Green or adjoining the lane that lead to it. Many other houses belonging to Ecclesden and West Angmering were distributed from Hangleton near Ferring in the east, the Arundel Road in the north, to the heart of present day Angmering in the High Street and near the church, besides those greater farms at Old and New Place. In due course it may be possible to untangle saome of this web of medieval lordship.

[Original sources for this and other articles include many unlisted documents that are being transcribed, and will be available later when completed - I must also thank Mr Rogers-Davis and villagers who have provided other material, and Leslie Baker for his invaluable books]

RW Standing

June 2003