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East Grinstead Town Council

Introductory Notes
East Grinstead: An Introduction
East Grinstead: A brief history
Description of the Town
Present - day East Grinstead
Useful Information
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East Grinstead Contact Information

East Grinstead Town Council
East Court
College Lane
East Grinstead
West Sussex
RH19 3LT

Tel: 01342 323636
Fax: 01342 327823

Email: East Grinstead Town Council


Description of the Town

The best way to know and appreciate a place is to walk about it, so this information is arranged as a series of walks, aided by the maps in this guide and the 21/2" Ordnance Survey. Distances are noted. When possible, dates and architects are given. It need hardly be stated that the private houses mentioned and their grounds are not open to the public.The new Blackwell Primary School

The High Street The borough of East Grinstead was planned in the early C13 as a wide street, used as a market place, flanked each side by burgage houses (or at any rate building plots) each with its own ‘portland’ (townland), a long strip behind, except for the churchyard and the area to its E. Many cottages were subsequently built where room could be found, some probably replacing portable market stalls: hence Middle Row (laid out c. 1400) and the buildings in front of the churchyard. The fact that the more modern buildings on the N. side stand at a lower level than those opposite is the result of lowering the road surface in 1828 to ease the gradient.

Till nearly 1700 the houses were built as a skeleton timber framework filled in with wattle and daub or brick walling. At first they consisted of a single hall, the full height of the house, with a hearth from which smoke escaped by an opening in the roof, and at one end a screen with a moulded beam. Behind it were the service room(s) and an upper chamber or ‘solar’. (In larger houses these were at opposite ends.) In the C16 chimneys and upper storeys were inserted and additional rooms often erected. By 1700 they were often being disguised by frontages of brick, tiles or weatherboards. Experts date them principally by the details of framing, roof construction and mouldings. The East Grinstead Society has recently had some of them scientifically tree-ring dated. One of the pioneers of studying such buildings was a local surveyor, Mr R. T. Mason. To his work (first published in 1939), to similar work and historical research by Mr R. H. and Mr P. D. Wood and Mr P. J. Gray and to the publications of the East Grinstead Society these notes are much indebted.

The importance of our High Street is the great number of these buildings it possesses (despite destruction, division or alteration), some continuously inhabited for over 650 years, many of considerable architectural and historic merit including 14 of the open hall type, and all made the more valuable - indeed unique - for being in an almost unbroken line. These considerations, their charming appearance, the generally equally attractive C18 and C19 buildings amongst them and the sensitive, intimate and self-contained layout of the whole street led to its designation in 1969 under the Civic Amenities Act of 1967 as a Conservation Area of special townscape control, classified as outstanding in 1979 and extended in 1985. Part of it may one day become a pedestrian precinct. Behind Middle Row it has been pedestrianised already.

Perambulation of the High Street A bird’s eye view and detailed information on buildings of historic and architectural interest will be found in the first town trail published by the East Grinstead Society in both English and French versions. What follows is necessarily briefer but includes more buildings. Dates and architects are given where possible.

Starting at top of London Road, by bank:
Bookmakers and Sweet Shop: 1451-52 hall house, still intact despite lowering floors of front rooms four feet to modern pavement level. Café 1893 and Bank 1934. Shops and Offices late C18.

CANTELUPE ROAD leading to Town Museum. Crown House, C19 rebuilding retaining earlier features; name dates back to 1502, earliest recorded inn-name here. 39 first decade of C17; fine contemporary chimney stack, C18 external brick walls. Shops mostly C17 with some C16 features.

Entrance to Church (see below).
Indian Restaurant and Gothic House lavishly built c.1600 with delightful regency shop-front designed in C20. Café probably late mediaeval. Rose & Crown 1939; name over 200 years old.

CHURCH LANE: Cottages c.1720 carefully restored. House 1753. Good view of Sackville College (public entrance in High Street). Lodge 1974-5 (P. D. Tetley). Then the Playfield traditional public open space, now a car park; fine views E. and imposing tower 1914. Opposite former school 1859 (Parsons) and later, now Arts Centre (see p.27). By car park Parish Halls 1929 and 1933 (J. D. Clarke). Back to High Street.

Shops c.1855; second home, with buildings behind, of Society of St Margaret. College View dignified early C19 front to C16 house with C17 wing. Note effect of plane tree. (Sackville College: p.19.) Follow path by holly hedge, carefully cross COLLEGE LANE, look down to Old Road. Till c.1826 when the modern Lewes Road was built main road plunged steeply down here through cutting in rock. Cross back to open space for the best view of street.

Cross to S. (corner of Fairfield Road, site of overflow of December Fair). Offices 1900. 90 (Old Lock Up) c.1841 or later police house with cell. Cottages rather disguised C15 hall house. Porch House (attractive rear porch not visible from street) C16; original windows at front and panelling within. House first half of C16. Cromwell House 1599; meticulously repaired 1929 after fire. Sackville House C15 house; converted 1574 and extended; delightful view of courtyard and Forest through grille in gate, now owned by the Landmark Trust, Amherst House very small hall built like larger ones, 1369-70; Elizabethan additions behind; Jacobean oak panelling; puzzling C17 balustrade at front. Dorset House good brickwork outside and elegant panelling inside done 1705 for evidently affluent Thomas James and wife (see rainwater-head); some earlier framing still intact, restored 1989. Arch with view. Dorset Arms early C18 re-building using earlier materials; name (Sackville family title) late C18, Cat from early C17.

HERMITAGE LANE. Shops and Portland Road late C19 replacement of old houses and portlands; glimpses of backs of houses.

Wilmington House E. half: Elizabethan; Georgian brick front and features; excellent staircase c.1750. W. half: hall c.1330-60; very early and unusual example of overhanging upper storey; staircase c.1794; very finely moulded beam in passage with back view of 46 C15 hall. Restaurant C16. Tailors E. Half. 1352; W. half C15 cross-wing. Off-licence 1968, replacing handsome and tolerably sound house of c.1480; resulting outcry led to formation of East Grinstead Society to preserve rest of town. 26-28 hall, second half of C15; converted at end of c16; Tudor chimney. Tudor House bookshop C15; shopfront and oak bark facing c.1880. 18 sensitive reconstruction after war damage. Sports shop unusually long C17 house; unusual and rather handsome framing; early C17 chimney stack. Offices mid-C18 with earlier features. 4 1451-52 hall; C17 additions. Behind: Hampton House C18.

JUDGES TERRACE (allegedly where judges stayed during Assizes): 1-2. Hall 1447-48; early C17 panelling; mid-C18 brick facade. Clarendon House hall mid-C15, converted century later; good Elizabethan features, including chimney stack. George Inn from at least 1548; good old panelling. Old Stone House sumptuously built 1640-41; extended C19.
SHIP STREET. Ship Inn robust late C19; unconventional ‘portholes’.
WEST STREET. Zion Chapel 1810; good brickwork, restrained and dignified, extended 1862 and 1911. Offices 1974 and Red Cross Shop 1974.
Back to island, Constitutional Buildings 1893. Walk along lower path by War Memorial 1922 (E. G. Gillick), unusable but attractive and restored Drinking Fountain 1887 (Rev. D.Y. Blakiston; Jubilee memorial, restored 2006) and over-pollarded lime trees (1874 and later) to MIDDLE ROW, laid out c.1400. Bank 1877. 4 & 5 C15/early C16. 9 late C15 single room, built up later. Rest mainly C17 with C19 additions and one attractive C20 shopfront.

From this island one can turn from the individual buildings to see what gives the whole street its character: varied rhythms of roof-lines, windows and shopfronts; variety of textures and colours; varied materials - stone, timber, brick, tiles, plaster, boards; trees; raised brick pavements. One can imagine what it was like centuries ago, and what it could yet be.

The Parish Church These notes draw attention to chief points of interest; guide booklet available.

History. East Grinstead Church is first mentioned c.1100 when Lewes Priory was given the right of appointing Rectors (Vicars from 1360). At the Reformation this right passed to the Sackville family, with whom it remained until passed to the Bishop of Chichester in 1988. The dedication has always been to St Swithun, Bishop of Winchester 852-862, feast day 15 July. (References to St Edmund show confusion with Greenstead, Essex.) An apparently C14 building was demolished by the fall of the tower in 1785. Rebuilding was entrusted to the celebrated James Wyatt, so that we have a fine early specimen of that gothick architecture which people today are learning to appreciate again. The tower was designed by William Inwood (1812). The interior was re-arranged several times but reached its present state when restored by J. M. Hooker, 1874-6. It was steadily embellished in the 20th century.

Notable features. Brasses: S.wall; Sir Thomas Gray and Richard Lewkenor, 1505, with unidentified civilian, c.1520. (Rubbing with Vicar’s permission) Iron Graveslabs: A natural product of the Sussex iron industry. Of our four one (Anne Forster) does not belong here: the moulds were often re-used for such homely items as firebacks which modern piety has ‘restored’ to churches. Monuments: several fine C18 ones, including two by J. C. F. Rossi, one by Scheemakers and one by E. Peirce. Glass: Early C16 quarries (N.Aisle); rest by Christmas, Clayton & Bell, Grylls, Hardman, Hemming, Kempe, Powell. Note ‘incorrect’ but useful circular clerestory windows and subjects of Oxford Movement Centenary Window. Organ: Morgan & Smith, 1937; three manuals, CC to C; pedals CCC to F; 51 speaking stops, 2,334 speaking pipes; restored 1995. Bells: 12, the largest ring in Sussex, 1983 and 85.

The Churchyard There is a splendid collection of gravestones, a neglected form of folk art, preserved from non-local styles and materials by the closure of the Churchyard in 1868 but not from modern flattening and lawns. Their complete development from the first mid-C17 headstones can be traced, and many curious epitaphs. Note ceramic plaque on headstone by Harmer (1835), slabs by S. entrance over supposed remains of Protestant martyrs (not witches) of 1556, and, in S.E. corner, grave of J.M. Neale (see below), 1866 by G. E. Street with bulky centenary memorial. On exterior of Church notice odd blind window (Inwood) over Sanctuary roof and N. doors made 1926 after mediaeval methods by Robert Thompson with his ‘signature’, a carved mouse. Note also picturesque view of backs of High Street shops and Church Hall 1971 (Hubbard Ford) extended 1993.

Sackville College These notes draw attention to chief points; fuller guide sold in College. Open only 2 - 5 p.m. June and July (Wednesday - Saturday), August (daily) (conducted tours) and private parties April to October.

Robert Sackville, second Earl of Dorset, provided by his will, 1609, £1,000 (or as much as necessary) for building in East Grinstead ‘Sackville College for the poor’ and annual charges on his properties for running it. 21 men and 10 women, all unmarried, were to have a room and pension, one man being Warden, assisted by two townsmen. The building, of Sussex sandstone (said to be from Old Buckhurst, Withyham), with quarters for the Dorsets’ use when required, was apparently complete and in use within ten years. Its quadrangle recalls an Oxford College, though homelier and more peaceful. (‘College’ refers to a group of people leading a common life together.) Its first years were marred by difficulty in collecting the income, even after litigation; five early inmates starved to death. The most famous Warden was John Mason Neale, 1846-66, the hymnologist. By his time the buildings were in such serious disrepair that he had them thoroughly restored, 1848-52, under the great William Butterfield. Beyond extending the Chapel eight feet and giving it an arched E. window he did it with such sensitivity and respect for its Jacobean features that hardly anyone is conscious of its restoration.

Today it is a grade I listed building and its work continues as sheltered housing for local old people of good character and in reduced circumstances (though able to pay a small charge). There is a common room and modern conveniences. Caring for it is a financial problem but it remains a retreat into another world despite the traffic outside. It is now licensed for marriages.

Attention may be called to the historical importance of the chapel as the place where Neale revived many liturgical practices and of the adjoining study where he worked. It now contains some of his works and other books of local interest collected by his successor and former enemy. These may be consulted by serious students after previous written application to the Warden. The College’s extensive records are at Chichester in the County Record Office.

The Society of St Margaret and St Margaret’s Convent For Neale the beautiful view from the College was spoilt by the thought of the poor isolated cottagers with no-one ministering to their needs. This inspired him to found, in 1854, one of the earliest Anglican sisterhoods, the Society of St Margaret, to nurse the poor at home within a radius of 25 miles, for hospitals were few. They soon added education, ‘rescue’ and parish work, and spread to other parts of the country and abroad. Today the Society works in Sri Lanka and parts of England and self-governing affiliated societies follow the same rule in England, Scotland and the U.S.A.

East Grinstead remained the headquarters in compact modern premises in St John’s Road until 2006 when falling numbers obliged the sisters to move to a small house in Uckfield.

Their new convent here has been demolished but its predecessor off Moat Road (1865-1909, G.E & A.E. Street), ‘an example of Gothic Revival architecture which no other country in Europe can equal’ (P. F. Anson), including Chapel, tower, refectory and quadrangle, a noble and impressive group of buildings, austere and lofty but given warmth by the colour and texture of tiles and local sandstone, is a grade I listed building and has been converted to private housing.

East Court These notes draw attention to chief points; leaflet on sale. Half a mile N. of the Church is East Court, a former private house. Its grounds were acquired through the good offices of the merchant banker and philanthropist Mr A. R. Wagg as the town’s memorial to the 1939-45 war. The original ambitious plans were never carried out but it has several games facilities, a children’s play area, a lake and a garden of remembrance with memorial. It is much used for public outdoor functions and private picnics, the grounds and woods being open to the public. There is a fine view from the terrace, on which will be found two mementoes of the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977: a ‘podium’ for open air concerts and an inscribed stone marking the point where the Greenwich meridian passes through the town. A block of natural stone celebrates the millennium. Around the terrace is a peace garden presented to the Town Council by the East Grinstead branch of the United Nations Association containing about 20 trees, shrubs or other plants, each donated by a member state of the United Nations.

The former house, built in 1769 and extended in 1906-7, is a grade 2 listed building of historic or architectural interest. It was acquired by the Urban District Council in 1946 to be its headquarters and now houses the Town Council offices, rooms for hire for functions, and other concerns. It incorporates, in skillfully transformed and extended former outbuildings, the Meridian Hall, designed for the Town Council by A. L. Smith and Partners and opened in 1986, a significant project for a Town Council to undertake.

In the grounds are the police station (1965 J. Catchpole, county architect), old courthouse, ambulance station, rifle club and football club.

London Road Though lacking the historic charm of the High Street, London Road contains or gives access to most of the shops and public places. More detail on parts of this area will be found in the East Grinstead Society’s second and third town trails.

Starting from the High Street on the l. (W.) side notice golden boot facsimile of original C19 shop sign (opposite). QUEENS WALK (entrance to shopping development) and C18 iron milepost (one of series along A22) outside No. 64 (charity shop). Former Post Office 1896 at traffic lights, recently listed grade 2.

l. QUEENS ROAD to Swan Mead old people’s day centre 1974 and Cemetery (closed) with attractive Chapels (Parsons, 1869) converted to private housing 1988 (entrance at further end). Opposite: KING STREET with Atrium leisure centre and cinema 1992.

On to next Junction, l., RAILWAY APPROACH, leading to Railway Station 1972.

Back to London Road Broadway public house (Glanfield, 1939) and original Station (R. Jacomb Hood, 1855) sympathetically extended 1983 and converted to a slimming clinic.

Cross to Clocktower 1955 rehousing clock honouring 80th birthday of Thomas Cramp (1810-91), local public man and teetotal pioneer.

Over footbridge over BEECHING WAY, inner relief road 1978 in former railway cutting closed 1967 by axe of Dr Beeching (a local resident), r. King George’s Field (opened 1938, 1935 Jubilee memorial) and King’s Centre 1974 and after, including multi-purpose hall and swimming pool.

On to next junction, r., MOAT ROAD to former St Margaret’s Convent (see p.20). At junction Moat Church (United Reformed) 1870 (Edward Steer, local builder) and later extensions and opposite Our Lady and St Peter R.C. Church 1898 (F.A. Walters).

Next junction, l., STATION ROAD and PARK ROAD to Halsford Park, Imberhorne and Garden Wood Estates. At junction Fire Station 1968.

Over two bridges as far as mini-round-about, r., LINGFIELD ROAD to Baldwins Hill (p.23). At junction Trinity Methodist Church 1938 (Smee & Hauchin), extended 1970, 1980 and 2005.

Opposite next junction Rickstones c.1700, l., then private housing as far as North End and Felbridge (see p.23) so r. here into WINDMILL LANE, r. St Mary’s School 1955 (Hilton Wright) and 1995 incorporating former Parish Hall 1923 (Arnold Mitchell), Church 1891-1912 (W. T. Lowdell) and Hall 1969. l. Imberhorne Lower School 1928 and later (Grammar School). Opposite De La Warr Recreation Ground, Lingfield Road, only part of Common to survive unenclosed. (1m. back to High Street)

Four Short Walks These walks, inevitably rather hilly, avoid main roads for byways or firm paths as far as possible and introduce open spaces, scenery and buildings within our boundaries. Each starts from the High Street.

1: By COLLEGE LANE over relief road to top of BLACKWELL HOLLOW (worn and cut through rock, presented to the town in 1894 for preservation) and entrance to East Court (see p.20). Enter grounds and notice on right view of Estcots C15 with C17 additions. From lower field one can exit r. on to Cinder Path by fields and woods up to a lane from Fairlight to Holtye Road (1m.) with good view over town. Thence 11/2m. back by Holtye Road past Hospital.

2: By CANTELUPE ROAD and path over footbridge to MOAT ROAD. l. Moat Pond, King George’s Field and King’s Centre. Cross to entrance to Mount Noddy Recreation Ground. Here in summer stoolball is played, a primarily Kent and Sussex game. It is something like cricket but the wickets are boards on posts at shoulder height and the bats resemble large table-tennis bats.

Continue on same line by path past old Convent (best view) and Blackwell Primary School 2006 to HACKENDEN LANE (which leads r. to footpath walks in Surrey countryside) and turn into it. l. Continue over bridge l. into CHARLWOODS ROAD (part of industrial estate), then l. again by path over footbridge past Green Hedges Cottage, used as town’s first hospital 1863-74, opening into GREEN HEDGES AVENUE joining LONDON ROAD by Fire Station.

3: Down HERMITAGE LANE, another shady road through rock, and DUNNINGS ROAD past Dovecote (charming gatehouse c.1862 through which drive originally ran) at top and St Barnabas’ Church/Hall 1975 and Dunnings Mill C16 at bottom. On uphill through cutting FRAMPOST HOLLOW with view back over town. At top l. along lane to Standen (p.23) but turn r. just before cottages along side of field. Best view, r., of Saint Hill 1792, altered 1890, modern additions. Through iron kissing gate, l. along longest edge of triangular field and down track to N. bank of Weir Wood Reservoir (p.26). Path to end, l., rather overgrown. Path r. to Stone Farm then either steeply downhill to Willetts Bridge and S. side of reservoir (best view) or cross road and along short track to Stone Rocks (climbing, panoramic views, picnics) or both. (21/2m so far; 21/2m. straight back by road).

Track continues past Mill Place late C14 under bridge to Tickeridge early C14, one of oldest of kind, with C17 barn, and Kingscote Station (1882, T.H. Myres, sumptuous in view of lack of village) temporary terminus of Bluebell Railway (p.27) then under bridge to B2110. (2m. from Stone Farm; 21/2m. straight back to town).

On to town past, l., Hazelden Farm (mentioned in Domesday Book) and across crossroads. At next junction, r., Green Haddin 1961-2 (L. Gooday), then public open space with splendid view of Ashdown Forest and l. Hill Place (timber-framed, modernised in Tudor times) and fine brick Viaduct 1882 (J. Firbank) over which Bluebell Railway is due to re-open link with East Grinstead.

At bottom either l. through Brooklands Park to London Road or straight up WEST HILL by Grove House 1837 (and earlier) to High Street.

4: By LEWES ROAD past Sackville School 1964 and later and entrances to Herontye estate (including Herontye House now flats and offices, 1912) and Barton St Mary 1906 (Lutyens) into WOODBURY CLOSE which continues as path. Cross drive to Worsteds Farm and take second turning r. through wood to Mills’s Rocks (smaller scale than Stone Rocks and more overgrown). Thence several paths to Ashurst Wood, 11/2m altogether.

Other Walks Sections of the former Three Bridges - East Grinstead - Tunbridge Wells railway have been made into public bridleways, avoiding traffic and buildings; leaflets have been published on both. Forest Way leaves Lewes Road at the relief road roundabout for Brambletye Castle and Forest Row. Worth Way leaves the upper car park at the station for Crawley Down, passing Imberhorne 1808-11 and Gullege c. 1574. Both are part of the national cycle-way from Gatwick to Dover.

Full details of walks in the surrounding countryside will be found in H. Longley-Cook, Walks on Ashdown Forest, Ashdown Rambling Club, Twenty short Circular Walks around East Morris Dancers in the quadrangle of Sackville CollegeGrinstead and S. Martin, Walks in the Western High Weald, Walking Ashdown Forest and East Grinstead Millennium Walks. Ordnance Survey Explorer map 18 covers the area.

Standen One and a half miles S.W. of the Church is Standen, built 1891-1894 by Philip Webb and retaining William Morris wallpapers and textiles and contemporary fittings. A house of c.1450 is incorporated in the complex, which belongs to the National Trust and is a grade 1 listed building. The main house and gardens, listed as of national importance, are open to the public from April to October, Weds, Thurs, Sat, Sun and Bank Holiday afternoons, and there is a restaurant. There are superb views over the Medway. The name Standen is found in Domesday Book, when it applied to a homestead further south, and is pronounced with the stress on the last syllable, like many local place-names. Guidebook on sale. Tel: 323029.

North End and Felbridge Most of Felbridge is a modern village in Surrey (shop, public-house, school and church) but parts are in East Grinstead adjoining the mainly residential district known as North End, built up during the C19 as the Common, which ran from the boundary to about Moat Road, was enclosed. North End has shops, hotel, public open space, Imberhorne and Birches Light Industrial Estates and Imberhorne School Upper School (1959 and later). (13/4m N.W. of town centre)

Baldwins Hill Baldwins Hill is a residential area of Lingfield Road which once straddled the county boundary but is now wholly within East Grinstead, retaining a school (1898 and later) and public house with cottages and roads characteristic of settlements on the edge of commons. (11/4m. N.W. of town centre).

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this publication and the statements contained herein are believed to be correct, the publishers and promoters cannot accept responsibility for any inaccuracies. Reproduction of any part of this publication in any format, without permission, is strictly forbidden.
Title shows: Sackville College, 400 years old this year, painted by A. E. Henderson in 1941. (East Grinstead Town Museum,
reproduced with permission).