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Changing Times | The history of the village of Halnaker

Haknaker is a small village located to the north east of Chichester. The earliest recorded form of the name Halnaker, Helneche, comes from the Domesday survey of 1086. Other variations of the name have included Hannac, Halnenaker, Halfnaked, Hanycarr and Hanekar.


The area had been gifted to Earl Roger of Montgomery, who held the combined rapes of Chichester and Arundel, totalling around 83 manors. In 1105, Boxgrove and Halnaker were passed to Robert de la Haye, a Norman lord. De la Haye built his principle residence at Halnaker.


All that now remains in its place are the ruins of the later 14th century fortified manor house built by Robert De Hay, which have subsequently been Grade I listed and given the status of a scheduled ancient monument. Most iconic of the ruins is the gatehouse. The site is privately owned and is not open to the public.


In 1281, Halnaker is first recorded as having a deer park. In the 13th century, a chapel, dedicated to St Mary de Magdalene, was added to the residence. It remained in use for several centuries until 1704.


Both Robert and his brother died without having children and so the property passed through the marriage of their sister, Muriel, to the St John family. It passed again to the Poynings family and then on to the Bonvilles. In 1440, a licence to ‘empark’ an area of 300 acres of land and wood at Halnaker was granted.


In 1495, Elizabeth Bonville married Sir Thomas West, the 9th Lord of Warr, who set about rebuilding and extending Halnaker House. At the dissolution of the monasteries, West became unpopular, owing to his religious sympathies, and was persuaded to exchange Halnaker for the abbey of Wherwell in Hampshire. In 1544, Henry VIII made John Jeny steward of Halnaker and Boxgrove.


Two years later, stewardship passed to Henry Firzalan, Earl of Arundel, before in 1561, the estate was granted to him by Queen Elizabeth I for an annual rental of £20. Two decades later, in 1587, however, the freehold was sold to John Morley, a merchant from Suffolk.


Morley and his family retained the residence for several years, making a series of improvements to the manor house during this time. John Morley’s son, William Morley, left Halnaker estate to his daughter, Mary. After her husband’s death, she moved back to Sussex and devoted herself to charitable work with the nearby almshouses and a school in Boxgrove.


Unfortunately, Mary’s only son died at a young age, so when Mary passed away in 1752, she left the property to her cousin, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, who, in 1765, sold it to Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond, owner of nearby Goodwood House. The Duke’s interest in Halnaker was predominantly the estate, for at this time Halnaker House had already been abandoned. Although substantial ruins remain to this day, its roofs and walls were significantly robbed.


Some of the architectural features from the property were salvaged and used in other buildings locally, including The Chantry in Canon Lane and The Grange, a former residence of Tower Street, Chichester.


In the late 1930s, Lutyens designed a large and prestigious house in Halnaker known as Halnaker Park. It is two storeys high and built from painted brick, with a raised central portion with wings to either side. The building is positioned to face south, taking in the views to the coastal plain.


In the 1940s, a large house was built in the gardens of the former manor house, Halnaker House. This house was demolished and a large neo-Georgian house, known as Little Halnaker, was built there in the early 2000s.


On Halnaker Hill stands the iconic Grade II listed Halnaker Windmill. It was built in the mid-18th century for the Duke of Richmond and was the feudal mill of the Goodwood Estate.


The mill was operational until it was struck by lightning in 1905, damaging the sails and wind shaft. The derelict mill was restored in 1934 by Neve’s, the Heathfield millwrights. Further repair work was carried out in 1954 by E Hole and Sons, the Burgess Hill millwrights. More recently, the mill was restored in 2004.


In 2013, the site was fenced off for safety reasons and the latest phase of restoration began. The exterior of the mill has been retiled, the cap repaired and new sails have been fitted to the mill, which is owned by West Sussex County Council.


By Amy Roberts, collections officer at the Novium Museum

Posted in Lifestyle.