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East Grinstead is a town and civil parish in the northeastern corner of Mid Sussexmarker, West Sussexmarker in Englandmarker near the East Sussexmarker, Surreymarker, and Kentmarker borders. It lies south of Londonmarker, north northeast of Brightonmarker, and east northeast of the county town of Chichestermarker. The civil parish covers an area of 2443.45 hectares (6,035 acres) and had a population of 23,942 persons in the 2001 census. Nearby towns include Crawleymarker to the west, Tunbridge Wellsmarker to the east and Redhillmarker and Reigatemarker to the northwest. The town is continuous with the village of Felbridgemarker to the northwest. Until 1974 East Grinstead was the centre for local government - East Grinstead Urban District Council - and was located in the county of East Sussex. East Grinstead, along with Haywards Heath and Burgess Hillmarker, as part of the former Cuckfield Rural District Council, came together as Mid-Sussex; moving to the jurisdiction of West Sussex County Council. The town has many historic buildings including the longest continuous run of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England and is located on the Greenwich Meridian. It is located in the Wealdmarker and Ashdown Forestmarker lies to the south of the town.

Places of interest

The High Street contains the longest continuous run of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England. Other notable buildings in the town include Sackville Collegemarker, the sandstone almshouse built in 1609 where the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" was written by John Mason Neale. The Greenwich Meridian runs through the grounds of the historic 1769 East Court mansion, home of the Town Council, giving the visitor an opportunity to stand with a foot in both the east and west. The parkland setting has sweeping views towards Ashdown Forestmarker. In 1968 the East Grinstead Society was founded as an independent body both to protect the historically important buildings of East Grinstead (and its environs) and to improve the amenities for future generations.

On the outskirts of the town is Standenmarker, a country house belonging to the National Trust, containing one of the best collections of arts and crafts movement furnishings and fabrics. On the A264 to Tunbridge Wellsmarker, there is a historic house called Hammerwood Parkmarker which is on occasions open to the public. East Grinstead House is the headquarters of the (UK and Ireland) Caravan Club.

Local attractions include Ashdown Forestmarker (where the Winnie-the-Pooh stories are set) and the Bluebell Railwaymarker, a preserved heritage line with steam locomotives. The town is also the site of Queen Victoria Hospitalmarker, where famed plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe treated burns victims of World War II and formed the Guinea Pig Club. The town is well located to visit Chartwellmarker the country home of Sir Winston Churchill, Hever Castlemarker home of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn, and Penshurst Placemarker home of the Sidney family. Kidbrooke Park (today Michael Hall School), a home of the Hambro family, was restored by the noted Sussex architect and antiquarian, Walter Godfrey, as was Plawhatch Hall.

During the Second World War, the town was a secondary target for Germanmarker bombers who failed to make their primary target in Londonmarker. During the evening of 9 July 1943, a Luftwaffe bomber became separated from his squadron, and made an attack on the town. One of his bombs fell on the Whitehall Cinema in the High Street. 108 people were killed, including many children who were watching the matinee. This was the largest loss of life of any single air raid in Sussex.

In 2006, the East Grinstead Town Museum was moved to new custom built premises located in the historic centre of the town, and successfully re-opened to the public. The Chequer Mead Community Arts Centre includes a modern 349-seat purpose-built theatre, which stages professional and amateur plays and music (local rock groups to chamber music orchestras), opera, ballet, folk music, tribute bands, and talks. The centre has a large art gallery for temporary exhibitions.

In addition to the nearby Ashdown Forestmarker, East Grinstead is served by the Forest Waymarker and Worth Waymarker linear Country Parks which follow the disused railway line from Three Bridgesmarker all the way through to Groombridgemarker and which are part of the Sustrans national cycle network. To the south of the town lies the Weir Woodmarker Reservoir which offers sailing and a nature reserve which attracts an interesting assortment of birdlife. It is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Religious organisations

East Grinstead has a varied selection of churches.

Church of England:
  • St. Swithun's Churchmarker is the main church in the parish. One of the most impressive buildings in the town it has been on its present site since the 11th century. Near the entrance to the church, three stones mark the supposed ashes of Anne Tree, Thomas Dunngate and John Forman who were burned as martyrs on the 18th of July 1556 because they would not renounce the Protestant faith.
There are two linked churches:

To the north of the town centre lies the Anglican church of St. Mary's in Windmill Lane, opened in 1893 it was established by adherents of the Oxford Movement. Services at St Mary's still follow a more catholic style compared to those at St Swithun's.

Other Protestant and Non-conformist:

Roman Catholic churches:

East Grinstead is also home to several non-mainstream belief systems.

The curious co-incidence of so many faith organisations located in or close to the town has prompted debate and speculation over recent years. In 1994, a documentary entitled Why East Grinstead? was produced for Channel 4 by Zed Productions and directed by Ian Sellar. The documentary didn't come to any definite conclusions: the explanations ranging from the fact that East Grinstead sat on the convergence of ley lines to the more prosaic idea that the various religious inquirers had settled there because they liked the views.


The East Grinstead Town Centre Master Plan was adopted on 10 July 2006 as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). The scheme arranges regeneration of the town centre in association with Thornfield Properties PLC. As of September 2007 Thornfield Properties has submitted plans to the council for the start of an ambitious development of the Queens Walk and West Street area. It is expected that other redevelopment companies will fulfil targets outlined in the SPD over the next 20 years. Landowners and developers are being encouraged to put forward plans achieve the vision set out in the SDP. The Master Plan is part of a larger scheme which will also see the redevelopment of the Haywards Heathmarker and Burgess Hillmarker town centres.

A legacy of 1970s buildings followed by decades of low investment and short term planning have left the town with outdated retail spaces. The plan envisions a complete reconstruction of large parts of the town centre with a new town square as its focal point, a mix of commercial retail space, increased active shop frontage, and over 600 residential properties.The clear priority as stated by Mid Sussexmarker District Council is the regeneration of the town centre, Queensway car park, Queens Walk and West Street.

The problems the town faces have directly affected the volume of trade and the town's economic well-being. Residents do most of their non food shopping out of town, which has resulted in retailers in the town centre closing down and commercial premises being left vacant as they cannot compete with the more attractive shopping centre in Crawley with its better transport infrastructure and larger shop areas.No public money is being spent, with the SPD being a guide for private developers and landowners to pursue the ideas. The SPD helps this in that it in essence shows locations in town that have been given an arbitrary planning permission for projects as long as they fulfil the guidelines set out in the SPD.

A new bypass is planned to ease congestion. A projected increase in population from new housing developments and an increase in tourism from the proposed linking of the town with the heritage Bluebell Railwaymarker will service the plans to regenerate the town centre. These plans have been welcomed by many although various public consultations made it clear that any development must retain the town's character. The railway stationmarker will also be redeveloped as its simple concrete construction is seen as unattractive and a bad gateway into the town, along with the dilapidated state of the Railway Approach road that leads into town. The current station was built to replace a grand wooden Victorian-era railway station that was sold and moved to the USA. Public transport has also come under criticism for being badly linked and of poor quality, resulting in many residents using private cars to move around, further increasing congestion, with limited public car parking space in town.

Other parts of the plan require new car parks, alterations to the external appearance of two supermarkets, among other improvements to the town.


Crime rates in East Grinstead are lower than the national average.

Crime Rates in East Grinstead (per 1000 population)
Offence Locally Nationally
Robbery 0.32 1.85
Theft of a motor vehicle 1.79 4.04
Theft from a motor vehicle 5.34 9.59
Sexual offences 0.62 1.17
Violence against a person 11.28 19.97
Burglary 2.58 5.67


A map of East Grinstead from 1946


East Grinsteadmarker has been a railway terminus since 1967, after the line from Three Bridgesmarker, to Royal Tunbridge Wellsmarker was closed under the Beeching Axe, a rationalisation of British Railways' branch lines based on a report by Dr Richard Beeching, a resident of the town at that time. (see also East Grinstead railway stationmarker for history of rail lines). The closure of the line to Lewesmarker part of the Bluebell Railway, occurred in 1958.

In the late 1970s the town's inner relief road was built along a section of one of the closed railway lines and is named "Beeching Way". It is rumoured that this road, which runs through a cutting, was intended to be called "Beeching Cut", but that the name was altered at the last minute in the interests of formality. Much of rest of the trackbed of the disused Three Bridges to Groombridge linemarker now forms the route of the Worth Waymarker and Forest Waymarker, highly prized linear Country Parks allowing easy access to the beautiful Wealden countryside.

Bluebell Railway connection

A part of the Lewesmarker line is being re-constructed by the Bluebell Railwaymarker, a nearby preserved standard gauge railway. Work has now actively started on the final push to the north towards East Grinstead where the line will once again join onto the national railway network. A new railway station is to be built just south of the main-line station.


The town lies on the junction of the A22marker and A264 roads. For just over a mile, from just to the north of the Town Centre to Felbridgemarker village in Surreymarker, the two routes use the same stretch of single carriageway road. This is one of the principal causes of traffic congestion in the town.

The town is within commuting distance of Londonmarker (about 30 miles) and Crawleymarker/Gatwickmarker (about 10 miles) by road. According to the 2001 Census, one in eight residents commuted to Crawley for work with over 98% travelling by car.


Education in the town is provided through both state and independent schools. West Sussexmarker County Council provides seven primary schools along with two secondary schools. All these schools are co-educational and comprehensive. Private secondary education is provided by several day and boarding schools in the surrounding areas straddling Kent and Sussex.

State primary schools
  • Baldwins Hill Primary School - a 100-pupil primary school in buildings opened in 1898. It is federated with Halsford Park Primary
  • Blackwell Primary School - a 200-pupil primary school opened in 1955, moving into new buildings in 2006.
  • Estcots Primary School - a 400-pupil primary school built in the 1970s
  • Halsford Park Primary School - a 400-pupil primary school, opened in 1958 and now federated with Baldwins Hill Primary
  • Meads Primary School - a 250-pupil primary school
  • St Mary's CE Primary School - a 200-pupil Church of England primary school, originally opened in 1885 moving to current buildings in 1955
  • St Peter's RC Primary School - a 200-pupil Roman Catholic primary school, originally opened in 1885

State secondary schools

Private prep schools
  • Brambletye, Lewes Road, East Grinstead - Full Boarding, Day, BOYS: Nursery, Pre Prep, Prep , GIRLS: Nursery, Pre Prep, Prep
  • Fonthill Lodge School, Coombe Hill Road, East Grinstead - Day, BOYS: Nursery, Pre Prep, Prep , GIRLS: Nursery, Pre Prep, Prep

Families seeking education in faith schools are required to travel to schools in Crawleymarker.

Twin towns

The town is twinned with the towns of:


There are some Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the parish. Stone Hill Rocksmarker are tall sandstone crags in the south of the Parish. They are of interest as they reveal a three dimension picture of the sedimentary make up of the surrounding geology.

Famous residents

Houses and shops in East Grinstead

East Grinstead in literature

  • East Grinstead is the destination of the adulterous lovers Norman and Annie in Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy of plays entitled The Norman Conquests. It was chosen because Norman, after some effort, couldn't get in at Hastings. In the 1978 BBC T.V. version of the trilogy, Norman and Annie were portrayed by Tom Conti and Penelope Wilton.

  • East Grinstead also features in Christopher Fowler's novel, Psychoville (1996), in which the town features as harbouring the fictional Invicta Cross, as well as the eventual New Invicta. The town of New Invicta was later used by Jo Amey in Heist as a safehouse

  • East Grinstead is mentioned in the lyrics to British musician Robyn Hitchcock's song, Listening To The Higsons. ("The Higsons come from Norwich, but I prefer East Grinstead.")

  • East Grinstead is the home of Harry Witherspoon, one of the lead characters in a musical comedy by Flaherty and Ahrens called "Lucky Stiff".

  • East Grinstead is mentioned a couple of times in Monty Pythons Flying Circus. It was mentioned that several letters come from the "East Grinstead Friday."

Sports and social clubs

East Grinstead is well served by local sports and social clubs. Municipal facilities include the King George's Field, named as a memorial to King George V. The King's Centre leisure centre, East Grinstead King's Centre, Centre website currently owned and operated by Mid Sussex District Council is located on this land, which was left to the town by a local benfactor. The centre includes an indoor swimming pool and other facilities such as a gym and sports hall. The Council is currently reviewing the provisions of this facility and as part of this is looking at contracting out the management. There are floodlit tennis courts and bowling green at Mount Noddy and also tennis courts and a variety of pitches at East Court. All facilities at East Grinstead are booked via the Kings Centre.

Local sports clubs include:

Other Clubs include:


  1. East Grinstead Town Council , Centre website
  2. East Grinstead Society Link, Society's website
  3. East Grinstead Town Museum Link, Museum website
  4. Chequer Mead Community Arts Centre , Centre website
  5. Weir Wood Sailing Club , Sailing Centre website
  6. Bluebell Railway extension

External links

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