Blounts of Imberhorne

Blounts of Imberhorne

Fully illustrated copies of this document are available to purchase by contacting us

The Blounts of Imberhorne was originally written in 1997 by John Smith who acquired a keen interest in the Blount family and the history of Imberhorne after moving to a property built on the lands of the former Imberhorne estate.  The resulting book sold well and when stocks sold out there began a steadily growing request for a re-print.  In early 2005, John Smith approached the Felbridge and District History Group and suggested that we might like to take on the project to produce an up-dated version of the book.  This we readily agreed to do as we had carried out much in depth research into the farm at Imberhorne, the old and new farmhouses and their neighbouring property of Gullege, once part of the Blount estate. 

The decision was taken to use the original text supplied by John Smith combined with the findings from our research to make slight modifications and amendments only where necessary, for example the precise date of construction for the properties associated with the manor of Imberhorne.  Our intention was not to overly expand the original text as the results of our researches are readily available in a series of Fact Sheets or on our web site, which include: Gullege, Alfrey of Sussex [the owners and builders of Gullege], The Farm at Imberhorne, Imberhorne Old Farmhouse and Imberhorne New Farmhouse.

We also decided that the document would be illustrated using some of the photographs that have been donated to the Felbridge Archive, these include a collection of photographs relating to the Blount’s family home, Imberhorne Manor, donated by David Kirk, Imberhorne Farm and workers in the 1950’s donated Marilyn and Brian Emmett the current owners of Imberhorne Farm, a very old photograph of Sir Edward Charles Blount donated by Sir Walter Blount and several photographs featured in the East Grinstead Courier.

We hope the resulting document is true to the original intent of John Smith and that this long overdue re-print will enlighten a whole new generation of people to the Imberhorne area.

Stephonie J Clarke
Archivist for the Felbridge and District History Group



As a resident of the Imberhorne Housing Estate since 1988, I resolved, when opportunity presented, to compile the various snippets of information I had heard (or read) regarding the Blount family, Imberhorne Manor and Farm. 

The work however would not have been possible without recognition of the courtesy and willing assistance of a host of people, but I must record particular thanks to: the Sir W.E.A. Blount, Brian Emmett, Albert Gladman, Win Simmons, George Taylor, Ethel Tullett, Peggy and Rodney Wells, and Patrick Wood. 

I also record my sincere thanks to the many archivists, librarians and keepers of records, who provided valued assistance on my request, the British Red Cross Society, East Grinstead Library, East Grinstead Town Museum, East Sussex Records Office at Lewes and West Sussex Records Office at Chichester.

J G Smith

As a member of the Felbridge and District History Group, I would like to thank John Smith for allowing us to up-date and re-publish his original work, as well as giving me the opportunity to reminisce, as I was born and grew up in the shadow of the Blount estate shortly after its sale in the mid 1950’s.  I would also like to acknowledge the help given by Sir Walter Blount (who sadly passed away in the winter of 2004/5), Marilyn and Brian Emmett for their full support for everything we do to help provide more information about the history of their farm, and all the people who have given their memories and photographs of the Imberhorne area to the Felbridge Archive.

Stephonie J Clarke





The Blounts of Imberhorne

April 1877, ‘Mr Edward C Blount CB, Banker and former British Consul in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, has expressed interest in a small estate near East Grinstead’, North Sussex Gazette.  

Thus began an association of the Blount [pronounced Blunt] family and Imberhorne estate that lasted for almost eighty years.

East Grinstead

East Grinstead, discovered by the Anglo-Saxons one thousand years ago, was a Pocket Borough that returned two Members of Parliament in medieval times and today is recognised as the attractive gateway to the beautiful counties of East and West Sussex.  Built high above sea-level, the town has a commanding view of Ashdown Forest and the undulating pastoral and wooded countryside of the border counties of Kent and Surrey.

The South Saxons first invaded Sussex in the 5th century and the chief evidence of their early settlements are Anglo-Saxon place names.  One such group discovered the clearing on a high setting plateau of sandstone, which they named Grenestede, meaning ‘green place’ (in the Forest).

As time passed, the little community grew in size and importance.  For many years it became the personal possession of the Kings of England and was styled the Manor of Grenestede.  It did not however remain long in ‘splendid isolation’ the uncultivated land which surrounded it was divided up into manors (holdings) and given by King Edward to his favourite followers.  A few are recorded in the Domesday Survey, which was compiled by the Normans in 1086, soon after their conquest of England.  Other holdings or estates were formed as the years passed but without manorial rights, until Est-Grenestede, (to separate it from West-Grenestede) was completely encircled.

In due course, the surrounding estates had a vital bearing on the history of East Grinstead.  It became the centre to which estate owners sent their servants for merchandise, their horses to be shod, their cattle and sheep to be bought or sold at the weekly market.  It was to East Grinstead they came to hire agricultural labourers, builders, wheelwrights, farm workers and sundry domestic servants.  Meanwhile the townspeople engaged in trade, kept livestock on the common and farmed a few nearby fields.

In the year 1600, East Grinstead was described as ‘a very good towne’ and it continued to flourish as an important post and assize centre, until the end of the 18th century.  There was however, no dominant local industry.  Iron working that had flourished during the 14th to 16th centuries died out, to be replaced by cloth and leatherworkers, as well as the more specialised trades of a town and the usual professional men.  Its many inns and taverns enjoyed ‘good business’, being an ideal midway point between London and the Sussex coast ports.  However, the rise of Brighton as a fashionable seaside resort demanded a more direct route avoiding East Grinstead.  This led to a decline in the town’s importance and the number of persons engaged in a variety of trades.

The opening of the London to Brighton South Coast Railway via Three Bridges near Crawley in 1841 isolated the town further.  But, a local enterprise for a branch line from Three Bridges to East Grinstead in 1855 put the town on the map again.  Many public improvements have been initiated in the years since and, following the opening of a more direct line to London, several public and private house building programmes were undertaken.  Recently there has been a marked growth in light industry and more houses to accommodate the growing population, with yet more proposed for the future.  This in turn has often meant purchasing land from former large estates or manors to meet the demand.

Since the days of the Saxon settlements and the smaller areas formed manors, the chief landowner was generally acknowledged the Lord of the Manor and, together with his Steward, held regular Manor Courts that regulated the affairs of his domain.  Until the 15th century manorial custom ruled absolute but although the outward form persisted for many centuries after the real power had declined.  It is therefore interesting to note that in 1883 a Court Leet (a guarantee of mutual trust between the Manor Lord and his Tenant) was held at the Crown Hotel, East Grinstead, by the Trustees of the Sackville Estates.  The only tenant who put in an appearance to do homage and be sworn in on the silver rods was Mr Head of Kingscote Nursery.  He paid a penny and had a glass of whisky and a cigar in return.  The final demise of the manorial court system came in May 1935 when a Court Baron (an assembly of freehold tenants) for the Manor of Imberhorne was held at the Dorset Arms.  No tenants put in an appearance although it satisfied the upholders of the laws of the land.  It was also the last Court Baron held in Sussex, for nationwide, all were to cease at the end of that year.


The earliest documented reference to Imberhorne seems to be 1108, when it was confirmed in a Charter to be [a manor] in possession of the Priory of St Pancras, Lewes, Sussex, which had been established by Earl William de Warrene in 1078.

Although not listed as a Manor under Grenestede Hundred in the Domesday Book there is no doubt Hymberhorn/Imberhorn/Imberhorne existed as a land grant.  It also adjoined the known Domesday holdings of Warlege, Hazelden and Healdelye (Hurley).  It had been suggested that the grant possibly related to the half-hide (between 30 and 60 acres) of land that was occupied by Geoffrey de Canon in 1086, being listed under the manor of Sedlescombe.  This half-hide was thought to be the same half-hide of land called Imberhorne that passed to Lefsi before being given to Lewes Priory by William Malfeld in about 1100.  However, in recent years a re-evaluation of the available evidence has suggested that Imberhorne may have formed part of the lost manor of Felsmere that appears in the Doomsday Book as one and half-hides (between 90 and 180 acres) of land held in the Grenestede Hundred, which was held by the Count of Mortain.  Although it has been suggested that Imberhorne was the lost manor of Felsmere there is a large discrepancy in the size, Imberhorne being half a hide and Felsmere one and a half.  It has now been proposed that Healdelye (Hurley) formed the remaining one hide, which was later given to Lewes Priory, between 1103 and 1106, by the Count of Mortain. 

At the time of the monastic Dissolution of 1537, Imberhorne, now large and important, was granted by Henry VIII to Thomas, Lord Cromwell, (the Vicar-General).  A few years later it came by exchange into the hands of William, Earl of Arundel, who held it for a decade before granting it to the Crown for other lands.  In 1560 it was purchased by Sir Thomas Sackville of Buckhurst, residing at Withyham in Sussex.  This large landowner, elected MP for East Grinstead, commissioned a survey (terrier) made of all his lands in Kent and Sussex in 1597/8.  The Buckhurst Terrier, as it is known, contains manorial details and maps and shows the boundaries of Imberhorne are virtually identical to those shown in the later Tithe map of 1841.

In 1567 Sir Thomas was raised to the degree and dignity of Baron of the Realm, with the title Lord Buckhurst, Baron of Buckhurst and the 1st Earl of Dorset.  For over two centuries, Imberhorne [Manor] remained in possession of succeeding Earls of Dorset.  On the death of the 5th Earl, and in the absence of a male heir, the title became extinct.  Consequently following the demise of Arabella Diana Whitmore, the Dowager Duchess of Dorset, in 1825, all the Sackville estates were inherited by her two daughters, namely Mary, Countess Plymouth (died l864 without heirs) and Elizabeth, Countess de la Warr.

The Countess de la Warr had married in 1813, George John West, 5th Earl de la Warr, who assumed by Royal Licence (1834) the surname of Sackville before West.  In 1864, Lady de la Warr was created Baroness Buckhurst for life, with a special proviso that the Barony and the Earldom of De la Warr should not be held by the same person.  The 5th Earl de la Warr, who also held the courtesy title of Viscount Cantelupe, died in 1869, to be succeeded by his eldest son, Major-General Charles Richard Sackville-West, the 6th Earl de la Warr.

In 1872, the estate of Imberhorne, then consisting of 553 acres (as apart from the manor of Imberhorne), was sold by the Trustees as a settlement of the family estates.  In other words it was sold for the benefit of a younger brother of the 6th Earl, the Rev Reginald Windsor Sackville-West (then Lord Buckhurst, former Rector of Withyham and later 7th Earl de la Warr) to Dr Thomas Fielden Campbell for £14,000 with £2,500 additional for timber, but retained manorial rights. 

For centuries the insignificant Imberhorne fields, with abundant woods, were tilled by ‘free’ peasants or servile tenant farmers, following the orders given by the manor Lord or owner’s Steward.  However, the growth in the number of East Grinstead townspeople and the importance of trade itself during the 17th and 18th centuries led to field enclosures and necessary increase in food and fodder production.  Consequently it would appear that the Sackville’s considered Imberhorne a rising and perhaps important farm of their many Sussex estates.

It was after the death of George Sackville, 4th Duke of Dorset that major improvements to the farm were made under the direction of his mother Arabella Diana Whitworth, Duchess of Dorset (widow of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset).  Between 1808 and 1811 a large three-storey Georgian-style brick house with three bays, the centre bay slightly projecting and carrying a modified form of pediment, was constructed for the Estate Bailiff/Steward and is today recognised as a Grade II Listed building.  It was erected a few yards east of an older farmhouse that had been built as a hammer-beamed, timber-framed manor house in 1428, with its outer walls now in brick and hung tiles.  Although this property suffered extensive damage from a lightning strike in 1926, the remaining hammer-beam and decorative fret work is of national importance and deserves to be listed. 

Nearby there is a row of mid 19th century terraced cottages that now lead to two land drainage ponds.  Originally the ponds were one ancient feature being mentioned in 1296 when the Vicar of East Grinstead was accused of and fined for fishing the pond without the permission of the then owner, the Prior of St Pancras, Lewes.  However, under the ownership of the Blount’s, the pond was enlarged and landscaped creating the two ponds.  Completing the group of buildings at Imberhorne Farm is a large enclosed stable quadrangle, with its inner walls housing covered pens, stalls, sties and storage bins.   In the 1851 Census, it is recorded that Imberhorne Farm employed a Bailiff (Overlooker) and six labourers, presumably permanent.  Other workers would be hired on a daily basis as required.  The Census also records workers cottages in Chapman’s Lane (formerly known as Imberhorne Lane). 

In 1853, following an agreement with many other local landowners, the Earl de la Warr consented to sell an approximate 2,500yd by 10yd (2308m by 9.5m) strip of Imberhorne land to the East Grinstead Railway Company, for the construction of a railway line between Three Bridges and East Grinstead.  The line, which in fact bi-sected the Imberhorne estate, was first proposed in 1845 but it was not until eight years later, as a result of local initiative, that it came to fruition at a cost of £53,000. 

The system became operative in July 1855 following an agreement with the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Company to provide the railway stock.  A decade later the LB & SC Railway Company acquired the whole system by taking over the debenture debt of £10,000 and returning £43,000 to the original shareholders.

There were two official halts, Rowfant Station (1855) and Grange Road Station (1860).  However, at the insistence of Earl de La Warr’s agent, a siding was also constructed near Imberhorne Farm for loading and/or unloading produce or for passengers to alight.  The formation of the Southern Railway in 1923, had little effect on the line, but when the transition to British Rail took place in 1948, the Company decided to demolish the Imberhorne Siding on the grounds it was rarely used.  However, Mr Edward Blount, having consulted his deeds, forced British Rail to reinstate the siding and emphasised the point by ordering fifty tons of basic slag to be delivered to his farm by rail.  Four years later, British Rail obtained Parliamentary Authority for its closure.  The line itself was finally closed in 1966 under the ‘Beeching Plan’ and the rails, sleepers etc, removed.  The route was subsequently purchased by the West Sussex County Council, and became known as the Worth Way for use by walkers, cyclists and equestrian traffic.

When Thomas Fielden Campbell purchased the Imberhorne estate in 1872, it had reached a point where agriculture was in decline and trees were no longer required to build naval ships or provide fuel for industry.  Landlords and farmers who had no wish to divorce themselves from the soil, suffered and complained in vain, for the government of the day was saturated with the Free Trade doctrine and believed that if agriculture went under in free competition with the overseas imports other industries would gain proportionately.

As a class, agricultural labourers and woodmen were accustomed to the idea of leaving the land.  Moreover they knew more about the town, its opportunities and the wages it offered.  Consequently several large estates, usually owned by the ruling class, were sold off in ‘parcels’ to land speculators or recent wealthy middle-class businessmen anxious to express themselves in large country houses on landscaped parkland.

Thomas Fielden Campbell, the new owner of Imberhorne, appears to have played little part in the farming side of the estate, allowing his tenant farmer ‘free rein’ in cultivating the soil, producing crops and raising livestock, whilst he and his family occupied the nearby three-storey Georgian house previously occupied by the Earl de la Warr’s bailiff.  Instead, he turned his attention to organising the construction of a moderate-sized house on a hillock overlooking rolling parkland on the south side of Imberhorne/Chapmans Lane.  Four years later it was advertised as a ‘bijou residence’ set within three acres of parkland, to let or for sale. 

Thomas Campbell had been born on 19th September 1832 in Everton, Lancashire, the son of Daniel and Anna Maria Campbell.  Daniel Campbell appears to have held a senior position in the very successful cotton merchants, Fielden Brothers of Liverpool and Manchester.  Thomas Fielden Campbell and his wife Agnes had at least three children, a son Harold, and two daughters Augusta and Evelyn, the family living in the Manchester area before purchasing Imberhorne.  The purchase appears to have been a speculative venture into the property market as five years later, having built a ‘country gentleman’s’ house on the park side of the estate, Thomas Campbell leased, then sold the house and estate to Mr Edward Charles Blount KCB for a sum believed to be in excess of £23,000.  The Campbell family then took up residence at 26 Devonshire Place, Marylebone in London, where in 1881, Thomas was recorded as ‘deriving income from dividends’, implying that he, like his father before him, was also a very wealthy man.  It is not known whether Thomas Campbell moved into any other speculative property ventures but it seems unlikely as he died in the September quarter of 1888 in Marylebone, aged just fifty-five. 

Although not apparent that Thomas Fielden Campbell was associated in any capacity with the building trade, his name nevertheless was honoured by A J Wait & Co (House builders) when constructing the Imberhorne Residential estate in 1956.

Blount Family Lineage

The Blounts’ trace their origin to the Le Blounds’, Counts of Guisnes, in Picardy, France.  Count Raoul de Guisnes was head of the family when William of Normandy invaded England, and he and his three sons accompanied the Conqueror.  One son returned to France, but the other two, Sir Robert and Sir William Le Blound settled in England, and it is from them the Blounts’ in this country are descended.

Many members of the family were Knights, but the first Baronet, Walter, was created by Charles I in 1642.  He assumed the title ‘of Soddington, Worcestershire, and Mawley, Shropshire’.  A proud boast of the family is that throughout the vicissitudes of centuries it has remained loyal to the Roman Catholic faith.  Sir Walter Blount, 1st Baronet, was an ardent Cavalier, suffering severely in the Royal cause, being imprisoned first at Oxford, and afterwards in the Tower of London.  His estates were ordered to be sequestered in 1652, and he died two years later.  On the accession of Charles II in 1660, the Blount lands and titles were restored.

Sir Walter Kirkham Blount, 3rd Bt, was Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1687 and Sir Walter Blount, 6th Bt, was High Sheriff of the same county in 1835.  In 1978 the title descended to Sir Walter Edward Alpin (Jasper) Blount, 12th Bt, of Tilkhurst, East Grinstead, Sussex, who succeeded his father Sir Edward Robert Blount on his death.  Sir Walter Blount was born on 31st October 1917, the son of Sir Edward Robert Blount and his wife Violet (née Fowler) whom he had married in 1914.  Sir Walter was educated at Beaumont College and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, gaining an MA in 1943.  He served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves between 1939 and 1947 (DSC and 2 Bars).  In 1950 he qualified as a solicitor, practising on the Gold Coast in West Africa between 1950 and 1952, and in London and Cambridge between 1952 and 1976.  In 1954 he married Eileen Audrey Carritt and they had one daughter, Nicola Jane, in 1955.  In 1978, a distant relative, Sir Walter became a partner with the Blount sisters in managing Tilkhurst Farm, being registered as a farmer, and on the death of Miss Marguerite, the last Blount sister in 1992, Sir Walter made Tilkhurst his permanent residence until his death on 18th December 2004. 

Sir Edward Charles Blount KCB

Shortly after Edward Blount's sixty-eighth birthday celebration at his Paris home, 59 Rue de Courcelles, an agreement was made with Dr T F Campbell to lease (with option to purchase) Imberhorne House, park and woodland, now increased to 100 acres.  

The banker and promoter of French Railways, was born on 14th March 1809 at the family seat Bellamour near Rugeley, Staffordshire, the second son of Mr Edward Blount (1769-1843) by his wife Frances, daughter of Francis Wright of Fitzwalters, Essex.  In spite of the Catholic fervour of the family, Edward was sent to Rugeley Grammar School, whilst gaining useful knowledge of French from an émigré priest.  He completed his studies at St Mary’s College, Oscott, near Birmingham, a Catholic seat of learning founded in 1794.  Among his many college friends were the Jerningham brothers of his future wife.

After a short experience of commercial life in the London office of the Provincial Bank of Ireland, he entered the Home Office.  In the autumn of 1829, he was appointed Honorary Attaché to the British Embassy, Paris, later transferring to the British Consulate at the Vatican in Rome.  In 1831 he joined the Paris banking firm of Callagan et Cie but with his father’s help started the bank of Edward Blount, Père et Fils in Rue Laffitte.  The venture proved so successful, that he was invited by the French banker Charles Laffitte to form a new merchant bank, Laffitte, Blount et Cie in Rue Basse du Rempart, Paris.

On the 18th November 1834, Edward Blount married the beautiful Gertrude Frances Jerningham, third daughter of the Hon William Jerningham, brother to Lord Stafford, at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Shifnal in Shropshire.  She bore him two sons and three daughters during almost sixty-three years of a happy union.

In 1838 the French government’s attempt to construct railway trunk lines under the control of the state was defeated, thereby allowing the projects open to private enterprise.  Edward Blount, who had contributed several articles on the subject in The Railway Chronicle, offered, through his bank shareholders, to finance construction of a twelve-mile track from Paris to St. Germain-en-Laye.  It was accepted.  Following the opening in July 1840, and flush with its success, Edward Blount offered to finance a line from Paris to Rouen.  His bank would raise two-thirds of the cost through English and French investors, on the French government’s undertaking to provide the remaining third.  It was approved, and the Chemin de fer de l’Ouest Compagnie was formed by Edward Blount who became chairman.

To gain knowledge of railway management and experience in engine driving, Edward Blount spent four months with the London & North Western Railway Company.  Consequently on his return he often drove a train from Paris to his home at St. Germain-en-Laye.  He also arranged for fifty British drivers to work for the French company, which prospered from the first.

In 1845, with Edward Blount’s financial backing, the line from Amiens to Boulogne and, in 1853, the lines from Lyons to Avignon and between Lyons, Macon and Geneva were constructed.  During the period of funding the railway trunk lines, Edward Blount financially assisted King Louis Philippe to escape to England on the outbreak of the 1848 Revolution.  This act may have led to the failure of the bank, though all the creditors were eventually paid in full.

In 1852, aided by several wealthy friends, including Thomas Brassey a leading railway builder and the financiers George Carr-Glyn and Anthony de Rothschild, he started a new merchant banking business under the style Edward Blount et Cie in Rue de la Paix, Paris.  The venture soon prospered, and Edward Blount was invited to act as banker to the Papal government.

After the war of Italian Independence (1859) and the annexation of the Papal States to the new kingdom of Italy, he had the delicate task of arranging the transfer of all financial funds.  At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, and capitulation of Napoleon III at Sedan (September 1870), Edward Blount suspended his bank’s business and transferred it to the Societe Generale of Paris, of which he became President.  When the Prussians threatened to besiege Paris, and all the British Embassy officials had decamped to Tours, Edward Blount took charge of British Interests, being on 24th January 1871, formally appointed Acting British Consul.

During the siege he distributed money and food to large numbers of starving English poor.  Consequently for his services at the Embassy he was made a Commander of the Bath (CB) by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on 14th March 1871.  Lord Malmesbury, speaking of him in the House of Lords, said, ‘his name would be considered noble as long as the history of the siege is recorded’.

In view of banking and railway interests, Edward Blount made frequent visits to London from his new Paris home, 59 Rue de Courcelles.  He was also President of the Compagnie Generale des Eaux, the large water company of Paris, and a Director of the General Credit & Finance Co, (afterwards the Union Discount Co), the London Joint Stock Bank and the Dieppe-Newhaven Shipping Co.

Devoted to the turf he had an interest in the racing stables of the Comte de Lagrange, on whose death he kept a small stable of his own.  He was a member of the French Jockey Club and a reputed ‘good whip’.  A small racehorse breeding stable was later started at Imberhorne using Normandy mares and English stallions.

It was during one of Edward Blount’s frequent visits to London, that he was invited by Sir Joseph Montefiore to his new house, Worth Park, near Crawley, [later becoming Milton Mount College for the daughters of Congregational Ministers, at Pound Hill].  There he met the ebullient and wealthy the Hon Mrs Fanny Charlotte Montgomery of The Elms, on the Horsham side of Crawley, later known as Buckswood Grange.  Mrs Montgomery was the daughter of Baron Leconfield and grand daughter of the Rev William Blunt of Crabbett Park, and an ardent Roman Catholic.  Having mentioned he was seeking to obtain a permanent residence in England, preferably near Newhaven, Mrs Montgomery promised to inform Edward Blount should a suitable property come on the market.  It was several weeks later at his lodgings in Tokenhouse Yard, London, that Edward Blount received a telegram from Mrs Montgomery informing him of a ‘bijou residence’ set in its own parkland, ‘Imberhorne’ near East Grinstead.

Imberhorne comprised a two-storeyed house with jettied gables, rough stone facade, stone mullioned and transomed windows, with wooden dormers in the attic projecting from both sides of the double-pitched slated roofs.  Nearby was a coach-house and stable to accommodate three carriages and four horses.  The grounds comprised lawns and shrubberies, a conservatory with forcing greenhouses and a gardener’s cottage.

Immediately delighted with the house, Edward Blount arranged a contract through his London bank solicitors.  According to Miss Marguerite Blount in a later interview, ‘not only did my great-grandfather admire the house and its surround, but he liked the railway at the bottom of the so-called lawn and bought without telling my great grandmother.  When she arrived to visit she burst into tears because it had no garden’.  Although Imberhorne House [later renamed Imberhorne Manor] with its 100 acres of parkland was on an initial one year lease, it was Henry (Edward Blount’s younger son) who proposed, in October 1877, that they should take up the option to purchase.  Henry Blount also supported the London bank’s proposition that Imberhorne Farm and land (largely self-supporting) should also be acquired following Dr Campbell’s intimation that he was willing to sell.

By January 1878, having purchased the Imberhorne estate, Edward Blount allowed Henry to supervise the modifications to the house and the farm’s future programme and workforce with the newly appointed bailiff.   Within a few weeks, and at the request of their French chef, a larger kitchen and pantry was created at the expense of a reception room.  At the west-end of the house, a room designed as a studio was converted into a private chapel, to which the local Catholic devout were invited. [Further details later]

A decade later the house underwent considerable structural changes.  The east end was extended to provide larger dining, drawing and reception rooms, with a sports den and library on the ground floor.  At the entrance, a magnificent staircase, ‘golden beneath the light from a vast chandelier’, led to the bedrooms, bathrooms, dressing rooms and a nursery (later schoolroom).  In the attic above was bed-sit accommodation for the staff, butler, chef/cook, housekeeper, nursemaid/governess and lady’s maid.  Finally to accommodate the increasing number of Catholic worshippers the chapel was considerably enlarged.  The house also had an enormous cellar for the storage of logs, wine etc, and several years later a coke boiler was installed to provide a ‘not-too-successful’ central heating system. 

From 1878 it was customary for the Blount’s, with a handful of French ‘domestiques’, to take up residence for between six and eight weeks, thrice a year.  The remaining weeks were either spent in Paris or, during the high season, at Biarritz.

On June 15th 1888, it was reported in the London Gazette, that Her Majesty Queen Victoria was pleased to give Orders…. ‘for Edward Blount CB to be conferred a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath’.  It was later reported that if Queen Victoria ‘had her way’, she would have raised him to the Peerage.

Congratulations were received from leading persons, companies and organisations.  Including an illuminated address from the chief inhabitants of East Grinstead:-

‘We, the undersigned, representing the trades and inhabitants generally of East Grinstead, beg to offer you our sincere and hearty congratulations on the distinguished honour conferred upon you by Her Majesty the Queen… in recognition of your work as President of the British Chamber of Commerce and Member of the French Chamber’

Honours had in fact been showered upon him from all sides.  In addition to his English Knighthood, he was a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur and Commander of the Orders of Pius IX, of Isabella of Spain and the Crown of Italy.  He was also awarded with the Grand Cross of Osmanii, Turkey.  In 1889, the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway acknowledged the considerable contribution he had made to the French Railways by naming one of their new class of locomotives, ‘Edward Blount’. 

With a steady increase in passenger services, locomotives were required to be heavier and run at higher speeds.  ‘No.189’ with its 6½ft/2m diameter driving wheels, was sent to the Paris Exposition, gaining a Gold Medal.  It remained in France for trials on the Paris-Mediterranean line.  After several weeks of successful runs, a celebration dinner for Directors and Superintendents was held at Sir Edward Blount’s house in Paris.

In 1894, a popular agitation condemned control by a foreigner of the French Railways as a military peril.  Sir Edward Blount, with good grace, resigned as Chairman of the Chemin de fer de l’Ouest Compagnie.  The French government however, handsomely acknowledged his services and his fellow directors elected him Honorary President.  A few years later, and in view of his advanced age, he also resigned from the Presidency of his banking concern, Societe Generale of Paris.  However, fellow directors enthusiastically and unanimously agreed to elect him an Honorary Life President.  

Sir Edward and Lady Blount long maintained their position in both English and French high society by frequently entertaining bankers, embassy officials, minor royalty, aristocrats and politicians to many excellent dinners provided by their French chef.  However, they did not neglect their Imberhorne staff and farm workers.  Consequently for many years about fifty employees and their ladies were invited to play an annual game of cricket, in which ‘bachelors’ were matched against ‘benedicts’.  After the match, the whole party adjourned to partake of a splendid dinner served in the commodious coach-house.  The event concluded with the bailiff, acting as chairman, proposing the good health of their generous employer and his family.

During his long residence in France, Sir Edward patronised many Catholic institutions and materially aided the Passionist Fathers to establish their mission in the French capital.  Consequently having acquired an estate in England and being a staunch adherent of the Catholic faith, he naturally fully supported his wife’s enthusiasm to establish a permanent church and school in East Grinstead.  Likewise, he also established a school at Handsworth near Birmingham, where his sister Laura was a Sister of Mercy.  He also gave financial support to the Franciscan Presbytery (St Francis and St Anthony) at Crawley, and made arrangements for a grim imposing part-sunken twelve-space family vault to be constructed in the burial ground alongside the church. 

Sir Edward and Lady Blount also took a keen interest in several East Grinstead activities and were generous subscribers to many charitable causes.  He was elected Chairman of the first constituted committee of the 1888 Cottage Hospital Scheme, thereby establishing the family’s connection with the East Grinstead Queen Victoria Hospital which lasted over sixty years.  He was also President of the North End and East Grinstead Cottage Garden and Allotment Association, and as Chairman of the Trustees, opened the new Queens Hall, Queens Road in July 1899, after a great deal of controversy.

Until his late eighties, Sir Edward remained physically active, walking daily (weather permitting) through his estate.  As a railway enthusiast (he held a variety of badges allowing free passage on many systems) his routine often led to watching the trains crossing the Copyhold/Imberhorne Viaduct.  Nor was it uncommon to see him driving one of his monogrammed carriages around the tortuous roads of East Grinstead.  When the Duke of Norfolk (PG) came to officially open the new East Grinstead Post Office in September 1896, Sir Edward, a member of the welcoming committee, offered the Duke full use of his latest landau. 

The same year, opportunity arose to purchase the freeholds of the adjoining farms, Gullege, Tilkhurst and Hill Place.  Sir Edward now owned over 1000 acres of arable, pasture and woodland.  Henry, who had supervised the Imberhorne estate for twenty years, proposed that responsibility of all the farms should within two to three years devolve to his only son, Edward Charles Blount.

Meanwhile, Sir Edward spent most evenings reading in his well-stocked library.  He was still of active mind when he began dictating his memoirs and interesting recollections, to a near neighbour Dr Stuart J Reid, who published them in 1902/3.  Sir Edward died at Imberhorne, after a short illness, on 15th March 1905, aged ninety-six.  Details of his death were reported in all the London and Paris newspapers, and letters and telegrams conveying messages of sympathy arrived in great numbers, among them one from His Majesty King Edward VII.

Over 600 mourners attended his funeral, which overflowed outside the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Peter in London Road.  Almost every business in East Grinstead closed in the morning as a mark of respect and several flags flew at half-mast, including shipping connected with the Newhaven-Dieppe service.  Over fifty estate employees followed the cortege from the chapel at Imberhorne to the church.  Among the mourners were representatives from several English and French banking Institutions, the French Railways and Directors of the LB & SC Railway Co, Newhaven Shipping Co and Newhaven Docks.  The church and the subsequent burial service at the family vault in Crawley, was conducted by Dr Amigo, Bishop of Southwark.

Two paintings of Sir Edward Blount, one by Ricart of Paris (c.1855) and the other by J A Vintner (1866), survive.

Lady Gertrude Frances Blount

Gertrude Frances Blount née Jerningham, was born on 6th July 1811, at the family home near Tong, Shropshire, and was baptised into the Catholic faith in the private chapel of Shifnal Manor.  At the age of twenty-three, she married Edward Blount, whom she had known from childhood.  She bore him five children, two sons and three daughters, and throughout her life in France, took a deep interest in the religious French Order of Dominicans, founded in the 13th century

Her eldest son, Herbert Aston (1837-78) was one of the French delegates who attended the 1863 conference ‘for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded of the armies in the field’, namely the Red Cross Organisation.  As a consequence he became a Chevalier of the Movement, and assisted the wounded at the battle of Sedan in September 1870.

When the Prussians threatened to besiege Paris, Edward Blount arranged for his wife to go initially to Villandry, near Tours, but later to her brother’s house in Shropshire.

During the siege and commune uprising in Paris, she received several letters from Edward, including one by balloon!

Jan 1871… ‘all the British official’s have left Paris’…Colonel Claremont has placed me Acting Consul of the Embassy’

Feb 1871…‘have married Richard Wallace (Lord Hertford’s base-born) to the Parisian mother of his many illegitimate children’

March 1871…‘misery around me is appalling’…have killed my remaining cow, but a little starvation does no harm…’

Following the acquisition of Imberhorne and the establishment of a Catholic chapel dedicated to St Edward and St Louis at the western end of the house, Lady Blount took an active interest in the people of East Grinstead, especially the Catholic community.  Consequently through her efforts an improvised school for Catholic children was started in an attic room at Imberhorne Farmhouse.  Later a permanent school, Imberhorne School, now known as St Peter’s, was built between the house and the town at Sir Edward’s expense.  Finally, through Lady Blount’s enthusiasm to have a Catholic Church, other than their own chapel, they bought a suitable site on the London Road.  Dedicated to Our Lady and St Peter, the church was constructed at the expense of Lady Blount, who sadly did not live to see its completion.

In November 1884, Edward and Gertrude Blount celebrated their golden wedding and, with their names associated with so many works of Catholic benevolence, received hundreds of felicitations and good wishes.  The Holy Father sent his Benediction and both Queen Victoria and Prince Edward, their warmest congratulations.  

After an illness stretching into several weeks, Lady Blount died at Imberhorne on the 9th November 1897, aged eighty-six.  Telegraphs of sincere condolences were received from Edward, Prince of Wales, the Empress Eugenie and the Duke and Duchess of Orleans, to all of whom Lady Blount was intimately known.  

She was dressed in the habit as a Member of the Dominican Order and watched over by several Dominican nuns in the private chapel at Imberhorne.  The funeral service at the Franciscan Friary at Crawley was conducted by Fr Lawrence before burial in the family vault.

Catholicism in East Grinstead

The middle of the 18th century marks roughly the passing of the faith in East Grinstead with the closure, by 1748, of the Gage Catholic chapel at their manor house at Hedgecourt in Felbridge, and for well over a century there was no organised Catholic life in the district.  Despite the influx of French and Irish Catholics into southern England and the notable conversions of the Oxford Movement, it had very little effect upon East Grinstead.  In fact in 1813 a petition was sent to Parliament in which it stated that the inhabitants of the Borough observed ‘with astonishment and alarm the persevering efforts of the Roman Catholics to obtain admission to offices of trust and authority, both civil and military and to the exercise of legislative functions’.  It is strange that a religion that had been universal in a town for so many centuries (pre-Reformation) could be held in such contempt!  However, in 1859, the Franciscan Fathers came to Crawley, and this continued to be the nearest centre for Mass to East Grinstead for eighteen years.

Franciscan Church of St Francis and St Anthony, Crawley

Despite an unfortunate reputation of rigidity and conservatism, the Victorians were in fact, very adventurous and forward-looking in their pursuit of morality and religion.  By the time the Catholic Friary of St Francis and St Anthony was built in 1861, traditional Anglican hostility towards Roman Catholicism was waning.

The Church and adjoining Friary for the Capuchin Franciscans were founded by Francis Scawen Blunt of Crabbett Park, Worth, who with his younger brother Wilfred, had been received into the Roman Catholic faith in 1852.  In 1859, Francis Blunt gave five acres of land for the construction of a new and permanent Catholic Church and Presbytery in Pound Hill in Crawley after Mrs Montgomery had invited a group of Italian Franciscans to form a Roman Catholic Mission in what was then the village of Crawley.  Initially the Franciscans used a converted coach shed in the grounds of her home, The Elms, as a temporary church until the completion of the new Catholic Church, which opened on 12th October 1861. 

With the growth of Crawley as a Post-War New Town, the 1859/1861 church became inadequate to house its expanding congregation and a new church was opened in 1959.  The old premises were gradually demolished and the friars eventually left in 1980, rising costs forcing them to hand over to secular priests.  Meanwhile, the burial ground alongside, remained largely unaffected by the changes.  Dominating the scene is the grim and imposing Victorian part-sunken twelve-space vault of the Blount family, erected by Sir Edward and Lady Blount circa 1890.  Sadly, due to a continued series of abuse and vandalism in the 1970’s, the two Blount sisters, Misses Clara and Marguerite, agreed reluctantly to its closure and the entrance being bricked-up. 

St Edward and St Louis Roman Catholic Chapel, Imberhorne Manor House

When Sir Edward and Lady Blount, resolute Roman Catholics, purchased Imberhorne, they were distressed to note that the Franciscan Church at Crawley was their nearest place of worship.  Consequently, they ordered the conversion of a studio at the west-end of the house, into a chapel for both private and public use.  It was dedicated to St Edward (the Confessor) and St Louis (King of France), and served as the Roman Catholic parish church of East Grinstead for twenty years.

In 1889, because of an increasing number of worshippers attending Mass, the chapel with its lofty ceiling was enlarged by the construction of a twenty-seated gallery.  Opportunity was also taken to create an august new public entrance designed to inspire awe and admiration with a small bust of Mary and Child set in the tympanium of the porch.  The result could only be described as truly magnificent with a wonderful altar, quality furniture and red plush throughout.  The first thing that struck the eye of a visitor after ascending the spiral staircase was the ornate stained glass window.  The main figures in the lower panels flanking the Blount coat-of-arms were those of St Edward the Confessor, depicted according to legend as giving a ring to Christ Himself in the person of a wayside beggar, and St Louis holding a Crown of Thorns, the object of his crusade to the Holy Lands.  Two Gothic side windows represented St Gertrude and St Marguerite, the name saints of Lady Blount and her daughter-in-law Mrs Henry Blount.

The chapel was served by the Franciscan Fathers from Crawley until 1884 when Fr Edwards, a priest from the Diocese of Southwark, was appointed resident chaplain.  He left four years later, and the Franciscan Fathers again served the Mission until 1898 when Our Lady and St Peter Church in London Road was completed.  From that date, priests officiated at all services in the chapel until Sunday 12th June 1955, when Mass was celebrated for the last time.  The two Victorian Gothic windows, fourteen Stations of the Cross, some altar furniture and vestments were removed and later presented by the two Miss Blounts to the new Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Forest, in Forest Row.  Within a few months and despite security, the empty house and chapel were extensively vandalised before its final demolition.

Church of Our Lady and St Peter, East Grinstead

Following a Mass attendance survey carried out on Easter Sunday 1895 at the Imberhorne House chapel/mission, Sir Edward and Lady Blount resolved to build, at their expense, a Roman Catholic Church in East Grinstead to accommodate the growing faithful.  A suitable site was purchased in London Road and Frederick A Walters FSA designed and built the Church in the Norman style, with an interior more Early Christian in mood.  

It contains a chancel, two side chapels, nave, transepts, one central aisle and a massive square tower.  This (ritual) west tower contains one bell ‘Mary’ which Bishop Bourne solemnly blessed on 8th July 1901.  There are two stained glass windows on the south side:

‘Pray for Sir Edward Blount KCB and for Gertrude his wife
 who built this Church to the Glory of God
and in honour of Our Lady and St Peter AD. MDCCCXCVIII’

The Church was opened on Rosary Sunday, 2nd October 1898 and dedicated to Our Lady and St Peter.  Being free of debt, owing to the generosity of Lady Blount, the Church was consecrated by Bishop (later Cardinal) Bourne on the Feast of St Peter’s Chains, 1st August 1899. 

Shortly before the opening of the Church, Fr John Burke was appointed the first Rector of the parish of Our Lady and St Peter and thus became the successor of Fr Robert Best, the last Catholic vicar at St Swithun’s who resigned in 1563.  A residence was provided for the clergy in St James Road, and thus the generous founders had given to the congregation free of all debt, a Church, School and Presbytery.

Imberhorne Roman Catholic School, now St Peter's RC School

Having established a Roman Catholic Mission at the west-end of Imberhorne Manor House in 1879, a school for children of Catholic parents was proposed, much to the delight of Sir Edward and Lady Blount.  

Consequently under the patronage of the Blount’s, instruction began in an improvised schoolroom in an attic room at Imberhorne Farmhouse, under the direction of Miss Killick.  It became so successful that it was decided to erect a permanent school building on the estate to cater for all Catholic children from six to twelve years of age, residing in or near East Grinstead.  The new school, on a site in Chapman’s Lane some 200yds/185m from Imberhorne Manor, was erected at the expense of Sir Edward Blount and opened on 7th April 1885.  The school building was adorned with the Blount-Jerningham crest and endowed with stained glass windows that were later sold.

The school was staffed by lay-teachers until 1898, when four Sisters of Mercy took charge, and now named Our Lady and St Peter RC School, which also had a small convent attached.  According to some former pupils the Sisters ‘showed little mercy when it came to a question of discipline and decorum, and the cane was always on hand for the delinquents’.  Nonetheless, within five years, over eighty children were attending the school, and most of the pupils, (including many non-Catholics), came from other schools in the town because their parents appreciated the discipline and teaching. 

A former pupil of Imberhorne RC School was Gladys Allen, daughter of Edward Wells the estate gamekeeper who was later promoted to the position of estate bailiff between 1931 and 1946.  Gladys attended the school between 1915 and 1925 and recalled that the Sisters were Sr Alphonsus (Head), Sr Martna (cook/housekeeper), Sr Gertrude, Sr Cammilus, and a little later, Sr Winifred.  Gladys also remembered appearing in two school plays at the Whitehall, (the building in the London Road in East Grinstead that was bombed in World War II), ‘The Three Bears’ and ‘Snow White’, taking the part of Snow White in the latter production.  Gladys also recalled being taught songs by the nuns, although she regarded her sister Amy as the best singer in the family.  One of the songs taught was Peggy O’Neil and Gladys particularly remembered two lines –

When I’m dead, don’t bury me at all

Just pickle my bones on alcohol

After thirty years of devoted work, the Sisters of Mercy were succeeded by Sisters of Notre Dame from Ashdown Park who resigned in 1943, when lay-teachers, under the Educational Act, were appointed.  In the past fifty years the school has undergone several rebuilding and reorganisation programmes in accordance with central and local government policies.

Hill Place, Gullege and Tilkhurst Farms

Hill Place is situated on a ridge to the southeast of Imberhorne Farm and dates to the medieval period, its name appearing in the subsidy roll of 1296.  The house was Grade II listed in 1972 for its hidden interior, the timber-framing now concealed behind tile hanging, and brickwork. 

Originally a hall house, the property was converted by the mid 16th century with the construction of a central chimney stack and insertion of a first floor.  There is evidence to suggest that it was at least one bay longer when originally constructed, but suffered much alteration in the 19th century with parts rebuilt in the 20th century. 

Once part of the original manor of Imberhorne the property was granted by Henry VIII to Thomas Lord Cromwell at the dissolution, being purchased by Thomas Sackville around 1546, and remaining with the Sackville family until 1857 when it was enfranchised to the then copy-holders, Thomas Ellis and his son Arthur Thomas Ellis.

Gullege, situate to the west of Imberhorne Farm, is in all probability part of the holding (farm) known as Warlege (or Wardleigh) as recorded in the Domesday Survey, being virtually identical in size and shape as that shown in medieval maps for Gullege and Tilkhurst lands, on part of Broadhurst Manor (Horsted Keynes).

Gullege, Gulledge or ‘le Gullege’ as it has been variously called from 1588 to 1611, is an excellent example of a small manor house of Jacobean design which once belonged to the Alfrey family.  John Alfrey was one of two Members of Parliament for East Grinstead in 1361, but the family’s connection with Gullege had ceased by the mid 17th century.

The house, listed by the Department of Environment as Grade II*, is remarkable for its very fine stone facade, which in fact, encases a slightly earlier timber framed building whose features are clearly visible.  The property was set within 363 acres of farm and woodland.  After the Alfreys the property was possessed by the Compton family (of Compton Place, Eastbourne) and came to the 1st Earl of Burlington by his marriage to Lady Blanche Compton.  It was sold by the Hon Charles Compton-Cavendish, fourth son of the Earl, in 1841 to an agricultural family from Essex. 

Tilkhurst is situated to the south of Imberhorne Farm and there are references to the 120 acre Tilkhurst estate from 1285.  The property was also once owned by the Alfrey family who held Gullege.  Like Hill Place, Tilkhurst was an early hall house with all its external timber-framing encased in tile hanging.  In the late 19th century, a visitor mentioned that the ‘17th century farmhouse’ had an earthen floor and walls of straw, lime and cow-dung, although there was evidence to suggest that property was actually much older than 17th century and probably dated to the medieval period.  Unfortunately the house was demolished in 1960 having served as a chicken shed for last years of its life.  

All the farms subsequently passed through several hands, following their release from quit rents and other manorial services, until purchased in 1896 by Sir Edward Blount.  Hill Place was purchased from the Ellis family who had enfranchised the property from Lord and Lady Amherst in 1857, Gullege was purchased from GE Scaramanga of Tiltwood in Crawley Down and Tilkhurst was purchased from William Price of Harts Hall in Felbridge.  By the addition of the farms and buildings to the Imberhorne (Home) Farm, the Blounts now owned, according to an 1899 survey, 1030 acres of arable, pasture and woodland.

Natural springs abounded on the Tilkhurst lower slopes.  One source was tapped and pumped to a tall castellated water tower, to provide constant fresh water throughout the whole estate, and a small reservoir was constructed out of the old mill pond south of the viaduct.  Later, two acres of scrub (part of Hill Place Farm) was donated to the Council for construction of an isolation hospital.

Future farming was now carried out in accordance with instructions given by the Head Bailiff, who also had the personal responsibility of employing sufficient labour to make it a profitable business.  In addition, he had to ensure that Imberhorne [Manor] House was supplied with fresh produce, not only on a daily basis, but for the numerous house parties and social functions.  A sporting tradition introduced by the Blounts, was the breeding of partridge and pheasant.  ‘For eight months of the year’, wrote Lucy Wells, wife of the gamekeeper, ‘they are cared for like spoilt children.  Then comes the day of the big shoot.  No breakfast that morning for the birds.  Instead guns are ranged in Great Wood, Coles Wood or French Wood, their barrels spitting death and destruction at those wildly pulsing wings beating into space’.

In 1899, young Edward Blount, grandson of Sir Edward, took over the responsibility of managing the farms and estates, which now employed over fifty persons, herdsmen, ploughmen, gamekeepers, blacksmiths, carpenters, carters and general hands, all under the experienced Head Bailiff. 

With the co-operation of a team of gardeners, the area around the house, (which by common usage had become the Manor), began to procreate manicured lawns with circular flower beds offering a range of colour, the whole surrounded by large rhododendron shrubs with magnificent mauve and white blooms.  And from the greenhouses came a regular supply of fresh fruit, grapes, peaches and figs.

In 1901, the lodges were built. West Lodge in Imberhorne Lane, and East Lodge in Park Road.  There was also a South Lodge in Imberhorne Lane, but it was not a lodge in the strict sense of the word, and during the Second World War, South Lodge became a private school for London evacuees, being demolished in the 1950’s.  Park Road led from the London Road to Chapmans Lane, which passed to the north the Manor.  During a period of high unemployment in the town, the Blounts paid for the Lane to be deepened, in order, it was later said, ‘that passers-by couldn't see into the house’.  A strong brick wall had later to be constructed to prevent the back wall collapsing into the deepened Lane.  

Henry Edmund Blount DL JP

Henry, responsible for many of the structural changes to Imberhorne [Manor] in the late 19th century, was the younger of two sons of Sir Edward and Lady Blount, born on 16th December 1844 at St Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, France.  His early education was provided by both French and English governesses and on his father’s insistence completed at the Institut l’Industrie Mecanicieu ā Minière.  It was a period when France was returning to the position among the Great Powers that her population, wealth and military potential justified.

Having acquired a skill and probable ability to manage, Henry showed considerable reluctance to embark on a career.  Instead, he enjoyed the excitement and splendour of modern Paris, with its new Opera House and large stores of Bon Marche and Samaritaine, and down the wide boulevard’s he joined the inhabitants of the scientific gas-lit Empire, to dine and dance to the twinkling tunes of Offenbach.  He tested his skills at the gaming tables and became a regular visitor to the Jockey Club.  He was known to love all types of field sports and was acknowledged by many to be an excellent shot.  Consequently he participated in several hunts, boar, fox and stag, in England and France.  He was also invited by a wealthy timber merchant to hunt moose in Canada, but an amorous liaison with the host’s attractive daughter was apparently frowned upon, for Henry returned earlier than expected.

After a number of minor affairs of the heart, Henry fell in love with the attractive Marguerite Marie de la Rochette, daughter of Charles Moreau, Baron de la Rochette of Seine-de-Marne.  They were married on 5th July 1869 in the Romanesque Church of Notre-Dame, Melun.  From that year, Henry apparently devoted his energies to the mining and railway industry.  He became well-known as manager of the Franco-Prussian Mines in St Petersburg, and the Bouches-du-Rhone Colleries at Marseilles.  He was later appointed manager of the Chemin de fer de l’Ouest Compagnie and was subsequently rewarded as a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur.

From November 1877, when his father purchased the Imberhorne estate, he made himself responsible for the extensions and modifications to the house and the farm’s future programme.  When the adjoining farms were later acquired and embraced, he suggested to his father that several acres should be set aside for the breeding of partridge and pheasant.  Consequently notable persons from the banking, industrial and political field would be invited to participate in the annual shoot.  Because of his (and Sir Edward’s) enthusiasm for sport, many local clubs were keen for their support.  Two successful bazaars in 1896 provided sufficient profit for the East Grinstead Cricket and Football Club to place a deposit to purchase a ground at West Street.  Henry was one of seven Trustees vested with the ground freehold and elected President of the club in 1901.  Until about 1906, he also held the Presidency of the East Grinstead Athletic Club, Bowls Club, Lawn Tennis Club, the Cyclist’ Union, and for over thirty years remained a keen member of two local hunts, the Old Surrey Hunt and the Burstow Hunt.

For several years he held the position as Chairman of the East Grinstead Conservative Association, was a Justice of Peace from 1890 and five years later appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Sussex.

Apart from frequently visiting Imberhorne, Henry and Marguerite resided at 21 Rue Montaigne, Paris, and owned the Villa Des Chenes at Chassis, Biarritz.  It was there he died after a short illness on 10th January 1911, and his body was brought from Biarritz to Crawley for burial in the Blount family vault.  

Mrs Marguerite Marie Blount

Marguerite was the wife of Henry Edmund Blount and daughter of Charles Paul Marie Moreau, Baron de la Rochette, who was born on 4th April 1847 at Melun, near Fontainebleau, France.  After a whirlwind courtship, she married Henry Blount at the Church of Notre-Dame, Melun on 5th July 1869, and bore him three children:

Louisa Gertrude Charlotte Marie, born 21st July 1870 in Paris, who died, unmarried, on 29th April 1894 at Arachon, nr Bordeaux.  A memorial tablet was placed on the Blount family vault, Crawley.

Eleonore Edwarda Hyacinthe Marie, born June 1872 in Paris, who died 9th May 1873 in Paris.  A memorial  tablet was placed on Blount family vault at Crawley.

Edward Aston Charles Marie Blount.  (Further details later)

From about 1880, Marguerite (occasionally with the children) often accompanied her husband on his visits to St Petersburg, Southern France and England, but personally much preferred the social life of Paris and the season at Biarritz.

Following the departure of Sir Edward and Lady Blount to live permanently at Imberhorne, Henry and Marguerite occupied their former house, 59 Rue de Courselles in Paris, entertaining in grand style.  It was there that Marguerite unexpectedly died on 24th April 1898.  Her funeral took place in the Church of St Phillippe du Roule.  Among the several mourners present were the Ambassadors of Germany, Spain, America and the United Kingdom (Sir Edmund Monson), and representatives of French and Russian aristocracy.  Her coffin was afterwards brought from Paris to the Blount family vault at Crawley.  Six months after her death, Henry sold the Paris house.  

Edward Aston Charles Marie Blount OBE JP

The only son of Henry Edmund Blount and his wife Marguerite was born on 2nd January 1874 in Paris, France.  His early education was provided by a French governess, and completed at the Lycée Louis-le-Grande.  Seeking a career in the Diplomatic Corps, he attended an interview in London and was appointed Honorary Attaché to the British Embassy in St Petersburg on 21st April 1898.  He was well acquainted with the city, having in his teens spent many weeks there with his father who was well known to the Ambassador and most of his staff.  In October 1896, Edward was transferred to the British Legation in Brussels, fortunately before the Russian winter closed in and made travel almost impossible.

Whilst on leave in Paris, he was introduced to the elegant Clara Marianne Guislaine, daughter of Napoleon, Comte Maret, 3rd Duc de Bassano.  On 27th February 1897, they married in the parish Church of St Pierre de Chaillot, Paris, before renting an apartment in Rue Belliard, Brussels, where their first daughter was born.  Eighteen months later, Edward resigned from the Service and brought his family to reside permanently at Imberhorne.

At the time, his father Henry had several business commitments in France, in addition to his duties as a Deputy Lieutenant of Sussex and Justice of Peace for the same county.  Consequently he was finding it increasingly difficult to devote the time to fully manage Imberhorne Farm and Estate.  Sir Edward Blount, now in his 89th year, fully supported his son’s suggestion that young Edward should take over the ‘reins’.  In addition he felt that his grandson and family would bring some reviviscence into his recently widowed life.

The younger man’s initial involvement into farm management came at a time when British agriculture, as an economic proposition, had almost collapsed.  Admittedly, the recent acquisition of Gullege, Tilkhurst and Hill Place farms had virtually doubled the crop production without increasing the number of workers who had farmed Imberhorne for the past two decades, but largely until the First World War, the farms simply ‘tottered’ along without significant change. The new ‘squire’ and his wife at Imberhorne Manor brought to the inhabitants of East Grinstead educated interests and friendly leadership.

On the death of his grandfather in 1905, and his father six years later, Edward as the sole heir, agreed to the mantle of President and Chairman of several local political associations, sports clubs and welfare organisations.  Consequently for several years, the name of Edward A Charles Blount appeared on the headed paper of the East Grinstead Conservative and Unionist Association, the Working Men’s Club, the Bowling, Cricket, Football, Hockey and Lawn Tennis Clubs, the Boy Scouts, the Air Training Corps, the Rotary Club and the North End Allotments and Gardens Association.  He was also a member of the Old Surrey and the Burstow Hunts, (before and after their amalgamation in 1915), the Three Counties Ploughing Association (several matches being held on Gullege acres), the Voluntary Aid Society, the Civic League and Enquiry Bureau (forerunner to the Citizens Advice Bureau), and 1914/18 War Memorial Committee.

A fluent and witty speaker, he was a delight to listen to, and as a prominent Conservative had few equals on the public platform.  He was at home whatever the occasion, whether the most formal banquet or attending the working man’s ‘bash’, the annual Rabbit Pie Supper, which he seldom missed.  He was recognised as a tennis player of high standard (there were two grass courts at Imberhorne), enjoyed a game of cricket and proved an excellent marksman at the annual ‘Shoot’.  

Apart from his involvement with many organisations, he also had the discipline and welfare of the local people always in mind.  In 1900 he was appointed a Justice of Peace and continued to serve on the Bench at East Grinstead Magistrates Court, for many years as Chairman.  He also served at the Sussex County Court for almost half a century before retiring, to be placed on the Supplemental List.  In 1910 he was appointed a Sussex County Councillor and later, Alderman for East Sussex.  But his close association with the Queen Victoria (Cottage) Hospital displayed deep humility for those less fortunate.  In fact, the Blount family’s close connection with that establishment is worth recording, (further details later).

Prior to the First World War, Edward became a partner in the City stockbroker firm of Panmure Gordon Co offering advice on the French markets, and for forty years regularly lunched at the London Club’s of Boodle’s or White’s.  It is interesting to note that in view of his numerous engagements, he never elected to drive a car.  A Vauxhall 5hp Voiturette was purchased in 1904 (one of the first in East Grinstead) but all the driving then and with later cars, was carried out by the family chauffeur, or occasionally by the Blount’s younger, daughter, Marguerite.

Keen to play a part in the 1914 War, coupled with his previous experience of His Majesty’s Government, he was appointed a Clerk in the Foreign Office on 19th March 1915.  In due course, he rose to Head the French Section until his resignation on 10th December 1918.  For his meritious service he was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the 1920 New Year Honours List.

During and after the war years of 1915 to 1919, when cheap cereal grasses from Canada and America were not imported, the three Imberhorne farms were on full production and were probably considered to have been their best years.  However, between the years 1920 to 1939, costs had to be balanced against rising prices both in goods and labour.  As a consequence, the farming business, like most industrial organisations, suffered severe depression in trade.  The permanent labour force at Imberhorne Farm was reduced drastically, hiring casual labour only for harvesting.  It must be said however, that Edward Blount was generous in his engagement of employees for both farm and estate.

On the outbreak of the Second War and the possible invasion by German troops (an ominous possibility after Dunkirk), the area outside East Grinstead was divided into four regions.  Each region was under the control of a Civil Representative, responsible for maintaining services, i.e. the supply of food and clothing with other essentials, including shelter for possible casualties.  One of the regions was under the direct control of Edward Blount, who at the time was also very much involved with the Queen Victoria Hospital War Emergency Committee.

Although the invasion never materialised, German aircraft were actively engaged in destroying civilian moral and occasional military targets.  Imberhorne Manor, apart from a few broken windows, remained largely unscathed, but incendiary bombs did set several acres of woodland alight before being brought under control.  A V2 rocket also fell in the Home Farm meadow, blasting a giant oak and leaving a crater twenty feet wide.

As a consequence of Edward’s duties throughout the war, administration of the Farm became somewhat neglected.  This became apparent when, in 1946, the Ministry of Agriculture placed an ‘A’ order on the Farm and threatened to put in their own manager.  Edward Blount, concerned that no such action should take place, appointed Frank Wells, a younger and former gamekeeper to take over the position of Estate Manager.  It was estimated that £10,000 would be required to bring the Farm into modern day practice.  Fortunately several trees on the estate were measured and sold, enabling new tractors, trailers and ploughs to be purchased.  Another necessity was for every field to be soil-tested and fertilised, new fencing and gates to be erected and all drainage ditches to be cleared, before the ‘A’ order was finally lifted.  Arrangements were also later made to sell several acres of land (with buildings) on the fringe of the estate to sitting tenants, including Hill Place Farm and the Birches on the northern edge of Imberhorne Farm.

It was a worrying time for all concerned and undoubtedly began to affect Edward’s health.  He resigned from most positions of responsibility, but from mid 1951 he was finding it difficult to climb the stairs to his bedroom.  Arrangements were therefore made for accommodation on the ground floor.  Despite medical attention his health continued to deteriorate, to an extent that oxygen equipment was kept by his bedside and resident nurses provided a twenty-four hour vigil.

In the early hours of 4th February 1953, Edward Blount quietly passed away, leaving a grieving widow and two daughters, Clara and Marguerite.  The following week his coffin covered by masses of flowers was carried into the crowded RC Church of Our Lady and St Peter in East Grinstead, by employees from Imberhorne farm and estate.  Fr C P Dolman officiated at the Requiem Mass and Monsignor Constable represented the RC Bishop of Southwark.  The impressive service was attended by townspeople from all walks of life, representing many county and local organisations and several denominations.  Following the service the coffin was conveyed to Crawley where it was placed in the Blount family vault of the Franciscan Church.  

East Grinstead [Cottage] Hospital /Queen Victoria Hospital

The first Cottage Hospital in East Grinstead was established in Green Hedges Avenue in 1863, funded by a local practitioner, but lack of financial support led to its closure.  The Hospital scheme was resurrected in 1888, when a house in London Road was offered free of all expenses for one year.  At a public meeting Sir Edward Blount, one of several generous subscribers, was invited to serve on the Committee.  The scheme became a success.

With an increasing number of patients being treated, the former Ragged School Holiday Home in Queens Road was acquired in 1901.  A year later as a memorial to the late Sovereign it was renamed Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital.  The same year, Mr Edward Blount joined his grandfather and the incoming Chairman paid great tribute to Sir Edward’s work, not only as a Trustee, but also as Chairman of the Management and the Building Fund Committees.  He also mentioned that through the gratuitous generosity of Sir Edward, a two-acre site near Hazelden crossroads was made available for the possible construction of an Isolation Hospital.  Little mention is made of the various committees work for many years, until 1921 when Mrs Clara Blount OBE (wife of Mr Edward Blount) was elected to the Management Committee, on which she served for seventeen years.

Edward Blount was elected Chairman to the Management and Building Fund Committee in 1926 and except for the years 1936-41, remained in this capacity, including the advent of the 1948 National Health Service, until retiring in 1950.  During his years in office, he presided over the new Hospital in Holtye Road (1936), ‘being the link between the old and the new’.  He later welcomed the arrival of Mr Archibald McIndoe to take over the Hospital as a Maxillo-Facial Unit, which during the war years became salvation to numerous battle scared service personnel.  During this uncertain period, Edward Blount chaired the War Emergency Committee, Finance and Building Committee, Public Appeals Committee, the Peanut (Children’s) Unit and the Hospital Trustees.  He also chaired the opening ceremonies of the American and Canadian Wings, expressing the Board’s thanks to the consultants, doctors, surgeons and various medical staff, for their devotion to duty during the war years.  In 1947, the Board honoured Edward Blount’s considerable management skills and many years service by naming a small emergency room ‘The Edward Blount Ward’.

The following year he had the unenviable task of guiding the Hospital administration through the controversial maze of the new NHS, which required considerable tact and understanding.  In December 1950, he resigned on grounds of ill health and Sir Archibald McIndoe moved a vote of thanks for all Edward Blount’s hard work, dedication and long service of almost fifty years, ‘his name’, he added, ‘will stand forever as having contributed so much to the success of this excellent hospital’.

Mrs Clara Marianne Guislaine Blount OBE JP

Clara was the wife of Edward A Charles Blount and daughter of Napoleon Charles Marie Guislaine, Comte Maret, 3rd Duc de Bassano and his wife Marie Anne Symes (of Quebec), who was born on 27th November 1875 at the family maison in Rue Dumont d'Urville, Paris.  The Duc also had a London house at Mariborough Gate.

It was in 1809 that Napoleon Boneparte created Comte Hugues-Bernard Maret the 1st Duc de Bassano, and later First Minister of France.  His grandson, the 3rd Duc, a former French Ambassador, first made the acquaintance of Edward Blount (Sir) during the 1870/71 siege of Paris.

Clara’s early education was provided by both English and French governesses, and completed at a finishing school outside Paris.  On 27th February 1897, following a civil ceremony at the 16th Arondissement, she married Edward A C M Blount in the old, but recently restored, Church of St Pierre-de-Chaillot, Avenue Marceau.  According to an eye witness, ‘all Paris was present as represented by its leaders of politics, art, finance, charity, fashion and beauty.  The congregation ranged from members of the Senate, titled officers of the army, down to the humble nun and orphan child from one of several institutions which have good cause to hold the name of Blount in blessed memory’.  Among the hundreds of gifts displayed was a magnificent silver inkstand from the employees at Imberhorne, whilst trades people from East Grinstead sent a valuable travelling clock.  

The marriage produced two daughters, Clare Marie Guislaine Blount and Marguerite Pauline Mary Blount.  In November 1898, nine months after the birth of their eldest daughter, the Blounts, accompanied by a nanny and femme de chambre, arrived from Brussels to reside permanently at Imberhorne.  Mrs Blount was soon involved with the smooth running of the Manor, as well as taking a keen interest in the welfare of the Imberhorne employees and inhabitants of East Grinstead.

Following the death in 1905 of Sir Edward Blount, the elaborate dinners of several courses prepared by his personal French chef, eventually gave way to more simple meals.  Luncheons and cocktail parties became the fashion, although superb menus were conceived for special occasions.  By the mid-thirties the vast kitchen with its coke-fired iron stoves and ovens, was largely abandoned in favour of a smaller room, equipped with modern day electric and gas appliances.  At a dinner party in 1910, hosted by Lord and Lady Goschen, Mrs Blount was seated beside Sir Arthur Stanley.  He spoke of the recent sad demise of Florence Nightingale and his involvement with the Red Cross Society.  He emphasised their need for trained nursing volunteers to augment the new Territorial Army’s own medical services and for civilian organisers to distribute Red Cross comfort and medical supplies in the event of war.

Mrs Blount expressed an interest and as a result, on completing a two-month First Aid and Nursing Course, was invited to form a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) for East Grinstead and District.  Fired with enthusiasm and encouraged by an eager number of volunteers, Sussex VAD/68 (East Grinstead) was inaugurated in 1911, with Mrs Blount as Commandant.

On the outbreak of the Great War, she was engaged on active service by the British Red Cross Society from November 1914 until May 1919.  In effect, this meant serving on the Sussex County Joint War Committee (a combination of the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Service), as well as being responsible for all Red Cross work in the East Grinstead region.

When Belgian refugees arrived in this country, Mrs Blount arranged accommodation in several homes throughout the county.  In 1916, through Mr and Mrs Blount’s efforts, Stildon House and Norton House in London Road, East Grinstead, were leased to the Red Cross Society.  The former became a Military Auxiliary Hospital, the latter a convalescent unit, being served entirely by trained Red Cross VAD nurses and staff, with Mrs Blount as Commandant.  She was also closely involved in setting-up a Red Cross Resting Station in Boulogne.  It is interesting to note therefore when her eldest daughter Clare ‘came of age’ (February 1919), she was one of several volunteers working at the Station.  

In 1919 Mrs Blount was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), ‘in recognition of her valued services to ameliorate the suffering of British Empire servicemen’.  She was also decorated with the Medaile de la Reine Elizabeth in ‘recognition and valuable service to Belgian citizens and servicemen in the recent war, particularly care and nursing of the sick and wounded’.  

With the ‘war to end all wars’ over at last, the Red Cross movement extended its objectives to include the general public’s need for the improvement of health and the prevention of disease.  Although the East Grinstead VAD Unit reduced its number of volunteers, they continued to practice their skills at the various local events, fetes etc.  When Mrs Blount was awarded the King George VI Coronation Medal (1937), the East Grinstead Observer wrote, ‘this remarkable woman is possessed of a rare talent to inspire and direct the work of others’.

The war that broke out in 1939 not only saw the increased efficiency of arms and weaponry, but it also resulted in a dramatic extension to civilian suffering.  Mrs Blount, now Deputy Life President of the Sussex Red Cross Society and Life President of the East Grinstead Centre, was also appointed First Aid Commandant of Civil Defence, East Grinstead and District.  Consequently she worked closely with the many casualties and incidents that occurred throughout the County, including the terrible tragedies witnessed in East Grinstead.  As a result, in 1946, she was awarded the 1939/45 Defence Medal and the Red Cross Voluntary Medical Services Medal with four clasps, denoting thirty-five years of active and efficient service.  The Red Cross Annual Report, later stated, ‘no County could have been more blessed than Sussex in having Mrs Blount,…a pioneer who showed us the way with her ceaseless energy, drive inspiration and interest, to maintain the high standard of Red Cross work

Throughout her years at Imberhorne, Mrs Blount took an active interest in several local associations, either as President or Chairman, National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the District Nursing Services, the British Legion (Women’s Division) and Women’s Conservative Unionist Association, to name but a few.  In 1921, she was appointed a Justice of Peace, East Grinstead Division and a County Magistrate five years later.  Another great interest was the Girl Guide Movement of which she was President of the East Grinstead and District Branch, who each year ‘pitched’ their summer camp in a field at Tilkhurst.

Another great interest closely shared with her husband, was the Queen Victoria (Cottage) Hospital, serving with him on the Management Committee, materially assisting in its continual growth.  On the conclusion of the 1939/45 war, she was instrumental in establishing the East Grinstead Housing Society Ltd, and Lingfield Lodge, that happy residence for the elderly.  Her kind and practical interest in the welfare of the elderly was most marked by introducing through the Red Cross Society, of the ‘Over 60’s Club’.  Against this shining example of self-less service was her abiding devotion to the Roman Catholic faith.

Her death on 4th June 1953, barely four months after that of her husband, came as a great shock to the town and district.  The following week, her coffin was borne into the RC Church of Our Lady and St Peter by uniformed officers of the Sussex 19th (East Grinstead) British Red Cross Detachment.  Fr C Dolman, the parish priest, officiated at the Requiem Mass and Monsignor Corbishley represented the RC Bishop of Southwark, Fr Dolman paying tribute to the memory of Mrs Blount before a large congregation of relatives and friends of the French and English aristocracy.  County and Local representatives of the several organisations in which she was involved, wartime colleagues and townspeople, said, ‘born into the happy atmosphere of a noble French family, she came to England and to this town, to claim an honoured place’.  At the close of the service the coffin was conveyed to Crawley where it was placed in the Blount family vault at the Franciscan Church.

The deaths of Mr and Mrs Blount now placed the heavy management responsibility of Imberhorne Farm and Estate on their two single daughters:

Clare Marie Guislaine Blount

Born on 28th February 1898 in Brussels.  At an early age she suffered a mild form of rheumatic fever which resulted in use of a wheelchair until she reached puberty.  During those years she was educated solely by a resident trained nurse/governess.  She loved Imberhorne, displaying a keen interest in the animals, farming and horticultural procedures, often assisting her father with the ‘books’.

During the First World War she volunteered as the medical records clerk at Stildon House and later at the Red Cross Unit at Boulogne.  She later aspired to enter a Roman Catholic Order, but after six months as a novice, chose to return home.  From the early thirties, with increasing outside activities of both her parents, Clare appears to have taken over responsibility of house duties with the co-operation of the housekeeper, and the farm functions with the Head Bailiff.  After Imberhorne was sold, she continued these duties at Tilkhurst until old age defeated her.

As the new Imberhorne Residential Estate developed from 1955, so Clare took great interest in the building programme, and later, (with her sister, Marguerite) supported the formation of a Residents Association.  In fact, the sisters donated a handsome silver rose bowl inscribed… ‘in memory of our parents, Mr and Mrs Blount of Imberhorne Manor’ for the Association’s Annual Front Gardens Competition.  In presenting the trophy to the first winner, Miss Marguerite recalled the flower shows at Imberhorne that she and Clare attended as small girls, and was delighted with several beautiful gardens created by the members of the new Association.

In her latter years Clare led a very quiet life and passed away on 4th August 1988 in her 91st year.  Following Requiem Mass at Our Lady and St Peter Church, London Road, the coffin was conveyed for burial at Mount Noddy Cemetery, East Grinstead.

Marguerite Pauline Mary Blount, MBE

Born at Imberhorne on 5th July 1908, she was privately educated by a resident nanny/governess, the nursery becoming a schoolroom.  In 1927, she joined the Red Cross Nursing Services, qualifying as a Staff Nurse at Queen Victoria (Cottage) Hospital.  On the outbreak of the Second World War, she was appointed Red Cross Liaison Officer at the Hospital.  From 1941 to 1943, she held the position as Staff Officer, Civil Defence Services, East Grinstead, and from 1944 to 1945, Chief Liaison Officer for Sussex Red Cross and County Director.  She was a frequent visitor to the Civil Defence (ARP) First Aid Posts in Moat Road and Imberhorne Lane, and immediately took control of the casualties (dead and wounded) following the Whitehall Cinema and Warwick Arms bomb tragedies.  

In 1946 Marguerite was awarded the MBE (Civil) and the 1939/45 War Defence Medal, ‘for her valued work during the recent war’ and the Voluntary Medical Services Medal, acknowledging her several years service with the British Red Cross Society.  Like her mother, she took considerable interest in the Local and County Girl Guides, often training them for their First Aid badges.

Whilst retaining strong links with the Society, she turned to local politics, standing as an Independent councillor for East Grinstead (West) from 1946 to 1962.  During this period she also represented East Grinstead on the East Sussex County Council.  In 1962 she stood as a Conservative, but was defeated.  However, as a reward for her past work, she was elevated to the East Sussex County Aldermanic Bench, until 1973, when East Grinstead moved into West Sussex.

She died on 2nd August 1992, and after Requiem Mass at Our Lady and St Peter Church, East Grinstead, was buried alongside her sister at Mount Noddy Cemetery.  


Sale of Imberhorne Manor Estate and Farm 1953-55

The deaths in 1953 of Mr and Mrs Blount within four months of each other, and the heavy double death duties demanded by HM Government, caused the family solicitors of Messrs. Whitley, Hughes & Luscombe to call for a meeting with all concerned.  At the meeting were the two beneficiaries of the will, the Misses Clare and Marguerite Blount, the Executors and Trustees of the Blount estates, Lord Ashburton of Hunton Manor, Hampshire, and Gerard Koch de Gooreynd of Buckingham Place, London, and Mr T Stanford representing Barclays Bank.

After lengthy discussion, it was agreed that:

1.  All agricultural and woodland, farms, farm-buildings and residential properties in the area north of the Three Bridges/East Grinstead Railway and west of Imberhorne Lane (i.e. mainly Imberhorne and Gullege Farms) should be offered for sale, preferably as one unit.

Imberhorne Farm and outbuildings, Gullege House and approximately 422 acres of farmland were sold to Mr A Beeney.  Two years later this part of the Imberhorne Estate was back on the market in two lots.  In 1955 Mr Robert Emmett purchased Imberhorne Farm, outbuildings, Gullege House and 285 acres, the remaining 137 acres was split and sold separately.  Robert Emmett, in turn, sold Gullege House to Mr and Mrs Thomas for restoration, retaining Imberhorne Farm, outbuildings and the land, which his son Brian farms today.

2.  Imberhorne Manor, the coach-house, greenhouses, outbuildings, park and woodland east of Imberhorne Lane, to be offered for housing and commercial development, if approved by East Grinstead Urban Council and East Sussex County Council.

Approval was granted, and several builders and developers expressed an interest.  Messrs. Crouch & Sons Ltd and Messrs. A J Wait & Sons Ltd successfully erected houses and bungalows between 1954 and 1959.  This became known as the Imberhorne Housing Estate.  Other portions of land were sold for commercial projects and the construction of Imberhorne School.

3.  All individual cottages, houses or dwellings occupied by estate employees, whether or not included in the above designated areas, to be offered to sitting tenants with first refusal to purchase.  If not accepted, the properties should be offered for sale through local estate agents or auction.   

All sales to sitting tenants or others were completed within one year.

4.  All land including woodland, south of the Three Bridges-East Grinstead Railway and west of Imberhorne Lane, i.e. Tilkhurst Farm, buildings and land, and that land acreage formerly part of Imberhorne and Gullege, to be retained.  A modern two-storeyed house to be constructed on Tilkhurst land with easy access to Imberhorne Lane.  The new house to be built in accordance with the design approval of the two Miss Blount’s.

A new house, ‘Tilkhurst’, was erected in mid 1955 and became the home of Miss Clare and Miss Marguerite Blount until their demise.  The medieval Tilkhurst farmhouse was sadly demolished when the new house was erected. 

Imberhorne Manor to remain as the residence of the two Miss Blount’s until their new house Tilkhurst is ready for occupation.  A contents sale or auction of unwanted items at the Manor to be conducted by a local agent, Messrs Turner, Rudge & Turner Ltd.

A contents sale by auction of unwanted items at Imberhorne Manor was organised by Messrs. Turner, Rudge & Turner of East Grinstead.  The three day event (8th-10th June 1955) took place at the Manor.  Principal London and Brighton dealers were present, apart from a large number of residents of the town and district, with the bidding extremely sharp.  There were many fine pieces of French period furniture, Flemish tapestries, Persian carpets, Queen Anne, Georgian and French silver, together with a library of about 3000 volumes brought under the impersonal efficiency of the hammer wielded by Mr J Mitchell. 

Imberhorne Manor – Final Days

Imberhorne Manor remained occupied by the two Miss Blount’s until May 1955 when their new house Tilkhurst was completed.  Efforts were then made by the agents and the house builders to sell the now empty building as a convent, school or private dwelling.  Unfortunately, for several reasons, potential buyers declined.  Sadly, within six months vandals took possession whenever the caretaker’s back was turned.  They set fire to the chapel, stripped the lead from the roof and tore down the pine panelling in the rooms.

The gardens were ransacked for any trees or shrubs that could be carried away and the greenhouses suffered with broken panes or the undamaged ones removed.  It was subsequently declared a ‘Dangerous Structure’, leaving the contractors with no other option than to demolish it.  The area was cleared and levelled to allow the house builders, A J Wait & Sons Ltd, to erect bungalows no’s 23 to 33 Campbell Crescent on the site.

Today, the only reminder of the Manor lies in the designation of the residential estate and school, whilst a few roads honour its features and former owners.

Bibliography of original text

Printed Works

Locomotives - LBSC Railway, 1839-1903, by F Burtt F, 1975

A Cottage Hospital Grows Up, by E J Dennison, 1963

Catholic History of East Grinstead, by Rev CP Dolman, 1983

Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells, by D Gould, 1983

History of Crawley, by P Gwynne, 1990

History of East Grinstead, by WH Hills, 1906

The Fall of Paris, 1870/71, by A Horne, 1965

Branch Lines to East Grinstead, by A Mitchell and K Smith, 1984

Memoirs of Sir Edward Blount, 1815-1902, by Dr SJ Reid, 1902

Withyham, Hartfield and Ashdown Forest, by Rev CN Sutton Rev, 1902

Thomas Brassey: Railway Builder, by C Walker, 1969

From the Beginning, by Lucy Wells, 1984

Gather Ye Rosebuds, by Lucy Wells, 1985

Sunshine and Shadows, by Lucy Wells, 1983

Sussex Historical Houses – Gulledge, by Viscountess Wolseley, (Sussex County Magazine vol. 5. p575/9), 1965

Unpublished Works                                                                                                                    

Reminiscences, by Wells Frank, by kind permission of his daughter, Sheila

Collective Notes re: Imberhorne, by Patrick Wood, by kind permission of the author

History of Hill Place Farm by Gwen Broad

Memories of Betty Salmon, née Subtil

Newspapers and Publications

East Grinstead Courier

East Grinstead Observer

North Sussex Gazette

The Times

Guides to East Grinstead.

Bulletins of East Grinstead Society, by kind permission of the Officers of the East Grinstead Society

With thanks to the following contributors:  Michael J Leppard and Patrick Wood


Further Reading since original publication

Fact Sheet, Gullege, SJC 03/02, FHA

Fact Sheet, Alfrey of Sussex, SJC 03/02, FHA

Fact Sheet, The Farm at Imberhorne, SJC 05/03, FHA

Fact Sheet, Imberhorne Old Farmhouse, JIC/SJC 09/04, FHA

Fact Sheet, Imberhorne New Farmhouse, SJC 09/04 FHA

Archaeological Field Reports, FHA

Felbridge and District History Group web site,

J. Clarke, An Early Vernacular Hammer-Beam Structure: Imberhorne Farm Cottages, East Grinstead, West Sussex, Vernacular Architecture Journal 36 (2005).

JGS/SJC 01/06