Catalogue description The Lavington Estate Archives

This record is held by West Sussex Record Office

Details of LAVINGTON
Reference: LAVINGTON
Title: The Lavington Estate Archives

The collection is very weak in family papers, but rich in title-deeds for the small parishes of Graffham and Woolavington and, to a lesser extent, for Billingshurst. These deeds are also valuable to the genealogist who, wishing to trace the descent of minor families, but finding himself bogged down by the absence of relationships in parish register entries, may get his information from title-deeds.

Date: 1296-1954

This Catalogue is a supreme example of what happens when archives become divided and when, to add to the confusion, the bundles themselves are broken up and their contents arranged in chronological order regardless of properties. To reconstruct the original bundles so as to be certain that they are correct has proved an impossibility because, in many cases, a document or series of documents could belong to two or more groups: the final arrangement, therefore, leaves much to be desired. In this gigantic jig-saw puzzle--if one may use the phrase--of over 800 pieces, one has had to contend with changes of name of individual pieces of property, with divisions of one property into smaller holdings, with the amalgamation of two or more properties, and with the division of a holding within a family. For what might be termed "divers good causes and considerations", it has sometimes been found preferable to treat one or more groups of title-deeds as concerning a family rather than as relating to separate pieces of property.


As a general rule, names are given as in the documents and variations are noted in the index. The names of witnesses are, in most instances, given up to about the middle of the 18th century, but some illegible signatures have been omitted because their interpretation would only be a guess--and probably a wrong one. Long documents such as settlements have not been abstracted in full where the originals are easy to read; for the same reason, it will be noticed that other documents, either late in date or late copies of earlier deeds with numerous recitals, have only received summary treatment in the Catalogue.

Related material:

See The Wilberforce Archives for the remainder of Lavington documents deposited by Dr O Wilberforce.

Held by: West Sussex Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Fitz-Alan family, Earls of Arundel

Alan, Fitz-, family, Earls of Arundel

Garton family of Sussex

Orme family of Sussex

Sargent family of Sussex

Wilberforce family of Sussex

Physical description: 13 series
Immediate source of acquisition:

The documents were divided in 1923 when Mr. (afterwards Sir) Charles Thomas Stanford acquired some of them for his collection at Preston Manor, Brighton, where they remained until transferred to the West Sussex Record Office in March, 1962, to join the remainder of the documents which had been deposited there by Dr. O. M. Wilberforce in March, 1956 (Dr. Wilberforce died on 19 December 1963 when the final draft of this Catalogue had been completed.).

  • Woolavington, Sussex
  • Woolavington, West Sussex
Administrative / biographical background:

The manors of Woolavington, Graffham and East Dean were part of the estates of the Earls of Arundel. In 1540/41, William, Earl of Arundel (c. 1476-1543/4) conveyed Woolavington, with other manors in West Sussex, to the Crown, subsequently receiving other properties, mainly in East Sussex, Kent and Surrey, in exchange (Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vol. 16 (1898), p. 428.). His son Henry (1512-1579/80) who succeeded to the title in 1543/4, received back, in 1555, Woolavington and most of the other manors conveyed by his father upon surrendering to the Crown the majority of the properties given in exchange (Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1555-1557 (1938), pp. 1-3. A translation of the copy of the letters patent on the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer's Originalia Roll is in the Garton family chartulary (see no. 149), ff. 2-6.). In 1566, the Earl, with his son-in-law, John, Lord Lumley (c. 1533-1609) mortgaged the manors of Woolavington and Graffham, among others, and Woolavington Park, for £1,300 to Edward Jackman and Richard Lambert of London (Deed enrolled on the Close Roll, P.R.O., C. 54/702, no. 49, and in the Garton chartulary, ff. 15r.-16v.). In 1574, Henry, Earl of Arundel, with his son-in-law and daughter, Jane, granted leases, each for 10,000 years, to twenty-seven copyholders of the Manors of Woolavington and Wonworth (or Graffham or Wonworth and Graffham) so as to raise even quite small sums of money which were sometimes payable in instalments. It is from these leases, or assignments of them, that the titles stem for many of the properties mentioned in this Catalogue.


The financial position had not improved by 1578 when the Earl, with Lord and Lady Lumley, and John Jackman (son of the surviving mortgagee) conveyed Woolavington Manor and Park and Graffham Manor to Giles Garton of London for £4,000 (Deed enrolled on the Close Roll, P.R.O., C. 54/1032, and in the Garton chartulary, ff. 21v.-23v. For the complicated story of the debts of the Earl of Arundel, which also involved Lord Lumley, see E. Milner (ed. E. Bentham), Records of the Lumleys of Lumley Castle (1904), pp. 63-72, the Complete Peerage, vol. 8 (1932), pp. 276-279, and T. Ryman's Foeodera, vol. 15 (1713), pp. 654-658.). In 1584, Lord Lumley conveyed the advowsons of Woolavington and Graffham to Garton, with a few unimportant pieces of property, for 200 marks (See Garton chartulary, ff. 32r. and v. Lord Lumley had succeeded to the property in right of his wife upon the death of Henry, Earl of Arundel on 24 February 1579/80.). This separation from the Arundel estate meant that Woolavington and Graffham became, for the first time, an independent estate, and a mansion house was built (See no. 18 and W. H. Godfrey, 'An Elizabethan Builder's Contract', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 65, pp. 211-223. The only remains of the Elizabethan house are part of the great garden wall, and a gateway of moulded bricks at the south-east angle of the garden (see Plate III). It is probably the bottom storey of the original gate-house. A remarkable map, 1597, showing the Garton mansion, belonged to the late Dr. O. M. Wilberforce, but a photograph of it is in the West Sussex Record Office (Add. MS. 2546). See Plate II for an enlarged picture of the house as shown on the map.). In 1589, Lumley sold the manor of East Dean, on the south side of the Downs but adjoining Graffham, to Peter Garton (Giles's eldest son) for £3,000 after it had been mortgaged to him the previous year for £500 (See no. 238.).


Mention must be made of Giles Garton and his business as an iron-monger; he lived at New Fish Street Hill near London Bridge. The miscellaneous bonds illustrate the range of his financial dealings, but the documents (pp. 110, 111) concerning his affairs with the Ashburnhams, Anthony Morley of Lindfield and the Challoners of Cuckfield (see no. 235) are of special interest (For references to these families and their part in the Sussex iron industry, see E. Straker, Wealden Iron (1931) and Francis W. Steer, ed., The Ashburnham Archives (1958).). Garton was a member of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers and became Master in 1586; in 1570, he and Robert Goodyng were stewards for the burial dinner of the Lady Mayoress whose husband, Sir Alexander Avenon, was Master of the Ironmongers' Company eight times between 1559 and 1578 (J. Nicholl, Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers (1851), pp. 105, 479, 544. This Account and The Ironmongers' Company: An Historical Note by the present Clerk of the Company (Mr. J. M. Adams Beck, to whom I am much indebted for his help and interest) illustrate the continuous importance of the Livery Companies of the City of London. There is evidence in the documents in this Catalogue that others of the Garton family were members of the Ironmongers' Company.). Garton's will (Dated 20 Jan. 1592/3, proved 10 May 1593 (P.C.C. 34 Nevell).) (no. 137) includes the bequest of a piece of plate--a standing cup--to the Company, and he asked for his body to be accompanied to the church by members of the Livery.


Giles Garton died in 1592/3 leaving lands in Billingshurst, Kirdford and Wisborough Green to his son Giles, but the rest of his Sussex estate went to another son, Peter, who thus became owner of the whole block comprising Woolavington, Graffham and East Dean. Sir Peter Garton (He was knighted 14 March 1603/4; his son Thomas was knighted 10 April 1618. W. C. Metcalfe, A Book of Knights (1885), pp. 152, 173.) died in 1606 when the properties passed successively to his sons, Sir Thomas Garton (died 1618), Robert Garton (died 1633) and Henry Garton (died 1641) (The position is not wholly clear for an inquisition post mortem (P.R.O., C. 142/778/152) on William Garton, a lunatic, taken in 1638/9 (the date of death is not given) found him seized of the three manors and that his heirs were three cousins (see F. W. T. Attree, Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Sussex, Sussex Record Society, vol. 14, p. 100). On the other hand, Robert Garton, by deed of 1633 (no. 48), declared that any person seized of the estate should hold the properties after his death--in default of issue--to the use of Henry Garton his only brother.). The estate then passed to the latter's son, William, who died in 1675, and then to his nephew, Robert Orme, the son of his half-sister, Mary Garton and Robert Orme of Peterborough. The younger Robert, who in 1691 married Dorothy, daughter of the 1st Viscount Downe, (For a copy of the marriage settlement, see no. 96 and W.S.R.O. Mitford MS. 331 (Francis W. Steer, ed., The Mitford Archives, 1961, p. 23).) died in 1711, and was succeeded by his son, Garton Orme.


From this point there is more evidence available to illustrate the descent of the estate. In 1717, Garton Orme married (A copy of the articles of agreement on the marriage is no. 97.) Charlotte, daughter of Jonas Hanway, (His miniature portrait by Angelica Kaufmann was left to the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery by Sir Orme Garton Sargent who also bequeathed Sargent and Orme portraits to the Lords Commissioners of H. M. Treasury and to the Holburne of Menstrie Museum, Bath; see The Times, 1 January 1963.) but almost immediately there seems to have been a financial crisis because in 1719 Orme found it necessary to mortgage various properties (See no. 783 for details.) to secure the repayment of £1,730 due upon two bonds. The payment and investing of Charlotte's portion led to litigation (Chancery decree, P.R.O., C. 33/362, pt. 1, ff. 478r.-479v.). The position deteriorated so much that in 1747 it was agreed that a private Act of Parliament should be obtained, vesting the estate in trustees for sale, since Garton Orme had no means for discharging his debts which were set out in a schedule to the deed on the sale of part of the estate (In 1774 it was said that the schedule 'can't be come at' (see no. 790).).


The Act (23 Geo. II c. 30 (Private); see nos. 98, 99.) gave trustees power to raise £12,000, and in 1753 the manor of East Dean was sold for this sum (The deed is among the Goodwood archives in the West Sussex Record Office, but it has not yet been assigned a catalogue reference. It is enrolled on the Close Roll, P.R.O., C. 54/5915, no. 22.). In 1750/51, Garton Orme had sold the advowsons of Woolavington, East Dean and Graffham, which were not included in the Act of Parliament, to Anthony Nott for £700 (See no. 785; enrolled on the Close Roll, P.R.O., C. 54/5864, no. 13.) and in 1753 he mortgaged the whole estate (less, of course, East Dean) to secure a further £1,300 then and £500 a year later (See nos. 491 and 58; there is a tart endorsement on the latter by R. G. Wilberforce.). Orme died on 24 September 1758 and his only daughter and heir, Charlotte, the wife of Richard Bettesworth, on 17 October 1758; the estate passed to their daughter, Charlotte, then aged about three, (See nos. 790-792.) who was to marry John Sargent.


We must now turn to the litigation over the advowsons. Notwithstanding the conveyance of 1750/51 and the fact that Nott's assignee had presented to Graffham in 1754, (Subscription Book, Diocesan Record Office, Chichester, Episc. I/3/7, p. 6.) Charlotte Bettesworth, acting through her father as guardian, presented on the next vacancy in 1764 (Ibid., p. 131.) although it was later said that a writ of quare impedit was taken out by Christopher Bethell but proceedings were allowed to drop. (See nos. 790-792. The descent of the advowsons following the conveyance to Anthony Nott has nothing to do with this part of the Lavington estate history, but as the details are not in print and the Victoria County History, Sussex, vol. 4 (1953) under East Dean (p. 96) and Graffham (p. 60) is wrong, the information is given here. Anthony Nott sold the advowsons in 1754 for £1,600 to Charles Lowe Whytell of Gilmonby, co. York. (no. 788), but after presenting to the living of Graffham as mentioned above, Whytell sold the advowsons some six weeks later for £2,600 to Slingsby Bethell, alderman of London. He died in 1758 leaving the advowsons, with all his real estate, by will (P.C.C. 320 Hutton) to his nephew, Christopher Codrington, and his heirs male, conditional upon him taking the surname and arms of Bethell; see also Act, 32 Geo. II c. 11 (Private).) It seems that both sides wished to make an issue: in 1771 and again in 1772, Charlotte Bettesworth, through her father, entered a caveat in the bishop's registry against the admission of a clerk to the rectory of Woolavington without notice. (Caveat Book, Diocesan Record Office, Chichester, STC IV/6, f. 4r.) The issue came to a head in 1774. It appears that upon the death of Robert Smith who held the livings of Woolavington and East Dean in plurality, Charlotte Bettesworth wished to present Thomas Collins (whom she had earlier presented to Graffham (See no. 91.)) to Woolavington, and the Duke of Richmond (who owned the manor of East Dean) wished to present to East Dean. Christopher Bethell also presented to Woolavington, but the Bishop of Chichester refused to institute either nominee until the matter was determined upon another writ of quare impedit. The case, Christopher Bethell v. William [Ashburnham], Bishop of Chichester and Charlotte Bettesworth, was heard at the Sussex Assizes in March 1774, and a verdict given for the plaintiff subject to the opinion of the Court of Common Pleas upon the case stated. Charlotte Bettesworth does not appear to have pursued the matter (See nos. 790-795, 798, 799. The bishop's defence was nominal. The point at issue was whether the advowson of Woolavington was appendant to the manor or in gross. It was argued on Charlotte Bettesworth's behalf that it was appendant, but this could obviously not be sustained since in 1719 (no. 783) Garton Orme had mortgaged the advowson separately from the manor.) and Bethell's nominees were instituted to both livings (John Delap, D.D., to Woolavington and Andrew Lewis Boisdaune to East Dean. Subscription Book, Diocesan Record Office, Chichester, Episc. I/3/8, ff. 18v., 19r.).


In 1778 Charlotte Bettesworth married John Sargent, (For the settlement of the Lavington estate, see nos. 108,109. John Sargent's settlement of his real and personal estate does not occur in this collection, but it is recited in no. 114. For John Sargent, who died in 1831, see M. A. Lower, The Worthies of Sussex (1865), pp. 295-297; copies of his dramatic poem, The Mine, are in the West Sussex Record Office (see Francis W. Steer, ed., The Crookshank Collection, 1960, p. 22).) sometime Member of Parliament for Seaford, (See J. A. Venn, comp., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part 2, vol. 5 (1953), p. 422, and Francis W. Steer, ed., Records of the Corporation of Seaford (1959), esp. pp. 33, 34.) Queenborough and Bodmin. From about this time, efforts were made to strengthen the estates by acquiring adjacent properties, the money arising from the sale of the London estate in Downing Street, for example, being used for this purpose (See no. 114.). The Woolavington estate was further consolidated by exchanges of land with neighbouring owners.


The eldest son of this marriage, another John Sargent (1780-1833), seems to have been intended for the law, (He was admitted at the Inner Temple in 1803; in August 1804 (no. 798) he is described as of Paper Buildings, Inner Temple.) but he took Holy Orders instead and it was presumably for this reason that, in 1804, his father bought back the living of Graffham and Woolavington for £1,640 from Christopher Bethell (He was the nephew of the previous Christopher Bethell (who had died in 1797 without issue) being the eldest son of his next brother, Edward Codrington. On succeeding, he assumed the surname of Bethell by Royal Licence (London Gazette, 17 Nov. 1797) and in the next year barred the entail (no. 796).). The younger John Sargent was made deacon in December 1804, (Subscription Book, Diocesan Record Office, Chichester, Episc. I/3/10, f. 72v. The date is wrongly given in the Dictionary of National Biography and Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part 2, vol. 5 (1953), p. 422. See also M. A. Lower, The Worthies of Sussex (1865), pp. 296, 297, for other details of Sargent's career.) and although we have not succeeded in tracing his ordination as priest--it does not seem to have taken place at Chichester--he was instituted to the living of Graffham in 1805 on the presentation of his father. (Subscription Book, Diocesan Record Office, Chichester, Episc. I/3/10, f. 86r. The living was vacant through the resignation of Samuel Clarke appointed by Christopher Codington [sic] of Dodington, co. Glos., the previous year (ibid., f. 68r.).) He became rector of Woolavington on the same presentation in 1813 (Ibid., f. 174r.).


In November 1804, a month before his admission to Orders, John Sargent married Mary, only child and heir of Abel Smith of Hull, a member of the well-known banking family, who brought with her, subject to the life interest of her mother, estates in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and a substantial personal fortune (See nos. 117 and 118.). The elder John Sargent died in 1831 and his son, the Reverend John, two years later. In 1834 his widow appointed, under a power in her marriage settlement, that the estate, subject to her own life interest and that of her mother-in-law (who lived until 1841) should pass to her only surviving son, Henry Martyn Sargent, (See no. 125.) but he died in 1836, before coming of age. She then, by further power of appointment, left the estate to her elder surviving daughter, Emily, (See no. 126.) who, in 1828, had married Samuel Wilberforce, (The marriage settlement was received in the West Sussex Record Office from an entirely different source: it is catalogued as Add. MS. 1579.) the celebrated Bishop, first of Oxford and afterwards of Winchester (He was the third son of William Wilberforce, the great philanthropist: see Burke's Landed Gentry (Wilberforce of Markington), Dictionary of National Biography, and A. R. Ashwell and R. G. Wilberforce, Life of the Right Reverend Samuel Wilberforce, D.D., 3 vols. (1880-1882).). The bishop died in 1873 when the estate passed to his elder surviving son, Reginald Garton Wilberforce. This is as far as the records carry us. The estate was sold in 1903 to James Buchanan, who was created a baronet in 1920 and raised to the peerage as Baron Woolavington in 1922; he died in 1935 (The Complete Peerage, vol. 13 (1940), p. 368, and W. T. Pike, ed., Sussex in the Twentieth Century (1910), p. 190. Some 1,282 acres of the estate were sold in 1941 (see Sale Particulars no. 25 in West Sussex Record Office).). Since 1946, the mansion has been occupied by Seaford College, a boys' school.


The house, known as Lavington Park, was built in 1794 from designs by James Lewis (c.1751-1820); (H. M. Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, 1660-1840 (1954), pp. 366, 367, and C. Hussey, 'Lavington Park, Sussex', in Country Life, 25 July 1925. The house was enlarged in 1903 and again in 1912-13.) it was described in the early 19th century (The Parochial Topography of the Rape of Arundel, in the Western Division of the County of Sussex, by James Dallaway (ed. by Edmund Cartwright), vol. 2, part 1 (1832), pp. 266, 267.) as being 'placed at the very foot of one of those acclivities which compose the prospect from Burton, and at a small distance becoming precipitous, is closely matted with low wood, and alternately bare and open, which harmonises with the richly cultivated valley beneath. It stands in a park, and has an aspect commanding an extensive and beautiful country, towards the north and west points of view'. The scene is much the same today.


Graffham and Woolavington (the latter now generally known as East Lavington) are beautiful Sussex parishes, south-west of Petworth, with the Downs running through them. Both parishes are remembered for their former rector, Henry Edward Manning, who eventually became Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and afterwards of Winchester, to whom reference has already been made, is buried in Woolavington churchyard. The printed sources for both parishes are small, but a selection of them is given on p. xii.

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