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30 April 2018

Aldrington History

Judy Middleton 2001 (revised 2018)

 copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove 
Aldrington on a section of the detailed map of Sussex in 1610 by John Norden. a copy of a John Speed map.


A tantalising glimpse of Aldrington’s early history is provided by a deed dated AD 1240 in which John Le Foghe gave the yearly rent of an acre in Aldrington to the Priory of St Pancras in Lewes. The deed mentions a hillock beside the road called Bergweye – in other words the road by the hillock or mound. It seems likely that this was a barrow, a theory reinforced by the fact that Hove had a famous Bronze Age barrow, plus two other mounds close at hand.
copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum,
Brighton & Hove
These Samian ware fragment profiles found in
 Portslade in the 1930s would have been
similar to the Aldrington finds.

In 1879 some Roman artefacts were also discovered in Aldrington, although unfortunately the precise location was not recorded, but it was most probably in the brickfields. The objects were donated to Brighton Museum and were as follows:

1. Part of the base of a Samian platter
2. Half of a Samian basin
3. Parts of a pink-coloured flagon with traces of white slip
4. The neck and rim of a flagon, also of a pinkish colour
5. The neck of a buff-coloured flagon
6. The base of a grey vessel

However, by 1988 object number 1 was no longer to be found in the Museum’s collection.

These Samian ware objects were not made in this country but imported from that part of the Roman Empire known as Gaul, comprising France and the Rhineland. Samian ware was produced in large quantities and so they are not rarities, but archaeologists find them useful for dating purposes, and for confirming Roman settlements. Samian ware varied in colour from vivid red down to a pale orange shade.

In 1898 workmen digging a trench opposite Aldrington House, came across two interesting relics. Around 2 ft below the surface they found a small, socketed, bronze celt wit a loop, and nearby was a lump of unwrought bronze that contained a high percentage of copper. Mrs Hammond, the owner of Aldrington House, presented the objects to the Sussex Archaeological Museum in Lewes.

Portus Adurni

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
Aldrington Basin and Salt Daisy Lake. Watercolour by Brook Harrison.
 View across landscape of grass to a river with several ships.

Portus Adurni has been the source of a great deal of historical argument over the years. Firstly, the question arises as to whether or not Aldrington was the site of Portus Adurni, one of the shore forts established by the Romans as a defence against marauding Saxons. This line of defence was known as the Saxon Shore, and the man in charge was known as Count of the Saxon Shore (Comes Litoris Saxonis). However, by AD 140 the Saxon Shore system had broken down.

It all started off with William Camden (1551-1623) in his Britannia (1586) in which he identified Aldrington as the Roman Portus Adurni without any real evidence.

This theory was helped along by the proximity of the River Adur. But the river’s name is of comparative recent origin – Michael Drayton (1563-1631) coined it his book of topographical descriptions called Polyolbion.

The Romans certainly never knew this river by that name. Before Drayton’s invention, it was known by various names such as Water of Bramber, Water of Shoreham, the Sore, or Shoreham River. In fact, in the late 19th century country folk still referred to it as Shoreham River.

Although other British Roman names involving Portus have a river name attached, it does not follow that this was the case at Aldrington. It is possible that the word ‘Adurni’ derived from the old British word ‘Ardu’ meaning height. This would hardly be applicable at Aldrington, but would fit with the surroundings of Portchester, Hampshire. Modern opinion favours Portchester as the site of Portus Adurni.

Another Debatable Feature

The next historical debate concerns the Saxon invasion of in AD 477 when Ella arrived with his three sons, Cymen, Wlencing, and Cissa, and three ships at Cymenesore, which some scholars believe to have been around the Selsey Bill area.

H.F. Napper cites The Chronicle of Fabius Ethelward that stated the Saxons defeated the Britons at a place called Aldredesleague, and he considered the place was Aldrington. The surviving Britons withdrew into the fastness of the Weald forest.

In AD 485 Ella fought the Britons on the banks of a stream called Mearcraedesburna, but this place has not been identified. In AD 491 Ella and Cissa besieged Andredescaster (the Roman fort of Anderida, Pevensey) slaughtering everyone inside. J.R. Armstrong suggests that the distribution of Saxon burial sites between Shoreham and Pevensey must point to fierce fighting in the area.

A Favourite Story

A favourite story concerns the will of Alfred the Great who died in AD 899 in which he left Ederyngtune to his younger son. Some scholars identified Aldrington as the place but modern opinion holds that this is incorrect.

Norman Times

When the Normans invaded in 1066, Aldrington was well out of the way for once. Indeed, some twenty years later, Aldrington recorded the highest population figures until the late 19th century, and there were 73 inhabitants.

Aldrington and Portslade Intertwined
copyright ©  D.Sharp
Memorial plaque in St Nicolas Church for 
Revd Ralph Clutton who was Vicar of Portslade 
and also Rector of Aldrington.

At the time of the Norman Conquest Aldrington, Portslade and Hangleton comprised the Half-Hundred of Fishersgate, an administrative area. Indeed, the history of Portslade and Aldrington became so intertwined that it is difficult to sort out the threads.

For example, there were two settlements in Aldrington, rather then just one, and the exact sites are debatable. There was a West Aldrington and an East Aldrington, the names being mentioned in old wills. In 1750 John Citizen wrote his will and mentions the parsonage and sinecure of East Aldrington, plus the advowson (the privilege to choose the incumbent for the church). This would seem to tie East Aldrington to St Leonard’s Church, in which case West Aldrington must have been in what became Copperas Gap, later Portslade-by-Sea. The Armada Map drawn in 1597, marks Aldrington and Aldrington beacons, while a drawing made in around 1816 of cottages at Copperas Gap, show a beacon on the cliff behind them, which proves the point. It also worth noting that Station Road / Boundary Road was once known as Aldrington Drove or Red House Laine, while Victoria Road was called Aldrington Laine.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
Copperas Gap by W.H. Stothard Scott (1783-1850) note the beacon behind the cottages on the cliff.

The authors of Magna Britannia written in 1738 state that Aldrington consisted of a row of houses by the sea with a population of 200. This may have been true of Copperas Gap, but not of (East) Aldrington whose last two houses had nearly disappeared by then, and certainly were gone by 1745.

It seems that Aldrington was divided long before the Normans arrived, with the two parts belonging to different manors. It is instructive to note that Aldrington never boasted a hall (or aula) or a manor house, whereas there were manor houses at Portslade, Hangleton, West Blatchington, and later on at Hove. This meant that the land at Aldrington was run as separate estates and the owner lived elsewhere.

By 1284 West Aldrington was held with Portslade, while East Aldrington was annexed to Hangleton. John Rowe recorded that the lord of the manor of Portslade was entitled to all wrecks of the sea between the west hedge of Aldrington and the ditch of Hove. The same author also notes a lovely story of a token rent. Henry Owden, a tenant of a holding at Aldrington, had to pay an annual rent of one red rose.

A custom of Portslade Manor, as defined in 1708, stipulated that every yardland (containing 24 acres) in Portslade allowed the tenant to pasture 50 sheep on Tenantry Down, while every yardland in Aldrington (containing 20 acres) allowed the tenant to pasture 40 sheep at Tenantry Down.

Wish Cottage

copyright ©  D.Sharp
This drawing based on a late 1850s map shows the Parish of Aldrington virtually depopulated and showing the detached area of the Parish of Portslade in the centre of Aldrington. This ‘landlocked island’ of Portslade including Wish Cottage was bordered by the modern day roads of New Church Road, Portland Villas, Portland Road and Woodhouse Road.
 In 1883 this detached area of Portslade was absorbed into the Parish of Aldrington.
 The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway was built in 1844. Copperas Gap was later renamed Portslade by Sea.

This cottage stood on a piece of land that although situated firmly in Aldrington, was in fact a detached part of Portslade parish, and eventually Portland Villas was built upon it. Wish Cottage stood at the foot of where Woodhouse Road is today, and it was demolished in 1928.

The 1841 census recorded that Thomas Pumprey, a 37-year old agricultural labourer, lived in Wish Cottage with his wife Eliza, aged 32, and their children Thomas 5, George 4, and one-year old Eliza.. By 1851 the Pumpreys had been joined by William Comber – also an agricultural labourer – and his family, while in 1861 another agricultural labourer, William Walker, lived with the Pumpreys.

The curious anomaly of Wish Cottage meant that when it came to census time, the inhabitants were counted a living in Portslade, while Aldrington was practically de-populated.

Mark Antony Lower recounts a good story concerning the time when Aldrington had almost nobody living there. He stated that in 1831 the only inhabitants were the toll-keeper and his wife. Lower writes, ‘The poor man, who had lost a leg, also afterwards lost his partner, so that taking into account his physical deformity, the actual population of Aldrington was three-quarters of an inhabitant.’

Ups and Downs

When Aldrington came to be developed for housing in the 19th century, the place was perceived as being ‘empty’ and the popular notion arose that it had always been depopulated or poverty stricken. Of course this was not so.

In the Subsidy Roll of 1296 Henry de Thornton of Aldrington was listed as paying 15s in tax, and so presumably his farmlands were productive. Likewise, in 1334 when the King’s Tax was levied, Aldrington had to pay £3-3-4d, while Portslade paid £3-3s, which shows the two parishes were about level in the prosperity stakes.

However, in 1340 when a new tax, known as the Nonae Rolls, was drawn up, it seems things were not quite so rosy in Aldrington. Officials noted that Aldrington had lost no fewer than 40 acres to the sea since 1292. It was then downhill all the way. In 1348 the Black Death arrived in England and decimated the population. There is a tradition that Hangleton was badly affected by the disease, and it may be that Aldrington suffered in a similar manner.

 copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove  
Engraving from a drawing made by J.T. Smith, dated 1832 showing the Representation of the Attack Made by the French Fleet upon Brighthelmstone. A.D. 1545.

It is also possible that Aldrington had French raiders to contend with during the reign of Henry VIII. The most famous raid was in 1514 when the French burned Brighton to the ground. The raiders managed to set the place alight before the watchmen realised what was happening, and before the warning beacons could be lit. It could be that Aldrington was in the firing line too. The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1792 recorded the tradition of French raids, and that several cottages in Aldrington and the neighbourhood were burned down. It is perhaps significant that in 1545 Sir Richard Bellingham of Hangleton donated some money for the repair of St Leonard’s church. There was also supposed to have been a French raid on the coast in 1545, although this is disputed.

The fierce storms that occurred in 1703 and 1705 most probably caused erosion at Aldrington, as they did along this stretch of coastline.

A Tragic Shepherdess

On 23 November 1555 six-year old Agnes Kente, was sent by her parents Robert and Elizabeth Kente, to guard and control a flock of sheep belonging to George Gorynge, gentleman, in his pasture at Aldrington. The little girl was in ‘le Drove’ all night, and she ‘died of the cold she then took through her parents’ negligence’. An inquest was held before the county coroner, and there were twelve jurors including such worthies as Edward Blaker, James Owdonne, and John Amplefforde. The man who wrote about tragic Agnes was obviously sympathetic to her plight, but surprisingly, the jurors returned a verdict of natural death.


In 1896 Aldrington still possessed 352 acres of agricultural land.

In 1905 the Borough Surveyor, H.H. Scott, stated that 78 acres lay to the south of Kingsway, and consisted of lawns, beach, wharfs and water. There were already 172 acres laid out with streets and buildings, and 70 acres were occupied by Hove Cemetery, recreation ground, railway and other open spaces. This left 474 acres of undeveloped land.

It would seem to be a simple calculation to come up with the exact acreage of Aldrington, but the following table tells a different atory.

Horsfield’s Sussex (1835) 721 acres, 38 perches
Sussex Directory (1862) 814 acres
Sussex Directory (1895) 889 acres
Hove Borough Surveyor (1895) 762 acres
Hove Medical Officer of Health (1901) 787.25 acres
Hove Borough Surveyor (1905) 787.33 acres
Victoria County History 796 acres
Sussex Record Society Vol. 77 – 744 acres

Boundary Road marks the west limits of Aldrington, while the east limit of Aldrington is at Westbourne Place where a portion of the old, flint boundary wall remains to this day. Aldrington stretches to the sea on the south, and extends north up Hangleton Road, east along Hangleton Gardens, south along Elm Drive, and then east until it converges with the Old Shoreham Road. 

Turnpikes and Old Routes

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove (The Environs of Brighthemstone by Thomas Yeakell c1800)
This map shows Aldrington completely depopulated apart from the turnpyke man and his wife who lived in a Toll House on the coast road, then called Shoreham Road.

In 1822 a Turnpike Trust was set up to make a road from Brighton to Shoreham. The route across Aldrington was apparently built along the top of a cliff, according to a deed of 1824, replacing the old road that ran along below the cliff. When the old road was made redundant, the land was sold to Hugh Fuller for £42. It measured 992 yards and went as far as a certain gap or way.

On 18 October 1880 another old route was stopped up. This was a footpath measuring 17 ft in width that ran from Portslade to glebe land east of St Leonard’s Church, when it veered off in a south east direction. The western portion followed the same route as New Church Road, then newly constructed by the Aldrington Proprietors.


 copyright ©  D.Sharp
This drawing based on a 1896 map shows the location of the brickfield and the late Victorian housing development of Aldrington, Portland Road surface had not yet been extended to Portslade.  Aldrington's boundary with Portslade runs down the centre of Station Road.

There were other brickfields in Hove and Portslade, but the longest duration of brickfields was at Aldrington. Brick earth began to be extracted in the 1820s and continued until the 20th century.

The first site was south east of Wish Barn, and then a brickfield was opened near the Hove boundary in the 1840s. Finally, in the 1860s a brickfield was developed in what later became Aldrington Recreation Ground. The former use caused terrible problems for the authorities when they tried to create a level area of ground. When that was finally accomplished, the carefully planted grass seed refused to take.

copyright ©  Brighton & Hove Libraries
This unique photograph was taken in 1910, and the men were hard at work most probably in the Wish brickfield, situated between New Church Road and Portland Road. In 1911 a petition was sent to Hove Council asking that the Wish Brickfield should be ‘speedily closed’ under the Town Planning Act.

In 1247 West Aldrington was granted in dower to Margaret, Countess of Kent, widow of Hubert de Burgh. By the 17th century this land was in the possession of the Edwards family.

In 1788 Thomas Fuller purchased Aldrington Farm, while Hugh Fuller (probably his son) was tenant and occupier of Red House Farm from 1816 to 1822, when he purchased it from Edward Knight for £15,000. Red House Farm possessed 75 acres, 3 roods, and 39 perches in Portslade, plus land in Aldrington as follows:

Marked 9 on the Tithe Map – 51 acres, 3 roods and 20 perches, together with the right to make and carry away bricks. This land was bounded on the south by the Turnpike road, and on the west by Red House Laine (Station Road / Boundary Road).

Marked 28 on the Tithe Map – Ram Croft, part of Red House Farm, 3 acres, 3 roods, 38 perches.

Marked 26 on the Tithe Map – Aldrington Glebe – 7 acres, 1 rood, 16 perches.

Marked 27 on the Tithe Map – Aldrington churchyard, 1 acre, 25 perches.

copyright © J. Middleton
In this photograph of the one-time Sussex Room in Hove Museum, an old Sussex dresser can be seen in the background. A Portslade carpenter (name unknown, unfortunately) created this piece of furniture in 1817 for Henry Hudson and it remained in Red House Farm for many years.

At one time Hugh Fuller was also a Commissioner of Shoreham Harbour. He wrote his will on 1 March 1851, he died on 15 September 1858, and was buried in Steyning. He left generous provision for his ‘chief and good servant’ Henry Hudson, and also made bequests to his servant at Red House Farm, Nicholas Strudwick, and his bailiff Rufus Read. There were bequests too for his Hardwick cousin, plus ten guineas as a remembrance to Revd Henry Hoper, vicar of St Nicolas, Portslade. Fuller was generous to good causes, as follows:

£550 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
£250 to the Church Missionary Fund
£100 to the Brighton and Sussex County Hospital
£100 to the Brighton Dispensary
£50 to the Brighton Self Supporting Dispensary
£50 to the Benevolent Loan Fund Institution
£50 to the Provident and District Society
£50 to the Brighton Eye Infirmary

Hugh Fuller left Red House Farm to his first cousin Hugh Ingram of Steyning. But Hugh Ingram did not have long to enjoy his property because he died on 22 March 1863, and was buried at Steyning. The trustees of Hugh Ingram’s will were as follows:

Revd Henry Manning Ingram
Mary Ingram
Robert Bethune Ingram
Frederick Sundius Smith
Richard Smith

On 5 September 1870 Mary Ingram made a statutory declaration to the effect that she married Hugh Ingram of Brighton on 22 June 1820 and there were nine children of the marriage:

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
An etching of the remains of St Leonard's by Copley Fielding (1787-1855) 

1. Henry Manning Ingram (he became a priest, and rector of St Leonard’s Church, Aldrington. Magdalen College, Cambridge, sold Ingram the advowson of the said church on 26 July 1875. It was he who was instrumental in the repair of St Leonard’s church. He retired in 1893 and died in his 88th year in August 1911)

2. John Ingram

3. Hugh Ingram (he became a priest, having studied at Christ Church, Oxford, and died 11 July 1872, leaving his brother Revd Henry Manning Ingram all his plate, books, mathematical and meteorological instruments).

4. Robert Bethune Ingram (he became a major in Her Majesty’s 100th Regiment of Foot)

5. Charles Penfold Ingram (he became a doctor of medicine at Steyning, and died 10
August 1868)

6. Mary Ann Ingram

7. Sarah Anna Ingram (she married Charles M. Griffith)

8. Catherine Elizabeth Ingram (she married Frederick Ellman)

9. Fanny Ingram (she never married and was buried at Steyning)

East Aldrington had a long connection with the Priory of St Pancras at Lewes, lasting from the 12th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537. The rest of the land came into the ownership of the Bellingham family of Hangleton.

According to the Gentleman’s Magazine (1792) Aldrington belonged to the Duke of Dorset. Afterwards, it came into the ownership of the Countess of Plymouth, later Lady Amherst.

Horsfield, writing in 1835 stated that Aldrington was composed ‘chiefly of rich arable land’. Hugh Fuller of Red House Farm farmed 574 acres and 38 perches, while 140 acres belonged to the heir of the late Earl of Plymouth.

Another aristocratic connection lies with the Duke of Portland who purchased a large area probably in the 1880s, and was responsible for laying out many of the streets.

Administrative Matters

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
An early 1900s photograph of Station Road Aldrington & Portslade, in 1911 the Aldrington side of the road (east side) was renamed Boundary Road whereas Portslade retained the Station Road name

In 1871 the population of Aldrington numbered 27 people.

In 1876 the Aldrington Estate was sold for £155,000. Building work soon commenced and by 1891 the population had shot up to 2,238.

On 25 June 1891 a poll was taken of the owners and ratepayers of Aldrington to decide whether or not ‘it is expedient that the said parish of Aldrington shall be constituted a Local Government District’. The resolution was passed with 235 people voting for it, and 98 people voting against it.

The immediate reaction was that two petitions were despatched to East Sussex County Council demanding that Aldrington and Hove should be amalgamated instead.

copyright ©  Brighton & Hove Libraries
Hove's former Coat of Arms, 
the shackles on a red field denotes
 the Parish Church of Aldrington
One petition was from the executors and trustees of the will of the late Joseph Harris Stretton and stated that the people, who voted for the ratepayers’ resolution, only had property worth around £30 each, whereas they had much more at stake, namely ownership of land worth £90,000. They were also first mortgagees of other lands to secure £20,000, and they held 600 out of the 2,000 shares in the Aldrington Estate Waterworks.

The second petition was submitted by the following:

William John Arthur Charles, Duke of Portland
Lieutenant-General James Frankfort Manners Browne
Colonel Charles Greville
Edward Horsman Bailey

Portland, Browne and Bailey owned land with an estimated value of £40,000, and Greville and Bailey owned land of equivalent value.

East Sussex County Council would not be stampeded into a swift decision. The committee could not recommend that Aldrington should be converted into a Local Board District until it could be ascertained if fair and reasonable terms might be forthcoming with regard to an amalgamation with Hove.

Therefore, a committee of Aldrington owners, occupiers and ratepayers was set up to talk business with Hove Commissioners. The elected members of the committee were as follows:

Colonel Hough
Councillor Blaker
Messrs Clarke
W.A. Hounsman
W.C. Hammond
J.E. Turner
Arthur Lewis

The terms of the proposed amalgamation as decided in September 1892 were as follows:

1) Street Works – the following street works to be carried out forthwith by the Hove Commissioners – New Church Road to be kerbed and channelled, footpaths made, and fourteen additional lamps provided. For Shoreham Road (Kingsway) there should be 24 additional lamps. The following streets should be metalled – Montgomery Street, Wordsworth Street, Cowper Street, Clarendon Villas Road, Upper Westbourne Street and St Leonard’s Road. The road to the National School (Portland Road) should be made passable, and Westbourne Villas should be declared a public highway. The estimated cost of these works was put at £5,000.

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
The construction of St Leonard’s Road and the house building programme was began in the early 1890s before the amalgamation with Hove.

2) Recreation Ground – Hove Commissioners should purchase within Aldrington not less than ten acres of land to be used as a recreation ground, providing that the land could be obtained at a cost not exceeding £400 an acre.

3) Rates – After five years, or as soon as the street works have been completed, the general district rate should be the same in both districts.

4) Representation – Aldrington should be divided into three wards.

East Sussex County Council was nothing if not thorough. They directed that a Local Inquiry should be held at Hove Town Hall on 18 November 1892 – a second Local Inquiry followed at the same venue on 7 March 1893. Finally, on 26 September 1893 Aldrington and Hove were amalgamated.

The first Aldrington councillors were elected in November 1893 as follows:
Wish Ward – Lewis Hough, Arthur Lewis, and Edmund John Ockenden
Rutland Ward – Edward William Hammond, William Allin Hounson and Samuel Willima Luke
St Leonard’s Ward – Arthur Nye, William Henry Benham, and Ernest William Sadler

Population Figures

1086 – 73
1603 – 8 or 9
1801 – 0
1821 – 0
1831 – 0
1841 – 1
1851 – 9
1861 – 7
1871 – 27
1881 – 144
1891 – 2,238
1901 – 6,840
1911 – 10,985
1921 – 7,834
1931 – 12, 802

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
Portslade & West Hove Railway Station in the early 1900s
The original Portslade Station was built in 1840 on the Portslade side of Station Road, in 1881 a new and more spacious station was built on the Aldrington side of the road on the corner of what became Portland Road.


Armstrong, J.R. A History of Sussex (1961, reprinted 1978)
Census Returns
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Horsfield, Thomas W. History, Antiquities, and Topography of the County of Sussex (1835) 2 volumes
Hove Council Minute Books
Johnson, S. The Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore (1976)
Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol. 12, Vol. 14,
Sussex County Magazine, Vol. 3 Vol. 26
Sussex Record Society, Vol. 34, John Rowe’s Book
Victoria County History, Vol. 3, Vol. 7

The Keep

SAS 1/211 – Aldrington Estate sale particulars 1868
SAS 1/212 – Aldrington Estate, sale 1876
SAS 1/346 – Probate, Hugh Fuller’s will

See also Aldrington's St Leonard's Church & churchyard

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018  
page layout by D.Sharp