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Living in Tudor and Stuart Sussex c1500 - 1700

Saturday 12th October 2024

Living in a provincial town:
Elizabethan Chichester 

Dr Caroline Adams

Using both material culture history and our knowledge of the people and topography of Elizabethan Chichester, this talk attempts to paint an authentic portrait of what it was like to live in the city in the late 16th century. Taking an example of a merchant family living in North Street, we will look at how they sourced the food they ate, their household goods, and what their daily life must have been like. This approach involves some speculation, but we can make informed choices, and the result can be used as a resource for both local and general early modern history.

Suggested reading:

Tara Hamling & Catherine Richardson, A Day at Home in Early Modern England (Yale University Press, London and New Haven, 2017)
Roy Morgan, Chichester: a documentary history (Chichester: Phillimore, 1992)
Lena Cowen Orlin, Elizabethan Households (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1995)
Danae Tankard, Houses of the Weald and Downland: people and houses of South-East England (Carnegie Publishing Ltd, 2012)
Robert Tittler,  Townspeople and Nation: English Urban Experiences, c.1540-1640: English Urban Experiences, 1540-1640 (Stanford University Press, 2001)
Caroline Adams, ‘Queen and Country: The Significance of Elizabeth I’s Progress in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire in 1591’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Chichester, 2012)
Caroline Adams, ‘Elizabeth I’s Progresses into Sussex’ in Matthew Dimmock, Andrew Hadfield & Paul Quinn, Art, Literature and Religion in Early modern Sussex: culture and conflict (Farnham, Ashgate Publishing Co., 2014)

Dr Caroline Adams

​Retired Archivist - Independent paleographer and historian specialising in Sussex and the early modern period Independent Historian specialising in the Tudor period.

Caroline runs a research business, Key to the Past, and regularly carries out house histories and local history research for clients and architects. Until 2014 she was Senior Archivist at West Sussex Record Office; mainly lecturing and giving workshops.  She now teaches palaeography online and runs courses on various aspects of local records.  She holds a PhD on the significance of Elizabeth I’s progress in Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey in 1591. Her specialist subject is the early modern gentleman in Sussex and London in the 16th century, and her research usually involves manorial records.She is fascinated by local rural life in the 16th century - what we might recognise and what is fundamentally different culturally - and is a keen volunteer at the Weald and Downland Museum in West Sussex.  Caroline was proud to win the BALH Local History Award for research and publication (short article) in 2020, and she is now working on a book on local Elizabethan gentry.

Dr Sue Berry

FRHistS, Independent Historian and Writer

Sue taught tourism management at the University of Brighton and then worked in adult education. She still lectures and runs short courses. Formerly a magistrate and a trustee of the National Trust. She now publishes and lectures on eighteenth and nineteenth century social and economic history. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Historical Society.

This talk is a summary of some years of research using the archives for the town for this period, which Sue is now writing up.

Living in a new town: Brighton, a fishing and coastal carrying town
1540 - 1700

Dr Sue Berry

Brighton developed rapidly as a fishing town in the sixteenth century when England’s population rising population put pressure eon food supplies. The fleets sailed mainly to the North Sea to catch herring which was sold at Yarmouth. Some crews opted to then take their profits  northwards to Newcastle to buy coal and sail back to London and along the south coast to sell it.  From the 1640s, life became tougher for the town because of competition from the Dutch and other influences. By the 1690s, Brighton was in decline having for a brief period been larger than Chichester and Lewes. The narrow economic structure even though the mariners did their best to diversify contributed to the contraction of the town.

Social attitudes in Tudor and Stuart Chichester: the evidence of the wills

Dr James McInnes

This talk uses the 1,200 wills written by 16th and 17th century Cicestrians to explore and explain the continuities and changes in their attitudes towards women, the family, age, their worldly estate and the everlasting life to come.

Dr James McInnes

Independent Historian with a particular interest in hte 'plaine country fellow.'

James McInnes had a career as a teacher of history. His doctorate centred on Portchester and the importance of the Customs of the Manor. Recently he has transcribed the Tudor and Stuart wills of Chichester. 

Sources for the talk:

(i) Chichester wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and held in The National Archives. (ii) Chichester wills proved in the Diocesan Courts of Chichester and held in the West Sussex Record Office.

Maurice Howard

OBE, FSA, FSA (Scot), Professor Emeritus of Art History, University of Sussex

Maurice Howard combined a long university teaching career with time working for heritage organisations and on major display and exhibition projects at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He is a former President of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

Relevant publications:

Maurice Howard, The Building of Elizabethan and Jacobean England published by Yale University Press in 2007


Contributions by Maurice and others to Design and the Decorative Arts: Britain 1500-1900, published at the opening of the British Galleries at the V&A in 2001. 

Tudor and Stuart Great Houses in an age of religious upheaval

Professor Maurice Howard

The period of Reformation to Civil War witnessed the rise and fall of many powerful individuals in which religious affiliation often played a decisive role and to which their houses bore witness. More specifically, the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s heralded a period of property speculation and rapid building campaigns of country houses as testament to the ambition of these people. To meet the demand there was great inventiveness with materials of construction and decoration, to keep up with new styles but also to demonstrate expenditure in an essentially competitive environment. 

Vernacular buildings in Sussex: some impacts of change in design from c1500 - 1700

Joe Thompson

Vernacular timber-framed buildings are an important source of material culture that provide a wide range of evidence relating to the people that paid, built and lived in them. In Sussex they survive in sufficient numbers from the Tudor and Stuart period, although often extensively altered, adapted and extended, to be worthy of study. Interpreting as much as possible of the original form, function, date, setting and subsequent development can be derived from close observation of these structures. This information both informs and reflects our understanding of the broader picture of how many mostly ordinary people lived during this era.

The sixteenth to seventeenth century demonstrates some profound changes in the ways that houses were designed. This transition can be broadly seen as a quest for greater personal comfort and more nuanced expression of wealth and fashion. A selection of buildings from the Weald and Downland Museum will be presented that demonstrate aspects of these changes. With discussion of the impacts on the lives of those who lived and worked in these houses.

Joe Thompson

Conservator, researcher and lecturer on historic timber-framed buildings.

Relevant publication:

Deciding on treatment for a timber-frame, in Context №178, December 2023

Dr Danae Tankard

FRHistS, Reader in Social History, University of Chichester

I am a social and cultural historian of seventeenth-century Sussex. This talk draws on research that I undertook over several years, culminating in the publication of my book, Clothing in 17th-century Provincial England (Bloomsbury, 2020). More recently I have been working on a study of late seventeenth-century Chichester, entitled Factionalism and Dissent in a Late Seventeenth-century City: Chichester, 1678-1685, which will be published by Routledge in its ‘Microhistories’ book series in 2025. M Spufford and S Mee, The Clothing of the Common Sort 1570-1700 (Oxford UP, 2017)

Clothing in Seventeenth century Sussex

Dr Danae Tankard

My talk will provide an overview of what men and women wore in the seventeenth century, and the main fashion changes during the period. It will then explore how people living in Sussex acquired their clothing, using evidence from a variety of sources such as probate inventories, court records, household accounts, overseers’ accounts, and letters.

The poor and the impact of the Elizabethan Poor laws

Dr Mary Rudling

There have been two key periods of poor relief legislation in England and Wales: The Acts of 1598 and 1601 (known as the Old Poor Law); and the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 (the New Poor Law). In both instances there was concern regarding rising population, the threat of disorder and a change in the profile of the poor. This talk focuses on the implementation of the Old Poor Law. It considers the range of support available to the poor prior to 1598 and the reasons why demand for relief had increased by the end of the sixteenth century. The 1598 Act was significant in making the parish the locus of support. Using overseers’ accounts and rate books, I will discuss the impact of the legislation on parishioners in Sussex during the seventeenth century. Other sources include charity records, monastic records, and apprenticeship bonds. Paul Slack’s Poverty & Policy in Tudor and Stuart England (London:1988) provides a useful background to this subject

Dr Mary Rudling

Independent Historian, expert on the Poor Law


I have been studying poor relief in Sussex for over ten years; initially as an MA and more recently for a PhD focusing on the impact of the New Poor Law in eastern Sussex. I have published an article entitled, ‘A comparison of poor relief in a Wealden parish and a South Downs parish in eastern Sussex c. 1830-1860’, Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol.155, 181-196. I am currently researching the work of female guardians at the end of the nineteenth century and am also writing a chapter about Workhouse Inspectors for a volume on the staffing of workhouses under the Old and New Poor Laws.

Dr Andrew Foster

BA, FRHistS, FSA, FHA, Honary Research Fellow, University of Kent


Andrew is an ecclesiastical historian who has written about bishops, their dioceses, the clergy, cathedrals and parish churchwardens of early modern England and Wales.  He is an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Kent and also associated with Lincoln College, Oxford, and the University of Durham. He served as a Literary Director of the Sussex Record Society for 33 years and is now one of their Honorary Vice-Presidents.  With Joan Barham, he edited Volume 98 of the SRS on the Church Surveys of the Archdeaconry of Chichester in the early seventeenth century.

Recommended reading on this subject:
Peter Marshall, Reformation England 1480-1642,      Arnold 2003
Robert Whiting, The Reformation of the English Parish Church, CUP 2010
Nicholas Orme, Going to Church in Medieval England, Yale UP 2021
Valerie Hitchman & Andrew Foster (eds), Views from the Parish: Churchwardens’ Accounts c.1500-c.1800, Cambridge Scholars Pub. 2015
P. Barnwell & Trevor Cooper (eds), Places of Worship in Britain and Ireland, 1550-1689, Shaun Tyas 2019


The impact of the Reformation on parish churches and worship

Dr Andrew Foster

This talk will illustrate the chief changes to church interiors brought about by the mid- sixteenth century reformations and consider their significance in terms of changes in worship and theological thinking.  The talk will comment upon the impact of these changes on the nature of records kept, how churches were maintained by churchwardens, and how diocesan authorities used church courts to maintain discipline.  It will consider the slow pace of change and the plight of those who sought to remain members of the old Catholic faith.  All will be discussed through the lens of West Sussex examples.

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