Mid Sussex Times 18 October 1887
I promised in my last to say something about the Heasman family, who resided formerly at Upper Little Ease (1), and probably I may make a mistake as I am told I have done in my notes on Bolney. But it must be remembered that I write principally from oral information and legendary history, having no written records to refer to, and plead an excuse on that account.
The old house stands adjoining the road leading from Ansty Cross to Hurstpierpoint, but was built two centuries before that road was made, or contemplated, and a hundred years at least before the main road from Brighton to London was set out; for on the fireplace of the parlour may found the initials of an ancestor of the family and his wife, with the date, about the middle of the 16th century, doubtless designating the period at which it was erected.
I regret not having taken this down, but if any antiquarian chooses to pay a visit to the place he may satisfy his curiosity, and I am satisfied when he looks the substantially-built edifice all round he cannot help noticing the lofty pitch and finely curved immense oak beams that span the large hall, or kitchen,
and the roomy old fireplace, that tells us the founder built not so much for convenience as for space to accommodate his family and most probably a host of retainers, for in those days master and mistress, men and maids, all sat at the same table and circled round the blazing fire in the hall on a winter’s evening, the mistress instructing and superintending her maid servants at their work with the spinning wheel, and her daughters engaged in knitting woollen gloves and mittens and thick warm stockings, “throwing the steel bar” as deftly as pliant little lingers can do it, while the master, seated in his capacious armchair, was holding a conference with his sons and farming men on the various subjects connected with the work, the crops, and the cattle, until the old timepiece over the doorway gave warning of the approach of bedtime, and then came a hasty departure, accompanied by a survey, to see that all was secure, by the master.
As to the parlour, although of sufficient dimensions to accommodate all the family and their friends, it was seldom in use except when visitors arrived, or upon a birthday, or Christmas, or some other occasion for gala or dance, but it was always kept in apple-pie order. In use or not in use, the floor had its weekly scouring, and the mats and rugs duly dusted, the furniture and fire-irons polished, and everything in its place. This is no fancy sketch, for even now some of the old school may be found in the country district, where the daughters, if they do not ply the spinning wheel— it having become obsolete — milk the cows and attend to the dairy, and are not ashamed to be seen at the wash-tub, in the hay or harvest field with fork and rake in hand, or merrily laughing and joking as they bend over the hop bin, as brown and as healthy as the children playing around, while their brothers drive the team, hold the plough, and pitch the hay and corn.
Such are true types of the yeomen, dames, and lasses of Sussex, a race not yet extinct, and such no doubt were the Heasmans of Little Ease
and the Hodds of Ansty, who owned the land they tilled, and although they did not rank with the knights and squires who hold official situations, were of considerable importance in the parishes where they resided. That such was the case with the Heasmans is evident from the fact that in the north aisle of the church is a vault containing the remains of the ancestors of this family, who flourished some two or three centuries since, but I can scarcely refrain from expressing the reluctance I feel in crossing the paved crossway leading to the west chancel of the church, at treading on a flat stone, with inscription nearly defaced, removed by some sacrilegious hand from the spot it occupied in the interior of the edifice that marked the site of the vault where rest the remains of those who not improbably might have furnished the timber and had the stone dug from which the more recent portion of the venerable old place of worship was built. Tomb and headstones in the churchyard tell us where the remains of the Hodd family, who owned and tilled the farm on the opposite brow, were deposited: that over Richard Hodd, who died in 1799, aged 73, describes him as “gent" of Ansty. Now it may be asked what position a “gent” held in society Not that of a squire or a magistrate certainly; but do not, for goodness sake, confound it with the dude or masher of the present day or the dandy of tho past, but take it as an abbreviation of gentleman, and significant with yeomen, one of the most worthy titles our sturdy ancestors could boast of. Men who—
Contented in their station,
Would mind their occupation,
Nor heed the caress
Or know the snares
That vice and folly bring,
But daily, wearily,
Nightly singing cheerily—
Dear to them their wives, their home,
Their country and their king.
Such was the composition of the yeomen of England, strong in their might, faithful to church, crown, and country—the bulwarks of the nation.