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1929: Sussex Archaeologists explore Tudor manors and Cuckfield Church

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 18 June 1929


Visits to the Park, Legh Manor and the Parish Church

A party of about 80 members of the Sussex archaeological society spent a pleasant afternoon at Cuckfield on Saturday, when a tour of visits included the Park, by permission of Brigadier B. N. Sergison-Brooke, C. M. G., D. S. O., Legh Manor, by invitation of Sir William and Lady Chance, and the Parish Church. The only disappointment was that the visitors were not allowed to inspect the interior of the Park house, owing to the forthcoming sale of the contents, but a ramble round of the charming grounds in the sunshine proved very enjoyable, and later on an enclosed lawn, Miss Marion Cooper (Honorary Secretary of the Society) gave a brief account of the history of the Mansion. Miss Cooper said that her statement was derived from what she had found in the papers of her father the late Canon J. H. Cooper, and from the Society’s collections. She commenced at the time when Cuckfield, which forms part of the Rape of Lewes, was in possession of Earl John de Warenne, who possibly came from Lewes, and Cuckfield was enclosed and made into a deer park, which at one time reached to Copyhold Lane. The district was


and Miss Cooper related how in 1218, Hugo Hoppoverthumb charged Thomas de Dene for attacking him and his cousin William of Legh while guarding the Park on St. Giles’ Day, while another incident, which occurred in 1294, related to the then Vicar of Cuckfield being imprisoned for three months at Guildford for poaching and slaying deer in the Park. On the death of John de Warenne in 1304 the Sussex estates passed to the Earl of Arundel. The de Warennes had a house close to the Parish Church, where the foundations of a building had been found, while the base of a round pillar was discovered some years ago when a grave was being dug. Having referred to several other owners of the Cuckfield estate, Miss Cooper came to the Bowyers, who came from Staffordshire. One became an iron-master, and his son Henry bought Bentley Place in 1564, and in 1573 he bought a quarter of the manor of Cuckfield from the fourth Earl of Derby, who had inherited it from a descendant of the Earl of Arundel. Henry Bowyer had forges and iron mills in Sussex, and in 1574 he started to build Cuckfield Park of brick. His initials were to be found on a beautifully carved chimney piece in the dining room. He also built the gateway or


which formerly had a wall with a paved court around it. There was a beautiful screen bearing the Bowyer arms, which now separated the hall from the morning room. Miss Cooper explained the form of the house, and made reference to the wonderful enriched plaster ceiling in the library, which was part of Henry Bowyer’s work. On this were arranged the Royal Arms of Elizabeth and also the armorial bearings and badges of the families connected with the house and manor. Henry Bowyer died in 1588 and was buried in Cuckfield Church, where there were two memorials, one in brass on the floor and another in stone on the wall. He was succeeded by his son, also named Henry, who married Dorothy, daughter of George Goring of Lewes, and the builder of Danny. Sir Thomas Hendley, a descendant of Henry Bowyer, came into possession later, and the last of the Hendleys to live in the Park was Sir Walter, whose widow sold the estate to Charles Sergison. The name Sergison was probably derived from Sergeantson. Charles Sergison was a Commissioner of the Navy and Clerk of Accounts, an important post. He appears to have had an uncomfortable time at the Navy Office. He was a good man anxious to do his best, but in 1714 he was


And came to live at Cuckfield, where he died in 1732. He ordered that not more than £300 was to be spent on his funeral and £200 on a monument. The latter was on the north wall of the chancel, and at the time the then Vicar objected to it and opposed its erection in Vestry, but the parishioners overruled him. The property passed to the son of his niece Prudence, who had married Thomas Warden, who lived principally at Butler’s Green. The new owner took the name of Sergison, as did others when the property passed down through the female line. Miss Cooper explained how various alterations were made to the house from time to time, how Harrison Ainsworth gave a description of the Park in his book “Rookwood”, and how a great fire broke out on a Sunday and brought the clergy and people, who were just going to church, to assist in putting it out. Some of the panelling destroyed was replaced by panelling brought from Legh Manor.

Mr J.E. Couchman, F.S.A. (Vice Chairmen of the Society) expressed the thanks of the members to Miss Cooper, and the party then moved on to Legh Manor, where they were cordially


who have restored and beautified this Picturesque Tudor house during their residence. Following a stroll through the delightful gardens, the visitors assembled in a marquee, where Mr W.H.Godfey, F.S.A., of Lewes, gave a short description of the house. He said the invitation to the society to inspect the house was one of long-standing, as it had been arranged to come during the General Strike, which put everything out of gear. When they had looked over the house they would feel indebted to Sir William and Lady Chance, who had identified the work of the house with their own views. Lady Chance was an artist herself and she realised that the products of the early artists were not finished with the early arts. What Sir William and Lady Chance had done and what Sir Edwin Lutyens had put into the house added completion to the building and was of interest to them as members of an archaeological society. Archaeology was the handmaid of history. They wanted to see the beauty of the artists who were masters of their crafts, and marry that with modern life.


was a beautiful example of the past, but to a large extent it was the creation of Sir William and Lady Chance. Mr Godfrey proceeded to give a short history of the house and Manor, and mentioned the names of the early owners, such as Ward, Hussey, Pain or Paine, Berwick, de Leghe and others. The house was built by John Hussey or for him by his brother Henry, and its character was about 1550. The house was formerly known as Little Ease, which was a clear corruption of Little Leghs. The house was also owned by a John Stapley, and later by Charles Sergison, whose family held it in the 18th and 19th centuries. With the aid of a ground plan Mr Godfrey explained the formation of the house, and at the conclusion of his talk he conducted small parties over it and pointed out its interesting features.

Mr Couchman, in proposing a vote of thanks to Mr Godfrey, and Sir William and Lady Chance, explained that in the old days the owners of Hill Manors suffered from the poorness of their crops, and to make up for this deficiency they possessed themselves of Wealden Manors where the crops were better. Legh Manor was a sub Manor of Ote Hall (Wivelsfield) and the latter, in turn was a wealden manor of Withdean.

Tea was served in the marquee, and a number of the visitors then proceeded to the parish church, where is Miss Cooper pointed out the memorials to the Bowyers, to which she had referred in her account of Cuckfield Park, and also the clerestory window and other interesting features brought to light during the restoration work a few years ago.


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