Laughton, Sussex; The Village of the Buckle.

By Lyn Funnell

Aunt Lucy, left, Aunt Kit, Right, Tommy on bike, taken in the early 50s.

Laughton used to be known as The Smelliest Village in Sussex!

A bit harsh, isn’t it? But it didn’t get any mains drainage until the 1950s.

Everyone had access to wells, and if they dried up in the Summer, they collected water from the pub well, which never ran dry.

There was a lot of industrial activity in the village, including four brickworks that unusually also produced terracotta. And a vein of beautiful marble, known as Winklestone,  ran through the village. So there was probably a lot of dust around in the 18/1900s.

Stone tools have been found from at least 40,000BC.

Later Bronze Age and Iron Age evidence of settlements were also found. And as the land was so fertile, the Romans farmed there. A Roman villa was unearthed on the Ripe/Laughton boundary.

Laughton is recorded in the Domesday book of 1085, where it was called Leston.

The de Veres, Earls of Oxford, lived there and in 1370 Thomas de Vere left his wife Maud ‘All his reliques in his proper custody, with a certain cross made of the very wood of Christ’s cross.’

Of course, if all the Medieval relics made of Christ’s cross were gathered together, they’d make a forest!

The  most famous family who lived in Laughton were the Pelhams.

Sir John Pelham captured the King of France at Poitiers and he was given the King’s surrendered sword as a trophy.

Since then, the buckle has been used everywhere in Laughton, including on the village sign, on the church and above the door on many houses.

Laughton is known as The Village of the Buckle.

The Pelhams lived at Laughton Place, but it had problems with flooding and now just the main tower remains, along a long, pothole-riddled farm track. Apparently all the bricks were recycled.

On the right, if you come in the village from Ringmer, there is an attractive old house called BAOBAB named after a South African tree by a previous owner.

It used to be a small row of tied cottages belonging to Paygate Farm, called Paygate Cottages. And many years before that, there was apparently a tollgate there, collecting tolls from passing travellers.

Obviously any passing traffic was in a horse and cart, not on a Harley, so they couldn’t drive off!

In the early 50s, my husband John’s family lived there. They had an outside pump and chickens running around in the kitchen.

John said when he was about 5 he stayed there a few times, and he had a lovely time.

His aunt Lucy and Uncle Jim lived there with Aunt Lucy’s sister Kit and her son Tommy. Kit and Tommy were classed as deaf and dumb, and written off by everyone as sub-normal, given no help at all. Nobody called to teach them sign language or how to speak. And nobody knew who Tommy’s father was. How some things have changed for the best!

We spoke to Paul Morris, who has lived there for 8 years. He was very interested to hear how his home used to be, and he said that he doesn’t have any chickens in the kitchen!

Uncle Jim. What is his uniform?

Just past the house on the right is Cow Lane. Down the lane and turn right and you can soon see the Pelham Tower in the distance. We bounced and wobbled right up to it. It’s a beautiful building, but oh, what a terrible potholed road!

Back to the main road and turn right, and the turning to the All Saints Church is on the right by the village green. It’s past the school and quite a long way from the main road.

We could hear voices through the door, so we opened it and went inside.

The Sunday Service had finished, but there was a kitchen at the rear selling tea and coffee.

What a good idea to keep the parishioners there after the Service to mingle and chat!

The lady vicar was from Seaford and standing in for the morning.

There is a terrible shortage of vicars in Sussex. Some churches are only open fortnightly, or even every three weeks! Apart from that they’re often kept locked up.

Everyone was very helpful with local information.

In the Church Pelham family vault are two ex-Prime Ministers; Thomas Pelham Holles and his brother Henry, three Earls of Chichester, and a Bishop of Lincoln, among others.

The Church dates back to the 13th Century. There are still a lot of Medieval parts of the original church still there.

In the nave is a war memorial carved out of Italian Marble. It was dedicated in 1921 and records the names of 18 Laughton men who were killed in WW1 and four in WWll.

The rifles are apparently 1887 Lee Enfields.

Up the road  and the Roebuck Inn is across the main road, opposite the village green. It’s a historic coaching inn with an award-winning chef and a great menu.

Hidden away in the back is a toad-in-the-hole table. No it’s nothing to do with the sausage dish. This is a Sussex pub game where competitors throw ‘toads’ into a hole.


Near the Inn is the local village stores, with a post office and a cafe called, unsurprisingly, The Buckle.

A few miles out of the village is Park Corner Heath, which is a site of Special Scientific Interest.

It’s owned by the Butterfly Conservation and contains a variety of interesting plants, dormice, adders, grass snakes and dragonflies, and of course, butterflies.

There’s a free car park and an information board there.

We’ll definitely be going back there several times in the Spring and Summer.



  • Lyn Funnell

    Lyn is the co-owner of Unknown Kent and Sussex. She lives in Sussex. Lyn has been writing for most of her life, both Fiction & Non-Fiction. She loves cookery & creating original recipes. She's won a lot of prizes, including Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu & on BBC The One Show as a runner-up, making her Britain's Spag Bol Queen! She has had nine books published so far. History, Travel & Restaurant Reviews are her main interests.

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