It may not be realised by either the younger generation or ‘newcomers’ that Horsted Keynes used to be in EAST Sussex, with Lewes being our reference point for things like Driving Licences. The ‘border’ was easy to spot. As one travelled between Bolney and Cowfold, and entered the long straight beyond Muttons Corner crossroads, the white chippings of East Sussex on the road’s surface gave way to black ones, signifying entry into West Sussex. That may, or may not, be significant in today’s world but it did mean that of old our local view of things was inevitably eastward.
Thus, in 1957 a Lindfield lady called Helena Hall took it upon herself to update and improve the ‘Sussex Dialect Dictionary’, originally compiled by The Rev. W D Parish, Vicar of Selmeston in 1875, much of which was associated with East Sussex activities and sayings. It may be scarce today.
She records that in 1770 the definition of ‘enthralled’ had nothing to do with an audience at the Proms in the Albert Hall but, instead, meant heavily in debt or indeed bankrupt. It was also a fact that a widow whose deceased husband had died ‘enthralled’ was immediately classified similarly. In the days before any form of social welfare, and with every possibility that she’d be left with young children, a widow’s lot was not a happy one. However, in order that she could accept any subsequent marriage proposal, society did offer her one undignified escape.
To prevent a new suitor from inheriting her late husband’s debts, she could be married ‘in her smock only’, with that state of (un)dress being officially verified by someone in authority. So, on 5 March, 1770 in Lewes, one such widow was recorded in The Sussex Weekly Advertiser as having crossed the street to her new husband’s apartment, and being confirmed as ‘in her smock only’ by a Cork Fig whose position in the town wasn’t stated. Neither do we know exactly what constituted a ‘smock’.
One can only assume that this rather demeaning procedure was to prevent a widow from secreting valuable items such as deeds to property about her person, so as to enable her new partner to lay claim to them thereafter. Needless to say, officialdom wouldn’t have had copies of such things in those days and a single document could have been as valuable as cash.
Smocks and Smock Frocks An internet search revealed that a smock frock, often shortened to smock was an over garment used to protect a working persons clothes. A modern example would be the protective garment worn by an artist. Seemingly these garments could be elaborate with extensive lacework.
Two Sussex men wearing smocks from Hylda Rawlings photograph collection
In the context of this article however it seems likelier that the smock was an undergarment or chemise as in this photo.