Where was the Court of Buttinghill, and what was it?


Occasionally in historic texts you will come across the Cuckfield area as being in the ‘Hundred’ of Buttinghill. Hundred comes from the definition of an administration area. Groups of 100 families pledged to keep the peace under the Hundred Court. These were also used for raising a county rate from Lewes. Over the centuries, the Rape of Buttinghill area was redefined as in the chart above.


The spelling has varied over the centuries 1086: Bottingelle, 13th century: Buttingehill or Bottynghill, 17th century onwards Buttinghill.


Within each hundred there was a meeting place where wealthy and powerful men of the hundred discussed local issues, and judicial trials were held. The hundred courts were held sometimes at Buttinghill - the mound beside Ham Farm* not far from Stonepound Crossroads, and sometimes at Cuckfield. In medieval times the hundred was collectively responsible for various crimes committed within its borders when the offender was not produced.


In 'The Metropolis of Mid Sussex', by Conway Gabe and Wyn Ford there is an example of a Buttinghill court case at a atime when much of the Mid Sussex area was still heavily forested:

'We know that much of the Weald was afforested, that is, reserved for conserving game for the use of the king or local magnate (in this case the Earl of Warenne); there is a letter from Edward I addressed to the warden of the chace at Cuckfield and Worth, and in the enquiries of 1279 the jurors of Buttinghill hundred, in responding to a question about animal reserves, complained of the damage done by the animals to the crops of those who lived close to the unenclosed reserves. We know from Domesday that these reserves possessed special enclosures called haiae or hays, in which game was conserved for hunting. Thus the name Hayworth seems to mean an enclosure for keeping animals for sport.'


Today ‘Buttinghill’ is used in a new local road name. Buttinghill Drive, which is north of Bylanes Close in Cuckfield.


If you know where the Cuckfield site of the Buttinghill Court was then please do let us know.


Sources

Chart from: 'The hundred of Buttinghill', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1940), pp. 125-126.


The History and Antiquities of Lewes and Its Vicinity. With an Appendix Containing an Essay on the Natural History of the District, by G. Mantell. Volume 1 by Thomas Walker Horsfield, 1824.


*An archaeological survey report on an area on the Ham Farm, Hassocks location by South Eastern Archaeological Services, September 1993. This was 300 metres south and west of the mound which was one of the two locations for Buttinghill Court.


'A Chronicle of Cuckfield' by Maisie Wright, 1991. P9.


Bottinghill spellings from: The Victoria History of the County of Sussex, A History of Sussex Vol 1.


The Metropolis of Mid Sussex, by WK Ford and AC Gabe, Charles Clarke 1981


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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