178 HISTORY OF EAST GRINSTEAD.
The Right Hon. Spencer Perceval, a son of the Earl of Egmont, and the Prime Minister who was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons in 1812, after holding his high position for nearly two and a half years, by a man named Bellingham, has quite an accidental, but romantic, connection with East Grinstead. In 1787 the Hon. Chas. Geo. Perceval, his eldest brother, married the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, Bart., an ancestor of the well - known family still occupying Searles at Fletching. His brother, the Hon. Spencer, also became attached to one of the sisters, Miss Jane Wilson, a beautiful girl, but as he was then only a briefless barrister his suit was not encouraged by her parents. When Miss Wilson came of age the affection was as strong as ever, so her father apparently decided to give way, but not publicly. He accordingly discreetly remained ignorant while his daughter was sent to East Grinstead on a visit to Mr. Thomas Wakeham, an attorney in this town and estate agent for the Wilson family, then living at the Hermitage. Her lover followed her and on August 10th, 1790, the bride being dressed in her riding habit, they were married here, report commonly saying, in the ruins of the church which had been but recently destroyed. This is quite possible, as the main walls had been rebuilt in the preceding year. But the idea is not favoured by the family, for Sir Spencer Walpole, writing in 1876 to the Rev. D. Y. Blakiston, says:—
I understand from Mr. Perceval's relatives that the wedding did not take place in East Grinstead Church, but in a blacksmith's shed where service used to be done at the time. Miss Wilson was staying for the occasion at Mr. Wakeham's (The Hermitage), who, it is believed, was Sir Thomas Wilson's agent. So far as I know Mr. Perceval did not afterwards visit East Grrinstead.
According to Cooke's " Topographical Description of Sussex," services were held, while the church was in ruins, in Sackville College Chapel.