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MARKET TOWNS OF SUSSEX (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Mayfield in 1842

Mayfield is situated on high ground, in the rape of Pevensey, and in the hundred of Loxfield-Camden, 44 miles from London. It is now only a small agricultural town, of one street; but the parish is extensive, including 13,500 acres. The town is remarkable for the palace of the archbishops of Canterbury, who had convenient residences provided for them at easy distances within the South Saxon diocese. The erection of the palace at Mayfield, as well as of the former wooden church destroyed by fire in 1389, is ascribed to the famous St. Dunstan ; and in that portion of the palace which is now standing are preserved the saint’s forge and anvil, and the very traditionary tongs with which this most reverend prelate seized the arch-enemy of mankind.

Mayfield was a favourite residence of the archbishops. Provincial synods were held here in 1332 and 1362, and Archbishops Mepham, Stratford, and Islip died here. Of the ancient palace the walls and three noble arches in the hall, and some portions of the chambers, one of which bears the date of 1371, are in existence. They are of later date than the time of St. Dunstan. The palace and manor were surrendered by Archbishop Cranmer to Henry VIII, who, in 1545, granted them to Sir Edward North : they were afterwards alienated to the Greshams, and here Sir Thomas Gresham, the prince of merchants, resided in much magnificence, and entertained in one of her progresses Queen Elizabeth.

The church built after the destruction of the wooden pile is still dedicated to St. Dunstan : it is a large building with a lofty spire. The living is a vicarage : it was an appendage to the conventual establishment of the Black Canons at South Malling, and is now a peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the annual net value, as returned in 1835, was £834. The population of the parish in 1831 was 2,738. Thomas May, the historian of the long parliament, was born at the palace at Mayfield, in 1595.