'Angmering Place Names' affirms that the name 'Ecclesden' is of Old English origin, signifying Eccel's Hill, the Hill being Highdown and Eccel a personal name. An alternative but more conjectural derivation connects Ecclesden with the Latin 'ecclesia' (church) suggesting a link between the Saxon settlement on Highdown and an earlier Romano-British Church in the vicinity, thus identifying Ecclesden as 'The Hill with the British Church'.
Albeit, Ecclesden has a long and fascinating history which continues to the present day. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Ecclesden was granted to Roger de Montgomery, created Earl of Arundel in recognition of his services as a Divisional Commander of the victorious Norman Army at the Battle of Hastings. At that time the lands of the Manor embraced a wide area extending as far as the sea.
Subsequently the Manor passed into the possession of the Abbey of Fescamp and then, in the 15th century to the Abbey of Syon. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the estate was granted by Henry VIII to John Palmer, member of an ancient and noble Sussex family and apparently a favourite at Court. Early in the 17th century his son, Sir Thomas Palmer of New Place, Angmering sold the Manor to John Forster who demolished parts of the old house in 1634 and erected what is basically the present building.
In 1811 the Manor was bequeathed by Martha Forman to James Grant in what are discreetly described in Skeet's 'History of Angmering' as "romantic circumstances". James Grant married Mary Dench, adopted daughter of Martha Forman, and they had fourteen children. It is interesting to note here that the Grant family tree has its branches in the village community today.
James Grant's eldest son, George, sold the estate to David Lyon, a wealthy tea merchant from whom it passed to a relative, Sir Arthur Lyon Freemantle who made further alterations and additions to the house in 1872.
In 1918 the estate was purchased by Walter Butcher who did much to restore the property to its former glory as a 17th century Manor House. In 1921 Walter Butcher was listed as one of the principal land-owners in Angmering and the village still remembers Mr. & Mrs. Butcher as benefactors to the local community. An inscription over the entrance to the Village Hall reads "Built by Walter Butcher 1926" and one of the public benches on the Village Green is inscribed "Margaret Butcher, For Remembrance, 1950".
Mr Butcher was an ardent admirer of the distinguished Army Commander Marshal Foch, Generalissimo of the Allied Armies during the 1914/18 War, Walter Butcher died in 1951 and he bequeathed Ecclesden Manor to the Foch family (Foch died in 1919). When the relatives were eventually traced in France and informed of their inheritance they were 'bewildered' as they had no previous knowledge of Mr. Butcher or Ecclesden.
During their twelve years of ownership the Foch family came to Ecclesden primarily as a 'retreat' during the summer months until Madame Becourt-Foch disposed of the estate by auction in 1965. It is a remarkable coincidence that Ecclesden should have been granted in the 11th century to a Norman Army Commander in recognition of victory in battle against our country and again, nine hundred years later, to a French Army Commander in similar circumstances, but in alliance with us. Ecclesden continues its "strange, eventful history".
(The above text is reproduced with the kind permission of Mr Leslie Baker from his 1988 booklet "Old Angmering", now out of print)
See also article by Mr RW Standing on Ecclesden Manor
Last updated 17 May 2002