A brief history of Hamsey parish
The earliest evidence of human activity is from the Mesolithic period, when a group of hunter-gatherers camped near the river at Hamsey, at that time a large inlet of the sea. In Neolithic times people met at the causewayed enclosure on Offham Hill, one of only five such communal monuments in Sussex.
The Romans also left their mark. A Roman road crosses the parish on the Greensand ridge between Resting Oak and Deadmantree hills. Just to the west, at Wickham Barns, Roman pottery kilns have been excavated. To the east, in Barcombe, a Roman villa was discovered in 1998. Members of the Mid-Sussex Field Archaeological Team have been excavating there for the past 8 years (see the MSFAT website on the links page).
We know there was a Saxon settlement at Hamsey in AD925 and it is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. A contract survives for the building of a manorial hall in 1321 to the east of Hamsey Church, although if this was ever completed is not confirmed. Lords of the Manor of Hamsey have included the families of de Cheyney, de Say, de Clinton, Willoughby, Dudley, Lewknor, Alford, Wenham, Partington and Monk Bretton. Lords of the Manor of Coombe, (Offham), include the families of de Say, Radmelde, Comber, Pelland, Scrase, River, Bridger and Shiffner.
The Battle of Lewes, where Simon de Montfort defeated King Henry III, took place on Offham Hill in 1264. This, along with the battle of Evesham the following year, helped to pave the way for our modern parliamentary system.
The church at Hamsey served the parish from before the Norman Conquest until the new church of St Peter was built at Offham in 1859. There are records of a chapel of ease at Offham in the 16th century.
Farming has been the main activity in the parish for many centuries, but a tannery existed in the 16th-century while local people also found employment in the chalk pits at Offham, the brickyard at Bevern Bridge and the old brewery at Cooksbridge. The river was canalised in the 18th century.
The railway arrived in the 19th century and this led to the growth of a new settlement around the station at Cooksbridge. It is now the parish’s biggest residential area. Downsview Cottages date from the 1920s, Chandlers Mead dates from the 1950s and Malthouse Way was built in the late 1990s.
Hamsey Primary School was built in Cooksbridge in 1907 to replace the old schoolhouse at Offham.
The Malthouse at Cooksbridge was built in the 18th century and last used for malting in 1912. It was used as the village hall as early as 1919 but was given up for this purpose on 30 September 2007. A new village hall, known as Beechwood Hall, was opened on October 1st 2007. Situated at the recreation ground in Beechwood Lane the whole project took just three years to complete.
For more detailed history of Hamsey parish go to the Barcombe and Hamsey Past website on the links page.