(Part 4, Chapter 1, Section 2) ( Bk. Index )

Farms - West Angmering

1. Church Farm
2. Woodhouse
3. Decoy
4. Priors Lease
5. Charlow

4. Priors (Pryors) Lease

In a recent past, explorers of the wooded byways in the neighbourhood, will have come across a farmstead with the name Priorslease, and any imaginable variant on a theme of Pryors and Leas. This will have excited wild speculation, about lost priories, and leas in the sense of meadows.  It would have been rather dull to believe these were the meads of a small farmer called Prior.


The more romantic allusion received authoritative support from Place-Names of Sussex, suggesting the farm was the former possession of ‘the priory of St. John  of Jerusalem’ at Poling.  But then in 1986 Nicholas Gould, in his Angmering Place Names, pointed out that this was not a priory, and published lists of lands belonging to the preceptory did not include any in Angmering. He went on to suggest, the reference could be to the priory of Tortington south of Arundel, “but until more evidence is forthcoming this is only a guess”.

1 The House

What this farmstead was may never be known, unless good photographs and accounts of it are obtained. At present all that is known is that it existed in the early 20th century, but today there is but a remnant of the farm buildings that stood directly to its north, on the west side of Dover Lane. A few years ago there was a barn and a few walls.


In 1679 the Angmering survey states only that there was a house and garden, with a barn. Sadly the one known probate inventory of 1705 does not mention what rooms the were, but the goods were sufficient for a small house.


From the tithe map, it is evident the house matched the farm, in not being of any great pretensions. Square on plan, and therefore probably double pile – that is a two wings one behind the other, with a valley between their roofs.


It stood comfortably in the midst of an acre of gardens. To their north the yard, and the proportions of its buildings, suggesting that stables stood to the south side, and a barn with other buildings to the north. Offset at the west end of these was another large barn.


A secluded spot but on the other side of the road was a cottage known as the Leather Bottle - an ale or beer house serving a scattering of houses at Charlow, and some few passers by.

 Fig.1 (right) – Priorslease farm from the 1839 Tithe Map

The house within garden areas 115, and farm buildings to the north.

Leather Bottle on the east side of Dover Lane

2  Owners and Tenants

It must be confessed that there is some confusion about the origin of this 38 acre property. Land was clearly given to Tortington priory. In about 1405, a Fitzalan survey includes a brief note of the prior of Tortington in possession of a plot named 'Brodecroftes'  at a rent of 1s 8d. This cannot be identified, but was no doubt in East Angmering, and having no connection with Priors. However, it may have been the same land that Roger Gratwicke acquired in the 16th century.


It is to the sister Augustinian priory of Tortington, Pynham in Lyminster, or Calceto, to which attention must be turned. Remains of this are incorporated in a house on the road into Arundel, and amongst its duties was the task of repairing the causeway into the town.


One of the Dustanville lords of Barpham evidently gave land to the priory, located vaguely on the road from Arundel to Bramber.  Now here it may be remarked that Priors is a long way from Barpham, but in fact a long finger of land extended down the west side of Angmering Park, belonging to Barpham until the 19th century. Priors represented the final fingernail, extending into West Angmering, but detached from Barpham all those centuries before.


Victoria County History [Vol 2] has a brief history of Pynham. It relates how the priory was suppressed in 1525, with so many other small monastic foundations, and its revenue appropriated to Cardinal’s College Oxford. What route the properties took from there is not stated, and the story of Priors has one and a half centuries to leap before it is picked up again in 1679.


Firm ground is at last found in the 1679 survey of Angmering. But the invaluable information provided, may never have been gathered, had the surveyor made an error. Pryors, as he named it, was not part of the West Angmering manor belonging to Bishopp. It was part of the manor of Calceto, and the supposed rent for this farm was crossed out, “non infra manor”. Albeit, for the first time the exact location and extent of the property is described, then and for some unknown period belonging to Humphrey Gratwicke of Ham.


Soon afterwards the one isolated early tenant and occupier of the farm announces himself.  In 1705 Edward Spinkernell, yeoman, leaves his copyhold lands to his wife Mary. She would presumably have had them as her ‘bench’ in any case.

 “My Loveing wife Mary Spinkernell All That Copyhold messuage or Tenement Lands Tenements Hereditaments and Premises held of the Mannor of Calceto called by the Name of Priors Lease”.

After that he asked for the property to go to his daughter Elizabeth.


By 1780, when rate and other returns, are available for Angmering, Pryorslease farm was in the hands of John Lear of nearby Batworth Park. Descending in that family, it is not for another hundred years until after 1880 that the property came into the hands of the Duke of Norfolk, and remains in his family estates to this day.


Charles Mills proved to be the last of the Messrs Lear tenants at the farm. In 1850 he had a bench in the south gallery for his family, or rather it belonged to the farm. In the same way other houses in the village had their customary pews, before Gratwicke kindly rebuilt the church a few years later. Charles is variously described as an agricultural labourer and gamekeeper, in census returns, and so perhaps he was not after all the farmer. But, at the turn of the century, George Mills has the more elevated status of bailiff. Charles died in 1892, and his grave is in the old part of Angmering churchyard. “Late of Priors Lease age 87” as the register has it.


George Balchin took over the house, as farmer there for Norfolk. He is later described as a cattle dealer and farmer.

3 The Farm

Apart from the tithe map and apportionment, nothing is known of the farm extent, although it is likely that it always was a compact clearing in the woods. The Yeakell & Gardner c1780 map of Sussex certainly supports this assumption. A fair description of the extent, in 1679, indicates that it was much the same at that time. Fifty acres is a nice round figure, and the usual traditional estimate found in this survey. It is no contradiction that in 1839 the area was far less, in statute acres.


Humphry Grattwick gent  holdeth One Tenement being a Messuage barne garden and five Closes of Land thereunto belonging and adjoyning called Pryors Lease containing together by estimation fifty acres lying in

West Angmering and bounded by the Highway on the North and East the Lands of the Lord in the occupation of Henry Blaxton and Lands of Wm Adams called Newell on the South and a feild of Robert Jordans called Charlehoe on the West and he payeth rent by the yeare therefore one Shilling and holdeth by [blank]             non infra manor  Acres  xxxxx


After that there is the slightly disappointing inventory of 1705, which does not provide any field areas. Only the possession of a plough and harrows, and mention of wheat on the ground, confirms it as the usual mixed farm with arable as well as stock.







Fig. 2(left) – Priorslease farm from the 1839 Tithe Map.
The Arundel to Broadwater road on the south and Hammer Pot or Ham Pot a short distance east.














Schedule of land in the Tithe Map 1839

Jeremiah Lear owner and tenant

Area in acres

110       0.19375 plantation          Plantation

111       3.91250 grass                Barn Field

112       3.47500 grass                Dover Field

113       1.91875 grass                Barn Piece

114       0.16250 plantation          Plantation

115       1.20000 House               Priors Lease farmhouse outbs yards gardens lane etc

116       5.04375 grass                Garden Field

117       2.61250 arable               Lower Charlow Field

118       3.09375 grass                Upper Charlow Field

129       1.98750 grass                Little Mead

130       0.71875 plantation          Plantation in Back Lane Field

131       2.83125 arable               Back Lane Field

132       2.06250 arable               Furze Field

133       7.72500 wood                Priors Lease Coppice

120       1.53750 wood                Pound Lane Coppice

TOTAL  38.475 acres

Jeremiah Lear also owned Hangleton farm at this time (i.e. 1839).

4 Farm Stock and Crops

It may be suspected that in 1839 there was far less arable than heretofore. In 1679 five closes are specified, which suggests meadow and ploughland, not woods. The farm had ceased to be an independent unit, and became managed in conjunction with nearby Badworth. 


From the Spinkernell inventory it is fairly clear there was considerable arable as well as pasture, with £18 worth of wheat and £6 in other crops, representing somewhere around that number of acres. In stock he had, four cows and three calves, with a flock of fifteen sheep and six lambs. Two horses were enough for his acreage, without need for oxen.


A century later and arable had shrunk to rather over 5 acres, and pasture increased to over 22 acres. More remarkably new plantations and established woodland now took up over 10 acres. It can only be supposed the corn hungry years of the Napoleonic wars, had gone and poorer lands were converting out of arable.


RWS 13.12.08 NRD