Earlye Farm and the Iron Industry

A guided walk on Saturday, 8th April 2017

Earlye Farm lies to the northwest of Wadhurst, between the A267 Mayfield Road and the B2099 from where it is accessed via Riverhall Hill/Partridges Lane.   The heart of the ancient farmhouse dates back to the 1500s although it is recorded that a building existed on the site a couple of centuries earlier.   The land comprises hilly wooded country with steep slopes, evidence of harder stone beneath, down to the stream that crosses the farm and pasture occupying flatter areas indicating softer rock on the higher ground.

The group of WHS members met our hosts Bill and Celia Gingell beside the house on a glorious April afternoon.   We were introduced to John Freake our geological expert, who with Bill, was to lead the walk and show us the landscape with the surface alterations made along the line of the stream stemming from the Iron Industry which flourished in pockets of East Sussex and Kent up to around 400 hundred years ago.   The party 18 strong plus one black Labrador set off with our attention immediately drawn to an open bank at the back of the farm buildings nearby where different layers of sedimentary rock were visible such as Wadhurst Clay and Hastings Sand and it is these layers where lumps of iron ore could be found.   As we headed down the slope to the main woodland below, a marshy area was pointed out on the edge of the field with its tell-tale reed-like grasses. The trees in the wood were just beginning to show green and underfoot a carpet of wild garlic was on the cusp of bursting into flower with the odd bluebell already showing.   The first bowl shaped depression, an open cast mine pit resulting from the quarrying of the old ironworkers, was immediately visible inside the wood and in its puddles could be seen a shimmer of oil and associated orange algae.   Down in the stream below shale was exposed alongside the water essentially following a fracture line.   Further east downstream a dam had once been constructed to provide a large hammer-pond to power the waterwheel lifting the hammer, the stones forming the original dam wall still visible albeit now breached.   Although nothing remains of the actual furnace construction, a fallen tree revealed slag, vitrified cinder like heavy shiny coal, from it tossed to one side nearby.   On the far side of the field above the stream at the top of slope, where today a small herd of grazing cows with calves kept an eye on us, lay the remains of a tree lined rural lane which once carried the charcoal from Nap Wood to Lightlands and Furnace Wood for the ironworks below.   As we climbed back up from the bottom of the slope in the peace of a perfect spring afternoon, it was difficult to imagine the noise and mess that the original activity must have engendered down there!   We followed another deep worn track lined with trees back up to the farm road, the only users now perhaps from the badger sett nearby along with a herd of 30 plus fallow deer visible in a field across the valley.

Once back at the farmhouse garden after our two hour tromp, we gratefully made use of all the garden chairs laid out for us in the sunshine and enjoyed a delicious tea of hot cross buns and a fantastic selection of cakes kindly made by Celia.   A memorable and instructive afternoon.   Thanks to Martin Turner for organising it.

12th April 2017

Alison Weir

Alison Weir is one of Britain’s top historians and and is coming to Wadhurst in November to give a talk on the subject of Katherine Swynford: John of Gaunt’s Scandalous Duchess.

Alison Weir

She is a highly respected London born and bred historian who became interested in history at a very early age.  Originally Alison intended to become a history teacher but quickly became disillusioned with the profession. She had always been a keen writer but before her first book, Britain’s Royal Families, was published in 1989 she worked as a Civil Servant, a full time housewife bringing up two children and ran her own school for children with learning difficulties. Much of the research for this book was undertaken while she was still a teenager which was also true of her second book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and some of her novels.

More books followed in the 1990’s including The Princes in the Tower, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses,  Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII,  Elizabeth the Queen,  Eleanor of Aquitaine and By the Wrath of God, Queen of England. By the turn of the century Alison had become one of Britain’s top historians and many more books were to follow including the publication of her first novel, Innocent Traitor in 2006.  By this time her books were being published in the USA and many other countries around the world and translations were available in Spanish, French, Italian and even Russian and Korean, to name but a few.

A full list of her publications can be found on her website by clicking here. She claims to be a “popular” historian which does not mean that her material is not meticulously researched, but that it is written in an easy to read style so Wadhurst is in for a real treat this autumn.

Her talk will be held in Wadhurst Parish Church commencing at 7.30pm on Saturday 18th November 2017 and the tickets, which cost £10, will go on sale at Carillon Cottage from 25th September. Further information can be obtained by calling 01892 783455.

8th February 2017

Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

This summer’s excursion took place on Saturday, 4th June to Chichester Cathedral’s Flower Festival, held every two years.   A well filled coach left 2016-6-4 18 Tumbleweed Explosionpunctually from outside the Greyhound with members of the History Society and their friends on the two hour journey.   Arriving at our destination we joined the enthusiastic queue and handed in our tickets in exchange for a stamp on our wrists allowing us to re-enter as many times as we wished.   Most set off for the refreshment marquee and enjoyed a coffee before heading back into the Cathedral for the main attraction.   The entire building was awash with colour and an indescribable waft of fragrance from thousands of flowers arranged in a myriad of designs echoing the theme of the Festival: The Artist’s Palette.   Some arrangements echoed works in the cathedral such as an oil of John IMG_1222the Baptist whilst others simply used the style of famous painters as inspiration.   A flow of red calla lilies in a side chapel honouring a Sussex battalion owed not a little to the now famous cascade of red poppies at the tower of London in 2014.   Another chapel paid homage to the exquisite illuminated books of the medieval monks whilst nearby a bank of Van Gogh’s sunflowers framed a scene showing the artist at work amidst the scenery of the south of France.   Hanging in a line way above our heads between the aisle columns were a line of giant ‘tumbleweed’ heads made of brushwood, shaded through a delicate mauve to burnt orange and silver white.   A stunning display.   In the background we were entertained to a beautifully judged 2016-6-4 10 Rings at Chichesterprogramme of music featuring a wide range of musicians.

During the morning the early overcast sky gradually lifted and by lunchtime the sun was breaking through and it was warm enough to eat outside on the terrace or the gardens of the cathedral café. In a corner there the RSPB had set up a viewing site to watch the Peregrine Falcons nesting on a turret at the base of the spire.   Although many returned to the Nave for a rather less crowded second viewing, there was plenty of opportunity to visit the plant, flower and craft markets sited within the grounds as well as an exhibition in the cloisters of striking small bronzes by the renowned sculptor Philip Jackson.   There was even time to do a bit of retail shopping or go for a walk through the beautiful Bishop’s Palace gardens before our coach appeared on schedule to collect us for the return journey after a memorable day.

4th June 2016

Wadhurst History Society Publications

2015 was a very busy year for the Society. A three day exhibition in August featuring the two World Wars saw the launch its latest book Wadhurst’s Black Sunday. The book deals with the Battle of Aubers Ridge when 25 of its young men were killed or mortally wounded in just a few hours on 9th May 1915. The town lost nearly one in five of its men proportionally higher than almost any other town or village in the country.

The Society also recently published a second edition of Alan Savidge and Oliver Mason’s classic Wadhurst – Town of the High Weald. This charts the history of the town from the Norman Conquest to the present day. More information on these two book and all the Society’s publications can be found here.

4th February 2016

More on the Bocking Collection

WHS Committee member Rachel Ring and Chairman Heather Woodward have already cataloged almost 600 photographs from the Bocking Collection giving each a title and an identity and, together with other long standing Wadhurst residents, they have spent a great deal of time identifying as many as possible of the people and places featured in the photos.

Brief summaries of some of these have already been added to our website and can be viewed from the main menu tab “Bocking” and then clicking on “Index Cards”. From time to time, as work progresses, more will be added until the whole collection has been cataloged.

The index card number identifies the file in which each photograph (or other piece of history) is stored. All the names and places which have been positively identified are being entered into our database. By doing a simple search it will therefore eventually be possible to find every reference to any particular person or place contained within the collection.

To store and preserve these valuable documents the Society has purchased several hundred pounds worth of museum quality stationery. As cataloging continues more equipment and stationery will be needed and so the Society is continually looking at further fund raising activities to enable the necessary purchases to be made and your support for these events would be much appreciated. You can check out future events here.

25th March 2015

Bocking Collection Update


The Bocking Collection

Following the Parish Council’s recent decision on the future of the Collection it has now been moved to the Wadhurst History Centre. Resplendent in a new coat of fireproof paint the cabinets are now housed in the Tabard Room and the work to index and scan the collection will start shortly. Due to its complexity this task is expected to take many many months and probably years to complete but in the meantime a number of items from the collection will be on display in the Commemoration Hall at the History Society exhibition in August next year.

(20th November 2014)

Wadhurst Town of the High Weald

Long out of print, Alan Savidge and Oliver Mason’s classic history of Wadhurst has been updated and reprinted by the Wadhurst History Society and is now on sale. The ideal Christmas present for anyone with an interest in the history of this bustling town in the High Weald. Find out more here

(16th November 2014)

Bocking Collection

At its October meeting we are pleased to report the Wadhurst Parish Council recommended that the Bocking Collection should be housed in the Wadhurst History Centre.  Over time this will allow the collection to be indexed by definition of content and our team will endeavour to identify as many as possible of the people and places featured in the many photographs.  This information will be stored digitally in a searchable form providing an extensive database of local history for future generations and from time to time it is planned to hold exhibitions making extensive use of material from the collection.

More on Charlie Bocking, and the current catalogue of his collection, can be viewed by clicking on the “Bocking” tab in the main menu.

(10th October 2014)

Wealden Iron Research Group

The Wealden Iron Research Group would like to invite members of the Wadhurst History Society to their Summer Meeting at the Ticehurst Village Hall on Saturday 12th of July from 10.30am.- 4.00pm.

Pashley Furnace and Forge site

Pashley Furnace and Forge site

There will be talks about the work done at Robertsbridge Abbey Furnace and Forge, albeit in the early stages and a brief introduction to the extensive Pashley Blast Furnace and Forge Site, which will be the focus of an afternoon visit, weather permitting – stout footwear advised.

Entry is free but please reserve your place with Honorary Secretary Judie English at  or by phoning 01483 276724. If you require lunch it must be booked by 4th July and costs £10. Alternatively bring a packed lunch. New members are always welcome – more information here

Pashley Furnace and Forge site plan

World War One Guided Walk around Wadhurst

memorialThe History Society will be organising a series of short walks around Wadhurst in memory of the men from the village who died in the 1st World War. The walks will start at the war memorial and then move on to Hill House which became a hospital during the great war.   The site of the Pilbeam’s forge in St James Square is visited next and the walk will conclude at The Parish Church.

It will cost £5, will last approximately 45 minutes and will be followed by tea and a slice of cake in the Wadhurst History Centre.

Walks are scheduled to take place on Tuesday 24th June, Friday 4th July, Friday 18th July and Tuesday 22nd July and it is possible that, due to the high demand, further dates maybe arranged. If you would like to join one of these walks please contact Rachel Ring on 01892 783455.


World War 1 – BBC Radio Sussex Feature, Friday 8th August 2014

With the 100th anniversary of World War One approaching our thoughts turn more and more to those dreadful days.  The assassination on 28th June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie at Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip was the catalyst that started a chain of events that astonishingly quickly resulted in war. The assassinations lead Austria-Hungary, which had annexed Bosnia in 1908 and where many Serbians lived, to issue Serbia on 23rd July 1914 with a series of largely unreasonable demands some of which were rejected. Following these rejections, knowing that Germany would support them,  Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia on 28th July.  Soon afterwards Russia and Austria-Hungary ordered full mobilisation and Belgium, France and Germany followed suit on 1st August.

Britain with its relatively small army,  which was largely focused on its role in the Empire, had hoped to remain a spectator to the events unfolding in Europe but then Germany declared war on both France and Belgium.  Britain swiftly demanded their withdrawal but when the ultimatum was ignored the United Kingdom was left with little choice and declared war against Germany on 4th August 1914.

Britain lost 702,410 servicemen during the war.  This represented 8.4% of the servicemen involved and although terrible was only half the figure of 16.4% suffered by the French.  The UK’s population at the time was around 45.75 million so 1.54% of the total population were killed compared with the French figure of 3.7%.  Wadhurst by comparison lost 149 men out of a total of 3500 or 4.3% of its population, shockingly nearly three times the national figure.

The 9th May 1915 was probably the worst day in Wadhurst’s long history for by 1130am twenty five of its young men serving with the Royal Sussex Regiment lay dead or mortally injured on the fields of Aubers Ridge in France. Why did so many men from one village die together?  The answer lay with British Army policy which at the time posted men from the same area and with a similar background to the same regiment.  It was  believed that they would benefit from a natural bond which would result in improved morale and so help them to fight better and endure the hardships of war more easily.  And so it was that these young Wadhurst men were all together in a regiment which suffered horrendous casualties – the policy was later abandoned.

In August BBC Radio Sussex (104.5) will feature this awful event and has recorded interviews for it in both Wadhurst and Aubers as well as in London. Precise timings are not yet available but the broadcasts will take place on Friday 8th August so don’t miss it – we will publish the exact times when known.

Wadhurst History Centre Opening Hours

The Wadhurst History Centre,  located off the path to the Public Library to the left of the Commemoration Hall, is now open to visitors every Tuesday from 10.00 to 12.30.  With assistance from our volunteers you will be able to delve into the area’s past, find photos of historic events and people,  listen to oral history interviews and much more. Why not pay us a visit very soon?

 “Shale Gas and Fracking” in  Wadhurst?

There will be a public meeting on the  28th March to discuss the subject. It will be held in the Uplands Community College between 7.30 and 9.30 pm. The guest speakers will be Keith Taylor MEP South East, Dr Jennifer Huggett-Geologist, and Balcombe Residents. After questions a film entitled The Truth Behind the Dash for Gas will be shown

 Wadhurst Weather Forecast

Did you know that the Met Office now produces an hour by hour forecast for the Wadhurst area for up to two days ahead. This forecast is very accurate, is highly recommended, and can be viewed from the Wadhurst History Society’s main menu by clicking on ‘Wadhurst Weather’ or alternatively by clicking here. A further period of up to three days ahead is covered at intervals of 3 hours but the site has much else to offer. For example, if you  are planning a holiday, you can research the weather to expect by clicking on the Holiday Weather tab or for the more scientifically minded there is a wealth of information about climates and climate change by clicking on the Climate Guide tab.

Projection Equipment

Last year, thanks to a couple of very generous donations, the Society was able to buy a modern projector and a professional quality lapel microphone. This year it has been able to improve further its projection capability with the purchase of a laptop computer and we would like to thank the Wadhurst Parish Council for a generous grant which made this possible.  We are now able to provide visiting speakers with all the equipment that they are likely to need.

Wadhurst Parish Church

Martin Turner’s recent talk entitled “The History of St Peter and St Paul Church, Wadhurst” provided a fascinating insight to the development of this beautiful church from its Norman origins up to the present day. To read a report of his talk click here.

Glyndebourne: Behind- the-Scenes

Recently a small group from the Wadhurst History Society were lucky enough to be able to join a Behind-the-Scenes tour of Glyndebourne. Highly recommended: if you would like to read more about it click Glyndebourne Tour

The Last Great Prize Fight

The 10th December 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the last great prize fight to take place in Britain.   John Carmel Heenan, an American born in New York, challenged the British champion, Tom King, to a fight which Flattened greyscaleeventually took place in a field at Turners Green on the outskirts of Wadhurst in East Sussex.  In a fascinating booklet,  Michael Insley describes the fight and the events leading up to it. Chapter one begins:

 “At 6.15 a.m. on the morning of Thursday 10th December 1863 a train pulled out of London Bridge Station. It had thirty carriages and was filled with 800 passengers. Each one had paid three guineas for a ticket. Where were they going? The destination was printed on the ticket and stated ‘To Nowhere’.

The train was on time yet already two days late, but there were problems. Because the passengers were going to be engaged in an illegal activity …….”

If you would like to find out more about Michael Insley’s booklet click here.

 Are you related to or do you know someone else who is related to anyone who served in the Forces during the 1st World War?

The Wadhurst History Society would like to find out as much as possible about these men (and one woman) in order to find material for research in the future. The Society also hopes to be able to publish in May 2015 a book to mark the Centenary of the Battle of Aubers Ridge. How did Wadhurst respond to the news from abroad during those fateful years? Do you have any photographs which we could scan? Wadhurst is receiving interest from various media because it was a community which lost a large number of men in proportion to its size. The effect on the town must have been considerable, not only during the War itself but also in the years that followed. Please will you help us learn more about Wadhurst and its past?

If you can help in any way, please contact Heather Woodward on 01892 783212 or fill in the Contact Form above.

Pre-1920 Houses

Wadhurst has many beautiful ancient houses dating back many hundreds of years. With ever increasing fuel prices there is a great temptation to rush into trying to insulate them better. But beware, costly damage can result from  insulating these buildings using modern conventional techniques and materials. Should you be thinking of taking steps to improve your pre-1920 house it is essential that you take specialist advice and a good starting point would be to listen to this interview with Douglas Kent from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

If time is of the essence you can read a transcript of the interview here. More detailed information and advice is available on the SPAB website

Bletchley Park

The recent visit to Bletchley Park was a great success.  They are in the middle of a major development programme and if you were unable to join us but would like to learn more about it, and much else, you can do so by visiting their website by clicking here.

A number of books  have been written about the history of Bletchley Park and the amazing code breaking activities which took place there and which were so vital to the allies during the second world war. Our excellent guide, Philomena Liggins, has studied most of these and her reviews can be found at  Books on Bletchley Park together with details of the two historical novels she has written based on wartime Bletchley Park

Request for Information from Brian Terry formerly of Walters Cottages, Wadhurst about the Ward Family who lived at Best Beech

Brian Terry grew up at Walters Cottages, Lower High Street, Wadhurst, during the last war. His father was in the Naval Reserve and Brian, together with his mother and sister, was evacuated to a house at St. Ives in Cornwall sometime between 1943 and 1944. He spent about 18 months there and attended a local school.

The Ward family, from Best Beech, Wadhurst, were also evacuated to the house around the same time and Brian is keen is keen to find out what happened to them. The daughters names were Jean and Joan and they had a brother, Sidney.  All were a few years older than him.

If you have any information about the Ward family or any other families from Wadhurst who were evacuated during the war Val Tunbridge would very much like to hear from you.  She can be reached using the Contact Form above.