The Mansion that was ‘Yapton Place’

There is nothing left to see of the house which is assumed to be the Manor House of Yapton Manor save that of a round, brick and flint Dove House situated in the grounds of Church Farm. The site of the Manor House lies mostly in the grounds of Church Farm Mews which is situated immediately behind the church. The building would have been very prominently viewed across the parkland which stretched from the church to what is now the Main Road. The only known image of this house is portrayed in a pen and wash drawing by S.H. Grimm completed in 1782.

Yapton Place from an engraving by Grimm (1782)

In 1568 the then owner of the Estate, Henry FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, granted it to John Edmunds of Bailifscourt. The Title was passed down through the Edmunds family until the death of the last male heir, John. He died in 1688 at which time it was inherited by John’s sister Charity and her husband Laurence Eliot. By 1750 the ownership was with George Thomas Bt., once Governor of Pennsylvania and the Leeward Islands. He in turn was succeeded by his son Sir William whose heir was his nephew George White (who changed his surname to Thomas in 1778). George served as MP for Chichester from 1784 to 1812. On his death in 1821 George Thomas (White) was succeeded by his heir Inigo Thomas. It was while the house and estate were in his ownership in 1829 that the Thomas Trustees were allowed to arrange for the house to be demolished. This did not happen immediately however, as there are documents recording the existence of a tenant in 1832 but by the census returns of 1841 the house had disappeared.

A notice appeared in an edition of the Hampshire Telegraph dated 27th June, 1836 announcing that there would be an auction of the "noble edifice" of Yapton Place on Tuesday July 12th and Wednesday July 13th, 1836. According to the announcement Mr Garnett, auctioneer for Piazza of Portsea, will be auctioning off approximately 200 lots on the premises at "12 o’clock precisely". The items will be taken down and removed by the purchaser at their own expense. To encourage prospective buyers who may have been concerned with the logistics of transporting their purchases, the article opened with a reference to the Portsmouth and Chichester canal which joined the River Arun at Ford. The canal passed the auction site less than half a mile to the south opening up the seaways to the major coastal towns.

Incredibly, all the building materials were to be sold off, the quantities giving an idea of the size of the property. The notice claimed that the mansion was approximately 70 feet square. Amongst the Lots the auctioneers estimated that there was in the region of three tons of lead, 10,000 feet of oak, yellow batten and deal floor boards as well as 600,000 bricks. Also, to be sold to the highest bidder was "70 noble modern sashes and frames", in the region of forty, six-panel doors and fifty oak beams.

If this wasn’t enough, the modern stable block went under the hammer too. Its dimensions were 98 feet x 22 feet which included two lofts and a groom’s room over the stables. The materials on offer included 1500 feet of 1¼" thick floor boards, 1100 feet of joists and nine beams. Also listed were stalls, mangers, windows and gates. The auctioneers noted that the stable building could be offered as one Lot, to be decided on the day of the auction. Could this be what is now Church Farm Mews which has features associated with stables inside?

Surrounding the property was a wall, 852 feet long and 11 feet high which was also put up for sale. Completing the items in the catalogue was "the entire brew-house, bake house, cow-pens, cart sheds and other stabling, gates, piers, cisterns, wells, brick draining, stone pitchings, lead pumps and pipes".

The sale catalogue also mentions a "Haw-Haw" and a wall 14” thick by approximately 5 feet high and 560 feet long. A Haw-Haw is a boundary ditch with a retaining wall on one side which does not interrupt the view of the landscape.

So complete was the sale it is no wonder that nothing now remains of the mansion and its associated buildings that once dominated the village of Yapton. It also gives an insight into the life-style of privileged classes over 200 years ago.

The Auction was advertised far and wide. Catalogues could be purchased for the cost of 6d (2½p) from libraries in Brighton, Worthing, Shoreham and Ryde on the Isle of Wight, as well as Inns in Southampton, Havant and Lymington. Information on the outcome of the sale is sadly unknown at this time.

Site of Yapton Place

Allen Misselbrook
July 2019

(Originally published in Sussex Local Magazine, Arundel, August 2019)