THE ORIGINS OF THE MANOR HOUSE
THE MANOR OF BEXHILL
At it’s height, the Manor House included 7 Reception Rooms, 19 bedrooms, eight bathrooms, 2 cottages, a garage block and detached ballroom (the Manor Barn).
From more humble beginnings, the Manor House has stood in the centre of the Old Town for 900 years. Until its’ demolition in 1967, the building was the second oldest structure town after St Peter’s Church.
The manor of Bexhill and the hundred that it administered date back to the grant awarded by King Offa (see ‘A brief history of Bexlei’). However, the most likely foundations for the structure that came to dominate life in Old Town originates from the period following the Norman Conquest.
When Robert de Criol (son of Robert, count of Eu) was awarded the prebend of Bexhill & Bulverhythe, (recorded in the Doomsday of 1086) he built a place of residence near the Saxon church for the canons and clerics.
After mounting pressure from several successive Bishops, his son, John, Count of Eu restored the Manor of Bexhill to the jurisdiction of The Church. Thus in 1148, and under the control of the See of Chichester, the existing residence was turned into the Bishops’ Palace.
The destructive power of great storm of 1250 (best associated with the ruin of Old Winchelsea) can still be seen today with the petrified remains of the submerged wood to the east of Galley Hill.
The oldest remains of the manor house are dated from this period in history, leading to speculation that Richard de Wych had part of the residence rebuilt following damage caused by the storm. It is also a commonly held belief that it was on a journey from the Bishops Palace to Dover, that he died in 1253.
9 years after his death, Richard was canonised by Pope Urban IV at Viterbo, Lazio. As St Richard he was later made the patron Saint of Sussex, and his connection with the parish of Bexhill is clearly marked with the stained glass window at St Peter’s and the naming of the local Catholic school in Ashdown Road.
For the next 2 centuries the Bishops Palace continued to grow in importance for the diocese, and indeed the crown.
After the Henry VI suffered losses in the Normandy territories, and had to contend with French raids and incursions along the south coast, he awarded a license in 1447 to Adam de Moleyns (31st Bishop of Chichester) to embattle the residence and enclose the manor in stone.
Richard De Wych
No evidence survives that this embattlement took place, but several arches still visible at the Manor Ruins that have been dated back to this period.
The Palace and the Manor remained under the governance of the See of Chichester until Queen Elizabeth 1, acquired the lands and handed them over to Thomas Sackville in 1590.