Parish of Nuthurst

Henry Linfield of Nuthurst

Wills, Administrations and Inventories

Wills, administrations and inventories are valuable documents to family historians: they provide us with a glimpse of our ancestors not available in other records, of a nature which helps to bring them to life as people in their society and time. Wills not only help to clarify family relationships, but they usually give us information about occupation and property ownership. Of course, not everybody made a will, so they are a special bonus when found.

Letters of Administration (popularly called Admons) were applied for by next-of-kin in situations where a person died intestate. Like wills, they are very useful for the genealogical details they provide. The applicant would agree to pay all funeral expenses, settle any debts and truly administer the estate of the deceased. A true inventory was also required as part of the administration.

Inventories are quite scarce; as a list of the deceased’s personal possessions, they convey a vivid picture of how they lived from day to day. Inventories were drawn up by two reputable local people who knew the deceased, and, apart from household goods and personal clothing, they also listed stock-in-trade, working tools, animals and crops growing in the fields. Debts, credits and leases were also included, but property and fixtures were omitted – so they only give us a limited idea of a person’s real wealth. Nevertheless, they are still invaluable documents which give us a remarkable insight into the lives of our ancestors.

As a regular feature in the Journal, we thought it might be a good idea to reproduce in full some transcripts of these precious survivals of an earlier age. In this issue, we produce full transcripts of the will and inventory of Henry Linfeild of Nuthurst, husbandman, who died in 1643. However, it would be a mistake to look at these documents in complete isolation, so I propose to say something first about the parish of Nuthurst itself, and secondly about the family of Lin(d)fields who lived there for so many generations.

The Parish of Nuthurst

The parish of Nuthurst is situated in West Sussex, a well wooded area of some six square miles and about four miles to the south and east of Horsham. Shaped rather like a figure-of-eight, it includes Mannings Heath and Monks Gate in the north, and Copsale and Maplehurst in the south. The tiny village of Nuthurst, with its ancient church, school and public house, is situated near the middle, on the eastern side of the parish. The soil there varies considerably: in the north and east it is very sandy, and the features which typify this area are the heaths and woodlands. In the south and west of the parish, in the Copsale-Maplehurst area, the soil is impermeable clay which is more suitable for dairying and arable farming. However, though these soil types are very different, both are poor in quality and must have given our Nuthurst ancestors a very hard time! Farming possibilities were severely limited and can only have supported fairly low-productivity agriculture. If the harvest should fail for any reason, then the hardships experienced in the local community mus have been enormous.

Although agriculture was by far the most important activity, the local population would also have benefited considerably from the Sussex Iron Industry in St. Leonard’s Forest. Before its decline in the second half of the 17th century, this hive of economic activity not only provided extra jobs, but also a ready market for any farm surpluses. Hammer ponds to the north of Mannings Heath and the aptly named Cinderbank Copse are the only visible remains of this once thriving local industry. Also worthy of mention is the local quarrying of Horsham stone for building purposes, which took place in Sedgwick Park and to the south of Maplehurst; the period 1570 – 1640 saw a significant rise in housebuilding in the Weald, again providing work opportunities for local people (Ref. )(Ref. 10). One of these was Joseph Linfeild of Nuthurst, “stonehealer,” who died in 1668.

Parish of Nuthurst
Parish of Nuthurst

The Lin(d)fields of Nuthurst

Many of the parishes in the mid-Sussex weald feature prominently in the early recorded history of the Lin(d)fields. Since there are no Lin(d)fields recorded at Nuthurst in the Lay Subsidy of 1524, it is realistic to assume that William Lynfielde, husbandman, who died in 1578 was the first member of the family to settle there. So where did William come from? Stanford Smith believed he was the son of Richard Lynfeld of West Grinstead, who, with Thomas Lynfeld, was assessed there for the Lay Subsidy of 1524. (Ref. 11) Certainly all the evidence suggests that the Lin(d)fields were well established at West Grinstead long before anywhere else in Sussex: as early as 1379, Thomas Lingefield was assessed for Poll Tax at West Grinstead; (Ref. 12) another Thomas is recorded as living at Lindfield Barn between 1518 and 1529 (Ref. 13) (he was also a sub-collector for the 1524 Lay Subsidy). The five West Grinstead wills which survive from the years 1549 – 1560 (Ref. 14) are evidence in their own right that by mid-century the Lin(d)fields were firmly established in the parish, where they stayed in reasonable numbers for at least another century. After 1650 their numbers declined, presumably as they dispersed into other neighbouring parishes and further afield. Most would have worked on the land, a mixture of yeoman farmers, husbandmen and landless agricultural labourers, the latter moving to wherever they could find employment.

William Lynfielde’s descendants continued to live at Nuthurst for several generations, and were there in considerable numbers until the end of the 18th century, when a combination of adverse economic conditions, in particular a continual rise in population, made it impossible to provide enough work for everyone. Thousands upon thousands of young people were forced to leave their home villages to seek work elsewhere, and the favoured destination of people in Sussex was London. Most of the Lin(d)fields drifted away from Nuthurst in the early years of the 19th century; one or two stayed behind, but the opportunities for advancement were very limited. Perhaps not surprisingly, the “Nuthurst Lin(d)fields” developed into one of the main branches of the family; this is reflected in our membership, of whom some 31% are known to descend from this source (as at 16 September 1992).

The main purpose of this introduction has been to provide some useful background information, which, hopefully, should increase our capacity to appreciate and understand the transcripts which follow. The first document to look at is the will of Henry Linfeild of Nuthurst, who died in 1643. Henry was a young married man with two children, and his will is slightly unusual in that it is described in the text as a nuncupative will. This simply means that it was made by the deceased’s word of mouth to witnesses who later made a faithful record of his spoken wishes. Presumably he was on his deathbed and there was insufficient time to call a lawyer. Unfortunately, I have found no clues anywhere as to the cause of death: he may have been involved in some sort of accident, or, more likely, he contracted a fatal illness – all too common at a time of fairly primitive medical care.

Will of Henry Linfeild of Nuthurst, Husbandman 1643

Memorandum that uppon the first day of May Anno. dom. 1643 Henry Linfeild of Nuthurst in the county of Sussex husbandman being sicke in body but of good and perfect remembrance did make and declare his last will and testament nuncupative in the presence of John Poe and Peter Linfeild of Nuthurst aforesaid in manner and forme in effect as followeth: That is to say firstlee hee gave and bequeathed unto his two children John Linfeild and Mary Linfeild twenty pounds a piece of lawfull money of England. And his will and meaning was that the sayd money he bequeathed to his said two children should bee putt out to the best profitt and advantage. And the interest thereof to bee payd to Mary Linfeild his wife toward the bringing upp of his aforesaid children. Item hee gave unto Katherine Daugell his sister twenty shillings. Item hee gave unto his godsonne John Linfeild sonne of his brother Peter Linfeild five shillings. And all the residue of his goods and chattells whatsoever his debts and legacies payd and funerall expenses discharged hee gave and bequeathed unto the said Mary Linfeild his wife whome hee named and appoynted to bee his sole and whole Executrix of his said will and testament nuncupative. And lastly hee instructed and appoynted the said John Poe and John Bartlott of Nuthurst aforesaid to bee his trustees of his said last will and testament nuncupative. In witness whereof the said John Poe and Peter Linfeild have hereunto sett their hands.

The marke of John + Poe

The marke of P Peter Linfeild

There are some significant differences between this will and the normal ones encountered. There is no religious preamble, and it is written in the third person; since Henry was dying when he gave his instructions, it was too late to obtain his signature or mark. But this did not invalidate his will since the document is signed by his two witnesses, John Poe of Nuthurst, and his own brother, Peter Linfeild.

Henry is described as a “husbandman” and it is worth looking at the meaning of this term. Unfortunately, it is rather a loose description for small landholders, which included leaseholders and copyholders, and such holdings were usually in the region of 10 to 50 acres. The yeoman with his 100 acres or so was therefore higher in status in terms of his landholding which gave him certain privileges in the parish: he could fulfil the role of churchwarden or constable for example. The term “husbandman” by itself does not therefore tell us very much about Henry Linfeild, except that he farmed his own land which he may have owned. The vague nature of the expression meant it could be used to describe a subsistence copyholder with 10 acres or a relatively prosperous freeholder with 50 acres!

Naturally, the main substance of the will is concerned with provision for his two small children, John (4) and Mary (2). It would have been the responsibility of his trustees, John Poe and John Bartlott, to raise the necessary funds from his estate to fulfil his bequests. It should also be remembered that before 1858, the proving of wills was a matter for the ecclesiastical courts; since real estate technically belonged to the King, wills are only concerned with the disposal of personal estate. Real estate – houses, barns, premises, all freehold and copyhold lands – were therefore excluded, and descended automatically to the eldest son. Personal estate included all perishable assets household goods, clothing, farm stock and equipment, animals and crops as well as leasehold houses and lands. It is important to realize that if a person owned land, then the disposal of his personal estate only covered a very small part of his property. Since there is no reference in Henry Linfeild’s will to any leasehold land, we can safely assume he owned his own farm, which would automatically go to his widow, Mary, until such time as their son was old enough to inherit.

From the Nuthurst parish register and another source, we are able to add a few more details to what we know of Henry Linfeild and his family. He married Mary Berricke at Nuthurst on 30 November 1637; their son, John, was baptized on 18 June 1638 and their daughter Mary on 27 June 1641. Apart from his brother Peter, mentioned in the will, there was another brother, John Linfeild, who had died in 1639. John was not married, and letters of administration were applied for by his brother Peter because he had failed to make a will. Henry received the sum of 9 from the eventual settlement. Henry’s nephew Peter, son of his brother Peter, who was born in 1641, became a substantial yeoman in the parish during the latter part of the 17th century and farmed an estate with the name of “Snow’s Farm.” I wonder whether part of this landholding may have included what originally belonged to his uncle.

Henry was buried in Nuthurst churchyard on May 5th 1643, four days after making his will. 0n May 18th, an inventory was taken of his “goods… and chattells” which valued his personal estate at 79. There now follows a full transcript of this document.

Inventory of Henry Linfeild of Nuthurst 1643

An Inventory of all the goods cattells and chattells of Henry Linfeild late of Nuthurst in the county of Sussex deceased, taken and appraised the 18th day of May 1643 by John Poe Senior, John Bartlott and Thomas Patchinge as followeth.


Imprimis money in his purse and his wearinge apparell  viij li (Ref. 15)
It (Ref. 16) vi kine and v younge Beasse (Ref. 17)  xxiii li
It ij mares 5 li lOs – j sowe 4 piggs & j baron segge (Ref. 18)  36s. vij li vi s
It 3 acres of wheate ij acres of pease & 3 acres of oats  ix li xs
It x loads of chauke  iij li xs
 In the halle
It bacon & other provision v s. j cubberd ij littell tabells j long tabell iij fourmes & stooles j candell iiij brasse kettells ij iron potts iij brasse posnets (Ref. 19) ij brasse candellsticks ij brasse scimmers ij gridirons (Ref. 20) j pott j paire of tongs iij chopping knlfes j lron morter j brandiron (Ref. 21) ij pairs of pothangers & other lumbeare iiij li iij s
  In the milkhouse
It j old cuberd j Runting hutch iij kellers x truggs j charne workinge tooles & other lumbeare  xl s iij d
  In the Buttery
It j dubber chese presse iij ferkins iij bushells vj tubbs j wollen whelle ij linnen whells j saddle j old brasse pott j old kettell & other lumbeare  xxs
In the Chamber on the Buttery & Halle It malt ij bedsteddells j feather bed ij coverletts ij blanketts iij chests j feather bolster j old bolster & old tooles  iij li xv s
In the Chamber on the milkhouse It j joyned bedsteddell j feather bed ij feather bolsters ij feather pillows j couverlett ij blanketts j flock (Ref. 22) bed j chaff bed j flock bolster j joyned cubberd iiij chests iij boxes j chaier wheate  vi li x s
It vij pewter platters iiij pewter candellsticks iij salt sellers j dozen of spoones iij saucers ij porringers (Ref. 23) j cup  xxij s
It viij pares of sheets iiij tabell clothes v napkins iij pillacoats iij towells j old sheet iiij li It sent by hand from Joseph Linfeild of Slaugham Stonehealer  v li iij s ix d Summa totalis lxxix li (79)

John Poe + mke

John Bartlott

Thomas Patching

In many ways, this document speaks for itself – it lists the contents of each room, and, on the farm, the animals and crops growing in the fields. As such, it provides a fascinating glimpse of Henry’s way of life and the precise furnishings of his house.

As for the house itself, it would have been a simple timber-framed building, probably with wattle and daub infill, although the use of bricks became increasingly popular from the mid 16th century, especially to infill the bottom panels. There was a hall in the centre of the house, which was the main living room and where the hearth was situated. The two service rooms, the milkhouse and the buttery, would have been located in the bays either side of the central hall. On the first floor were the two chambers or bedrooms: one directly above the milkhouse, the other over the buttery and hall.

The detailed list of cooking equipment in the hall shows that all meals were cooked and prepared there, and no doubt consumed at the long table. One or two provisions, including a side of bacon, were also apparently kept in this room, although the buttery was the usual place to store food and liquor.

Depending upon the age of the house, the central hall might originally have extended to the rafters where a gap in the roof would have allowed smoke to escape from the fire. But as house design evolved, it became common practice to build chimneys, which were obviously far superior. It then made sense to insert an upper floor above the hall to take advantage of the extra space and to conserve the heat. The larger of Henry’s bedchambers extended over the buttery and the hall, but we have no idea whether this was part of the original design or a later modernization.

As you would expect, the two service rooms contain various items of equipment and tools, as well as a number of vessels to hold milk and cheese. There was a churn for making butter in the milkhouse, and a whole variety of containers in the buttery, some of which probably held his home-made beer. Interestingly enough, there were also two spinning-wheels in the buttery, one for weaving wool, the other for weaving linen. Perhaps Henry’s house still survives in some form or other, especially as there are several examples of timber framed buildings scattered across the parish.

The inventory also gives us a valuable insight into Henry’s farming activities. The main objective of the Wealden farmer was self sufficiency – even the smallest farms kept a pig in the backyard. Cows were numerous, and every farmhouse had its dairy and cheesepress. Henry had all these things, and was in many ways a typical Wealden husbandman, whose farming practices indicate a concerted attempt to get the best from his land. The problems of cultivation in the parish should not be underestimated, whether on the dry, infertile sands in the north, or the heavy, wet, acid clays in the south. Unfortunately, none of the records identify the precise location of Henry’s farm. Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons for thinking he was farming on clay, which suggests a probable place on the clay belt running between Copsale, Maplehurst and Nuthurst village.

The clues to this are in the inventory: the 10 loads of chalk which are listed show that Henry was marling his land, a practice first recorded in Nuthurst in 1632. (Ref. 24) Not only did it help to improve the fertility of the soil, but it was particularly useful on the sticky, wet clays where it removed the acidity and improved soil structure. The other clue is the complete absence of sheep on his land – if his farm had been situated in the sandy regions, he would undoubtedly have kept some sheep because the predominance of heath and scrub made grazing an essential feature of the farming there. When compared to the Coastal Plain and the Downs, sheep were kept in much smaller numbers in the Weald and were of inferior quality. They were kept as much for their manure as anything else, which is why they were also to be found in the clay areas. Nevertheless, Henry appears to have regarded them with little favour; his cattle were his main livestock interest, which were particularly important in Wealden farming at this time, especially in the clay areas. Beef and mutton were the main products to go to market.

As for his crops, there was undoubtedly a strong bias towards producing animal food. Peas and oats did quite well on clay, as well as providing a highly nutritious foodstuff. He was also growing some wheat, which was not particularly suitable for the cold and damp conditions, but in order to be self-sufficient in food and straw it was probably worth doing.

What about the size of Henry’s farm? He probably practised a simple four-course rotation on his arable land of wheat, oats, peas and fallow. This would account for some 10 acres of land. As for his pasture, if we make the assumption that each of his cattle required some 1 to 1 acres this would add another 12 to 20 acres to the total. Finally, he must have owned some woods, perhaps in the region of 3 – 5 acres, where his pigs could grub around. This gives a total of some 25 to 35 acres – in other words, a typical holding of a middle ranking husbandman.

Hopefully, this article has succeeded in showing the wealth of information which can be obtained from wills, administrations and probate inventories. They are indeed very precious documents, and as part of our research programme we shall continue to obtain copies of whatever we find. Needless to say, transcribing all these records is going to take a long time, so if there are any members who would like to volunteer their services, please get in touch with me. In our next issue, I propose to publish a complete index of all the Lin(d)field wills, admons and inventories which are kept at the West Sussex and East Sussex Record 0ffices. Anybody wanting to refer to any of these documents can then contact me and I will check to see whether we have the particular item in our archives; if we do not have it, then I can arrange to get hold of it.


  • 10. The South East from AD 1000; Brandon and Short (1990) p 196
  • 11. Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-25; Sussex Record Society. Vol 56
  • 12. Stanford Smith Papers; Letter to A G Linfield, May 10th 1953
  • 13. The Place Names of Sussex, Part 1; A Mawer and F M Stenton (1929) p 188
  • 14. Calendar of Wills in the Consistory Court…..of Chichester 1482-1800 {Lists Henry Lynfilde 6 July 1549, Margery Lyndfilde, wydow 14 October 1549, Marmadewke Lynfeld 20 September 1556, John Lyndfylde 26 May 1559, and Richard Lynffyld 14 March 1560}
  • 15. Roman numerals are used in this inventory and it should be explained that j is used in place of i as the last figure, for example j, ij, iij, iiij, v, vj, vij, viij, ix, x, etc
  • 16. Abbreviation for Item
  • 17. Kine is an old term for a cow, beasse an old form of beast
  • 18. Segge means a castrated bull
  • 19. A posnet was a small pot for boiling, having a handle and 3 feet
  • 20. A gridiron was a platform of iron bars, withh short feet and a long handle, for cooking meat over a fire
  • 21. A brandiron was a type of stand or tripod on which to place or hang cooking vessels over a fire
  • 22. Wool refuse used to stuff mattresses and pillows
  • 23. Bowls for soup or porridge
  • 24. Victoria County History of Sussex. Vol 3


  • A Glossary of Household, Farming and Trade Terms from Probate Inventories. Rosemary Milward (1986)
  • Victoria County History of Sussex Vol. 3
  • A History of Sussex. J.R. Armstrong (3rd edition 1974)
  • Farming in Sussex, 1560 – 1640 J. Cornwall MA (SAC Vol. 92 1954)
  • Nuthurst 1977 – The story of a rural Sussex parish in the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. Ed. Viscount Addison (Nuthurst Parish Council)
  • The South East from AD 1000. Brandon and Short (1990)
  • Sussex 1600 – 1660: A County Community in Peace and War. A Fletcher (1975)
  • A Guide to Sussex Probate Records M.J. Burchall (1981)
  • Further Steps in Family History. Eve McLaughlin (1990)
  • The Dictionary of Genealogy. Terrick V.H. Fitzhugh (1985)

2 thoughts on “Henry Linfield of Nuthurst”

  1. My ancestor was Elizabeth Linfield born at Nuthurst. Her parents were Henry and Sarah Pannett. Does anyone know how they are related to the Nuthurst Linfields? Her grandson Thomas George Carter married his 2nd wife Elizabeth Rowlands. her maiden name was Lindfield and she was a 2nd cousin. Her father was James Lindfield. If anyone has any information about the Nuthurst Linfields please get in touch with me. I have carried out some research but would like to see if my findings match with other Linfields.

    1. Hello Kate

      Your ancestor Elizabeth Linfield appears on my Nuthurst family tree. Her father Henry, born in 1765, was a younger brother of my ancestor James Linfield, who was baptised at Nuthurst in April 1760. With their other brothers and sisters, they were the children of William Linfield and Sarah Penfold who were married at Nuthurst church on 20 January 1756.

      This Nuthurst branch of the Linfields all descend from William Linfield, husbandman and his wife Jane. William lived in the 16th century and luckily made a will (Probate 30 May 1578) which lists all his surviving children.

      The Nuthurst Linfields were a mixture of yeomen, husbandmen and agricultural labourers and lived in the parish for generations. My great-great-great grandfather, Henry Linfield, was the last of my ancestors to be baptised in the parish church (in 1796). The enormous increase in population and the serious agricultural depression which occurred after the end of the Napoleonic wars meant that these small agricultural parishes could no longer support everybody and large numbers of people migrated to London and other urban centres of population to find jobs.

      Henry initially went to London (in the footsteps of his older brother William) before taking up gardening (perhaps market gardening) in the 1820s. By 1839, he was living in Guildford and selling cloth, before ending up in Brighton where he died in 1873.

      I have a detailed family tree of the Nuthurst Linfields and would be interested to see your own research work. I would be happy for you to have a copy of my tree. Incidentally, we have done a lot of research on this branch.

      Please get in touch. I will send you my e-mail address directly.

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