This record is held by East Sussex and Brighton and Hove Record Office (ESBHRO)

Details of PEV
Reference: PEV

The medieval history of Pevensey is not covered by this collection, the earliest document being of sixteenth-century date and the bulk of the documents dating from the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Among the more detailed series are the records relating to the appointment of Corporation officials and admissions to the freedom of the Corporation. Subscriptions to the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration of the House of Stewart exist for the period 1710/11 to 1881, Sacrament certificates from 1744 to 1825 and rolls of freemen, with some gaps, from 1709 to 1881. For properties belonging to the Corporation, a good series of leases has survived, dating from the late eighteenth century onwards with a few earlier documents, and a somewhat meagre series of conveyances is supplemented by and has been amalgamated with a series of draft conveyances, some with accompanying plans, found among the Coles and James collection. The related correspondence has been kept with the drafts and provides useful background information concerning the conveyances. For the management of Corporation finances, an almost unbroken series of bailiff's (later treasurer's) accounts exists from 1720 to 1890 (those for the period 1720-41 will be found together with the minutes of Assemblies).


The earliest item in the collection, and one of the most interesting, is a scot (rate) book covering the years 1518-48 (an explanation of the purpose of the scot is given in the note to PEV/513). The volume is mostly in excellent condition, and is an important source of information on the names and holdings of local landowners, especially since it covers the period of the dissolution of the monasteries and the re-granting of monastic lands to lay tenants. It has been discussed in detail by the Rev. William Hudson, FSA, in Sussex Archaeological Collections, 45 (1902), 149-179, an off-print of which forms PEV/1352 in this collection.


The records of the Pevensey courts are disappointingly incomplete, apart from a full series of Assembly minutes from 1704 to 1886 (although the volume for the years 1842-79 is unfortunately too fragile for production to the public). Only one Quarter Sessions minute book has survived, beginning in 1698/9 and apparently covering most of the eighteenth century, but this has been so badly damaged by mould that it is almost totally illegible. Draft minutes of Quarter Sessions extend from 1771 to 1799, but no later minutes are known to exist, although there is a series of minutes of Petty Sessions for the period 1853-85. The subsidiary documents are also sparse, perhaps because comparatively little business was transacted. For the Court of Record there is a minute book in good condition for the years 1604-27, and another for the years 1676-1831. The latter volume, however, contains many gaps, and from the beginning of the eighteenth century, as mentioned earlier, the entries become very infrequent, an indication that the court was falling into disuse.


A small number of parish records of Pevensey and Westham has been found among the collection, consisting mainly of miscellaneous documents concerning the churchwardens and overseers of Pevensey, and including some settlement, bastardy and apprenticeship papers; the bulk of the documents relating to settlement and bastardy are to be found among the Sessions records. PEV/1261 gives information concerning the emigration of a pauper family from Pevensey to Quebec, Canada, in 1836. The only volume of parish rates and accounts among the collection is largely illegible owing to the growth of mould.


Table of Contents




Court of Shepway, 1693 - 1866 PEV/1 - 13


Courts of Brotherhood and Guestling: Summonses and Appointments, 1726 - 1866 PEV/14 - 25


Minutes, 1828 - 1868 PEV/26 - 30


Courts of Shepway, Brotherhood and Guestling: Related Documents, 1857 - 1867 PEV/31 - 38


Miscellaneous, 1839 - 1866 PEV/39 - 43




Minutes of Quarter Sessions and Hundred Courts, 1698/9 - post 1777/8 PEV/44


Minutes of Assemblies and Bailiff's Accounts, 1704 - 1842 PEV/45 - 46


Minutes of Assemblies, 1842 - 1886 PEV/47 - 48


Minutes of Petty Sessions, 1853 - 1885 PEV/49 - 50


Draft Minutes of Quarter Sessions, Hundred Courts and Assemblies, 1771 - 1799 PEV/51 - 57


Formularies: Assemblies, n.d. PEV/58 - 59


Quarter Sessions, 1781 - post 1878 PEV/60 - 67


Quarter Sessions, Hundred Courts, Assemblies, n.d. PEV/68


Writs, 1791, 1792 PEV/69 - 70


Indictments, 1724 - [1800] PEV/71 - 77


Depositions and Informations, 1788 - 1805 PEV/78 - 81


Warrant for Arrest, 1806 PEV/82


Bonds and Recognizances, 1718/9 - 1831 PEV/83 - 101


Convictions and Orders, 1801 - 1830 PEV/102 - 105


Victuallers' Recognizances and Bond, 1731 - 1828 PEV/106 - 126


Licence and Related Document 1885 PEV/127 - 128


Settlement, 1766 - 1806 PEV/129 - 144


Bastardy Examinations, 1795 - 1806 PEV/145 - 149


Highways, 1866 - 1882 PEV/150 - 223


Constabulary, 1841 - 1853 PEV/224 - 226


Deposited Plans and Plans used in Evidence, 1873 - 1885 PEV/227 - 230


Accounts, 1831 - 1889 PEV/231 - 234


Assessments for County Rate, 1872, 1881 PEV/235 - 236


Tables of Fees, 1841 - 1869 PEV/237 - 240


Circulars, 1859 - 1882 PEV/241 - 245


Miscellaneous, 180 [-] - 1870 PEV/246 - 250






Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy and Abjuration of the House of Stuart, 1710/1 - 1881 PEV/268 - 280


Declarations against Transubstantiation, 1721 - 1801 PEV/281 - 283


Declarations in Lieu of receiving the Sacrament, 1830 - 1865 PEV/284


SACRAMENT CERTIFICATES, 1744 - 1825 PEV/285 - 381


OATHS OF OFFICE, c. 1798, 1820 PEV/382 - 384




Lists and Rolls of Freemen, 1709 - 1883 PEV/385 - 392


Charters of Freedom, 1734 - 1860 PEV/393 - 405


Miscellaneous, 1838 - 1853 PEV/406 - 408


CORONER'S RECORDS, 1754 - 1884 PEV/409 - 485




Minutes, Records of Fines, 1604 - 1831 PEV/486 - 488


Final Concords, 1691 - 1795 PEV/489 - 501




TREASURER'S ACCOUNTS, 1841 - 1890 PEV/503 - 512


RATES, 1518 - 1812 PEV/513 - 517




Land Tax, 1765 - 1798 PEV/518 - 519


Income and Assessed Taxes, 1834 - 1866 PEV/520 - 532


CORPORATION TRUST FUNDS, 1849, 1862 PEV/533 - 534


MILITIA, 1810 PEV/535




MARKET, 1846 - 1888 PEV/538 - 540




Leases and Related Documents, 1690/1 - 1883 PEV/541 - 621


Conveyances and Related Documents, ?1843 - 1910 PEV/622 - 796


Encroachment Committees, 1839 - 1853 PEV/797 - 800


Miscellaneous, 1846 - 1883 PEV/801 - 815


MISCELLANEOUS LEGAL CASES, 1541 - 1884 PEV/816 - 1042






MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS ACTS (1882, 1883), 1882 - 1883 PEV/1051 - 1128






Institution of Town Trust, 1886 - 1890 PEV/1145 - 1154


Minutes of Town Trust Meetings, 1890 - 1898 PEV/1155


New Freemen's Roll, 1891 - ?1895 PEV/1156 - 1173


Miscellaneous, 1891 - [19]31 PEV/1174 - 1240




Churchwardens: Accounts, 1760 - ?1817 PEV/1241


Overseers: Rates, 1760 - ?1817 PEV/1241


Accounts, 1760 - c. 1818 PEV/1241 - 1242


Settlement, 1802, 1838 PEV/1243 - 1248


Bastardy, 1822 PEV/1249 - 1250


Apprenticeship, 1814, 1821 PEV/1251 - 1252


Poor Law (post 1834), 1841 - 1846 PEV/1253 - 1255


Miscellaneous, 1821 - 1838 PEV/1256 - 1265


Miscellaneous Parish Documents, 1815 - 1853 PEV/1266 - 1342




Overseers: Bastardy, 1790, [1806] PEV/1343 - 1345


Miscellaneous, n.d. PEV/1346




Parish Councils, [1907] PEV/1347


MANORIAL, 1908 PEV/1348


SCHOOL BOARD, 1877, 1884 PEV/1349 - 1351


PRINTED WORKS, [1902] PEV/1352


PLANS AND ELEVATIONS, 1845 - [1883] PEV/1353 - 1372


MISCELLANEOUS, 1800 - 1879 PEV/1373 - 1378



Date: 1518-1931
Held by: East Sussex and Brighton and Hove Record Office (ESBHRO), not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Pevensey Corporation, medieaval-1886

Physical condition: The physical condition of the collection is generally good, except for a few items (mostly volumes) which have been attacked by mould, in some cases so extensively as to render them almost illegible and too fragile for production to the public. Where an item has been thus damaged the fact has been noted in the catalogue.
Access conditions:

Not available for consultation until 30 years from the last date of the document.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by the Trustees of the Pevensey Town Trust in June and August 1970 (D 1089, D 1119), 7 Nov 1986 (A 4746), 11 Sep 1987 (A 4912) and 17 Jul 1990 (A 5541) (together catalogued as: PEV/15, 28-30, 42, 44-48, 52, 65, 68-70, 76, 77, 91-99, 118, 120-124, 231-233, 247, 248, 268-284, 379, 384-387, 390, 393-405, 486-488, 503, 513, 517, 519-531, 534, 535, 538, 541-580, 589, 590, 592-595, 603-606, 610, 611, 613, 625, 626, 816, 817, 1131-1144, 1241-1266, 1270-1341, 1343, 1347, 1348, 1356-1360, 1369, 1373-1375, 1377, 1379-1397). All other items deposited by Messrs Coles and James, solicitors, of Eastbourne, in November 1961 and May 1969 (D 481, D 989).

Custodial history:

In 1891 the Town Trust placed such records of the former Corporation as were in its possession in the custody of the then Vicar of Pevensey, the Ven. Robert Sutton. These remained in Pevensey Church until 1963, when they were transferred to the headquarters of the Sussex Archaeological Society at Barbican House, Lewes, and in June and August 1970 they were placed by the Trust on long-term deposit at the East Sussex Record Office. Before calendaring them at the Record Office it was decided to investigate also those records relating to the Corporation known to be amongst the collection deposited by Messrs. Coles and James, solicitors of Eastbourne, in November 1961 and May 1969 (John Henry Campion Coles, a former partner in the firm, was the last town clerk to the Corporation and the first Secretary of the Town Trust). It was discovered that this latter group was more extensive than had been expected, and that the records therein contained formed an important supplement to the collection deposited by the Town Trust. It was therefore decided to calendar them together with the records deposited by the Trust - which are identified under 'Immediate source of acquisition'.

  • Pevensey, East Sussex
  • Local government
  • Administration of justice
Administrative / biographical background:

The Town of Pevensey


Since no document among the Pevensey Corporation records pre-dates the sixteenth century, this collection does not cover the time of Pevensey's greatest prosperity (the Middle Ages), when it was a seaport serving the part of the Weald lying to the east of Beachy Head. Those interested in this period of its history should consult, in print, the Victoria County History of Sussex, 2 (London, 1907, chapter by M Oppenheim on 'Maritime History'), Mark Antony Lower, Chronicles of Pevensey (Lewes, [1873]), James A Williamson, The English Channel (London, 1959), L F Salzman, 'The Inning of Pevensey Levels', Sussex Archaeological Collections, 53 (1910), 32-60, and A J F Dulley 'The Level and Port of Pevensey in the Middle Ages', SAC 104 (1966), 26-45; and, in manuscript, the classes of 'Enrolled Customs Accounts' (E 356) and 'Particulars of Customs' (E 122) in the Public Record Office, London. The East Sussex Record Office also holds a collection of medieval deeds, of which the provenance is uncertain, relating to Pevensey Levels and elsewhere (ESRO, D/92). The Custumal of Pevensey, dated 1356, the original of which is among the Dugdale MSS in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, has been transcribed and summarized in English by the Rev Lambert B Larking in SAC, 4 (1851), 209-218.


The town of Pevensey was originally built on one arm of Pevensey Bay, a tidal lagoon extending some four miles inland from the present coastline. It is thought that, as a port, it reached its highest peak of prosperity in about the eleventh century, and that from about 1200 its harbour was in decline, owing to natural silting, the eastward tidal drift of shingle across the mouth of the bay, and the 'inning' or reclamation for agriculture of the surrounding marshlands. By the sixteenth century Pevensey Bay had virtually disappeared. The town was still described as a port in 1596(1), but a century later (1698) a report on the south coast harbours by members of the Navy Board and Masters of the Trinity House stated that the haven was now closed and 'irrecoverably lost'(2). The customs office there was suppressed in 1714(3), and in the early nineteenth century Thomas Horsfield reported that 'the channel is quite choaked up at a short distance from the shore, or rather, nothing is left but a narrow drain, the receptacle of a few boats'(4).


Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (the period from which most of the documents in this collection date) Pevensey was a minor centre of the coastal fishing trade and of the area of pastoral farming which comprised the Pevensey Marshes. As a market town it was less important than Hailsham, whose population by the 1830s was significantly increasing in comparison with that of Pevensey. The most remarkable change in Pevensey's neighbourhood during this period, however, was the astonishingly rapid expansion of Eastbourne, during the second half of the nineteenth century, from a village to a large urban watering-place (its population grew from 3,433 in 1851 to 42,701 in 1901(5). The hamlet of Pevensey Bay itself eventually became a minor seaside resort, although its growth had scarcely begun by the end of the nineteenth century.


Pevensey's Membership of the Cinque Ports Confederation


By the early thirteenth century Pevensey was a corporate member of the port of Hastings, which was a member of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports. It thus shared in the privileges of the Ports, the most significant of which were freedom from certain major customs and taxes and from suit at royal and other courts of Law outside their own boundaries. It owed in return the duty of contributing financially to the quota of men and ships demanded by the sovereign from Hastings for the purpose of defence. By 1541 disputes had arisen between Pevensey and Hastings as to the amount of money owed annually by the former to the latter; although these were, in theory, settled in that year by the agreement of which PEV/816 in this collection is a copy legal proceedings took place between the two Corporations in the early eighteenth century (see PEV/818-819), apparently as a result of Pevensey's increasing difficulties in raising the required sum.


The Corporation and its Courts


The area of the Corporation's jurisdiction was the Lowey, or Liberty, of Pevensey, which during the period covered by this collection comprised the parishes of Pevensey and Westham and part of the parish of Hailsham(6). The Corporation consisted of a bailiff, jurats (corresponding to aldermen) and the commonalty. Administration was mainly carried on through four courts, the Court of Record, the Hundred Court, the Sessions and the Assembly.


The Court of Record was a court of pleas held fortnightly, but not necessarily regularly, by the bailiff to deal with civil cases (important in a trading community) concerning mainly debts, detained goods and trespass. When necessary it became a court 'pro estraneis' to deal with the pleas of strangers (ie. persons domiciled outside the Liberty). From the end of the seventeenth century final concords concerning property within the Liberty were enrolled among the court's records. It is clear from the minutes that from about 1700 this court was held very infrequently, and by the late eighteenth century it had fallen into disuse. Final concords, however, continued to be enrolled in the minute book until 1831.


The Hundred Court probably originated as a court at which presentments were made in the same way as at a court leet. However, by the end of the seventeenth century, when the court minutes in this collection begin, the Hundred was invariably held 'unacum sessione pacis', and from the reign of George I it was held only once a year, simultaneously with the Easter Sessions since the bailiff and jurats presided over both courts. By the late eighteenth century, although the two courts continued to be held concurrently, their functions had become clearly differentiated, the only business remaining to the Hundred Court being the annual appointment of constables for the parishes within the Liberty.


A separate Commission of the Peace was first expressly granted to the Cinque Ports and their members by charter of James I in 1605, the jurats becoming Justices of the Peace ex officio. It appears from the existing minutes that the Pevensey Sessions were not particularly busy; during the eighteenth century they were held usually only twice a year, at Easter and Michaelmas, and by the mid-nineteenth century it was the practice for the more serious criminal offences to be tried at the County Quarter Sessions, the jurats having agreed with the County Justices in 1825 for the lodging of prisoners from the Liberty in the county gaol and house of correction at Lewes (see PEV/253). In the nineteenth century Petty Sessions were also held.


The Assembly dealt with matters pertaining to the government of the Corporation (e.g., the administration of Corporation property, the levying of rates, and the election of its officers), and could be attended only by the bailiff, jurats and freemen. The Annual General Assembly began on the first Monday after Michaelmas with the election of the bailiff and other officers of the Corporation in Pevensey Church, and continued with frequent adjournments, sometimes throughout the following winter. Special Assemblies were held when necessary at other times of the year. The procedure for the annual election of the Corporation's officers is set out in rough formularies which have survived among the manuscripts in this collection (PEV/58-59, 68).


The Abolition of the Corporation


In comparison with those of the five Head Ports, the Corporation of Pevensey was very small. In 1668, indeed, it was reported to a Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports that 'Pevensey has but a bailiff and two jurats and if any fall sick no court can be held and if any die the corporation might cease'. It was therefore ordered that 'a Common Assembly shall be called within ten days when three persons shall be elected jurats out of the freemen on pain 20 li.'(7). The Corporation was not affected by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 (although an investigation into its workings had been made in 1834 by the Municipal Corporations Commission); however, under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1883, it ceased to exist, together with many others, from 25 March 1886. After an interim period during which the management of its funds was in the hands of a committee appointed by the former Corporation, the Pevensey Town Trust was instituted, under a scheme proposed by the Charity Commissioners, on 25th March 1890 (PEV/1154). The Trust was to consist of five Representative Trustees and four Co-optative Trustees, who were to manage the residual property of the Corporation.




(1) Victoria County History of Sussex 2 (1907), 150.


(2) Victoria County History of Sussex 2 (1907), 159.


(3) J. H. Andrews, 'The Customs Ports of Sussex 1680-1730,' Sussex Notes & Queries 14 (1954), 2. See also J. H. Andrews, 'The last years of Pevensey Haven,' J. & Trans. Eastbourne Nat. Hist. & Arch. Soc. 13, PEV/3 (1953), 18-19.


(4) T. W. Horsfield, The history, antiquities, and topography of the County of Sussex, 1 (Lewes: J. Baxter, 1835), 306.


(5) Victoria County History of Sussex, 2 (1907), 226.


(6) M. A. Lower, A compendious history of Sussex, 2. (Lewes: Geo. P. Bacon, 1870), 89, states that originally it also comprised a portions of Bexhill.


(7) F. Hull, ed., A calendar of the White and Black Books of the Cinque Ports, Kent Records 19 (1966), 523.

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