Crowhurst is a civil parish and dispersed village in a rural part of the Tandridge district of Surrey, England. The nearest town is Oxted, 3 miles (4.8 km) north. Rated two architectural categories higher than the medieval church is the renaissance period manor, Crowhurst Place in the parish, which is a Grade I listed building.
The place-name ‘Crowhurst’, first recorded in 1189 in various forms similar to those of the next century Croherst and Crauhurste, simply means ‘crow wood’.
The Anglo-Saxon administrative division of Tandridge hundred of decreasing use throughout the medieval period, used to be a forum for elders and the overlords of the parish. In 1086, the Domesday Book had no record of the place.
Crowhurst takes up a small part of the topsoil above (to quote Malden’s Victoria County History of 1911:
the Wealden Clay and is one of the places on that formation which do not appear as parishes until the 13th century, and were probably scarcely inhabited at the time of the Domesday Survey. It was then no doubt part of Oxted, to which [overlords] the [workers and lord of the] manor was [were] subordinate. The dedication of the church to St. George indicates a consecration not earlier than the third Crusade.
A Cameo History of Crowhurst, Surrey (courtesy of John Doust)
The yew tree in St. George’s churchyard is, at an estimated age of 4000 years, the most ancient feature of the Parish. In fact the area was originally forest and Crowhurst comes from the name ‘crows wood’.
Crowhurst was part of the Oxted estate as recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and at the time had no development worth reporting. The earliest building recorded is the church which is believed to have been dedicated to St George in 1191. The first reference to Crowhurst was made in 1291 when the parish had developed sufficiently to be taxed 100 shillings as mentioned in a ‘valor’ of King Edward I. By 1303 Robert de Stangrove was granted free warren (that is a franchise to keep enclosed small game animals or birds) in all his lands at Stangrove and Crowhurst.
In 1338 he and his wife Joan granted John Gaynsford and his wife Margery the Manor of Crowhurst with the rents and services of all tenants in the County of Surrey belonging to the Manor of Crowhurst. The Gainsford family as they became known was the most prominent in the parish for more than 300 years and settled in Crowhurst Place. The present house, surrounded by a moat, was built on the ruins of an earlier house by John IV who died in 1450, the great grandson of John Gaynsford.
The family was associated with the estate of Chellows when Sir William Forster sold Pimps Farm to William Angell in about 1613. In 1618 William Angell purchased the advowson (the right of nominating a clergyman to a benefice, that is a church living) of Crowhurst Church. William’s son, John Angell, was probably responsible for building a southern wing on the farmhouse which justified changing its name to Mansion House Farm.
John Angell held a royal appointment through the reigns of James I, Charles I and Charles II at Windsor where he was Caterer and Verderer of Windsor Park. To remain on the winning side during the Civil War he also signed the Protestation Oath in 1641.
A church plate given by the Angell family in 1638 is still in regular use in the church. The Angells appear to have taken over the role of the most influential family in the Parish from the Gainsfords and held this position until the 18th century. Crowhurst Parish Registers show the Angells regarded Crowhurst as their family seat even when living away from the Parish and were buried here.
Like many small parishes on the Weald, farmhouses formed the focus for development and no villages existed. In addition to the medieval timber framed houses already mentioned others are Bombers Farm, Bowerland Farm, Pikes Farm, Whitehouse Farm and Wintersell Farm.
The railway influenced the Crowhurst Brick and Tile Works which blossomed to become the biggest employer in the Parish. The brickworks was taken over first by Redland and then by Lefarge leading to its closure in the 1990s when production was concentrated elsewhere.
Industrial development began when the London to Dover railway via Redhill crossed the Parish in the 1840s and, in the 1880s, with the railway to East Grinstead. However their presence has been transitory as no station was built in the Parish.
A nucleus in the Parish was created by a village school which was built in 1862. It remained in use until 1973.
Another focal point is the Village Hall built in 1966. It is regularly in use throughout the week for Parish and other activities.
As farming concentrates into fewer bigger farms and with the fall in demand for employment within the area, the Parish is becoming more of a dormitory area.
The unique ethos of the Parish is encouraging newcomers to stay and the number of retired people is rising. Who knows how Crowhurst will change in the future?