Alfriston

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Coordinates: 50°49′N 0°10′E / 50.81°N 0.16°E / 50.81; 0.16

Alfriston
Alfriston Village Sign - May 2009.jpg
Alfriston is located in East Sussex
Alfriston
Alfriston
 Alfriston shown within East Sussex
Area  9.36 km2 (3.61 sq mi) [1]
Population 774 (2007)[1]
769 (2001 Census)
    - Density  214.2 /sq mi (82.7 /km2)
OS grid reference TQ519030
    - London  49 miles (79 km) NNW 
District Wealden
Shire county East Sussex
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town POLEGATE
Postcode district BN26
Dialling code 01323
Police Sussex
Fire East Sussex
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Lewes
Website http://www.alfriston-village.co.uk/
List of places
UK
England
East Sussex

Alfriston (pronounced All-friston) is a village and civil parish in the Sussex district of Wealden, England. The village lies in the valley of the River Cuckmere, about four miles (6 km) north-east of Seaford and south of the main A27 trunk road and part of the large area of Polegate. The parish has a population of 769 (2001 census).

Roofs of Alfriston, from the churchyard

History[edit]

Most of these notes have been adapted from the Village Reference website[2]

There is strong evidence of ancient occupation of the area, since several Neolithic long barrows have been discovered on the surrounding Downs; among them, to the west is the fairly well preserved Long Burgh. In Saxon times the village was recorded as Aelfrictun (the town of Alfric), from which the Domesday Book records the town as 'Elfricesh-tun'.[3]

One building of historical importance is the Star Inn. Originally a religious hostel built in 1345 and used to accommodate monks and pilgrims en route from Battle Abbey to the shrine of St Richard, patron saint of Sussex, at Chichester Cathedral, it became an inn in the 16th century.[4] Wooden figures grace the upper part of the building, whilst in the front is a one-time ship's figurehead representing a red lion. The latter is connected with the Alfriston smuggling gang who used the inn as a base; their leader was transported to Australia in 1830.

Churches[edit]

St Andrew's Church.

The Alfriston parish church, dedicated to St Andrew, has Saxon origins, although most of the building dates from the 14th century: it is known, because of its size, as The Cathedral of the South Downs. It sits on a small, flint-walled mound in the middle of "the Tye" (the local village green), overlooking the River Cuckmere, and is surrounded by the flowered graveyard. It is built in the form of a cross. Today it is part of the united benefice which includes St Michael's Church at Litlington and All Saints Church at West Dean. Alfriston's former United Reformed Church is included in that grouping.[5]

The 14th Century Alfriston Clergy House close by, was originally the vicarage, but is now maintained by the National Trust. It was the very first property brought by the Trust in 1896 and it is a classic example of a Wealden hall house with thatched roof and timber-framed walls. It also has a tranquil garden and orchard on the banks of the Cuckmere.

The village of Alfriston[edit]

The Chairman of the Parish Council is Ray Savage and the council has a monthly meeting.[6]

The village today attracts many tourists, because it represents a perfect example of its kind, although the shops also tend to cater for the tourist: gift shops proliferate.[7] The east side of the village lies peacefully by the River Cuckmere and is famously home to the village green, which is called the Tye. In the centre of the Tye is St. Andrew's Church which lies on a raised mount surrounded by a flint wall. Next to it is the Alfriston Clergy House, a National Trust property, the first purchased by them. Also, at the top-left side of the Tye is the Georgian Unitarian Chapel. The wooden sign for the village at the entrance to the Tye was carved by a previous vicar of the village who also repaired the Star Inn's famous red lion.

The centre of the village is the Market Square which boasts a rather weather beaten market cross. This is often mistakenly referred to as "Waterloo Square", although Waterloo Square is really a small enclosed residential area nearby. There are a number of inns and other places to stay and eat nearby.[8] The inns in the village are:

  • The Star Inn - On the corner of the road that leads to the more residential area of Alfriston, it has a large carving of a red lion outside and many wooden carvings above the ground floor windows and door. It has a sanctuary post inside. There are rooms in the traditional front of the building and a more modern extension at the back provides more rooms. It has a car park for residents.
  • The Smugglers' Inn - Once the Market Cross House and often referred to as Ye Olde Smugglers' Inne, several years ago its façade was hit by a red car which after the crash drove off leaving its number plate in the wreckage. The vehicle was found burned out some miles away but the owner was never traced. For some time while the building's front was being repaired a large cover was put over it with a painting of the vehicle lodged into the pub. The repairs revealed an original (blocked up) Tudor window that was restored, as well as the original ceiling in the locals' bar. There is a conservatory room and a patio garden previously home to a large cage full of parakeets. A recent Channel 5 archeology programme Pub Dig ([9]) revealed evidence of long occupation of the site including signs of smuggling, animal butchery and neolithic activity in the garden at the rear of the building.
  • The George Inn - The oldest inn in the village (getting its first license in 1397) with a wide front onto the street and a beautiful garden to the rear looking over the downs! Inside the bar area is a beautiful inglenook fireplace, oak floors and Sussex hops decorating the walls. The George also boasts 5 beautiful double rooms all named after smugglers who are rumoured to have stayed in these rooms.

Alfriston is also home to Moonrakers Restaurant, Deans Place Hotel, the Wingrove House Hotel, as well as places to eat such as The Tudor House, Badgers Tea Room, and Chestnuts Tea Room.[10]

Although it doesn't have a large number of shops, it does have its own Post Office which is also the Village Stores. This contains a working, albeit abbreviated, brass cash pulley system above the main counter. The award winning Much Ado Books, and a music memorabilia shop, as well as Tricorn Hats and Pearls of Alfriston which specialises in jewellery. The Old Apiary, the former home of James Pagden, a pioneer beekeeper, is now a ladies fashion boutique and online retailer of Lampe Berger lamps. And, of course, the village is the birthplace of the Steamer Trading Cookshop,[11] which has now branched out around Sussex, with a large store on Lewes's School Hill. The village also has its own chocolate shop.[12]

The South Downs Way crosses the river here, between Eastbourne and Brighton, and then continues through the village and up onto the Downs. There is a youth hostel outside the village on the road to Seaford run by the Youth Hostels Association. A windmill near the village has been converted into a house.

During the week leading up to the August Bank Holiday weekend, there is the Alfriston Festival, which ends with a Grand Fair on the Tye, with the proceeds going to several local national charities. It is attended by a large number of people from many miles around.[13] In December there is also an Alfriston Christmas Weekend.[14]

The village also has its own clay pigeon shooting club.[15]

The Alfriston Cricket Club has won the Cuckmere Valley League on nine occasions, with the earliest being 1920 and the most recent 2003.[16] Another sport that can be played in Alfriston is the Alfriston Short Mat Bowls Club, which has twenty-five members.[17]

The Arts and Alfriston[edit]

In 1931 Eleanor Farjeon wrote the popular hymn "Morning Has Broken" in Alfriston; the hymn is supposedly about the beauty she saw around her in this village. The song was later recorded by Cat Stevens in the 1970s, reaching a wider audience.

The 1946 novel 'Uneasy Terms' by international best-selling crime and thriller writer Peter Cheyney, is set mainly in and around Alfriston. The private detective, Slim Callaghan, stays in one of the pubs in Alfriston, which in the novel is called 'The Two Friars', whilst solving a murder at the nearby house 'Dark Spinney', home of the Alardyse family. The author describes the village thus:

"Callaghan walked slowly through the open space at the end of Alfriston High Street. The afternoon sun shone on the old houses, and the tree in the middle of the little square threw a pleasant shadow."

Several other local places are mentioned in the novel, among them Brighton, Eastbourne, Herstmonceaux, Pevensey Bay, Rottingdean and Polegate. The book was made into a film in 1948, starring Moira Lister and Michael Rennie.

Cheyney also mentions Alfriston in several other of his novels, including 'Dance without Music' (1947).

Another well-known thriller-writer, Victor Canning, sets the Prologue to his 1956 novel The Hidden Face (US Burden of Proof) in Alfriston. The hero Peter Barlow comes to the village to confront a resident, James Gurney Hansford, who has cheated his father and driven him to suicide. They fight. Later Hansford is murdered and Barlow wrongly convicted of the crime.

The 1964 film The Chalk Garden starring Sir John Mills, Hayley Mills and Deborah Kerr was filmed in and around the village.

Peter Seller's 1962 film Waltz of the Toreadors was also filmed here.

A panoramic view of the village of Alfriston from the South Downs Way bridleway

References[edit]

External links[edit]