05 August 2019

Portslade Manor Court Books

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2020)

copyright © D. Sharp
Portslade's Norman Manor House is a Scheduled Ancient Monument & Grade II* Listed Building
and the oldest secular building in the City of Brighton & Hove


The division of land into feudal estates became prevalent in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The ‘manor’ consisted of the house, the lord’s demesne (lands adjacent to the house), plus common land and woodland. The ‘manor’ also owned land beyond the boundaries of Portslade. For example, there were five properties on the west side of Keere Street, Lewes, land in Atlingworth (Brighton), other properties in Brighton including Pekes, which in 1584 was described as a sub-manor, land in Hove and Ovingdean, and a plot of land in the Wish area of Aldrington described as a detached part of Portslade parish. Not surprisingly, there was usually a steward to look after things.

copyright ©  D.Sharp
This drawing based on a late 1850s map shows the Parish of Aldrington virtually depopulated and showing the detached area of the Parish of Portslade in the centre of Aldrington. This ‘landlocked island’ of Portslade including Wish Cottage was bordered by the modern day roads of New Church Road, Portland Villas, Portland Road and Woodhouse Road.
 In 1883 this detached area of Portslade was absorbed into the Parish of Aldrington.
 The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway was built in 1844. Copperas Gap was later renamed Portslade by Sea.

When property within the manor changed hands, the manor court had to be notified and the appropriate fee paid. Later on, a record was made of these transactions.

It is interesting to note that two ancient customs pre-dating the arrival of the Normans, persisted at Portslade and Hove, as follows:

Borough English – this was a pragmatic custom whereby property descended to the youngest son or daughter. (In English stately families the custom for centuries has been that titles and lands are inherited by the eldest son, but the custom of primogeniture was introduced by the Normans).

Widow’s Bench – this was the custom whereby a widow could continue to live in her late husband’s property. However, if she re-married, she lost this right.

Where were the records?

It was thought that the Court Books of Portslade Manor had long since been lost. Happily, this turned out not to be the case.

 copyright © G.Osborne
 St Marye's Convent in the 1930s
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph  from his private collection.

In the 1990s when the nuns of St Marye’s Convent (formerly known as Portslade Manor) were preparing to leave the area for good, the ancient books turned up unexpectedly. They were deposited in East Sussex Record Office at The Maltings, Lewes, and now repose in The Keep.

The earliest one (AMS 653) covers the years 1660 to 1622. But it is rather worn and not bound, indeed it is considered too fragile for public inspection.

This book was signed by the celebrated John Rowe on 28 February 1633. John Rowe was the steward of the manors belonging to Lord Bergavenny (later spelt Abergavenny) and it is because of Rowe’s neat records that so much information survives to this day. After Rowe’s signature, the beautiful Latin script deteriorates into an untidy scrawl with several ink blots along the way.

The second volume – a bound one this time – was also written in Latin, and Latin continued in use until 1734 when records began to be written in English. Fortunately some copies in English were made of previous entries. A most interesting extract written in plain English relates to the customs of the manor and appears at the beginning:

Custom as to Commons or Pasture, Court 26 October 1708 … certain yardlands in Portslade as well as the Lands of the Lady of the Manor called Dumblebys and another Tenement of the said Lady called Youngs as the free and customary Lands within this Manor, which yardlands contain 24 acres (a yardland was also known as a virgate, which usually contained 30 acres), have belonging to them by the ancient custom of this Manor common pasture for 50 sheep upon the Plain called Tenant Down and that each and every yardlands in Aldrington being free and customary within the Manor, each yardland in Aldrington containing 20 acres, have belonging to them by like custom of this Manor common Pasture for 40 sheep upon the said Plain called Tenant Down.

To ensure the use of common land was fair to everyone, strict rules were enforced – hence the following:

Court 19 October 1719 – The Tenants have been accustomed upon 25 March in every year to put their Sheep upon the Common Hills of Portslade and Aldrington called Portslade and Aldrington Common Downes (sic) and they keep and feed the same until 29 September the next following but that the tenants by common consent if so willing upon or after 24 August take away their sheep from the said before mentioned hills and put them on the Hills called the Foredown and Portslade Drove and other Common Pastures in Portslade and Aldrington, and that from 29 September the said Common Hill (Anglice Common Downs) ought to be emptied until the first day of November the next following when the same may be fed again with Sheep until the 2 February, but from that time not until the 25 March following. But the Tenants if they please continue their sheep upon the Hills called the Foredown and Portslade Drove and the Common Pastures until the 10 or 14 April when the said Hills are common for all the Tenants for other cattle until the 24 August then following, but not for sheep except for shearing days. And lastly they present that no person hath the right of keeping or depasturing Sheep upon these Hills except those who have lands held of the Manor of Portslade or parcel of the said manor and the Vicar of the perpetual Vicarage of Portslade who have been accustomed to take such Common Pasture.

copyright © D.Sharp
Foredown Hill and Mount Zion

Elsewhere, John Rowe recorded other matters relating to Portslade. He stated that the presentation to the Rectory of Aldrington belonged to the Manor of Portslade, as also did all the shipwrecks washed up on the shore between the west hedge of Aldrington and the ditch of Hove.

John Rowe recorded that in the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) the Down called Cowdowne lay all in one parcel of land without any enclosures, and every tenant had his number of cattle there according to the quantity of land. But there was only one herdsman to look after all of them. No hog was allowed to wander on common land, except near the brooks, and the fine for this infringement was six pennies a pig. No sheep were allowed on the Somer Foredowne, lambs excepted, between 15 April and 24 August.

The Dispute of 1561 (REQ 165 59)

This fascinating account running to 18 pages records a dispute between a humble farmer and his son, and the powerful magnate Earl de la Warr. It is written in English, rather than the Latin employed in the early pages of Portslade Manor Court Books. Modern sensibilities might think that ordinary people did not stand a chance against the aristocracy in those distant times.

The farmers (described as husbandmen) were William Dumrell and his son John. This surname was later spelt as Dumbrell, and it is interesting to note that the land they once farmed continued to bear their surname with Dumbrell’s being mentioned in the Court Books of Portslade Manor in 1780 and 1802. It seemed that by 1561 Dumbrell’s land spread over 40 acres. Whereas when Thomas Dumrell died in 1533 he had control of separate properties – thus, one moiety and yard of land (late Skynners), 8 acres, late parcel of tenements called Bassetts, a yardland, one cottage and droveland, a cottage with the delightful name of Godesloves (all in Portslade) as well as a garden in Aldrington.

(There were two notable Dumbrells in modern times. In 1935 Owen Dumbrell had served for 30 years in Hove Fire Brigade, latterly as Chief Fire Officer. When Owen retired, his son Harry Dumbrell succeeded him in the same post.)

In the dispute of 1561 the aristocrat was described as William West. Lord Lawarr. It was in 1485 that Henry VII granted four manors, and two boroughs to Thomas de la Warr, which had formerly belonged to John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. This was added to at least ten Sussex manors already in the family’s possession. The Portslade dispute was heard in the reign of Elizabeth I.

There were seven deponents – these were people who gave evidence under oath in a court of justice.
The deponents, described as being of ‘Portyslade’, were as follows:

Edward Blaker, aged 46
Nicholas Hunter, aged 60
Richard Collyer, aged 45
Thomas Ockenden, aged 35
Henry Hall, aged 50
Agnes Bermscombe (?) widow, aged 37
John Wheatley, aged 36

Except for John Wheatley, who was described as a gentleman, the other men were husbandmen.

The dispute arose because Lord Lawarr took away the land farmed by William and John Dumrell, and gave it instead to his steward Thomas Heath. Lord Lawarr justified this action by stating that the land in question had been let for lives, instead of one man’s lifetime, and therefore was contrary to the customs of the manor. But obviously his chief gripe was that Dumrell had been disrespectful towards him, making remarks behind his back. Therefore his lordship ‘hath granted to a man more thankfull and obedyant than the said claimant’.

Dumrell refuted these claims, stating he held the land in fee simple, and ‘had tyme out of mynde holden by copie of courte Roll of the said manor’ this land. He also said he had been an obedient tenant and always paid his his dues on time.

Edward Blaker stated that Thomas Heath had taken the corn and grass from 40 acres of Dumrell’s land. This was backed up by Henry Hall who said that Heath had taken all the profit from the land for a year or more. John Wheatley told the court that he had seen and read a copy of the grant to Henry Barnes in 1529 from the Manor Court Books, and he further stated that recorded on the copy was the fact ‘that there was paiyd out some fine and one herryott for them both’. It seems that Dumrell and Barnes might have shared the land and Thomas Ockenden asserted that he had heard the grant was for three lives to Barnes and Dumrell.

It is interesting that there was one female witness at the court. It should also be noted that when grants of land were made, it was often to a man and his wife as well, and Portslade Manor followed the custom of Borough English where women enjoyed certain rights of inheritance. The widow Agnes stated that William Dumrell had been expelled from his farmland, but she had not heard of any grant being made to Thomas Heath.

It is pleasant to record that the land was returned to the Dumrells eventually, and the family continued to farm it until 1650 when Abraham Edwards became the new tenant.

(Information concerning the dispute was kindly supplied by Graham Johnson).

Some Extracts from the Court Books of Portslade Manor and Additional Notes

1679 – Tenement called Drovelands near Portslade Street (ie High Street or South Street) a stone wall lately built by Henry Bishopp.

1679 – Mention of three acres of pasture called Godherd’s, and five acres called Cowhay near the windmill.

1681 – Dorothy Blaker lost the right of Widow’s Bench (see introduction) by marrying Robert Hall, gentleman. She was the widow of Edward Blaker. The Blakers must have had the longest association with Portslade of any family because it lasted from the 16th century to the 20th century. Dorothy Blaker was the not the first to appear in local records because there was a Christian Blaker, a widow of Portslade, who wrote her will on 21 February 1578. The Hall family were also a prominent family in Portslade’s later history. Perhaps this Robert Hall was related to the Nathaniel Hall who in 1795 purchased the Portslade House estate. (See also under the date ‘1795’).

1682 – Fourteen-year old Mary Blaker was admitted as heir, being the youngest daughter of Richard Blaker, the younger brother of Edward Blaker, deceased. Guardians were appointed to look after her property since she was of such a young age. The inheritance was due to the custom of Borough English (see introduction). Mary’s inheritance consisted of four acres in Aldrington called Wheatleys.

1684 – The death of Posthumus Edwards was announced. He farmed Dumbrell’s.

1705 – John Heasman was granted a licence to cut down four elm trees.

1714 – ‘There is a common highway lying within the Manor running from Portslade Pond all along the east end of Hillman’s Barn into the common road to Lewes in - ? - from whence it runs to the north-west corner of Beaumont’s fields called the Clouts to the south-east corner thereof and this goes into the lain leading to the Sea Side.’ It was further stated that the path from Portslade Pond to Lewes Road had been blocked off about twelve or thirteen years previously, while the path leading from the Clouts to the sea had been blocked off 30 years previously. It was ordered that both parts should be re-opened and made a common way again.

1718 – Death of Nathaniel Kemp was announced. This gentleman did not lend his name to Kemps in High Street because Kemps had already been mentioned in 1594 when Edward Blaker lived there.

  copyright © D.Sharp
A view of the south side of Kemps from the church twitten; the photograph was taken in 2017.

1719 –The River of Shoreham (ie the River Adur) had eaten up two acres of land belonging to Thomas Cook, gentleman, late Nutall’s, lying at the gate called Fishersgate, abutting Southwick. In the aisle of St Nicolas Church there are three ledger stones, indicating a burial in a vault within the church itself, belonging to the Cooke family.
  copyright © D.Sharp
Thomas Cooke's gravestone in St Nicolas Church.

Thomas Cooke died on 26 December 1742 in the 83rd year of his age. It is interesting to note that Thomas Cooke was in trouble with the authorities for not paying his church tax in 1719 and 1720. Perhaps he was distracted by the recent death of his wife Mary who died aged 44 on 19 July 1717. 

In 1726 he presented St Nicolas with a silver paten. His wife’s maiden name was Mary Trollop, and on her ledger stone, the Cooke coat-of-arms were impaled with the Trollop coat-of-arms, thus – vert three bucks argent attired or. The Cookes were also well connected with other old Sussex families. For instance, with the Coverts of Slaughan, who owned neighbouring Benfield Manor, and with the de Bohuns, ancient lords of Midhurst. The Cookes owned land in Hove too, which eventually became part of the Vallance Estate.

1720John Buckoll made a haystack on common land near the west part of Mr Kempe’s barn by leave of the Lord and Lady, but it had to be removed by 25 March. The two Buckoll tombstones are the most beautiful and best preserved tombstones in the churchyard of St Nicolas, near the south entrance. In particular, the lettering is magnificent, and still legible without any effort. John Buckoll was a tailor and he died on 30 November 1740 leaving his wife Mary £10 a year on condition that the house, stable, outhouses, and garden went to their son Thomas Buckoll after she had had the use of them.

copyright © J.Middleton
Memorials to John and Thomas Buckoll, in the churchyard of St Nicolas, near the south entrance.

1722 – In October the death of John Lindfield was announced. He owned one messuage, one barn, and one yard, and his only son was also called John Lindfield. The Borrer family, who owned Portslade Manor in the 19th century, were also connected with the last of the ancient Sussex family of Lindfield. John Borrer named one of his sons Lindfield Borrer born in 1823, but sadly the baby died after only a few weeks of life.

1725 – In October the death of John Lindfield was announced; his widow Elizabeth was granted the right of Widow’s Bench.

1769 – In June John Lindfield of Horsham, one of the customary tenants of Portslade Manor, transferred his land to John Norton of Kingston-by-Sea, which included the following:

A customary barn
Seven pieces of land amounting to 40 acres, already in the occupation of John Norton
Messuage occupied by James Brown and Edward Martin
Smith’s shop and barn occupied by George Coom
Six acres abutting the highway on the north-west
Southwick laynes on the west occupied by Thomas Dyer

George Coom died on 31 March 1771 aged 50 years; his wife Fanney Coom died exactly a year earlier in 1770 aged 49 years. They were buried in the churchyard of St Nicolas and their tombstone features a funerary urn and two cherubs.

Thomas Coom’s name appeared in the court records for 1784 because he had repaid a loan of £100 that he took out in the 1770s – he seems to have borrowed several sums of money. He was a blacksmith by trade. On 26 January 1787 Thomas Coom sold a tenement, smithy, shop, and gardens, plus a parcel of land called Dimbleby’s in Portslade Street to Nathaniel Blaker.

On 5 April 1819 another George Coom died and was buried in the same churchyard. He and his wife Mary Ann had eight children, but two died in infancy and Charles drowned at sea. There was also an Abraham Coom who died on 21 February 1829.

  copyright © D.Sharp 
Anne Friend's relative is buried in St Nicolas Church - 'Here lies ye Body of John Friend who departed this life June ye 5th? 1736 aged 55 years'

1774 – The death of John Kemp was announced. His property included one acre, plus five acres, late John Wynn’s, once Hunter’s, since Stone’s. He left his property to his wife Mary, and after her death it was to go to his nephew Nathaniel Kemp of Brighton. John’s father Nathaniel Kemp married Anne Friend of Portslade in April 1710 at St Nicolas Church. There were five children – Nathaniel, who died aged three years, John and George survived to manhood, Anne was baptised in 1716, and Nathaniel Kemp never saw his last child because he died in 1717 before she was born; she was described as the ‘after-borne child’. John’s legacy was £600. His father had been a man of substance with his well-stocked farm at Preston valued at £1,368-16s. His livestock included the following:
742 ewes
440 tegs (a teg was a two-year old sheep)
20 young wethers (a wether was a castrated ram)
24 rams
33 pigs
13 cows
7 calves
5 steers (a steer was a young ox between 2 and 4 years old, particularly a castrated one)
Some young steers
One bull
16 oxen
8 horses
The Kemps lived in luxury with no less that six feather beds, besides two ordinary ones, and a number of ‘pillowcoats’. There were silver spoons, three silver cups, a silver salver and a silver porringer. Not long before he died, Nathaniel Kemp purchased 55 acres in Portslade, which he left to his wife Anne.

1780 – The death of Charles Bridger was announced – he was a customary tenant of the Manor of Portslade. However, It was not until 1784 that his widow Elizabeth was admitted to his land holdings by the manor court. Perhaps it took time to ascertain exactly the extent of is possessions.; they included the following:

12 acres called Godsmark’s, late Barcroft’s
A tenement and barn, late Barcroft’s, before that Thomas Ampleford’s, formerly Duke’s, in West Aldrington
A parcel of land and one croft in West Aldrington, late Barcroft’s, before Thomas Ampleford’s
4 acres called Wheatley’s in Aldrington.

It is interesting to note the unusual name of Godsmark associated with twelve acres. The Godsmark family must have been resident in the village for a while because Samuel Godsmark was born in 1773 – he later became landlord of the GeorgeInn. His first wife was Mary Gadsby (1776-1803) who died at a young age, and his second wife was Judith Goatcher. From this second marriage was born another Samuel Godsmark (1816-1891) who became an itinerant preacher and wrote a fascinating autobiography. (For full details, please see separate page under The Godsmark Family).

  copyright © D.Sharp
Charles Bridger's gravestone in St Nicolas Church

Bridger’s heirs had to pay death duties, called a heriot, of £15-15s to the manor court. There is a ledger stone let into the floor of the north aisle inside St Nicolas Church and it reads, ‘Underneath lies the Body of Charles Bridger, gentleman, late of this Parish, son of Charles Bridger, gentleman, by Elizabeth his wife. He died January 12 1779 aged 29 years. Also the body of Charles, son of the said Charles Bridger, by Elizabeth his wife, daughter of late Robert H(?) of Southwick. He died January 7 1779 aged 1 year and 10 months and was buried on the same day with his father. Also of Elizabeth his wife who died (?) 18 (?)’ Since the north aisle was not constructed until 1859, it is obvious that the ledger stone was moved from elsewhere in the church.

To complicate matters further, there was another Charles Bridger, and three other Elizabeth Bridgers. He was Revd Charles Bridger, rector of Albourne, and his wife was Elizabeth. Since her maiden name was Bridger, it seems as though she may have married a cousin. Her mother, another Elizabeth Bridger, was a Miss Hayman before marriage. The only child and heir of Revd Charles Bridger and Elizabeth was Elizabeth Bridger, the younger. Her mother had inherited land belonging to Charles Bridger; on 23 March 1798 she transferred this land to Elizabeth Bridger, the younger, then to the use of George Courthope of Whiligh, and Harry Bridger of Buckingham, Old Shoreham. After Harry Bridger died, the land was to revert to Elizabeth’s children. Naturally, this all had to come before the court of Portslade Manor, and the records run to several pages because there was some sort of dispute to sort out. There was a long list of the rightful tenants occupying Bridger land involving a barn, 50 acres of land, 40 acres of meadow, and 40 acres of pasture, all in Portslade.

In December 1832 Elizabeth Bridger, the younger, married Thomas Thompson Cattley. It would be fascinating to know whether or not the Bridger family approved of Elizabeth’s choice of husband. Perhaps they were good judges of character, or perhaps they were being cautious, but they ensured Elizabeth’s inheritance stayed in her hands. For example, her land holdings were put in trust for her and managed by Charles Bridger and Harry Colville Bridger, while two principal sums of money – namely £2,403 and £3,003 – were invested on her behalf. This meant that when Cattley was declared bankrupt in 1847, his wife did not suffer from financial embarrassment.

In the record office there is a fascinating and huge estate map dated 1840 detailing all the land belonging to Mrs Elizabeth Bridger of Portslade. The land stretched from Tenantry Hill in the north to the mud and shingle on the seashore.

A tithe was a tenth part of the annual income of the individual, which was paid towards the maintenance of a vicar or rector of each parish. This system dates back to Saxon times, and astonishingly enough, it was not abolished until 2 October 1936. Indeed, in 1933 Portslade Council was still paying a tithe of £2-6-2d to Magdalen College, Cambridge.

The Portslade Tithe Map of 1841 identified the ownership of Elizabeth Bridger’s land holdings too, and the numbers correspond to the estate map, thus:

Mitchell’s Cowdown, arable (164)
Tophill Cowdown, arable (165)
Robin’s Cowdown, arable (166)
Great Cowdown, arable (167)
Ten Acres, arable (168)
Hangleton Bottom Piece, arable (169)
Lime Kiln Piece, arable (170)
East Hill, arable (171)
Field, arable (172)
Lucern Field, arable (173)
Great Shell Dale, arable (174)
Little Shell Dale, arable (175)
Butcher’s Barn and Gardens (176)
Butcher’s Barn Piece, arable (177)
Station House (178)
Stonery (179)
North Barn and cottage (181)
North Barn Yards (184)

These individual plots of land amounted to 108 acres in total. Thomas Blaker farmed the land, and had to pay the vicar of Portslade £14-15s.

Different people held other parts of the Bridger estate, as follows:

Thomas Goddard farmed the following, and had to pay the vicar £1.
Wheelwright’s Piece, pasture (195)
Wheelwright’s Piece, arable (196)
Garden (197)
Shop and yard (36)
Part of Wheelwright’s Piece, pasture (37 & 38)

John Hall farmed 25 acres and had to pay the vicar £2-15s.
Tithe Barn, arable (61)
New Field, arable (62)
Locksdale, arable (63)
Cowhays, arable (64)
Shaw Field, arable (65)
Shaw in Shaw Field, wood (66) (A shaw was the name for a small wood derived from Old English)
Park Piece, arable (67)
Butcher’s Piece, pasture (68)
Hangleton Bottom, arable (70)
Two acres in Cowdown, arable (71)

William Huggett occupied Sea Side Piece (60)

Charlotte Peters occupied Ten Acres (198) south of the village

Thomas Peters farmed part of Mill Field (59)

Reuben Reed occupied part of Ten Acres (188) and the Long Garden (194) and he had to pay the vicar £1-16s.

The remainder of the land was made up of mud and shingle (73) buildings, gardens and a cottage (183, 185, 186 and 200).

Elizabeth Bridger, the elder, died in 1849, and a few years later parts of the Bridger estate in Portslade began to be sold off. A notable sale took place on 5 July 1869 when Edward Blaker of Easthill purchased over 42 acres of land for £1,500 from Charles Bridger of Woodgarters, near Horsham.

Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Colwill Bridger of the 3rd Royal Sussex died on 5 March 1929 aged 78. His coffin was drawn to the church on a farm wagon drawn by four powerful draught horses attended by four carters dressed in white smocks with black arm bands. He was laid to rest in the family vault at St Nicolas Church, Shoreham.

(For further information about the Peters family, please see separate page under Easthill Windmill).


The death of John Chatfield was announced – he was a customary tenant of the manor. His heir had to pay a heriot (death duty) of £31-10s to the manor court. His land holdings were as follows:

A farthingale (usually a fourth part of a piece of land, not an exact measurement) in Aldrington
Pryor’s in Portslade
A Tenement and 4 acres of Bond land
A Rood in west Portslade called Colliers


The death of Elizabeth Truseler, widow, was announced. She owned a messuage and garden (a messuage usually meant a dwelling with adjoining land), late Thomas Truseler, late Ann Carpenter’s. There is a record of a Mary Owden being apprenticed to Thomas Truseler, bricklayer of Portslade, for a period of nine years, the fee being £16. Thomas and Elizabeth Truseler had a family of six children – Thomas, Dione, Nathaniel, John, David and Elizabeth. Thomas Truseler died on 20 January 1768 leaving his property to his dear wife, and after her death it was to be divided between the six children. At the next court, Thomas, Dione and Nathaniel attended in person, while Nathaniel Blaker was present to represent the interests of John, David and Elizabeth.

In 1789 George Arnold sold a garden and property, late in the occupation of Thomas Truseler, to John Rice of Southwick.

In 1792 Thomas Truseler, a mason, died, and the proclamation was duly made at the court. But nobody came forward to claim the inheritance. This led to a second proclamation to the court, with a third notice following in 1799. Still nobody came forward. Finally in 1807 Charity Truseler was admitted to the property by the court. (for further details of Charity Truseler’s family, please see under the date ‘1830’).

In 1841 Thomas Truseler, aged 51, was landlord of the George Inn, Portslade.

 copyright © D. Sharp
St George, High Street, Portslade Old Village in February 2017.


John Norton, late of Kingston Bowsey, then of Southwick, sold his Portslade land holdings to Elizabeth Barber of Portslade, spinster, and he had to pay £15 to the manor court. The property included the following:

Drovelands near Portslade Street, late Carpenter’s
Two dwellings with garden
Seven parcels of land containing 40 acres, a barn, a rickstack, close, part of two yardlands, late John Lindfield’s called Gaffer’s and Ayres
One field of 6 acres abutting to the highway on the north, and to Southwick Laines on the west

By December 1785 Elizabeth Barber was a spinster no longer, having married James Newnum, the younger of New Shoreham. But marriage could be something of a hazard for a lady with means – not only did she lose her independence, she also lost her property, which was handed to her husband, unless special provisions had been made. It was not until 1882, when the Married Women’s Property Act was passed, that a married woman was permitted to keep hold of her own money and property. Elizabeth Barber would have known about this, but since she was no longer in the first flush of youth, perhaps she relished the status of being a married woman. It seems the court officials were worried about her interests, and before her land holdings passed to her new husband, they wanted to make absolutely sure that she freely consented to the transaction. The rather charming record of the proceedings stated that Elizabeth was ‘secretly examined apart from her husband by William Attree, chief steward of the said manor’.

It seems that the marriage was a happy one because when Elizabeth wrote her will in September 1786 she left everything to ‘her dear and loving husband’. In July 1787 she added a codicil because she wished to leave a legacy to Elizabeth Leggett, daughter of a husbandman. On 16 December 1796 James Newnum took out a mortgage for £700 with Ann Chatfield of Uckfield, spinster, and the debt was not cleared until 1812. In September 1797 Elizabeth Newnum died, and her husband was obliged to attend the manor court to announce her death, and be formally admitted to the Portslade property.

It is fascinating to learn that less than two years after Elizabeth’s death, James Newnum had set his sights on marrying another heiress – Miss Mary Bull of Pangdean. But her father, appropriately named John Bull, insisted on a marriage settlement ‘in consideration of the fortune of the said Mary Bull’ to which James Newnum would be entitled upon marriage. The marriage settlement included an investment of £1,500 plus the property known as The Lodge or Manor Lodge.

Copyright © D.Sharp
Manor Lodge (formerly Portslade Lodge)
It was a wise precaution because on 25 October 1817 James Newnum was declared bankrupt. The Commissioners of Bankruptcy appointed George Clough Marshall, George Mant, and Thomas Attree to dispose of Newnum’s assets, Newnum being described as a common brewer and maltster. A public auction was swiftly held in the same year and the land was put up in two lots. John Bull, now described as a Brighton gentleman, and Newnum’s father-in-law, purchased one lot. The other lot was not sold at this auction but disposed of privately for £180 to John Wallis who also went on to purchase 40 acres from John Bull.


copyright © J.Middleton
The Georgian Portslade House was a beautiful mansion and became part of Windlesham House School.

The Lord and Lady of Portslade Manor agreed to sell to Revd Henry Chatfield ‘all that small piece of waste ground adjacent to the front court of the said Henry Chatfield’s Mansion House situated at the upper end of Portslade Street.’ (The mansion was known as Portslade House, later becoming Windlesham House School, and the site latterly occupied by King’s). The piece of waste ground measured 62-ft north to south at the west end, turning east 30-ft, turning upon an angle north 21-ft, then running east on the north side 160-ft, and from east to west on the south side 215-ft.

copyright © Robert Jeeves of Step Back in Time
Portslade Farmhouse photographed in around 1908, was a part of the Portslade House Estate.


The death of Ann Carpenter was announced. She owned one messuage, and a brewhouse, lately erected in the place where the barn once stood, together with the north part of a garden in Portslade lately occupied by John Truseler, being part of a tenement called Stone’s.

Richard Carpenter was admitted to the property, and he sold it, but the word ‘brewhouse’ was crossed out.


The death of R. Tidy was announced. He had lands in Portslade and Aldrington, late Master’s, before Ampleforth’s. Thomas Scutt of |Brighton laid claim to the property because he was a cousin.


It was recorded that several land transactions had taken place but outside the manor court. For example, in 1786 John Bridger Norton of New Shoreham sold a parcel of land at the bottom of Aldrington Drove (ie Station Road) length 35-ft by 15-ft to Philip Lambe. A warehouse used to stand on this site but it was pulled down.

On 26 January 1787 Thomas Coom, blacksmith, of Portslade, sold a tenement (a tenement usually meant a dwelling occupied by a tenant), smithy, shop and gardens, plus a parcel of land called Dimbleby’s in Portslade Street.

On 27 January1789 George Arnold, wheelwright, sold a messuage and brewhouse lately erected in place of a barn, and garden lately occupied by Thomas Truseler to John Rice of Southwick. By 1795 it was recorded that George Arnold also had a brewhouse. Perhaps he overstretched himself because he later fell on hard times, taking out a mortgage that he was unable to repay. Consequently in 1810 he lost his property consisting of a cottage, wheelwright’s shop, plus another shop, and Nathaniel Blaker took possession of them as a mortgage forfeiture. Arnold’s wife Mary died at the age of 35 on January 19 1813, and was buried in the churchyard of St Nicolas. George Arnold died at the age of 69 on March 12 1850 and joined her there.

It is pleasant to record that in 1830 another member of the family, John Arnold, also a wheelwright, managed to buy back the property, consisting of a cottage, wheelwright’s shop, garden and premises, for £160, sharing them with James Riddle, labourer, of Newtimber. (See also under the date ‘1830’).

Also Henry Chatfield of Balcombe sold to James Murry Grant of Brighton the following:

A messuage called Dumbrell’s
Parcel of land in Aldrington
Pryor’s Croft in Portslade
Small piece of waste land adjoining Henry Chatfield’s Mansion House

The death of Joseph Ellis of Poynings was announced. He owned a tenement and barn, part of Ayers.


A piece of waste land on the west side of the King’s High Road was given to John Peters.


On 30 March that year ‘a piece of timber was found at the back of the Beach near the Bason (sic) in the harbour of New Shoreham’ by Thomas Goodwin. Nathaniel Blaker despatched his team of horses to retrieve the timber but unfortunately he was not quick enough and the timber floated out on the night tide and was never seen again. 

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
An early 1800s painting of the windmills at Copperas Gap, with Shoreham Harbour in the distant background and storm clouds approaching. Painting attributed to Frederick Ford

It was recorded that Richard Summers of Whichelo & Sons, devisors of the will of Richard Tidy have alienated (an old word meaning to transfer) a house, warehouse and windmill at CopperasGap to Ann Clark and others.

copyright © J.Middleton
The house on the left was built in the 1860s on a site once 
part of Ten Acres Field situated on the south side 
of South Street. It was named after a former tenant
 of the land called John Lindfield.

The second proclamation was made in court of the death of Joseph Ellis. This was to enable anyone who had a claim on the property to come forward; it included the following:

Two dwellings in Portslade occupied by James Brown and Edward Martin
Smithy, shop and barn, formerly occupied by Thomas Coom, being part of premises late Norton’s, formerly Lindfield’s
A cottage and garden in Portslade called Ringley Hays

In court a will was produced whereby the property in question was left to Ellis’s daughter Mary, wife of Thomas Stedman. After her death the property was to go to Mary Stedman’s children equally – Sarah Philcox, William Stedman, and Mary Stedman.

They sold some property to George Arnold, who had the brewhouse.

In 1796 John Philcox, carpenter, and his wife Sarah, William Stedman, Brighton wheelwright, and Mary Stedman sold property to John Fuller, the younger, of Sullington.

Thomas Scutt laid claim to land in Aldrington, formerly Price’s, since Carew’s, late Richard Tidy’s, his cousin, together with other land in Aldrington, formerly Edmund’s.

Nathaniel Hall also came before the court. He held freely of the Lord of the Manor, copyhold and heridatements lately alienanted (transferred) by John Wimble and John Hargreaves, who married Ann, and Elizabeth, the two daughters and co-heirs of the late Mr Hammond of Lewes. The Lord of the Manor also granted to Nathaniel Hall a parcel of land now covered by water, being part of a pond commonly called the Road Pond in Portslade, adjoining lands, close and orchards belonging to Nathaniel Hall on the north-west, on the north New Pond Road, on the east in a parallel line from the east end of the hog pound in the close belonging to Mr Hallet.

Nathaniel was a popular name in the Hall family, being given to six generations, and to further confuse matters, three Nathaniels were married to ladies called Elizabeth. ‘Our’ Nathaniel Hall was born in 1755, and there is a mural tablet commemorating his parents in the church of St Michael and All Angels, Southwick. Nathaniel Hall already owned some land in Portslade, as recorded in Tax Assessment of 1785. The following year it was stated that Nathaniel Hall of Southwick held the curious post of Gamekeeper of Atlingworth Manor – the Lord of the Manor being Thomas Phillips Lamb who was also Lord of Portslade Manor.

copyright © D.Sharp
Many generations of the Hall Family are buried inside and outside St Michael & All Angels, Southwick, West Sussex. John Hall (1760-1840) of Portslade House, his wife Sarah and 12 of their children are buried in the family vault on the north side of the Church. The upright marble cross is the grave of Eardley N. Hall (1803-1887), the last surviving child of John and Sarah.

Nathaniel Hall purchased the Portslade House estate in 1795. The mansion stood on an enviable site with views across the valley to Easthill, and south to the sea. On 1 June 1796 Hall’s daughter was married at St Nicolas Church, Portslade, to Revd John Thompson MA, late Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford; he was vicar of Milford in Hampshire. Nathaniel Hall and his wife had six children, and their second son John, continued to live in Portslade House.

On 10 September 1805 articles of partnership were signed by Nathaniel Hall, John Wood of Southover, Samuel Flint of Kingston, and John Godlee of Lewes, to commence business as bankers. The venture was to be known as the Lewes Bank, but was run by the firm of Wood, Hall, Flint and Godlee. Each partner had to provide capital of £400. One of Hall’s customers was Richard Lashmar, a Brighton coal merchant who became bankrupt in 1826. Lashmar had also been something of a land speculator, and Hall took charge of his land in Hove, with other creditors, until the debt was paid off in 1829 – Osborne Villas was later built on this land.

Nathaniel Hall was also involved in another bank too. He became a partner in the Union Bank, Brighton, which opened at 6 North Street in 1805. The other partners were William Golding, James Browne, Richard Lashmar, and Thomas West. By the 1850s the bank was known as Hall, West, Borrer & Hall. In 1896 the business became Barclays Bank.

Another business venture was a wine merchant’s, which Nathaniel Hall ran in conjunction with John Rice.

By 1815 Nathaniel Hall had moved to Henfield.

Nathaniel Hall’s sister Susanna married John Bridger Norton of Shoreham, who was a customs officer, and in 1796 he was robbed and killed.

Nathaniel Hall’s daughter Elizabeth married William Borrer (1781-1863) the noted botanist, while another daughter Ann married John Hanblin Borrer who became a partner in the Union Bank, Brighton. These details show how important Portslade families became linked.


William Cheesman, the elder, of Portslade, miller, authorised the steward to discharge a certain sum made by Thomas Truseler for £60. (Please see under Easthill Windmill for further details about the Peters and Cheesman families).

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Frederick Nash painted this view of East Hill windmill in 1841.

The Cheesmans and the Peters were related by marriage. There is a large altar-type tomb in the churchyard of St Nicolas where the following details are recorded:

William Cheesman died May 31 1811 aged 90 years
His wife Susanna died August 22 1786 aged 69 years
William Cheesman died January 3 1816 aged 66 years
His wife Susannah died October 20 1820 aged 68 years
Cheesman Peters, son of Thomas and Susannah Peters died March 1820 aged 11 weeks

There is another tomb in the churchyard, but the dates cannot be deciphered – it commemorates
Maria and David, daughter and son of David and Sarah Cheesman

Henry Ayres, yeoman, of the brewhouse, took out a mortgage of £100 with Joseph Loraine of the Island of Alderney, Channel Islands.


John Peters, butcher, sold his land to Revd Charles Bridger.


The court heard the third proclamation of the death of Thomas Scutt. At the court Henry Brooker, gentleman, came forward to make a claim on behalf of Mary Caroline Caldwell, only child and heir-at-law of Mary Caldwell (nee Scutt), wife of Ralph Caldwell. Mr Brooker produced probate of the will of Thomas Scutt dated 24 October 1794 in which he left Mary Scutt, his daughter, all farms, lands, and buildings in Portslade and Southwick, in the occupation of John Rice, and Nathaniel Hall. But Mary died without being admitted to her inheritance, and therefore Mary Caroline Caldwell was admitted instead. But she died in 1807. The land in question was 21 acres, late Tidy’s, before that Master’s, formerly Ampleforth’s.

William Scutt, Mary Caroline Caldwell’s brother, thought he had a claim to the land, and appointed Nathaniel Hall with power of attorney to look after his affairs in Portslade. In a letter dated 21 October 1806 William Scutt explained that he was unable to attend the court himself because he was a lieutenant in the Sussex Militia, and was currently stationed at Carlisle.

On 27 June 1807 Scutt wrote to a Mr Langridge of Lewes, ‘I beg leave to state it is my wish to do any thing you may think proper with regard to compromise as I cannot afford to run any risk in trying the establishment of what I conceive I have no doubt to be my right.’

The matter was finally sorted out and in 1808 Ralph Caldwell of Oxford University, and William Scutt agreed to sell the property to John Rice of Southwick.

  copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
This faded watercolour is entitled  'Portslade Farm, English School, 1848' 
 (at the junction of the High Street and Drove Road)


James Murry Grant sold his land to Arthur Warsop of Magdalene who immediately sold it to William Borrer of Hurstpierpoint.


The deaths were announced of George Arnold and John Peters.

A licence to cut timber was granted to James Newnum.


Francis Peters, youngest son and heir of John Peters, butcher, was admitted to some land situated on the west side of the King’s High Road leading from Portslade Street to Southwick Tenantry Lane; it measured from north to south on the west side 89-ft, on the south side it was 34-ft, at the south-east side 92-ft, and on the north side 91-ft.


Nathaniel Hall, late of Southwick, now of Henfield, sold property to William Borrer involving Dumbrell’s, one and a half farthingale in Aldrington, a tenement called Priors plus four acres.


William Borrer of Hurstpierpoint enfranchised John Wallis.


On 9 March before William Borrer, Lord of the Manor, the presentment of surrender out of court on 20 December 1817 by Nathaniel Blaker of Selmeston, gentleman, and George Blaker, gentleman, of Ovingdean, to the use of Harry Blaker, Brighton surgeon, for the sum of £450 five acres of customary land in Portslade, rent four shillings, formerly John Wyn’s, since Nathaniel Kemp’s, late Nathaniel Blaker, deceased. Harry Blaker was also admitted to one and half acres of customary land, rent two pennies.

 copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Henry Earp, senior, painted this delightful picture of Portslade in 1840. Note St Nicolas Church to the right and the impressive mansion called Portslade House on the left, on the site occupied by King’s School today.

According to the 1841 Portslade Tithe Map, Harry Blaker owned the following:

Home Barn and yards
Four Acres, arable
North Field, arable
Robbins Cowdown, arable
Mile Oak, arable
Dimbledee, arable
Southern Piece, arable
West Hill Field, arable
Shaw by West Field, woodland
Church Piece, house and pasture
The Clouts, arable
Shell Dale, arable
The Worth, arable (The Worth measured 5 acres, 3 roods, and 38 poles, and in 1933 the houses on the north side of Mile Oak Gardens were built on the south side of The Worth)

copyright © J.Middleton
Easthill House was photographed on 24 February 2014

The total of these various pieces of property came to 59 acres, and Harry had to pay the vicar £8-1s a year. He later sold the farmland at Easthill to his nephew Edward Blaker.
Harry Blaker (1794-1846) was one of twelve children born to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Blaker of Portslade. He followed the medical profession, and held the post of surgeon and apothecary to the Royal Household when they were in residence at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, for which he received a salary of £300 a year. He had the distinction of vaccinating the Princess Royal (later Empress of Germany) and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) against smallpox. He brought some of the vaccine home with him, and vaccinated two of his grandchildren, telling their mother (his daughter) they should have royal blood in their veins. Blaker received Christmas presents sent to him from the Royal Pavilion, including mince pies as large as plates decorated with the Royal coat-of-arms. He also attended Mrs Fitzherbert, and was one of the witnesses to the codicil to her will.

A contemporary of Harry Blaker had this to say, ‘Being able to use his left hand equally as well as his right, he performed an operation more speedily which was a decided advantage at the time chloroform was unknown.’

On 10 January 1816 Harry married Arabella (1790-1864) daughter of John Mills of Brighton. There were eight children of the marriage.

One of them, Richard Nathaniel Blaker (181821-1894) was a keen cricketer – he played for the Cambridge XI 1843-1843, and in the varsity match of 1843 took ten Oxford wickets. He was one of the cricketers featured in the famous painting of a cricket match at The Level. Apparently, the Blakers had cricket in their genes, and they could put a cricket team in the field composed entirely of family members. There were hopes that Richard Blaker might become a great Sussex cricketer. Instead, he went to St John’s College, Cambridge and afterwards entered the church – he was rector of Ifield for 37 years.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Cricket Match at Brighton between the Counties of Sussex & Kent 1849
Large colour print showing cricket match played on the Royal Cricket Ground, (where Park Crescent is now). The tent bearing the name of Sussex Cricket Club is to the right.  Views of Brighton are shown in some detail. with Hudson's mill on right, in the centre distance is St Peter's Church and the houses of Pavilion Parade and Lewes Road.

On 23 September 1800 Harry Blaker’s sister Barbara, married Revd Samuel Clarke of Exeter College at St Nicolas Church, Portslade. Their son Somers Clarke was born two years later. Somers Clarke knew Harry’s eldest daughter Sarah from her childhood, and she called him cousin Somers. Later on they became romantically involved. Harry was none too pleased, both because they were cousins and the fact that Somers Clarke was born in 1802 and Sarah was born in 1819. At length Harry relented and the couple were able to marry. Somers Clarke was a very well know solicitor, and the senior partner in the firm of Howlett, Clarke and Cushman, which survived until recent times. The couple’s son, also called Somers Clarke became an architect.

There is a memorial tablet to Harry Blaker above the St Francis window in St Nicolas Church, Portslade. It reads Sacred to the memory of Harry Blaker of Brighton, surgeon, who died 23 April 1846 aged 61 years.


A special court baron was held before William Borrer, Lord of the Manor. The court heard about Thomas Truseler’s will, dated 18 April 1792 with probate granted the following year, whose executrix was ‘his dearly beloved wife Charity’. After Charity Truseler died, her right to be tenant of certain lands was claimed by her youngest daughter Susanna after the custom of the manor (Borough English). Susanna was married to Thomas Stanford, cordwainer of Southwick. The property consisted of a messuage, tenement and garden with the rent being ten pennies a year. Having established the right to her inheritance, Susanna then sold it for £5-16-8d to Esther Truseler, spinster.

Esther Truseler died on 10 March 1830, leaving her property to her niece Esther Stanford. On 21 May 1866 Esther Stanford took out a mortgage for £20 with John Blaker, brick-maker. She must have defaulted on the loan because on 26 March 1888 John Blaker sold the property for £250 To Walter Mews. It was good news for Walter Mews, because the property was next door to his brewery and no doubt he wished to expand the business.


A special court baron was held on the 1 May before Frederick Cooper, steward, and Nathaniel Blaker, now of Pyecombe, and George Blaker, now of Patcham, two of the customary tenants of Portslade Manor. They sold land to John Arnold, wheelwright, and James Riddles, labourer, of Newtimber, for £160. The property consisted of a copyhold cottage, wheelwright’s shop, garden and premises, formerly occupied by George Arnold, deceased, and before that Mary Stedman, deceased. Strangely enough, the tombstones of John Arnold and Mary Stedman are situated next to each other in the churchyard of St Nicolas – he died on 12 March 1850, while she died on 9 April 1788. George Arnold had lost the property in 1810 to Nathaniel Hall as a result of a mortgage forfeiture.

In 1839 E. N. Hall sold some land to George Arnold for £50.

In March 1865 Edwin Arnold was recognised as heir to the late George Arnold.

On 19 February 1876 Edwin Arnold sold copyhold land and freehold land to John Dudney for £550.


The court heard that John Wallis died on 21 June 1837, and his will was dated 16 May 1837. He left his land to Richard Fuller of Cornhill, London, and John Hamlin Borrer. They had to pay the rents and profits to his grand-daughter Catherine Cordy. At that time Catherine was still under the age of twenty-one, and it was the intention that the land should be hers for life ‘free from the control or debts of any husband’. In the same year the land was leased to James Cordy. In 1841, when she was old enough to make her own decisions, Catherine Cordy felt she would rather be free of land ownership, and thus Richard Fuller and John Hamlin Borrer were instructed to sell it all for £740 to John Borrer (1785-1866) who lived at Portslade Manor.

John Hamlin Borrer was the son of John Borrer, a Henfield gentleman, and Ann Hamlin of Lewes who were married on 25 June 1785. In 1822 a Turnpike Trust was set up to provide a new road from Brighton to Shoreham, which also included a bridge over the River Adur. John Hamlin Borrer was one of the trustees, and his fellow Portslade and Aldrington trustees were John Hall and Edward Hill Creasy. The bill for the Portslade part of the road came to an astonishing £18,250, which must have included Aldrington, and by 1851 a debt of £11,341 still remained.


Sarah Sharman, widow of Samuel Sharman, wheelwright, and Leah Arnold, spinster, paid Catherine Barber, Lady of the Manor, £13 to be recognised as beneficial owners, and enfranchised – they had been customary tenants of the manor.

Chief Stewards of the Manor Court of Portslade

1699 – William Westbrook
1700 – John Foreman
1704 – John Westbrook
1705 – John Taylor
1706 – John Wakeford, junior, gentleman, still there in 1723
1725 – John Halsey, previously acted as a deputy
1729 – Joseph Richardson
1780 – William Attree, still there in 1810, Thomas Attree, deputy steward in 1808
1830 – Frederick Cooper, still there in 1839
1865 – William John Williams, still there 1876
1881 – Evelyn Borrer Blaker
1888 – John Henry Sussex Hall


Middleton J, Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Lowerson, J, editor Cliftonville, Hove, A Victorian Suburb (1977)
Memorial Inscriptions inside St Nicholas Church, Portslade booklet transcribed by Revd Richard Rushforth and Judy Middleton (1983)
Monumental Inscriptions in the churchyard of St Nicolas, Portslade transcribed by Revd Richard Rushforth and Judy Middleton (1983)

The Keep

ACC 2499/18 – relating to the Bridger and Cattley families
ACC 6779/2 – Portslade Manor Court Book 1618-1638 (in Latin)
ACC 6779/3 – Portslade Manor Court Book, translation, 1679-1731
ACC 6779/7 – Portslade Manor Court Book 1780-1815
ACC 6779/9 – Extract from Portslade Manor Court Book 1719
AMS 5600 – Portslade Manor Court Book 1622-1777
AMS 653 – Portslade Manor Court Book 1600-1622
HOW 10/9 – Portslade Lodge, deeds and bills
HOW 11/11 – Portslade Lodge, conveyance of 1-9 South Street
HOW 24/11 – Cattley family property in Portslade 1849-1865
HOW 86/4 – John Borrer, Ditchling gentleman, probate 1795/1816
SAS ACC 1058 – Elizabeth Bridger’s Estate 1840
TAM 7/2 – Extract from Court Book regarding land adjacent to the Brewery

Copyright © J. Middleton
Page layout by D. Sharp