East Grinstead

East Grinstead

High Street
East Grinstead
 East Grinstead shown within West Sussex
Area  24.43 km2 (9.43 sq mi) [1]
Population 23,942 [1] 2001 Census
26,383 (2011 Census)[2]
    density  980/km2 (2,500/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTQ395385
    London  26 miles (42 km) N 
Civil parishEast Grinstead
DistrictMid Sussex
Shire countyWest Sussex
RegionSouth East
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode district RH19
Dialling code 01342
Police Sussex
Fire West Sussex
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK ParliamentMid Sussex
WebsiteEast Grinstead Town Council
List of places
West Sussex

Coordinates: 51°07′44″N 0°00′25″W / 51.129°N 0.007°W / 51.129; -0.007

East Grinstead is a town and civil parish in the northeastern corner of Mid Sussex district of West Sussex in England near the East Sussex, Surrey, and Kent borders. It lies 27 miles (43 km) south of London, 21 miles (34 km) north northeast of Brighton, and 38 miles (61 km) east northeast of the county town of Chichester. The civil parish covers an area of 2,443.45 hectares (6,037.9 acres) and had a population of 23,942 persons in the 2001 census. The population of the town at the 2011 Census was 26,383.[2] Nearby towns include Crawley and Horley to the west, Tunbridge Wells to the east and Redhill and Reigate to the northwest. The town is contiguous with the village of Felbridge to the northwest. Until 1974 East Grinstead was the centre for local government - East Grinstead Urban District Council - and was located in the county of East Sussex. East Grinstead, along with Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill, as part of the former Cuckfield Rural District Council, came together as Mid-Sussex; moving to the jurisdiction of West Sussex County Council. The town has many historic buildings and is located on the Greenwich Meridian. It is located in the Weald and Ashdown Forest lies to the south of the town.

Places of interest

Houses and shops in East Grinstead

The High Street contains one of the longest continuous runs of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England. Other notable buildings in the town include Sackville College, the sandstone almshouse built in 1609 where the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" was written by John Mason Neale. The college has sweeping views towards Ashdown Forest. The adjacent St Swithun's Church, stands on the highest ground in the town and was rebuilt in the eighteenth century (the tower dating from 1789) to a perpendicular design by James Wyatt; its imposing building dominates the surrounding countryside for many miles around. In the churchyard are commemorated the East Grinstead Martyrs; and in the south-east corner is the grave of John Mason Neale. The Greenwich Meridian runs through the grounds of the historic 1769 East Court mansion, home of the Town Council,[3] giving the visitor an opportunity to stand with a foot in both the east and west. The mansion stands in a parkland setting. In 1968 the East Grinstead Society[4] was founded as an independent body both to protect the historically important buildings of East Grinstead (and its environs) and to improve the amenities for future generations.

On the outskirts of the town is Standen, a country house belonging to the National Trust, containing one of the best collections of arts and crafts movement furnishings and fabrics. Off the A264 to Tunbridge Wells, there is a 1792 historic house called Hammerwood Park (the first work of the future architect of the United States Capitol) which is open to the public twice a week in summer. East Grinstead House is the headquarters of the (UK and Ireland) Caravan Club.

Local attractions include Ashdown Forest (where the Winnie-the-Pooh stories are set) and the Bluebell Railway, a preserved heritage line with steam locomotives. The town is also the site of Queen Victoria Hospital, where famed plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe treated burns victims of World War II and formed the Guinea Pig Club. A statue of Sir Archibald McIndoe [5] caring for an injured airman was erected in June 2014 outside Sackville College and was unveiled by HRH The Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. The town is well located to visit Chartwell the country home of Sir Winston Churchill, Hever Castle home of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn, and Penshurst Place home of the Sidney family. Kidbrooke Park (today Michael Hall School), a home of the Hambro family, was restored by the noted Sussex architect and antiquarian, Walter Godfrey, as was Plawhatch Hall.

During the Second World War, the town became a secondary target for German bombers which failed to make their primary target elsewhere. On the afternoon of Friday 9 July 1943, a Luftwaffe bomber became separated from its squadron, followed the main railway line and circled the town twice, then jettisoned seven bombs. Two bombs, one with a delayed-action fuse, fell on the Whitehall Theatre, a cinema on the London Road, where 184 people at the matinée show were watching a Hopalong Cassidy film before the main feature. A total of 108 people were killed in the raid, including children in the cinema, many of whom were evacuees; and some twenty Canadian servicemen stationed locally, who were either in the cinema when it was hit, or arrived minutes later to help with rescuing survivors. This was the largest loss of life of any single air raid in Sussex.

In 2006, the East Grinstead Town Museum[6] was moved to new custom-built premises in the historic centre of the town, and successfully re-opened to the public. The Chequer Mead Community Arts Centre[7] includes a modern 349-seat purpose-built theatre, which stages professional and amateur plays and music (local rock groups to chamber music orchestras), opera, ballet, folk music, tribute bands, and talks. The centre has a large art gallery for temporary exhibitions.

In addition to the nearby Ashdown Forest, East Grinstead is served by the Forest Way and Worth Way linear Country Parks which follow the disused railway line from Three Bridges all the way through to Groombridge and which are part of the Sustrans national cycle network. To the south of the town lies the Weir Wood Reservoir which offers sailing[8] and a nature reserve which attracts an interesting assortment of birdlife. It is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Religious organisations

East Grinstead has an unusually diverse range of religious and spiritual organisations for a town of its size.[9][10][11] A broad range of mainstream Christian denominations have places of worship in the town, and several others used to be represented; Protestant Nonconformism has featured especially prominently for the last two centuries, in common with other parts of northern Sussex.[12] Several other religious groups have connections with the town, from merely owning property to having national headquarters there.[11]

The Church of England has four places of worship in the town. St Swithun's Church was founded in the 11th century. Architect James Wyatt rebuilt it in local stone in 1789 after it became derelict and collapsed.[13][14] Near the entrance to the church, three stones mark the supposed ashes of Anne Tree, Thomas Dunngate and John Forman who were burned as martyrs on 18 July 1556 because they would not renounce the Protestant faith. John Foxe wrote about them in his 1,800-page Foxe's Book of Martyrs.[15] Two other churches are in St Swithun's parish.[16] St Luke's Church in Holtye Avenue on the Stone Quarry estate was built in 1954 to serve the northeast of the town.[17] St Barnabas' Church in Dunnings Road serves the south of the town; the present wooden structure of 1975 replaced an older church built in 1912.[18] The fourth church, in the northwest of the town, is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. Built by W.T. Lowdell over a 21-year period beginning in 1891, the Decorated Gothic Revival church was consecrated in 1905 and has its own parish. It was established by adherents of the Oxford Movement, and services still follow a more Anglo-Catholic style than East Grinstead's other Anglican churches.[13][19][20]

Roman Catholics worship at the Church of Our Lady and St Peter, founded in 1898 by Edward Blount of the Blount baronetcy, a resident of nearby Worth.[21] East Grinstead's first Nonconformist church was the Zion Chapel, built in 1810 for the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. The small evangelical Calvinistic group owned the church until 1980; it is now used by Baptists and is called West Street Baptist Church.[20][22] Trinity Methodist Church is the much-expanded successor to older places of Methodist worship in the town; the community dates back to 1868.[13][20][23] The United Reformed Church community meets in the Moat Church, a former Congregational chapel built in the Early English Gothic Revival style in 1870.[13][20] Jehovah's Witnesses worship at a modern Kingdom Hall; the community, established in 1967, previously used a former Salvation Army building.[23] The meetinghouse of the LDS Church on Ship Street was built in 1985.[24] A 2007 book also noted the New Life Church—a Newfrontiers evangelical charismatic church—the Kingdom Faith Church, another independent charismatic congregation, and the Full Gospel Church.[11]

Opus Dei has a conference centre at Wickenden Manor near the town,[25] and Rosicrucians also have a presence in nearby Greenwood Gate.[26] The London England Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is just over the Surrey border at Newchapel;[27] and the United Kingdom (and former world) headquarters of the Church of Scientology is at Saint Hill Manor on the southwestern edge of East Grinstead. Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard bought the Georgian mansion and its 24 hectares (59 acres) of grounds from the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1959, and lived in the town until 1967.[11]

In 1994, a documentary entitled Why East Grinstead? was produced for Channel 4's Witness strand of documentaries. It sought to examine and explain the convergence of such a wide variety of religious organisations in the East Grinstead area. The documentary, produced by Zed Productions and directed by Ian Sellar, reached no definite conclusion: explanations ranged from the local presence of ley lines to the more prosaic idea that religious leaders had settled there because they liked the views.[11][28]

In World War II

In 1863, the then cottage hospital, Queen Victoria Hospital, was built on its current site in the 1930s. During the World War II the hospital was developed as a specialist burns unit by Sir Archibald McIndoe. It became world-famous for pioneering treatment of RAF and allied aircrew who were badly burned or crushed and required reconstructive plastic surgery. Most famously, it was where the Guinea Pig Club was formed in 1941, as a club which then became a support network for the aircrew and their family members. The club still provides assistance for Guinea Pigs, and meets regularly in East Grinstead. The Duke of Edinburgh is the current President of the club. Queen Victoria Hospital remains at the forefront of specialist care today, and is renowned for its burns treatment facilities and expertise throughout England.[29]

During the War, a German bombing run had targeted the town and a bomb hit the Whitehall Cinema where the city’s school children were watching a film,[30] killing 108 and injuring 235.[31] The town was devastated; almost everyone in the town knew someone who lost or had a child injured. As such, the townspeople became very supportive of the patients at the Queen Victoria Hospital.[31] Even though many of the victims were horribly disfigured (often missing limbs, and in the worst cases faces, their faces made up of burn tissue), the townspeople would go out of their way to make the men feel normal.[31] Families invited the men to dinner, and girls asked them to go on dates. Patients of the burn units remember, and cherish, the charity received from the townspeople of East Grinstead.[31]

In the winter of 2010, Claque Theatre produced the East Grinstead Community Play, which focussed on the bombing of the town in 1943, the work of Archibald McIndoe and his team at the hospital and on the Guinea Pig Club and its members. It was performed by local residents.[32] On 9 June 2014 HRH The Princess Royal unveiled a statue to Sir Archibald McIndoe and the Guinea pigs. The Statue stands in front of Sackville College on the east end of the High Street. The Statue was funded by a public appeal and was sculpted by Martin Jennings. It depicts a burned airman looking to the sky, Sir Archibald is placing reassuring hands on his shoulders. The stone ring around the statue is for visitors to sit and reflect and in doing so become part of the story representing "The Town that did not stare".

Proposed redevelopment

A long row of 14th century timber framed buildings in England located on East Grinstead High Street.

The East Grinstead Town Centre Master Plan was adopted on 10 July 2006 as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). The scheme proposed regeneration of the town centre in association with Thornfield Properties PLC. Thornfield Properties had submitted plans to the council for the start of an ambitious development of the Queens Walk and West Street area. It was expected that other redevelopment companies would fulfil targets outlined in the SPD over the next 20 years.[33]



A map of East Grinstead from 1946


Gatwick Airport is 10 miles (16 km) from the town, whilst Redhill Aerodrome and Biggin Hill Airport are both within half an hour's drive. Hammerwood Park has a helicopter landing site for visiting pilots (3.5 miles (5.6 km) from the town).


East Grinstead has been a railway terminus since 1967, after the line from Three Bridges, to Royal Tunbridge Wells was closed under the Beeching Axe, a rationalisation of British Railways' branch lines based on a report by Dr Richard Beeching, a resident of the town at that time. (See also East Grinstead railway station for history of rail lines). The closure of the line to Lewes, part of the Bluebell Railway, occurred in 1958.

In the late 1970s the town's inner relief road was built along a section of one of the closed railway lines and is named "Beeching Way". It is rumoured that this road, which runs through a cutting, was intended to be called "Beeching Cut", but that the name was altered at the last minute in the interests of formality. Much of rest of the trackbed of the disused Three Bridges to Groombridge line now forms the route of the Worth Way and Forest Way, linear Country Parks allowing access to the Wealden countryside.

The Imberhorne Viaduct carrying the Bluebell Railway in East Grinstead

A part of the Lewes line was re-constructed by the Bluebell Railway,[34] a nearby preserved standard gauge railway. The extension work was carried out in stages. The first paid-passenger service departed from East Grinstead station at 9:45 on Saturday 23 March 2013, and the first train left Sheffield Park for East Grinstead at 9:30 a.m. with services running each way every 45 minutes thereafter.[35][36]


The town lies on the junction of the A22 and A264 roads. For just over one mile (1.6 km), from just to the north of the Town Centre to Felbridge village in Surrey, the two routes use the same stretch of single carriageway road. This is one of the principal causes of traffic congestion in the town.

The town is within commuting distance of London (about 30 miles (50 km)) and Crawley/Gatwick (about 10 miles (16 km)) by road. According to the 2001 Census, one in eight residents commuted to Crawley and Gatwick Airport for work with over 98% travelling by car.


Education in the town is provided through both state and independent schools. West Sussex County Council provides seven primary schools along with two secondary schools. All these schools are co-educational and comprehensive. Private secondary education is provided by several day and boarding schools in the surrounding areas straddling Kent and Sussex.

State secondary schools

Private prep schools

Twin towns

East Grinstead is twinned with:


There are some Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the parish. Stone Hill Rocks are 8-metre-tall (26 ft) sandstone crags in the south of the Parish. They are of interest as they reveal a three dimension picture of the sedimentary make up of the surrounding geology.[38]

East Grinstead in literature

Sports and social clubs

East Grinstead has a Rugby Union club, East Grinstead Rugby Football Club, also known as G Force. They currently play in National Three. G Force are supported by a club with 3 other senior teams as well as a junior section which fields teams from Under 18's down to Under 7's.

East Grinstead has a Non-League football club East Grinstead Town F.C. who play at East Court.

East Grinstead has an athletics club, East Grinstead AC, which was formed in 1978[40] and who train at Imberhorne School. The senior team competes in the Southern Athletics League Division 3 and has young athletes teams competing in regional leagues.

East Grinstead is served by local sports and social clubs. Municipal facilities include the King George's Field, named as a memorial to King George V. The King's Centre leisure centre, currently owned and operated by Mid Sussex District Council is located on this land, which was left to the town by a local benefactor. The centre includes an indoor swimming pool and other facilities such as a gym and sports hall.[41] There are floodlit tennis courts and bowling green at Mount Noddy and also tennis courts and a variety of pitches at East Court. East Grinstead is also home to East Grinstead Hockey Club and East Grinstead Lacrosse Club

Culture, Music & Arts

The Chequer Mead Community Arts Centre was built in the 1990s and is home to the East Grinstead Music & Arts Festival which exists to encourage and promote dancing, singing and speech and drama in Sussex and neighbouring counties. The Hon. Vice-President of the Festival is former ballerina Beryl Grey. Local groups include the East Grinstead Concert Band (which also performs as the Band of the Bluebell Railway), the East Grinstead Choral Society and the East Grinstead Operatic Society.


The local weekly newspaper is the East Grinstead Courier, published each Tuesday.

The local community radio station is 107 Meridian FM, found on 107 FM and also online.


  1. 1 2 2001 Census: West Sussex – Population by Parish (PDF), West Sussex County Council, retrieved 7 April 2009
  2. 1 2 "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  3. East Grinstead Town Council, Centre website
  4. East Grinstead Society Link, Society's website
  5. http://www.mcindoememorial.com/
  6. East Grinstead Town Museum Link, Museum website
  7. Chequer Mead Community Arts Centre, Centre website
  8. Weir Wood Sailing Club, Sailing Centre website
  9. "Context: East Grinstead Town Centre" (PDF), East Grinstead Town Centre Master Plan (Supplementary Planning Document), Mid Sussex District Council, p. 12, August 2006, retrieved 2 March 2010
  10. "East Grinstead Snapshot" (PDF), East Grinstead Action Plan (Supplementary Report), East Grinstead Town Council, p. 7, 2 February 2003, retrieved 2 March 2010
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Bridgewater 2007, pp. 48–49.
  12. Harris 2005, pp. 16–17, 19.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Elleray 2004, p. 23.
  14. Harris 2005, pp. 13, 17.
  15. Collins 2007, p. 39.
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  17. Leppard 2001, pp. 160–161.
  18. Leppard 2001, p. 139.
  19. Leppard 2001, p. 104.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Harris 2005, p. 19.
  21. Elleray 2004, p. 22.
  22. Leppard 2001, p. 67.
  23. 1 2 Leppard 2001, p. 173.
  24. Leppard 2001, p. 187.
  25. "Wickenden Manor Retreats | Catholic retreats directed by Opus Dei for ordinary people". Wickendenmanor.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  26. "nthposition online magazine: The joy of sects". Nthposition.com. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  27. Bridgewater 2007, pp. 50–51.
  28. "Witness: Why East Grinstead?", British Film Institute film database, British Film Institute, 2010, retrieved 5 March 2010
  29. E.J. Dennison (30 June 1996), A Cottage Hospital Grows Up, ISBN 0-9520933-9-1
  30. "East Grinstead bombing - 65 years on", The Argus (Brighton, East Sussex, UK), June 25, 2008
  31. 1 2 3 4 Neillands 2004, p. 11
  32. East Grinstead Community Play, Sackville School, Matters of Chance. | Crawley News
  33. Local Development Scheme (PDF), retrieved 15 November 2007
  34. Bluebell Railway extension
  35. "East Grinstead Extension Progress". Bluebell Railway. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  36. "Bluebell Railway Northern Extension - Latest Pictures". Philpot.me. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  37. "British towns twinned with French towns [via WaybackMachine.com]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  38. SSSI Citation Stone Hill Rocks (PDF), Natural England, retrieved 3 May 2009.
  39. East Grinstead Courier
  40. East Grinstead Athletics Club Athletics club website
  41. King’s Leisure Centre. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  • Bridgewater, Peter (2007), An Eccentric Tour of Sussex, Alfriston: Snake River Press, ISBN 978-1-906022-03-7 
  • Collins, Sophie (2007), A Sussex Miscellany, Alfriston: Snake River Press, ISBN 978-1-906022-08-2 
  • Elleray, D. Robert (2004), Sussex Places of Worship, Worthing: Optimus Books, ISBN 0-9533132-7-1 
  • Harris, Roland B. (September 2005). East Grinstead Historic Character Assessment Report (PDF). Sussex Extensive Urban Survey (EUS) (Report). East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council, and Brighton and Hove City Council. 
  • Leppard, M.J. (2001), A History of East Grinstead, Chichester: Phillimore & Co. Ltd, ISBN 1-86077-164-5 
  • Neillands, Robin (2004), "Towards a Combined Offensive, August 1942–January 1943", The Bomber War: Arthur Harris and the Allied Bomber Offensive, 1939-1945 (2004 ed.), John Murray, ISBN 978-0-7195-6241-9  - Total pages: 480
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