West Sussex Protestation Returns 1641/2

The Protestation Returns of 1641/2 and the Hearth Tax records which start in 1662 are two of the most important sources to genealogists pursuing their enquiries into the 17th century, especially as many of the parish records are incomplete during the period of upheaval which followed the outbreak of the English Civil War. They both provide locational details of where families were living in a particular year, enabling the researcher to pinpoint the most likely parishes to search first in the quest for more information.

The Protestation Returns are of the greatest value because they provide a comprehensive list of every male of 18 and above, all of whom were required to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown and the Protestant religion. The text was read out in every parish church in the land, and lists were made of all who signed as well as those who refused. The Hearth Tax was levied between 1662 and 1689, and required householders to pay a tax on the number of hearths or fireplaces in their home. Since it was levied on the occupier, and not the landlord, these records are particularly valuable for providing a detailed list of residents in a village, with a good idea of the size of their houses. But not everyone paid: the very poor were exempt, defined as those receiving parish relief, or inhabiting a house worth less than 1 per year as long as they did not earn an annual income of more than 10. In general, both sets of records are in excellent condition where available; but, as is so often the case, there are gaps where they are missing or damaged. The West Sussex Protestation Returns of 1641/2 are the main concern of this article; the Hearth Tax will be covered on another occasion.

1641-2 Protestation Returns
Click Map for detail

The importance of the Protestation Returns should not be underestimated, and for this reason it is worth going into some detail. Not only do they give a precise record of the distribution of population in the mid 17th century, but they are also an excellent source for the distribution of family names. The Returns for West Sussex were first published in 1906 by the Sussex Record Society (SRS Vol V), and I am indebted to the excellent introduction by R. Garraway Rice for much of the information which follows. The Returns themselves were the result of a resolution in the House of Commons on 30 July 1641 declaring that all who refused to sign were unfit to bear office in church or state. The historical reasons for the resolution were part of the protracted struggle between the Crown and Parliament to assert supremacy; whilst King Charles had no intention of conceding any of his powers as monarch, the House of Commons had embarked on a confrontational programme to obtain more power and influence for itself. Among its members, who reflected the interests of the gentry and the land owning classes, there was a profound abhorrence of the Roman Catholic Church and it is evident that the principal object of the Protestation was not only to support the Protestant religion, but also to discover Roman Catholics. Several Sussex clergy seemed to have grasped this, judging by the statements they made. The Vicar of West Dean, for instance, recorded “We have no recusant Papist in our Parish.” Likewise, the Rector of Pagham: “We have no Papists nor other sectaries in our Parish.”

On January 4 1641/2, the King tried to arrest five Members of Parliament; the Speaker recommended the Protestation be printed and sent to the sheriffs for distribution to every parish, so that every man of 18 and over should take the oath. The Returns are for the most part dated February or March 1641/2, and for the western half of Sussex are almost complete (there are only 5 parishes missing). Unfortunately, in stark contrast, those for the three Eastern Rapes have been lost which is a great shame because we know from the parish registers that the main areas of Sussex settled by the Lin(d)fields during the 16th and 17th centuries were the centrally placed parishes in the mid Sussex Weald, and the boundary line between East and West Sussex cuts right through the middle of them! So our lists are not complete after all – but that is one of pitfalls of family history, so much often depends on the very survival of the source material!

The Protestation was implemented initially by the Justices of the Peace, who administered it to the respective ministers, churchwardens and other parish officers, who subsequently gave it to the male inhabitants of their parishes. Since few people could write their own names, the spelling is essentially phonetic and at the choice of the scribe. As soon as the document arrived from London, the parishioners were warned to attend church and take the Protestation there. Those unable to attend in person could receive it from the incumbent, churchwardens or overseers. The situation must have been very difficult for Roman Catholics: many probably took it, thereby saving themselves the trouble which lay in store if they refused, while others appear to have been ‘absent’ from home at the critical moment.

It is interesting to look briefly at the population statistics which the Returns have provided in such a definite way. With an allowance for the missing returns (believed to be some 600 people), the male population, aged 18 and above, who were living in West Sussex in 1642 was 13,419. Compare this to overall total of 712,600 people estimated to be living in West Sussex in 1992, some 350 years later! As regards the distribution of population, the returns give a total male population for Chichester of about 772; for Horsham of 509; for Petworth of 419; for Kirdford of 309; for Midhurst of 271; for Westbourne of 236; for Billingshurst of 225; for Pulborough of 220; for Steyning of 204; for South Harting of 199; for Wisborough Green of 181; and for West Grinstead of 179.

We will now take a look at the Returns themselves, starting with the parish of Nuthurst where there were five male Lin(d)fields who took the oath. The total male population in the parish was only 104, including the minister and his parish officials. It is well worth reproducing their account of the proceedings: having taken the Protestation themselves:

“JOHN REEVE, minister of the said parish, RICHARD SEALE and WILLIAM NEWNHAM, churchwardens there, and RICHARD BARTLETT and JOHN OLIVER, overseers of the poor there…called the rest of the Parishioners together the 13th day of February in the 17th yeare of the raigne of our most gratious sovereign Lord Charles…and tendered unto them the same Protestacion, and have hereunto written the names of those persons which have taken the same; And further wee answere that there are none of our parishioners which refuse the same.”

Among these parishioners were the following:

  • Peter Linfeild
  • Edward Linfield, the elder
  • John Linfeild
  • Edward Linfeild, the younger
  • Henry Linfeild

As part of this article, I thought it would also be a useful exercise to say something about each of the individuals who appear on these lists. As far as the Nuthurst Lin(d)fields are concerned, it should also help to clarify some of the difficulties which have arisen in the construction of the early Nuthurst tree, due mainly to a significant gap in the parish registers between 1607-1616 where a page is missing. To begin:

(1) Peter Linfeild:

Although we have no record anywhere of his baptism or his marriage, we know that he was a husbandman with two brothers, JOHN LINFIELD and HENRY LINFIELD, who both predeceased him. This information is revealed in their probate documents; when John died in 1640, Peter applied for the administration of his estate which he was subsequently granted. Henry, who also appears in the Returns, died in 1643 and made his nuncupative will (see “Henry” Longshot Vol 1 No 2) in the presence of Peter and JOHN POE of Nuthurst who faithfully recorded his wishes. We also know from the parish registers that Peter’s wife was called Anne, and their first recorded child at Nuthurst, WILLIAM LINFIELD was baptised in 1633. Presumably they were married around 1630, which means that Peter was probably born between 1600 and 1610. Their youngest son, Peter (1641-1715) became a yeoman in the parish at a place called Snow’s Farm which we have not been able to identify. A 30 acre farm called Sewetts was sold in 1744, and said to be “late in the occupation of Peter Lindfield” but we do not know whether this was the original holding known as Snow’s or just a part of the total acreage he farmed.

(2) Edward Linfield, the elder:

Believed to be a grandson of WILLIAM LINFIELD of Nuthurst, husbandman who died in 1578, Edward was baptised in 1593 and married ELIZABETH DEAN at Nuthurst in 1621. I have only found one child from this marriage, EDWARD LINFIELD, who was baptised in 1625. Elizabeth died in 1640. Edward the elder was buried at Nuthurst in 1665.

(3) John Linfeild:

Believed to be the eldest son of JOHN LINFIELD and ELIZABETH WEST who were married in 1604. He may have been a first cousin to PETER LINFEILD above. His wife’s name was Elizabeth but we have no record of their marriage. They had a son John baptised in 1625 and a daughter Mary baptised in 1628. John was buried at Nuthurst in 1657. His son John may have been the JOHN LINFIELD living at Cowfold in the 1660s, who is recorded in 1670 as one of the churchwardens of that parish. He had four wives and died in the parish of Albourne in 1684.

(4) Edward Linfeild, the younger:

Son of Edward and Elizabeth above. Although he was baptised in 1625, he must have been two or three years of age at the time or he would have been too young to take the oath. Edward married LEAH OCKLEY at Shipley in 1655; they had two children, Elizabeth, baptised in 1658, and Henry, baptised in 1664. Edward was a husbandman. He died at Nuthurst in 1707.

(5) Henry Linfeild:

Described in his brother John’s administration as “yeoman and husbandman,” he was also brother to PETER LINFIELD above. He married MARY BERRICKE at Nuthurst in 1637 and they had two children, John, baptised in 1638, and Mary, baptised in 1641. Henry died suddenly in 1643, a tragic event for his wife and young children but a fairly common occurrence when medical care and knowledge was still so primitive. Although we know from probate sources that John, Henry and Peter were brothers and they also had two sisters, Catherine and Joan, the parish registers have failed to provide a positive identification of their parents. I feel sure they were born at Nuthurst or I would have found their baptisms in the records of a neighbouring parish. The main problem is this: a vital page containing the baptisms between 1607-1616 is missing, and before 1602 or thereabouts the names of the parents are not even included! Nevertheless, there is a HARRY LYNFELD baptised in 1601 and a JOHN LYNFELD baptised in 1602 who may be the two brothers of Peter Linfield. If Peter was born between 1607 and 1610, that would account for the missing entry. So who were their parents? We can only speculate: my own belief is that they were the children of HENRY LYNFEILDE and MARGARET GALLOPP who were married at Nuthurst in 1594. Henry was a grandson of WILLIAM LINFIELD, husbandman of Nuthurst who died in 1578 and probably the first Lin(d)field to settle in the parish.

Now to continue with the other entries:

Chichester (St. Pancras):

(6) Richard Lynfild:

Richard and Ralph were probably brothers, the children of RICHARD AND MARY LINFIELD of St. Pancras parish. Unfortunately we presently have no record of their baptisms, but it was probably between 1595-1600. According to his will of 1647, Richard was a brickmaker by trade. He married MARGARET SPANSLER in 1624, and they had two children, Richard, baptised in 1624, and Sarah, baptised in 1628. Richard died in 1649.

(7) Ralph Lynfild:

Ralph was married twice, first to MARY PARKER in 1625 (she died in 1629), and then to SUSAN BLISSETT in 1630, by whom he had a daughter, Joane who died in infancy, and a second daughter, Jane who was baptised in 1632. At present, we have no real clue as to where these St. Pancras Lin(d)fields originated from, although it may have been West Grinstead which was one of the earliest places to be settled by the Lin(d)fields in Sussex.


(8) Humfrey Linfeild:

This has to be the “Humphry Linfeeld” who was baptised at Nuthurst in 1617, son of JOSEPH LINFEELD and ANN WALDER who were married at Nuthurst in 1606. Humphrey may have been a nephew of EDWARD LINFIELD the elder, recorded in the Protestation Returns at Nuthurst.


(9) Jonathan Linfield:

Baptised at West Grinstead in 1604, Jonathan was the son of HENRY LINFIELD the weaver and JANE GRATWICKE who were married in 1590. He married MARY SEARLE at West Chiltington in 1634, subsequently settling in the parish of Fittleworth where Jonathan worked as a labourer. In 1649 he appeared before the justices at Arundel, charged with the offence of stealing a bushel of barley worth 10d.

West Grinstead:

(10) John Linfield:

John and Richard were brothers, the sons of RICHARD LINFEILD and MARY PARSONS of Hobshort’s Farm who were married in 1589. John was baptised in 1604 at West Grinstead. He married REBECCA GREENFIELD in 1630, and they had five children: Richard, who died in infancy; John, baptised in 1632; Susan, baptised in 1634; Mary, baptised in 1637; and Margaret, baptised in 1638. John died in 1654.

(11) Richard Lynfield:

Richard was baptised in 1599, and, being the eldest son, presumably inherited Hobshort’s Farm from his father when he died. He married ELEANOR COOKE of Coldwaltham in 1630. They had four children: RICHARD, who died in infancy; SUSAN, baptised in 1636; WILLIAM, who died in infancy; and ABIGAIL, baptised in 1643. He predeceased his wife Eleanor who died in 1652, leaving a will which was proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury the following year. All her property was left in trust to her two surviving children, Susan and Abigail.


(12) Richard Linfeild:

Unfortunately we know nothing at all about this one! He may, of course, be another son of Henry the weaver of West Grinstead; Henry and Jane had a son Richard baptised in 1596, who must have left the parish at some time or other since there are no further references to him there.


(13) Thomas Linvell:

The parish registers of Steyning record the marriage of THOMAS LINFEILD and MARY WHITE in 1627. They had a daughter MARTHA who died in 1637, and a son WILLIAM who was baptised in 1642. Mary died in 1650. The difficulty again arises when we try to discover where Thomas originally came from. All the evidence points once more to the parish of West Grinstead, where THOMAS LYNFIELD, son of Henry and Jane, was baptised in 1601, brother of Richard (bapt. 1596) and Jonathan (bapt. 1604) who also took the Protestation in other parishes (see above).


(14). George Linvill:

A husbandman and overseer of the parish of Wiston, George was baptised in 1596 – also at West Grinstead! – the son of GEORGE LINFIELDE and ANNE CRUSTE who were married in 1586. It appears from his will, made in 1648, that he never married or had any children since all his estate is left to various nephews and nieces. In his capacity as an overseer of the poor, he was summoned with the other Wiston overseers to appear before the Arundel justices in 1645 “to answer theire Contempts in not paying vli xjs vjd (5.11s.6d) to JOANE CORNWELL widow of the parish of Washington for keeping of one WILLIAM DUNSTALL a poore childe of the parish of Wiston according to a former order of this court.”

This concludes the list of the West Sussex Protestation Returns. The map
f Sussex on the centre pages shows the distribution of parishes where these Lin(d)fields and their families were living in that fateful year of 1642 when the English Civil War began. For most of the time, the common man would have been completely untouched by the events which were shaping the nation’s history. Nevertheless, the Civil War came to Sussex in various ways and even in the fiercely Royalist parish of Nuthurst an isolated skirmish in 1644 led to the death of two Parliamentarian soldiers.

Although the Returns for East Sussex no longer exist, it is still possible to conjecture some of the names which must have appeared in certain parishes. These are also included on the map. The evidence comes from various parish register and probate records. Among them would have been the following:


(1) Joseph Lynfyld:

A stonehealer by trade, Joseph was the son of WILLIAM LYNFYLD of Bolney (1590-1640) and JOHAN HOOKE who were married at Ardingly in 1609. Joseph married JOANE JUPP at Cowfold in 1633. They had 5 children: Margaret (1634-1704); Timothea (bapt. 1637); Richard (1640-1709), yeoman of Slaugham; Joseph (bapt.1642); and William. Intriguingly, Joseph appears to have been living in the parish of Nuthurst during the 1630s; in fact, he appears in the probate documents of JOHN LINFIELD (1640) and HENRY LINFIELD (1643) of Nuthurst since he owed both of them money. At the time of the Protestation, Joseph was a churchwarden at Slaugham. He died at Nuthurst in 1668.


(2) John Linfeild:

Possibly the eldest son of GEORGE LINDFELD of West Hoathly (George was baptised at Ardingly in 1597), John married ANN BEARD at Woodmancote in 1641. They had three children, a son John, born about 1645, and two daughters, Anne and Mary. John was a yeoman of Hurstpierpoint, and judging by his inventory a fairly wealthy one: the value of his inventory was 345 which was a very large sum in 1660, the year of his death. His son John was one of the early Quakers in Sussex, and was imprisoned twice at Horsham during the 1660s for attending illegal meetings.

West Hoathly:

(3) Michael Lyndfeild:

A husbandman of West Hoathly, Michael was baptised at Bolney in 1592, the son of GEORGE LINFIELD (bapt. 1546) whose signature appears at the bottom of the famous Gatland/Linfield Bond (see Longshot Vol 2 No 1) of 1594. He was therefore an uncle to JOSEPH LYNFYLD of Slaugham, and possibly to JOHN LINFEILD of Hurstpierpoint as well. He married BARBARA PAYNE at West Hoathly in 1617, and they had four daughters. He died in 1664.

These are the only three Lin(d)fields whom we know for certain were living in these parishes at the time of the Protestation. No doubt there were quite a few others as well, especially in some of the other parishes settled by the Lin(d)fields during the previous century, in particular Ardingly, Bolney, Cuckfield and East Grinstead. But unless those missing returns suddenly make a miraculous reappearance, we will never really know whether we have accounted for everybody who should have been included. All that needs to be done now is to collect the Returns from the other parts of the country which were also settled by Lin(d)fields prior to 1642: in particular, the Lingfield area of Surrey and Ipswich in Suffolk would both be important places to start with. If anybody feels like collecting this information, then please get in touch.


  1. Sussex Record Society Volume 5 West Sussex Protestation Returns, 1641-1642
  2. Sussex Record Society Volume 54 Quarter Sessions Order Book, 1642-1649
  3. WSRO Add. Mss. 6624: Paper found among deeds relating to property in Shipley and Nuthurst. 18 December 1744. Conveyance (lease and release; lease missing).
  4. The Dictionary of Genealogy. Terrick V.H. FitzHugh (1985)
  5. Sussex in the Great Civil War. C. Thomas-Stanford (1910)

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