The common was once an integral part of the farming economy of a manor. In open-field villages the manorial tenants had the right to graze livestock not only on the common at the edge of the settlement, but on the fallow fields, and on the other open-fields after harvest. Open-fields referred to the widespread system whereby the agricultural land of a parish was farmed in large fields that were divided into strips. The number and extent of the fields varied but they were normally farmed communally under regulations agreed with the manor court. Settlements on the edges of woods, as at Hedgecourt, also had rights over the manorial woods for grazing cattle and pigs. Common rights were vital for a small farm to survive. Common rights in this area included, first and foremost, pasture for cattle, sheep and horses and pannage for pigs. Secondly, estovers, meaning the right to take bracken for bedding and fodder, brushwood, furze and gorse for fuel. Thirdly, piscary, meaning the right to take fish from ponds and streams, and finally, the right to take soil, sands, stones and gravel. Common rights did not imply common ownership, and manorial juries often found it necessary to limit common rights to prevent the drain of resources found on the common.
The commons of the area appear to have separated the manorial sites. Hedgecourt manor was surrounded by the manors of Bysshe to the North, Felcourt to the East and South East, Imberhorne and Broadhurst to the South, Burleigh Arches to the South West and Burstow to the West. In terms of common lands dividing these manors, Hedgecourt manor had Frogwood or Froggit Heath to the North, Rabies Heath to the North East, Felbridge Heath to the South East, Hedgecourt Common to the South and South West, Copthorne Common and Snower Hill Waste to the West and North West. The bounds of Hedgecourt Heath, or Common as it was later called, have been ever changing over the centuries. It formed the area of land to the South and South West lying outside of Hedgecourt Park.
The manor of Hedgecourt, which included Hedgecourt Park and Hedgecourt Common, centred on the moated site, now known as Moat Wood. This manor was established in 1290, formed from the manor of Tylemundesdon and a carucate (120 acres) of Lindelegh, (believed to be Lingfield). The manor site was situated on the floodplain of the River Eden that wends its way from Hedgecourt Lake to Wiremill Lake, although until 1567, the lakes did not exist, only being created to serve the iron industry of the Felbridge area from that time. John Norden depicts Hodgecourt within a park boundary on his map of 1610. Hedgecourt Park enclosed land from what is now West Park Road to the North and the area around Newchapel Farm, now The Mormon Temple complex, that was known as Park Corner. The Park then ran South along the main London Road to Woodcock Hill, skirting Felbridge Heath and Hedgecourt Common. As a point of interest, as early as 1652, part of Felbridge Common belonged to the manor of Hedgecourt. The park then curved towards the North along the bounds of Pond Tail, Copthorne Common and Snow Hill Waste, ending back at West Park Road and Frogwood or Froggit Heath. The manor of Hedgecourt also included Cuttinglye Wood and Myllwood, now Furnace Wood. The word park comes from Old English, pearroc, meaning enclosed piece of land, but its definition has changed over the years. By the Middle Ages it was used exclusively to mean Deer Park but by the 18th century to mean landscaped grounds. By the 18th century the manor of Hedgecourt had been annexed to Felbridge Heath to form part of the Felbridge Place estate and its landscaped grounds.
The bounds of Hedgecourt Common are difficult to define accurately, especially at the Southern edge. In 1597, this area would appear to merge with Grinstead Down, or East Grinstead Common as it was later known. Grinstead Down ran from the main London Road to the area that is now known as The Oaks, Crawley Down Road. At the Western end of Grinstead Down, the edge of Hedgecourt Common was defined by the River Fel which also formed the county boundary. However, some time between 1748 and 1768, the county boundary moved from the stream to Felbridge Road. This road was later moved further North to the current line of Crawley Down Road, leaving the county boundary on the line of the old road. The Bourd map of 1748 depicts Hedgecourt Common bounded by the stream, but the Rocque map of 1768, does not indicate that the common crossed the road, implying that the Southern edge of the common may have been moved with the county boundary. The South West boundary is easier to define being that of Cuttinglye Wood and Myllwood, now known as Furnace Wood. To the West and North West, Hedgecourt Common included Pond Tail and then merged with Copthorne Common and Snow Hill Waste. To the North and East the manor of Hedgecourt bounded the common, in line with Hedgecourt Lake. To the South East, Hedgecourt Common merged with Felbridge Heath. This boundary is easier to define as an accurate description of that area was given when Felbridge Heath was enclosed in 1733: Felbridge Heath Common, with a smiths house and shop, and several acres of Felbridge Common, with two cottages and two newly enclosed fields of five and eight acres, the common being marked by stone bounds against Horne on the North and East Grinstead on the South, and with a boundary cross cut on the East side against Tandridge. This Felbridge Common contained fifty acres upwards, but is now wholly enclosed and Warren House Farm and the school stand on it. From this description it would appear that Felbridge Heath covered most of what became Felbridge Place, extending from Rowplatt Lane on the West and Woodcock Hill on the East. However, the Ordnance Survey map 1795, depicts Hedgecourt Common as encompassing the enclosed fields of Warren House Farm and the school.
The Ordnance Survey map of 1795 also depicts small enclosures around the farms on the centre of the common, and enclosures may well pre-date 1761, as they are indicated on the map that Sir William Clayton had produced that referred to the properties he owned situated on the common. Little Hedgecourt Farm, now Hedgecourt House, Felcot and Forge Farms, Yew Tree Farm, Crouches Orchard, now Michaelmas Farm, and Gibbshaven Farm are all depicted within their own enclosure. This would imply that these properties were not in direct competition with each other over communal rights and the enclosure of each property was beneficial to the occupier, whilst still allowing sufficient common land for grazing to survive. Enclosures allowed owners to exchange and consolidate their scattered strips of land in order to create square or rectangular fields of manageable size within clearly defined boundaries, generally a fence or hawthorn hedge. The removal of communal rights and obligations, especially the regulations that allowed all commoners to graze their cattle and sheep together over arable land after harvest, enabled farmers to choose their own course of cropping and to sow, harvest or leave their land fallow as they wished. This in turn led to increased agricultural productivity, which is borne out by the number of lime kilns and corn mills that were in operation in the Felbridge area towards the end of the 18th century. The main benefit for the lord of the manor was that enclosed land brought in extra rent.
This type of enclosure was known as private or piecemeal, and pre-dates the Parliamentary Enclosure Acts. Parliamentary enclosure was the last stage of a process that was centuries old. The first of these acts was in Dorset in 1604, but it was well into the 18th century before this method became common practice and not until 1750 that it became dominant. Hence the enclosure of Felbridge Heath in 1733 was relatively early. The Enclosure Act for Godstone and Horne, of which Hedgecourt Common was part, was passed in 1810. However, the accompanying map, produced in 1814, shows only three areas enclosed, that of Little Hedgecourt, now Hedgecourt House, site of 103-107 Copthorne Road and the site of the Rope Yard, now Lyric Cottage, in Rowplatt Lane. Unfortunately, little else is mentioned for Felbridge area, and it may be that not all the land was enclosed or if a map of further enclosures was produced, it has not yet surfaced or survived.
Direct ownership of Hedgecourt Common is also difficult to ascertain until 1700, when it was purchased by Sir William Clayton and held under the manor of Bletchingley. Prior to that date there are few mentions of the common, although ownership of the manor of Hedgecourt is well documented from 1302. However, in 1761, Clayton had a map produced with all the properties on the common that he owned. This map encompassed all common land in his possession and shows Hedgecourt Common bounded by Rowplatt Lane, Mill Lane, Hedgecourt Lake and Furnace Wood.
By the 19th century, the accepted area of Hedgecourt Common fell within the bounds of Rowplatt Lane, along Crawley Down Road to Furnace Wood, then along the edge of Furnace Wood to the Pond Tail of Hedgecourt Lake. Then along the Southern edge of the lake and up Mill Lane, joining the old Hedgecourt Road. Part of this old road is still clearly visible, running on the line of Twitten Lane, continuing behind the Village Hall and the school and emerging back onto the line of the Copthorne Road. In 1733, the area now known as Felbridge Green was classed as Felbridge Heath Common, however, the Ordnance Survey map of 1879, with the exception of Warren House Farm and the School, clearly lists this area as Hedgecourt Common. This makes Felbridge Green the only public piece of Hedgecourt Common remaining.
Properties on Hedgecourt Common
Over the years there have been several properties built on the common, some of them have now disappeared, but many are still standing. The following is a list of these properties, with their dates, built on the common up until 1911, when the area began to change beyond recognition as a common. Each is referenced with a number that corresponds to their location on the attached map.
1 Gibbshaven Farm: first mentioned in 1582 but is believed to date from 1410.
2 Kiln: pottery shards were found dating from the 15th century.
3 Felcot and Forge Farms: believed to date from the 1500s.
4 Michealmas Farm: believed to date from the 1500s, then known as Crouches Orchard.
5 Doves Barn: first mentioned in 1678 and formerly known as Black Barn.
6 Yew Tree Farm: believed to date to the 1600s.
7 Hedgecourt Windmill: built in1739 but had disappeared by 1789.
8 Little Hedgecourt Farm: built between 1740 and 1768, now known as Hedgecourt House.
9 School House: built between 1748 and 1783.
10 Warren House Farm: built by 1748, possibly erected when that part of the common was enclosed in 1733.
11 Rope Yard: in operation during the 18th century and depicted on the Clayton map in 1761.
12 Five Oaks: dated from the mid 1700s, but had disappeared by the late 1800s.
13 Oak Farm: dates from the mid 1700s.
14 Cottage: dated from the late 1700s, but had disappeared by the late 1800s.
15 Cottage: dated from the late 1700s but had disappeared by the late 1800s.
16 Rubens Cottage: dated from the late 1700s but had disappeared in the early 20th century.
17 Little Gibbs Haven: dated from the mid 1700s, but disappeared between 1980 and 1911.
18 Lime Kiln: built and used during the second half of the 18th century, had ceased being used by 1850.
19 The Shooting Box: dates to the late 1700s, partially demolished in the 1940s and re-built in 1999.
20 Acacia Farm: earliest mention is between 1795 and 1805, but is believed to date to 1610.
21 Lake Cottage: dates from the first half of the 19th century.
22 Cottages: a pair of cottages that dated to the first half of the 19th century, but had disappeared by 1911.
23 Lyric Cottage, dates to 1800s.
24 3-4, Rowplatt Lane: dated to about 1880, demolished in 1964.
25 Anns Orchard: dates to between 1842 and 1861.
26 Gravel Pits: in use during the second half of the 19th century.
27 Vine Cottage: dates to the second half of the 19th century, formerly Warren House Farm Cottages.
28 Villas: date to the late 19th century.
29 Rose Cottages: date to the second half of the 19th century, replaced by Walnut Marches in the 20th century.
30 Little Walnut Tree Cottage: dated to the second half of the 19th century.
31 Ascotts: dates to the second half of the 19th century, formerly a pair of farm cottages.
32 Mount Cottages: dates to the end of the 19th century.
Flora found on Hedgecourt Common
There is no documented list of what grew on the common until the 1940s. However, during the War years Mrs Dora Wheeler contributed to the war effort by collecting herbs and wild plants that could be used as drug substitutes. Mrs Wheeler and the Felbridge Herb Gathers, often with the help of Felbridge School children, would collect these plants, dry them and send them to Brome & Schimmer, who were botanical drug importers and spice merchants. From their receipts we have an idea of the type of plants that grew on the common. Also, the children of Felbridge School were encouraged to identify wild plants, and a school project, in 1946, was to collect, press and identify plants from the wastes and hedgerows of the Felbridge area. Jean Roberts completed this project, collecting most of her specimens from the area around Little Hedgecourt at the Northern edge of Hedgecourt Common.
More recent sources of information about the flora of Hedgecourt Common can be found in the SSSI surveys carried out, between 1997 and 2001, on the Pond Tail Reserve, at the North West end of Hedgecourt Lake, and at Felcot Farm on the Western edge of the common. Combining all the available information there is over 300 recorded species of wild plants growing on Hedgecourt Common (list available upon request).
The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History
Hedgecourt Manor House, Ancient Monument Listing, 1961
Victoria History of Surrey
Richard Budgen map, 1724
Explanation of the Cottages on the Common, Clayton map, 1761
Gardner & Gream map, 1778
Plan of Gulledge Farm, 1841
Worth Tithe and Apportionment, 1841
Horne Tithe and Apportionment, 1844
Sale details and map for Little Gibs Haven, 1911
Sale map and catalogue for Oak Farm, 1911
The Clayton papers, SHC
Common Lands, PRO
Enclosure Awards, PRO
Enclosure Records, PRO
Schedule of Tenancies for Felbridge Place estate, 1911
Title deeds for Michaelmas Farm
Title deeds for Felcot Farm
Title deeds for Lake Cottage
Yew Tree Farm, 1990, newspaper article from archive
Roman Ways in the Weald by I D Margary
Doomsday of English Enclosure Acts and Awards by W.E. Tate
Horne P. Gray, 2000
Godstone by U Lambert
Hedgecourt Court Book, 1587-1841
The Manor of Imberhorne map, 1567
Bourd map, 1748
Rocque map, 1768
Ordnance Survey map, 1789, 1879, 1912
Godstone Tithe and Apportionment, 1840
East Grinstead Tithe map and Apportionment, 1842
Sale details and map for Little Gibbs Haven and Gibbs Haven, 1895
Sale map and catalogue for Felbridge Place, 1911
Sale map and catalogue for Cuttinglye and its environs, 1916
Will of John Pattenden, 1753-1823
Pattenden Family of Felbridge, fact sheet SJC 06/01
Title deeds for Jeffries Nurseries
Michaelmas Farm listing, 1975
Title deeds for Llanberis Farm
Title deeds of Oak Farm
Lime Kilns and Lime Burning in Felbridge, fact sheet SJC 11/00
Pottery Finds in Rowplatt Lane, Dr P Merritt
L A Spring, Surrey History Centre Archivist
Felbridge Parish and People notes, I. Margary 1975
Copthorne The Story So Far, 2000
Hedgecourt Common Flora References
Documented memoirs of Mrs D Wheeler, 1965
Herb Gathers, 1944, newspaper article from archive
Theyre helping to save lives, 1944, newspaper article from archive
Wild Flower project, 1946, from archive
Photographic Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe by B Gibbons and P Brough
Documented memoirs of Mrs M Jones, 2001
Herbs for healing, 1944, newspaper article from archive
Brome & Schimmer receipts, 1943-45, from archive
The Wild Flowers of the British Isles by D Streeter