In late Saxon times Saddlescombe belonged to Earl Godwin of Bosham, the most powerful lord in the country. His family also owned much grander places so the farm was rented out to a tenant.
After William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 he rewarded his nobles by giving them land that had belonged to Saxon lords. Saddlescombe was given to William de Warenne who also brought in a farm tenant, Ralph de Quesnay. By this time the population was around 135.
The Knights Templar and Saddlescombe
In the 1220s the farm was given to the Knights of the Order of the Temple and the profits from sheep and arable farming here went towards protecting Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land.
The Knights Templar were disbanded in 1312 and their property was transferred to the Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. John the seventh Earl of Warenne intervened at Saddlescombe and obtained the manor for his illegitimate son Sir Thomas Nerford who lived here until 1397 when Saddlescombe was given back to the Hospitallers.
The religious order was disbanded and had their property seized by Henry VIII in 1536. The king gave Saddlescombe to one of his most trusted courtiers, Sir Anthony Browne of Cowdray at Midhurst, and it remained in that family for nearly 300 years.
An evolving farm
The records of Newtimber Parish Church list the names of the tenants occupying the farm during this period. Some of their graves can be found in its churchyard. The earliest surviving barn, the donkey wheel and the oldest parts of the farmhouse date to the early 1600s.
By the early 1700s a large kitchen had been added and the house had four bedrooms for the tenant farmer’s family and four attic rooms for servants. A Georgian-style extension providing fashionable parlours and grander bedchambers was added around 1800.
The Robinson family
In 1825 Saddlescombe was sold to Lord Egremont of Petworth. His tenant from 1853 was Martin Robinson. This period is brought to life in Maude Robinson's book, A South Down farm in the 1860s, a collection of childhood memories of life on a Victorian farm. Maude's story is remarkable in its simplicity and is a treasure trove for farming historians.
In 1921 the Petworth Estate sold Saddlescombe to Martin Robinson’s son Ernest who became the only owner to have actually lived here. Ernest died in 1926 when the farm was bought by the local authority.