A History of West Clandon

Edited by Mrs Nancy Baster from contributions from Mr J Purkiss, The Rev J Cresswell and others
From ‘The Clandons, A Look into the Past’ published by the Clandon Society and the Parish Councils of East and West Clandon in 1991.

The Feudal Manor (1066-1500)

Early reference to the two Clandons go back to Anglo-Saxon times. Some traces have been found of Iron Age occupation and signs of Roman habitation, but the early settlements owed their existence to their situation at the foot of the North Downs, where water was available on the spring line where the chalk meets to clay.

The name Clandon is derived from clenedune or ‘Clean Down’, meaning open downland free from scrub.    Early documents refer to Clenedune (East Clandon) and Altera Clenedune (West Clandon). By the 13th Century, references are found to East Clandon or Clandon Abbatis and West Clandon or Clandon Regis, referring to a significant difference between the two villages,  which affected the history of their later development and at one time nearly brought the two villages to blows.

The early period come to an end with the Norman invasion in 1066, and is marked 20 years later by the great Domesday Book of 1086. This took into account the redistribution of the lands of the Anglo-Saxon lords to William’s followers after the Conquest. The Survey for almost all of England recorded what and how much each landowner held inland and livestock and what it was worth. The Domesday Book gives a fascinating glimpse of the two villages at the time.

West Clandon is described as a manor belonging to Edward, Bishop of Salisbury, owned by one Hugh. It was assessed at 2.5hides (about 250 acres) and included arable and woodland, most of the land belonging to the Lord’s desmene, that is manor house land not let out to tenants. The Church is also mentioned and a mill believed to be at the north end of the north lake in Clandon Park. There were 4 villeins and 5 bordars making a total of 9 families apart from the Lord’s family his entourage and serfs. The total population was possibly between 60 and 80 persons.

Later,  West Clandon was owned by a series of neighbouring families, which included the Westons of Albury (1294-1441), followed by the Slyfields of Great Bookham (1441-1638).

Agriculture was organised on the common-field system with strict rules about the use of the common fields for cultivation and pasturing of cattle, with fines for their infringement. Outside the lord’s demesne most land was held copyhold, with the tenant obliged to provide services and dues in kind to the lord, including the provision of so many days work on the lord’s demesne, and the obligation to meet the lord’s claim to the best beast on the holding on the death of the tenant. Villages were basically self-sufficient communities with lords and villeins bound together by mutual obligations.

The affairs of the manor were discussed by the Court Baron, which dealt with changes in tenure of copyholders and with matters relating to the good running of the manor.

In feudal times,  the role of the church in village life was bound up with the life of the manor. Although in theory the clergy were nominated by the Bishop, in practice the parish priest was dependent on the lord of the manor for protection and for land for church and house; and from time immemorial the priest depended on the payment of tithes, the tenth part of the produce of the villagers. The right of the lord to nominate the local priest was generally recognised and the advowsen,  as it was called went with the lordship of the manor. At the same time the parish church was the centre or religious life in the Village and the parish priest reigned within the walls of his church. He said the mass in Latin attended by all in the parish. He kept the parish records. The Church was both sanctuary and village hall providing instruction and succour in need.

In the 13th Century, the Knights Templar, an order of military monks, established an administrative headquarters on the site of the present Temple Court, now the home of the Onslow family. Rebuilding the old Anglo-Saxon Church started in 1180 and when in 1310 the Westons held the lordship of the manor they went to great lengths to develop St Peter and St Paul as a parish church. William de Weston presented his son Richard to the living, and added many features to the church which can still be seen. (see Church History). Rectors at the time seem to have been persons of spirit, if one can judge from one rector of West Clandon, who was embroiled in a number of lawsuits, and in 1319 was involved in a scandalous raid on East Horsley.

By 1500 the population of the villages appears to have been much the same as it was at the time of Domesday, in spite of fluctuations in time of war or plague. Dwellings for the most part would have been very primitive with mud floors and holes in the roof for smoke to escape, although the use of more substantial materials was beginning towards the end of the period.   Already by 1500 the linear patter of village development was visible in West Clandon.