St. Swithun’s Incumbents

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St. Swithun’s Incumbents

The early church of St. Swithun fell within the benefice of the Cluniac Priory of St. Pancras, Lewes.

Lewes Priory was founded by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey and his wife Gundrada probably in 1081. The dedication of the Priory to St. Pancras followed from the presence of a pre-existing Saxon shrine to that Saint on the site. The first church was built by the first Prior, Lanzo, who came over from Cluny in France with 3 monks.

Lewes’s Cluniac priory became one of the largest, wealthiest and most influential monasteries in England. Its extensive endowment, which in addition to vast landed estates included 160 churches and chapels, supported no fewer than 100 resident monks at its height. It also possessed two Norman and six English dependent houses.

The main duties of the Cluniac monks were prayer and contemplation. They attended eight church services, masses and processions held during the day and night.

Reconstructed image of the Priory


The Church was longer than Chichester Cathedral and gorgeously decorated with elaborate stone carvings, tiling and wall paintings.

The Cluniac order gave great importance to worship and beauty. It was renowned for long and elaborate services, singing and ornate decorations. The monks spent much of the day and night attending services or processing through the Priory.


The priory was surrendered to the Crown on 16 November 1537 and its destruction carried out at the direction of Henry VIII’s secretary, Thomas Cromwell.

Lewes Priory Ruins


Incumbents of St. Swithun’s

Soon after the Priory of St. Pancras was established at Lewes; in 1078 Alured who was “pincerna” or Cup bearer to Robert the first Count of Mortain, gave the church of East Grinstead, and half a hide of land belonging to it at Imberhorne, towards the support of Lewes Priory. This is the first mention of such a building in East Grinstead. This grant was confirmed by William Count of Moretain, half-brother to William the Conqueror, by a charter circa 1108.

In 1352 the living was exchanged by the Prior and Convent of Lewes for the church at Burton, but the living continued in the gift of the Prior until 1554, when Anne of Cleves held the living. She lived for a time at Lewes and had been divorced by Henry VIII in 1540; the right of presentation probably being given to her at the time of the confiscation of ecclesiastic property in 1545. She died in 1557 and the privilege of presentation passed to various branches of the Sackville family of Knowle.


Date of


Points of Interest



Henry III on throne

Peter Ray


1st Baron’s War - 1264 Battle of Lewes

Peter Ray mentioned in the muniments of St. Mary Magdalen College, Oxford



Edward I (Longshanks) on throne

Robert de Wynton


Got into trouble for fishing in a pond at Imberhorne without permission from the Prior

William de Astania


Also Rector of West Grinstead and Prebend of Lincoln, Wells and St. David’s



Edward II on throne



Edward II abdicated 1327

Johannes de Wynton


John de Warrenne (7th Earl of Surrey) brought an action against Adam de Winton, monk and John, “persona ecclie de Estgrenestede”.

Johannes exchanged the living of Atherton with

Raymond Pellegrini.

Raymond Pellegrini


Edward III was 14 yrs old when he acceded to the throne in 1327. His mother Isabella of France was regent until 1330. [Ref. Papal Registers: Raimund Pelegrini, Canon of London, papal nuncio. Faculty to use papal letters touching the Roman church and the papal camera in Ireland.]

Anibaldus (Cardinal Bishop of Tusculum)


Holder of several benefices and high offices.

1335 Anglo-Scottish dispute, the French support Scotland. Anibaldus credited with achieving the truce. [Ref: Papal Registers - To the Cardinals Anibaldus and Stephen, papal nuncios. Touching the reformation of peace between the kings of France and England, and reciting all that has been done to that end from the time of Benedict XII. In accordance with which they are to carry out their mission.]

1337 Outbreak of the Hundred Year War

Richard de Bannebury


Summoned by John de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey for breaking into Worth Park and hunting therein.

1346 Battle of Crecy

Richard de Derby


1348 - 1350 The Black Death killed a third of England’s population

William de Longburgh


Simon de Bredon


John Kirkeby


1363 English becomes the official court language

Richard Markwyk


1377 Richard II accedes to the throne aged 10 yrs

1381 Peasants Revolt

Richard Stoneherst


England ruled by various regency councils.

1389 Richard II gains his majority, takes control.

Thomas Ferryng


Summoned by Prior of Lewes for breaking with force of arms into a close belonging to said Prior.

John Bakere


1397-1399 Lords Appellant rebellion

1399 Henry Bolingbroke (son or John of Gaunt) deposes Richard II

Ricardus atte Estcote


1400 Henry IV assumes the throne.

[Henry IV's son, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester’s descendants include Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon , Queen consort of George VI and mother of Elizabeth II and the Queen's current daughters-in-law, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Sophie, Countess of Wessex].

Michael Preston


1413 Henry IV dies succeeded by Henry V

Robert Burgh


1415 Battle of Agincourt

John Mankyn


Exchanged living with Robert Burgh.

1417 English adopted as the language of record within government

Adam Newyle


Exchanged living with John Benet, Vicar of Wadhurst. 1422 Henry V dies aged 35 years

John Benet


1422 Henry VI was just 9 months old when he acceded to the throne - he was the youngest ever monarch. Also titular King of France through his mother Catherine of Valois. England was governed by regency until 1437.

William Lane


1431 Henry VI crowned King of France at Notre Dame, Paris. William Lane exchanges living with Geoffrey Medewe, Diocese of Lincoln

Geoffrey Medewe


1437 Henry Vi assumes the reigns of office

Robert Blowere


1445 Henry VI marries Margaret of Anjou

1453 following the loss of Bordeaux Henry has a mental breakdown.

1455 -1487 War of the Roses

1454 Duke of York declared Protector of the Realm

John Cook


1461 Henry VI deposed by Edward of York

1470 Henry VI restored to throne

1471 Battle of Tewksbury - Edward IV wins back crown and Henry VI dies in custody.

John Brether


1483 Edward IV dies. Edward V declared King but was never crowned; he was believed to have been murdered [Princes in the Tower]

1483 – 1485 Richard III on throne

1485 Richard III defeated at Battle of Bosworth-

Henry Tudor claims the throne

1486 Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York [see brass wall monument to Dame Katherine Grey lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Woodville (Queen to Edward IV) and to Elizabeth of York (Henry VII's Queen) . 1509 Henry VIII accedes to the throne

1521 Pope declares Henry “Defender of the Faith”

Edward Prymer


William Breton, LLD


1533 Start of English Reformation

1537 Lewes Priory surrendered to the Crown

1540 Henry marries Anne of Cleves and divorces her six months later.

1547 Henry VIII dies and 9 year old Edward VI accedes to throne. England is ruled by Regency Council. During Edward’s reign Protestantism was said to have been established.

1549 Services are compulsorily said in English and 1st Common Prayer book introduced by Cranmer.

Robert Best


1553 Edward VI dies leaving Lady Jane Grey as his protestant heir but thirteen days later she is deposed by Queen Mary I, in whose reign Catholicism was re-instated.

Robert Best was deposed because he was married, but he was later re-installed.

William Devonshire


Appointed by Anne of Cleves

1556 Three Protestant Martyrs of East Grinstead burnt at the stake for holding to their faith.

[Ref. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Volume II]

1558 Mary succeeded by Elizabeth I who restores the Protestant faith which quickly evolves into the Church of England

Richard Burnopp


The first Vicar presented to the living by the Sackville family. Star Chamber proceedings state that this Vicar being "a very lewd and wicked p'son altogether swarvinge from his profession nor having the fear of God before his eies " did, at Lewes Sessions, falsely swear that James Pickas, gent., arrested him while at the communion table, to the great disturbance of the communicants. It was proved that such an event never took place and that Richard Burnopp was "a common reporter of manifest untruths and dayly disturber of his quiet neighb™ and an intermeddler in other men's causes," having procured them to spend over £500 in useless law suits. What the Star Chamber did to him is not stated.

John Walwyn, M.A.


Former Rector of Wisborough Green, Arundel, Withyam and Fletching. Later Vicar of Heathfield.

1603 King James VI of Scotland proclaimed as James 1 of England.

1605 Gunpowder Plot

1607 Jamestown, Virginia, North America founded

Edward Topsell, M.A.


Author of considerable repute. His chief works were "The Historie of Foure-footed Beastes " and "The Historie of Serpents." He was perpetual curate of St. Botolph, Aldersgate. He held several country livings, including East Grinstead, held at the same time.

1611 King James’ Bible published

Alan Carr


Owned several parcels of land in East Grinstead and Lingfield.

1625 James I succeeded by Charles I

James Inians


Buried in 1642 at East Grinstead

1642 English Civil War began

Richard Goff


Ejected because he was proved to be “a common haunter of Tavernes and Alehouses, a common swearer of bloudy oathes and singer of baudy songs and often drunke and keepeth company with Papists and scandalous persons.”

Samuel Pretty


The living was sequestered from Goff to Pretty who does not seem to have been in Holy Orders. He was ordered to pay a fifth part of the profits of the Vicarage to his predecessor's wife, and neglecting to do so an action was brought against him. While it was in progress the Committee of Plundered Ministers sequestered the Vicarage from Pretty and returned him " into the County of Wiltshire, from where he had been driven by the King's forces."

Stephen Watkins


Puritan, resigned 1647

George Blundell


A Puritan but he later conformed.

1649 Charles I executed

Robert Crayford


A Puritan. 1653 Removed from office as usher in the free grammar school in Cambridge. [Ref: The Crayford Affair: Transcript of the Testimony of the Master and Four Senior Fellows of Gonville and Caius College]

Christopher Snell


A Puritan

1658 Death of Oliver Cromwell

1660 Charles II restored to the monarchy

1662 Book of Common Prayer published

1662 Snell ejected

1665 Great Plague, 1666 Great Fire of London

John Saywell, D.D.


1683 St. Swithun’s struck by lightning,

1684 Church tower re-built.

1685 James II, the last Catholic monarch, accedes to the throne. 1688 deposed and succeeded by Mary II and William III of Orange.

John Staples, M.A.


1694 Queen Mary aged 32 years died of smallpox.

William III continued to reign until 1702.

1702 Queen Anne succeeds to the throne.

1707 the Act of Union (creates the Kingdom of Great Britain).

1714 Queen Anne dies, succeeded by George I (of Hanover). Cabinet government introduced.

1727 George I dies, succeeded by George II.

1732 John Staples dies of smallpox

George Garnett, M.A.


Died 1746

Thomas James. M. A.


Henry Woodward, M.A.


1760 George II dies; succeeded by George III

1763 Henry Woodard died

Charles Whitehead, M.A.


1775-1783 American War of Independence

1785 St. Swithun’s church tower falls, destroying church.

1789 St. Swithun’s church rebuilt.

Stileman Bostock, M.A.


1803-1815 Napoleonic Wars

Richard Taylor, M.A.


1815 Battle of Waterloo

1820 George III died, succeeded by George IV

1835 Richard Taylor dies

Christopher Nevill, M.A.


1820-1822 Played first class cricket for Cambridge University Cricket Club.

While English chaplain at Lisbon in 1830 collected funds for the erection of a sarcophagus over the grave of Henry Fielding, the novelist.

1847 Nevill dies

John Netherton Harward, M.A.


1853-1856 Crimean War – two of Harward’s sons fought with distinction during this period.

1863 Harward died

John Peat, M.A.


Formerly Master of Sevenoaks Grammar School. Gained some repute as an author translating the Sapphic Odes of Horace and also published a poem entitled “The Fair Evanthe” in which he described that which is “beautiful, graceful, excellent and holy in women”. He died in 1871 and is buried at Chevening near Sevenoaks.

Douglas Yeoman Blakiston, M.A


1871 the Great Gale with 50 estimated dead

W. W. Youard, M.A.


1910 George V on the throne

1914-1918 World War I

1919 Rood Screen erected

E. L. Macassey, D.D.


1924 Ramsay McDonald becomes first Labour Prime Minister

G. Golding-Bird, D.D.


1936 Edward VIII accedes to the throne abdicates Dec 1936 - George VI on throne

1939-1945 World War II

1952 Queen Elizabeth II accedes to the throne

H.C.F. Copsey


Prebendary of Chichester

John Roger Brown, A.K.C.


Prebendary of Chichester

Clive Everett-Allen, A.K.C.


Prebendary of Chichester


Please note, this document has been compiled using secondary resources.

Lewes Priory Trust: The Priory of St. Pancras Lewes The History of East Ginstead – its places, institutions, people and events


British History Online: Calendar of Papal Registers Vol. I

M.J. Leppard: St. Swithun’s Church East Grinstead, The East Grinstead Martyrs (published by the East Grinstead Society )

Caroline Metcalfe: The Katherine Grey Monument (St. Swithun’s Church, East Grinstead)

‘The Crayford Affair’ 1653: Testimony of the Master and Four Senior Fellows of Gonville and Caius College

St. Swithun’s Church, East Grinstead historic documentation

Lynn Ellis 28 February 2014

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