Old and New Place Farms

(by RW Standing)

In July 1540, John Palmer of West Angmering acquired the dissolved Syon Abbey manor of Ecclesden from the King by exchange with Ford, which he had only owned for a couple of years. We can imagine it was an advantage to have all his lands in one Angmering basket. This made him resident lord of a greater part of Angmering than anybody previously or to follow. It is no wonder the building of a new house to match his rising grandeur became a priority. One wing of his mansion may still be seen today north of the Decoy woods, at New Place - that name coming to be used in to distinguish it from the demesne farmhouse of West Angmering called Old Place - and it is largely those two farms these notes are concerned with.

We can best imagine the extent of Old and New Place if it is described in modern terms. Together they covered all the land south of the A27, east of the Black Ditch, north of the footpath from the church to Poling, and west of Arundel Road. The Poling footpath has been straightened out in recent years, and so its old course around the north side of the Roman Villa field more accurately follows the farm boundary.

John Palmer's ambition brought him into immediate conflict with his tenants, and intricate wrangling over their rights was finally brought to court, where it was unsurprisingly settled in his favour. An extensive account of this case will be found in Skeet p26, in which his copyholders claimed to have had their houses demolished, with inadequate lands given them in exchange. Witnesses were scathing about the integrity of John Palmer, one calling him, "corrupt in conscience, and a man minded muche to averyce". There is the extraordinary note of a street, in which they had lived, being "nyegh unto the seae syde". The sea is far from any part of Angmering, but at that time the river Arun had a vast tidal basin reaching across south of Poling, and indeed the Roman Villa had been built a millennium earlier overlooking this estuary as its main gateway to the world.

A complaint of those particular Ecclesden tenants who held lands in West Angmering, was that they had customary use of a forty acre waste there called the Breche, belonging to Ecclesden. This area can now be identified as land surrounding the Decoy Cottage west of New Place, for in 1680 it was still separately listed from other lands belonging to the farm as six fields "of Arrable and pasture land called the Breach Land containing together by estimation forty Acres". Later maps still show these six fields, and presumably covering much the same area as the original waste. Palmer had originally intended to divide this land between himself and the villagers, according to their respective rights, but in becoming Lord of Ecclesden became more aggressive, merely providing land elsewhere for the tenants.

By the way, the name Breach is generally taken to mean, land broken up for cultivation. Since the name was already employed about 1540, it was probably far back in medieval times when it was truly uncultivated waste.

At this point it might be useful to say something about the various manors in Angmering, and their descent. Skeet was unable to sort out what happened in the 16th century, and with the Victoria County History of this area soon to be on the bookshelves, there is little point in exercising ourselves on the point. As already stated, Ecclesden proper was acquired by Palmer in 1544. It seems likely that he already owned West Angmering, and subsequently the two manors became integrated. Ham was never associated with the family. That leaves East Angmering, which remained a separate manor throughout, and was probably acquired by the Palmer family late in the 16th century. Albeit, the estate purchased from them in 1615 by Thomas Bishopp comprised all three manors, East and West Angmering with Ecclesden, although much of the lands had become freeholds only nominally under his lordship. The most extensive freeholds were owned by Shelley of Michelgrove including the vast extent of Angmering Park, together with Old and New Place, the two principal farms of West Angmering.

  May 1615 - Sir Thomas Palmer of Angmering to Sir Thomas Bishopp of Parham - "all those Mannors or Lordshipps of East Angmeringe and West Angmeringe Ecclesden and Polinge with all the rights members and appurtenances thereof situate lying and being in the County of Sussex aforesaid And all that the Capital Messuage and farme of Avenelles called Avenelles Farme." Avenalls was the demesne farm of East Angmering.  

The fish stews and ponds John Palmer created on part of his land, after 1540, were probably far less extensive than the large lakes there today, with the ruined decoy at their west end. Indeed alterations continued over the years, including the creation of a large west pond out of what, up to the late 18th century, were two widely separated small ponds.

By the time Shelley bought this estate, the two farms were set out fairly firmly and remained so for about the next two hundred years, when they were amalgamated into one tenancy. Old Place farm is best described in relation to the track north from the farmstead to the decoy. All the land to the west side, south of the decoy, belonged to it. East of the track, its lands extended north more or less to Palmer Road. New Place occupied all the north parts, and included the Breach fields at Decoy Cottage. West of that was the quite separate Woodhouse farm where Worthing Vineries nursery is to be found.

Few local farms, including the manor house farms themselves, were vast in extent. It is only on the downs, where large areas were used for sheep pasture, that hundreds of acres were needed. In 1679 the Shelley farms were reckoned at 150 acres for New Place, with another 60 acres at Woodhouse, and 170 acres at Old Place. No doubt maps of about 1773 were based on a more accurate survey, estimating New Place at 162 acres, and as much as 206 acres for Old Place. The question arises whether some additional land had been abstracted from the villagers' West Common, near the Roman Villa. With names like New Field coming into use this is possible but not yet confirmed. By 1773 the Decoy Cottage, and the decoy itself were quite separate from the two main farms.

The four ponds trailing east from the decoy covered over nine and a quarter acres, and were surrounded by plantations and meadows, much of this plantation probably not yet densely wooded, amounting to nearly forty nine acres. 58 acres in all, leaving little over 100 acres of arable to the farm. On the other hand Old Place had just under fifty five acres of meadow, mainly near the house and by Black Ditch, including the water meadows there. This left 150 acres of good arable.

At this time, about 1780, Woodhouse was tenanted by Joseph Hopkins, New Place by William Drewett and Old Place by John Cortis.

Unfortunately it is not presently possible to say who occupied these farms during the lordship of Messrs Palmer. It is conceivable that all the arable came under Old Place management, leaving substantial parklands, gardens and ponds attached to New Place.

It is peculiar that William Shelley was presented as a Catholic on several occasions in the 1620s by Angmering churchwardens, although Michelgrove is in Clapham. But if his father were living there then William may have been in occupation of New Place after the departure of the Palmer family.

It is only by chance references in glebe terriers and other documents that a few of those who had Old Place are named. In 1635 Mr John Foster, and in 1663 Thomas Peatt. Between these times there occurred that well known disaster of a massive fire in 1642, when Robert Ewins lost what must have been virtually his entire harvest of wheat, barley, tares, oats, peas, beans and hay, together with barns, worth over £400 in all. The barn and buildings were described as having ten bays, which if simply one structure would have been twice the size of any common threshing barn.

"Robert Ewins farmer of Oldplace farme ... having filled his Barnes with all kinde of Corne and grayne and made a rick of tares without nere his barnes on the 12th day of November 1642 in the night there happened a sudden and violent fire (of its owne accord) in the said Rick of tares which set on fire the Barnes stables and buildings of the sayd farme conteyning ten bayes". As a result of this he became effectively bankrupt and where he, "before lived in good repute is now fayne to goe daily labour" and for his benefit local parishes were asked to make a collection for him. Perhaps it was Thomas Peatt who stepped into the now vacant tenancy of the farm.

This was not the only fire at Old Place to make the news. Just under two hundred years later, during the Swing Riots of 1830, a barn belonging to Mr Amoore with 100 quarters, or say twenty tons, of oats was fired. "So strong were the flames that the glare was perceived from Brighton". [Brighton Gazette] Nobody was convicted for this incident, one of many in the Arundel district.

It seems evident from glebe terriers of 1663 that Thomas occupied Old House farm, and since both inventories point to occupation of Breach House [at the Breach we assume] it is possible that they occupied adjoining New Place as well, although Thomas did not have a large stock of animals and crops.

His brother John quite specifically had two houses, the Breach and his Home which may therefore have been Old Place. Interestingly his property at Breach included two kilns set for firing, exactly as described in the Thomas Pratt inventory.

With John dying in December, there was little in the way of field crops, 56 acres of 'green' or recently sown wheat. Even with an allowance for land fallow for barley and other crops, it is difficult to reach a figure of 230 acres for Breach and Old Place farms, a greater extent of pasture than in later years is more than likely. Over 120 sheep included in mixed stock tends to confirm this.

John's '"home" house, comprised eleven domestic and service rooms, quite commensurate with what may be expected for Old Place. The service rooms included the usual milkhouse, drinkhouse, and also a malt house, and since it contained a large quantity of linen and implements it could not have been an external malting barn.

Although they were freeholds, which could be sold and inherited without hindrance, the farms did still pay quit rents to the Angmering lord, Palmer and then Bishopp of Parham. In about 1795 it was noted plaintively that Old Place, 'ought to pay one pound of pepper'. An expensive commodity in earlier times. Whilst for New Place Shelley paid 8s 6d [42.5p].

The run of tenants from about 1780 can be extracted from a variety of sources, but there is only one Probate Inventory so far identified and that with New Place just before the two farms were amalgamated. William Hill died in 1795, worth nearly £700 split between moveable goods and funds. Some twelve rooms were listed, of which five were [bed] chambers for his family, servants, and no doubt some of the farm hands. It was quite customary for outdoor servants to live in yeoman farmer houses in those days.

Long reduced to the one wing which survives today, even so New Place is substantial, at over 80 feet long and 23 feet wide [24.85 x 7.15 metres]. One or two stone mullioned windows survive in its brick walls, under a massive queen post roof, once covered by stone slabs. Whether William Hill's rooms can be related to the present structure is to be seen. Some of them will have been much larger than found in common farmsteads.

Having well over £300 worth of farm stock, his farm was still thriving. Owning two waggons with numerous other carts and implements, but only forty sheep and a few cattle, arable land devoted mainly to corn can be deduced, even without the evidence of estate maps. Nevertheless, the relative value of the two adjoining farms can better be appreciated when it is realised that William Hill paid a rent of £73 to Shelley, whilst Thomas Amoore at Old Place paid £200.

RW Standing

August 2003 (Revised April 2007)

WSRO: miscellaneous deeds
Arundel Castle PM62 PM63
Probate Inventories of John & Thomas Pratt