Saddlescombe Farm history: 1500 to 1800s

Early 1900s image of oxen and farm workers in field

The Hospitallers, along with other religious orders, were disbanded and had their property seized by Henry VIII in 1536. Saddlescombe was given by the King to one of his most trusted courtiers, Sir Anthony Browne of Cowdray at Midhurst, and it remained in that family for the next 300 years. The owners never lived here and it was always leased to a tenant farmer. 

Although evidence of a late medieval house has been identified at its core, the house as it stands now was largely built from the early 1600s to about 1800. However, the whole front seen from the farmyard was greatly altered around 1900, which disguises the age of the building. 

At the eastern end are the earliest two rooms, perhaps built in about 1630, while the north-south wing which includes the big kitchen was added around 1700. The farm's oldest surviving barn was built in the early 1600s, and probably also the donkey wheel well house. (The well is reputed to have been sunk by the Templars, but this is just speculation.) 

From the 1650s the names of tenant farmers who actually lived here are known: William Wakeford, then John Friend, followed by Nicholas Friend in 1720. An inventory of the house and farm taken at John Friend's death in 1720 shows that the house was very well furnished and equipped, with four bedchambers for the family and four attic chambers for servants. These included a separate Men's Chamber and a Virgins' Chamber (ie for the unmarried women). As part of the farmhouse building there was also a Brewhouse, Milkhouse, Cheese room, Bakehouse, Larder and Cellars, plus three barns in the farmyard for wheat, for barley, and for oats and peas.   

Following the Friend family's tenancy at least three generations of the Bine family, all named Stephen, held the Saddlescombe lease from the mid-1700s. Along with previous tenant families they can be identified in the records of Newtimber Parish Church, where the Bines' graves are still prominent in its churchyard. 

A Georgian-style extension was added on the western end of the house during the Bines' tenancy, probably around 1800. It provided fashionable parlours and grander bedchambers for this wealthy family of gentleman-farmers. 

In 1825 the Browne descendants sold Saddlescombe to Lord Egremont of Petworth, and the last Stephen Bine to hold the tenancy died in 1849, by which time his descendants owned considerable estates of their own.