The first reference made of the area known as Felbridge may well be found in the Doomsday Book of 1089 in the guise of Felmere, meaning field by a pond. The exact location of Felmere is not known but it has been suggested that it be in the vicinity of Imberhorne. The first definite recording, of the area known as Felbridge, is as Feltbrugge in documents preserved in France dating from the early 1200s. By 1255 it was known as Feldbrigge, meaning bridge by a field or open space. It was some time between 1610 and 1720 that the familiar name of Felbridge appears which generally referred to the area where there was a bridge over the river Fel.
The Perimeters of Felbridge
The area of land included in the definition of Felbridge is to be found partly in the county of Surrey and partly in the county of Sussex. It encompasses the Estate created by the Evelyn family of 1748, the ecclesiastical parish of Felbridge created in 1865 and the civil parish created in 1953. It takes in parts of Newchapel, Copthorne, Snowhill, Crawley Down, East Grinstead and of course the village of Felbridge.
Pre-historic Felbridge up to 8300 BC
Pre-historic is generally called the Pleistocene and Palaeolithic periods. Pleistocene is characterised by climatic changes with fluctuating cold periods, beginning around 1.8 million years ago. The last Ice Age began to recede in Britain about 20,000 years ago and a warmer climate encouraged human settlement. There was a rise in sea level that led to the North Sea severing Britain from the rest of Europe in about 6500 BC. This was followed by the Palaeolithic period, also known as Old Stone Age. This was the earliest phase of human development, characterised by the hunter-gatherer way of life. In Britain it lasted for about 500,000 years until about 8300 BC.
In pre-historic terms, Felbridge as a place did not exist, but the geology, landscape and conditions of the area can be determined. The area encompasses both the Weald of what we now call Sussex and the Greensand of what we now call Surrey. Historically the area contained little good agricultural land as the Weald clay was heavy to work, boggy and liable, in its natural state, to acquire heavy oak cover, whilst the Greensand, although lighter, was poor in yield.
Evidence suggests that in pre-history the area was mostly dense woodland with boggy patches and outcrops of sandstone. It has been suggested that this led to fairly late settlement that was often left to its own devices being at the extremes of any centres of major power. To date there is no evidence of human habitation from this period.
Mesolithic and Neolithic Felbridge 8300 and 700 BC
The Mesolithic period was the transitional period between Palaeolithic and Neolithic. It was characterised by very small stone tools and sophisticated hunting practices. In Britain it extended from 8300 BC to 4000 BC and coincided with the interglacial period. There is Mesolithic evidence in Felbridge. Artefacts such as microliths and flint scrapers have been found near Gulledge, and one flint arrowhead has been found in Rowplatt Lane and a further two in Furnace Wood.
The Neolithic period is also known as New Stone Age and was characterised by the development of settlements and the cultivation of crops. This period dates from about 4000 BC. There is some evidence of the Neolithic period in Felbridge, again in the Gulledge area.
Bronze and Iron Age Felbridge 2300 BC to 43 AD
The Bronze Age, as the name suggests, was characterised by bronze working and was linked with a greater intensity of farming. Again bronze artefacts have been found at Gulledge, along with iron artefacts from the Iron Age.
The Iron Age was a period when iron became the primary metal for weapons and tools, replacing bronze. It began about 700 BC and is generally regarded as having ended with the Roman invasion of AD 43.
It was during the Bronze and Iron Ages that the area developed a system of track ways that tended to run East-West on the high points of the country. The Weald, due to its nature and geology, was ribboned with track ways for transportation of iron from the iron deposits found in the area and for communication. These often ran between cultivated fields and undoubtedly every prominent ridge bore a ridge way of some sort. A fine example of one of these ancient tracks can be found running along Chapmans Lane, once known as Imberhorne Lane, along the ridge between Imberhorne Farm and Gulledge and on to Hophurst Farm, a section once known as Kiln Lane, and then heads off towards Crawley Down.
Routes from North to South doubtless existed too, but as they lay across the grain of the country they are now generally less obvious. One of theses tracks ways has been identified as running from Tandridge through Felbridge, Selsfield Common, Ardingly and on to Haywards Heath. Evidence suggests that the Roman road from London to Brighton superseded this track way.
Roman Felbridge 43 AD to 406
The Romans passed through Felbridge with the construction of the London to Brighton Way. Primarily it was planned as one of a series of roads to connect the rich corn-growing area of the South Downs with London and the rest of Britain. However, the road passed through the iron-working district of the Weald, and was, no doubt, much used in transporting its products to London and the coast. The road crosses the East-West track way near Hophurst Farm, and the Romans probably used this old track way to gain access to the new road whilst under construction.
Other Roman finds in the area include the remains of a Roman Bloomery that was discovered near Smythford, on the River Fel. This site is close to the Roman road and borders the Gulledge field that has yielded the artefacts from the previous periods, and also some Roman pottery, suggesting a site of continual occupation.
Saxon Felbridge 406 to 1066
There is no dated evidence of anything from this period within Felbridge.
Medieval Felbridge 1066 to 1485
Taken from the Doomsday book, the area that is now known as Felbridge was comparatively isolated from both the Anglo Saxon kingdoms of Surrey and Sussex. Felbridge straddles the boundary of Surrey and Sussex and was on the extremities of both kingdoms. As already indicated, the soil in the area was poor and the best soil lay in narrow ribbons along the dip-slope and scarp-slope of the Downs. This gives the characteristic long thin parishes found in Surrey and explains why Felbridge is so far from the village of Godstone and yet fell into the parish of Godstone before acquiring an ecclesiastical parish of its own in 1865.
It is now recognised that the medieval age was an age of great change in the structure of local society. Common-field agriculture was developing, nucleated settlements were forming, and township communities were growing in identity and cohesion. However, in regions where there was much woodland, as in the Felbridge area, these changes were slower. Wooded areas tended to have smaller isolated settlements.
There are two moated sites within Felbridge both dated by English Heritage to the Medieval period, one on the River Fel behind Ascotts, and one near Hedgecourt. Both sites are listed but unfortunately have had little work carried out on them and neither site has been dated more accurately.
The moated site behind Ascotts abuts the Roman Road, and is the smaller of the two sites and was once a figure of eight shape when in use. The moated site near Hedgecourt is classed as a Homestead Moat and was possibly used as the site of the first Hedgecourt manor. When surveyed in the early 20th century it measured 95 yards square. It lay North-East by South-West and the moat was twenty feet wide although mostly silted up. The inner scarp could not be traced, and the outer scarp was considered to be mostly in the moat. A track way crossed the enclosure from East to West; this was felt to be of a later date. Access to the site would have been by a drawbridge or planks supported by a wooden structure in the middle of the moat and removable at will.
The most substantial settlements in the area were the manors of Imberhorne and Hedgecourt, with smaller settlements developing in the gradually cleared woodland. The manor of Imberhorne dates from 1078 and the manor of Hedgecourt from 1290. Hedgecourt manor being created from the manor of Tylemundesdon and a carucate, (120 acres), of land from Lindelegh. There is also mention of a chapel, dating from before 1365, which was probably located near the moated site of Hedgecourt manor.
Smaller settlements from this period grew from small clearings in the woodland and were linked by small track ways. Along the East-West track way Hophurst Farm and Gulledge Farm appeared both originally dating from the late 13th century with the current farmhouses dating to the early 16th century. On Hedgecourt Common there are Givssiven, now Gibbshaven Farm, Felcot and Forge Farm, Crouchers Orchard, now Michaelmas Farm, Yew Tree Farm and Doves Barn, all dating from between the early 15th century and late16th century. At Snow Hill there is Smugglers Cottage
dating from the 14th century. At Newchapel there is Rabies Farm dating from the 14th century, and at Wire Mill there is Mill End House, formerly Ben Ezra, dating from the 14th century.
Towards the end of the 15th century, along side the development of the settlements and agriculture in the Felbridge area, industry was developing. There was a mill at Myllwood, now Furnace Wood, dating from the late 1400s, and later, Hedgecourt Mill and Wood Cock Hammer, now the Wire Mill, both originally dating from the 1570s.
Tudor and Stuart Felbridge 1485 to 1714
The type of mill built at Myllwood has not yet been determined, nor whether it was a corn or iron mill. However, by 1567 there was a blast furnace in operation here powered by the water from the River Fel that had been damned at Furnace Wood to create what is now Furnace Lake. This was the first in a series of three ponds that were created around the middle of the 16th century to feed the Felbridge iron industry. The Fel was again damned at Hedgecourt to create a 60 acre pond to drive a corn mill there as well as act as a reservoir of water needed to operate the Wood Cock Hammer, along with the water of its own pond, now called Wire Mill Lake. This was an age of heavy industry in Felbridge, fuelled by charcoal and using the River Fel to smelt, cast and forge iron. The Black Country of the Tudor era!
The iron industry created prosperity and employment in the area and some of the existing properties were enlarged to reflect their growing status, among them Gibbshaven, the family home of the iron master family of Thorpe. Gulledge and Hophurst, were both extended in the early 1600s under the ownership of the Alfrey family, MPs for East Grinstead. Other properties also began to emerge to create little hamlets.
The area North of Felbridge on what had become the main road through, now the A22, was known as Newchapel by the mid 1500s and probably derived its name from a chapel that was built on the Common sometime around the middle of the 16th century. This was either the cause or the consequence of the small hamlet that developed there. Park Corner, later Newchapel Farm, now the Mormons residence dates from the late 1500s, and Cherry Tree Farm, Lowlands Farm and Gate House Farm date from the mid 1600s. Also to the North of Felbridge, several properties were built along what is now West Park Road. Quarry Farm and Briar Cottage both date from the mid 1500s and Perry Farm dates from 1665.
To the South of Felbridge the Star Inn was built about 1675 and George Evelyn built Heath Hatch around 1690, on the site that Felbridge Place was later to occupy. The acquisition of land in Felbridge by the Evelyn family in 1588 and the building of Heath Hatch signify the beginnings of Felbridge itself.
Georgian Felbridge 1714 to 1837
This period saw the creation of Felbridge as an Estate. In 1719 Edward Evelyn purchased the manor of Hedgecourt and Park Corner from Sir William Gage and by 1748 Edward had purchased the remainder of the Gage estate in the Felbridge area. The area totalled over 1536 acres and consolidated what became known as Felbridge; an area that remained relatively unchanged until 1911.
This period saw the continuation and then decline of the iron industry, the development of intense agricultural practices, further building and the development of the social and spiritual well being of the Felbridge inhabitants. For the whole of this period life in Felbridge revolved around the Evelyn family and their estate.
The iron industry peaked about 1760, followed by a rapid decline. Coal had superseded charcoal as fuel and was not readily available in this area. Transportation of coal was expensive, so the iron industry moved to the where coal deposits could be found. The result of this was that by the late 1780s the iron works at Furnace Wood had been converted to a corn mill, Wood Cock Hammer had ceased to forge and had been turned into a wire mill, finally ending up as a corn mill by 1825.
Fortunately the decline and eventual collapse of the iron industry coincided with the expansion of agriculture in the area. During this period increasing national pressure had been put upon the land by a population whose numbers and standard of living were rising. To meet the increasing demands, a revolution in agriculture took place with the introduction of new farming practices, such as liming for the increased fertility of the land. It had long since been known that putting lime into the soil increased the yield of crops, although the early farmers were probably unaware why lime was used. By the mid 1700s most major farms had their own lime kiln, often in the corner of a field or on a road verge, common or waste land.
Agricultural productivity in the Felbridge area must have been high as it supported not only the two corn mills that had been converted from the redundant iron works, but also the water mill at Hedgecourt that had been in use since the 1570s, and several windmills. There was a windmill constructed in 1739 on the South side of Hedgecourt lake, another on Copthorne Common to the West of Snow Hill and one to the South of Tullys Farm, now Kenward Farm, near Furnace Wood.
Buildings that date from this period include the Mill Cottages at Hedgecourt, and Hedgecourt Farm, although it is probable that these replaced previous older buildings. The most obvious feature of the early 1700s in Felbridge are the lines of Spanish Chestnut trees that bound the old Hedgecourt Road, parallel to the Copthorne Road, and Crawley Down Road. These were planted by the Evelyn family some time between 1719 and 1748and stand as a testament to the Georgian period. Other buildings of the 18th century include, Park Cottages, sometimes referred to as Firs Cottages, on the Copthorne Road and Heath Hatch, later to be replaced by Felbridge Place in 1763, now the site of Whittington College. The Old Pheasantry on Woodcock Hill, Forge Farm, now Gollards Farm opposite Hobbs Industrial Estate, Legend, formerly Wire Mill Farm, and Warren Farm, the site of Warren Close. All these appear on the Bourd map of 1748 and were in the ownership of the Evelyn family. Other 18th century buildings of the Evelyn estate that were built after 1748 include, Wards Farm and Park Farm, now Park House off Woodcock Hill, a school house on the common in 1783, a monument erected in 1785 in Felbridge Park by James Evelyn to commemorate his parents and a chapel in the grounds of Felbridge Place in 1786.
Building work in the Felbridge area was not only confined to the Evelyn estate. At Imberhorne manor a new Manor House, now Imberhorne Farm, was built, along with Stream Farm on the South side of the Surrey/Sussex boundary and Harts Hall on the North side, now the site of Felbridge Court, and in Crawley Down Road, The Oaks and Oak Farm. Later development on the Imberhorne estate can be found in the early 1800s when four cottages were erected to the East of a track that later became known as Imberhorne Lane. On Hedgecourt Common, part of the Clayton estate, a rope-yard was in use around the 1750s and in the 1790s a Shooting Box was constructed between Gibbshaven Farm and Michaelmas Farm. In the Snow Hill area there were several properties erected. Snow Hill Cottage dates from this period, along with a pair of semi-detached cottages adjacent, whilst down a track that was later to be called Chapel Lane the House of Content was operating as an ale-house.
Victorian and Edwardian Felbridge 1832 to 1911
In 1856 the Felbridge estate was sold to George Gatty and functioned as a country gentlemans estate. The Gatty family embarked upon the task of adding to the estate and erecting buildings suitable to the needs of the community. The Post office/shop was built during this period, along with other properties to house the workers of the estate; these include, Magnolia Cottages on Woodcock Hill, Ebor Lodge on London Road, and a pair of lodge houses to Felbridge Place, one on the Copthorne Road and one on the London Road. Other building work included St Johns church and a vicarage to house the vicar.
Again it was not only the Felbridge estate that was expanding, the Imberhorne estate provided properties for its workers which included, the Birches Cottages, Albany Cottages, Yew Tree Cottages, the cottage that is now Motech and Fir Tree Cottages on the Crawley Down Road. These dwellings were later added to the Felbridge estate by the Gatty family, along with Oak Cottage, now Anns Orchard and a pair of Victorian Villas opposite Rowplatt Lane.
It was from the mid 1800s that other properties began to appear and areas began to expand. Snow Hill gained The White House on the Copthorne Road built as a large family home, Mount Farm and the properties along Snow Hill Lane, along with a non-conformist chapel in Chapel Lane. To the North of Felbridge the West Park estate was developing under the Palmer family with the building of West Park House. Other Victorian properties belonging to this estate included Downlands, West Park Cottages, now known as Toll Cottages and Worgers Cottage. There was also much building activity at North End, the Felbridge end of East Grinstead Common, with a brewery, shop, school and houses. However, on the whole the area remained based in agriculture and gentlemans pursuits of hunting, shooting and fishing.
Modern Felbridge From 1911
The beginning of the 20th century saw the break up of many gentlemens estate, especially after World War I when estate workers became aware of other opportunities. The Felbridge estate was sold in 1911 and the process of gradually splitting up and selling off land began. The Imberhorne estate remained virtually intact until after the Second World War when it too was sold off and developed as a housing estate.
On the whole the Felbridge area remains agriculturally based, with small pockets of light industry and commerce. However, being situated within a commuterable distance from London and on direct rail and road routes, Felbridge was and is a prime area to be developed as residential.
Modern Felbridge has seen a massive increase in population. In 1086 it was estimated that this area would have had a population of under 2.5 people per square mile equivalent to about 8 people in total. When Felbridge was an estate it was estimated that about 320 people lived and worked on the estate and the population remained fairly static at that figure until its sale in 1911. With the first development of housing the population had more than doubled with a gradual increase until the 1960s when it shot up coinciding with a building spurt, and again in the late 1980s and early 90s. The population now stands at just below 2500.
The first phase of modern development started shortly after World War I with properties being built in Crawley Down Road, Furnace Wood, Cuttinglye and part of Domewood. This was followed shortly after by the development of Rowplatt Lane, and then along the Copthorne Road. Perhaps the first small housing estates to be built can be found at Wembury Park at Newchapel, The Limes, formerly the orchard of Wards Farm, Stream Park on farm land once belonging to Stream Farm and Halsford Green on the site of Halsford Farm. The most major housing estate can be found on land once belonging to Imberhorne manor, now the Garden Wood estate and more recently Bluebell Close.
With the increase in housing and population there was a need for the affairs of Felbridge to be dealt with on a local level. Felbridge had fallen under the Godstone Rural District Council and was administered by three different parish councils, Godstone, Horne and Tandridge. Some members of these councils had never set foot in Felbridge and had little idea of the changes that had taken place during the first half of the 20th century. So in 1953, after many years of fighting for independence, the Felbridge Parish Council was formed to protect the interests of the local community.
Recent housing is being built as infill on what were larger house plots. Felbridge Court was built in the late 1960s on the site of Harts Hall, along with a number of bungalows built on part of the garden of Lambourne Lodge, taking the name that the property was formerly known as, Tangle Oak. Tithe Orchard and Warren Close were built in the 1970s on the site of Warren House Farm. In the late 1980s and 90s Lyndhurst Farm Close was built on the site of Lyndhurst Farm, Hedgecourt Place on the site of the Wyevale Garden Centre, McIver Close on the site of Alton House, Wheelers Way on the site of Brockworth, The Glebe on lands formerly belonging to the church and Standen Close on land belonging to Old Felbridge House, formerly Stream Farm. In the year 2000 The Feld was completed on land also belonging to Old Felbridge House.
Along side residential building, light industry has expanded. Imberhorne Way was built in the 1950s on land belonging to Imberhorne manor. The Birches Industrial Estate was built in the 1970s on land belonging to Birches Piggery, formerly part of Imberhorne manor. Snowhill Business Centre was built in the 1980s on the old gravel pits, formerly the site of the public quarry, along with Hobbs Industrial Estate on Hobbs Barracks, formerly part of the Felbridge estate. Silverwood at Snowhill, formerly part of Copthorne Common was developed in the 1990s. The most recent buildings include the office that stands at the end of Imberhorne Lane finished in 2000, and the third phase of the Birches Industrial Estate is currently under construction.
I hope this provides a summary of the history of an area that could otherwise look like a 20th century village built up along a main A-road in the age of the motor car. When in reality even this small area has a wealth of history with much still to be unearthed.
This is a general, and by no means, complete list of the development of the Felbridge area. Properties have only been included where their approximate dates have been established, to help illustrate the Time line of Felbridge. Further details are available in the Felbridge Archive on most properties included and also on many others in the area.
Godstone by U Lambert
Victoria History of Surrey
Doomsday Book of Surrey, Alecto Historical Edition
Doomsday Book of Sussex, Alecto Historical Edition
Oxford Companion to Local and Family history by D Hey
Concise dictionary of English Place Names by E Erwan
Time Team Site Reports 1994 - 2000
Time Teams Timechester
Felbridge Parish and People
Roman Ways of the Weald by I Margary
The Iron Industry of the Weald by H Cleere and D Crossley
Wealden Iron Bulletin, Second Series no. 12, 1992 and no. 17, 1997
Imberhorne Manor, newspaper article from Felbridge Archive
Archaeological Findings at Imberhorne/Gulledge Farm by D J Skinner
Lonely house looks back over centuries, newspaper article from Felbridge Archive
The manors of Hedgecourt and Covelingley, newspaper article from Felbridge Archive
Glimpse of Felbridge history by I Margary, newspaper article from Felbridge Archive
East Grinstead Manors by P Bateman, article from Felbridge Archive
Gulledge Deeds 1841-1891 including property plan of 1841
Hophurst Title Deeds 1757-1891
The London Temple by T Warner, article from Felbridge Archive
History of the Antiquities of the County of Surrey, vol.2
Felbridge Parish is a year old, newspaper article from Felbridge Archive
F&DHG Fact sheets, Origin of Newchapel, Felbridge Monument, Felbridge Place, Hedgecourt Mills and Mill Cottages, Warren Furnace, The Chapels of Felbridge, Hophurst Farm, The Chestnut Trees, Lime Kilns and Lime Burning in Felbridge.
Tithe Map and Apportionment for Worth, 1839 and East Grinstead, 1842
Bourd Map, 1748
Sale Plan for Felbridge Estate, 1856
Ecclesiastical map of Felbridge 1865
Civil Parish Map of Felbridge 1953