10 things you should know about Henfield
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 May 2020
Henfield, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book, lies just north of the South Downs, within the District of Horsham. It is about 12 miles from Brighton and Horsham.
1. St Peter’s is one of those classic English village churches that can trace its roots back over a thousand years, with multiple rebuilds and add-ons in the intervening centuries. But it is Grade II listed. It’s not to everybody’s taste; the famous post-war travel writer, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner referred to the tower as “as grim as it would be in Northumberland.”
2. The signs at the entrances to the village tell of two of Henfield’s proudest boasts. It has one of the oldest cricket clubs in the world, dating from 1771. It also has the oldest existing Scout group in the world, founded in 1907.
3. If you look down at the path leading to the church, you can see part of a memorial to a local lad who died after the Battle of Jerusalem, used as part of the paving. He was Lieutenant Percy Harwood of the Royal Sussex Regiment, and he died of his wounds on the last day of 1917, the day after the battle had finished.
4. The White Hart, a 16th century pub at the northern end of the High Street with all the hallmarks of a former coaching inn. Great food too.
5. The Grade II listed Old Tudor House dates from the 17th century at least, possibly earlier. It sits right next to the churchyard.
6. Take a walk down Church Street from the High Street and before long you’ll come across Martyn Lodge. This was once the home of Canon Nathaniel Woodard, who is most well-known these days as the founder of a group of independent schools that includes Lancing College, Hurstpierpoint College and Ardingly College.
7. As Church Road morphs into Upper Station Road, there is a charming estate of sought-after properties in and around Fabian’s Way and Broomfield Road.
8. The story of the 16th century Cat House is one of the most well-known of Henfield’s local legends, but it’s worth repeating. A few yards from Nathaniel Woodard’s house on Church Street was the house of George Ward, who happened to own a canary. One day, this beloved canary was killed by Nathaniel Woodard’s cat. One has to assume thatMr Woodard’s apology, if there was one, wasn’t sincere enough because Mr Ward was so upset he painted the sides of his house with cats holding canaries, so that every time Mr Woodard passed by, he would be reminded of this event. Given that Mr Ward’s house lay directly between Martyn Lodge and St Peter’s Church, and that Nathaniel Woodard was the local canon at the time, it seems likely that Woodard would have had to walk past several times a day.
9. Halfway up the High Street, on Cooper’s Way, are a couple of mosaics. These are memorials dedicated to the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century. An Act of Parliament was introduced in 1913, The Prisoner’s Act. Women who had been imprisoned for ‘acts of vandalism’ in support of women’s suffrage would often go on hunger strike in protest. Force-feeding was very unpopular amongst the public, and this new Act enabled prisoners to be released just when their health was starting to be affected by weakness. They then had some time to recover before being re-imprisoned. One of the places women came to recover was Backsettown House in Henfield, home of American actress Elizabeth Robins and her friend Octavia Wilberforce.
THE LOCAL VIEW
“My name is Liz Hodgson and I have lived here in Henfield since 1998. When I was wondering where to live, having moved from somewhere else, someone told me, ‘you’ll find it difficult to get to Henfield, because once people move there, they don’t want to leave.’ What’s great about living in Henfield is that it’s a very good community. For instance, in this little area here, we have a Neighbourhood Watch scheme and if someone gets stuck, all we have to do is email somebody and they will come and deliver food. It’s brilliant. There is a huge number of activities to do and, once you’re here, you’re spoilt for choice really. If you’re elderly, there’s no end of things to do, and if you’re young too. We’ve got Henfield Leisure Centre, we’ve got tennis courts, bowling, joggers’ groups, and that’s just the start. There are history groups, bridge groups, all sorts of things in Henfield Hall; Henfield Haven is one. That’s been going three years now and it’s a community centre run by the community. That helps with dementia and all sorts of other activities as well, and it’s a nice place to go with nice gardens. There’s a group of us that look after the gardens.”