East Grinstead

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East Grinstead
High Street
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East Grinstead
Location within West Sussex
Area24.43 km2 (9.43 sq mi)  [1]
  Density 980/km2 (2,500/sq mi)
OS grid reference TQ395385
  London 26 miles (42 km) N
Civil parish
  • East Grinstead
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district RH19
Dialling code 01342
Police Sussex
Fire West Sussex
Ambulance South East Coast
UK Parliament
Website East Grinstead Town Council
List of places
West Sussex
51°08′N0°00′E / 51.13°N -0.00°E / 51.13; -0.00 Coordinates: 51°08′N0°00′E / 51.13°N -0.00°E / 51.13; -0.00

East Grinstead is a town in West Sussex, England, near the East Sussex, Surrey, and Kent borders, 27 miles (43 km) south of London, 21 miles (34 km) northeast of Brighton, and 38 miles (61 km) northeast of the county town of Chichester. Situated in the extreme northeast of the county, the civil parish has an area of 2,443.45 hectares (6,037.9 acres). The population 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 in East Sussex, before joining together with Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill as the Mid-Sussex district of West Sussex.

The town is on the Greenwich Meridian. It has many historic buildings, and the Weald and Ashdown Forest lie to the south-east.

Places of interest

Houses and shops in East Grinstead East Grinstead old shops Nigel Freeman.jpg
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 John Mason Neale wrote the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas". 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. The imposing structure 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.

Three miles (5 km) east of the town, in Hammerwood, is Hammerwood Park, a country house built by Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1792, and once owned by the rock band Led Zeppelin. 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. 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. East Grinstead House is the headquarters of the (UK and Ireland) Caravan Club.

During the Second World War, the Queen Victoria 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. It was here the Guinea Pig Club was formed in 1941, which then became a support network for the aircrew and their family members. The club remained active after the end of the war, and its annual reunion meetings at East Grinstead continued until 2007, when the club was wound down in view of the increasing frailty of its surviving members. [5] As such, the townspeople became very supportive of the patients at the Queen Victoria Hospital. [6] 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. [6] 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. [6]

During the same 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 dropped eight 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. A further 235 were injured. This was the largest loss of life of any single air raid in Sussex. [7]

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 the Guinea Pig Club and its members. It was performed by local residents. [8] On 9 June 2014 The Princess Royal unveiled a monument to Sir Archibald McIndoe and the Guinea Pigs. It stands in front of Sackville Collegeat the east end of the High Street. It was funded by a public appeal and sculpted by Martin Jennings, whose own father was a Guinea Pig. It depicts a burned airman looking to the sky, with McIndoe 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". [9]

In 2006, the East Grinstead Town Museum [10] was moved to new custom-built premises in the historic centre of the town, and successfully re-opened to the public. Chequer Mead Theatre [11] includes a modern 320-seat purpose-built auditorium, which stages professional and amateur plays/musicals and music (local rock groups to chamber music orchestras), opera, ballet, folk music, tribute bands, film, event cinema and talks. The venue also has a popular spacious cafe with outdoor seating.

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.

Places of worship

St Swithun's Church St Swithun's Church, East Grinstead.jpg
St Swithun's Church

East Grinstead has an unusually diverse range of religious and spiritual organisations for a town of its size. [12] [13] [14]

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. [15] Several other religious groups have connections with the town, from merely owning property to having national headquarters there. [14]

In 1994, a documentary, 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. [14] [16]

Church of England

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. [17] [18] 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 . [19] Two other churches are in St Swithun's parish. [20]

St Luke's Church, in Holtye Avenue on the Stone Quarry estate, was built in 1954 to serve the northeast of the town. [21] The church was demolished around 2014 and flats have been built at the location. 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. [22] 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. [17] [23] [24]


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. [24] [25] Trinity Methodist Church is the much-expanded successor to older places of Methodist worship in the town; the community dates back to 1868. [17] [24] [26] The United Reformed Church community meets in the Moat Church, a former Congregational chapel built in the Early English Gothic Revival style in 1870. [17] [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. [14]

Other places of worship

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. [27]

Jehovah's Witnesses worship at a modern Kingdom Hall. The community, established in 1967, previously used a former Salvation Army building. [26]

The meetinghouse of the LDS Church on Ship Street was built in 1985. [28] Opus Dei has a conference centre at Wickenden Manor near the town, [29] and Rosicrucians also have a presence in nearby Greenwood Gate. [30] The London England Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is just over the Surrey border at Newchapel. [31]

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. [14]

Proposed redevelopment

A row of 14th-century timber-framed buildings on East Grinstead High Street. East Grinstead 14Century.jpg
A row of 14th-century timber-framed buildings 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. [32]


A map of East Grinstead from 1946 East Grinsteadmap1946.jpg
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 became a railway terminus in 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. [33] The line to Lewes, part of the Bluebell Railway, closed 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". Because the road runs through a cutting, it has been nicknamed "Beeching Cut". [34] 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 Imberhorne Viaduct - geograph.org.uk - 771698.jpg
The Imberhorne Viaduct carrying the Bluebell Railway in East Grinstead

A part of the Lewes line was re-constructed by the Bluebell Railway, [35] 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. [36] [37]


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

Preparatory schools

Health care

The Queen Victoria Hospital was founded as a cottage hospital in 1863, and was rebuilt on its current site in the 1930s. Queen Victoria Hospital remains at the forefront of specialist care today, and is renowned for its burns treatment facilities and expertise. [5]

There are many facilities for mental healthcare in East Grinstead, including Springvale Community Mental Health Centre [38] and Charters Court. [39]

Twin towns

East Grinstead is twinned with:

Sports and social clubs

East Grinstead is served by local sports and social clubs. Municipal facilities include the King George's Field, which was left to the town by a local benefactor and was named as a memorial to King George V. The King's Centre leisure centre, currently owned and operated by Mid Sussex District Council is on this land. The centre includes an indoor swimming pool and other facilities such as a gym and sports hall. [42]

There are floodlit tennis courts and bowling green at Mount Noddy and also tennis courts and a variety of pitches at East Court where Non-League football club East Grinstead Town F.C. play. The athletics club, East Grinstead AC, which was formed in 1978 train at Imberhorne School. [43] The senior team competes in the Southern Athletics League Division 3 and has young athletes teams competing in regional leagues. East Grinstead Rugby Football Club currently play in Harvey's of Sussex 1. EGRFC are supported by a junior section which fields teams from Under 18's down to Under 7's. East Grinstead is also home to East Grinstead Hockey Club and East Grinstead Lacrosse Club established in 2004, with two men's teams and a women's team catering to a variety of skill levels. [44]

Culture, music and arts

Chequer Mead

Chequer Mead Theatre (formerly Chequer Mead Community Arts Centre) was built in the 1990s and is a 320-seat theatre. [45] It 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 honorary vice-president of the festival is former ballerina Beryl Grey. [46] Local groups include the East Grinstead Choral Society and the East Grinstead Operatic Society. [47]



The local weekly newspaper is the East Grinstead Courier , published each Tuesday by Local World Ltd.

Another local weekly newspaper is the East Grinstead Gazette, published each Wednesday by the Johnston Press.

Local Radio

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

Freedom of the Parish

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of the Parish of East Grinstead.


Related Research Articles

West Sussex County of England

West Sussex is a county in South East England on the English Channel coast. The ceremonial county comprises the shire districts of Adur, Arun, Chichester, Horsham, and Mid Sussex, and the boroughs of Crawley and Worthing. Covering an area of 1,991 square kilometres, West Sussex borders Hampshire to the west, Surrey to the north, and East Sussex to the east. The county town and only city in West Sussex is Chichester, located in the south-west of the county. This was legally formalised with the establishment of West Sussex Council in 1888 but within the ceremonial Sussex. After the reorganisation of local government in 1974, the ceremonial function of the historic county of Sussex was divided into two separate counties, West Sussex and East Sussex. The existing East and West Sussex councils took control respectively, with Mid Sussex and parts of Crawley being transferred to the West Sussex administration from East Sussex. In the 2011 census, West Sussex recorded a population of 806,900.

Burgess Hill Human settlement in England

Burgess Hill is a town and civil parish in West Sussex, England, close to the border with East Sussex, on the edge of the South Downs National Park 39 mi (63 km) south of London, 10 mi (16 km) north of Brighton and Hove, and 29 mi (47 km) northeast of the county town, Chichester. It had an area of 3.7 sq mi (9.6 km2) and a population of 30,635 at the 2011 Census, making it the fourth most populous parish in the county and the most populous in the Mid Sussex District. Other nearby towns include Haywards Heath to the northeast and Lewes, the county town of East Sussex, to the southeast.

Bluebell Railway Heritage railway in England

The Bluebell Railway is an 11 mi (17.7 km) heritage line almost entirely in West Sussex in England, except for Sheffield Park which is in East Sussex. It is managed by the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society. It uses steam trains which operate between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead, with intermediate stations at Horsted Keynes and Kingscote.

Horsted Keynes Human settlement in England

Horsted Keynes is a village and civil parish in the Mid Sussex District of West Sussex, England. The village is about 5 miles (8 km) north east of Haywards Heath, in the Weald. The civil parish is largely rural, covering 1,581 hectares. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 1,586, increased from 1,507 in 2001. The 0° meridian passes about 1 mile to the east of the village of Horsted Keynes.

Haywards Heath Human settlement in England

Haywards Heath is a town in West Sussex, England, 36 miles (58 km) south of London, 14 miles (23 km) north of Brighton, 13 miles (21 km) south of Gatwick Airport and 31 miles (50 km) northeast of the county town, Chichester. Nearby towns include Burgess Hill to the southwest, Horsham to the northwest, Crawley northwest and East Grinstead northeast. With only a relatively small number of jobs available in the immediate vicinity, mostly in the agricultural or service sector, many residents commute daily via road or rail to London, Brighton, Crawley or Gatwick Airport for work.

A22 road

The A22 is one of the two-digit major roads in the south east of England. Radial, it carries traffic from London to the Eastbourne area of the East Sussex coast, in which town it ends. For part of its route the A22 utilises the turnpikes opened in the 18th century:

Lavender Line Heritage railway in East Sussex, England

The Lavender Line is a heritage railway based at Isfield Station, near Uckfield in East Sussex, England.

Oxted line National Rail line in southern England

The Oxted line is a railway in southern England and part of the Southern franchise. The railway splits into two branches towards the south and has direct trains throughout to London termini.

East Grinstead railway station Railway station in West Sussex, England

East Grinstead railway station is one of the two southern termini of the Oxted line in the south of England and serves East Grinstead in West Sussex. It is 30 miles 4 chains from London Bridge, although trains mostly run to and from London Victoria. The station is managed by Southern.

Barcombe Village in East Sussex, England

Barcombe is an East Sussex village and civil parish in the Lewes District of East Sussex. The parish has four settlements: old Barcombe, the oldest settlement in the parish with the parish church; Barcombe Cross, the more populous settlement and main hub with the amenities and services; the hamlet of Spithurst in the north east and Town Littleworth in the north west.

West Hoathly Human settlement in England

West Hoathly is a village and civil parish in the Mid Sussex District of West Sussex, England, located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south west of East Grinstead. In the 2001 census 2,121 people, of whom 1,150 were economically active, lived in 813 households. At the 2011 Census the population increased to 2,181. The parish, which has a land area of 2,139 hectares, includes the hamlets of Highbrook, Selsfield Common and Sharpthorne. The mostly rural parish is centred on West Hoathly village, an ancient hilltop settlement in the High Weald between the North and South Downs.

Godstone Human settlement in England

Godstone is a village and civil parish in Surrey, England, 6.3 miles (10.1 km) east of Reigate at the junction of the A22 and A25 roads, near the M25 motorway and the North Downs. Godstone railway station is separated from it by agricultural land. Blindley Heath Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Greensand Way and the North Downs Way all pass through areas of Godstone.

Newick Village in East Sussex, England

Newick is a village, civil parish and electoral ward in the Lewes District of East Sussex, England. It is located on the A272 road six miles (9.7 km) east of Haywards Heath.

Forest Row Village in East Sussex, England

Forest Row is a village and a large civil parish in the Wealden District of East Sussex, England. The village is located three miles (5 km) south-east of East Grinstead.

Worth Way

The Worth Way is a 7-mile (11 km) footpath and bridleway linking the West Sussex towns of Crawley and East Grinstead via the village of Crawley Down. Mostly following the trackbed of a disused railway the path is an important wildlife corridor. It is part of the National Cycle Network.

Crawley Down Human settlement in England

Crawley Down is a small village in the Mid Sussex district of West Sussex, England. There is one church, one school, and a number of social groups. It lies seven miles from Gatwick Airport. The next nearest railway stations are Three Bridges and East Grinstead. Crawley Down lies in the northeast corner of West Sussex, just one mile from the border with Surrey.

Withyham railway station

Withyham was a railway station on the Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells Central Line which closed in 1967, a casualty of the Beeching Axe. The station opened on 1 October 1866 and the buildings were designed by Charles Henry Driver. The station building survived the closure and is now a private residence named the "Old Withyham Station"; much of the trackbed as far as Groombridge and Three Bridges are part of the Worth Way and Forest Way cyclepath/footpaths.

West Street Baptist Church, East Grinstead Church in West Sussex , England

West Street Baptist Church is a Baptist church in East Grinstead, a town in the district of Mid Sussex, one of seven local government districts in the English county of West Sussex. Founded in 1810 as a chapel linked to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, it was the first Nonconformist place of worship in East Grinstead; the town's subsequent development made it a local centre of both Protestant Nonconformity and alternative religions. The red-brick building is still used by a Baptist community, and is protected as a Grade II listed building.

Thomas Harrison Myres FRIBA was an English railway architect who designed stations and ancillary buildings for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway lines that were opened between 1880 and 1883, including several on what is now the Bluebell Railway. He was the son-in-law of the railway company's chief engineer, Frederick Banister. Although most of the lines for which Myres designed the buildings have been closed, many of his buildings survive as private residences. Several of the buildings designed by him are listed buildings, including the goods shed at Singleton in West Sussex which was declared Grade II in April 2013.


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