The Lost Villages of Sussex
by John Vigar
Published by The Dovecote Press
SUSSEX BOOK REVIEW
John Vigar's interesting book picks out 63 villages across East and West Sussex which might qualify as lost in one way or another.
The archetypal lost village, of course, is associated with the horrors of the Black Death in the 14th century with people fleeing - never to return - and rural depopulation leaving fields untilled and buildings uninhabited.
John Vigar points out that many of these communities were already in steep decline in the century before the Black Death - the plague merely finished off these dying communities.
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Take Binderton, which lies in the Lavant Valley between Lavant and West Dean. The tiny ancient village of Binderton was probably only home of around 20 people or so and its site is now occupied by Binderton House - itself divided into posh flats. The documented decay of the Binderton Church and the absence of medieval dwellings in Binderton is evidence of change.
But Binderton is hardly a lost village. Binderton has roughly the same population today as it had hundreds of years ago. What has changed is where in the parish people live and how they have applied the land and resources at their disposal.
In most towns and villages land use changes over time. Houses are rebuilt or left to fall down. People come and go.
Many of the lost villages described in John Vigar's book are really villages where the population has ebbed, flowed and shifted around the village from century to century.
He notes as much in dealing with the tiny villages and fine churches of North Marden, Up Marden and East Marden, where there are remains of many platforms which once housed villagers who simply moved on to better sites when the opportunity arose.
One particularly useful feature of The Lost Villages of Sussex is the grid references of the abandoned settlements - many of these features aren't marked on OS maps and so grid reference are a big help. The book is complemented by some relevant black and white photos - the aerial photo of Botolphs is particularly interesting.
Lost villages in West Sussex mentionedApuldram
The medieval port of Apuldram which declined when the upper reaches of Chichester Harbour silted up.
Binsted (which means "bean farm") which despite its substantial church never really took off as a village - maybe because of heavy soils which were hard to till.
The Adur port of Botolphs - or Annington as it was previously called, where John Vigar attributes the depopulation to the Black Death rather than the shifting course of the River Adur crossing point.
The building of a Norman Church outside the massive Saxon burgh at Burpham catalysed the move of the entire village to the lovely site of present day Burpham.
The wheel has come full circle at Burton Park near Duncton. The medieval village of Burton was cleared towards present day Duncton when Burton Park was established. Now the redevelopment of the old St Micheal's School has led to the creation of a new mini-village at Burton Park.
Chilgrove / Monkton
Remains of a chapel first mentioned in 1210 have been excavated near Monkton north of Chilgrove.
Like its neighbour Botolphs, Coombes is a much reduced village - the beautiful simple church at Coombes used to support a much larger community.
A busy landing place on Chichester Harbour in the year AD683, gone today. It's likely that silting up of the harbour meant that East Itchenor had to give way to West Itchenor as a port. East Itchenor Church was demolished in the 18th century - its tiny flock had been taken on by the Parish of Bridham in 1441.
There is an abandoned medieval village around the church at Ford near Littlehampton, including a largish Manor House.
Lordington Farm near present day Racton was once the centre of a small and thriving village - probably killed off by the Black Death.
Near where the A283 zooms along the banks of the River Adur once stood the remains of Old Erringham - a community that existed in Saxon times and which had a chapel dating from the 12th century.
Also next to a busy modern road are the remains of Pangdean medieval village, although the village's exact location remains a little hazy. What we do know is that it was a fairly substantial village at the time of the Domesday Book and it had a church in the twelfth century. It was sited just south of the village of Pyecombe close to the East Sussex border.
In a demonstration of the extraordinary power of the aristocracy over their tenants, the entire medieval village of Parham was moved over fifty years or so from the area around St Peter's Church to neighbouring Rackham. This was all done for the sake of a deer park.
Only a few handfuls of people lived in the medieval village of Perching high on the South Downs above modern day Southwick. Over hundreds of years the hardship of life high on the Downs and changes of agriculture are thought to have made it difficult to make a living at Perching - so no Ker-CHING at Perching then.
Upper Barpham, on the downs a couple of miles east of Burpham, is a classic failing Norman village finished off by the Black Death in the 14th century. The ruins of a substantial church have been excavated - showing that the church was built over hundreds of years before its community abandoned it.
Villages inundated by the sea
The relentless encroachment of the sea in Sussex has claimed Isleham near Climping, large amounts of Saxon Selsey, parts of Middleton-on-Sea, Cudlow, Charlton (near Bognor), old Bracklesham village and Kingston. Nowadays you'd need a load of scuba diving equipment to see these places.
Book reviewed by Mark Hoult, West Sussex.info
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