What it’s like to live in Crowborough
PUBLISHED: 11:28 14 November 2017 | UPDATED: 14:16 14 November 2017
Sussex’s highest town has a chequered past but a busy community life as Duncan Hall discovers
The A26, connecting Lewes and Tunbridge Wells, is the main road through Crowborough. It meets the High Street at Crowborough Cross, with most major routes in the town coming from it. The railway station is to the south-east edge of the town with regular hourly services to London Bridge and Uckfield.
Buses serving Crowborough include Brighton and Hove’s Regency Route 29 service between Brighton and Tunbridge Wells. Seaford and District’s 228/229 services also run from Crowborough to Tunbridge Wells. Limited community transport services run on weekdays, taking in Wadhurst, Battle, Rotherfield, Mayfield and Uckfield.
Today Crowborough boasts of being the highest town in Sussex, but it hides a dark past. M A Lower, writing in 1870, called the town the most “uncivilised” place in Sussex according to Chris Hare’s Historic Sussex: A Guide Book. Crowborough Warren had apparently once been a favourite resort for smugglers who were able to see the approach of the excise men from their high vantage point.
The town was really established in the 18th century after local benefactor Sir Henry Fermor bequeathed money for a church (All Saints) and charity school for the benefit of the “very ignorant and heathenish people”, as he described them in his 1732 will, who lived in Crowborough and Ashdown Forest.
The town expanded with the arrival of the railways in 1868 and became a health and holiday centre – earning the soubriquet of Scotland in Sussex. A golf course, hospital and fire station were added between 1895 and 1905.
Gradually the town grew to incorporate neighbouring Jarvis Brook, Poundfield, Whitehill, Stone Cross and Alderbrook, Sweet Haws and Steel Cross. The expansion wasn’t to everyone’s taste. In his 1972 book Companion into Sussex Norman Wymer described it as “an unpleasantly overgrown town”.
Now it is home to more than 20,000 residents, served by a small town centre and gives access to the surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Ashdown Forest.
Annual festival and events
Crowborough Bonfire Carnival Society hosts a summer fete on the village green every June, which in 2017 included a dog show. The town council also holds an annual summer fete in Goldsmiths Recreation Ground in July and a boundary walk in May.
The first Crowborough Community Festival took over the town in May offering a programme of family-friendly events from 1 to 27 May. The next event is due to take place in 2019. Visit crowboroughcommunityfestival.org for more.
Crowborough is home to a Waitrose and Morrisons supermarket in the town centre, and an out-of-town Tesco superstore to the south-east. The High Street has a range of shops, pubs, cafés, post office and banks.
Crowborough War Memorial Hospital in Southview Road has a minor injuries unit. There are also a number of doctors’ and dental surgeries spread around the town.
Crowborough has an active number of groups and societies including the Lions and Rotary Clubs. As well as Crowborough Arts (see above), there is a historical society, youth theatre group What You Will, a branch of the University of the Third Age, flower club and horticultural society. Sports lovers can join one of two badminton clubs, Crowborough Runners, the Beacon golf club, anglers’ association, netball and tai chi societies. There is a Freedom Leisure Centre in Eridge Road, with a swimming pool and gym, as well as group exercise classes for all ages. Surrounding Crowborough are two golf courses and a 16-acre country park.
Founded in 1894, Crowborough Athletic FC is part of the Southern Counties East League Premier Division and plays from the Crowborough Community Stadium.
Meet the neighbours
Crowborough’s most famous resident is Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose statue can be seen at Crowborough Cross. He moved to the town in 1907 and lived out his days at Windlesham Manor. Victorian nature journalist Richard Jefferies wrote his last essay in Crowborough.
Cotchford Farm, home of AA Milne and his inspirations Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, is to the north-west of the town, towards Hartfield.
Crowborough has its own town council. Its five wards are represented by eight councillors on Wealden District Council and two on East Sussex County Council. Conservative Wealden MP Nus Ghani retained the seat she first won in 2015 with more than 61 per cent of the total electorate and gaining more than 5,000 votes.
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