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History / Walderton/ Detailed Research
The house from Walderton, West Sussex


The house from Walderton in the parish of Stoughton, West Sussex, is externally a 17th century building with walls of flint and brick. Beneath its 17th century exterior is a medieval timber-framed building which itself is a replacement of part of an earlier building, discovered during archaeological investigation of the site. The dismantling, recording and re-erection of this house was the first substantial piece of building archaeology undertaken by the Museum.

An article written by Fred Aldsworth and Richard Harris describing the structural history of the house, the archaeological excavation that was carried out after its dismantling, and a brief history of the ownership of the house was published in Sussex Archaeological Collections in 1982.

Building archaeology

Analysis of the surviving timber showed that the medieval building comprised an open hall at the west end, which was heavily soot-blackened from the open hearth, and a ground floor room with a first floor chamber above at the east end. A cross passage probably divided the two ends.

Beyond the west end of the hall there must have been an earlier structure which could have been in line with or at right angles to the surviving building, but the form and dimensions of this are not known. At some point before the main 17th century alterations the walls of the eastern half of the building were provided with substantial flint foundations.

The 17th century refurbishment amounted almost to a complete rebuild. The accommodation created was in two halves, separated by the new chimney stack and the remains of the earlier cross frame, intercommunicating only via a lobby inside the north doorway. The eastern half provided two heated living rooms, one downstairs and one upstairs. The western half provided five unheated rooms, three downstairs and two upstairs. Of these, the room that occupied the position of the earlier open hall had evidently become a bake-house since it contained an oven. The internal walls were plastered and white painted and a brick floor was laid on top of the earlier floor levels.

The style of the ‘new’ house suggests that the rebuild was undertaken in the first half of the 17th century.

The occupants

Front view of the house from Walderton before dismantling,
looking south, with the east end to the left and the west end
to the right.

At the time of its removal to the Museum in 1980 the house was divided into two cottages, the western half of which had been empty and derelict since about 1930. The western half was owned by Ruth Mills and the eastern half was owned and occupied by Mr R G Hurst.

Mr Hurst had five documents in his possession relating to the early ownership of the house from 1614 to 1793, the contents of which were summarised in the 1982 article. The most important of these were an indenture dated 25 March 1614 and a mortgage agreement dated 15 March 1646. In the first of these Hugh Speke and Matthew Woodward, lords of the manor of Walderton, leased John Catchlove a house, garden and orchard comprising half an acre of land and a separate half acre plot of land called the North Garden for a period of 10,000 years. John Catchlove was already the tenant of both properties since the lease describes them as ‘now in [his] tenure or occupation’. The rent for this was six days harvest work per year, two days at hay harvest, two at wheat harvest and two at barley, oats and peas harvest plus two capons at Easter. If the manorial lords were not in residence during the harvest then he was to pay 1s in lieu of the harvest work and 6d in lieu of the capons.

At this date North Garden was just a plot of land. However, by 30 July 1614 – only four months later – when John Catchlove sold a 9,000 year lease on the property to John Thornden, it was described as ‘the plot of land called North Garden containing by estimation half an acre and also the dwelling house thereupon built’. The original lease does not survive and so we do not know how much money Catchlove made from the sale. (It will be recalled that Richard Clare did much the same thing in 1639 when he sold a 9,000 year lease on Pendean, with its 40 acres of land, to Viscount Montagu.) From this date North Garden disappears from the story.

On 15 March 1646 William Catchlove mortgaged the house to Nicholas Powell, a tailor living in West Dean, for £20. This was a secure loan which Catchlove undertook to repay with £1 12s (8%) interest by 20 March 1647, although we do not know whether he did so. After this there is a gap in the documentation until 1759 when Elizabeth Page of Emsworth and Mathew Catchlove of Westbourne sold the lease to Nicholas Pay.

Two John Catchloves

In terms of identifying an early 17th century occupant the provenance of the 1614 lease is crucial since (unlike North Garden) the location of the property it describes is otherwise unidentifiable. From a documentary historian’s point of view it appears to be sound ‘proof’ that John Catchlove lived there. So who was he? As Fred Aldsworth and Richard Harris identified in their article, there were two John Catchloves living in the parish of Stoughton in the early 17th century. They were evidently related but we do not know how. They are easy to distinguish from each other since ‘our’ John Catchlove was an illiterate husbandman (he signed the 1614 lease with a ‘+’) whereas the other John Catchlove was a tailor and sufficiently literate to act as the parish clerk. Some of what we know about both men comes from legal depositions or witness statements that they gave in separate tithe disputes heard in the Chichester Archdeaconry Court in 1614 and 1625 respectively.

In his 1625 deposition ‘our’ John Catchlove states that he is a husbandman, aged 55 years, and has lived all his life in the parish of Stoughton. He was therefore born in c.1570. We know that he was the son of William Catchlove, who died in 1585, and that at that date he had three brothers, William, Edward and Robert, and two sisters, Joan and Jane. He died in 1634, aged about 64, and was survived by his two daughters, Martha and Katherine, both unmarried, and his brother, Robert. His will does not mention his lease. He gave all his goods to his daughters and they were granted administration which would suggest that they inherited the property, but by 1646 it was in the hands of William Catchlove, who may have been his nephew.

The other John Catchlove was younger – 28 in 1614 – and died in 1640 aged about 54. He lived in the village of Stoughton rather than Walderton.

Which house?

We now come on to trickier ground. The 17th century alterations to the house made it a substantial property, comparable in size to Pendean, which we know was occupied by yeomen. Husbandmen typically lived in smaller houses, like Poplar Cottage. Obviously, these are generalisations and the wealth of individual yeomen and husbandmen varied quite widely. It is therefore worth looking at John Catchlove’s economic status more closely.

In 1625 when he gave evidence in the tithe dispute he stated that ‘he is worth £10 in goods after his debts have been paid and lives by his labour in husbandry’. At the time of his death in 1634 he was owed £17 10s in money, which we know because he lists it in his will. His probate inventory valued his estate at £28 14s. Unfortunately, the inventory is badly damaged and the last section – probably about six lines – is missing. The goods that are listed amount to £8 14s, leaving £20 unaccounted for. It is likely that most of this is his outstanding debt. Probate inventories generally include debts owing to the deceased at or near the bottom of the inventory and they are added to the total value of the estate. Catchlove’s ‘net’ worth at the time of his death was therefore about £8 to £10. As a point of comparison, two other Stoughton husbandmen who died around the same time – William Goodchild (1635) and William Smyth (1640) – had estates valued at £39 5s 8d and £64 8s 4d respectively, with Smyth’s inventory recording a ‘good debt’ of £40 making a ‘net’ worth of £24 8s 4d. In other words, even by the standards of his social peers Catchlove was not especially well off.

John Catchlove’s probate inventory of 1634 which shows he left
between £8 and £10 at his death, indicating that he was not well off.

A more intractable problem is that posed by the rooms and goods itemised in the inventory itself. Only two rooms are listed – a hall and a chamber – and, whilst we cannot rule out the possibility that another room was listed in the missing portion, it is likely that this was the extent of his accommodation. Catchlove’s hall contained a table and a frame, a form (a bench), two chairs and a cupboard. It was where he cooked since the inventory records a spit, a pair of pot-hangers, two frying pans, three kettles, an iron and a brass pot and a posnet (a small saucepan or pot with three feet). He also had three tubs, two firkins and one kiver (a shallow, wooden trough) – all items that could be used for dairying or brewing. His chamber contained at least one bed and bedding.

So what are we to make of it? The documents provide us with three events which could have been associated with the radical refurbishment of the house into the form in which it has been reconstructed at the Museum. The first is the 1614 sale of the lease on the North Garden plot with its newly built house (apparently built in the four months following the original granting of the lease), which might have provided funds for the refurbishment. The second is John Catchlove’s death in 1634: his daughters inherited the property, but by 1646 it belonged to another family member, William Catchlove, so there may have been a change of ownership in the later 1630s and an associated opportunity for the refurbishment. The third is the 1646 loan that William Catchlove secured, which again might have provided funds for the refurbishment.

A cutaway drawing showing the probable extent of a late phase in the development of the medieval timber-framed building.

Stylistically the alterations could fit any of these three dates, but 1614 is arguably a little early. The main dating feature is the window construction, with mullions built of brick and plastered to imitate stone. Another Museum exhibit, the building from Lavant, also has brick mullion windows that were originally plastered, and it was built c1614, but it seems to have been a building with some special purpose. There are also almshouses locally with comparable construction built in the first quarter of the century, and it is arguable that an ordinary village house might adopt such an up-to-date style a little later than almshouses, which tend to be somewhat self-conscious architecturally. The brick arch over the front door is another clue: it has more of a mid- than an early-17th century look, quite different from the arched doorheads of the building from Lavant and comparable local almshouses.

So, could the alterations have been carried out after 1614 but before John Catchlove died in 1634? His inventory mentions two rooms, a hall and chamber, which could refer to the two rooms in the eastern half of the house. But in the light of what we know about his age (64), economic status and the material impoverishment revealed by his inventory it seems more likely that at the time of his death in 1634 he was living in two rooms of what by then would have been a decaying medieval hall house. The fact that the flint and brick ‘refurbishment’ was so radical, completely removing all the timber-framed external walls and the medieval floor, suggests that the medieval house had got into a poor state. The architectural and social evidence therefore all points to a date after 1634 for the flint and brick refurbishment.

So who rebuilt the house and when? If it happened in the late 1630s after John Catchlove’s death, we do not know who was responsible, but if one of his two daughters had married her husband might have enabled the work to take place. Alternatively it may have been done by William Catchlove when he acquired the property sometime between 1634 and 1646, or in 1646 when he secured a loan of £20.

A service half

The house has been rebuilt in the Museum as it was immediately after its refurbishment. We do not know exactly what its predecessor, the timber-framed medieval house, looked like, but we do know that its timber walls were still intact as two of the framing members were re-used in the new flint and brick work, one as the mantle beam of the chamber fireplace and the other (a mullion from an unglazed window) as the lintel of a recess in the chimney. The two internal timber-framed cross frames were left in place, but the medieval floor in the east end was removed – the wide mortices for its joists can still be seen. In fact, it may have been removed at an earlier date, as the roof timbers of the east end of the house were quite heavily sooted, possibly indicating that the space had been converted into an open hall for a period.

 The house that resulted from the refurbishment is in some ways clear and easy to interpret. It provided two smart living rooms in the eastern half, both with fireplaces and glazed windows, which would have functioned as hall and chamber, while in the western half were five unheated service rooms. The two halves are clearly contemporary, but they were functionally separate, each with its own staircase, and the only link between them was through the lobby inside the front door. The flint and brick walls and windows show slight but significant differences between the two ends, reflecting the superior status of the eastern half. The eastern half is definitely the habitable end, while the western half is equally clearly the service end.

One of the five unheated service rooms can be interpreted functionally as a bake-house as it contained an oven, and next to it were a pair of small rooms at the west end of the house. Upstairs the chamber over the bake-house had a small dormer window, probably glazed, and could possibly have been used as a bedroom, while the chamber at the west end could only be accessed through an opening little more than 3ft 6in square and had an unglazed wooden window, suggesting that it was used for storage. This half of the house therefore comprised a substantial service block of five rooms, giving 20% more floor area than the two living rooms.

Plans of the house from Walderton.
Living rooms coloured green, service
rooms blue.

Top, ground floor and first floor plans. Bottom, plan diagrams to show relationships and relative sizes.

One possible reason for the disproportionate size of the service block is that the house was designed as a ‘victualling house’, that is, a public eating house. Like alehouses, victualling houses had to be licensed by the justices of the peace at Quarter Sessions and petitions from prospective licensees are to be found amongst Quarter Session records. None has yet been found that relates to the house from Walderton, but by a strange coincidence in 1638 John Catchlove the tailor applied to Quarter Sessions for a licence to keep a victualling house, “being a poor aged man” and “honest in my conversation” and having identified a need for such an establishment in the parish “there being none … [and] many being constrained by reason of sundry important occasions to repair to remote places to their charge and hindrance”. This would have been at his house in Stoughton. Another possibility is that the western half of the house was intended for use as a commercial bakery.

Petition of John Catchlove to keep a victualling house -

Catchelove to the Right Wor. his ma’ties / justices of peace. May it please your worshipps to understand that I beinge a poore aged
man, & have lived in this p’rish of Stoughton about fifty yeares, and in all this time have soe behaved my selfe, paynefull, to sustaine my selfe & mine, & honest in my conversation, as may appeare unto yr worshipps, by the subscription of these mens hands, whose good opinions & desire of my wellfare, doe thinke fittinge, & soe humbly desire, that I may be licensed to keepe a victuallinge house, there beinge none in the p’ish or neere unto it, many beinge constrained by reason of sundry important occasions, to repaire to remote places, to theire charge & hindrance, And for this yo’r worshipps favours I shall be bounde to pray for you all, And the rest as thankfull.

Stoughton October the 3rd 1638.

The Museum’s most authentic exhibit

The house from Walderton has great significance for the Museum: it was the first exhibit to show more than one phase of building, and the contrast between the soot-blackened medieval timbers and the whitewashed 17th century plaster continues to impress visitors. But as a house it has always been problematic in its combination of two living rooms with five service rooms, and complete separation between the two. There is much that we do not know about the history of this building, but both the documentary and the structural evidence have been comprehensively researched and the chances of finding a definitive answer to the way in which the 17th century house was used are slim. But perhaps the association of the Catchlove name with a victualling house – albeit a different Catchlove in a different village – has given a hint of a possible interpretation. Is it possible that the house from Walderton was a bakery or eating house for the community?

The excavation of the site of the house being carried out immediately after
dismantling in 1982, looking south. The excavation was directed by
Fred Aldsworth, who at that time was County Archaeologist for West Sussex.


Left: The chamber fireplace being dismantled.
Every course of brickwork was recorded in detail.
Right, two of the original alcoves in the walls of the west end of the house.


F G Aldsworth & R Harris, ‘A medieval and seventeenth-century house at Walderton, West Sussex, dismantled and re-erected at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum’, Sussex Archaeological Collections vol. 120 (1982), pp. 45-92.

Danae Tankard has become an associate lecturer in the School of Cultural Studies at the University of Chichester. From January 2009 she will be teaching a new module, ‘History, heritage and interpretation’, for the BA History programme. The course will explore the representation and interpretation of history within the UK heritage sector and how it reflects and shapes public perceptions of the past. Part of the course will be taught at the Museum.

Danae is also continuing to work on projects at the Museum.