Ferring in the 14th Century

The surviving documents from the 1300s provide many more references to Ferring that those of the previous two centuries. They are mainly records of land transactions, which provide us with names of landholders, but there are also more taxation lists and a survey of the Bishop’s estate in Ferring. The picture is still one of a farming community, with sheep on Highdown, dairy cattle in the meadows, and wheat and other crops in the south of the parish.
The return for the ‘Scutage’ tax taken between 1298 and 1303 shows the tax levied on ‘the holders of the lands of Amfrid de Ferring for 3 hides wherof 2 at Ferring and 1 at Lhudesey’ and in 1310 on ‘Nicholas de Barenton, 3 hides, whereof 2 at Ferrynge and 1 at Lhudesey’.This shows the continuity of what Ansfrid held in the Domesday survey as a separate holding, which later became the Manor of East Ferring, in the south-east of the parish.
The de Ferring family must have retained or regained the title to the land because the tax return of 1327 (the Subsidy Roll) shows Thomas de Ferring as the biggest taxpayer, evidently for his East Ferring estate. In the 1332 Subsidy Roll he is second biggest, after ‘Walto in the Lane’. These two Subsidy Rolls give us more names and these imply trades, locations and social position. Walter was no doubt a farmer, possibly in Hangleton Lane (which included, until the early C20th, the stretch of Langbury Lane north of the Rife). John Le Porcher presumably kept pigs, Robert Fabr’ was almost certainly a smith, John le Carter was in the transport business, Simon le Nhed kept cattle (‘neet’ was still a synonym for cattle in Shakespeare’s plays). Amfrid Suthetoun must have lived in the southern group of houses, whereas Rico atte Bergh must have lived near Highdown (‘bergh’ or ‘burg’ in place names indicates ‘hill’).
Between the dates of these two Subsidy Rolls we have a ‘Terrier’ or land survey of Ferring, carried out in 1330 by John de Flode as one of a short series of surveys of the Bishop’s manors. Unfortunately it does not name any individual tenants but it does describe (obscurely for a modern reader) the location of the various pieces of farmland. The Terrier starts with ‘Seforlang’ a field of almost 50 acres, which must account for the arable fields nearest the sea, and goes northwards to several fields ‘on the Hill’ and ‘Lhosforlang’ beyond it (probably at North Down Farm) and ending with ‘Uplangakars’ and ‘Langeburg’, which probably refers to the Langbury Lane area. It mentions ‘the old pond’ of less than half an acre (probably the one to the east of The Warren) and the ‘new pond’ of over 2 acres (probably the one in Little Paddocks). There is no detail on land use but the indications are that it is mainly arable, with sheep on Highdown.
The next tax return was in 1340 – levied at one ninth of yearly income, and known as the Nonae Inquisitions. It does not mention any names of landholders or holdings but is rather a summary of the manor’s taxable income. The main item by far is grain – then wool, then lambs. There is also some small production of calves, piglets, pigeons and ale, and the revenue from the windmill. Also noticeable is the extent of land ‘fallow and uncultivated this year’ (180 acres) the lost value of which was to be set against the tax liability. The ale would have been brewed from barley, without hops (which did not appear in Britain for another 200 years).
For the rest of the century we have a few incidental references to individuals in various documents, some of which tie in with names in the Subsidy Rolls. .For example we meet the Nhed family again. In 1347 a Grant of Dower records that, on the day of her wedding at Ferring Church, Alice, daughter of John le Nhud of Northedowne, Ferringge, was given a house and 4 acre strips of arable land at Holt, Clapham.
One intriguing document is a petition of 1374 to the Chancellor, to dismiss two Customs officers who operated at Kingston. They would have been collecting duty on the export of wool from the landing stage there. The petition asks the Chancellor to appoint instead William atte Vicarys of Ferring and John Pakkeman of Goring-by-Sea; and to send a writ to Robert John and William Pallingham not to concern themselves with that office any more. The document is endorsed, ‘It is to be done on the information of William de Lokynton, clerk’. Were the officers corrupt, or too harsh? We shall never know.
The new Customs office from Ferring evidently lived in, or close to, the vicarage, and it would be interesting to find out whether William de Lokynton was the Vicar of Ferring at this time. It seems not, because although we know the names of only a few Vicars in this century, it is recorded that on 5 May 1373 Walter, Vicar of Ferring, was briefly excommunicated at the King’s request for non-payment of 6s 8d as (half the ‘tenth’ voted to the King), and was reinstated when he had paid.
All through this century the Bishop, or rather his Steward, was keeping the main Ferring estate ‘in hand’, not leasing it out as happened from the 16th Century onwards. East Ferring remained a separate estate but the owners were still paying ‘Homage’ to the Bishop. The de Ferring family had sold it to William Stopeham, and the end of the century he sold it – half to John Bertelot and half to Robert Palmer, by whom homages (probably financial) were paid in 1398 and 1400 respectively.
No records of the manor court from this period seem to have survived but there is a fragment from the local ‘Hundred’ Court, which dealt with certain law and order issues. At some time between 1372 and 1381 it is recorded that ‘… the headborough of Ferryng with two men owes suit twice a year to the Hundred of Poling and presents nothing there but will take assize of bread and ale’ (testing for quality).