Following the recent publication of my article on the ‘Linfields of Coolhurst’1, I decided to write an adapted version for Horsham Heritage, the journal of Horsham Museum and Horsham Museum Society. Since I would need to write something of interest to a more general audience, it was necessary to exclude many of the family history details. The process of re-writing this article – with useful guidance from Sue Djabri of the Horsham Museum Society – proved to be a very interesting exercise in itself, leading, in fact, to a fundamental re-assessment of some of the ideas expressed in the original. The version which appears in Horsham Heritage2 is therefore rather different to the one which appeared in Longshot. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the main differences and the reasons behind them, and to look at one or two new ideas which evolved during the process.
One of the first reassessments concerns the actual purchase of the Coolhurst estate. I had always assumed that it was the first John Linfield, attorney-at-law who bought Coolhurst soon after his marriage to Ann Coe in 1690. But there is no proof for this. In fact, it now seems more likely that it was his son John (1698-1782) who bought the property. I say this because we now know that John stayed in London for a number of years after his father’s death in 1721, whereas it seems more probable that he would have come directly to Horsham had he inherited a substantial rural estate. In 1723, for instance there is a record of his leasing a 60 acre farm in Steyning called Northovers and Doles from John Ellis. (It is unlikely that he went to live there – it was tenanted at the time by John Muzzall – possibly the clockmaker who later worked in Horsham). But the interesting feature of the lease is that he is described as “John Linfield of Hadley, Middlesex, gent.” which suggests that he already had property there. This is a little confusing as Hadley is not a place name that appears to have survived in Middlesex – there are Hadleighs in Essex and Suffolk – but it may be that the name is a mis-transcription for Hackney, which is in the part of London which falls within the county.
His father also had debts, as shown in the letter John wrote to Lord Irwin in 1734 where he states: ‘I protest to you my Lord I paid themoney years ago to satisfye my Fathers Creditors, and was forc’d to borrow some to do it with’. In fact, it is quite possible that the main reason John was willing to sell some of his burgage properties in the first place was to raise the necessary funds to pay off his creditors, who had called in his father’s debt. He wasn’t to know that Lord Irwin had serious financial difficulties of his own – having lost substantial sums in the crisis of the South Sea Bubble – which prevented him from honouring his financial obligations. I think it quite probable, bearing in mind his father’s debts – although I have no idea of their extent – and the fact that he didn’t receive payment for his properties until 1737, that it wasn’t until after this date that he had the necessary funds to buy an estate such as Coolhurst. His marriage in 1744 to Sarah Legat may well have been the deciding factor behind the purchase.
An interesting observation by Sue Djabri is that the Linfield family could have mustered as many as ten votes in the early 18th century; if there had been a contested election between 1715 and 1790, the Linfields could have held an important independent block of votes, against both the Eversfields and the Irwins (before 1737), had they wished to do so. In fact, Sue provided me with details of all the Horsham burgages which had Linfield associations at one time or another3. They included:
- Foreman’s and Foyces, also known as Coe’s late Linfields. This was the house just north of Causeway House and it consisted of two houses which gave two votes. In 1764 John Linfield rented out the two houses – one to Ellman Tasker – but held the two votes. At the time of the 1790 election this house had been bought by the Duke of Norfolk and the (now only one) vote was held by Timothy Shelley of Field Place – this made it possible for him to stand as the Duke’s candidate in the election.
- South part of the Talbot and Wonder.
The Talbot and Wonder was on the north side of Pump Alley, but there seems to have been odd bits here and there – there may be some confusion with Foreman’s and Foyces, as the south bit of the Talbot and Wonder is also referred to as a garden in South Street. In 1739 the heirs of Ralph Linfield were said to own one portion and the heirs of John Linfield’s two portions. Again, these bits seem to have come into the hands of the Duke of Norfolk by 1790, and yielded two votes, whereas the Irwins owned the rest of the Talbot and Wonder, which gave them four votes.
- Parkhurst’s – Causeway House.
This was owned successively by George Arnold and Thomas Parham – John Linfield’s sons-in-law, so was to all intents and purposes under his control.
- Broadbridges or Arnold’s Votes and Potter’s Croft.
These two burgages were on the east side of what is now Denne Road, just south of Bishops, the old medieval burgage house on the corner, which is now a pizza restaurant. In 1764 John Meredew said Elizabeth (Linfield) Arnold owned three fields and had three votes, by which he probably meant Broadbridges, (one vote) and Potter’s Croft next door to it, which had two votes – three altogether. In fact these two burgages were held jointly by Elizabeth, her brother John Linfield and Thomas Parham and were both sold in 1748 to Henry, 7th Viscount Irwin, except for a little bit of Broadbridges – an orchard – which had been bought by Sam White and which was later acquired by Robert Hurst as burgage ground, yielding another vote for the Duke of Norfolk in 1806.
- Barn and part of Gillhams.
In 1759 John Linfield apparently held this part of Gillhams, which was another field further down Denne Road, still on the east side, and sold it to Henry Lord Irwin – it was reputedly purchased by his father from John Ellis, who acquired it in 1713, but the abstract of title in the Burgage Book seems a bit doubtful about all this. It counted as one whole burgage and one vote. Gillhams had a house built on it – this has been identified as Arun Lodge, opposite the end of the Normandy, which has an Elizabethan core.
- Coe’s House or Constable’s
Not to be confused with Coe’s late Linfield’s – this was next door to Ashleys, which was on the north-east corner of what is how Park Place and East Street – possibly where Furniture World is now or maybe where the new road comes through from Albion Way. This was sold by Robert Coe to John Linfield in 1697 – on a 10,000 year lease – but by 1764 had been acquired by Lord Irwin; it had been split and yielded two votes. There are no details of the sale.
Moving forward to 1780, and the rather contentious matter of the long and complicated will of John Linfield (1698-1782): in my previous article, I made some speculative comments about the reasons for his apparent disinheritance of his eldest son, John (b. 1750), since the lion’s share of his bequests – including the valuable Coolhurst estate – go to his younger son, Charles (1753-1827). Another intriguing aspect of the will is the exceptional generosity shown to his “trusty, faithful and frugal servant” Sarah Brookwho receives a yearly allowance and the use of his house at Coolhurst for the rest of her days. We speculated that John may have suffered from a mental condition requiring constant care, but by providing Sarah Brook with adequate resources, he would continue to be cared for after his father’s death.
Further research has yielded an alternative reason. After consulting with history expert Annabelle Hughes, Sue was able to confirm that Coolhurst, as part of the Manor of Shortsfield was subject to the provisions of “Borough English”, which was the custom of certain Sussex manors, especially the early ones which were linked to the Norman Abbey of Fecamp, as Shortsfield was. According to this custom, copyhold property of the manor had to be left to a younger, not an elder son, who was perhaps less likely to have had the chance to make his own way in life. Nevertheless, John was still left some valuable property in the town. We know that in 1784, for instance, he tried to sell two freehold properties he had inherited in Market Square
It would certainly be nice to know more about the third John Linfield, who is otherwise a rather mysterious character. He was not a lawyer like his father, so what did John do? One clue may be found in John Baker’s diary. In 1774, all John Baker’s servants were inoculated against smallpox and kept in isolation for a week at a certain “Dr. Lindfield’s house” on Horsham Common. There is no other mention of this “Dr. Lindfield”, but it seems quite possible that it may have been John, though a search has not yet been made through medical records to try to confirm this. Certainly a doctor would have been a man of much the same social standing as the Coolhurst Linfields, and there are no other Linfields who would appear to fit the bill in Horsham at that time.
The relevant extracts from Baker’s diary are as follows:
- April 7 1774: Between 9 and 10 tonight came Mr Reid and inoculated in the servants’ hall 1. William Wisdom, 2. His daughter Jenny, 3. Becky, 4. Betty, laundry, 5. Betty, dairy, 6. Nancy Peters, and 7. the boy Ned Clark.
- April 11 1774: Betty Charman inoculated the second time by Mr. Reid.
- April 12 1774: This afternoon Jenny Wisdom, Becky, Betty, laundry, Betty, kitchen, Nancy went to Dr. Lindfield’s.
- April 14 1774: Walked out afternoon. Meant to see our people at Dr. Lindfield’s house, where they are. He takes in inoculated people, but wind so keen turned back.
- April 15 1774: Went out in chaise with Fanny and Molly Maul to Broadbridge Heath, turned back and over against Dr. Lindfield’s house beyond Champion’s Windmill. Chaise stood about 30 yds. From house, but saw all our seven small pox folk. Betty came near chariot.
- April 19 1774: After dinner Charles went over to Dr. Lindfield’s, said Ned had about 30 pustules small pox, his daughter Jenny nine or ten, all come out.
- April 21 1774: Walked to Dr. Lindfield’s and saw all the small pox folks, save Betty laundry. Sent them at night two bottles of Punch with the jellies, Charles gave it to William Wisdom in at the window (they would not let him come in), for them to eat and drink going to bed.
- April 26 1774: Dr. Lindfield called, paid him seven guineas on account. Walked over at 1 to his house. Betty kitchen, four in face, and said about twenty more, Betty laundry, about thirty in face, and said in all above a hundred, many on both arms, William Wisdom and Ned some hundreds; Nancy about a dozen in face, and Becky as many.
- April 27 1774: Soir came Mr Reid, agreed to take home all the innoculates next Tuesday, and innoculate other five next Sunday evening. He said if they caught it first in the natural way, and were inoculated three or four days after, the latter would defeat the former, and take place entirely.
In my previous article, I had also speculated that John may have fallen out with his father who therefore decided to significantly reduce his inheritance. It could also be argued that far from having a split with his father, he might have fully supported him in his choice to pursue a career in medicine, to the extent of setting him up with his own house on the Common, as his main share of the estate, because he needed it then, rather than after his father’s death. I cannot find fault with such a theory, especially as we have no other references to the elusive Dr. Lindfield. Certainly John junior displayed no symptoms of mental decline in his earlier years, and the fact that his younger brother suffered from a psychological disorder in later life does not actually prove anything. Again, there is no evidence to suggest that John senior’s generous treatment of his servant was anything more than showing his heartfelt gratitude for years of faithful service.
I have already mentioned that in 1784 John III decided to sell two freehold properties which he owned in Market square, with the help of his solicitor William Ellis (not John Ellis, as I mistakenly referred to him). These were in fact his grandfather’s house, called ‘Foremans and Foyces’ and ‘Coe’s late Linfield’s’, just to the north of Horsham Museum, which was now divided into two tenements. The properties were advertised as of burgage tenure, thereby conferring voting rights upon the purchasers; this caused a certain amount of tension after the auction when doubts were raised about the validity of these claims, and Lady Irwin, the vendor, decided to withdraw from the transaction. John went to see Lady Irwin’s solicitor and demanded the money, but was sent away under a barrage of abusive language. The eventual outcome was that the house (or part of it) was in fact bought for £210 by Robert Hurst on behalf of Timothy Shelley, father of the poet, who did manage to confirm that it was a proper burgage, following a case brought against him by Lady Irwin in 1789.
We do not know the date of the third John’s death, or whether he remained childless, in which case it seems likely that any property he owned would have passed to his younger brother Charles, or his children.
Another more recent discovery is that Charles Linfield actually made a will, proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) in 1827. Wills proved at PCC usually indicate that the testator had property in more than one diocese, although this was by no means always the case. The most surprising revelation from this will, made in 1794, is that Charles’ wife, Mary Linfield, to whom he leaves all his property, is still alive in 1827 when she comes forward to perform her duty as executor in order to claim a substantial inheritance. I say ‘surprising’ because I had assumed Charles was a widower, bearing in mind the appalling state in which he had been found ‘lying on a wretched pallet surrounded by dirt and filth’ some months before his death. It was also stated in his obituary notice that ‘by the kind attentions of his visitors he was shortly placed in a cleanly and more comfortable condition.’ His wife had obviously left him – perhaps many years earlier as a result of his sad decline – whilst his sons also appear to have deserted him. In the 1805 Land Tax Assessments he is listed as a farmer in Southwater, living at Agates Farm, which he owned. Possibly this is where he spent the last years of his life. What a sad and lonely old man he must have become.
As so many of these Coolhurst Linfields were buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Horsham, I thought I would try and discover if any of their gravestones have survived. Checking through the Sussex Family History Group’s ‘Tombstones and Burials Index’, I found only one entry, which relates to George Linfield and his family:
Stone Number: 173Yard: HORSHAM St Mary, Denne Road.
Inscription: In/ Memory of/ GEORGE LINFIELD/ Born October 12th 1785/ Died August 23rd 1872/ and of JANE LINFIELD/ wife of the above/ Born May 11th 1809/ Died Oct.16th 1882 /In/ Memory of/ ELIZABETH/ third daughter of/ GEORGE and JANE LINFIELD/who died/ April 29th 1861/ Aged 20 years/ Also of/ JANE second daughter of/ the above/ who died May 28th 1871/ Aged 37 years/ Also of/ JOHN JINKS/ Born June 17th 1818 Died June 4th 1888.
I stated in my earlier article, that apart from a son, Henry Charles Linfield, I did not know whether George and Jane had any other children. The gravestone in St. Mary’s churchyard is particularly useful in revealing that there were also three daughters, of whom Jane and Elizabeth sadly predeceased their parents. By looking at the 1841 census, I was able to find that their eldest sister was Sarah Linfield, born in the early 1830s. John Jinks, also recorded on the stone, was probably Jane’s younger brother (bearing in mind his age).
There are still, of course, many unanswered questions about the Coolhurst branch. Before we can come to any conclusions as to whether Henry Charles Linfield was the last of the line, we will need to try and find out what happened to his two uncles, William (b. 1783) and John (b. 1788) who seem to completely vanish from the records after 1800. And then, going back a generation, whatever happened to Charles’ elder brother, John III (b. 1750) who also disappears from the records? All we can say with any certainty is that the Linfields were figures of some importance in Horsham for over a century – but they came and went, like many other families, as part of a continual process of change and renewal in the history of the town.
This drawing appears in the 1868 edition of Dorothea Hurst’s ‘Horsham, Its History and Antiquities’. The earliest part of the building, where the Linfields lived, can be seen on the right – the major additions carried out by later owners, which Miss Hurst called “a fine modern specimen of the Tudor style of architecture”, can be seen on the left. It also stood in splendid ornamental grounds, diversified by wood and water, as can be seen in the drawing.