title="Chiddingfold Parish Council in Surrey">

Local HistoryThu, 26th November 2020

Local History

Overview

The parish of Chiddingfold includes the village of Chiddingfold and the hamlets of Ansteadbrook, High Street Green and Combe Common.  It is one of the largest parishes within the county of Surrey and is located in the borough of Waverley.  It borders the parishes of Haslemere, Witley, Hambledon, Dunsfold, Northchapel and Lurgashall, the latter two being in West Sussex and falling within the Chichester District.  The parish has a boundary with the South Downs National Park to the South. 

The Parish is predominantly rural and most residents live in Chiddingfold village, which includes a Conservation Area and a number of Listed Buildings. The rural character is maintained in particular due to designations covering all or part of the area, including the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Ancient Woodlands and the Metropolitan Green Belt of London. Chiddingfold Forest, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, lies mostly within the parish boundary.

 

History

Flints from the mid-Stone Age have been recovered demonstrating the presence of man from around 4000BC in the area.  Remains of a Roman building were found at White Beach dating back to 450 AD

Historic records show 28 variations of the name, which is thought to be derived from Saxon roots, including: “Chedelingefelt” (xii cent), “Chudyngfold” (xiv cent.), probably meaning the fold (enclosure for animals) "in the hollow".an enclosure for animals, in the hollow belonging to the Caedingas, followers of Cedd or Cedda, the East Saxon Bishop (AD 654- 664).

The parish lies in the Low Weald and the geology is heavy Wealden clay.  The region is heavily wooded, with many areas of ancient (400+ year) woodland.   The nature of the land has influenced its use: the clay is poor draining, limiting agricultural use; historically timber production was a dominant activity.   This can be seen in the architecture of the area and has shaped industry on the region.

Traditional Wealden industries of glass making and iron founding were carried on from the early 13th century to the 17th century, using timber from the forests in the Weald for fuel. Farming of cattle, sheep and arable, Kersey cloth making, tanning and dyeing, brickworks, coppicing, stick making and large family estates created employment during the various stages of village development to the present day.

Glass making was a significant industry locally. There are indications of it locally dating back to Roman times, and in 1226, evidence suggests a Norman, Laurence Vitrearius, set-up the first scale production of broad sheet glass (used in leaded windows) in England in Chiddingfold.  From the 14th century Wealden glassmaking grew as an industry and during the reign of Elizabeth I, there were no fewer than eleven glass works on the green in Chiddingfold and the glass was used in some of the finest buildings in the land, including St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, and St George's Chapel, Windsor.  The Wealden glass industry fluctuated over the next 400 years with both ‘broad’ and ‘crown’ glass being made. There was a resurgence in the 16th Century following earlier immigration of craftsmen from the continent, but the industry came to end in the Weald following the issue of patents banning of wood burning for glass manufacture in 1614, though legal agreements permitted some manufacture until 1618.

Iron smelting was another local industry, again, benefitting from a local supply of timber for furnaces.

A particular feature of Chiddingfold woodlands was the coppicing of ash and hazel for walking sticks. Walking Stick factories were a major source of local employment until the late 20th century.  The coppicing of hazel was a widespread practice, but coppicing of ash was possibly unique to Chiddingfold.  There are some interesting films from the 1930s and 1940s showing the craft of walking stick manufacture in Chiddingfold, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJetV16FR-I and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYB5eR335pA.

 

Architecture

The historic management of woodlands for timber is evident in the architecture of the area, with half timber construction and Wealden barns a noticeable feature of the area’s buildings.

Chiddingfold Village has, at it’s heart, a 14th - 16th Century hamlet centred around the Village Green, which includes many listed buildings, including: The Crown Inn (Grade I listed and said to be one of the oldest inns in England, with the earliest recorded reference to the present building dated 1383, but records of an earlier Halle on the site date from 1285); 13th Century St. Mary’s Church which is Grade I listed (the four quoins of the present nave of the stone church were built c1190  and previous wooden church is thought to date back to c978 AD) , which features a unique lancet window made with 427 uncut pieces of Chiddingfold stained glass from the 11 glasshouse sites in the parish worked by the Flemish glassmakers whose names are recorded on a marble tablet below the window; a 17th Century blacksmith’s forge; and the Village Pond.

                       

         View across the Pond to St. Mary’s Church                    The Crown Inn

         Credit: Susie Forrest                                                        Credit: Susie Forrest

 

The majority of housing in the village spreads North West from here with a mix of 19th and 20th century housing.  Following the First World War, the 1919 Housing Act promised ‘homes fit for heroes’ which included homes built at Combe View Cottages in Chiddingfold, which remain in place today. St Marys Church of England School has provided education for local children since 1837.  There is a 19th century Cricket Green and Chiddingfold Cricket Club has a long history.

 

The hamlets of Ansteadbrook in the south west and and Highstreet Green to the south east are not large, but share much of the same charm of Chiddingfold village, with a number of attractive period properties and several listed buildings and historic interest.   At Ansteadbrook is the Grade II* listed Lythe Hill Hotel (a 15th Century farmhouse with 16th Century additions).

 

Bonfire

The Chiddingfold Bonfire is a longstanding event, attracting many visitors.  The torchlight  procession, bonfire and fireworks display take place on the Saturday evening closest to 5 November.

The event has close associations with walking stick manufacturing in the area and Cooper and Sons donated fagots for the fire every year from the mid-1800’s until the 1960’s and donated chestnut sticks for the torches (the factory is now closed, but a final donation of 10,000 sticks is still going strong). 

The Bonfire has been a source of dramatic events and rioting in the past (see the Bonfire Association website https://chiddingfoldbonfire.org.uk/history for more details of incidents in 1887 and 1929), these days it is a very important local charity fundraiser.

 

More information about the history Chiddingfold is available from the Chiddingfold Archive - https://www.thechiddingfoldarchive.org.uk/

 

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