egdean.

The Parish

The history of the parish of Egdean is complex, one of the areas of confusion in understanding the development of the parish is the historic use of two occasionally interchangeable placenames: 'Egdean' and 'Bleatham'. Bleatham first appears in documents of 1145, and continues in use to the mid 16th century. Egdean is used in ecclesiastical accounts from 1279 onwards. For a period of nearly 300 years the names are in parallel use. The key to understanding this lies in the Saxon origin and meaning of these names, and the Saxon expansion north of the Rother into the Weald in the 8th and 9th centuries.

 

Following their initial settlement of the coastal margins, the Saxons pushed inland by river. For a period of time the Rother represented the northern limit of Saxon settlement and it was only when they had established sufficient resources that they pushed northwards of the river. During this period a number of settlements were made in the area, including Petworth and Fittleworth. Smaller satellite hamlets also developed, including Bedham, Stopham and Bleatham.

 

Whilst the exact location of Bleatham has yet to recognised, historical land-use analysis suggests it may have lain either in the region of Woodruff Farm and High Hoes, or possibly in the area of Froghole, closer to the present settlement of Egdean.

 

Egdean is not a settlement name, but a Saxon descriptive name of a geographic feature. Whilst there is some debate about the precise meaning of the two elements 'Eg' and 'Dean' the combined usage here appears to indicate a promontory of dry ground surrounded by marshy valleys. This description clearly would have fitted the hill on which St. Bartholomew's now stands, with the valleys of Froghole and Douglaslake being natural marshes  during the Saxon period.

 

Egdean parish probably represents one of the latest and final examples of parish formation in Sussex. A power struggle between mother churches and their daughter parishes in the late 12th century saw the satellites still under financial obligation and control from the centre until the early 17th century. It is interesting to note that the present church building of St Bartholomew's dates from just this period, 1622.