A walk around the centre of Newdigate
(these pictures give a ‘feel’ of the village one hundred years ago)
Start at St. Peter’s Church
- The Church of St. Peter – The earliest dateable feature of the church is from c1200 at the time when hunting would have been popular at Ewood. This is purely a supposition, but Ewood would have been quite remote and impossible for the nobles to return to their palaces at Kingston and Richmond, so they would have needed somewhere to pray. They would also have needed a place to stay. Greens Farm has some spectacular carved timbers, far too grand for a farm house. So was this a hunting lodge and was the church a hunter’s chapel? We will never know. Just wonder at the timbers in the spectacular bell tower and marvel at the skill of the craftsmen who felled the timbers in 1525. The church fell into disrepair but in 1876 major renovations took place which included the building of the north aisle, the vestry and the porch. Newdigate had a thriving carving class in the early part of the 20th century and examples of their work can be seen throughout the church.
Head down Church Lane
- Medlar Court – This is formerly the rectory and was built at the same time as the church renovations on the site of a Tudor rectory which had become dilapidated. It has now been considerably enlarged and renovated and divided into apartments.
- Dean House Farm – This house dates from about 1630 and is unusual in that the end facing the church is jettied. Note the Horsham stone roof. Traditions of secret passages to the Six Bells public house have lingered in folk memory.
- George Horley Place – This was the site of the old school house which was demolished and replaced by these old folk’s homes in the 1960s. George Horley was the former postman and stalwart of the village and held 32 public service offices. He died in 1974.
Turn around and go back to Village Street and turn left
- The Six Bells – So we return to the church and the Six Bells which was formerly called the Five Bells which corresponded to the number of bells in the church at the time. It is mentioned as early as 1489 in the will of Alice Newdigate. Although the pub was built with a central chimney, characteristic of the early 17th century, the timber framing is not substantial and some of it is machine cut indicating a later date. Buildings were adapted and modified to suit contemporary uses so there might have been an older building on this site or alternatively the ‘Bells’ has simply been subject to constant modification over the centuries. What has not changed is the warm welcome and convivial surroundings, and to this day it is still used for meetings and gatherings, just as it was in the late 19th century when the last Manorial Courts of Cudworth met in this very building.
- Yew Tree Cottage – A small symmetrical timber-framed cottage dating from the early 17th century with a cross-wing built in 1966.
- The Old Post Office – This house was used as a Dame School until 1873. It then had a variety of uses – a drapery, a stationery store, post office, a hairdressers, a needlework shop and a café called the Copper Kettle. During the war it was the warden’s post. It was converted into a private house in about 1960.
- Wirmwood – This building started life in the late sixteenth century as a central smoke-bay house and a further bay was added in the seventeenth century. Note the construction of the north chimney away from the house. This was a butcher’s shop and the door is extra wide to accommodate the sides of meat. In Victorian times the building was extended to provide a shop which continued as the village stores right up until the 1990s. To the south of the shop there used to be an old, derelict bakery which was dismantled by the Weald & Downland Museum in 1988 and is still awaiting re-erection.
- Bob’s Shop – This building was erected at the beginning of the 20th century by the Ancient Order of Foresters and is called Foresters Villas. The left hand side was a butchers shop until 1997 and the right hand side was a saddlery until Charles Bettesworth opened a newsagents shop in 1954. Today it is the only shop in the village and is still run by the same family.
- Village Hall – The Village Hall was built in 1901 and was the gift of Bessie Farnell-Watson in memory of her husband who died unexpectedly in 1898.
- Kingsland – Built in the late 16th century as a house of four bays and two storeys. The chimney stack was added when the house was divided into two cottages.