What it's like to live in Balcombe
PUBLISHED: 12:09 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 12:13 17 July 2018
Fantastic rail links, picturesque views and community spirit make this small Sussex village an ideal place to call home
Balcombe is easily accessible by train and benefits from mainline services to London Bridge via Gatwick Airport, and to Brighton via the iconic Ouse Valley Viaduct. Its nearest town is Haywards Heath, and the A23 provides easy access to Crawley in the north. A number of bus services also operate, running services to Horsham, Burgess Hill and Hurstpierpoint.
The advent of the railway helped Balcombe become a popular commuter village. Completed in the 1840s – and often referred to as the Balcombe Viaduct – the Ouse Valley Viaduct runs just two miles south of the village and provides crucial rail connections between London and Brighton. Designed by engineer John Urpeth Rastrick in collaboration with David Mocatta, the viaduct is believed to have required more than 11 million bricks, stretching to almost 1,500ft of ornate stone structure. The bricks were shipped across the English Channel from the Netherlands, before being transported to the construction site along the River Ouse. Now a Grade II listed building, it underwent an ambitious £6.5m renovation project in 1996, preserving its iconic structure within the Sussex landscape.
Balcombe Place sits to the south of the village, a Grade II listed property which, from 1905 until 1954, was owned by Lady Gertrude Denman. As an elected member of the Women’s Liberal Federation, she was instrumental in promoting women’s suffrage across the country during the early 20th century. In 1910 she travelled to Australia with her husband, the country’s newly appointed Governor-General, but returned to England in 1914 to find the country on the brink of conflict. Devoting much of her time to charity and leadership work, Lady Denman became chairman of the Smokes for Wounded Soldiers and Sailors Society during the 1914 conflict and, later, the director of the Women’s Land Army during World War II. During such a crucial time, Balcombe Place became the organisation’s headquarters and supported women to make use of the land as the nation’s men served overseas. Following Lady Denman’s death in 1954, the building became a school a year later. This continued until 1976, but the house was regained by the Denman family in 2017. It is now being restored as a country estate, opening this year.
Situated between Bramble Hill and Stockcroft Road sits the Victory Hall. It was built in the early 1920s as a memorial to local men who had lost their lives during World War I, and is decorated with a unique series of fresco murals. Inspired by war and peace, they were commissioned by Lady Denman and painted by officer, Olympian and artist Neville Lytton. The murals have been carefully restored and the hall is still used today as a space for recreation, meetings, weddings and parties.
Annual festivals and events
Balcombe puts on a traditional summer fete in July each year, as well as hosting carols over the Christmas period. Every year also sees the The Balcombe Bull Run take place. Starting and ending at Balcombe Primary School, it is a challenging 7.1km cross-country run over tracks, public footpaths and lanes. The village also has a special Community Links event, which is held each month at the historic Victory Hall. It’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends, find out news and general information, and learn about local organisations.
Balcombe boasts a number of small, independent shops and cafés, including a quaint village tearoom and the village’s only pub, the Half Moon Inn. It faced redevelopment in 2017, but after a campaign it was saved and bought by residents, securing its future for years to come.
There are more than 20 clubs and societies in Balcombe, including a theatre company, The Victory Players, who put on several shows each year. There is also a children’s playground and recreation ground.
The Ouse Valley Practice, which provides a range of GP services, can be found on Deanland Road, while the nearest dentist surgery is Dumbledore Dental Care in Handcross. The Princess Royal Hospital can be found in nearby Haywards Heath.
Meet the neighbours
Along with Lady Denman, one of Balcombe’s most famous residents was Frank Edward Bourne OBE DCM, who participated in the defence of Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-Zulu war in 1879. He was the battle’s last survivor at his death in 1945.
As well as a parish council, Balcombe is represented by Mid Sussex District Council. Its parliamentary constituency is held by the Conservative Party and the area is currently represented in parliament by Sir Nicholas Soames.
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