East Grinstead Things to Do

  • "....gog-eyed with photo...
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  • The mosaic
    The mosaic
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  • The very sarcophogus of John Mason Neale
    The very sarcophogus of John Mason Neale
    by iandsmith

Most Recent Things to Do in East Grinstead

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    Him of the hymn

    by iandsmith Updated Oct 2, 2009

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    The very sarcophogus of John Mason Neale
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    The story of the Canadian Air Force personnel who were burned during the Second World War and were treated in the town. Known as the Guinea Pigs (many treatments were experimental), those that remain return each year and not only pay homage to the town but have left their flag in the church to hang permanently as a mark of respect. There was a moving documentary a few years ago on the television that I viewed on this very subject.

    The tale of John Mason Neale whose sarcophogus adorns a corner of the churchyard is also of interest. He advocated closer ties between Catholics and Protestants, a none too popular stance in the 19th century and some of the locals caused his sacking as warden of their local church. He was ultimately re-instated two years later however whilst the bigots have gone to obscurity. His fame highlighted in the church by pride of place in the stained glass window and forever emplanted in hymn books everywhere as he was a noted wordsmith and wrote many famous hymns, the most notable perhaps being "Good King Wenceslas".

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    Ancient Middlerow

    by iandsmith Updated Jul 14, 2006

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    Over to the the shops then

    Coming from Oz I never cease to be amazed that you can be walking along and there, across the road (Middlerow as seen from church gate) is a timber-framed shop dating from the 1400's. The wall on the right belongs to a gunsmith.

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    The inside story

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 28, 2005

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    The mosaic

    Peter Hunter did just the opposite. He queried whether or not we would like a guided tour. As a pair of enthusiastic travellers we were more than happy to join him, albeit with reservations about what could possibly be interesting in this village prayer house. If East Grinstead was a treasure, Peter was a jewel in the crown.
    As one tale after another unfolded we were rivetted by the words bespoke by Peter.
    A story of how a convict woman named Constance Kent was serving a life sentence in Wormwood Scrubs in London for murdering her half brother and, while in prison, did this splendid mosaic floor in the sanctuary.
    She was pardoned by Queen Victoria on the occasion of her jubilee and thereafter left for Australia where she married and had a family.

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    The age of it all

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 26, 2005

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    The white one is original, the others are lookalik

    All the buildings here are relatively modern except for the black-and-white Tudor style one most prominent. When you are there you will notice that all is not square and straight which is a bit of a giveaway to its age.
    This is the view from the rear taken from the church gardens.

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    Good King Wenceslas

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 26, 2005

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    More than just stained glass

    There I was, amazed. I'd always thought it must have been written by some Czech person or European at least and here, backlit before me, was the visage of the man who wrote the hymn, as well as many others.
    John Mason Neale was a compassionate man, his efforts to break down the barriers between the Catholics and Protestants are testimony to that, but he also founded St. Margaret's Convent and is here depicted in front of the nearby Sackville College where he was warden from 1846 to 1866.
    His prayer desk is in the Chapel of the Nativity at the far end of the church, together with the console from which the organ is played and some pipes from a predecssor on which the then vicar painted portraits of some of the parishoners.
    With him are other 19th century church leaders with Sussex connections but, if you visit and look closely, you will notice their likeness to photographs. This is because they were some of the first people ever photographed and it was from these photos that the windows were copied.
    Beneath is a backing for a fireplace but the mould used was that of a graveslab dated 1591.

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    The iron men of East Grinstead

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 15, 2005

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    A different type of slab

    Peter also indicated the names of the townsfolk who died in the two World Wars, highlighting the fact that twice as many were lost in the first conflict, a common occurence in villages and towns throughout Britain apparently.
    He also notes the plaque in memory of 104 dead and 235 injured when a German bomb hit the local cinema on a Saturday afternoon, the victims being mainly women and children. It's a poignant moment for Peter as he was a youth in the town at that very time. Beside it there's another for when the doodlebug (buzz bomb) landed one year and three days later on July 12th 1944 and killed another three. Peter remembers that they were on the flight path to London and so many went overhead they used to ignore them.
    He then directed our attention to two iron grave slabs (gravestones only metal) set into the floor, the oldest of their kind in Great Britain and reflecting also the town's iron heritage. The second had originally been cast from a hewn stone mould for a now missing grave site and ended up as a backing for a fireplace before being rescued by someone who recognized its worth.
    The date on the iron is 1570 and the name is Henry Barcley who was a doctor.

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    Looks like, but isn't

    by iandsmith Written Nov 15, 2005

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    Tower-ing over Rosemarie

    Well, yes, it looks like a tower and it is but, when I first saw it I had wonderful visions of espying my first castle ruin of my trip. Sadly, it's merely the local water tower and not really that old (by the standards of the rest of the town) at all.

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    Dining out in East Grinstead

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 15, 2005

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    The indians are coming, no, they're here!

    This, rather obviously if you've already looked at the photo, is a restaurant but the rambling timber-framed jettied house that encloses it is of an indeterminable date but probably mid 15th to late 17th century.

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    Death on your doorstep

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 15, 2005

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    Open space with a dark past

    This today is a pedestrian area reputed to be where the 3 protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake for refusing to renounce their faith. The buildings in the background are fine examples of 15th century Hall Houses.

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    The old and the new

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 15, 2005

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    Meeting of the ways

    This is the intersection of Middle Row and East Court. On the extreme left, actually on the corner of Hermitage St., is the Dorset Arms Hotel, a rather attractive inn. Middlerow buildings replace market stalls dating from the first half of the 15th century. The building pictured is 16th-17th century.

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    The graveyard shift

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 15, 2005

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    While I was gog-eyed with photo opportunities Rosemarie, as is her wont, decided to stop inside the church. Just as I followed her in, a man quietly strode up the aisle, obviously intent on evicting the convict heritage foreigners and smiting the atheists from within these hallowed walls.

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    Sackville College - a learning curve

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 14, 2005

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    The piecemeal rear of Sackville College

    This charitable foundation in the UK provides housing for the elderly. The College operates according to an act of Parliament of 1624 and a Royal Charter of 1631; its most famous warden was John Mason Neale (1818-1866), the aforementioned writer of hymns.

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    Alms and Sacks

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 14, 2005

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    Sackville College is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the town. Its choice setting atop a small prominence, the weathered stone and lovely street-side garden make it a bit of an eyecatcher.
    Through the years buildings such as Sackville College have been lovingly maintained and still serve as almshouses giving homes for the town's elderly.
    This is actually where the famous East Grinstead carol 'Good King Wenceslas' was written and you can visit the building by taking a tour from mid June to mid September each year.

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    From the outside

    by iandsmith Written Nov 14, 2005

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    Look, a mouse! (About the only one she's not frigh

    Out working in the garden were three folk straight from central casting. Cheerful retirees tending their beloved bloms and only too happy for a chat with Rosemarie about roses. It was, all in all, a heartwarming experience.
    Ourside on one of the grand wooden doors are two carved mice. These were literally the trademark of Robert Thompson of York, the man who created them.

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    A-spire-ing to St. Swithun's

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 14, 2005

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    What a treasure

    So we drove on to this aforesaid (in the intro) street and were entranced by the wonderful historical feel of the place to the point where I wanted more snaps (no surprises there).
    Unable to find a park in the street we adjourned to a community parking facility down a back lane and commenced walking back, a path that led us directly to St. Swithuns, the bearer of the tower I had noted earlier.
    What an absolute treasure - from when we first laid our eyes on the moss-covered gravestones set in the lush grass surrounded by mature oaks and such with lovingly-tended patches of roses here and there. We were smitten.. All it needed was a lifting fog, a ghostly figure midst the branches and deep orchestral tones moaning the background and it was straight from movie world.
    This hill-top site where several tracks met would have been the obvious place to build a church when the area began to be settled in the late tenth century: and one of the most popular saints of that time, St Swithun (Bishop of Winchester, 852-862), was the unsurprising choice for its patron. Conjecture about the original building and how it developed is almost all that is available today but pictures from the late eighteenth century show that a church of largely fourteenth and fifteenth century style stood here until 1785 when the collapse of its tower (poorly rebuilt in 1684 after being struck by lightning) made the present building necessary.

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