Ecclesden Manor - further thoughts

(by RW Standing)

(Revised article - October 2003

At his decease in January 1563, John Palmer owned the manor Eglesden or Ecclesden, amongst other extensive lands in Sussex. [SRS 3] It was stated the "farm of Eglesden is worth £60 and is in the tenure of Stepehn Chatfelde." It has to be assumed this meant what is today called Ecclesden Manor, which in the 17th century had some 200 acres of land extending down to the manor and parish boundary with Kingston.

Unfortunately his son and heir, Thomas, was still short of his twenty first birthday and, in the customary way, a third of the estate reverted to the Queen while he remained ostensibly her ward. John had provided in his will [PROB 11/46] for the manor farm to be part of that third, and it is conceivable that this land was never returned to the family but eventually sold to pay for whatever debts there may have been. Certain it is that the farm did eventually pass from them and into the hands of John Baker, owner of West Preston manor and of freehold lands in Wick.

John Baker had two wives, the first Eden Truelove of East Preston, her father Thomas being no mean magnate, who later spoke of Sir Thomas Bishopp of Parham as his friend. They were married in 1590, but by 1598 she was dead not having providing him with any children. Her memorial brass may still be seen on the floor of the chancel in Angmering church, with its nice representation of a Elizabethan lady, and the words:


Only the next year came his second marriage, to Elizabeth the widow of Philip Gratwicke, by whom she already had daughters who subsequently inherited Ham manor.

Her new family began with the birth of Thomas Baker in 1600. The manor and estates descending to him, and after his decease in 1640, to his son. Such was life in those days that many a parent did not see their children reach maturity, and so it was with her husband John whose end came in 1611 after making his will while "beinge not well in bodie but of good and perfect memorie" This provided for a division of the estates, with West Preston going to his second son, but Thomas to inherit Ecclesden on his coming of age ten years later [PROB 11/118].

It is not known where in Angmering church John was buried, but it must have been with his new wife, and not with Eden.

Some members of the family continued to live at the house and this was where the next generation arrived with John born in 1630, to Thomas and his wife. However, Thomas was buried at Cumnor in Oxfordshire where his wife's ancestral home was.

John was not destined to live beyond our middle-age, and died while visiting a friend near Cumnor, but he could well have resided for much of that time at Ecclesden, since the inscription on his tomb, near that of his father, describes him as being of Ecclesden. The simple Latin inscription in the church, reads in translation. "John Baker of Ecclesden in Sussex gentleman died 8th January 1672". His Sussex estate was reckoned as being worth £300 per annum, including the farms in Wick and elsewhere [J. Edmonds]

Members of the Baker family continued to live at Cumnor, although John junior appears to have been childless, and his estates were devised by his will to his two sisters, Sarah Keate and Margery Rowney.


To say the Baker family owned Ecclesden Manor, rather than any other farm in Ecclesden, requires a degree of proof. This is particularly so as Skeet in his excellent history of Angmering makes no mention of Baker. But then he appears to derive his history entirely from secondary sources, such as Elwes, Castles and Mansions, of 1876. In this it is recounted how John Palmer acquired the manor house at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and then at some vague date it passed into the hands of John Foster, who was living at Angmering in 1634. Indeed John Foster, senior and junior, did live in Angmering during the early 17th century, and one of them had the tenancy of the Shelley lands at Old and New Place, and it is entirely conceivable that they also had tenancy of the farm at Ecclesden Manor, although not the house itself.

The first evidence is negative in that no mention is made of the Baker family as tenants of Sir Thomas Bishopp of Parham early in the 17th century, and there was very little land not owned by him in Ecclesden, apart from the manor farm. It is unhelpful that the 1679 Bishopp Estate survey often refers to Ecclesden farm, but omits to mention who owned or occupied it [Acc 4149].

Positive evidence is provided by a survey or terrier for East Preston and Kingston in 1671, where lands to the north were said to border on, "Mr Baker's parte of Ecclesden Farme", called "the Lakes". The Lakes of Ecclesden, was indeed that part of Angmering south of the Worthing to Littlehampton road [Add Mss 35808].

Then Thomas Baker, who died in 1640, had his property fairly specifically defined as the, "capital messuage of Ecclesden alias Eglesden and demesne lands of the manor of Ecclesden containing 200 acres". That is a approximate estimate for the area of the farm as it remained until the 19th century [SRS 14].

Then finally the John Baker will of 1611, requested that "Elizabeth my wife shall have the use and occupation of my dwelling howse in Ecclesden alias Egglesden with the orchard and gardens thereunto belonginge as the same is nowe inclosed with the pale and Pigeon howse thereunto belonginge called or knowne by the name of Rodge for and duringe the nonage of my saide sonne Thomas". In the 1679 survey the Rodge, as an area of land, can be identified as part of the manor farm adjacent to the Ecclesden mill, now converted to a house. The pigeon house was no doubt the dovecote which is today to the north of the manor house and is a Listed building.

It may be wondered if the recent enclosure of his gardens with a pale or fence, had any wider significance. A gathering of his lands together into a compact farm, and if any building work relating to the house took place.


Now as to the house itself, which is the most imposing building surviving in the Angmering neighbourhood. Nicholas Pevsner comments, "Ecclesden Manor a long low, comfortable, Tudor looking building, it takes a keen eye to spot the tiny C17 touches." [The Buildings of England - Sussex]. Elwes confines himself to saying that "the house was no doubt erected by the Fosters about the middle of the 17th century" while Skeet unaccountably gives 1634 as the date of building.

Fortunately a more detailed architectural survey has recently been undertaken by Dr. Annabelle F Hughes, and she has given permission for her article in West Sussex History to be used here:


"It was extremely reassuring to read RW Standing's reassessment of the received wisdom on this subject, as I had arrived at similar conclusions about the purported owners/builders, although I had approached it from rather a different angle.

Having been asked to carry out research on Wiggenholt in 2002, I was compelled to widen my searches to include Angmering parish, as Wiggenholt was an early outlier of Ecclesden, one of its manors. I too, had come upon the Bakers as 'of Ecclesden' from the 1590s to 1640s, and was intrigued by a distant view of the building called Ecclesden Manor, taken with Skeet's statement that it had been built by John Foster in the middle of the 17th century. Subsequently, I was able to investigate the building at first hand, courtesy of the present owners, and to test these assertions.

Substantial 19th and 20th century additions have been made to the north and east of the house, but the original plan was single-pile, three-unit, and two-storey with useable attic space overall. It was built in brick and knapped flint, the brickwork having decorative diaper detail surviving in places, and it has stone mullioned windows and a gabled roof in the Dutch style.

The house was heated by a large stack set against the northern elevation of the building, and the original staircase may have risen against the stack. The three units corresponded with the solar-parlour/hall/services plan of medieval houses. The panelled 'hall' is heated by an impressive stone hearth and has a cross-passage at the 'low' end, defined by a framed screen and entered from a double-storey, gabled porch on the southern elevation.

Without rehearsing the whole building, there are a number of features that must contribute towards dating the sequence of development, namely:

  • The original external chimney stack
  • The 'screens' passage Dutch gables (c1620-1700)
  • Bolection moulding on the screen (c1660)
  • Dropped tie roof construction (c1580-1700)
  • Staggered butt-purlins (c1650+)
  • Correlation of social status with rural location

This is undoubtedly a 'gentry' house, reflecting manorial status. There are echoes of a medieval plan which could support a late 16th - early 17th century date, but this must be set against its provincial location and its size, proportion and materials. The dropped tie is so deep, that taken with the staggered butt-purlin roof, these alone would argue a mid-17th century dating, or at least a 'modernisation' at that time.

In conclusion, it is feasible that the first John Baker built, or rebuilt on the site, possibly to provide for his new wife in 1590. However, the original house was considerably remodelled, to the extent of being re-roofed in the mid 17th century. Although John's heir, Thomas, married into a Berkshire family, apparently his son John was baptised at Angmering in 1630, and still described as 'of Ecclesden' on his Berkshire/Oxfordshire tomb. Could it be that the link was maintained strongly enough for investment in modernisation of the house to be made possibly by Thomas, but more likely by John, before his death in 1673? What is definitely doubtful is that the house was built in 1634, or that the Fosters did so."


If Dr Hughes is correct, then the present house is a product of three generations of the Baker family. Certainly it seems very unlikely that subsequent owners would have built, or remodelled, this considerable mansion, only for the use of their tenant farmers. One of these was a John Edsaw whose appraisers made a very informative inventory of the house and farm in 1721, after his decease. It is not at all clear who the owners were at this time, but there is record of a James Clark acquiring Ecclesden from the Rowney family in 1700 [SRS19/20]

The inventory is a substantial document, but what identifies him as the occupant is the scale of the house appraised, the fact that he also occupied Broomhurst farm in Lyminster, part of the former John Baker estate, and he is stated plainly to have been a yeoman of Ecclesden.

His total goods and farm stock was valued at just under £1500, which is top notch for a farmer at that time. He had several other small farm tenancies in Angmering, and his stock of 50 cattle included teams of working oxen and horses, over 120 sheep, 2 waggons, and some 180 acres of arable, reflecting the scale of working.

As to the house, the rooms listed, with furnishings and implements of a typical farmstead, fit in well with a three storey building such as Ecclesden, if the attic rooms are taken as one floor. On the ground floor the Kitchen, Hall, and Parlour, with the main bedrooms above conveniently named as Kitchen Chamber, Hall Chamber, and Parlour Chamber, and in the attics the Servants Chamber, Little Chamber, Maids Chamber, and a Garrett. While in quarters at the rear, and perhaps outbuildings, were the Cheese House, Small Beer Buttery [beer butts], Milk House, Brewhouse, Pantry, and Drinkhouse.

It is possible that an earlier inventory for the house has survived, although not yet identified, and if there is one for the very early 17th century, some development in the mansion over the century may be revealed.

In 1903 the catalogue for a sale of households goods, room by room, revealed how much the house had expanded behind its old main frontage. It listed four reception rooms and seven principal bedrooms besides eight others, and a dairy, brewhouse, coach house, as in old style farmsteads, but now also a billiard room betraying its new status. [SP1306]


Skeet is about right with his later history of the house, although he includeed romantic embroidery that cannot be confirmed. "It descended to the Rev. Philip Brandon, whose descendants sold it to Martha Foreman. At her death in 1811, she bequeathed it under romantic circumstances to James Grant, whose son George, in 1823, sold the estate to David Lyon, of Goring Hall, a wealthy tea merchant, from whom it passed to a relative, General Sir Arthur Lyon Freemantle, who altered and added to the house in 1872. It was purchased, together with the farm lands, in 1912, by Walter Butcher Esq. who with great care and taste has restored the ancient edifice to its former worthiness, as an early seventeenth century manor house."

In fact John Foreman had been the tenant farmer of Rev Brandon since before 1780 until about 1800 [Land Tax] and further research may reveal whether Martha was his daughter, albeit it is remarkable that they, as tenants, purchased this large farm. Then, a few years later in 1811, Martha Foreman spinster made her will, bequeathing it to her bailiff James Grant, for life, and then to his two sons James and George. She also had a house in Mincing Lane, London, which was in process of sale for £10,000, the proceeds to go to Mary Grant a daughter of James. [RB156]

The farm is not defined in extant records until the Tithe Commutation Map was drawn up shortly before 1840. But the Grant family had recently divested themselves of the Lakes part of the farm, south of the Littlehampton road, to Samuel Henty of Kingston. What remained amounted to about 190 acres, the detached part under 90 acres. The 1814 Bishopp Estate Map shows the whole of this land as belonging to James Grant. As yet the 17th century farm cannot be exactly related to the Tithe Map, and it is conceivable that some extra land was acquired to the south, although nothing indicates that as yet.

RW Standing

October 2003

(The foregoing article supersedes Mr Standing's previous article which was published in the Dec 2001 edition of the Society's Newsletter)