Chailey Community 

The Parish at the Heart of Sussex

St. George's Conservation Area

 

St. George's was first designated as a Conservation Area in June 1995.  The following description is taken from an Appraisal prepared by Lewes District Council in 2006.  The full document may be consulted here.

St. George's Conservation Area is located nine miles north of Lewes, to the north west of North Chailey. The site lies within Red House Common, which is part of Chailey Common Local Nature Reserve. Chailey Common, one of the largest heathland commons in southern England, is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), due to its heathland plants and diverse insect and bird species.

Approached via a long driveway, the conservation area has a rather formal character. Not a large area, it incorporates a small number of buildings within its boundary. It is set apart from the village of North Chailey by nature of its position slightly outside the main village and this separation is further enhanced by the hedged boundary enclosing the conservation area. Public footpaths run around the outside of the site. At the centre of the conservation area stands the St George’s building. There is an open playing field area to the west of it, and garaging to the north. The other buildings lie in the south east corner of the area.

St George’s is sited on top of a ridge from which there are views across both the South and the North Downs. From within the conservation area itself views out of the site are fairly restricted due to the hedges and trees of its boundary, which adds to the sense of it being a formalised area within an otherwise more open rural landscape. The St George’s building and the nearby windmill dominate the conservation area. The windmill in particular is a highly visible landmark, which can be easily seen from immediately outside the conservation area and from points further away such as Ditchling Beacon.

The landscape of the conservation area was for many years open heathland and it is only in the past hundred years that the area has become enclosed in its current form. Chailey Common was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was used over a long period of time for grazing livestock and cutting wood and bracken for fuel. The area belonged to the manor of Balneath, once part of the estates of St Pancras’ Priory, Lewes. The manor was granted to Thomas Cromwell at the Dissolution in 1537, and then passed to Anne of Cleves and subsequently Sir William Goring, with whose descendents it remained until c.1900. A windmill has stood in the area for several hundred years. An early reference to a windmill on the site is in a court roll for the Manor of Balneath dated 1590. It refers to a ‘ventimolum voc[at] a wynde myll’ held by Richard Houlden. A house associated with the windmill is referred to in documents as early as c.1670 in a List of Tenants of Balneath Manor: "Tennants of the said mannor who pay unto the Lord of the said mannor uppon death the best beast as a herriott for every tenement copyhold Widdow Comber for a cottage and windmill in Chayley". Early Ordnance Survey maps show little more than a windmill and its associated Mill House and outbuildings.

The area retained this open heath land feel until the site was used by the Chailey Heritage Crafts School in the early 20th century. This organisation grew out of the Guild of the Brave Poor Things, which was founded in London in 1894, and organised meetings for people with physical disabilities of all ages. The Heritage Crafts School was founded in 1903 at Chailey Old Workhouse and the first pupils were seven boys who were members of the Guild. In 1917 the Kitchener Huts, built by boys at the school to allow their residential accommodation to be given over to soldiers wounded in the First World War, were constructed at the St George’s site. In time, the Huts were felt to be in poor state of repair and of a temporary character, irregular in plan due to their piecemeal construction, and not particularly practical. Following the raising of funding by the "Golden Apple Appeal", the Huts were finally replaced with the building of a new residential block at St George’s, which was opened in 1932 – this is the main St George’s building we see today. The area was also enclosed by its boundary at this time. The building remained in use by the Heritage Crafts School until the 1990s when it was sold and converted into residential properties. At this time the sunken garaging to the north of St George’s was constructed to provide parking for residents.

Former Main Entrance

Former Main Entrance

St George's Chapel

St George's Chapel

Founder's Mill

Founder's Mill

Golden Apple Tree

Golden Apple Tree

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Chailey Parish Council © 2016