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Family History

We Want to Help
Do you think you may have family roots in the Steyning area? We are happy to receive visits and emails from people researching their families. We have a wide range of archives and are keen to help you make the most of them.
Our family historian tel: 01903 814426 Museum tel: 01903 813333

Click to email our Family Historian at:

Click to see our family history blog at:

We have extensive records, including transcripts and copies of records held elsewhere. Many of them are indexed.They cover Steyning and its surrounding villages – Wiston, Ashurst, Bramber and Upper Beeding.You can view a list of the records we have available on our Archives page.
Rev. John Penfold
Rev. John Penfold,
Vicar of Steyning 1792 to 1840
Image © John Starr, a Penfold researcher

Steyning Registration District

Between 1837 and 1935, Steyning was the name of a registration district covering many towns and villages in Sussex. Civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths may give Steyning as the location, although many were not in Steyning itself.

Register Office
Steyning Register Office in 1905

Births, marriages and deaths in the registration district of Steyning between 1837 and 1935 could relate to any one of 25 different parishes. In fact more people are likely to have come from Brighton or Hove than from Steyning itself. The registration district of Steyning was created in July 1837, with its sub-districts of Hove, New Shoreham, Preston, Shoreham and Steyning.

Steyning served the parishes of Aldrington, Ashurst, Botolphs, Bramber, Coombes, Edburton, Fulking, Hangleton, Henfield, Hove, Kingston by Sea, Lancing (from 1870), New Shoreham, Old Shoreham, Patcham, Portslade, Poynings, Preston, Shermanbury, Sompting, Southwick, Steyning, Upper Beeding, West  Blatchington and Woodmancote.

The Steyning district continued until March 1935, when the civil registers moved to Chanctonbury, Cuckfield, Hove or Worthing. The Chanctonbury office at Storrington served Steyning until it too closed in 1974. Civil registration for Steyning residents then moved to Worthing.

Steyning Museum only keeps records relating to our locality: Steyning, Bramber, Upper Beeding, Wiston and Ashurst.

Unfortunately, we cannot help with information about other places, or people unconnected with the Steyning area. The good news is that if you have found a local connection, you may well have struck gold.

Research Hub Records
Records in our Research Hub

Our Records:
How to Access Them

Access to our archives is free of charge for visitors, although we are always pleased to receive donations. If you would like some advice and support, let us know when you intend to visit and an outline of what you are looking for. We will try to make sure our family historian or our curator is there to get you started.

If you can’t visit the museum, email us with some details of who you are looking for. We will let you know whether and to what extent they appear in our records. This initial half-hour service is free of charge. If you wish us to do some further research on your behalf, we can do so at a basic fee of £25 per hour (up to a maximum fee of £100 with no time limit).

Details about ways to pay for our family history research service are on our Payments page.

Researching Family History

By our family historian,Jacquie Buttriss.

Jacquie Buttriss has researched family history for many years. Here she sets out some advice on how to get started – especially if you believe your ancestors came from Steyning, Bramber, Upper Beeding, Wiston or nearby.

Start from what you know

Whatever age you start on your family history, there will almost always be somebody, perhaps a sister or a cousin, who may remember something you don’t. The first step in putting together your family tree is to start from what you know. I first became interested in my family’s history in my teens. I began by asking my parents what they knew of their forebears. My mother recollected some tantalising snippets, but my father knew very little.

I still had three grandparents alive so, at the age of 17, I sat down with each of them in turn and asked them lots of questions. What do you remember? Who? When? Where? Any anecdotes? The answers they gave enabled me to draw out my first family tree, back to about 1835. This was a very good start. But that’s where it stopped! Many of my ancestors came from other countries and very few from Britain, so that was an immediate problem. If more of my forebears had been British, I could have visited graveyards and museums, tracked down county record offices and contacted local family history societies. These are all good ways to start on your research.

Find your family history at Steyning Museum

In Steyning we are blessed with a rich array of documentary resources to help any aspiring family historian research forebears in this area.

We have parish records for Steyning, Bramber, Beeding and Wiston, censuses from 1841 to 1901, memorial inscriptions from St Andrews graveyard, poor law records, some wills and probate records, electoral rolls, old parish magazine name indexes, tax and property records, indentures, charity donors and recipients, workhouse overseers’ records, old maps, newspaper extracts, house histories, old family trees and many other useful archives.

St Andrew’s Church in Steyning has a large graveyard.

Many of the people buried here have been identfied and our museum has those records.

As the Family Historian at the Museum, I receive a variety of queries, mostly by email from the genealogy page of our Steyning Museum website or our Family History blog. Some people want to know if we have any records of their ancestor(s) and if we have they are often keen to come to the museum and do some research of their own. We are always happy to arrange a mutually convenient date when we can point them towards the records they need to start them off.

Some of our recent queries

Other enquirers live further away; often in other parts of the world. So we offer everyone a free half hour of my time to do some initial research on their behalf, which allows me to establish whether we do indeed have records of their ancestor(s) and the extent of information about them that is available. At this point, if I am looking into just one or two names, I can usually send them quite a bit of detail about each of these, which often satisfies their curiosity and answers their main question. Sometimes people make very welcome donations to the museum in thanks for our help. However, for broader or more complex searches, half an hour is only a starting point. For this reason, we do offer a research service, priced very reasonably, at £25 per hour, up to a maximum of £100, which makes a small contribution to the Museum’s day-to day running costs.

During the first eight months, having become the Family Historian, I responded to more than fifty requests. During the course of these researches, I found out a lot about local workhouses, smugglers, poachers, blacksmiths, the railway and many other aspects of life in the Steyning area. Of these fifty or so families, a few unusual stories stand out.

One puzzle that had us scratching our heads was the writer who remembered his grandfather living in a “creepy, turreted gothic-style mansion” in Steyning – that had us looking at certain local houses in a new way. Another query involved the story of a man who did a bit of poaching on the side, reputedly sentenced to transportation for life in the drawing room of the JP on whose land he had been caught!

An Australian had tracked down some eighteenth century Vandyke forebears to Steyning and wanted to know whether I could help him establish his and their descent from Sir Anthony Vandyke. I found no evidence of this and felt it unlikely, since the famous artist apparently had only two daughters, one by his wife and the other by his mistress.

A Canadian member of the Johnson family sent us a copy of a letter signed by Queen Anne herself, granting leniency to John Johnson, Master Tanner of Steyning, “a man of very low circumstances … with a wife and five small children”. The letter commanded that he be excused from paying the exceptionally large fine of £415 (in 1702), imposed as a result of a malicious accusation of wool-smuggling by a man “of mean credit and repute”.

One extensive family tree that was given to the museum many years ago and rarely looked at since, has suddenly been much in demand! Indeed, since August 2010, we have been able to share this document with five different individuals, none of whom knew of the others’ existence, but all of whom were researching the same family, by the name of Stenning, or its variations (Stening, Steyning, Stanning). You will be pleased to know that we have been able, at their requests, to put them all in touch with each other, now that they know they are all distantly related.

Useful websites to start you off

Whilst a few of the websites below are completely free to use, others are either ‘pay-per-view’
or subscription-based. However, nearly all of them offer free trials to begin with, so do give them a try. In particular, is UK based and gives a week’s free trial. You can find out a lot in a week! Note that the term ‘bmd’ refers to births, marriages and deaths – an excellent UK based selection of records in all aspects, including censuses, parish records, bmd registrations, military records, convict records, etc. – this free website includes many useful archives, principle of which is the IGI (international genealogical index) – a free directory site of all UK listings on every relevant subject/place – the free UK branch of the most comprehensive worldwide genealogical listings – covering almost every conceivable subject/place/region in the world – partners in the 1911 census release. Particularly strong on immigration, bmd indexes and a fast-growing range of other sources – a range of searchable databases for all UK and Ireland. – an award-winning site with a wide variety of resources. – what it says on the tin – free bmd database, but not yet fully complete – free database of censuses – not yet complete – free database of parish registers – not yet complete – where you can order birth, marriage and death certificates (since 1837) –free to search lots of searchable databases, such as wills and probate (pay-per-view to download a will) – free – find out if you have any London area black sheep! Trial transcripts, with names of defendants, witnesses and their actual words – a growing database of burial records and memorial inscriptions – the website of the county record office at Chichester (note the underscore in the website address)
Please respect the copyright for this article, which is © Jacquie Buttriss. She has kindly allowed Steyning Museum to reproduce these extracts from her original article on our website.

You can contact our family historian at:

The Steyning Museum Archives
These documents relate to the history of the Steyning area and may be helpful for historical research, family histories and house histories. They are mostly in the form of copies, abstracts or notes from originals held at various archive repositories.

Here you can find the archives list




Steyning cricket club c1876

Back Row left to right: Edwin Breach, P Breach, W Clements, W Mitchell, W Meechen, W P Breach, J White, A Smart, C Steadman.
Front Row: J Skinner, J Airey, E Cripps, T Breach.

Wiston School girls (with three little boys) c1899

Back Row left: Miss Emily Isted, b. c1871, Assistant Schoolmistress; right: Mrs Sarah Ann Isted, b. early 1847, Schoolmistress. Pupils left to right: Unknown, (probably Dorcas) Allen, unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown, E Holland, Ruth Holland, Effie Short, Alice Knight, unknown, ? (possibly Mary) Madgewick, unknown.
Middle Row: Unknown, unknown, ? (probably Edith) Allen, May Holland, unknown, unknown, Rosa Hoad, Nora King, unknown, Eliza Worsfold, unknown, A Hoad, unknown, Minnie Stiles.
Front Row: Unknown, Mabel Carter, Fred Carter, David King, Elizabeth (Lizzie) King, Emily (Emmy) Clements, B Field, Bertha King, Aggie Madgewick, unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown.

Wiston School boys c1899

Back Row left: Mr John Henry Isted, b.1836/7, Schoolmaster; Pupils left to right: E Allen, unknown, ? Allen, Alfred Merritt, Thomas Worsfold, unknown, Frank  Merritt.
Middle Row: Ernest King, ? Allen, unknown, (probably Thomas) Meetens, (probably  Alfred) Meetens, Alfred Blunden, unknown, T  Hedger, unknown, ? Allen, unknown.
Front Row: (probably James) Meetens, (probably Alfred) Meetens, Herbert (Bert) Carter, ? Maple, unknown, William (Bill) Clements, unknown, Peter Clements, Frank Heath, Albert (Bert) Clements, unknown.

Wiston School boys and girls c1902

Back Row left: Mr John Henry Isted, b. c1837, Schoolmaster; right: Miss Emily Isted, b. c1871, Assistant Schoolmistress. Pupils left to right: Peter Clements, William (Bill) Clements, unknown, Sydney Pelling, unknown.
Next to Back Row: Edgar Dumas, Edward (Ted) Terry, ? Meetens, Frank Heath, Herbert (Bert) Carter, Alfred Merritt.
Next to Front Row: Unknown, unknown, ? (possibly Ellen) Meetens, unknown, Emily Clements, unknown, Hilda Heath, unknown.
Front Row: Arthur Francis, Ernest Merritt, unknown, unknown, Raymond Carter, Edward Meetens, Frederick Carter.

British Legion carnival, fancy dress,
Steyning, 9 September 1926

The gathering is on the cricket field. Charlton Street cottages are visible in the background. On the left, with moustache and hat, is Charles Woolgar, wheelwright. Holding a sign and wearing a cap is Harry Linfield. The two girls next to him are Nancy Coote and Hazell Adcock. In the background, centre, wearing a cap is Mr Pelling, next to George Coleman, carrier.

Steyning carnival merry-go-round, 1929

Men probably involved in organising the carnival on the cricket field.
Left-to-right: Percy Gray, draper; Dennis West, printer; Lewis Wood, garage owner; M Holder, Stationmaster; (behind) Teddy Holmes, coal merchant and haulage contractor; Frank Duke, builder; Mr Linfield from Bramber; Handley Ham, retired churchwarden; and Mr Kibblewhite, Headmaster of the National School.

Patches theatre group, Steyning, c1930

The “Patches” performed variety turns in local amateur dramatics productions.
Left to right: Miss E Bateman, Mrs A Francis, Mrs L Ashby, Mr W Skinner, Miss A Francis (behind), Miss Gladys Feast (in front), Mr A E Day, Miss Jackman, Mrs G M Skinner, Miss Ivy Holden.