Local history


Where did the village's name come from? 

The name Felbridge has its origins in the 12th century as Feltbruge and Feldbrigge (1255), meaning “bridge by the feld”, or open land. The area was settled by Neolithic man and an ancient north-south track runs through the village behind the Ramada Jarvis Hotel and down Imberhorne Lane, through to the South Downs east of Westmeston.  Here is a photo of the 17th Century Star Inn from around 1911 when Felbridge had 315 residents.  Today, over 2,300 people live in over 900 properties.
The Star Inn, circa 1911


Romans in Felbridge …

The rich iron ore deposits in the area were worked over 2,000 years ago.  During Roman occupation, from AD43, there was a ‘bloomery furnace’ close to the Roman road linking London with Brighton. This road carried iron from the Weald and the corn grown on the South Downs, to markets in London and other towns. Today’s A22 from Felbridge to Godstone, through Blindley Heath and over Tilburstow Hill, follows the straight route of the Roman road built 2,000 years ago.  Woodcock Forge, operational in the 1700s, is believed to have made iron nails for St. Paul's Cathedral.


Saxon sites …

Following the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 5th Century AD, Saxon tribes settled in the Weald and began farming.  Three possible Saxon sites have been identified in Felbridge: one to the north west of the house known as Gulledge, on the track between Imberhorne and Gulledge Farms; another near Felbridge Water; and a third to the north of the village and near Hedgecourt Lake.  Today's parishes are largely based on the layout of Saxon settlements established over 1,000 years ago.


To the manor born …

As time went on, smaller areas of parishes formed estates known as manors.  Local manors in Felbridge include: Broadhurst Manor, which includes the Tudor house Gulledge; Burleigh Arches Manor, which encompasses Cuttinglye Wood; Covelingly Manor; Felcourt Manor; Hedgecourt Manor; and Imberhorne Manor, which dates back to before the Norman Conquest of 1066.  Some of these are shown on the Speede Map of 1610.


Felbridge Place

Now the site for Whittington College, Felbridge Place was part of an estate formed in 1719 by Edward Evelyn.  The name Evelyn still survives today in 'The Evelyn Chestnuts', two rows of Spanish chestnuts bordering the Crawley Down Road and Copthorne Road, and which provided an impressive avenue to the house.  The estate was sold to George Gatty in 1855 whose son, Charles Henry ('Dr. Gatty') and his wife Frances set to work building the Victorian Gothic church of St. John the Divine and the vicarage.  Felbridge Place, later known as the Felbridge Place Hotel and White Duchess Hotel, was demolished in 1972.


The start of formal education

Edward Evelyn's son James founded a charity in 1783 which enabled the first school to be established in the village to teach 12 children reading, writing and arithmetic. The old schoolhouse still exists today behind the Village Green, but it has been greatly extended by a modern building opened in 1994 to accommodate over 200 children.  

Contact: scott@felbridge.surrey.sch.uk for details of  'The Village School'


"Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London"

Felbridge has an interesting link with Dick Whittington, four times Mayor of London.  In his will of 1424, Whittington founded an almshouse for 13 poor citizens of London, entrusted to the care of the Mercers' Company.  Whittington College, as it was known, remained in London until 1966 when it was moved to a site within the grounds of the former Felbridge Place where it now provides care for over 60 elderly residents.  Joseph Carew's statue of Dick Whittington as a young man can be seen near the entrance.  Opposite is a pond on the corner of The Limes where, a hundred years ago, horses would stop to drink after pulling carts up Woodcock Hill on their way to East Grinstead.


Felbridge gets gas and electricity

The 20th Century saw major changes in Felbridge, especially after World War I.  Building development initially focused on Copthorne Road, Mill Lane, The Limes and Furze Lane.  Houses built from 1916 in Rowplatt Lane (where workers had plaited ropes) sold for £100.  Gas and electricity were provided in the 1930s.  It was at around this time that the Domewood and Furnace Wood estates were created.


Your country needs you …

During World War II, the vicarage in Felbridge acted as a reception centre for evacuees from London, the St. John's Institute on Crawley Down Road was used as a canteen by HM Forces, and north of Wire Mill Lane a military bakery was set up to provide bread for the army throughout the Southeast.  Hobbs Barracks, established in 1930, provided basic training to many soldiers, including comedian Spike Milligan.  The site, which in the 1970s briefly became a film set for 'No Hiding Place', is now an active industrial estate employing over 450 people.


Felbridge personalities

Among the famous people that have been associated with Felbridge are: the Evelyns, relatives of 17th Century diarist John Evelyn: zoologist Professor Furneau; portrait artist Waldron West; dancer Melanie Parr; and local historian Ivan Margary.  

If you know of others worthy of mention, please let us know.

James Evelyn 1718-93,
aged 70