Historical interests in the Herstmonceux parish

 

All Saints Church Herstmonceux Castle The Steam House Praise the Lord Cottage WindmillIsaac Newton telescope

 

Herstmonceux History

Herstmonceux village was formerly known as Gardner Street

Herstmonceux village was, until quite recently, known as Gardner Street (possibly from garner street which would have been the street of granaries but this is conjecture). The village name was adopted from the name of the nearby castle where, apparently, in the 12th century a saxon lady by the name of Idonea de Herst married a Norman nobleman called Ingelram de Monceux, to give the place it's name.

 

 

All Saints Church

The church is situated about two miles east of Herstmonceux village centre, and is approached from the north down Chapel and Church Road through Flowers Green.

All Saints stands on a gentle slope that looks south and west for miles across the Pevensey levels. The church, most of it, preceded the castle by well over a hundred years. The oldest parts are the 12th century west tower (perhaps the only Sussex church tower which forms part of the west end of the nave) and the west wall of the nave. The rest of the church consists of a 13th/14th century nave, chancel, and north and south aisles with a 15th century north chapel of red Flemish bricks added by the builders of the Castle. On 3 July 1944 a German bomb demolished three windows and damaged ten more, the roof and the shingles of the spire.

 

Herstmonceux Castle

Herstmonceux is renowned for its magnificent moated castle, set in beautiful parkland and superb Elizabethan gardens. Built originally as a country home in the mid- 15th - century, Herstmonceux Castle embodies the history of Medieval England and the romance of Renaissance Europe.

Herstmonceux was a significant place long before the Castle was built. There is evidence of Roman remains, and in the 12th century a saxon lady, Idonea de Herst married a Norman nobleman, Ingelram de Monceux, to give the place it's name. The name of the owners changed through marriage to Fiennes, and the family increased in wealth and power. James Fiennes distinguished himself fighting for King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt and later became sheriff of Surrey and Sussex.

It had deteriorated into a ruin until 1911 when it was bought by Lt. Col. Claude Lowther who used local craftsmen to carry out the building work, and by 1912 most of the south front was rebuilt. After Col Lowther's death in 1929, Sir Paul Latham contributed very greatly to the construction of the castle both internally and externally. In 1946 he sold it to the Admiralty who bought the estate for the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and it became an important scientific institution for the next 40 years.

Visit the Herstmonceux Castle website click here

 

The Steam House

About 1908 the Baron de Roemer installed his first electricity generating plant in Lime Park, Church Road. By 1911 an underground DC supply had been established to the Woolpack public house, shops and houses in the village together with some street lighting. A battery storage facility was also added. In 1913, electric cooking demonstrations were held in the village hall. The system was very advanced for its day and age. Generation continued up until 1932 when the Weald Supply Company took over.

It appears that the electricity generating industry grew so rapidly that few early examples survive. In 1995, English Heritage commissioned a Monument Protection Programme (MPP) in order to identify and preserve fast disappearing evidence of the development of this industry. By 1998, the MPP had concluded that there were no complete installations that represented private rural supply. Finally, that there were no extant buildings. According to the Department of Culture Media and Sport, the Steam House may be the only surviving example of a small privately owned public supply system.

The ‘Steam House’ is in a dreadfully run down condition with leaking roofs and lacking gutters or downpipes. Our Generating Works Restoration Association was formed of the need to restore the building. It was encased in corrugated iron some time after 1936, as a fire precaution. Most of the original timbers survive beneath the cladding. In 1999, East Sussex County Council commissioned Archaeology South East to undertake an archaeological survey of the site.

 

Praise The Lord Cottage

Gardner Street once sported the very recognisable Praise the Lord cottage. Recognisable because of the amazing cotoneaster creeper which grew up the front of the cottage, which the owners had carefully and very skilfully clipped into the words  'PRAISE THE LORD'.

'Big Jim' Crouch bought the house in Herstmonceux with this extraordinary creeper in about 1957. The previous owners  had planted the cotoneaster and clipped it into the shape of Praise the Lord in protest at the building opposite being turned into a public house, the current Brewer’s Arms. The family were extremely anti-alcohol and took great exception to a public house being opened opposite their cottage.

Big Jim decided that the shrub, which had actually died, had to come down; so down it came within six months of the family moving in. The cottage was then re-named Cotoneaster Cottage after its one-time famous shrub. When Big Jim cut the creeper down, the granddaughter of the previous owners found out and put a curse on him - the Curse of the Cotoneaster. This didn’t seem to bother Big Jim overmuch, and the Crouch family lived in the cottage until about 1984 and subsequently Young Jim continued living there for a number of years.

Cotoneaster Cottage still stands today but has been re-named Winslow House. In its time it has been a bakery and tea rooms, an estate agent's and a home interiors shop.

Windmill

Windmill Hill windmill was built c.1814 by Samuel Medhurst, the Lewes millwright. It was working by wind until 1893, when it was stopped owing to a weak weatherbeam. It is the largest post mill in the UK.

Milling was continued, after work by wind ceased, by means of a steam powered engine set up in the roundhouse. Neve, the Warbleton millwright, was responsible for the fitting out of the roundhouse as a power mill. The mill stood derelict for many years, with major structural faults including both side girts being broken.

In 1994, a supporting steel framework was placed around the mill, and the remaining iron sheeting that clad the breast and sides of the mill removed. The Windmill Hill Windmill Trust was set up in 1996, aiming to prevent further deterioration in the condition of the mill, and to assess options for restoration. In October 1997 the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed in principle to support the restoration work. English Heritage provided the main funding for the surveys required to support an application for lottery funding. In December 2001 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £577,000 towards a total restoration cost of £770,000 for the Windmill Hill windmill. At the time this was the biggest single Lottery grant made to an individual windmill.

The mill was dismantled during 2003, and taken in sections to the millwrights workshops near Henley-on-Thames. The rebuilt frame of the mill was lifted back onto the main post on 7 September 2004.The sweeps were fitted to the mill between 24 November and 3 December 2005.  An automatic turning device with motors at the bottom of the ladder keeps the mill facing the wind.

There is a film for visitors to see and there are displays of the mills’ history, operation and restoration in the roundhouse and outer roundhouse.  Visitors may access the mill body by climbing the long ladder at the back of the mill.

The mill is open from Easter to October from 2.30 to 5pm on the first and third Sunday of the month as well as Bank Holidays. School parties and other groups can visit throughout the year by appointment.  There is wheelchair access to the visitor centre.  Parking is available on site. Entry is by donation.

For more information to book a group visit telephone 01323 833033 or write to the Windmill Hill Windmill Trust, Old Bakery, Windmill Hill, Hailsham, BN27 4RT.  Visit our website on www.WindmillHillWindmill.org


Isaac Newton Telescope

The Isaac Newton Telescope started operations in Herstmonceux, United Kingdom, in 1967, but after a number of years it became clear that better astronomical weather conditions would benefit the astronomical use of the telescope. Such conditions are found on the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory and therefore it was decided to move the telescope to La Palma, where it resumed operations in 1984.