Tale of three villages in one

A few lines on a tombstone in Chailey churchyard tell the story of a Victorian tragedy. Thomas Jeffery was a butcher by trade and on October 18, 1851, his knife slipped and severed the main artery of his thigh.

Poor Thomas bled to death within the hour. He was only 18.

Chailey owes its size to the fact that it is really three villages in one: Chailey Green, South Common and North Common.

Chailey Green, gathered about the church, was once the hub of village life.

Within living memory it boasted a village shop, a butcher’s, a tailor’s, a post office and a smithy. All these have now disappeared.

Bogbean flourished on the common and was welcomed locally as a preventive of rheumatism, though it was regarded in many districts as a purifier of the blood.

Gipsies were always eager to stop and gather many wild plants for medicinal purposes; juice from the berries of honeysuckle was valued as a cure for sore throats and the young shoots of broom were thought to be a useful antidote to kidney complaints.

John Kember had all the characteristics of a miser or ‘a plain and meanly dressed farmer’ yet he spent vast sums on expensive books.

Horsfield recorded that ‘whilst some of his neighbours regarded him as a slave of avarice, others not more justly considered him as one of those whom much learning had rendered mad’.

He kept all his books neatly packed in boxes, taking them out occasionally to admire them, and also built up a sizeable collection of old maps and scientific instruments.

After his death ‘his books and philosophical apparatus were disposed of by auction in Lewes, and the competition was such as to turn to good account the taste of the worthy bibiomaniac’.

Young Basil Jellicoe, going to church in Chailey for the first time, let out a cry of alarm (or disappointment) when his father entered the pulpit: ‘Why it’s not God, it’s only Daddy.’

The Five Bells inn took its name from the number of bells in the church, though it did not bother to change its name when a sixth was added in 1810.