1930: Reflections on the history and charm of Anstye

Updated: Oct 18, 2020


Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 01 July 1930

ANSTYE:

ITS HISTORY AND CHARM


BY HUBERT BATES

Anstye on the hill: the little hamlet with many new houses and a very old name. Anstye is said to be from “An," a personal name, and “tighe,” Old English for a paddock or enclosure. Hence I may infer that a Saxon enjoying the name of "An" had a farm or an enclosed steading there, which eventually came to be called Anstye. This was in the old, old days of mead-drinking and the blood feud, called (rather unkindly) by historians, the “Dark Ages”, for it was the age when English people really did govern themselves, and there were the Folks' Moot, the Hundred Moot and the King's Moot, now, alas, all crushed beneath the iron hoof of centralisation. But there a yet more ancient name to be found in Anstye. A little way down on the Brighton road, high up on a bank, looking full west, is an old cottage called Mount Noddy. The learned ones tell us that Nod or Nudd, one of the old Celtic gods—the sun god or


THE GOD OF THE SETTING SUN.

It is quoted in support of this theory that wherever there is an old mount or hill cailed Mount Nod, or Noddy, it invariably commands a clear view of the setting sun, and there, probably, was an altar set up to the worship of Nod or Nudd. There are other Celtic place names in the district that give colour to this tempting conjecture. An interesting feature that meets one at Anstye is the picturesque old timber-built house that stands on the island in the centre of the two roads. Approached by well worn steps, sheltered by its garden and old fruit trees, with the panels of criss-cross work peeping through the creepers, the “Old House”, as it is called, gives a pleasing welcome to Anstye.

High up on the front of the house is an inset stone carved with “N.I.M., 1727” (N. over the I. M.). This suggests that It may have been built by one of the Nordens, a wealthy family who lived at, and at that time, owned, Paine’s Place, and who were also Lords of the Manor of Marshalls In Cuckfield, one of whom, about that date, was a James Norden. We may be forgiven for trying to Identify this fascinatlng old house with the home of the actress at


ANSTYE CROSS

in Conan Doyle's “Rodney Stone”: “A good four-mile walk” from Friar’s Oak, and “the cosy little house: all honeysuckle creepers, with the wooden porch and lattice windows . . . The old “Green Cross” Inn, with its flagstone tap-room, its great oak settle, and the still older tales that were told round the huge open hearth, has, alas, gone. The name only survives in the sign of the “ Green Cross,” and we wonder how many of all who pass by care to know it is the badge of the old Hussey family who built and lived at Paine’s Place, and who, from 1289 onwards for nearly 300 years served Sussex as Members of Parliament and in other public offices. It is just possible that this inn may have been their own rest house for their attendants, etc. But the most important and interesting house in Anstye proper is Mr. Webber’s Anstye Farm. It has a long history reaching back into the misty past; In fact it may well have been the original “An’s tighe’ and it appears in some of the oldest surveys of the manor as simply Anstie.” The present house is am example of a Sussex farmhouse of its period. Details in the building show that it is of two periods, and, fortunately, two dates are to be found. Down in the cellar, under the older part, is a large carved stone bearing the initials ‘G.T.E’ (1713 G. over T.E.). This may signify that it was


BUILT BY THOMAS GATES,

who held the freehold for several years before that date. High up in the gable of the north wing is another stone with the date, carved in relief, of “1768" and the work there suggests a little later period. This north wing has one of the most handsome gables and carved barge boards in the neighbourhood, and with its long row of dentils is really a beautiful piece of work. The whole of the house is splendidly built with squared stone work to the first floor and weather fitting above, except in the north wing, where the oak beams are exposed down to the stone plinth at ground level. The rest is a bewildering mass of old oak, carefully cleaned and restored. In the best bedroom, in the old part, a fine Tudor arch has been exposed over a very wide hearth. There is no doubt that, when built, it was a house of considerable pretensions. After the supposed builder, Thos. Gates, the next owner was Richard Hodd, who occupied it at the latter end of the 18th century and well into the 19th, when It was purchased by the Sergisons.


THE WEBBERS

THEN BECAME THE TENANTS,

And have farmed it and cared for the old place ever since. Mr. Hodd's name remains in Cuckfield in Mr. Mitchell’s property called “Hodd’s Cottages” in South Street, which Mr. Hodd owned in 1800 There are many other very old houses in Anstye that would pay for a visit. Anstye, like all old-world places, has its ghostly legend, and the form it takes here is that of a weird, weary man seen at night walking up and down Anstye Lane as far as Constitution Hill. He has a leather satchel slung over his shoulder end carries a long stake with which he is endlessly probing the hedgerow. searching for some lost rolls of valuable deeds which were hidden ages ago in a hole In the hedge bank. He has never found them yet. But some of the old folk of Anstye used to declare that they had seem him wandering about. We do not know If any of the new people of Anstye have been so favoured. Has Mr. Harry Preston ever seen him trying the hedge in front of the old cottage which (Mr. Preston) has idealised into such a lovely English home. Anstye is growing and will be a favourite residential place In years to come. Set on a hill it has great natural charms and fine views. That to the south is strikingly beautiful, with the green Weald set out like a great fan and the horizon softly outlined by the long range of the South Downs. But one should '


BE AT ANSTYE IN THE SPRING,

and, as I was, in the evening, when sweet day was nearly spent and the last chords of the beautiful "symphony in green," which the light wind and the spring sun had all day played on the countless tints of the Weald, were dying away in a faint diminuendo. The graceful point of St. Hugh’s spire had just failed to catch the last glint of the westering sun, the hills were settling down once more to their evening grey, and the Sussex valleys were fast filling with the half shades of twilight. Night was leaving her home in the west. From her lair under the brook banks and pools the evening mist-wraith was silently stealing. Wrapped in her mantle of the purest, whitest lawn, she floated on, ever assuming forms of the most exquisite beauty. And so the evening fell. The shadows were making chequers and bars across the green, woody lanes for which Anstye is famous—those


BEAUTIFUL LANES

that encircle her on almost every side, folding her and fending from the troubling world the peaceful enclosure of the hamlet. In one of these lanes could be heard the sharp stroke of the woodman's bill, the clean "click, click" of the expert wood-cutter, who never uses a blunt tool or makes a useless cut. Near by stands his little home. A grey, half-timbered old cottage, with its criss-cross of oak beams filled in with wattle and daub, facing north and south as so many old Sussex houses do. There with the dignity of age it stood, quietly looking across the Weald as it had done for two or three hundred years. It hovered to the South, where the thick warm thatch roof came down almost to the ground, sheltering it from the winds, and giving cover from the drenching rains that through the long winter nights tore through the gaps and over The Downs. The cottage was a humble temple of peace and love. The door stood open to let in the twilight and the good fairies. There was no light in the little room save, the flicker and glow from the homely wood fire that crackled on the wide hearth under the big chimney. It glowed warm on the red brick floor and sparkled on a bit of old brass on the quaint cottage dresser; it winked at a blue plate and lustre mug, and presently found its way through the opening on to the grey doorstone, and then straggled along the brick path to the wicket gate, only pausing to bid the Daphne bush


“GOOD-NIGHT,”

ere it was lost In the gloom. There were sweet sounds, too, in that little kitchen. The soothing “sish, sish” of the sap boiling out of the green wood in the log fire was mingled with a low crooning chant: the mother was singing her firstborn to sleep—surely the sweetest song the listening earth ever hears! The soft music of her cradle song, following the firelight, wandered round the room and out Into the sweet air of the Sussex night. And this is what the night heard:—


The sun has set o'er Chancton Hill

And sleepy is the daffodil.

Hushaby, hushaby-by.

In Pucksroade now the fairies sing

And dance around a silver ring.

Hushaby, hushaby-by.

The moon pops up behind Moon Hill:

His face is laughing, laughing still.

Hushaby, hushaby-by.

“He’s getting up, as we shall see.

To look’t himself in great Pond Leigh.

Hushaby, hushaby-by.

lt’s dark as night in Pickwell Wood.

Sleep my little one, sleep is good.

Hushaby, hushaby-by,

While mother asks dear God on high

To keep the babes in Old Anstye.

Hushaby, hushaby-by.”