Molly didn’t need any state help

IN these days of State benefits it is sobering to think that well within living memory the Isfield area was the home of Molly (or Moggy) ‘Mothballs’.

Home for the eccentric Molly was a cave in the rocks at Buckham Hill and, if the locals had christened her with a less than kind name, they were always generous enough to the old lady as she trundled along the lanes pushing an old pram.

Molly was finally knocked down and killed in an accident involving a military vehicle - and a small fortune in notes was found sewn inside the linings of her various coats.

She was given clothes in plenty, but never seemed to get the hang of changing them; one layer went on over another and she resembled a small round ball as she made her perambulations.

l While on the subject of Isfield, the old parish church stands in splendid isolation beside the remains of an even earlier structure, the outline of a motte and bailey, clearly visible where the old fortification once commanded these upper reaches of the river Ouse.

At one time St Margaret’s housed the richly sculpted marble coffin lid of William the Conqueror’s daughter Gundrada, wife of William de Warenne, founder of Lewes Priory. It was brought to Isfield from the priory at the Dissolution, discovered beneath the floor of the Shurley chapel in 1775 and then returned to the county town.

Across the meadows from the church rises the magnificent Tudor mass of Isfield Place, once the home of the Shurleys. An underground passage is said to link the two buildings and if so it may well have played apart in the local smuggling business which took full advantage of the fact that the river was navigable.

Courtesy of the East Sussex Village Book, written by Rupert Taylor and published by Countryside Books.