The Trafalgar Connection


Born to a respected Warnham family, John Pilfold was baptised at Horsham in 1769.  He joined the Royal Navy in 1781, later serving as a lieutenant in a number of ships.

At the time of Trafalgar he was a lieutenant on the Ajax.  Following an ill-fated action off Cape Finisterre, his commanding officers were recalled to London.  Pilford was made acting captain of Ajax and joined the British fleet at Trafalgar.  In the battle his ship was sixth in Nelson’s weather column and took an active part in securing victory.

Pilfold’s role at Trafalgar was recognised with promotion to Captain, the thanks of Parliament, a gold medal, a sword of honour from the Patriotic Fund, augmentation to his coat of arms and made a Companion of the Bath.

To match his newly found position, Pilford leased Marshalls at Cuckfield but he wanted a property of his own.

Pilford achieved his desire to own a property by purchasing Townlands, Lindfield in 1813.  At that time Townlands was a 79-acre farm.  He also acquired Lunces Farm, Wivelsfield.

He renamed Townlands as Nelson Hall and set about major alterations.  It is thought Pilford was responsible for the black mathematical tiled front that extended the frontage to the roofline, as the rainwater hopper bears the date 1815.  The roof can be seen through the top row of windows in the false front.

Unfortunately his farming ventures were not very successful and the Pilford family left Lindfield for Plymouth in 1824.  The new owner reverted the property to the name Townlands.

Captain John Pilford died in 1834.  His nephew was the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

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