The Village in the Middle
The buckle badge of the Pelham family can be seen at many locations on this walk around Laughton and Halland. The family gradually appropriated huge areas of land for their two mansions and their associated hunting parks, which meant the poor villagers of Laughton found themselves being squeezed into an ever smaller space between the two Pelham estates.
“What time ye French Sought to have Sackt Seafoord.
This Pelham did Repell them back Aboord”
LENGTH – 6.5 miles
TIME – 3.5 hours
START – Laughton Post Office situated at the junction of the B2124, Church Lane and Shortgate Lane, BN8 6PG (NGR 503 132).
PARKING – Parking in layby on north side of B2124 adjacent to village shop or by village hall in Church Lane.
TOILETS – No public toilets available.
REFRESHMENTS – Pub at Laughton. Pub/Restaurant at Shortgate. Village shop at Laughton
This walk contains stiles.
This poem and the buckle on a sign in the middle of the green, represent the colourful Pelham family, whose own history dominates that of this area. During battle in 1356, Sir John Pelham managed to capture the king of France. The English king was so impressed that he removed the buckle of his sword belt and handed it to Sir John as a reward. It henceforth became the badge of the Pelham family and can be seen throughout this walk on houses, churches and even milestones.
Below Laughton church lie the remains of over sixty Pelhams including two Prime Ministers. One of these, the Duke of Newcastle, rebuilt the chancel and donated a new set of bells to the church in 1724, which he had cast on the spot by a travelling founder.
Just visible to the south is an isolated brick tower. The Pelhams brought the moated manor of Laughton in the 14th century. In 1534 Sir William Pelham decided to rebuild the outdated medieval house in the latest style – brick. He constructed a large manor house, the tower of which is what can be seen in the distance. The house was also notable for its fashionable terracotta mouldings, amongst the best in the country. However, it was never finished. Sir William died in 1538 and by 1595 the family had completely abandoned the waterlogged site and moved to Halland.
Surrounding Laughton Place was the “old park”, (which this part of the walk passes through) the first hunting park of the Pelhams. In 1541 Lord Dacre of Herstmonceux Castle and others “did illegally conspire in what manner they could best hunt in the Park of Nicholas Pelham…with dogs and nets”. On the way they attacked three of Pelham’s men near Hellingly, one of whom subsequently died. Pelham pushed for the full penalty of the law and got it. Lord Dacre was executed, the first member of the gentry to be so punished for the murder of a commoner.
The route now passes into the thin area of land left in the parish for the villagers to place their houses, sandwiched between the two huge areas appropriated by the Pelhams for their hunting parks. This area is the former Laughton Common, an important resource for the villagers. This was open to all and provided pasturage – the right to graze stock up to a defined number (the stint – the origin of the expression “doing your stint”); pannage – the right to turn out pigs in the autumn to devour the acorns and beech nuts; estovers – the right to take timber for minor works to buildings, for making farm implements and hurdles and for fuel and to take bracken and heather for bedding and piscary – the right to take fish from ponds or streams.
Following their 1595 departure from Laughton Place, the Pelhams constructed another brick mansion at Halland in a somewhat drier location. Today this house too is in ruins, having been demolished in 1768. As the Pelhams rose higher in the political structure of England, this location proved too remote and the family moved to Bishopstone where they could ensure election in the “rotten” borough of Seaford, with an additional town house in Lewes, the county town. A farmhouse survives among the crumbling walls of the manor and the fine stable is now converted to a dwelling.
In 1633 one Thomas Lunsford was caught poaching on the Pelham estates. He managed to keep his head but was fined the huge amount of £1750. The following year as Sir Thomas Pelham was emerging from East Hoathly church the one-eyed Lunsford opened fire with a pistol. The bullet missed Pelham (did Lunsford close the wrong eye when firing?) and lodged in the church door. Lunsford fled to France but was eventually caught and this time fined £8,000.
Surrounding Halland House was another hunting park, the “new park”, now fields farmed from Halland Park and Laughton Park farms. The route passes down the long, straight remains of the tree-lined path leading to the house. The nearby name “Shortgate” marks the site of one of the entrances into the park.
As the walk leaves the former hunting park, it moves onto the villagers’ land again and passes the area of common woodland to the east. This is followed by the common pond – the water supply for both villagers and animals. Between here and the crossroads in the centre of the village is the tiny part of the parish available to the villagers to build their dwellings. Despite these restrictions, the village gently prospered, rising from 14 households in 1332 to 36 families plus an alien (from outside Sussex rather than another planet) in 1524.
Whilst we have taken reasonable endeavours to ensure the information is up to date and correct, you will be using the information strictly at your own risk. If you come across any inaccuracies whilst you are on your walk, please contact Wealden District Council’s Community and Regeneration team.
The self-guided walk descriptions are provided to help you navigate your way, however we recommend that you plan your route prior to walking the route and that you carry an Ordnance Survey map of the area being walked and follow your position on the map as you proceed.
Please note, we cannot be responsible for the conditions of the footpaths and land and you are responsible for your own safety.