Nyetimber's oldest home in England

While researching churches in the area, I came across a reference to the oldest inhabited house in England '“ that of Barton Manor dating from 800 AD.

I was fortunate enough recently to have access to information held by the current owners, which opened up an interesting tale.

There are a number of records, according to which Archbishop Peckham, in 1281, wrote to the abbot Ghent from 'Nywetymber' (note the spelling) and to the Bishop of Rochester with accounts of the tenants.

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Barton Manor was later leased by the archbishop to farmers. Thomas Morrell was a leaseholder in 1504. By 1560, the manor was the possession of the crown, and Queen Elizabeth I granted it to Edward Darell, a royal official who was The Clerk of the Queen's Catery.

He is remembered in St Thomas a' Becket church.

In 1675, the farm/manor was bought by James Ballett and remained in his family for 250 years.

His descendent was a well-known name in the area '“ William Holland Ballett Fletcher, who also owned Hotham Park House. He had the manor restored in 1902.

William is credited with preserving the Saxon part of the house and the 12th century chapel. It is also reported that Arthur Conan Doyle visited the manor for inspiration with some of his Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

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In one of his early stories, The Musgrave Ritual, allegedly written when he was about 25 years old, he wrote of 'perhaps the oldest inhabited house in the country with enormously thick walls'. The only place to fit this description is Barton Manor.

A report in 1903 stated that the greater part of the house formed an ecclesiastical building, with the chapel dating from the 13th century, while a building running at right angles to the chapel is 'certainly 11th century, if not pre-conquest and looks like the 'Aula of the original Manor'.

It is certainly interesting reading a diverse range of 'accurate reports of the time, which today conflict'.

For more local history click here

Mr H L F G Guermonprez contributed to the story in 1903, when he thought there was a possibility that the building dated from the granting of the Manor of Pagham to St Wilfrid in the year AD 687.

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The manor was once a small estate which may have produced barley as the main crop '“ Bere-ton meaning barley farm.

In 1929, there was another important visitor to Barton Manor. Local historian Lindsay Fleming guided the Archbishop of Canterbury around Barton Manor while he convalesced in Pagham at the time of King George V's stay at Craigweil.

An article was written in 1944 by F T Ashton-Gwatkin, who was renowned as a travelled minister in the British diplomatic service, and arrived to live in the manor in 1948.

His article, published in The Countryman, paints a wonderful picture and I make no apology for reprinting his words. "We start from Regnun, which is now Chichester, taking the Southern Road towards Manhood End, and passing the Waste Lands and the Forgotten Harbour and the Broken Quay and the Old Mill and the Crab and Lobster Inn and the Last Farm: thence along a narrow embankment with the Dead Lagoon on the right-hand side and the Green Pastures on the left.

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For more local history click here Here, there are no more human habitations, but many seabirds wheeling and wailing.

'From this transitory stage we emerge on the other side beyond the Sluice Gates, with the Church of St Thomas a' Beckett on the right and the ruined wall of the palace where Anselm was made archbishop; and thence the path crosses some fields to a hamlet with two inns, the Bear and the Lamb. Up a lane behind the Lamb is the Oldest House in England.'

While Ashton-Gwatkin does record other older premises in Britain, he reports that Barton Manor is little more than a large cottage, which contains a fair-sized chapel (dedication unknown) of the 12th century and the remains of the hall of a small Saxon manor house.

Today the area has been transformed. I took a drive down to the manor along a beautiful country lane, past the duck pond and some interesting homes.

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At the end of the lane is a gated retirement complex which provides a restful short or long-term home for those seeking the tranquillity of the countryside in a wonderfully interesting historical setting.

The age of the premises can be determined from many of the materials '“ used such as the masonry stones quarried from the sea nearby and laid slantwise in the characteristic herringbone pattern.

This and other materials are still on view in parts of the nine apartments that have now been created.

For one resident there is the added distinction of living in the 12th century chapel which is now part of a ground floor apartment overlooking the garden, which looks wonderful.

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If you want to learn more, visit the website on www.barton-manor.co.uk.

I started by saying I found the information on Barton Manor while researching churches.

I am now compiling this information for a new publication. I would like to finish by asking anyone with connections to any church or religious group in an area between Pagham and Elmer, if they could share their history with me including dates, memories and information pertaining to their group.

I am compiling this book and require as much information as possible, including up- to-date knowledge.

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I would ask newer organisations to supply me with details of when they commenced and the venues they use at present.

You can contact me via my email on [email protected] where all information would be most welcome.

Some churches have already supplied information on their histories, for which I thank them.

I wish to thank everyone who wrote to me about the captions in the Bersted article Sadly, there was an incorrect caption placed below the sketch of South Bersted Church. I am always pleased to receive comments, as your comments can help me to update or correct as appropriate.

You can always reach me by email or through the Bognor Observer office in Station Road.

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