A rectory as old as it gets

Rouser 2013
Rouser 2013
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The Lamplands and the Taperlands have long disappeared from West Dean, a delightful village tucked away in a corner of Friston Forest.

They were fields, the rents from which went to the church to pay for oil to keep a lamp burning above the altar, and to buy tapers or candles.

At West Dean can be found what is maintained to be the oldest inhabited Rectory in the country, dating in part from 1220, with flint and stone walls two and a half feet thick and a stone spiral staircase.

With such an old timer about it is possible to believe that Alfred the Great had his palace here.

Certainly Asser, the monk who was to become a bishop and the King’s biographer, was summoned to visit Alfred and recorded his royal welcome at West Dean.

When the Rev G. W.A. Lawrance was appointed rector at West Dean in 1891 he led the excavation of the lost village of Exceat, which had been incorporated with West Dean in 1528.

A stone marks the site of their investigation.

Exceat was quite an important fishing community with 24 taxpayers in 1296, but a mighty storm destroyed the anchorage used by the fishing fleet and then the Black Death and raids by the French finished the village as a community.

There used to be a cottage there haunted by a number of ghosts who all shared the same background - they had been driving or riding on carts climbing the hill from the river valley and been killed when they tumbled off on the sharp gradient.

Pictured, the ancient 
Rectory at West Dean.