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The Rother Valley Guide
West Sussex, England

The Heyshott Book
page 28


Chapter Four

1700 To The Present Day

In the three hundred years since 1700, Heyshott has changed from being a small agricultural community to an attractive residential village. At the start of the period, the manor of Heyshott, which had been held by a succession of gentry families from the reign of Elizabeth I, was in the hands of George Cocquerell. His family gave its name to a large lake, held in by a dam and originally covering six acres to the north of Polecats, which is now a marshy woodland area.
An important change occured in 1761 when Charles Wyndham, the second Earl of Egremont, a descendant of the Percys, bought the manor. He was at the time a Secretary of State in Lord Bute's ministry. The community in Heyshott, now led by yeoman dynasties which had flourished over several generations, was once again linked to a large estate owned by the long association between the Wyndhams of Petworth and Heyshott.
Religious divisions were becoming less important by the eighteenth century, although there is a record of the Rector, John Peachey, buying eight acres of furze fields from the executors of a Catholic in 1743. The Montagues of Cowdray were staunch Catholics and concern about papists was still strong enough for Quarter sessions to be required by statute to record the buying and selling of land by Catholics. The 1715 and 1745 rebellions attempted to restore the Catholic Stuarts, but Heyshott was a long way from the military action.
Since the sixteenth century, the ecclesiastical parish had gradually replaced the manor in importance in village life. The Tudors used the church structure to create a system of local government at village level to stand alongside the feudal structure, dependant on the nobility and their manors. The unpaid parish churchwardens were accountable to the county justices for the administration of the Poor Law by the overseers of the poor, for the collection of taxes and rates, and for the appointment of constables and tythingmen who were paid fees when called upon for law enforcement.
Looking back from the 19th century, the writer William Cobbett regarded the 18th century village as a stable, benevolent community. Although Cobbett never visited Heyshott in the course of his rural rides, he visited East Dean and Singleton. Similarly, Gilbert White gives a picture of rural stability in his description of 18th century Selborne. In Heyshott, in the 1750s, up to six people were helped each month with money or goods by the overseers of the poor at a total annual cost of £60, collected from the property holders as a poor rate. Money was paid to householders to keep elderly or disabled people or children who were paupers.

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