Alfrey families of Sussex

Alfrey families of Sussex

The following information resulted from trying to piece together the history of the property in the Felbridge/East Grinstead area known as ‘Gullege’, once held by a branch of the Alfrey family. As very little has been documented about the property it was felt the best way to do this was to trace the Alfrey family from its earliest mention in the area, with the hope that through the legal records they left behind we could at least ascertain how long they were associated with the property. The result of this was a large collection of fascinating facts about many branches of the Alfreys in Sussex, which could provide a springboard for future research for anyone who wanted to delve further into the family’s history. Gruffydd Morgan-Jones, a direct descendant of the Friston line of the family, has all ready carried out much work, and we are much indebted to him for the information he has provided. We would also like to mention the help of Prue Turnbull in New Zealand, and Bessie Seigel of Hornchurch, Essex, for their contributions to the Worth branch of the Alfrey family, from which they are descended. It should be remembered that early documentation is scarce, and some of the relationships we have proposed in the Alfrey family, especially pre 1550’s, are based on the rule of probability, using land holdings and dates as the key factors in determining the line of descent. Wherever possible documents have been consulted to confirm accuracy, unfortunately the further back in history you trace the fewer documents survive resulting in holes in the overall view of the family. It should also be remembered that this is not an attempt to paint the complete picture of the Alfrey of Sussex, just a window into the lives of a small section of the Alfrey family, concentrating on the ‘Gullege’ line of descent and how that branch interacted with the other branches of Alfrey’s in Sussex, with the motivation behind the research aimed at understanding the history of ‘Gullege’. There are many avenues of research left to explore and many branches still to connect before the complete picture can be painted of the Alfrey of Sussex.

The name of Alfrey has had many different spellings over the years, Alfray, Alfry, Alfrye, Allfray, Allfree, Alferay, Affery, Alphrey, Alfrai, Alfrais, Alfraies and Elvery, to name but a few, with the current and widely accepted spellings being Alfrey and Allfrey. The name suggests that it may be connected with Alfred, the -frey being due to the analogical influence from compounds in Old English –friõ as in Æõelfriõ. The first documented version of the name appears with Ricardus filius Aufridis who is recorded in the Fees for Lincolnshire in 1212; Ricardus Aufrey in Worcestershire follows this in 1275, again in Northamptonshire in 1277, and Johannis Aufred follows him in Huntingdonshire in 1279. The first appearance in Sussex is with Robro Alfray in the Sussex Subsidy Roll for 1296, who is listed of Ristondenn, the hundred that fell outside hundred of East Grinstead, being part of the manor of Broadhurst, held by the de Cahaignes (Keynes) family.

From the minimal evidence available it would suggest that all branches of the Alfrey/Allfrey families in Sussex could originate from the Robro Alfrey in 1296. Originally centred in the hundred of Ristondenn, on the Northwest outskirts of East Grinstead, Sussex, in the area of Warlege (Warley), later known as the borough of Wardleigh (Wardley). The family acquired some wealth and by the early 1650’s had bought much land and properties in the East Grinstead area, some lands have not yet been identified but those that have include ‘Blackwell Farm’, land between ‘Blackwell’ and ‘Hackenden’, known as ‘Alfreys’, and ‘Gullege’. The source of their wealth is also not known and as there is no evidence to suggest that they descend from nobility it would imply that they earned their wealth, probably as merchants dealing in wool, agriculture or through property and land transactions. The Alfrey’s must have held a high standing in the local community as by 1327, Willmo Alfrai appears in the Sussex Subsidy Roll as a burgess, (a citizen or freeman of the borough, especially a member of the governing body of the town), for Est Grenstede (East Grinstead). Later in the Feet of Fines for 1348, there is reference to Johannes Alfray of Est Grenstede and his wife Agnes dealing in lands in Wolknestede, now Godstone. Having established themselves in the East Grinstead area the Alfrey’s return an MP for East Grinstead for most years between 1360, with Johannes Alfray ‘of Gullege’, and 1478, with Ricardus Alfrey, great grandson of Johannes Alfray.

In 1401, the East Grinstead Alfrey’s began to expand into East Sussex, with John Alfrey the elder, son of Johannes Alfrey, the first listed Alfrey MP for East Grinstead, renting twelve messuage, (term used to signify a dwelling-house and surrounding property and out-buildings), 500 acres of land, 65 acres of meadow, 80 acres of pasture, 80 acres of wood and pasture for 1400 sheep in Ouyngdon (Ovingdean), Bercompe (Barcombe), and Kyngeston (Kingston) by Lewes, Rademelde (Rodmell), Hammes (Hamsey), and Rottynden (Rottingdean), all in the county of Sussex, along with the Advowson of the church at Ouyngdon. The rental of this land implies that the Alfrey’s were possibly trading in wool, as well as agriculture. Whilst expanding into the county of Sussex, John Alfrey the elder and his son John, were still adding to their East Grinstead lands by renting, in 1418, a toft, 24 acres of land, 8 acres of wood and 1½ acres of pasture in Worth. ‘Toft’ has several different meanings, but in this case may mean ‘a plot of land to the rear of a building, often bounded at the rear by a back lane’, and may refer to lands in the ‘Hophurst’ area of Crawley Down, Sussex, bounded by the East/West Ridgeway that runs to the North of the current property, and a property later in their ownership. Then in 1439, John Alfray expanded towards Kent by renting a messuage, 100 acres of land and 40 acres of wood in Hertfeld (Hartfield), Sussex, area not yet identified.

In 1459, the Alfrey’s ‘of Gullege’, who generally spelt their name with one ‘l’, were granted a coat of arms and crest. The arms blazoned (described): argent, on a chevron sable with a fleur-de-lis of the field, (in heraldic terms, the background is silver, represented by the colour white with a white fleur-de-lis on a black inverted V). The crest is in the form of an ostrich head ducally gorged, which means that the neck is encircled with what is known as a crest coronet. A point to note is that the ducal or crest coronet of heraldry does not indicate the rank of duke. An example of the shield can be found on the end of a pew in the North aisle of St Swithun’s Church, East Grinstead that was allotted to the Alfrey ‘of Gulledge’ family in the early 1500’s.

The mid 1400’s saw a great expansion of Alfrey lands in Sussex and the diversification of the Alfrey lines of family, all due to the four sons of John Alfrey the younger, Richard1* born around 1439, Thomas2* born around 1442, Peter3* born around 1445 and John4*, year of birth not known. Thomas acquired further lands in the Hartfield area in 1463, with the conveyance of freehold lands and tenements once owned by Peter Scarletts in Withyham, unfortunately the exact size and location have not yet been determined. Two years later in 1465, Thomas and Richard, were granted the manor of ‘Benfield’, Twineham, in Sussex, along with the Advowson of Twineham Church. In 1466, Peter acquired a messuage, 50 acres of land, 8 acres of meadow, 60 acres of pasture, 80 acres of wood and 4 acres of moors in East Grinstead, again location not known.

We know a little bit about the brothers from a court case held at Lewes Court in 1466. One Thomas Brampton was murdered by John Averey and Richard Lutterford, aided and abetted by John Chircheman. John Averey and Richard Lutterford fled the scene of the crime. The court case found that none had any ‘goods or chatells’ and all three were ‘outlawed’ in the county court. Outlawed meant that they had failed to appear in court after being summonsed four times. Normally their ‘goods and chatells’ would have been confiscated but the court had already determined that they did not own any. It also meant that they were now beyond the protection of the law; therefore as outlaws they could be legally killed by anyone who met them. A second case was heard in 1467 relating to the incident, as all three ‘outlawed’ men were servants of John Alfrey, ‘gentilman’, late of East Grinstead. It was said that Richard Alfrey, ‘gentilman’, late of East Grinstead was present aiding and abetting with John Chircheman, and that John Alfrey and John Marchall, tanner, late of East Grinstead, and Peter Alfrey, draper, late of London ‘received, harboured and consorted with the three principles at East Grinstead on 17th December [1466] knowing that they had committed felony’. Unfortunately, the result of this case is not known. However, from this case we know that John and Richard Alfrey were ‘gentilmen’, which originally meant a noble but by the 15th century had come to mean some one who was superior to a yeoman (prosperous working farmer) but inferior in status to a baron (the lowest rank of the peerage). Peter was a draper, a term referring to someone who sold in quantity, particularly wool, adding weight to the theory that some of the family wealth came from the wool or cloth industry. Presumably the outcome of the case was not too harsh on the three brothers as Richard Alfrey returned as MP for East Grinstead in the same year and again in 1477 and 1478. The term ‘late of’ would also imply that John Alfrey had moved to the Hartfield/ Withyham area where he had bought lands and that Peter Alfrey had moved from London, to the East Grinstead area where he had recently bought lands. As for Richard Alfrey, who had bought the manor of ‘Benfield’, Twineham, he may have returned to Benfield, which may account for his break in returning as MP for East Grinstead between 1467 and 1477, or he may have received a sentence for aiding and abetting with John Chircheman.

In 1472, John Alfrey purchased part of a tenement called ‘The Hale’ in Withyham and in 1474, Richard Alfrey acquired lands in Worth, not yet identified. Later in 1479, Richard confirmed (made valid or binding by a formal or legal act) ‘certain land in Worth’ to Thomas Alfrey, who later in 1480, was confirmed other lands by Thomas Mall and Richard Cook, next to the land of Richard Alfrey, in Worth and East Grinstead. The location of this land is not verified but it may be in the vicinity of ‘Hophurst’/‘Gullege’, in particular ‘Crabgrove’, which is referred to later as part of the Alfrey lands. Thomas Alfrey was listed as ‘esquire’ in the land transaction of 1480, implying that he held the coat of arms and was superior in status to that of ‘gentliman’, also implying that he had inherited his father’s estates, as heir. In 1484, Thomas Alfrey appears to confirm his lands in Worth to his son Richard. Little else is known about the descent of this line of the Alfrey family, except that in 1496, 80 acres of land and 22 acres of wood in Wolkenstede (Godstone) were acquired by William Harcourt, son of Sir Richard Harcourt of ‘Lagham’, from Robert Brampton and Richard Humfreston who had jointly held it, along with Richard Worde, deceased, as a gift from Thomas Alfrey esq. and Peter Alfrey. The last documented details that have surfaced regarding Thomas Alfrey esq. and his son Richard are that they were listed in the hundred of Eastbourne in the Subsidy Roll of 1524, and for Peter Alfrey, that he was listed in the hundred of Danehill Horsted in the same set of Subsidy Rolls. The remaining two brothers, John and Richard Alfrey appear to be the heads of the two main branches of Alfrey that spread out into Sussex. John headed the Hartfield/Withyham line that descended to the Battle/Catsfield area, and Richard headed the ‘Gullege’ line that divided around the 1550’s, with one branch, headed by Richard, descending to Worth/Ardingly, and the other branch, headed by Henry retaining ‘Gullege’ and then descending to Shoreham. Added to these descents is the fact that to retain the wealth of the Alfrey family as a whole, there was some interaction between the different branches of the family through beneficiaries at the time of death with cousins being listed where there were no heirs apparent, and marriages between brothers and widowed sister-in-laws to retain the wealth of the Alfrey family.

Gullege/Tilkhurst/Hophurst/Ardingly/ West Hoathly Alfreys

The first connection made between ‘Gullege’ and the Alfrey family is reputedly in 1361, when Johannes Alfrey ‘of Gullege’ returns as MP for East Grinstead. It is not known if ‘Gullege’ referred to lands or whether there was a dwelling house, if there was a dwelling house it was not the current property known as ‘Gullege’ as that was not built until after 1550. It would appear that ‘Gullege’ passed from Johannes Alfrey, through three generations to reach Richard1* his great grandson. Richard had three documented sons, John, Richard and Edmund also known as Edward. John Alfrey held several pieces of land including ‘Chartham’ in Lingfield, Surrey, the latter being left to his son and heir John, but little else is known about him, and Richard died at an early age, leaving Edmund heir to the lands of his father Richard Alfrey, which by then included, ‘Gullege’ and ‘Tilkhurst’ in East Grinstead, ‘Hophurst’ in Worth and ‘Crabgrove’ in East Grinstead and Worth, and others not yet identified.

Edmund, listed as a gentleman, had four documented sons, James, Henry, Richard and John. James was born around 1522, but there is little documentation about his life, apart from an Inquisition held in Horsham in 1557. This was held to determine whether he was a ‘lunatic and idiot’ and in his case, the jurors determined that he was not. Henry was born about 1523, and unlike John his brother, there is much documentation about his life. He too had an Inquisition held, in 1557, to determine whether he was ‘a lunatic and idiot’, but unlike John the jurors determined that he was ‘an idiot and weak of mind and has been since birth’. The result of this decision was that all his tenements and lands were seized and held in trust for his son and heir. Richard was born around 1524, and was ultimately the head of the branch of Alfreys that settled in Worth. John, the youngest son, was born around 1525, and was heir to Edmund implying that at least this generation of the Alfrey family was practising Borough English, the inheritance custom, particularly in the South of England, whereby the youngest and not the eldest son was heir to his father’s lands and tenements.

In 1540, Edmund Alfrey deeded (legally transferred his property and rights) ‘Tilkhurst’ in East Grinstead to his sons. Evidence suggests that Richard tenanted this property for a term of twenty-one years. The name ‘Tilkhurst’ evolved from ‘Telgahurst’, with telga meaning branch or bough and in Sussex dialect, telga is pronounced tallow and used for a young oak tree. Hurst means wood, so perhaps ‘Telgahurst’ meant ‘young oak wood’. The dwelling house of ‘Tilkhurst’ was a heavy timber framed hall house of considerable age, and there is mention of ‘Tilkhurst’ as early as 1296, with Geoffrey and William de Telgherst who both appear in the Subsidy Roll for the area. Unfortunately, the true age of the building was not ascertained before its demolition in 1960, after having spent many years as a hen house. A brief description of the house states that the kingpost had been removed to take an inserted chimneystack, with a cruciform arrangement of flues during the Tudor period, contemporary with the ownership of the Alfrey family. The ground floor was made of compacted earth with a well in the kitchen. The first floor, also inserted during the Tudor period, had wide oak boards. At a slightly later date a large baking oven had been installed adjacent to the chimney and its flue joined a large inglenook in the hall side of the building. A blocked in window near the oven suggested that the original windows were simple ventilators, with bar mullions, dating the building to well before the Tudor period.

In 1551, John sold the annuity on ‘Alfreys’ in East Grinstead to William Alfrey of Hartfield. This implies that Edmund may have died by that date and that both the ‘Gullege’ and Hartfield branches of the Alfrey family were still in close contact. In 1566, John, listed as a gentleman, released to his brothers Henry and Richard1, his rights and Title to ‘Gullege’, ‘Crabb Meades’ (formerly Crabgrove), ‘Hopper Landes’ (Hophurst) and ‘Home Lands’ in East Grinstead, not yet identified. One of the implications of this act is that by 1566, James the eldest brother must have died, as he is not mentioned in the release. Evidence suggests that it is around this date that the ‘Gullege’ line divided; with Richard1 heading the Worth branch with his acquisition of ‘Crabb Meades’ and ‘Hoppers Landes’, while Henry’s line retained ‘Gullege’.

Richard and the Alfreys of Hophurst, Ardingly and West Hoathly
Richard1* was listed as a yeoman, defined as a prosperous working farmer, and when he died in 1590, his eldest son John inherited his tenement and land known as ‘Hoppers’ (Hophurst), which was described as ‘a tenement (rented property), and freehold lands containing about 70 acres’. The name ‘Hoppers’ may derive from a possible previous tenant, Alice Hoppere, whose family were listed in the Subsidy Rolls of 1296, as paying rent to the owner of the area, Hagh Bardolf. There is evidence of settlement in the ‘Hophurst’ area dating from the late 13th century, but the current house dates to the early 16th century, with the earliest part to the South of the chimney stack. The chimney was built between 1550 and 1600 and replaced the smoke bay of the original house. Richard1* may well have installed the chimney during his ownership of the property, which provided a flue for back-to-back inglenooks in the ground floor rooms. At the same time as the chimney was added, the first floor was put in and a crosswing was added to the North end of the house. The original house was timber framed, built on stone and infilled with wattle and daub, and the crosswing remains as such today. At a later date, the walls on the West and South were covered with brick and hung with tiles, probably as a form of weatherproofing. There is also evidence to show that the original windows were unglazed with diamond-shaped mullion bars.

On the death of John in 1635, the property passed to his eldest son and heir, John. Unfortunately, he died within two years and the property passed to his brother and heir, Richard2 of ‘Liwood’ (Lywood House), Ardingly, in 1637. Richard2 was listed as a gentlemen and ‘Lywood House’ would have been a fitting property. It is two and half storeys, and has stonewalls to the first floor and tile hanging above, with dormer windows in the roof. The current house suggests that it was built in three stages, with the Southwest end being of medieval origin, the wing to the Northeast, with its large external chimney and moulded ceiling beams, being added in the mid 1600’s, contemporary to the ownership of Richard2 Alfrey, and the final stage being executed in the mid 1700’s, giving the current external appearance of a Georgian property. It is probable that Richard2 and his family remained at ‘Liwood’ as there is evidence to suggest that ‘Hophurst’ was tenanted out during his ownership. Richard2 also added to his estate by investing in property, including ‘Westup’, Balcombe in 1642, and ‘Banks Farm also Little Westup of 40 acres’, in Balcombe in 1650. ‘Westup’ is a 17th century timber framed house with a large extension circa 1900, and as the name suggests is located to the West of Balcombe village. The location of ‘Banks Farm also Little Westup’ has not yet been located but may have lain slightly further West of ‘Westup’ near ‘Banks Wood’ where a track runs down to the wood and then stops. When Richard2 died in 1660, ‘Hophurst’ passed to his eldest son and heir Richard3, but more research needs to be conducted to determine the descent of the other properties.

In 1661, a Settlement (a legal act of passing on property) was made on the marriage of Susan Alfrey, daughter of the late Richard2 Alfrey, to George Pilbeam. The properties concerned were a messuage called ‘Holgroves’ along with 50 acres of land and a messuage called ‘Townhouse’ along with 80 acres of land, both in Ardingly. ‘Townhouse’ was described as ‘an Iron Forge and works’. The house, located to the Southwest of Ardingly Church, was originally a three bay timber framed hall house, dating to about 1475. There is evidence to suggest that the windows were originally unglazed and had shutters. A chimney, serving the hall, was inserted against the inner truss of the end bay and a wing was built on to replace the bay on the other end in the early 1600’s. It is also possible that the stone cladding was added at the same time. The hammer forge was in use until the late 1600’s when it ceased operating and may have been converted to a corn mill. Later, from 1739, the site was used as a fulling mill. Unfortunately there is no sign of the forge, mill or hammer pond as they are now submerged under Ardingly Reservoir, fortunately the site was excavated before flooding and full details can be found in ‘The Iron Industry of the Weald’ by Cleere and Crossley. It is unclear whether the Alfrey or Pilbeam family owned the forge or whether it was still held by the Chalenor family, who were responsible for both the furnace at ‘Saucelands’, Ardingly and ‘Ardingly forge’ in the late 1500’s. If the late Richard2 Alfrey had an interest in the forge it would account for some of the wealth that enabled him to speculate in property and to maintain his status of gentleman. ‘Holgroves’, on the other hand, was a smaller two bay house with square framing, typical for Wealden houses. It had a brick chimney on one end and dated to about 1650. It was located near to ‘Townhouse’ and was later known as ‘Holly Grove Cottage’, being demolished in the 1960’s.

In 1685, Richard3, brother of Susan, made a Deed of Covenant to John Newnham for properties called ‘Hoppers’, Horneland’, ‘Butlers’ and ‘Tilts’ amounting to some 90 acres, and by 1688, John Newnham had acquired ‘Crabgrove’ and ‘Crabgrove Meade’, a further 20 acres. ‘Horneland’ may be the same as previously mentioned ‘Homeland’, but like ‘Butlers’ the exact location is unknown. ‘Tilts’ refers to the land that is now occupied by ‘Tiltwood’, Crawley Down, and being next to ‘Hophurst’, one can speculate that perhaps ‘Horneland’ and ‘Butlers’ are also in that vicinity, especially as ‘Crabgrove’ and ‘Crabgrove Meade’ refer to two fields that straddle the East Grinstead/Worth boundary between ‘Hophurst’ and ‘Gullege’. In 1696, Richard3 died and by that time he was listed of Horsted Keynes, and as none of his children had reached full age, his estates passed to his widow, Martha. In 1697, Martha, recited that she had refused to join her husband in the Fine of 1685, to bar her from her ‘thirds’ of lands in East Grinstead and Worth, in other words, she had not agreed with the sale of the lands and felt she was entitled to her share of the value of these lands after the death of her husband, Richard3. Martha won the case and was granted compensation from the Newnham family, a strong and determined woman to take on a man and the legal system! In 1700, Martha remarried John Wood of Worth, in Hartfield, and the Alfrey estates went with her. Of the children of Richard3 and Martha Alfrey, at least three of them died before reaching the age of twenty-one, leaving one possible son, Richard4, who married in 1695, and began the West Hoathly branch of the Alfrey family. However, by the 1700’s much of the wealth of this branch of the family had been diluted, possibly through the marriage of Martha to John Wood. No longer were the Alfreys listed as ‘gentlemen’ or even ‘yeoman’, but the more humble occupation of carpenters, with no indication of property.

Henry and the Alfreys of Gullege, Tilkhurst and Shoreham
Henry, at the Inquisition of 1557 that found him ‘an idiot and weak of mind since birth’, was listed as owning ‘Le Gullege’, ‘Cortesfields’, ‘Heythland’ and other tenements and lands in East Grinstead, unfortunately the only identified property is that of ‘Gullege’. All these properties were taken into trust for his son and heir Edward. In 1566, Henry’s brother John released his interest in ‘Gullege’, ‘Crabb Meades’, ‘Hopper Lands’ and ‘Home Lands’ and as previously stated it would appear that Henry acquired ‘Gullege’ whilst his brother Richard took on the remaining lands. On his death in 1574, Henry’s estate included, a tenement called ‘Gullege’, lands called ‘Courtfield’, ‘Wardleigh’, ‘Frenchelond’, lands and a tenement called ‘Heathlonde’ and a tenement called ‘Tilkhurst’, in East Grinstead. The location of ‘Gullege’ is well known. ‘Courtfield’ may refer to the 11 acre field later known as ‘Common Field’ situated to the North of the River Fel being part of ‘HedgeCOURT Common’, bounded by the track to ‘Gullege’ and the Western boundary of ‘Acacia Cottage’, Crawley Down Road, and running behind all the current properties between the two points. ‘Wardleigh’ probably refers to the site of ‘Warlege’ as mentioned in the Doomsday Book, and associated land to the South of the River Fel. ‘Frenchelonds’ refers to lands between ‘Gullege’ and ‘Tilkhurst’, now called ‘French Wood’, and the location of ‘Tilkhurst’ refers to the site of the original ‘Tilkhurst Farm’, demolished in 1960, but encompasses the lands associated with the current property of ‘Tilkhurst’. Unfortunately, the location of ‘Heathlonde’ has yet to be identified, but was probably in the vicinity of the afore mentioned tenements and lands. It is unclear how Henry ended up with ‘Tilkhurst’ as in 1566, this property and rights were retained by his brother John, who was still alive in 1574.

On the death of Henry, his property was returned to the family and was inherited by his son Edward1. The current property of ‘Gullege’ probably dates to this time and was built by Edward1 around 1574, although it is likely that it was built close to or attached to an earlier property of the same name. The current property is a timber framed three bay house of two floors, with slightly later extensions to the North. The impressive chimneys are contemporary to the building of the property but the stone facia was added around 1610, probably by the same Edward1, to keep up with changing fashion. Evidence suggests that it was built with glazed windows of leaded lights, held in ovolo mouldings. The property, although fairly plain inside, is a property of high status implying that the ‘Gullege’ branch of the Alfrey family also had some considerable wealth.

Edward1 was listed as a gentleman, although it is unclear as to the source of his wealth, apart from inheritance, and he listed his seat (place of residence, especially a large house that is part of an estate) as ‘Gullege’. On his death in 1622, ‘Gullege’ passed to his grandson Edward3 as his son, Edward2 had already died in 1610. Edward2 was also listed as a gentleman and ‘of Gullege’ implying that the property had two generations of Alfrey in residence, although he is also listed as holding ‘Tilkhurst’. Edward3 was also listed as a gentleman and on his death in 1643; he held a messuage called ‘La Gullage’ and certain meadows and hereditaments (anything that can be inherited) belonging to ‘Courtfield’, Wardleigh’ and ‘Frenchlands’, also ‘Heathelands’, ‘Cockmans’ (not yet identified) and ‘Tilkhurst’.

When Edward3 wrote his will in 1642, he already knew he was unwell writing that he was ‘weak and sickly but of perfect memory’. The will he left was long and complicated with many provisos, but ultimately he left his estate to his son and heir Edward4. Unfortunately, due to the wording of the will it may have taken many years for his son to gain the benefit of his inheritance and it may be a contributing factor for why the Alfreys left ‘Gullege’. One point of interest is that throughout the will he makes ‘exceptions’ over the ‘tree timber and woods’ of his estate. One possible explanation is that the woodland was being rented out in connection with the iron industry that was at its peak in the area at that time. The implication of this is that he was not directly connected with the iron industry as an ‘iron master’, a much misused term, as had previously been thought by some authorities on the East Grinstead area. It is more likely that owning the resources for fuel for the industry indirectly linked him. Owning and leasing woodland for coppicing and charcoal would bring in wealth although not as much as owning an iron furnace or forge, thus accounting for his status as gentleman.

Shortly before the death of Edward3, his son, Edward4, married Susan Blaker of Portslade, Sussex, and there is evidence to show that the family had left ‘Gullege’ by 1662, as the Hearth Tax listed Richard Head as responsible for paying the tax on the eight hearths of ‘Gullege’. It is unclear whether ‘Gullege’ had been sold or whether it was being tenanted out, but Edward4 died unexpectedly, in Shoreham in 1672, and had not made a will, so his estate passed to his wife Susan. It would appear that the ‘Gullege’ connection with the Alfrey family ended around this date, with the Alfrey family having moved to Shoreham, Sussex.

Hartfield/Withyham/Battle/Catsfield Allfreys

The first connection made between the Hartfield and Withyham area and the Alfrey family was in 1463, when Thomas2*, great grandson of Johannes the first Alfrey MP for East Grinstead, bought freehold lands and a tenement that were once owned by Peter Scarlett, in Withyham. Unfortunately, this area has not yet been identified but may be connected to the Scarlet family who, later in the 1660’s, owned Ashburnham, ‘Upper Forge’ in Ashburnham (Penhurst), Sussex, and ‘Scarlets Forge’, Cowden, Kent. In 1472, John4*, brother of Thomas2*, also bought property in Withyham, buying part of a tenement called ‘The Hale’, possibly ‘Hale Court’.

Thomas would appear to be into property speculation and in 1465, along with his brother Richard, was granted the manor of ‘Benfield’, Twineham, Sussex, and the Advowson of Twineham Church. In 1479, Thomas acquired lands in Worth, and in 1480, he acquired certain lands from Thomas Mall and Richard Cook of East Grinstead, among them ‘Northfelde’, ‘Westefelde’, ‘Petfelde’ and ‘Clefelde’, all yet to be identified. He also acquired land next to his brother Richard’s lands in Worth, in 1480, and four years later in 1484, Thomas gave these lands to his son Richard. Little else is known about either Thomas or his son Richard, except Thomas was listed as an esquire and therefore eligible to carry the Alfrey arms, and that he had another son, called Thomas. The last known facts about Thomas senior and his son Richard are in 1524, when they are both listed in the Subsidy Rolls for the hundred of Eastbourne. As for Thomas junior, he too was listed as an esquire and therefore eligible to carry the Alfrey arms. In 1504, he was listed of Steyning, Sussex, and had married Johane Ledys, née Goryng, widow of William Ledys, and on their marriage Johane brought to the Alfrey family, her lands, tenements and woods called ‘Waspes’ in Twineham, Sussex.

The Ledys (Leedes) family owned Wappingthorne, near Steyning, and prior to that they held lands in Piddinghoe, Sussex, and a property called ‘Stantons’ at East Chiltington, Sussex. Johane had two daughters, Ann, by her first marriage, who married Sir Richard Broke knt. and Ann by Thomas Alfrey who married William Cody. Thomas Alfrey died in 1507, and bequeathed his lands and tenements to his daughter Ann and her husband William Cody. In 1525, Johane Alfrey died and in her will she left lands called ‘Messors?’, location unknown, to Edmund Alfrey, brother of her late husband Thomas, and head of the ‘Gullege’ line of the family. It is at this point that this branch of the Alfrey family draws to a close.

John and the Hartfield/Robertsbridge Alfreys
As already stated, John4* Alfrey, brother of Richard1*, Thomas2* and Peter3*, first bought property in the Hartfield/ Withyham area in 1472. Then in 1476, he bought a messuage, 60 acres of land and 14 acres of meadow in East Grinstead and Hartfield, not yet identified. The next mention of John is in 1524, in the Subsidy Rolls, along with his sons, Thomas, Nicholas, John and a possible William. Nothing is known about John and Nicholas, and all that is known about Thomas is that he was a husbandman (farmer) and died in 1559, two years after his father John4*, in 1557. More is known about William, and in 1545, he was listed as holding the manor of ‘Bassetts’ in Hartfield, possibly connected with the Bassett family who in 1593, held ‘Ashurst forge’, ‘Grubsbars forge’ and ‘Oldlands furnace’ in Withyham, and in 1551, William bought the annuity on lands known as ‘Alfreys’, East Grinstead, from John Alfrey.

By 1587, the Hartfield/Withyham branch of Alfreys had accumulated a large amount of land and properties in the area including 160 acres of woods known as ‘Natewood’, Robertsbridge, exact location not known, the implication of this is that the wood was being used to make charcoal for fuel for the iron industry that was operating in the area at that time. Sir John Alfrey of Hartfield, yeoman knight held ‘Hatheroppes Mead’, ‘Berryfield’, locations not yet identified, and he had acquired the manor of ‘Bassetts’ in Hartfield. By 1572, the Hartfield/Withyham branch had also acquired land in the Robertsbridge area, with Richard Alfrey holding the tenements of ‘Walters’ and ‘Androwes’, ‘Quickbeam’ and ‘Wickham’ all in Robertsbridge, and by 1601, William Alfrey had acquired ‘Wickham’, ‘Smythotts’ and ‘Filpotts’ in Robertsbridge. Unfortunately, none of these properties have yet been identified. The same William died in 1618, leaving a widow Timothie, daughter of Edward Payne of East Grinstead, and was listed as a gentleman of ‘Lyegreen’, Folkington, East Grinstead, Withyham and Mayfield, all in the county of Sussex. The will stated that he held ‘a capital messuage called ‘Bassetts’, and lands assigned to him by John Alfrey of Hartfield, gentleman. He left property to his brother John Alfrey of Hartfield, gentleman, brother Anthony Alfrey of Folkington, gentleman, and his youngest brother Thomas Alfrey. He also left a tenement in Withyham to his youngest daughter Susan, and to Anne, his eldest daughter, he assigned (transferred property, rights or interest) a tenement of William Beerd, in Withyham. Unfortunately more research needs to be done on this branch of the family to determine its line of descent, but it is believed that it continued to form the Battle/ Catsfield/ West Dean branch of the Alfreys.

Thomas and the Battle/Catsfield/ Allfreys
A possible line of descent from the Hartfield/Withyham Alfreys was through Thomas1 Alfrey, who in 1571, was listed as owning ‘Barnehorne Manor’ in Bexhill. Then in 1575, he took over ‘Buckholt Furnace and Forge’ in Bexhill from Bartholomew Jeffrey who was the tenant of Lord Dacre. On the death of Thomas1 in 1589, he was listed as holding lands of ‘Saperton’, Heathfield, East Grinstead, ‘Bromeham’, ‘Clements’ and Catsfield Iron Mill’. ‘Saperton’ refers to the ‘Manor of Saberton’ alias ‘Rontington Saperton’, near Heathfield. ‘Bromeham’ refers to ‘Broomham’ in Guestling, and was owned by the Ashburnham family from 1450, for over five hundred years. This would imply that Thomas1 Alfrey might have tenanted the property. ‘Clements’ probably refers to property in St Clements area of Hastings. ‘Catsfield Iron mill’ probably refers to ‘Catsfield Furnace’, part of the manor of Bexhill. This line must have been extremely wealthy because of the connection with the iron industry. Their wealth must have been consolidated when Thomas2, son of Thomas1, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Fynche of Battle, for he owned ‘Hodesdale Forge’, Mountfield, Battle.

In 1588, Thomas2 held ‘Bromeham’, Catsfield, and bought ‘Potsmans Forge’, Catsfield. The forge had been erected by William Waters around1579, and remained within the Alfrey family until around 1637. In 1591, Thomas2 was confirmed a coat of arms, and it appears that it is from this time that there are two accepted variations in the spelling of Alfrey, with the Battle/Catsfield line adding the second ‘l’. Their coat of arms also differs from the ‘Gullege’ line, blazoned (described): Per fess sable and ermine, a pale counter-changed, three ostrich heads, erased argent, ducally gorged and lined Or. In heraldic terms this means that the shield is divided twice per pale (vertically) and once per fess (horizontally), therefore creating six pieces. Counter charged means the shield is divided into three sable (black) and three pale (white) portions, with a black portion top left and right, and in the centre bottom, leaving the white portions as the centre top and bottom left and right. The white portions are decorated with the ermine motif in black, five on the central top white portion and four on each of the bottom white portions. (The ermine motif looks a little like an upturned fleur-de-lis, with three spots around the stem.) The three remaining black portions are decorated with an ostrich head with a ducal or crest coronet around their necks. The ostrich heads are silver (argent) and are viewed side on and facing the left (erased), with their details outlined in gold (or). As with the Alfrey crest, the ducal coronet does not imply the status of duke. Also, like the Alfrey of ‘Gullege’ the Allfrey of Battle/Catsfield hold the same crest of the ostrich, ducally gorged.

Thomas2 had at least three sons, Francis, Thomas3 and Richard. Francis was listed as the minister for Guestling and married Mary Squire, unfortunately she died fairly young and Francis re-married one Joan Busbridge, née Gyles, née May. John Busbridge, third husband of Joan, held ‘Bugsell Forge’, Salehurst, in 1612, which George May, uncle of her first husband, Anthony May, had previously held, in 1574. John Gyles, her second husband, was a cleric, and acquired ‘Ashburnham forge’ in 1640, which he ran with his nephew Benjamin Scarlett, and in 1649, John Gyles was granted a licence to ‘take earth for making and repairing bays’ in the Netherfield area, possibly for ‘Hodesdale forge’. On his death in 1654, John left his share of extensive iron workings to his wife Joan. Joan herself came from the Roberts family that held extensive iron working sites in the Salehurst/Battle area. Francis and Mary had four children, and their son Richard was listed of Dallington, Sussex in 1668. In the same year he was also listed as leasing ‘Church House’ and 32 acres in Ninfield, Sussex, and woods and lands in Bexhill, Sussex. Some time between 1670 and 1671 he bought the ‘Manor of Glyne’, Sussex and certain tenements in Bexhill. ‘Glynde Place’ is a Tudor house that was much altered by Bishop Trevor, circa 1660, by changing the front from the West to the East, giving it a central porch, flanked by bay windows and end gables. Richard also held the status of gentleman, and more research is required to determine the descent of this line.

Thomas2 married Agnes daughter of Sir Adam Sprackling knt. of Thanet, Kent. Unfortunately, Thomas2 died around 1609, and his brother Richard married his widow, Agnes. One reason for this marriage may have been because Thomas2 and Agnes had a small son that needed a father, or, and the most probable reason, the marriage would retain the Allfrey wealth within the family. Richard, brother of Thomas2 would also appear to have inherited his father Thomas1 ‘estate’ and the Allfrey arms. Richard’s marriage to Agnes did not last for long and after producing six more children by Richard, Agnes died in 1618. Richard then re-married one Judith Parker née Squire, widow, possible sister to Mary Squire who had married Richard’s brother Francis. Unfortunately, Judith died before 1638, and Richard then re-married one Joan May, possibly the same Joan May who married his brother Francis, perhaps another attempt at keeping the wealth of the Allfrey within the family. In 1600, Richard bought the ‘manor of Potsmans’ from Sir John Asburnham and this became the family seat.

The eldest son of Richard and Agnes, Thomas, would appear to have led an eventful life, being imprisoned in 1646, for ‘having attempted to kill diverse of his majesties subjects who are yet in great feare of theire lives’. The outcome of his stay in jail is not recorded but in 1668, he was recorded as a churchwarden for Catsfield church, one can only assume he turned over a new leaf! He married and had two sons, Nathaniel and Benjamin. Nathaniel was listed as a coat maker and citizen of London, and Benjamin a merchant of St Benet Fink, London. This area in London was named after Robert Fink or Finch who paid for the church to be built. It was repaired in 1633, and was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. As a point of interest, Nathaniel’s grandfather was one William Fynch and he would have been a contemporary of Robert Finch.

Ringmer/Laughton/Charlestone/West Dean/ Friston Allfreys

This branch of the Allfrey family have not yet been connected to the Alfrey’s of East Grinstead and it is therefore not known which line they descend from. What is clear is that they must be connected somewhere as they originated in the Ringmer area and John Alfrey of East Grinstead, son of Johnannes Alfrey, c1400, held lands in the area, and they are connected to the Battle/Catsfield line as they hold the same coat of arms. John and Dennis Allfrey, who married in 1620, head the Ringmer branch that quickly encompassed Laughton. There are several other (as yet unconnected) Allfrey weddings in the early 1600’s in Ringmer, implying that a branch of the family had moved there at least one generation earlier. John and Dennys had three children, Silvester, Richard1 and Edward1. The first two children remain in the Laughton area but Edward1 moves to the West Dean area and two of his sons, Edward2 and Richard2 head the ‘Charleston Manor’ West Dean, and ‘Friston Manor’ West Dean, branches of the Allfrey family. Being on the South Downs one would assume that the wealth of these branches of the Allfrey came from sheep farming.

Edward and the Charleston Alffreys
Edward2 was listed at ‘Charleston Manor’, West Dean, from around 1692 to 1728. ‘Charleston Manor’ is probably best known for its association with Sir Oswald and Lady Birley and the ‘Bloomsbury Group’ of painters during the early part of the 20th century. The manor itself dates to before 1066, being owned by Wulfric from King Edward the Confessor. It is interesting to note that circa 1536 to circa 1580 it was in the ownership of the Broke family, a possible connection with Sir Richard Broke knt. son-in-law of Johane Ledys née Goryng who married Thomas Alfrey of Steyning in the early 1500’s. The original part of the house consists of a late 12th century hall with 16th and 18th century wings, the latter forming a fine Georgian front. High up on an outer wall can be seen an original window divided by a stone pillar that was once lighting to the medieval chapel that stood there. The large tithe barn near by was adapted as part studio, part theatre for the ‘Bloomsbury Group’.

George and the Friston Allfreys
Richard2 was listed of West Dean and it is through his son George1 that the Friston branch of the family descends. In 1749, George was listed of West Dean and Exceate manors, and by 1752, had acquired ‘Snalesham’ in Guestling of 31 acres. Then in 1754, George1 rented ‘Friston Place’ from the Medley family of ‘Conyboro’, Barkham. As a point of interest, Julia Annabella, daughter of James Evelyn of Felbridge Place married Sir George Augustus William Shuckburgh Medley, descendant of the Medley’s of ‘Conyboro’. ‘Fiston Place’ was a Wealden timber framed hall house of three bays with jetties on both the East and West faces. The builder may have been Thomas Selwyn of ‘Sherrington’, Selmeston, Sussex, who died in 1539. Chimneys were later added to the South side of the property, which was also extended to the West. On the death of George1 Allfrey, ‘Friston Place’ passed to his son George2 who succeeded to the tenancy in 1764, and established himself as a progressive farmer. George2 system of breeding was that he exchanged his rams with his neighbour every four to five years to prevent inter-breeding and therefore created a stronger flock. In 1794, George2 died and his will indicates that he was a very successful sheep farmer, leaving £2,500 to his younger son and £1,000 to each of his five daughters. To his widow he left the use of his upper lodging house at Seaford adjoining his wine vault, and his eldest son George3 took over the tenancy at ‘Friston Place’. In 1798, George3 was leasing 693 acres, of which 243 acres were being used for arable farming, 170 acres for pasture with 281 acres of sheepdown. He also rented from the Buxted estate, home of Sir George August Schuckburgh Medley, 87 acres at ‘Months Farm’, Hailsham, which gave him 38 acres of marsh meadow for stock fattening. He also owned or leased several other areas of land in Friston and other parishes in Sussex. More extensive information on this branch of the Allfrey family has been carried out by a direct descendant, Gruffydd Morgan-Jones, and can be found at his web site:

From the records available it can be concluded that the Alfrey family were in Sussex by 1296. They would appear to have had wealth enabling them to purchase large areas of land and tenements and by the early 1500’s had properties in East Grinstead, Worth, Twineham, Hartfield, Withyham and the Lewes area, in the county of Sussex. They were a family of some importance, especially in the East Grinstead area where they returned as MP’s for East Grinstead between 1360 and 1478. Although not descended from nobility, they earned their wealth, initially through agriculture and the wool and cloth industry, to enable them to maintain their status as ‘gentlemen’. They were granted a set of arms around 1460, and a separate set in 1591, although both branches of the Alfrey/Allfrey family hold the same crest, which enabled them to carry the status of ‘esquire’. From the initial dealings in agriculture and the wool industry, and their investment in property, the Alfrey/Allfreys embraced the iron industry of the Weald between the mid 1500’s to the mid 1600’s, either indirectly through management of their woodland for fuel, or directly through the ownership and leasing of iron working sites. As the iron industry waned in the Weald, they reverted to their mainstay of agriculture and the wool industry to maintain their wealth and status. It is also apparent that although geographically dispersed around Sussex, they retained close ties with each other. It is inevitable that the fortunes of various branches of the Alfrey/Allfrey family will wax and wane, and with time become more dispersed but to this day there are still Alfrey (now Allfree) in the West Hoathly area.

Once again, it should be remembered that this is not an attempt to paint the complete picture of the Alfrey of Sussex, just a window into the lives of a small section of the Alfrey family, concentrating on the ‘Gullege’ line of descent and how that branch interacted with the other branches of Alfrey’s in Sussex. There are many avenues of research left to explore and many branches still to connect before a complete picture can be painted of the Alfrey of Sussex.

Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames
A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations by Colin Waters
The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History by David Hey
Universal Dictionary
History of Medieval Britain by Brenda Williams
Sussex Depicted by John Farrant
Arms of Sussex Families by J F Huxford
Godstone by Uvedale Lambert
History of East Grinstead by Wallace Henry Hills
Wealden Iron by Ernest Straker
Iron Industry of the Weald by Cleere and Crossley
Timber Framed Houses of Ardingly by Jean Shelley
From the Beginning by Lucy Wells
People of Hidden Sussex by W Swinfen and D Arscott
Alfrey web site:
IGI web site:
PRO documents refs: C 1/1290/8-13, C 1/1290/14, C 1/1401/10-12, C 1/114/51, C 202/48/1
ESRO documents: AMS 5789-54/55, AMS 5744 130/132, AMS 466/56, AMS 5592/27, AMS 5729 –62, AMS 4666/58, AMS 5744, SAS H432, SAU 156-7, SAM 29, XA5/1, ALF deposit, Index of Baptisms
WSRO documents: LAVINGTON/832, MP86, 34658, 44283-8, 44445
PCC Wills, Admin. 1596-1608, Probates, Index PRO.
Lewes Wills Reigister, ESRO
South Malling Wills, ESRO
Commissary Court of London, Soc. Genealogists
Coomber’s Genealogies
Berry’s Genealogies
Harlean Society’s Visitations of Sussex, 1937
Wood’s of Charleston Pedigree ESRO AMS4764
SAC vol.1 p 37, vol.24 p197, 211, vol.39 p109,117, vol.52 p103, vol.56 p12, vol.81 p12, vol. 95 p56/7
SRS vol.3, vol.4, vol.6, vol.10, vol.16, vol. 19/20, vol.23, vol.25, vol.29, vol.30, vol.33, vol.41-3, vol.47, vol.54, vol.56, vol.77, vol.83
James Coleman Catalogue, 1885, 1901, Soc. Genealogists
Feet of Fines for Surrey WSFHS
Surrey Poor Law Records WSFHS
Hearth Tax 1662, WSRO/ESRO
Parish Registers for East Grinstead, Worth, Ardingly, West Hoathly, Ringmer, Old Shoreham, Laughton, New Shoreham, Horsted Keynes, Steyning, Croydon, Poyning, WSRO/ESRO
South Malling Court Book, ESRO
Monumental inscriptions in St Swithun’s Church, East Grinstead and St Mary the Virgin Church, Battle.
Hophurst Deeds, FA
Bishops Transcripts, Hartfield, Catsfield, West Dean, ESRO
Boyd’s Marriage Index, Soc. Genealogists
London Marriage Licences, Soc. Genealogists
Surrey Marriage Licences, Soc. Genealogists

SJC 03/02

See the later paper that includes references to the Alfrey family - Wall Hill Farm & The Link To Gullege

Alfrey references download

This is a Word document containing the references to Alfrey (& variants) found in Sussex documents, most entries are pre 1750.[over 800 references found]. 

alfrey info.pdf

A Family tree derived from these references is also available (4Mb), use the 'contact us' button at the top of the page to request a copy by email.