Friday, 5 October 2012

Balcombe, Sussex

St Mary is not without interest but was locked so I have no idea what the interior is like!

St Mary (4)

Balcombe. Situated in Ashdown Forest and famous for its fine beech trees, a magnificent avenue leads from Lord Cowdray’s estate into the village.

Round the fine village hall is a gallery of paintings by Neville Lytton with scenes of World War I.

The church is tucked away in the corner of the lanes, ringed in by Scots firs and with wonderful views of the forest. It has a sturdy tower and shingled spire, and goes back to the 13th century. The heads of two kings and two queens hold up the chancel arch, and there is a panel of the Crucifixion in old glass. In the chancel are tablets to three rectors who between them held the living for 129 years.

One morning towards the end of the last century a labourer in a Balcombe field known as Stock Croft struck his spade against something hard while levelling for a tennis court. He brought up a 14th-century water-jug with 756 coins of silver and gold which had lain in the earth 500 years, and are now in the British Museum.

From Ardingly, the village is approached by grass-covered ways through the trees, and old houses dotted here and there. It was in the forest of Balcombe and Tilgate that Dr Mantell of Lewes discovered the remains of the Iguanodon. Dr Mantell combined a busy medical practice with the studies of a scientist and antiquary. His collections are now in the British Museum.

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