What it's like to live in Billingshurst
PUBLISHED: 14:44 19 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:44 19 March 2018
Credit: Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo
Historic Billingshurst offers a surprising amount for a rural village
Billingshurst sits on the junction of the A272 and the A29. It has a railway station, with regular services running between Bognor and London Victoria. Compass Travel’s 100 hourly bus service between Burgess Hill and Horsham, stops in Billingshurst from Monday to Saturday. Compass also runs limited services during the week to Loxwood, Horsham and Worthing.
Billingshurst’s position on the former Roman road Stane Street may have been key to its existence. The village marks the crossroads between the north-south A29 and the east-west running A272. Flint tools have been found in the area. By Saxon times the area had definitely been settled perhaps as a winter forage site. The name is thought to mean a wooded hill of Billa’s people, although Arthur Mee in his 41-book series The King’s England suggests it may have come from a Roman engineer called Belinus who laid out Stane Street. Its oldest building is St Mary’s Parish Church, built on the highest point of the village and dating back to the 1100s. Other old buildings include the 16th century half-timbered pub The Six Bells and the 18th century Unitarian Church.
Mee tells the story of a Billingshurst hero Israel Harding who received the VC for using a tub of water to put out a live shell which had landed on the deck of his ship during the bombardment of Alexandria. In his West Sussex Village Book Tony Wales tells of Billingshurst traditions which included cock-throwing on Shrove Tuesday – throwing sticks at tethered cockerels – a practice which died out in the 19th century apparently after complaints by the local vicar. On Bonfire Night a man dressed as a devil used to run to the top of the bonfire as the villagers recited the Bonfire Hymn, before trying to get down again before the flames took hold. The tradition apparently ended when one year the devil wasn’t fast enough and got badly burnt.
Annual festivals and events
Billifest Family Fun Day and Christmas Fayre has run in the High Street for the past 12 years. Last year saw 2,000 visitors join in the fun as the main road was closed to traffic for 12 hours and more than 40 gazebos were put up offering everything from hog roast to handmade pottery. There were live performances from the Billingshurst Choral Society, Lifestyle Fitness, and singer songwriter Charlie Austen among others.
In October the Jubilee Fields Sports Ground hosts fireworks, which in 2017 raised money for Chestnut Tree House.
Last April Horsham’s Italian car rally the Piazza Italia District Tour made a stop outside Billingshurst Library for supercar lovers to see the gleaming machines.
And in June there’s the Billingshurst Show and Carnival Procession, led by a Carnival Princess, which runs from Jengers Mead Car Park to the show site at the Recreation Ground. In previous years the event has featured a fun dog show, falconry displays, fairground rides and lawnmower racing in the arena.
Billingshurst has an impressive and well-maintained high street, akin to that of a small town than a village, as well as a library, children and family centre, five churches, and a primary and secondary school. The Weald School provides the village with a leisure centre, complete with swimming pool and gym, surrounded by Jubilee Fields, which has football and cricket pitches, a fishing lake, skate park and exercise trail. There are plenty of local clubs and societies including a horticultural society, Rotary Club, Lions, choral society, WI, chamber of commerce and dramatic society, plus football, cricket, angling and bowling clubs.
Billingshurst Community Partnership is currently working on the EYE project, to create a new youth and education centre near the railway station. In July it received planning permission for the flexible building. The partnership is also behind the distinctive fingerpost signs directing visitors around the village.
Billingshurst has its own parish council. It falls under Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council. The village is represented in Parliament by Conservative MP for Horsham Jeremy Quin. He received 59.5 per cent of the vote in the 2017 election, an increase of 2.2 per cent from the 2015 poll.
Past chairman of Billingshurst Chamber of Commerce Martin Spurrier first bought a house in the village in 1991 and moved there permanently in 2008.
“My parents lived in Storrington,” he says about why he moved to Billingshurst. “This area is surrounded by excellent prep schools – our kids went to Cottesmore School [in Pease Pottage]. Billingshurst itself has The Weald School and Sixth Form, and a really excellent primary school.
“It is a lovely looking village with a pretty high street. It has lots of independent shops. You can pretty much get everything you need from the high street, but it is only a ten-minute drive to Pulborough, Broadbridge Heath or Horsham. There is a great community spirit – every year we have Billifest which is run by the Community Partnership. The partnership was set up about 15 years ago. It works with different groups in the village, from the Lions to the choral society and gardening group.
“The village is on the main line to London and close to Gatwick. We have got good roads with the A23 and A24 nearby. We are on the edge of the South Downs so you can go for walks. We take the grandchildren to Fishers Farm Park in Wisborough Green.
“We have a population of about 6,000, but I think in the next ten years it will double as there is a lot of new building going on.”
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