Selmeston is mentioned in two entries of the Domesday Book of 1086, and is shown as being in the Hundred of Wandelmestrei (see Domesday and the Lost Village). The Domesday book also has entries for the two large houses that lie in the Parish, Sherrington Manor (variously referred to as Elerintone, Serintone and Sirintone) and Tilton house (referred to as Telentone and Tilintone).
The Black Death may have had an impact on the area at about this time (1300) and may be part of the reason that the village of Sidenore, which is referred to in the Domesday Book and may have been just to the North of Selmeston, had ‘disappeared‘ by 1350.
In 1300, Edward 1 stayed at the Priory in Lewes. Thirty-eight years earlier, his father had suffered a crushing defeat there at the hands of Simon de Montfort. With his court entourage, it is believed that he then progressed past Firle and through Alciston and Selmeston on his way to Michelham Priory. There have been no subsequent royal visits!
A Parish register was started in 1563, following a decree imposed by Thomas Cromwell in 1538 that all births, baptisms, weddings and burials be recorded. Inside the front cover of the first volume of the present register is written: “The Old Register which began in the year 1563 and continued to this present year 1667 is to be found in the Church Chest.” However, the old register seems to have been lost at some time after 1780, when Sir William Burrell made extracts from it as part of his Sussex Collections now at the British Museum.
In 1603 a bell was hung in the church tower with the inscription ‘ Joseph Haton made me’. A village fayre was recorded adjacent to the church in 1617, with that particular piece of land (extending up to the main road), taking on the name of Fairfields.
Cricket was first played in Selmeston in 1807, thanks largely to the generosity of Lord Gage, who donated the cricket pitch (then called Easter Field ) to residents of the villages of Alciston and Selmeston. The Alciston and Selmeston Cricket Club is still active today.
In 1840, The East Sussex Police force was formed, and Selmeston was lucky enough to have its own constable residing in a police house now known as East View.
The Barley Mow located on the A27 at the top of Selmeston is a 200 yr old public house. The building also served as a temporary courthouse, with part of it used as the slaughterhouse for local farm animals. Next door was the blacksmith’s shop.
Learn more about Selmeston's other listed buildings
Until well into the twentieth century the economy of the village was based on agriculture and the Parish retains a number of farms, including a large area of land off Common Lane that is used today to grow commercial turf. The largest sheep fair in East Sussex was traditionally held on September 19 each year on the village common, the area through which Common Lane now runs, a short distance east of The Street. A local farmer, John Thomas Ellman (1753-1832) of Place Farm, Glynde, selectively bred the Southdown breed of sheep from which all modern meat-producing sheep are descended.
By 1933 electricity had been installed throughout the parish. During this time, as well as the odd motor car seen driving through the lanes, a new form of transport could be seen flying overhead. The Eastbourne Flying Club was located in a field off the A27 by Sherman Bridge and the turning to Milton Street, and the two aircraft used by members (an Avro 504 and a De Havilland Re8) would often fly over Selmeston. On special days, they would give displays, with the resident Selmeston ‘bobby’, PC Fred Finlayson, controlling the crowds. Between 1933 and 1934, electrification of the railway line was completed by the Southern Railway, with safety adjustments made to the crossing.
As did many rural communities, Selmeston played its part in both the first and second world wars, from land girls to hosting evacuees and our own regiment. Learn more about our community in wartime.