6 things you should know about Crowborough

PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 March 2020

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross

Andrew Hasson

On the edge of Ashdown Forest, this East Sussex town lies in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

High StreetHigh Street

As all the signs leading into town tell you, this was once the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of one of literature's most enduring fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes. He lived there from 1907 until his death in 1930. His house, Windlesham Manor, is just a short walk away from the Beacon, which was handy for the golf club. He was captain there for a while, and his wife was the ladies' captain. The house is a residential care home now.

The town commemorates Sir Arthur with a fine statue at Cloke's Corner on Crowborough Cross, designed by David Cornell and unveiled in 2001. It seems surprising, but fitting, that this was the world's first-ever statue of the man. One interesting minor detail - he's facing the High Street, looking in the direction of Rotherfield, reputedly his favourite view.

Crowborough Beacon Golf ClubCrowborough Beacon Golf Club

Crowborough Beacon Golf Club

In 1944 the town was being used as a base for training by the 1st Battalion of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, from the Canadian Armed Forces. Some of the town's larger residences, including Windlesham Manor, had been requisitioned for the officers, but most of the men were camped out at the Beacon Golf Club. Just after the serving of the evening meal on 5 July, a V1 flying bomb - a doodlebug - hit the camp cookhouse, killing nine and injuring many more. The bomb was meant for London, but had inexplicably fallen short. Tragically, the men were supposed to have left the week before for France, but had been delayed.

Memorial plaque on Canada GreenMemorial plaque on Canada Green

Canada Green

There is a memorial by the fourth fairway, right where the bomb fell, but there is another poignant memorial in the town, at a place now called Canada Green. It's a quiet little corner of the town, just a couple of minutes' walk from All Saints Church. Here you'll find a series of small plaques, each one by the roots of a tree. Every plaque, decorated with the maple leaf flag, bears the name of one of those who died that evening.

Steel poppy at the war memorial, near All SaintsSteel poppy at the war memorial, near All Saints

War Memorial

A relatively uncommon sight; a war memorial with permanent poppies, made of metal and painted red and black. Crowborough appears to have sacrificed a lot of men.

Corners of the graveyard at All Saints ChurchCorners of the graveyard at All Saints Church

All Saints graveyard

A quiet memorial corner; simple, gentle and soothing. Beautiful.

Crowborough Country ParkCrowborough Country Park

Crowborough Country Park

It's very unusual to find a country park in the middle of a town, but there's one here. It's more towards the Jarvis Brook side of town and not far from the railway station, but in a comparatively urban setting. It's a 16-acre nature reserve that was once a working quarry, allowed to go back to the wild. The council appears to have done a good job, attracting outside visitors and regular dog-walkers.

The former Aspidistra at Kingstanding, near DuddleswellThe former Aspidistra at Kingstanding, near Duddleswell

Aspidistra

A mile or so out of town and you find yourself in Ashdown Forest, the largest open-access area in the south east of England. It offers fine walks and, on a clear day, fabulous vistas from the high ground in all directions.

A couple of miles south of Crowborough town centre, near Duddleswell, is an enormous radio tower visible from everywhere but taken for granted and ignored by most people who pass regularly. This marks the Sussex Police Training Centre, Kingstanding but during the last war this place was known as Aspidistra.

The transmitter that once stood here was, for a while, the most powerful radio transmitter in the world. It was used for a new form of warfare - black propaganda. From this place, the British war effort was able to impersonate German air-traffic controllers, sending fighters to the wrong places, away from British and US bombers.

From here, they ran spoof military radio stations, and would broadcast misleading information to German civilians, sowing confusion among the listeners. This was a critical weapon of war.

Afterwards, the transmitter was used for BBC External Services to Europe, before closure in 1982.

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