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1889: Little Ease - Tower of London link?

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Tower of London [Wikimedia public domain image.]

In a letter to the Mid Sussex Times about 19 March 1889 Cuckfield barrister Twynihoe William Erle recalled case law that referred to story that goes back to the times shortly after the Magna Carta and of a certain William de Legh who was shot with an arrow in Cuckfield Park by Thomas of Dean and died nine days later.

Leigh Manor, Ansty

James Hughes Cooper, Cuckfield vicar and eminent Cuckfield historian, in the book 'History of Cuckfield' identifies William's home:

William de Logh (a name which survives in Lies and Little Ease, the; old house in the south-west of the parish, formerly written Little Leghs)…

In short William de Legh lived in what we know now as Leigh Manor - but not, as far as we know, the current Tudor building but probably another structure either under or near it.

Erle picks up the story in his letter to the Middy:

The Leighs who are mentioned in the case are doubtless the family who have given their name to more than one spot in Cuckfield, notably for example, to Little Leighs, corrupted into Little Ease, a grim sort of title, by which every conceivable suggestion of discomfort seems to compendiously packed into three syllables. It will be remembered that a cell of torment in the Tower - one of the numberless horrors which made up what are called the good old times - was known as the Little Ease.

The Little Ease cell at the Tower of London.

Wikipedia gives much more detail.

The Little Ease cell was a notorious form of confinement used in medieval times. It was a cramped and extremely uncomfortable prison cell that gained a reputation for its oppressive conditions. The cell was primarily used in the Tower of London, a historic castle located in London, England. The exact origin and construction of the Little Ease cell are uncertain, but it is believed to have been built during the medieval period, possibly in the 14th century.

The cell's name, 'Little Ease', is derived from the term 'ease', which was a medieval word for a small, confined space. The Little Ease was specifically designed to be an uncomfortable and confining cell. It was incredibly small, usually measuring only about four feet in height and two feet in width. The prisoner was unable to stand up fully or lie down comfortably, as the cell's dimensions did not allow for much movement. The prisoner had to contort their body to fit into the cramped space.

NOTES: The present Legh Manor stands about 1½ miles south-west of the parish church on a road branching off the Ansty to Burgess Hill road. The oldest part of the house is the present south range, with a south porch-wing which dates from about 1540–50.

Twynihoe William Erle (1828-1908). Erle lived in Mill Hall at Whiteman's Green

William De Leigh aka William Leigh aka William de Legh. Willliam was born c1160 at West Hall, High Legh, Cheshire. He also died there.

Little EaseWikipedia entry:

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details

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