Although there are six burial mounds from the Bronze Age on the downs south of the village, the earliest known settlement at Cocking dates to the 6th century AD when the Saxons settled in South Saxonland (now Sussex). The village takes its name from a Saxon warlord named Cocca who chose the locality as a suitable place to settle, with its plentiful supply of timber and spring water. In about 680 AD, a small wooden church was erected on the edge of the brook which runs through the village.
Following the Norman invasion in 1066, King William awarded much of Sussex to Roger de Montgomery, who in turn granted the manor of Petworth, including Cocking, to Robert, son of Tetbald. In the Domesday Book (1086), the village was recorded as Cockinges and had a church and 5 mills, with land for 11½ ploughs, with 18 villagers and 8 smallholders.
The present church was built at the end of the 11th century and was extended in in the early 14th century and again in the 19th century.
The ownership of the manor and of the village has changed several times over the centuries, but by the mid-15th century, Cocking was the property of the Earls of Arundel and the Fitzalan family. In 1583, the family conveyed the Manor of Cocking to Sir Anthony Browne, Viscount Montgomery of Midhurst. The Montgomery family owned Cocking until 1843 when it, together with what was now known as the Cowdray estate, was sold to George, 6th Earl of Egmont, who sold it in turn in 1908 to Sir Weetman Dickenson Pearson, who became the 1st Viscount Cowdray in 1917.
In the Victorian era, Cocking obtained a railway station (opened in 1881 on the line from Chichester to Midhurst) and a village school (opened in 1870). Sadly, although both still exist as private houses, they closed in 1953 and 1967 respectively.
Today, the Cowdray estate still own most of the farmland around the village and many of the houses within the village, recognised by the distinctive yellow paint around the windows.
With thanks to David Earley – based on extracts from “A Short History of Cocking” published in 2005 by the Cocking History Group.