KEVIN GORDON - True resting place of Parson Darby

Oh Dear. For those of you who read my item last week about Parson Darby, I must apologise.

I mentioned that the good vicar was buried at Friston Church and indeed had visited the church in an attempt to find his grave.

I couldn’t find it and no wonder - he is buried just down the hill at East Dean! The two churches are only about half a mile from each other and Darby would have walked between his two churches through a field curiously named “Hobbs Eares” (An eare is an old English name for ploughed land).

I am sorry for making such a mistake especially since I have close family ties with East Dean; my mother used to live in the Bake House.

My grandparents are buried at St Simon & St Jude Church and, to keep my links to the village my son, Toby was baptised there.

You enter the churchyard via a tapsel gate. This is a gate on a central pivot designed to allow a coffin to rest on while prayers were said as a funeral arrived at a church. Although the tower of the church is ancient, some of it is surely pre-conquest, the rest of the church has been altered by the Victorians.

The porch in the summer is usually surrounded by a mass of pink roses and the interior is full of interest. Two things particularly caught my eye on entering the church.

Firstly, the splendid delicately carved Jacobean pulpit, where local vicars have stood for nearly 400 years.

Presumably the vicar in 1623 was not too loud, as the pulpit is topped by a sounding board to help project his voice towards his congregation.

I was also interested in the shepherd’s crook on display reminding us of the occupation of the majority of local men who worked on the land.

I have a photo of my grandmother Isabel Dickens at East Dean taken in about 1910. She is dressed as Bo-Peep and is holding a shepherds crook. I wonder if this is the same one that is in the church?

There is also a broken grave-slab bearing the coat of arms for the Bardolf Family. The Bardolf’s lived at Birling Manor on the Birling Gap Road.

Thomas Bardolf was born there on 22nd December 1369. He was killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor in Yorkshire on 19th February 1408. Unfortunately he backed the wrong side during the Percy Rebellion and his body was removed from the battlefield and quartered, the parts being displayed on the gates of London, York, Kings Lynn and Shrewsbury, wheras his head was popped onto the main gate of city of Lincoln.

Henry IV later gave permission for Bardolf’s wife, Amice de Cromwell, (who was also born near East Dean) to collect the bits and bury them. I doubt whether the remains were bought all the way back to East Dean although the grave-slab certainly looks as if at one time it was also ‘quartered’

I was amused to read of an event in May 1832 when the church service was interrupted by a local yokel who burst through the door and rushed up to a farmer shouting ‘Flaze-Zur, Flaze-Zur - here be a letter for you from the Duke of Richmond!” I presume ‘Flaze-Zur’ is old Sussex for ‘Please Sir!’

In September 1931 there was a grand wedding at East Dean Church when Bruce Chichester married Joyce Thompson. Bruce was the son of General Sir Arlington Chichester and in the Great War had served in the Royal Hussars.

The bride and groom wore their riding clothes at the service and after the ceremony mounted a pair of white horses tied outside before galloping away to their honeymoon.

The good parson Darby is buried in the graveyard today not far from the graves two unknown sailors from the Second World War.

I can only apologise to Parson Darby for wrongly identifying his last resting place. In language he would have understood, all I can say is “Flaze-Zur forgive me!”