Hophurst Farm

Hophurst Farm

Hophurst Farm lies to the South of Felbridge and about a quarter of a mile West of East Grinstead, next to Gulledge, on one of the ancient Ridge Ways that pre-date the Roman invasion of Britain and construction of the Roman road in the Felbridge area. The Ridge Ways, particularly in this area, formed a vital network of tracks used to link the iron-workings of the Weald. The area known as Hophurst is believed to date from around 1250 with evidence of woodland clearing dating from the 13th century.

It was once part of the Manor of South-Malling, Lindfield, and it is possible that the area derived the name of Hoppers, later Hophurst, from a possible tenant or owner from around 1296 by the name of Alice Hoppere. It is not known if the Hoppere family occupied the farmhouse, only that the Subsidy Roll of 1296, for the area, states that ‘Alice Hoppere paid tax as a villain (tenant) of Hagh Bardolf’. An alternative explanation of the name of Hophurst is that there were several hop fields in the area, as outlined on a local map of the area dated 1841. The growing of hops in the vicinity could also have lent its name to the area and not necessarily the family of Hoppere. Hophurst is also referred to as Hophurst or Wallege in the Title Deeds of 1819, and Hophurst or Walledge in the Title Deeds of 1832. In the Doomsday Book, in the East Grinstead Hundred, there is an area of land called Warley that was held by William, and before 1066, Wulfeva held the land from King Edward as one manor. Warley was outside the Rape of Pevensey and covered an area of 2 hides which equates to about 240 acres. There was enough land to support 3 villagers and their 3 ploughs, plus two ploughs of the Lord of the Manor. There was enough grazing for 5 pigs, with enough woodland for 2 pigs. The Manor had not paid tax before 1066 and had been worth 20s, but by 1086, the date of the Doomsday survey, it was only worth 15s. The exact location of Warley has, to date, not been identified so it is possible that the area now known as Hophurst was originally Warley.

The first recorded details of ownership of the area known as Hoppers or Hophurst are found in the Court Books of the Manor of South-Malling, Lindfield. It is possible that Hagh Bardolf owned the area in the 13th century, it having been the Crown property of William the Conqueror in 1066. Prior to that Wulfeva may have owned the area, it having been Crown property of Edward the Confessor. However, in 1590 the Court Book of South-Malling states that John Alfrey held the area known then as Hoppers, from the Lord of the Manor. This included a tenement and about 70 acres of land. Hoppers had been inherited from his father Richard, unfortunately there is no mention of how long Richard Alfrey had held Hoppers. The next recorded holder is John Alfrey, eldest son and heir of John Alfrey, in 1636. By 1637 this John Alfrey had died and Hoppers passed to his brother Richard Alfrey. On his death in 1660, Hoppers passed to his eldest son and heir, Richard Alfrey. It is interesting to note that a Richard Alfrey, a medieval MP for East Grinstead, lived at Gulledge in1365 and this house was greatly extended by Edward Alfrey in the 16th century. Gulledge is the neighbouring property and the title deeds for Hophurst show that the two properties have been closely linked over the centuries.

There is a gap in the ownership between 1660 and 1757, but some time during that time the Newnham family acquired Hoppers or Hophurst. It is not known if it was by marriage settlement, indenture, or passing on that Hoppers left the Alfrey family and ended up with the Newnham family. In 1757, John Newnham, of Maresfield Park, Sussex, is recorded as owning Hophurst and in 1764 it passed to his son and heir John Newnham. This John died in 1814 and left all to Sir John Shelley, Baronet, son of Wilhelmina, (daughter of John Newnham senior), and Sir John Shelley. In 1832, Hophurst passed to John Villiers Shelley by marriage settlement. In 1860, Sir John Villiers Shelley sold Hophurst to Samuel Sims, who died in 1865 leaving Hophurst to William Swain, alias Sims, (his son). William Swain died in 1872 leaving Hophurst to his sister lice Swain. In 1879, Alice Swain sold Hophurst to G E Scaramanga of Tiltwood, Crawley Down and Hophurst became the home farm for the estate. On the death of G E Scaramanga in 1891, Hophurst passed to his wife Elsie. In 1928, Elsie Scaramanga sold the property to her son Ambrose Scaramanga. On his death in 1947, Hophurst passed to his son George Scaramanga who sold it to H J Longinotto in 1951. H J Longinotto then sold Hophurst to M L Becker, on his death it passed to his son Peter Becker who remained at Hophurst until 2000.

During these ownership’s Hophurst Farm was tenanted out on several occasions. In 1764 a Mr Dallance is noted ‘of Hophurst’ in the Knight’s Carriers accounts, in 1769, in the same accounts, there are three entries of Mr Cork from Hophurst and in 1775, again from the same accounts, a John Gildbords of Hophurst. In 1819 John Jarvis and Thomas Previtt occupy the farm. The 1839 Tithe Apportionment for Worth lists John William Cummerell as the landowner (leaseholder), and George Prevett Snr. as occupier of Hophurst Farm, then listed as 143 acres. In the 1851 census there are four families living at Hophurst. George Prevett, a farmer of 130 acres, with his family, Thomas Mitchell, an agricultural labourer, and his family, Henry Creswell, an agricultural labourer, and his family and James Hollands, another agricultural labourer, and his family. The 1881 census records Jesse Brooker, a farmer of 140 acres, and his family residing at Hophurst. Then there is a gap with few details until 1928 when it is recorded in the Tiltwood sale catalogue that a member of the Scaramanga family was living at the farmhouse.

There is evidence that there has been a settlement at Hophurst dating from the late 13th century. A hedge survey carried out in 1980 determined that the oldest reliable hedges were located closest to the current farmhouse, and that the hedges got younger the further they were planted from the farmhouse. The farmland was probably cleared from woodland starting around the site of the house and moving further out as time went on. As can be seen, the second part of the name given to this area is hurst, derived from the Old English hyrst dating from the 1300’s, meaning wooded. The clearance appears to have started at the end of the 13th century, and even up to the late 1700’s wood was still being removed from Hophurst via Knight’s Carriers. Based on the hedge survey, the site of Hophurst Farm probably dates from between 1250 and 1400.

The current farmhouse dates from the early 16th century, with the earliest part to the South of the chimney stack. The chimney, built between 1550 and 1600, replaced the smoke bay of the original building. The chimney was added to the original house at the time of transition from the open hall to inglenook, creating upstairs and down stairs rooms heated by a massive chimney. It provides a flue for back-to-back inglenooks in the ground floor rooms. The end room was usually the kitchen, the central room would have been known as the hall or the parlour, while the unheated inner room beyond would have been called the buttery or pantry.

At the same time as the chimney, a crosswing was added. The house was a basic three bay rectangle, lying North to South. The crosswing is square in shape and positioned at the North end of the house, extending West. The original house was timber framed, built on stone and infilled with wattle and daub. The wattle was made out of oak and hazel, and the daub was a mixture of mud, horsehair and straw, all materials that would have been available locally. The oak timbers were cut off site and numbered for easy assembly at Hophurst. Much of the exposed timber framing is found in the crosswing, although brick infill has replaced the original plaster. The walls on the West and South sides are now covered with brick and hung with tiles, probably as a form of weather proofing. The roof is a hipped gable structure hung with russet tiles. The original windows were unglazed with diamond-shaped mullions, an example of which can still be seen inside the house to date. The interior still retains wide oak floorboards and there is evidence that a staircase and some of the doors have been moved over the years. Originally the upper floors would be open to the rafters, with the use of wattle and daub for interior partitions.

The current house has a hallway situated in the original part of the building. This was constructed at the same time the chimney was added to provide a passage way around the new chimney. There is a large wall plate to the left of the stairs, at the end of the hallway, that has mortise holes for a four-barred window, and next to the window mortises are two more that would have held the window frame. Wall plates are horizontal pieces of wood joining the wall posts or timber supports of the walls. The wall plates are positioned round the building and the wall posts are vertical and stand from the floor to eve level, together they make up the timber frame of the house.

The sitting room is also located in the original part of the building and would have been the parlour. This room contains the larger of the two inglenook fireplaces. Above the inglenook is a beam that has holes that would have been used for wattle stubs. In one corner of the room there is evidence of a staircase that has been blocked up. At some time the property had been converted into two cottages hence the need for a second staircase which then became redundant when the property was converted back. Within the timber framing of the room there is evidence of two original open windows. Across the middle of this room there was a passage, this ran the full width of the house. This may have been a smoke bay, although there is now no sign of smoke damage, or it may have been built to hold up the roof. There is also evidence of stop chamfering in the ceiling beams. This is a groove that has been cut in the edges of the beam that stops before the end of the beam, generally used as decoration.

Situated in the slightly later crosswing section is the dining room. This would have housed the kitchen after the extension, and contains the other inglenook fireplace. The beam to the West of the inglenook, now enclosed in a cupboard, also has holes cut to take wattle stubs and implies that this was an outside wall originally. The current kitchen is situated on the East side of the house, behind the sitting room, in an extension that was added in the mid 1920’s.

On the first floor, there are currently four bedrooms and a bathroom. The main bedroom is located in the oldest part of the house and would have been open to the rafters. This room was originally two small rooms that were divided by a wattle and daub partition. There is a window in the East wall of the room which is of a two bar mullioned construction, there is also evidence of another window in what is now a passage outside the current main bedroom. There is a landing that separates the main bedroom and the crosswing rooms, this has a decided slant indicating settlement between the original building and the added later crosswing. The room in the crosswing would have been square, now altered. On the North side, is an original window with two mullions. These mullions are an elaborate shape in the form of a flower with four round petals, this would indicate that the crosswing room became the main first floor room after the crosswing was built.

The attic space currently houses two further bedrooms. Originally there would not have been any rooms up here as the first floor was open to the rafters. However, at some point the attic had floors and ceilings added, creating two more rooms and loft space above. The beams in this area have clear-cut Roman numerals indicating that the timber was cut off site and then re-assembled by local carpenters. The attic room in the crosswing may have been a storeroom as it projects out on a bressummer (beam supporting part of a wall as a lintel) and there is also a gutter that would have allowed water or moisture to drain away.

The farm and outbuildings include a milking parlour running North to South. This was formerly the brick built cow shed with a bothy above, and is one of the oldest outbuildings standing. There is evidence that this building has been extended at some time. There are also three barns, the oldest two running North to South and the newest East to West, the oldest being of the Wealden design, not too dissimilar in construction to that of Doves Barn. This is currently wedged between a deep litter barn built at the turn of the 20th century and a pre-fabricated concrete barn built towards the end of the 20th century. The old barn is timber framed with a dwarf brick wall and is partially weatherboarded under a tiled roof. It would have had a pair of full height double doors on the East and West sides of the barn allowing a loaded hay wagon to be driven in and then straight out the other side. The exact date of construction is unknown as the Wealden barn design remained unchanged from its introduction in the early 16th century until its demise in the late 18th century. The Wealden barn was introduced to reduce the amount of timber, particularly oak, used in its construction. It dispensed with the use of king or crown posts to hold the roof up and developed the butt and purlin which did the same job but used less timber, a necessity in an area where timber was also in demand as fuel for the iron industry.

There is also a large seven bay timber framed cart lodge once thatched, currently with a corrugated roof, that runs North to South and was erected towards the end of the 19th century. There is a small stable block running East to West, this is timber framed and weatherboarded under a tiled roof. The attic space of this stable block was used as a granary and access is gained via iron steps at the West end. Behind the stable block is a brick, under tile, lean-to construction, currently housing an ancient chaffcutter. There is a single storey brick building containing two stables that abuts the main stable block. Situated next to this, but not attached, is a small brick built single storey building lying East to West, original use unknown, possible a harness room or store. Next to this building is another single storey brick building running North to South, again another possible store. Next to this building is yet another single storey construction which in turn joins up with the cowshed and bothy.

Doomsday Book of Sussex
Hophurst Farm, Three part study by Crawley Down C E Primary School, under J Hodgkinson, 1980
Weald & Downland Open Air Museum Guidebook
Traditional Buildings, JR Armstrong
The place names of Sussex, J Glover
Titlwood Sale Catalogue, 1928
Hophurst Title Deeds 1757-1891
Bannister’s Sale brochure, 2000
Gulledge Deeds 1841-1891 including property plan of 1841.
Knight’s Carriers Accounts 1764-1775
Census records 1851 and 1881
Tithe Apportionment for Worth, 1839

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