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"The Ayling Story" by Kenneth Ayling - 2018 Update

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"The Ayling Story" by Kenneth Ayling - 2018 Update

Posted: 1438042706000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1540341016000
Surnames: Ayling Aylinge Aylyng Ayllinge Ayllyng
The Ayling Story - 2018 Update

This post is available in document form via my Facebook page called "Ayling Family History" . See The document is current to January 2018. I have been posting further updates below and will add them to a future edition of the Book.

Kenneth Ayling’s The Ayling Story ( is probably the only research work currently available about the origins of the surname. The paper was the result of work carried out by Kenneth with the assistance of “The Ayling Registry”, a group of descendants who researched local parish records and shared personal family history information in the 1970’s. He completed the paper in 1983 just before his death. I have also saved the paper under John Aylyng (B. 1450) on my tree, "2014 Ayling Tree Sussex, UK to Canada", in the event the above URL is ever broken.

Thirty years later, I thought it might be useful for future Ayling researchers to have an update to The Ayling Story.

I need to emphasize that I am very cognizant of the fact that Kenneth and “The Ayling Registry” were working with limited access to records and without the aid of computers and internet, both of which are essential to bringing large amounts of information together into understandable formats and that can be modified easily (e.g. graphic-based trees) . The Ayling Registry did the best they could with the tools available at the time. I am doing the same in my time, knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of records in the National Archives and the West Sussex Records Office that have not been scanned for access on the Internet. I would welcome any new information or corrections to this Update. I will be posting amendments and corrections to the original post if/when I find new information.

"The Ayling Story" is divided into four parts:

1. Introduction - a review of the historical records available in the 1970's and a discussion of the work of "The Ayling Registry", a group of descendants who shared research and personal family histories.

2. History & the Name - A brief review of human history leading up to the settlement in Great Britain, as well as a general discussion of the onomatology of surnames, followed by an examination of the Ayling surname in particular. Two possible Anglo Saxon ancestors, either of whom may have been the originator of the Ayling name, are presented. He concludes that the Ayling name "derived from the warrior Aelle of 477 A.D., or from Edgar Atheling of 1100 A.D., or perhaps a mixture of both."

3. Famous Ancestors - A chronology of a portion of the life of these two individuals, borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

4. The Family - A discussion of the habitation and occupation of Aylings in the West Sussex area starting in the 16th century, placed in the larger historical context of the time. One family line, thought to be that of John Ayling living in the Midhurst/Woolbeding area starting circa 1478, is highlighted. Kenneth indicates that this person was his ancestor.

Below I will review Parts 1, 2 and 4 in detail. Because Part 3 is essentially excerpts taken from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, I would simply direct the interested reader to the entire document via the link below.

I have indicated in "quotes" where I am highlighting relevant sections from "The Ayling Story" in order to identify the historical record to which Kenneth refers, to add more information, to provide corrections or to offer alternate interpretations.

Ideally, the information below is most useful if you have read "The Ayling Story" in detail. However, I have followed the same structure as the Story in the examination below.


"The Ayling Family Registry has examined the records for hundreds of Parishes where Ayling events might have taken place, and has listed all available details for baptisms, marriages and burials, that could be found. This work is still continuing, but the size of the problem is such that it will never be one hundred percent complete […] Many present-day Aylings have been contacted by the Ayling Family Registry, including members of large family groups in Australia, New Zealand, America and even in Argentina. All these good people have given information regarding births, marriages and deaths for themselves and their ancestors as far as possible. This has enabled family-trees to be duly registered, free of charge, and some of these are quite extensive; even so it would not be too difficult or expensive to extend some cases still further back into the past."

What Kenneth did when he retired in the 1970's was to attempt to contact ALL Aylings in the UK to find out about their family histories and in many cases do further research on their behalf. Attached below is an example of this correspondence. Kenneth then collated the information, working with other descendants, and created a "registry" of all the information he gathered, and then put all his findings down in the Story. For those who provided information, he mailed a certificate confirming lodging with the registry.

The Registry was disbanded sometime after Kenneth’s death in 1983. I have spoken to a number of descendants who recalled their grandfather corresponding with Kenneth. These contributors all seem to have been in Kenneth's age cohort (B. 1914). Some descendants still have copies of the original "Ayling Story" document. Thanks to Philip Ayling the Story has been transcribed to digital format and posted at the web site noted above. This is how most present-day Ayling descendants have come to discover the Story, connect and share family trees. I am grateful that Philip had the foresight to make this document available to all interested Ayling descendants.

I should note that I did contact a member of Kenneth’s family who confirmed that the records accumulated by the Registry are still in existence but in storage and “inaccessible”. Although the issue was not raised by this person, I do think there might be privacy concerns to consider in releasing any information. While most of the original contributors have likely passed away, some family tree information may include descendants who are still alive. Therefore, I have encouraged this person to donate the information to the local Sussex historical society in Lewes. While much of this information is likely a duplication of parish and other records now more easily accessible on-line or via the West Sussex Records Office, it would be very interesting to view the individual family trees that were sent to Kenneth, and to compare against the many current records that may not have been available to the Registry. It would certainly be a shame if the records were inadvertently disposed of if/when the person in possession passes away.

As of February 2018, I have compiled the parish records (baptisms, marriages, banns and burials) for AYLING (and Aylwin) in every single parish in West Sussex. I cross referenced all against census data, Wills and other records to identify family origins and movements from 1539 to 1900. It is in a single searchable PDF document, and it is available via the "Ayling Family History" Facebook page. Or you can e-mail me at for a copy. It is also saved under various people in my various Ayling trees posted to In other words, if you do a search for the document there, it should come up.



"One Anglo-Saxon ending of great importance[...] is ‘-ing’, and it occurs at the end of a great many words in both old, and in current use. It can be used in several different ways, but in general it means to be ‘connected with, or following on from’ [...] The fact that ‘Ayling’ has the ending of ‘ing’ means that it is patronymic in form, and represents the descendants of some ancient ancestor of Saxon times. It only remains, therefore, to decide the origin and meaning of the first part of the name, the ‘Ayl-‘."

This is a correct assessment of the Anglo-Saxon meaning of "ing". But the key, I think, is to understand what "ayl" means. It is less clear that "ayl" derives from aethel or aelle, representing Edgar Aetheling, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England in the 11th century, or a warrior called Aelle who conquered parts of southern England in the 5th century.

"The Anglo-Saxon, or Old English alphabet had a character for ‘ae’ which was in frequent use, but subsequently it became either an ‘a’ or an ‘e’. [...] the very important Anglo-Saxon word ‘Aethel’ must be mentioned. It appears to have six letters, but it should be remembered that ‘ae’ was a single character originally, and so was ‘th’. Names beginning with Athel and Ethel are obviously derived from it. [...] The alphabet also had a separate character to represent the sound ‘th’ which was not retained in later English. In appearance it was rather like a letter ‘y’ and sometimes it changed to this (thus Ye = The) [...] ‘Th’ has sometimes been changed into a ‘y’ and so prefixes such as Ayel, Ayl and Ail are descended from the original ‘aethel’. ‘Aethel’ means Noble, in the sense of being noble in character, or noble in birth, and in consequence it was a word much favoured for the names of royalty or other persons of high rank."

The Old English system of writing is essentially the same alphabet that we use today, but there are four letters that we no longer use: æ, þ, ð and Ƿ. The letter æ roughly represents a sound between ‘a’ and ‘e’. The letters þ and ð both represent the "th" sound, and Ƿ represents w. So aethel in Old English might have actually looked like"Æþel" or "Æðel".

The alphabet character that looked like a "y" is the Old English "þ". However, I don't think Kenneth's interpretation is correct. The reason "y" was used in place of "þ" was most likely because of limitations in early printing presses. Specifically, early printing fonts had to be imported to England from Germany and Italy where there was no sign for "þ". Because "y" most closely resembled "þ", printers substituted the latter with a "y". The first historical record of the surname spelling that is clearly AYLYNG is in 1296. No printing presses were in England before 1450. In other words, the"y" in the Ayling surname is supposed to represent the sound "y", not "th". Therefore Aylyng is not derived from "aetheling" with the implied links back to Anglo Saxon royalty.

Further, the "y" sound in Old English documents was represented with the letter "g". The letter "i" (not sound) was represented with the letter "y". In other words, if the pronunciation if the first part of the name sounded like "eye" we would expect to find evidence of the spelling "Æglyng". And in fact we do. See below. We would also expect to see the "y" dropped for "i" over time if the pronunciation of the first part of the name was supposed to rhyme with "hay". It does not. The name is spelled as Aylyng up until the 16th century and then gradually changes to Ayling. In other words, the surname was correctly pronounced as "eye-ling" from the earliest times. However, in my experience most modern day descendants pronounce the last name as "aye-ling", rhyming with "hay-ling".

An "alternative refers back to King Aelle of Sussex, the Saxon warrior who landed near Selsey in 477 A.D. and who became the ‘Ruler of all Britain’. [...] It is quite probable, and by no means a flight of fancy, to imagine that the tribal name of Aelle-ing continued to be known and used in the West Sussex area for many, many centuries, and that when people in that area needed a surname for themselves, some of them chose to use the name of their ancient forbears..."

While it is possible that there was a historical king named Ælle, there are only two early sources that mention Ælle by name, both several centuries removed from the 5th century. The first is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a history of the English church written in 731 by Bede, a Northumbrian monk. The second source is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals assembled in the Kingdom of Wessex in 890, during the reign of Alfred the Great. Aelle may have been a war chief with a leadership role in the Anglo-Saxon groups fighting in Britain at that time, and his reputation led Bede to list him as ruler over southern Britain. Of course, he could be a purely mythological figure or amalgam of more than one person.

While Kenneth's interpretation that Ayling derives from "aelle-ing" is possible, it comes with some potential problems. For example, it seems unlikely that knowledge of an ancestor or clan name would be passed down orally from father to son for over eight hundred years --when there was no requirement to retain surnames. Also the Ayling surname is very rare such that it seems unlikely that the descendants of Aelle himself (or more likely descendants of his clan/followers), who allegedly conquered most of southern England, would be so minimally represented among the surnames in Sussex starting in the 13th century. For example, in February 1642 there were only just over 50 adult age males using the last name Ayling in all of West Sussex.

Finally, there is a third possibility (which contradicts his above interpretation of "th") that Kenneth mentions in reference to Aelle --namely, Hayling Island in Hampshire:

"It is certain Aelle and his sea-faring tribe of Aelle-ings would have swarmed all over the sheltered waterways of Chichester harbour, and up the inlets leading to Emsworth, Bosham, and to Fishbourne. No doubt he would have come to the island....The name ‘Hayling’ has the ‘-ing’ ending, and is clearly of Saxon origin. The experts in such matters state that it has been derived from Haegling, or the place where followers or tribe of Haegel lived, and the island was referred to as Haeglinga in a document which has survived from 905 A.D. Since ‘ae’ is one character, and since ‘g’ is pronounced as a ‘y’, it is obvious that Haegel (or Hayel) could be a later version of Ayel or Aelle. He might very well have made his headquarters at this stronghold which he could easily defend, and here he might have settled his tribe."

The Anglo-Saxon period name could be ‘island of the Hæg(e)lingas’. However, this doesn't necessarily mean followers of a person named Haegel. An interesting alternative interpretation is that the name could be a lexical derivative of gehæg or ‘enclosure’. In other words, it could just mean an association with the Roman fort known to have been on the Island, and indicating those who lived in or around the old garrison. See /.../staff_coates_r_hayling.doc. This alternate interpretation means that, while the Saxons adopted the name (as indicated by the "ing"), the prefix name was not theirs. Therefore, the Ayling forbears could have been living on or around the island long before the arrival of the Saxons. In other words, they could be Celtic in origin.

So if Ayling did not derive from Aethel or Aelle, where did it come from?

I believe it is possible that Aylyng derives from Hayling Island with the "h" dropped for some reason. First, "Hayling" could have simply been pronounced as "Ayling" with the hard "h" consonant sound removed as a result of the particular dialect of the people in the area. Second, if you say "Ayling" and "Hayling" out loud they both sound similar.

To illustrate the above, the following is an example of the dialect used in Cocking, West Sussex transcribed phonetically from some people who had lived through the 1840's (see

"why, many's the night I've gone to bed hungry, so the children might get me bit o' bread between 'em. Sorry the threshin'- machine makes that 'ummin' noise just this time o' year? Ye wish we 'ad the stroke o' the old flail back agin, do ye say .- Ah ! Many a time I listened for them strokes in the barn be'ind our cottage, afear'd they'd stop, and I know'd me husband 'ad dropped from the 'ard work and the empty belly. No, I'd rather 'ave the hum of that 'ere thresher, that I would."

Obviously, there would have been changes in dialect in one area over the centuries and differences across geography at any given time, but the above at least presents the possibility that the way "Ayling" was pronounced might have influenced how it was written. After all, just about all common folk in this era were illiterate. In the recording of surnames for tax records or other government documents the surname would have been communicated orally to the scribe who then wrote down what he heard. The person giving his name would not be looking over the shoulder of the scribe to ensure that his name was spelled correctly.

Ancestors living on or near Hayling Island could have used the Island as a way to identify their place of origin when they migrated out of the area over the centuries. Knowledge of a geographical place/feature was probably a more durable memory to have been passed down within families over the centuries. "I am John of Hayling".

By the 13th century when surnames are first starting to be used "Hayling" seems to be used rarely. You find in the Sussex Subsidy of 1296 a Robro de Hayllyng in the Rape of Chichester, Hundr' de Box & Stokbrugg', Villat' de Erlham. You also find a a Richard de Hayllyng mentioned in 1341 for taxation in the borough of Midhurst. (see Midhurst: its Lords and its Inhabitants, SAC, p 10). Also there was a Willelmus Haylyng of Steyning, West Sussex in 1379. With the use of "de", all are saying they are "of Hayling". On the other hand, I find no evidence of the surname Aylyng preceded by "de" (or "atte" which means "from"). I suspect that this use of Hayling and Ayling in the same time and geographical areas represents a "real time" transition from the former to the latter. It could be that further research might produce evidence of the use of the surname from an earlier period, perhaps in more frequent use the farther you go back in time and in closer geographic proximity to Hayling Island.

Finally, I note that the name Hayling Island tracks the same historical changes in spelling as Ayling:

Before 1066:
Hæglinga iggæ in 956 [note the "ægling" which would have been pronounced as "eye-ling" at the time]

Halingei to Helinge to insule de Hailinges to Hallinges to Heyling in 1242

Helynge in 1253 to Heylinge to Haylinges to Hayling in 1297

Haylyng in 1316 to Hailyng’ to Haillyng 1332 to Haylingg in 1346

insula de Haylyngge 1365 to Halynge to insulam de Hailinge in 1405

the ysle of Haylinge 1557 to the Isle of Haylinge to North Hayling and Hayleing Manner in 1665

Finally, it is possible that all AYLINGs were originally Aylwins, and the name we have today is a result of a kind of merging, intentional or not, of being identified as "Aylwin of Hayling". One can imagine how the two names might have been combined.






"The only early records are certain Charters, and other such documents, which have survived through the centuries, and occasionally the name Ayling occurs in some form or other. One of the earliest references is to ‘Eadmund Aetheling’ in 1006, and there was an ‘Aedwardus Atheling’ in 1176. In 1332, two Aylings were living in West Sussex, namely John Aylng of Chidham, and William Aillyng of Lodsworth."

As noted above, the surnames "Æþeling" or "Æðeling" are probably not old variations of "Ayling".

A search of the National Archives on-line ( of “Ayling” and variations such as “Aylyng”, Aylynge, and “Aylinge” generates many records, including titles, court cases, Wills, etc. I have listed all the citations at which includes the above citation from The Ayling Story and many more citations of the surname. I have also separated out the pre-1525 citations at

The two earliest references to the Ayling name are from the Sussex Subsidy of 1296: Ricro Aelyng in Heyshott, Rape of Chichester, and Regin' Aylyng in the Rape of Bramber, Hundred of Westgrensted, village of Wykham. This is in Steyning, West Sussex. I have to say that I am not completely convinced that Ricro last name is really "Aelyng". It looks to me like the first letter could be a "d" in the original document. Thereafter, there is a Willmo Aylyg in Lodsworth and John Alyng in Chidham both of whom are listed in 1327 and 1332 Subsidy respectively. See

The Sussex Subsidies provide a good example of the fact that surnames were not in consistent use at this time. For example, in Stedham and Woolbeding some inhabitants are listed with their first name followed by the name of the place where they live. There was a Ricro de Wodceote, Henr' de Longelynde in Stedham and Emma de Rydeford in Woolbeding. There is also a Willo de Mynstestede in Stedham in 1327. Woodcote, Longlands and Redford are all farmsteads in the two parishes. Minstead is a village just to the south of Stedham village. Aylyngs acquire land in the areas in the 16th century and may have been residing there centuries before; therefore, some of these non-surname inhabitants in the late 1200's could be Aylyng ancestors. It's also important to note that those listed are only those with enough wealth to be taxed. There were likely many unrecorded "Aylyng" inhabitants in these areas, to say nothing of sons and daughters of those actually listed.

I should note too that the name “Aylwyn” is often used interchangeably with “Aylynge” in the period before the 18th century in particular. Researchers of either surname would be well-advised to consider either surname when tracing lineages. Because Stedham parish is the birthplace of many of my ancestors, I reviewed the original records closely on microfilm at a family history center where I live. Since I originally posted this information, the records (as well as the records of most West Sussex parishes) have been posted online in jpeg format at See In Stedham the records from 1539 to about 1605 appear to have been transcribed from an original document. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth issued a decree in the early 1600's for parishes to re-write the records from paper to parchment due to deterioration problems. And the transcribers at this time made errors. In almost all cases in the Stedham records where I could compare the name against another source, such as Bishop Transcripts, Wills or Title documents, “Aylwyn” in the Stedham records is almost always “Aylynge” in the other documents. In looking at the Latin handwriting in these old records one can see how “Aylynge” could appear to look like “Aylwyn”.

For an in depth examination of the Stedham Parish records see I can't overemphasize how important it is to view the original records, rather than relying on transcriptions only. For example, transcription services, such as the Parish Register Transcription Society, do not include all information recorded in the registers. Knowing that someone is a widow or from a particular farmstead within a parish can make all the difference in your research.

Finally, I should note there was likely one family line of Aylwyns in Stedham that lived in the Minstead area south of Stedham village and descended from a Roger Aylwyn in the mid 1500’s. A Robert Aylwyn is listed a Rector of Stedham Parish in 1629. There is also a Richard Aylwin listed on the 1642 Protestation for Stedham. I have created an Aylwyn tree for what I think is this family group called "Ayllwin Family Tree of Stedham Sussex" on See

"In the centuries that followed, virtually all of the Aylings were men of this class [i.e., yeoman], and among the first of them, in about 1400, was Thomas Aillyng who occupied a farm at Woolavington (near Midhurst) and William Ayllyng with property and land at Warningcamp (near Arundel)."

Unfortunately, I have not found the above references in my researches to date. Some of the earliest detailed records I have found in this area are from the 1379 Poll Taxes:

1379: William Aylyng, and son Thomas, and their wives in Easebourne; William Aylyng of Steyning; Richard Aylyng of West Grinstead; William Haylyng of Chichester Poll Taxes)

Also from 1434, 1444, 1455, 1458 and 1460 respectively, from the Court of Common Pleas:

1434. "Sussex. John Tyere by Thomas Surflete his attorney versus Henry Aylyng, of Toppele, husbandman, for a debt 41 shillings." See The place could be "Totehill" which is in the northern part of Stedham parish. The Court Baron records of Stedham have Nicholas Aylyng owning this property in early 1500's.

1444 "Sussex. William Marchall versus John Taillour, of Aumbresham, Hants (Ambersham, West Sussex), smith; John Ailyng, of Aumbresham, husbandman; John Colvyle, of Aumbresham, butcher; Richard Baker, of Aumbresham, laborer; John Capron, of Selham, husbandman. Trespass: close at Selham, or breaking and entering and trampling and consuming grain or crops (blada et herbam ... conculcaverunt et consumpserunt) worth 100 shillings.

Michaelmas 1455. Sussex. Thomas Aylyng by his attorney versus Ralph Sholwyn, of Esseborne, husbandman, for trespass: close, or breaking and entering an enclosure belonging to Thomas at Esseborne and taking grass or hay (herba) worth 10 pounds.

1458. "Sussex. Richard Ask, esq, by his attorney presents himself on the 4th day against Thomas Aylyng, of Wodecote in the parish of Lodesworth in the aforesaid county, miller; Stephen Aylyng, of the parish of Wallavyngton/Wallington in the aforesaid county, husbandman; & John Aylyng, of Selham in the aforesaid county, husbandman, on a plea that with force and arms they broke into Richard’s enclosure at Esebourn and threatened the lives of his tenants and threatened to “mutilate their members”. (one line the translator can’t figure out) The same tenants of Richard have withdrawn their rents and services of tenure for a long time, and other enormities to his grave damage and against the peace. They did not come, as previously, and the sheriff is ordered to capture them. The sheriff says they can’t be found, as previously. He is to bring them here on the quindene of St Martin’s.

1460. "Sussex. John Dene by his attorney presents himself on the 4th day against Michael Aylyng, of Stedham in the county aforesaid, millward, on a plea that with force and arms, 20 of John’s sheep, at Stedham, worth 40 shillings, he incited dogs to bite the aforesaid sheep (one line unclear), and other enormities, to his grave damage, and against the peace. He did not come, the sheriff has been ordered that he be attached (goods seized to force compliance), the sheriff says there is nothing (to seize), and he is to capture him and bring him here on the quindene of Easter."

"In the year 1478 a certain John Aylyng, and several other gentlemen were engaged in a court case against Robert and Isabel Tue regarding the ownership of Bodyton Manor and some fifty acres of lands and woods in the Parish of Woolbeding, near Midhurst. They were successful in their action, and it is certain that John Aylyng was a person of some consequence in the district. It is not known how old he was in 1478, nor when he died, but it is reasonable to assume that he was closely related to other Aylings who were in the area some years later. Thus, he is regarded as the founder of the large group of Aylings who lived and worked in the district for over three hundred years."

This citation is from the Sussex Feet of Fines and is dated 1477. A feet of fine or final concord was a court copy of agreements following disputes over property and were a way of having the transfer of land officially recorded by the King's Court. The Fine was not always the result of a "dispute" and more often was "an amicable agreement or composition of a suit (whether real or fictitious) made between the parties with the consent of the judges, and enrolled among the Records of the Court in which the suit was commenced, by which freehold property might be transferred, settled or limited." See See

This was a good deduction on Kenneth's part, as it does appear the John Aylyng was indeed the founder of the Stedham/Woolbeding clan of Aylings. John appears to have been from (or resided in later life) in Bramshott, Hampshire. He died around 1511. See below.

However, there is at least two other possible “founders” in this area:

The Henry Aylyng from 1434 noted above.

Michael Aylyng “Millward” of Stedham mentioned in the Court of Common Pleas in 1460. See

"In 1540, a Statute of Wills was enacted, which for the first time enabled private persons to transfer property after their death in any way they wished, by means of a ‘testament’ made while still alive. The yeoman class made good use of these regulations, and out of thirty-three wills and administrations for Aylings up to 1600, most were in the general Stedham area. The very first known Ayling will was by John Aylyng of Terwick on 19th October 1546 who stated: -
“My bodye to be buryede in ye church yarde of Turwyke. I give and bequeth to the church at Turwyke six shillings to be put in a stock and with the profites thereof to mayntayn a taper before the Sacrament there forever."

Below is a photo of the preamble to John’s Will leading up to the passage quoted above. One can see how difficult these documents are to decipher even when in English (the complete Will and transcription are attached to John on my tree):

[see Fig 1]

It says (courtesy of Elizabeth Lamb):

In the name off god Amen the xix Daye of October In the yere of or lorde god a D? xlvi / I Johne Aylyng of Turwyke in the Dioc’ of Chichester being sicke in bodye and in good and p’ffett reme’ brance Do or Dyine & make this my testament & laste Will in this manner Follywyng that ys ys to saye Fyrst ande /iff/ye above all other things I gyve and holly bequeth my soll to all myghty god my bodye to be buryede in the church yarde of Turwyk Item I give to the mother […]

However, the first known Ayling Will is probably for a John Ayling of Norwich in 1485. (See Norfolk: Norwich - 1. Index to Wills, Consistory Court of Norwich, 1370-1550)

The first known Ayling Will in Sussex is probably Raff Ayling (D. 1543) of the Hundred De Batell. Battle was a "hundred" within the Rape of Hastings in the eastern part of Sussex. A hundred was an administrative division geographically part of a larger region, or Rape, and may have originally referred to a hundred men-at-arms or a hundred homesteads in that area. Battle, as one might guess, is the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. His Will is kept in the District Probate Court of Lewes. I have not obtained this Will for transcription, as he is unlikely to be a direct ancestor of the Aylings of Woolbeding/Stedham parishes highlighted by Kenneth in The Ayling Story. He may be an ancestor of John Ayling, Vicar of Moncton in Kent (see below) or Lawrence Ayling, Sheriff, in Kent in 1502. Raff is the second richest Ayling listed for Sussex in the Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-1525 (see below), after Richard Ayling (D. 1545) of Woolbeding.

With the assistance of some fellow Ayling descendants, nearly all Ayling Wills for the Stedham/Woolbeding, West Sussex area have been transcribed, including for John of Terwick noted above. I have now posted all transcriptions/translations at and will add to the list as time (and funds) allow. The benefit of having this information on the message board page is that one can use the "find" feature in the web browser to track land transfers, names, etc across time.

The original Wills can be obtained via the West Sussex Records office Or one can view the originals and transcription/translations posted under individuals in my family tree “2014 Ayling Tree Sussex UK to Canada” on

I have also searched via and listed all Ayling Wills for Sussex at I have indicated on that list what Wills have been transcribed. Where there is an Administration only (i.e. which is usually in Latin, abbreviated, and very hard to read) I have tried to advise the content.

Finally, a number of Ayling Wills have been scanned by and can be found via the name search of their site.

"Throughout the century the Ayling family in Stedham grew and prospered. John, the founder, had three sons (or perhaps they were grandsons). "

I should note here that most "Ayling" trees on that highlight the “John Ayling circa 1478” family line are wrong. As of 2015 I've looked at them all. One of the most common errors stems from using The Ayling Story lineage as a guide --specifically, William Ayling (1649-1653) as the father of a line that goes up to Nicholas Ayling in the 1500's. Many trees link to other trees which perpetuate the errors. Any tree, including mine, should be approached with a critical eye and only accepted where there is a relevant document to confirm a choice of ancestor. By "relevant" I mean a record that makes sense in the context of the place and time for individual, not just matching names --especially when 90% of men were called William, Richard, Thomas or John right up into the 19th century. And it would be increasingly unlikely as you move further back in time --especially before the introduction of rail travel-- to find a person born in one area to pop up in another area fifty miles away within a few years. It's not always possible to find documentation, especially as you move further back into the past, but the best tree makers will indicate in the comments sections where a "best guess" is being made and why.

There could be a father in between John “the founder” and his sons because, as Kenneth states, we do not know his age in 1478. We can assume he was a mature age to be in a position to "contest" ownership of a manor house and property. If we look forward to John's grandsons, we see that their lifespan was probably around 60 years. So if we assume that this was a general lifespan across the three generation, we might assume the sons were born in the 1480’s. Therefore, a guess would be that John “the founder” was born in the 1440-1450 period. In other words, I think he could have been the father, particularly in the case of Richard who seems to have owned land in the same area as John.

In 1516 in the Court of Common Pleas there is reference to trespass cases brought by a Phillip and Agness Aylyng of Bramshott Hampshire acting as executors for a John Aylyng of Bramshott against both a John Aylyng "of Torwicke Sussex" and a Richard Aylyng of Bramshott. The document is translated as follows [courtesy of Vance Mead]:

"Hants. Richard Aylyng, of Bramshott, husbandman, attached to answer Philip Aylyng, executor of John Aylyng, of Bramshot; Stephen Durrant & Agnes his wife, coexecutrix with Philip, on a plea that, with force and arms he took, seized and carried away goods and chattels that belonged to John, worth 40 pounds, that were in the custody of the executors and Stephen at Bramshott, and other enormities, to their grave damage and against the king’s peace. The same executors and Stephen by John Wyntreshull their attorney pleaded against the aforesaid Richard that on the 16th day of April in the third year of the reign of the current King, (1512), with force and arms, he took one woolen cloth called a kersey, two silver spoons (cocliaria) four tods of wool, 100 “virgat” of woolen cloth, 10 cart loads of “siguli”, 10 cart loads of oats, and 74 shillings and sixpence in money found in a purse that had belonged to John and were in the custody of the executors and Stephen, seized and took away & other enormities to their grave damage and against the peace, to their damage to the value of 40 pounds. The aforesaid Richard by Thomas Polsted his attorney comes and defends and pleads license to imparl (parley, confer). Date set the quindene of Easter."


"Hants. John Aylyng of Torwyk/Terwick, Sussex, weaver, attached to answer Philip Aylyng, executor of John Aylyng, of Bramshot, & Stephen Durrant & Agnes his wife, coexecutrix with Philip, on a plea that with force and arms, he seized and took away 6 cows that belonged to John, worth 60 shillings, in the custody of the executors & Stephen at Bramshot, and took 20 marks in money of John’s in their custody, and other enormities, to the grave damage of the executors and Stephen & against the king’s peace. The same executors & Stephen, by John Wyntreshull their attorney plead that the aforesaid John on the 20th of January in the third year of the current king (1512) seized and took away 6 cows that belonged to John Aylyng, in the custody of the executors and Stephen, and 20 marks in money, and other enormities to their grave damage and against the peace. The aforesaid John by Thomas Polsted his attorney comes and defends and pleads license to imparl (parley, confer). Date set the quindene of Easter."

Agnes, as executrix, would be the widow of the elder John who has since married Stephen Durrant. Philip Ayling, as the other executor, must be his eldest son. Richard and John, the defendants, would probably be younger sons who felt they didn't get a fair share of the estate.

The elder John was probably a weaver, since he had all that wool and cloth. Weaving was often a part-time occupation done together with keeping cattle and growing the grain to feed them. Siguli is rye or a mixture of rye and oats. These grains were grown in colder climates or on poorer soils where they couldn't grow more valuable crops like wheat and barley. A virga is a unit of length equal to 5 1/2 yards. A tod is 28 pounds.

The elder John Aylyng was reasonably well off, with silver spoons, cattle and more than 15 pounds in cash (though the plaintiffs might have exaggerated).

I note further that there was a John Aylyng listed as reeve of Doxford Manor in Hampshire from 1497-1508. A reeve could be appointed as manager of a manor and overseer of the peasants, but more often he was elected by their fellow villeins. He was a "collector of rents". See Doxford is a bit to the west of Bramshott.

Here is part of the the above-noted record (in Latin):

[see Fig 2]

As identified independently by a number of Ayling researchers, John Aylyng (D. 1546) of Terwick was likely a brother to Richard Aylyng (D. 1545) of Woolbeding. This is confirmed via the son of John (D. 1546), also called John (D. 1578) in his Will which references “my cosen” William of Woolbeding.

[see Fig 3]

William (D. 1583) of Woolbeding was Richard Aylyng’s (D. 1545) son. William Ayling (D. 1583) bequeaths land in Hampshire to his heirs See

William in turn bequeaths to a son of John Ayling of Stedham, also called John, in his own Will. William marries Elizabeth and her former husband was Thomas Upperton. They had a daughter together who appears to have married a John Ayling. This "son" John (D. 1578) was likely the son of John Ayling of Terwick (D. 1546). Kenneth did not include contemporary Thomas (see tree), but he was possibly a brother of John, Richard and Nicholas as well. The date of death of Nicholas is a guess based on when his brothers died. According to the Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1525 only Richard for Woolbeding and Nicholas for Stedham are listed as Aylings with enough wealth to require taxation in those parishes.

Finally, I note that William Barkshire was a co-complainant in the Buddington Manor dispute (noted above). Richard Aylyng (D. 1545) of Woolbeding, the assumed son of the above John Ayling “the founder”, appears to take possession of land called “Barrys” or “Barries” in 1532 in Stedham from a William Barkshire, deceased, according to the Stedman Manor Court Rolls. A transcription of the Rolls from 1527-1565 is available at the West Sussex Records Office (WSRO) under “MSS 730”. A William Barkshire is also listed as a witness on Richard's Will. It is possible this William, witness, was the son of the William Barkshire listed in the Buddington Manor dispute, perhaps providing a further link from Richard to John “the founder”.

A close reading of the parish records, Wills and other sources, assuming John of 1478 was the founder, produces the following family tree:

[See Fig 4]

"One named Richard, who died in 1545, was a tax collector for the Rape (district) of Chichester, and his son William has a particular claim to fame: -William, who was born about 1520, was a yeoman farmer of considerable wealth, and in 1567 he purchased the Manor of Woolbeding from Henry, Earl of Arundel."

Richard Ayling (D. 1545) tree:

[see Fig 5]

The reference to “tax collector” comes from the Lay Subsidy Rolls of the County of Sussex 1524-25 where Richard Aylyng of Woolbeding is listed as a “High Collector” with an assessment of 40 d. (d = one penny. There were twelve pennies or "pence" in a shilling, abbreviated as "s", and twenty shillings, or 240 pence, in a pound "L") See The "High Collector" role was a temporary appointment to assist in the gathering of taxes in his assigned area.

The taxation was against goods, land or wages. The Subsidy required that taxes be assessed against the higher of the three in value. In the case of land this would be the value of rents only, not the capital value of the land itself. The above valuation for Richard was for goods only (as was the case with all the other Aylings assessed). The values of all avenues of taxation were notoriously understated --as one might expect. Nevertheless, at 40 d. Richard was richest by far of the other nine Ayling men listed in Sussex. He was tied for the third richest person in the entire Rape of Chichester.

Richard was a burgess in the borough of Midhurst (see;). According to Colin Platt in "The English Medieval Town" a burgess of the average county town "would have had a trading or an artisan background. He was neither the child of a serf nor of a nobleman, typically moving from a small trading situation to a larger one, perhaps to move on again in later years to London, where the greatest wealth and opportunities lay.... More usually, an incoming burgess was required to buy his right to trade, either by way of a seven year apprenticeship or by payment of the entry fine. To qualify, he would need both the skill and social acceptability to recommend him. Once received, he belonged to a privileged caste. Such castes, in the nature of things, are self-perpetuating...." [pg 98].

Given where he lived, his wealth, and the fact that he bequeaths sheep in his Will, one suspects he was in the wool trade.

There is no record of William’s birth. Son John is not listed in his brother's Wills, and I find no other record of him after 1545. Son Thomas lived in Linchmere, to the north of Stedham/Woolbeding.

[Update October 2018: John Ayling, son of Richard Aylyng (D. 1545) resided in Selham in 1583 at his death, just prior to brother William. In his Will John asks that his brother William Ayling of Woolbeding take care of his son Edward. Edward Gray and William are also overseers. John appears to be the founder of the entire Ayling clan in Selham.]

"William owned many properties in Woolbeding and Stedham, also at nearby Eastbourne[sic] and Heyshott, together with property at Arundel and at Alton in Hampshire. His wife Elizabeth, and his only son John, died before him but his other children and his brother Thomas were mentioned in his will, and also several cousins in Stedham. Woolbeding Manor passed to his eldest daughter ‘Jone’, then aged forty-two, and who married Edmond Gray of Heyshott in 1563 at Woolbeding. Edmond’s father had been a successful wartime commander under the Earl of Southampton and so had been “given” very good lands near Cowdray House, where the Earl lived."

William's family tree:

[see Fig 6]

Note that there were two daughters called Elizabeth, probably the result of two marriages.

You can read William’s Will under his name on my tree. You can also read the full Postmortem Inquisition of his assets and who received them at William did indeed have "considerable wealth". His yearly income from the rents of his various lands was assessed at 25 pounds. However, a significant portion of his land holdings were not calculated for rents. I suspect the rental income was likely double that amount. Compare that against the average daily wage of a labourer at the time of 6d or about 7 pounds per year. The capital value of his various land holdings was stated as 40 pounds. Again, this calculation likely undervalued the holdings by a considerable margin. To put the values in context, consider that in 1567 a pair of oxen cost a little over 6 pounds, bullocks cost from 22s. to 27s. apiece, calves about 5s. sheep 3s. See For interest sake note that in 1697 in the Estate Inventory of Richard Ayling of Kirdford two oxen are listed with a value of 11 pounds. Richard was a descendant of William above.

As Platt notes "the security of country estates as investments and the social distinction they conferred, had likewise drawn many of the burgesses from their business interests, if not in the first generation, at least in the second or third....They regarded it, clearly, as a form of investment... In later years, the movement to the countryside would accelerate , as trade itself slowed down." [102-103]. In other words, William's ownership of a manor house could have been the culmination of wealth acquired in the wool trade by his grandfather, John, and father, Richard.

The Woolbeding Manor house itself was assessed at 12 pounds. You can read more about the Manor history at

It's interesting to note that William's great-grandson, Thomas Grey, owned Stedham Manor in 1680. Thomas settled it on his daughter Jane and her husband Dowse Fuller four years later. See

"Another son of John, the founder, was named Nicholas (1500-1571), who, in turn also had a son Nicholas II (1530-1573), who yet again had a son named Nicholas. This Nicholas III was born in 1586 and married Mabel Gray in 1586 at Woolbeding. It is almost certain that she was a member of the Gray family at Woolbeding Manor, and there are indications that she owned property in other districts."

There is no 1500 or 1530 birth record for either Nicholas (the parish records do not go back that far), so the dates are a complete guess. And I don’t believe Nicholas (who died in 1572, not 1571 according to the Stedham burial records) was the son of John Aylyng (D. 1546) of Terwick. He was more likely born in 1550 to Thomas Ayling, a possible brother to John Aylyng (D. 1546). I don’t think Nicholas II was, deceased in 1573, was a son of Nicholas who died in 1572. I think he was the son of John Aylyng (D. 1546) of Terwick, married to Perret who died in 1570. Nicholas may have been first married to an Alice, as the 1553 Court Rolls of Stedham do list him and her and their son John taking over some land.

The 1586 birth date for his son, Nicholas III, is obviously a transcription error (i.e. it was his marriage date). He was born in 1564 according to a 1630 court disposition that stated "Nicholas Ayling of Stedham, yeoman, where he had always lived and was born. Aged 66 years." I don’t agree that Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) was the son of Nicholas Ayling (D. 1573). In tracing land transfers over time, specifically land called Totehill in Stedham, it seems more likely that Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) was the son of Thomas Ayling (D. 1585), son of John Aylyng (D. 1546) of Terwick.

Nicholas III (1564-1641) family tree (sorry for the small size; use the “zoom” function in your reader program to enlarge):

[see Fig 8]

Note that Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) marries Maibel Gray who was William Ayling (1520-1583) of Woolbeding's granddaughter. There are other occurrences of these family lines blending together over time. For example, Nicholas and Maibel's granddaughter, Margaret Yalden, married a Nicholas Ayling (D. 1678) who descended from John Ayling (D. 1546) of Terwick. You would have to view my family tree to see, as it is quite large and complex as a result.

“It is recorded that in January 1647 William Ayling (Yeoman)- sold land near Selham for £175, a considerable sum in those days.”

I have not located the document to which this refers.

“There is also good evidence that Aylings were in Burpham, near Arundel, from a very early date.”

The Burpham Parish records begin in 1571. The first Ayling baptism there is a John Ayling to Peter in April 1597 (found in the Bishop Transcripts, not the actual parish records). See

"The Ayling family was expanding quite rapidly. The main groups were still in the Rogate/Stedham area, but some were now living in many other places. Near the town of Pulborbough, the Rother joins forces with the larger River Arun, and together they flow southwards to Arundel and to the sea at Littlehampton. Along this new valley the Aylings were destined to settle in later years, but from 1629 onwards they were present in the Pulborough area continuously for well over three hundred years. Five miles to the north at Wisborough Green they were in evidence from 1611 onwards."

The Pulborough records start in 1595 and are transcribed here: I have organized the records into family groups as well here: The records start in 1630 with the baptism of Richard to Anthony Ayling and Alice Knowles. The last record I have is June 11th, 1899 of an Eva Kate to Horace Ayling and Kate Richardson. The Ayling lines likely continue to the present in Pulborough. I have created a tree called "Aylings of Pulborough, Sussex Family Tree". Most if not all family groups appear to have come from Anthony and Alice in the early 17th century, and there may be evidence of a father to Anthony, likely born around 1580-1590 as well.

[Oct 2018 Update: I recently transcribed the Will of a Katherine Ayling (D. 1656) of Easebourne. She mentions a brother Anthony and all of his children. I believe this is Anthony of Pulborough for two reasons. First, she does not bequeath to Anthony himself. While she does not say he was deceased, this is implied by that omission. Anthony had in fact died in February 1640, about one month before his son Anthony was baptized . Second, she lists correctly all his living children including, perhaps most tellingly, his daughter Lucy. This is a very unusual given name for any Ayling in this period, unusual enough to be a strong identifier. Anthony Ayling of Pulborough is therefore likely from the Selham/Lodsworth/South Ambersham group, son of Thomas Ayling (D. 1611) and Christian Fielder. I am currently ordering a number of Wills for this family group and will post back here if I received further confirmation]

The Wisborough records begin in 1560 and are transcribed here: The first Ayling baptism is Thomas February 19th, 1612 [in our modern calendar; Kenneth was using the Julian calendar as it was written at the time] to Thomas Ayling. The records continue up to the 1890's and probably up to the present as well. Father Thomas was likely born in the 1580-1590 period and may have been a brother to the founder of the Ayling clan in Pulborough. This is a guess only.

Kenneth gives the impression that the Aylings were expanding from the general Rogate/Stedham area of West Sussex. The records show that this is probably not correct. For example, the Sussex Subsidies of 1296, 1327 and 1332 (an early form of taxation) show Aylings living in many areas of West Sussex (see Further, there is a Geoffrey Aylyng of Henfield, West Sussex in 1352. A fellow researcher recently found a number of Aylings listed in the West Sussex Poll Tax of 1379 (see in Easebourne, Steyning and West Grinstead. There is a John Aylyng living in Stanton, Gloucestershire in 1403. There are the three Aylyng hooligans in 1458 coming from Woolavington, Selham and Lodsworth, as well as Michael Aylyng in Stedham in 1460. As noted above, there is a John Aylyng death in Norwich in 1485. There was a Lawrence Ayling, Sheriff, in Kent in 1502, and a Raff Ayling was in East Sussex in 1543. There was a William Aylyng, Prior of Pynham, in Arundel from 1509 to 1524. The Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1524-1525 record Aylyngs spread over Sussex. The crucial point is that all of these folks lived in these other areas, with some presumably having families and leaving descendants, but their lives went mostly unrecorded because parish record keeping didn't start until the early 16th century.

Below is a map showing the location of all Aylings I could find in England between 1296 to 1485.

Further, the 1642 Protestation for West Sussex (a requirement for all males over 18 years of age to declare there “allegiance” to the Protestant faith) shows just over 50 Ayling men living in West Sussex, albeit with a concentration of numbers in Stedham. Below is a map showing the location of the number of Ayling males per parish in the Protestation.

[see Fig 9]

Noticeably absent are any Aylings in Rogate, which seems odd given that based on parish baptisms there would have been nine men meeting that age requirement in 1642.

A reading of court dispositions in the National Archives does show Ayling men and women moving among parishes; however, one needs to keep in mind that the distance between parishes is often only a couple of kilometers. It could be that the lack of earlier records for some areas gives the appearance of later "showing up” when in fact there were Ayling families living unrecorded in a given area all along.

It is far more likely that Ayling families were spread over the general south area of England for hundreds of years before 1450, albeit with a concentration in northwest Sussex and northeast Hampshire. While it might seem obvious it is still important to recognize that John Aylyng, the alleged "founder" of the Aylings of Stedham, probably represents one small side branch on a very much larger tree going back in time from the 1450's. Consider that John Aylyng's descendants had multiplied to at least 50 individuals in less than 100 years. This kind of spreading of his family tree occurred in like fashion in the generations before him. What is interesting about the Aylings of Stedham/Woolbeding --in particular Richard Ayling (D. 1545) of Woolbeding-- is their land-holding status and relative wealth.

“A few miles to the south of the River Rother, Aylings now appeared occasionally in villages near the northern slopes of the South Downs - such as Harting, Elsted, Treyford, Bepton, Woolavington and Bignor.”

Again, this "now appeared" idea is not entirely correct. The Harting parish records begin in 1563, and the first Ayling record is a marriage in 1584 and first baptisms in 1591. The Elsted records begin in 1572 and there is a John "AYLEWYN" baptism in 1577. This may be a recording or transcription error for "Ayling." The Bepton records begin in 1592 and there is a birth of Anthony Ayling there in 1611. It seems more likely that Aylings were living there before the records began.

On the other hand, Treyford, Bignor and Woolavington show Aylings in those parishes some time after record keeping began. This doesn't mean there never were Aylings in these parishes. For example, we know from the 1458 Court of Common Pleas document (noted above) that there was a Stephen Aylyng, husbandman, in Woolavington. All we know is that there was a period of time after parish record keeping began where no Aylings were living in the parish. The Treyford records begin in 1573, but the first Ayling record is the burial of a Robert Aylinge in 1641. The Bignor records begin in 1556 and the first Ayling record there is one hundred years later with a marriage of William Aylling to Elinor Coade in September 1658. The Woolavington records begin in 1571; however, the first Ayling record there is in March 1615 with the marriage of a James Aylinge to Marie Sandhame, while the first baptism is not until 1664 with Mary, daughter to William Ayling and Eleanor.

I have transcribed the parish records for the surname AYLING via the following links:

Harting – See
Elsted – See
Treyford – See
Bepton – See
Woolavington – See
Bignor – See

“Further afield, there were established Ayling families in Felpham near the modern Bognor Regis, from 1612, and at Fernhurst (five miles north of Midhurst) from 1653. And now for the first time the Aylings had spread a short distance into a neighbouring county, to Haslemere, which is in Surrey but only two miles north of Fernhurst.”

The Fernhurst, Sussex transcriptions can be viewed at The records begin in 1546, and the first Ayling record is earlier than what Kenneth states above: on August 18th, 1642 a John Ayling married Janes Comes. However, given the 100 year gap between the start of the records and this marriage, the Aylings likely moved into this parish from elsewhere. The Felpham records are transcribed here: There was an Alice Ayling baptized in 1607 to Robert Ayling, and other Aylings are listed as witnesses in many baptisms of others in this period. There are two marriages in the mid and late 1500's as well. I have not transcribed the Haslemere, Surrey records to date.

“Most distant of all, an Ayling family became settled at Hamble, on Southampton Water, and at the nearby village of Hound; they were well-known fishermen and mariners and survived in an unbroken line from about 1680 for at least one hundred and fifty years.”

The Aylings in Hamble , Hampshire begin September 6th, 1685 of a John to John & Anne Ayling. See The Hound, Hampshire transcriptions are here: The first Ayling baptisms is a Thomas Ayling, father Thomas, in September 1683.

Again, Kenneth gives the impression that the first settlement of Aylings in Hampshire was in Hound starting in the 17th century. However, the Hampshire parish records show Ayling inhabitants in Bramshott, Petersfield and Liss starting in 1563, 1562 and 1602 respectively:

Bramshott -
Petersfield -
Liss -

These three Hampshire parishes are right on the border to West Sussex and adjacent to some of the oldest Ayling parishes there. Given the movement of Ayling families that I have found between northeast Hampshire and northwest Sussex, it is useful to disregard the county boundary when tracing family lines.

Of interest is that a descendant of the Aylings of Petersfield was Dennis "Deny" Leslie Ayling (1917-1998), a British cinematographer best known for his miniature effects cinematography for the 1979 science fiction film Alien, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

"During the 17th century, there is some evidence that a few Aylings were beginning to seek higher education. A certain John Ayling, who was born about 1635, went to Magdalen College, Oxford where he obtained his B.A. in 1659 and his M.A. in 1661."

Actually, there is evidence that Aylyng men were pursuing higher education at least a century earlier. For example, the University of Oxford Register lists a Richard Aylyng pursuing a B.A. in April 1513. This may have been the above noted Richard Aylyng (D. 1545) of Woolbeding, who ended up a burgess of Midhurst, Sussex.

The John Ayling noted by Kenneth was the Vicar of Monkton in Kent from 1662-1710. His wife was Elizabeth, and his surviving children Seth and Anne. He is buried at the church, and there is a flat stone memorial for him there. See also for an interesting exchange in the church presentments where the churchwardens accuse John of not doing certain things, and perhaps most alarming for wearing a purple tinged hood. See Elizabeth's Will dated 1713 has been scanned on Seth did his Will in 1747. He was an ironmonger and had no male heirs.

"At Stedham, the original family of Aylings still continued, and Nicholas III and his wife Maibel (Gray) had ten known children, mostly girls but including Thomas (1590) and Nicholas IV (1613)."

These birth dates are incorrect. There is no baptism for either in Stedham. There is a baptism for a Thomas Ailinge, son of Nicholas, November 6th, 1596 in Woolbeding. Also there is a court disposition dated 1630 which states "Thomas Ayling of Stedham, yeoman, where he had always lived. Born in Woolbeding. Aged about 35 years." This is likely the Thomas to whom Kenneth refers. Nicholas' baptism is recorded in Woolbeding, and it was December 10th, 1593.

All Ayling headstones at St. James church in Stedham seem to represent the family line of Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) and Mabel Gray. See which shows the respective family trees and which people have headstones in the churchyard or plaques inside the church.

The church in Stedham, St. James, is mentioned in Domesday Book. It consisted of chancel, axial tower, and nave with a chancel lengthened in the 13th century and a west porch added in the 17th. The tower was rebuilt in 1673 and in 1850 the chancel, nave, and porch were pulled down and the rest of the present church built. The builders found a number of early grave-slabs and stone coffins, several with double-Y ribs on the upper side and one or two bearing wheel crosses that were used as part of the foundation for the former church, perhaps pre-dating the Conquest (1066). For example, Mr. J Butler, the architect hired to renovate the church in 1850 noted that "not a figure has been seen on any stone to mark its date, but several retain the brown dust of the moss of ages upon them, which moss must have been acquired by lying in the old churchyard, prior to the erection of the church ; and as that appears to have been before Domesday, some may be even British." Some of these slabs were retained and can be seen today in the churchyard outside lying up against the church walls. The builders also found old murals, including a crude depiction of the Last Supper, that had been covered up behind the walls. They appear to have been painted sometime after 1350 and before 1670 when a renovation of the church at that time pierced part of that fresco. See Mr. Butler's son apparently drew copies of the murals. The above link is to a transcription of the text only of the original book, which is held at the offices of the Sussex Archaeological Society.

[see Fig 10]

"The religious atmosphere of the times is clearly shown when we read that Robert (a brother of Nicholas V) and his wife Elizabeth were reported by the Churchwardens for not receiving Communion at Easter 1621. Indeed a number of Aylings, or their servants, were taken to task for their Catholic views, or for not attending Church. One was charged with “spending the Sabbath dayes idlely and lewdly”.

Churchwardens presentments were reports to the bishop about any offenses that were committed in the parish so that he could decide if any further action ought to be taken. This might be people who regularly did not attend divine service, the clergy being negligent in their duties, blasphemy, or sexual deviances, etc. They were presenting, or giving a warning of possible court action, a bit similar to the issue of a modern day court summons, but for an ecclesiastical court.

For example, in addition to Robert & Elizabeth quoted above the 1621 Stedham Presentment has an Elizabeth, wife of William Ayling, also listed as a recusant (a Roman Catholic who refuses the Protestant faith). Indeed she is recorded several times in 1621 and again in 1623 and 1625 for not attending services.

Robert can't be the son of Nicholas Ayling (1593-1670), as he would have been too old to be a son and to be married. He would be a contemporary of or brother to Nicholas. He could possibly be the son of Thomas Ayling (D. 1581) and Joan Bridger, who in turn descends from Thomas, one of the original four sons of John Aylyng, "the founder" of the Stedham/Woolbeding clan. This Robert had a son William (B. 1611) and a daughter Annis (1612-1612). Some members of this branch of the Ayling clan are referred to as "of Bridgefoot" in the Stedham records. The best fit for William on my tree is probably William (B. 1572), son of Thomas Ayling (D. 1585).

I have posted the the various Sussex Presentments where Aylings are mentioned at

"Thomas (1590) had at least five children, all baptised at Stedham the eldest being William and then there were Williams in each of the next three generations. Full details are known, and the family line continued to the present day, including a large group of Aylings living in South America (Buenos Aires) since 1900."

Thomas' eldest son William was deceased before Thomas wrote his Will in 1642 and therefore, given his relatively young age, possibly did not leave any descendants. Only John & Nicholas, both under 21 years old at that point, and Thomas are listed in the Will. Son, Thomas, is Executor, so he was likely over 21 years. I also note that Thomas's (1596-1642) father, Nicholas (1564-1641), does not mention a William as a son of Thomas in his Will written in November 1639. William Ayling was likely deceased in July 1639 according to the Stedham burial records. His Administration does not mention any children. Thomas' son, Nicholas, may have been baptized in Woolbeding. Interestingly, Thomas mother, Maibel, does not mention any of Thomas’ children in her Will written in 1654, possibly because they had moved away from the Totehill area. In his Will Thomas (1596-1642) lists his two brothers, Nicholas (1593-1670) and William (1605-1671), as well as his brother in law John Hudson, as overseers for his sons. It is possible that Nicholas and John and perhaps Thomas were assisted/raised by one of these brothers, possibly William (1605-1671) who moved to Ash Farm at some point prior to 1642.

Thomas is referred to as "of Northend" in the 1642 Protestation. This is a farmstead in the north end of Stedham Parish. Thomas' son, Thomas, did not secure Probate for his father's Will until 1649 for some unknown reason, perhaps waiting until his younger brothers reached adulthood.

The Ayling clan in Buenos Aries does not appear to have descended from Thomas; rather, they come from William Ayling "of Ash" (1605-1670) and include Dennett Ernest Ayling (1906-1987) and his brothers who were cricket players in Argentina. They traveled to England a number of times for games. See A member of this family must have been part of "The Ayling Registry" and provided this information. The family is still present in Argentina.

The issue of similar given names and the movement across parishes does get confusing --and led to a crucial error in The Ayling Story (see below) for this entire family line.

Thomas' brothers Nicholas (1593-1670) and William (1605-1671) both had sons called William --a common family name in any family for this period.

Thomas (1596-1642):

[see Fig 11]

Nicholas' (1593-1670):

[see Fig 12]

William (1605-1671):

[see Fig 13]

"According to an existing Ayling family record “Nicholas Ayling built Ash House in 1626”. This could refer to either Nicholas III or Nicholas IV, but most likely the work was carried out as a joint family effort."

Below is a relatively current photo of Ash House (courtesy of a fellow Ayling researcher taken in 2013).

[see Fig 14]

One of the members of “The Ayling Registry” probably made a guess, incorrectly, at this attribution based on the fact that the Stedham parish and other records do show Nicholas’ (1564-1641) son William (1605-1671) and his descendants consistently referred to as “of Ash” right up to the 19th century. The first mention "of Ashe" associated with an Ayling is to William in the 1642 Protestation.

However, the Stedham Parish burial records have a John Betsworth “of Ashhouse” deceased a generation earlier on October 21st, 1611.

[see Fig 15]

Furthermore, if Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) had built Ash House it seems unlikely that his youngest son William (1605-1671), rather than Nicholas (1593-1670) or Thomas (1596-1642), would have inherited the property. Nicholas Sr. bequeaths no property, only money, to his heirs. His wife Maibel (1566-1655) bequeaths no property, and Nicholas (1593-1670) is her Executor. As noted above William (1605-1671) was already living at Ash House by at least February 1642. He must have obtained the property on his own.

How then did the Ayling clan come to acquire Ash House? A possible answer is found via the parish records. The son of William Ayling (1605-1671), also called William, has a 1634 baptism record that both the Parish Register Transcription Society (PRTS) and Challen have transcribed as “was baptized at Emsworth". For some unknown reason this particular baptism was recorded in the parish record only, not the Bishop Transcripts. Also the parish baptism record appears to have been inserted in the text after the heading “Anno 1635” was written. Interestingly, the Bishop Transcripts signatories have a John Betsworth listed as churchwarden for that year. This could be a son of John who died in 1611. Nevertheless, I think the parish baptism record below may actually say "baptized Betsworth", perhaps indicating the mother.

[see Fig 16]

Further, there is an unnamed daughter (the given name is not legible) born to a John Bettesworth in 1605 in Stedham.

[see Fig 17]

William Ayling (1605-1671) may have married this daughter and thereby inherited Ash House. It's interesting to note that there is a John Betesworth, grandson of John Ayling (D. 1578) of the "Terwick" line of Aylings. He would have been born around 1590, but his father was Thomas Betesworth. It could be that John Betesworth who died in 1611 was a brother to this Thomas. However, Betesworth is a relatively common name in this parish and many other surrounding parishes, so it remains a guess only.

"The Ayling family remained in occupation for two hundred years, until the estate was sold by a John Ayling in 1822."

William Ayling (1739-1821) of Stedham bequeathed Ash to his nephew John Ayling (1781-1855). John is listed as owner of Ash up until 1829 in the Land Tax Assessments of Stedham. John was "of Totehill" according to the baptism records of two of his children, and the Land Tax Assessments confirm his ownership of land there and that the Totehill property was significantly smaller than Ash.

Ash was to hold some prominence in the minds of John's descendants. I note that on the headstone of John's third youngest son, Dennett Ayling (1812-1891), at St. Peter's church in Liss, Hampshire, it says "third son of John Ayling of Ash, Stedham." John's youngest son, Charles (1813-1888), emigrated to Canada in 1871. His London Times obituary referred to him as "late of Ash House". As Charles would have been only nine years old when the property was sold, the reference is a curious one and perhaps implies that the Ayling family may have continued to live at Ash House or farmed on the land for some period of time after the sale. I find no reference to "of Ash House" for Aylings in the Stedham Parish records after 1821. It could be simply that the property still carried memories of pride of ownership for the Ayling family. Ash House is shown on many old maps for Sussex, confirming that it was an "estate" of some prominence for the area. Ash House was listed as a Grade II heritage building in 1959. See

One of the more "colourful" descendants of the Aylings of Ash was Harold Oliver Keath Ayling (1899-1976), novelist. He was born in Hampshire, and died in the United States. He served with the Royal Air Force before coming to the US in 1940. Writer for Liberty Magazine and the aviation pulps in the 1940s; author of many non-fiction books about aviation and auto racing between 1941 and 1970. Interestingly, he apparently also wrote under a number of pseudonyms, such as Arthur Adlon and Kaye Ayling. If you google these names, you will find that he wrote some "racy" novels for the time, including "Love Kitten". One wonders what William Ayling (1605-1671), the churchwarden patriarch of the Ash clan, would have thought about "Love Kitten"!

There are many other present day Ayling familes around the world who are descendants of the Aylings of Ash clan. For example, Peter Ayling, the founder of Aylings Boat Yard in Lanark, Ontario was descended from the Aylings of Ash House. His family is alive and well today.

"Nicholas IV and his family were obviously quite well-to-do, and his sons all had substantial possessions. One, Thomas, had an estate valued at £593 when he died in 1711, including lands at both Stedham and Rogate. Another son was named William (1649-1724), and he and his wife Margaret had nine children, some of whom moved away from the Stedham area. This included the four married daughters and a son Thomas who was born in 1689."

There are a number of errors in this entry. First, Nicholas' Last Will & Testament, written in 1665 and through probate in 1670, refers to his son William and "the son of my son William". A number of Ayling researchers have independently pointed out that this is unlikely because a "son" William, born around 1649, would have been 15/16 years old and probably too young to have had a child of his own. The correct William to whom Nicholas refers in his Will is grandson, William (1654-1707),of Woolbeding. Also the William who was baptized in 1649 died in 1653 and appears to have been the son of Nicholas Ayling (D. 1678). Thomas (1651-1711) was the son of Nicholas Ayling (D. 1678) as well.

[see Fig 18]

The William Ayling who was married to Margaret Ayling and who died in 1724 is yet another different person and may have descended from Thomas Ayling (1596-1642), son of Nicholas and Maibel. He may or may not be the father of Thomas Ayling (1689-1759).

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that there were two Nicholas Aylings, who were cousins, each living in Stedham and Woolbeding at different times Although Nicholas Ayling (1593-1670) seems to have resided mostly in Hookland in Woolbeding, near Redford, and not far from the border with Stedham, he identified himself as "of Toathill" in his Will in 1665. Totehill is a farm northeast of the village of Stedham, right on the border with Woolbeding.

[see Fig 19]

The other Nicholas (D. 1678) had some of his children baptized in Stedham (including William 1649-1653) but then had later children baptized in Woolbeding. He did his Will in 1670 saying he was “of Woolbeding” and lists his surviving children. He does not list a son William. None of his children list a brother William in their own respective Wills. He bequeaths land at Hookland in Woolbeding to his second son, Edmund. This was likely Nicholas’ place of residence. Interestingly, he bequeaths land in Totehill in Stedham to his third son, Thomas.

[see Fig 20]


[see Fig 21]

It's important to note, however, that while Hookland and Totehill are in separate parishes they are only about one mile apart by road. The overlap of places of residency and/or land ownership does seem to point to a close family relationship and probable common ancestor for both.

Below is a modern day map showing the two farm sites. See

[see Fig 22]

Over time Totehill was subdivided among descendants of the two Nicholas'. The distribution was apparently not satisfactory to all, as a number of court cases in the 18th century would seem to attest.

I note that both Thomas Ayling (D. 1585) and Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) are listed in their Stedham burial records as being from Totehill. Thomas was Nicolas' father. Nicholas Ayling's (D. 1678) was the great grandson of Thomas Ayling (D. 1585) via Anthony Ayling (1564-1626) and Anthony Ayling (1597-1644).

Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) was Nicholas Ayling's (1593-1670) father. Further, I note that Nicholas Ayling's (D. 1678) grandfather Anthony Ayling (1564-1626) in his own Will lists Nicholas (1564-1641) as an Overseer, while Nicholas Ayling (1593-1670) is listed as a witness. Obviously, it gets very confusing --and understandable, perhaps, that the members of “The Ayling Registry” would get things mixed up.

To be clear: Nicholas (1593-1670) and Nicholas (D. 1678) descend from John of Terwick (D. 1546) via son Thomas (D. 1585), and his two sons Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) and Anthony Ayling (1564-1626) respectively.

I wanted to highlight two other Ayling men who Kenneth did not mention in "The Ayling Story". There was a Thomas Ayling and Nicholas Ayling who were map makers in West Sussex. Thomas was completing maps a generation before Nicholas. The first record of a Thomas Ayling map is in 1649 with "A Survey of the landes of Peter Betessworth of Iping gent'. Nicholas Ayling's work began in 1682 with "Particulars of farms on Loseley Estate, including survey of lands". I don't know who these men were. It is possible they were father and son, given that map-making was presumably a specialized trade that might have been passed along via apprenticeship. Both, for example, had done maps of Woolbeding Manor. Given the location of their work, both probably resided in West Sussex. Thomas could have been the son of Thomas Ayling (1596-1642)"of North End" born in 1620. Or he could be Thomas Ayling born in 1622 to Nicholas Ayling (1593-1670) of Woolbeding. But I don't find evidence of a son Nicholas for either Thomas. The maps are available to view and the record descriptions indicate some fine drawing, Nicholas' map of Woolbeding includes a "Finely drawn compass of thirty-two points in red and black. Title in a delicately executed cartouche in Jacobean style, symmetrical on both axes. Scale of chains surmounted by dividers. (The border of the map is also divided in chains.) Elaborate border of fine quality consisting of rectangular panels of grapes, strawberries, daisies, violets, roses, dianthus and tulips." See for a list of all maps.

“During the first half of the 18th century England was an agricultural country, and the yeoman farmers were at their peak of prosperity, but then a change gradually took place. A network of canals was built to provide cheap transport, the most successful one in West Sussex being From Midhurst to Petworth and Pulborough. Several Aylings are known to have been ‘bargemen’.”

There were Ayling bargemen in Houghton, Sussex starting with Charles Ayling (1789-1856). See Also there was a George Ayling (1786-1855) in Fittleworth, Sussex. See I haven’t been able to determine if they were brothers or cousins, or just coincidentally share the same trade. I have created two trees that have the family lines of both. For Charles, the tree is called “Aylings of Houghton/SouthStoke Family Tree”. As the title suggests it combines two family lines, which is via the marriage of Charles’ grandson, Henry Ayling (1865-1939) of Houghton and Florence Kate Ayling (1869-1959) of South Stoke. George’s tree is called “William Ayling (1791-1847) of Fittleworth, Sussex Family Tree”.

“At least one Ayling was known to have been a tollhouse keeper.”

I have not located this person.

"Whereas in the year 1500 there were only a few Ayling families in existence, it has been estimated that by 1750 there were fifty such families, scattered mostly among the numerous towns and villages of West Sussex."

An search of male Ayling marriages for a period of 10 years either side of 1750 for all of Sussex returns almost one hundred and fifty. A sampling of parish records across West Sussex in the 16th century shows many Ayling family groups. In other words, there were many more Ayling families in West Sussex at this time, as well as up into Hampshire, Surrey and other counties to the north.

If, as Kenneth points out, there were 33 Wills and Administrations before 1600, even assuming they were often from within the same family groups, these were the wealthier folks who were able to leave a written document to pass along their estate. The socioeconomic structure of society at the time (few rich/mostly poor) requires that there must have been many more less affluent Aylings in the 16th century and earlier whose lives went unrecorded via Wills/Administrations. The yeoman class, of which these Aylings were members, was a stratum of society that lasted about 400 years only --from the late 1300's to 1700's, book-ended by the Bubonic Plague and the Industrial Revolution.

"Dealing first with Thomas of Stedham (1689). He married in June 1720 in his home village, and five children were born there. Then at the age of forty he moved to Cocking, on the Midhurst/Chichester road, where he was a yeoman farmer of some consequence and where five more children were born. When he died in 1759 he was taken back to Stedham for burial, the last of his direct line to be so honoured."

It should be noted that Thomas bequeaths land in Heyshott at his death. Heyshott church was a chapel to Stedham parish from 1140 up until the late 1800’s. See In other words, Thomas could have been born and raised in the Heyshott area, later moving with his family to Cocking, never having lived within the boundaries of Stedham parish itself, which is farther north and separated from Heyshott by another parish. However, I don't find much overlap of records between the two parishes which leads me to believe that Thomas probably lived in Stedham from at least 1720 to 1730. The fact that he is buried in Stedham implies that there was some further significance to that parish, perhaps that it was his home parish, rather than Cocking or Heyshott.

Significantly, there is a Thomas Ayling churchwarden for Stedham in the 1726-27 period. I note that other Ayling headstones at St. James seem to be for churchwardens and immediate family. So it is possible Thomas secured a plot on that basis. Thomas' wife is buried in Stedham, and that would seem to confirm that was a choice made of Thomas. He also re-marries to a Margaret Fry of Stedham and in the same parish. However, in Thomas' Will he does not specify where he wanted to be buried, leaving the decision to the discretion of his Executor, son John. I note that Thomas was a churchwarden in Cocking as well.

Kenneth was able to determine Thomas’ birth date based on his headstone at St. James churchyard which states: “in memory of THOMAS AYLING who died 5th of December 1759 aged 70 years”. There is no baptism record for a Thomas Ayling in Stedham or Woolbeding in and around 1689. The closest possible 1689 baptism record is for a Thomas Ayllinge in Easebourne, West Sussex. The close proximity to Stedham could mean this is the correct Thomas. However, it is not uncommon to find seemingly unrelated individuals of the same name baptized in the same year in different parishes.

"One of his sons, William (1736), became a farmer at the neighbouring village of Heyshott, and he had nine children, two of whom moved to Bromley in Kent, and founded the family of Aylings who were (and still are) in the shoe trade in that town. There are also descendants in the United States, and yet another branch that boasts an Air Vice-Marshall in the R.A.F."

The two son were William (1768-1826) and Robert (B. 1780). A fellow Ayling researcher posits that the reason for the move may have been because William was suspected of some poaching offence (killing deer on the Bishop of Chichester's estate). In 1803 William was married at St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London to Anne Bentley, widow. They lived at 25, Bromley High Street where he and his brother Robert were shoemakers. Ironically, perhaps, William also acted as a gamekeeper on the Bishop of Rochester's estate. Apparently he was not very successful in business, and he left No. 25, Bromley High Street in 1811. Later he was known to have held the office of parish beadle, and later still he occupied a small tenement and was classed as poor in the Rate Book.

Interestingly, William and his brother Robert seem to have been excellent cricket players, having played for the Players All England and on the old Lords' ground at Marylebone. See for William and his brother Robert's cricket records. It is interesting that the elite level of the sport of cricket runs through the Ayling of Ash clan that moved to Argentina as well (see above).

The above references to cricket playing were likely derived from Arthur Haygarth, Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 (1744–1826), Pg 262. The following is the excerpt from August 1799: "WILLIAM AYLING'S name will be found in some of the great matches of this period, playing with some success, and he was a very fast runner. He was born at Cocking, near Chichester, Sussex, was the son of a farmer, and by trade a shoemaker. In 1802 he left Storrington, and went to live at Bromley, in Kent, where in course of time he became (it is believed) the beadle of the parish. "In early days" he was a bit of a poacher; "in fact, it was on this account he removed from Strorrington." He died in 1826, aged about 59." In a postscript to page 262 it says "Add to Ayling's biography: "He was particularly distinguished for his fielding and hitting, and was a good runner. His position when about to receive the ball was peculiar. He stood square to the bowler, and held the bat in his right hand only, grasping it with his left immediately before receiving the ball."

The Bromley shoe making clan seems to have continued via William's grandson Edwin Ayling (1843-1920). There were two shoe stores in Bromley: Edwin & Son Bootmakers and T.S. Ayling Ltd. Bootmakers located at 50 and 82 High Street respectively. The latter shop appears to have been founded by one of Edwin's son's Thomas Ayling (1875-1950). It apparently closed in the late 1997. I have posted a photo of T.A. Ayling's store circa 1943 on my tree.

The Air Marshall to whom Kenneth refers was Richard Cecil Ayling (1916-1995), Royal Air Force Air Vice-Marshal for England during the Second World War. He was awarded a CBE in in 1965. He was also an Immigration Appeals Adjudicator from 1970-1988. His wife Patricia died in 1966, and I don't know if they had any children.

"Another son of Thomas was Robert (1730), who carried on the farm and he had ten children, all baptised at Cocking. His eldest son was also Robert (1765), and in turn his six children were also baptised at Cocking. But then the link with farming and agriculture drew to a close. One son was a cornfactor in Chichester, and another (William - 1804) became a draper in Midhurst with descendants who were grocers, drapers, nurserymen, clergymen, engineers, and many other occupations - some now living in Africa, and in New Zealand."

Father Robert (1731-1800) and so Robert (1765-1850) are both having children baptized in Cocking. Robert Sr. last child is Charlotte (B. 1785). Robert Jr.'s first child is Mary (B.1796). Robert Sr.'s name was recorded as "Ailing". This entire family group is captured on my tree "2014 Ayling Tree Sussex, UK to Canada", and has some of the family lines mentioned above traced down to the 20th century.

Kenneth Ayling (1914-1983), the author of "The Ayling Story" comes from this family line via Robert's younger son William (1804-1889).

Thomas’ family tree:

[see Figure 23]

I am in contact with about twenty Ayling descendants from within the above family group. Given the lack of records (at least the ones I could find on-line or track down via the West Sussex Records Office) Thomas' family line may remain an educated guess. I have made a separate post on what I think are the possibilities for Thomas' line, as well as what I think is his family line, at

In a nutshell, I believe Thomas Ayling (1689-1759) descends from Thomas Ayling (1596-1642), son of Nicholas Ayling (1564-1641) and Maibel Gray, both of whom descended from the two brothers, John Ayling (D. 1546) of Terwick and Richard Ayling (D. 1545) of Woolbeding respectively.

“All over West Sussex, other large family groups were being founded during the 18th century. At Arundel there was one which started about 1750, and another thirty years later at the nearby village of West Stoke. Both have very extensive family trees - indeed Thomas of S.Stoke (born 1761) had no less than sixty-five great grandchildren. One of them, Arthur, lived to be 100, the only known Ayling to reach his century.”

There are variations of the Ayling name from an earlier time in Arundel, including a John Aylwyn, son of Henry, in 1651. Aylwyn and Aylyng are often used interchangeably in parish records before the 18th century. For the Arundel transcriptions see The first "Ayling" baptism was an Ayling Shepherd baptized in 1709 in Arundel to a William Shepherd and Susan Green. While I have no evidence to support this idea, William's mother may have been an Ayling. There is a consistent naming convention across many parishes where the mother's maiden name continues as a middle name, and sometimes first name, of children. Another example is in Stedham, Sussex where some of the descendants of William Ayling (1605-1670) of Ash House use a maiden name "Dennett" as a first and middle name right up to the present. However, Ayling as a first given name is rare. I have seen only one other example with an Ayling Puddick (or Puttock) born in 1756 in Petworth, West Sussex. He was probably the son of Sarah Puddick, born 1738, of Fernhurst, Sussex and the father may have been an Ayling. Ayling Shepherd raises his family in Broadwater/Worthing, Sussex. One of his descendants there, Sarah Shepherd, may have married a James Ayling, and they have two children there: Jane (B. 1811) and Sarah (B. 1809). Note one of their descendants, Walter Shepherd Ayling, may provide evidence of the maiden name use, and he in turn gives perhaps a more direct nod to his maternal grandmother via his daughter Sarah Shepherd Ayling. However, the Ayling family line to which Kenneth refers above was probably started with Elizabeth, born August 5th, 1729 and baptized September 21st, 1729, to a Nicholas and Elizabeth Ayling.

The reference to “West” Stoke is an error which is a parish farther to the west of Arundel. I assume Kenneth meant South Stoke. The South Stoke, Sussex transcriptions are here: The parish records begin in 1553. The first Ayling recorded there is indeed Thomas Ayling. According to his burial record in 1832, he died age 70 which tells us that he was born around 1762. Based on this date of birth many trees link this Thomas to Thomas Ayling born in Heyshott in 1761, son of Thomas Ayling (1725-1780) and Mary Dowling. However, I think the Heyshott parish records show this other Thomas' descendants remaining in Heyshott. Other trees have Thomas of South Stoke marrying a Hannah Searle August 3rd, 1784 in Chichester. I think this again is wrong and was a guess based on the bride's name and the date. However, I think it is more likely that Thomas of South Stoke married Hannah Burchell in West Chiltington, Sussex in 1787, which is closer in time to the birth of his first child Mary in February 1788 and closer in geographical proximity to South Stoke. I have not been able to determine where Thomas was born to date.

The Arthur Ayling who lived to 100 years was born in South Stoke in 1867 and died in 1968 in Croydon, Surrey. His male siblings do not seem to have shared the same longevity. He may not have been the only Ayling male to make his centenary. In North Marden parish in West Sussex there is a May 30th, 1761 burial record for a John Ayling "Clerk Age one Hundred Years & Odd".

“A certain William Ayling, who was born in 1768, had his first children baptised at Aldingbourne, near Chichester but later the family moved to Broadwater. There, for several generations a large number of his descendants were engaged in building trades, and took part in the expansion of the town of Worthing, especially in the area then known as New Town (now the Clifton Road district). One branch of this family emigrated to Australia and another to America."

Many Ayling families from Sussex and Hampshire moved to Worthing in the 19th century. William Ayling (1767-1855), who was having his children baptized in Aldingbourne, was born in Greatham, Sussex according to the 1851 census for Worthing, where he and his descendants resided and many worked as bricklayers. However, I think "Greatham" was actually a recording error for "Felpham". His family line is captured on my tree called “John Ayling (B. abt 1540) of Petersfield Hampshire & descendants Family Tree”. In fact, he had his children first baptized in Eastergate, Sussex, the parish next door to Aldingbourne. This is a very large tree because it includes the combination of at least three separate Ayling lines through marriage. For example, one of William’s descendants, Edwin Ayling (1884-1935) married a Rosa Collins, who was the great-granddaughter of George Ayling (1782-1831) of Alton, Hampshire.

Albert Ayling (B. 1872) moved to Canada in 1906 and then to the United States. I’m not sure what branch move to Australia.

[Oct 2018 Update: I have a DNA match to a descendant on this family. It is possible, therefore, that William was born in 1767 in Woolavington, West Sussex to Thomas Ayling (1738-1820) of Graffham. William's earliest memory may have been living in Graffham, so the above place "Greatham" may have been a recording or transcription error for Graffham. I descend from Thomas' other son, James Ayling (1775-1860]

“At Bosham in 1777 Thomas Ayling married Anne Coombs, and they founded a family of fishermen and mariners with extensive connections, both in Sussex, and at Portsmouth.”

The Bosham records are compiled here: The records begin with a Joane Aylin, daughter to Edward and Elizabeth in 1620. They had two sons, Edward & William, both of whom died in childhood, so the paternal line died out. The next Aylings in the parish were Thomas and Anne, and their son Thomas was born there in 1778. Thomas Sr. was born in 1741 according to the burials records; however, there is no record of his birth in Bosham (or of any Ayling birth from 1622 to 1777). He must have come from elsewhere. I do note there were three Ayling marriages during this 150 year period in Bosham:

04/07/1641 G HABYN Thomas

02/10/1681 G AYLING Carryl
[there was a Charoll Aylinge of Didling listed in the Protestation of 1642. See He would have had to have been at least 21 years in 1642, so this person may have been a descendant of Charoll from Didling in Sussex. Isemonger is a name that runs through the Ayling of Harting.]

01/10/1738 G AYLING John

Interestingly, the Bosham parish transcriptions go right up to the 1970's. In every other parish I have viewed to date they only go to the early 1900's.

According to Mrs. Joan Langhorne, Bosham Church Archivist, "Christian worship has taken place at Bosham Church for over a thousand years and there is also documented evidence to show that there was a small Christian community in Bosham in the 7th century, making it probably the oldest site of Christianity in Sussex [...] One of the most well known facts about Bosham is that it appears in the Bayeux Tapestry. The reason for this is because Harold Godwinson, the future King, had inherited the other secular Manor from his father, Earl Godwin, and it was from Bosham that Harold sailed to Normandy in 1064. The scenes in the Bayeux Tapestry show Harold riding to Bosham, entering the church, feasting at his manor house and embarking on his fateful trip."

“The naval town of Portsea, as it then was, grew rapidly in the 19th century, and there was a steady trickle of young Ayling men from families all over the area to join some branch of the sea-going services.”

The Portsea transcriptions are here: and start with Mary Ayling baptized December 25th, 1723 to Richard Ayling. There are two earlier records that may or may not be recording errors for Ayling:

28 Jun 1686 D Mary John Allyn Portsea St Mary
27 May 1720 S Joseph Joseph Alen Portsea St Mary

"Many marriages to local girls took place in the main churches of Portsmouth and Gosport, but there were no large established families of Aylings actually in Portsmouth for many years.”

The Portsmouth transcriptions are here: There are some early baptisms for "Alline" and "Aylwin" which may be recording errors for Ayling. The first clearly Ayling baptism is in 1808.

“Across the harbour, however, at Rowner near Gosport another Thomas Ayling married Mary Penfold in 1721, and a large family developed in the area, with a branch at Weymouth in Dorset. One of the descendants of the latter was William Beck Ayling, who joined the Indian Civil Service, became a Judge in Madras, and was knighted in 1915 – the only Ayling known to have been so honoured.”

The Rowner transcriptions are here: They begin with Thomas, born November 14th, 1723 and baptized November 23rd, 1723, to Thomas & Mary Ayling.

William Ayling’s (1867-1946) middle name was Bock, not “Beck”, and the name is in honour of his mother, Maria Louisa Bock (1839-1875). I have created a tree called “Sir William Bock Ayling Family Tree” that has his whole line to the present, and I have been in contact with his descendants. It is possible that Sir William descends from Thomas who married Mary Penfold in 1721, but I don't find any evidence to support this. Interestingly, William’s son, James Reginald Ayling (1905-?) was the first person to successfully complete a non-stop trans-Atlantic flight from Canada to England in 1934. See He flew for England in the Second World War in Africa and was awarded the King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air medal in 1943.

“Also at Rowner, Anthony Ayling (born about 1778) and his wife Ann Maria founded a large farming family in the area. Doubtless there are descendants alive today, but most of the male lines seem to have died out.”

I found no parish record for Anthony in Rowner prior to 1800.

“At Kirdford, northeast of Petworth, there was a substantial Ayling community from early in the 18th century. James, who was born about 1744, had many children baptised in the local church, and descendants are alive today. One son, John and his wife Vashti had fifteen children and they lived in the Meon valley area in Hampshire, near Petersfield, with descendants in the Portsmouth district.”

The Kirdford parish transcriptions are here: They begin with Anne Ayling baptized November 28th, 1669 to John Ayling. I don't find a James baptized in 1744. I do find a burial record for a James Ayling June 11th, 1820, aged 75. This is likely where Kenneth came up with his date of birth. It is possible he came from another parish. According to the census records in Meonstoke son John would have been born in Kirdford in 1794-5. The most likely father in this timeframe would be James, wife Elizabeth. They have two sons called John, the first baptized September 9th, 1792. This John was likely deceased, although there is no burial record in Kirdford for him. Their second son John was baptized in 1797 and is likely the John who moved to Meonstoke. Parents James and Elizabeth are listed as paupers, and they had twelve children baptized from 1770 to 1797.

John Ayling (1797-1868) married Varstey Hill (1800-1878) November 19th, 1817 in East Wittering, Sussex. Her name is clearly shortened to "Vashti" in the Meonstoke censuses. There first daughter Harriet was born on Christmas Day 1817 and baptized January 25th, 1818 in Wisborough Green. The West Sussex Poor Law Records lists on January 2nd, 1819 a removal order for John and Vashti, along with daughter Harriett aged 1, from Wisborough Green back to Kirdford parish in Sussex. Likely they were seeking financial assistance from the local church in Wisborough and the wardens rejected them to return to John's home parish. I have not viewed the original record, but the citation can be found Most of their children, starting with Frederick on September 19th, 1823, were baptized at St. Peter the Great in Chichester, Sussex. They are listed as residing at "Somers Town". The Meonstoke, Hampshire census records list John's occupation as lime burner. Clearly they were moving around alot, possibly following the work. See

I recently created a tree for one of the descendants of James baptized in 1783. The tree is called "James Ayling (1744-1820) of Kirdford, Sussex Family Tree" on

“In Petworth there was a family who worked as saddlers and harness makers for four generations or more, and at Fittleworth nearby was a large farming group founded by George (born 1786).”

As noted above, both groups are captured on “William Ayling (1791-1847) of Fittleworth, Sussex Family Tree”. I am guessing that William and George (1786-1855) may have been brothers, mainly on the basis that their descendants end up living close by each other in Petworth.

“Finally, at Ovington, near Alresford in Hampshire was the large family of George (born about 1730). Two of his sons were tailors, but most of his descendants for several generations were Carpenters. “

The Ovington parish transcriptions are here: George Ayling (1727-1785) was born in East Meon, Hampshire April 5th to George & Mary Ayling. The East Meon parish transcriptions are here: George’s family line is captured on “John Ayling (B. abt 1540) of Petersfield Hampshire & descendants Family Tree”. I should further that Dennis and Edward Ayling who were running Terwick Mill in Trotton Sussex up to 1966 when they sold come from this family group of Ovington, Hampshire via James Ayling (B. 1824) of East Meon, baseborn son to Keziah Ayling.

“And at Privett (between Ovington and Petersfield) was the even larger family of William, born 1767 who was a wheelwright by trade, an occupation which lasted for at least four generations of his descendants, some of whom are now living in Lincolnshire.”

The Privett parish transcriptions are here: I don’t find a William. The first record is William in 1801 to a William & Elizabeth Aylen. This may have been a recording error for Ayling. Perhaps the William to whom Kenneth referred was this father to William.

“In the 20th century, there were two World Wars, and the Aylings played their part in both of them. Sixty-two young men gave their lives between 1914 and 1918, and some of them are listed on War Memorials in Worthing, Arundel, Rogate and Portsmouth.”

See for the list of all the Ayling men who died in the First World War.

"During the last one hundred and fifty years the Aylings have become increasingly scattered, and there are quite large contingents in various overseas countries, notably America, Australia and New Zealand."

The "scattering" of many Ayling families away from the homelands of Sussex and Hampshire started mostly in the early 1800's, presumably due to changes in the agricultural and industrial economies. Some moved to urban areas, such as London but also to coastal cities like Brighton and Worthing in Sussex. Some eventually moved out of England entirely, driven voluntarily by the hope for better economic opportunity or in some cases due to "criminal" offenses (i.e. to Australia).

My great grandfather left West Sussex for Canada in 1906, following his older brother, Henry James Ayling, who had left for Canada several years before. Henry became a grocer, and my great grandfather became a bread delivery driver. I can imagine the older brother sending a letter to ask his brother to come out and help him in his business, although there is no family record (or memory) of what precipitated either one to leave England. Nevertheless, both did relatively well, and I suspect their descendants have benefited by their decision to leave and seek a different life -- and probably a better one than might have been achieved had they remained in Sussex in that time period.


For the last three years, I have been re-walking the ground that Kenneth and "The Ayling Registry" walked over thirty years ago, but with new tools and technology (and providing citations!) that allow us to go deeper into our past than Kenneth probably could have dreamed. In my work, I have found links between many Ayling family groups across Hampshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, sometimes as far back as when parish record keeping began. While I am aware that I may have made errors in my research, I have always tried to base my choices on documentary evidence --and when best guesses are made I explain why.

I started out thinking that with a rare surname like Ayling I would have a fair chance of tracing the various family lines back to one common ancestor or family group. After all, in 1642 there were only just over 50 adult males, representing perhaps only 40 families, in all of West Sussex. Surely it was a simple matter to trace the ancestry of some or all of these men to find the original "John" and family who may have walked up from Hayling Island to settle Hampshire and/or Sussex. Alas it appears that any such person or group pre-dates record keeping and indeed pre-dates the use of surnames. In other words, when our ancestors are first using the surname AYLYNG they are already spread over many areas in the south of England.

The next line of inquiry I intend to pursue is via YDNA. I will post back what I find. If you are reading this post and you are an AYLING, I hope that you might consider doing the same. If we have enough male descendants providing YDNA we should be able to determine our common ancestor, whether that be a few or a hundred generations down the line.

"In conclusion, it is clear that the name ‘Ayling’ has ancient and noble origins, and it
has flourished for very many years. May it long continue.

K.G. Ayling, 1983 The Author Kenneth Gordon Ayling, F.C.A. Chartered Accountant (retired) Born 20/1/1914 A descendant of John Ayling of 1478."

Maybe not "noble" origins in the literal sense but certainly ancient and flourishing today. My own branch carries on with my two sons --two new sprouts on an impressive family tree.

May the Ayling name long continue, indeed.

Chris Ayling


I have created a Facebook page called "Ayling Family History" where I post updates on researches and assist descendants in discovering their own family trees. See If you have any questions or can offer more information or corrections to the above, please contact me via Facebook.

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