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Midhurst from the South.JPG
Midhurst from the south
Midhurst is located in West Sussex
 Midhurst shown within West Sussex
Area  3.33 km2 (1.29 sq mi) [1]
Population 4,914 [1][2]
   – density  1,467/km2 (3,800/sq mi)
OS grid reference SU885214
   – London  45 miles (72 km) NE 
Civil parish Midhurst
District Chichester
Shire county West Sussex
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town MIDHURST
Postcode district GU29
Dialling code 01730
Police Sussex
Fire West Sussex
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Chichester
Website http://www.midhurst-tc.gov.uk/
List of places
West Sussex

Coordinates: 50°59′06″N 0°44′24″W / 50.985°N 0.740°W / 50.985; -0.740

Midhurst (/ˈmɪd.hɜrst/; Sussex dialect: Medhas /ˈmɛd.həs/) is a market town and civil parish in the Chichester district of West Sussex, England, with a population of 4,914 in 2011.[3] In the United Kingdom Census 2001 the parish covered 333 hectares and had 2,327 households with a total population of 4,889 of which 2,258 residents were economically active.[3] In the United Kingdom Census 2011 the total population had risen to 4,914, with 2434 households (average size 2 people) and 3477 economically active residents.[4] In 1831 the population was 1,478; and 1,536 in 1841.

The town[edit]

West Street

Midhurst is situated on the River Rother and is home to the picturesque ruin of the Tudor Cowdray House, the stately Victorian Cowdray Park(now converted to luxury apartments and conference centre), and the Norman St. Ann's Castle (of which only the foundations can now be seen). It is a market town servicing its rural hinterland through its many small businesses, shops, restaurants and cafes. Its hotels and bed and breakfasts serve the tourist trade of visitors to the South Downs National Park and the many events and points of interest in Midhurst and the surrounding area.

The centre of Midhurst is mainly Tudor in origin, although parts of the Spread Eagle Hotel date back to 1430 (the reign of Plantagenet King Henry VI). The hotel was formerly a coaching inn, built at the once-principal intersection of roads linking Midhurst with Petworth (and London) via Knockhundred Row and North Street, Chichester via South Street and Petersfield, via West Street. Both Henry VIII and Eizabeth I visited Midhurst, and Elizabeth is reputed to have stood in the window of the Spread Eagle to watch the nearby market.[5]

Almost every house in the Old Town around the market square dates back to the 16th Century, and in some cases earlier. Even the apparently more modern North Street is lined with Tudor buildings. During the 17th and 18th centuries many of these were fronted with classical and Georgian additions, but it is still possible to see the original Tudor studding at the side and rear of many buildings.[6] There are also several genuinely 18th century buildings scattered throughout the town, and distinctive Victorian and Edwardian developments of terraced housing along the main routes out of Midhurst. During the mid and late 20th Century there was significant housing development to the south of the town, in the Little Midhurst, Holmbush and Fairway areas.

Midhurst is home to the South Downs National Park Authority, whose headquarters is in Capron House, the former Midhurst Grammar School, on North Street. The National Park was established to protect and develop the combined needs of a biodiverse wealden and downland landscape with towns and villages. It covers an area of over 1,600 km2 and is home to more than 110,400 people.

Midhurst is bisected by the busy A272 through road, which runs along North Street - Midhurst's high street. Many who drive through the town are unaware of the tranquil Old Town, with its remains of a Norman castle and charming independent shops, restaurants and cafes along West Street, Red Lion Street and Knockhundred Row.


Midhurst developed as a Saxon village at a strategic crossroads of what are now the A272 (east-west) and A286 (north-south) routes.[7] There may have been a village there since Roman times. After the Norman Conquest Robert de Montgomery ordered the building of a motte-and-bailey castle on what is now called St Ann's Hill, a highly strategic bluff on a curve of the River Rother, overlooking the cross-roads and the entire Rother Valley, protecting the River Rother crossing. St Ann's Hill may also have been the site of an Iron Age fort[8]

The medieval period[edit]

In 1106 Savaric fitz Cana (Fitzcane) received land in Midhurst and the neighbouring village of Easebourne from Henry 1, and in 1158 his son built a fortified manor house on St. Anne's Hill. The family later adopted the de Bohun name. They occupied the manor house only intermittently, preferring their estates elsewhere in Sussex, until they finally abandoned the hill-top site in favour of a site beside the River Rother in the neighbouring parish of Easebourne, 'at a place called Coudreye'.[9] Between 1284 and 1311 St Ann's Castle was in the hands of the Bishop of Durham, and during that period was largely dismantled.[10]. However 'the chapel of St. Denis within the former castle of Midhurst'[11] appears to have escaped the destruction, as it was functioning in 1291, and is referred to in 1367 as standing 'in a place called Courtgrene'.[12]. There is still a house called Court Green immediately outside the current entrance to the castle enclosure. 'Courtgrene' is likely to have been a grazing area immediately outside the castle bailey wall. Whether or not the chapel stood elsewhere as was subsequently demolished, or stood on the site of the current parish church of St. Mary Magdalene and St Denys and was incorporated into it, are unknown. The base of the church tower is 12th century (see section on Religion below for a description of the church building).

The little town developed outside the castle, mainly to service it and the many visitors that would have been coming and going, and to provide a market place for local agricultural surpluses. It was bounded on the north and east by an escarpment dropping to the river Rother, to the south by a tributary to the Rother, and to the west by a three-metre deep ditch and dyke, where Duck Street now runs.

Relatively few details are known of its history during the medieval period. However, other than the castle, it's principal engine of growth would have been its regular market, and many of its early buildings would have been grouped around the market area. These houses were built of highly perishable materials, and none have survived. Most would have been about a perch wide (about 5 metres), with long gardens opening onto back lanes. On market days country people would bring the produce to sell at stalls in the open air. All would have been firmly regulated by guilds, with bailiffs enforcing regulations regarding, for example, the purity of bread, the strength of beer, and weights and measures. Apart from foodstuffs, the principal trades were in wool, cloth and leather.[13]

Midhurst was a 'free borough' and in 1278 was said to have been so from time beyond memory. (fn. 9) It was governed by a bailiff who was elected by the burgesses from among themselves and presented to the lord's steward. Disputes over the respective rights and duties of town and the manor were settled in 1409 by an agreement whereby Michael Bageley and six other named burgesses agreed, on behalf of themselves and their successors, to pay 40 shillings a year to Sir John de Bohun, Lord of the Manor, and his heirs, for the right to take the market tolls. In return they were required to hold both the three-weekly courts and to conduct two 'law days' in the name of Sir John. If they failed for a whole year to hold the courts the agreement should lapse, and if they neglected to keep the streets and ditches in order the lord's manorial officers should be responsible for apprehending offenders, but were required to hand over any fines to the burgesses. This arrangement was confirmed in 1537 by Sir William Fitzwilliam, immediately after his purchase of the manor.[14]

The bailiff held the assize of bread and ale, appointing two ale-tasters yearly, and acted as clerk of the market. A market existed in Midhurst from an early date, with the earliest known reference to it being in 1223. Trades in the town appear to have remained dependent on the sheep production of the surrounding area until at least the later middle ages, including dyers, butchers, tanners, clothiers, shoemakers, fullers, weavers and the like.[15] Originally built as a corn mill, the mill on South Pond was adapted in (date?) for fulling and then tanning activities. (citation needed)

The Tudor period[edit]

The event that had the greatest effect on the town was the re-building of Cowdray House, which commenced in the 1520s.[16] Sir David Owen, illegitimate son of Henry Tudor and uncle to Henry VII, began construction of the building that is now in ruins beside the river Rother, on the site of the former home Coudreye, which he had acquired upon the death of his wife Mary Bohun. Her family had built the original house there between 1273 and 1284, after they abandoned their original castle on St Ann's Hill.[17] The rebuilding continued after 1529, when Sir David Owen's son sold it to Sir William Fitzwilliam (whose family owned it until 1843, eventually passing to the family of the current owner, Viscount Cowdray, in 1910). Even though the Fitzwilliam family were, and remained, Roman Catholics, they were highly skilled politically, and managed to remain in royal favour, a factor which protected them after the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 (see 'Religion' below)

Enriched by the dissolution of the monasteries, the Fitzwilliams were able to inject vast sums of money into the property and its mansion. Completed about 1540 the estate had a major impact on the local economy, already expanding rapidly after the cessation of the Wars of the Roses. Enormous amounts of food were required to feed the approximately 200 servants, huge numbers of family and visitors (to be completed). About 30 separate dishes were served to anything up to 500 people at the main daily meal. In the mid 1560s Sir Anthony Browne (son of Sir William Fitzwilliam) employed Robert May, the elite French-trained chef. He wrote one of the first English cookbooks - The Accomplisht Cook. Similarly, the building works themselves, using brick and stone rather than the locally produced materials for the more typical timber-framed architecture, would have required vast amounts of transport, storage and accounting, bringing artists, craftspeople and specialists of many kinds to the town, driving the development of a local middle class. There are two wall paintings in the town said to have been painted by artists working on the mansion who were lodging in the houses concerned. One is in the building on West Street currently occupied by the Olive and Vine Wine and Tappas bar, and the other is in a building in Red Lion Street. They are thought to be either practice images for the work in mansion, or painted in lieu of rent.

The extension of the town in the direction of the new mansion, from its original position beside St Ann's hill, also contributed to the economic expansion, as merchants built new houses and shops on North Street, to facilitate their dealings with Cowdray House. It was during this period that the Angel Hotel was built, as a coaching house in response to the growing travel. 50 years later it hosted many of the Pilgrim Fathers, on their way from London and East Anglia to Plymouth. On the other hand, the local labour market was distorted as workers were diverted from it to work as servants or contribute to the building.[18]

The 17th and 18th centuries[edit]

To be completed

The 19th and 20th centuries[edit]

The author and science fiction novelist H.G.Wells lived in Midhurst during the 1880s. He worked briefly as an apprentice at a chemist and a few years later he joined the Midhurst Grammar School where he was both a pupil and an assistant teacher.[19]

In 2002, Country Life magazine rated Midhurst the second best town in England.[20]


Between 1913 and 1985, the Midhurst Brickworks, famous for producing "Midhurst White" bricks, was situated close to the former Midhurst Common railway station.[21]


The main secondary school in the town is Midhurst Rother College which replaced the former grammar school, founded in 1672. It is an Academy school formed following the closure of the grammar school and Midhurst Intermediate School in January 2009. There is a primary school, Midhurst C of E Primary School.


Midhurst was a centre of Roman Catholicism during the Tudor period, due to the influence of the Lords Montague at Cowdray. In 1605 the owner of Cowdray House, Anthony-Maria Browne, 2nd Viscount Montagu, was briefly arrested in connection with the Gunpowder Plot. He was suspected as a plotter because of his catholic religion and connections with several of the known plotters. Among others, he had briefly employed Guy Fawkes, a native of Lewes in East Sussex, as a footman. In addition he had stayed away from Parliament on 5 November following a warning from Robert Catesby, the leader of the plot. Anthony-Maria Browne spent about a hear in the Tower of London, died in 1629 and is buried in Midhurst Church. Later in the 17th century this influence began to wane. By 1621 there were about forty households of recusants in Midhurst. In 1634 John Arismandy appointed John Cope and Richard Shelley to administer certain moneys after his death to provide a priest for the poor Catholics of Midhurst, to say masses every week for his soul and 'my lords auncestors'. This deed was found in the 19th century in a box hidden in the chimney of an old house with rosaries and other religious objects.

Growth of the "Reformed Church", that would become the Church of England. In 1642, during the English Civil War, the 'Protestation' in support of protestantism was signed by 207 men in Midhurst, but 54 'recusant Papists' refused at first to sign it. Two days later 35 of these did sign, probably excepting the special clause denouncing the Roman Faith, as did their colleagues at Easebourne, where there was an equal number of recusants.[22]

Growth of non-conformism. during the 17th century there were already similar numbers of non-conforming protestants. In 1676 the estimated numbers of Conformists were 341, of Papists 56, and of Nonconformists 50. In 1672 a licence had been issued for Richard Garrett to hold a Congregational meeting in the house of Nicholas Brewer, clothier. Garrett, a graduate of Oxford, had been rector of Stedham.[23]

These three strands of religion continue in Midhurst today.

Places of Worship[edit]

The Midhurst Deanery is a Deanery of the Church of England comprising 22 churches in the Rother Valley between Midhurst and Petersfield.

The parish church for Midhurst is St Mary Magdalene and St Denys, in the market square, which retains some old parts on the south side. The interior of the church has undergone much restoration and change and little evidence exists of its medieval heritage. Consisting of chancel and nave flanked by aisles on both sides, the church was largely rebuilt in the Perpendicular style in 1422, towards the end of Henry V's reign.The base of the tower is 13th century. The tower top, south nave and chancel arcades are 16th century in the perpendicular style. The rest of the building is from 1882 or later.[24][25]

The Roman Catholic Church of the Divine Motherhood and St Francis of Assisi, Bepton Road, was built in 1957, replacing an earlier church on Rumbolds hill, built in 1869 by C.A. Buckler in the early English style, now part of the Wheatsheaf pub. The new building is of sandstone in the shape of a segment of a circle with the rounded off point forming an eastern apse. The western arc is divided into seven sections by vertical stone fins, six of which are glazed, leaving the doorway in the central section with a Madonna and Child above. There is a circular skylight above the altar. The stations of the cross are carved on a continuous stone band along the side walls. There is a tall separate bell tower linked to the church by an open colonnade.[26][27]

Midhurst Methodist Church is a flint masonry building with brick quoins standing to the north of the old grammar school buildings. A large Gothic style west window looks towards the ruins of Cowdray House.

Health services[edit]

The former King Edward VII hospital was opened by the eponymous King in 1906 as a TB hospital. It was in an Arts and Crafts style building, with gardens by Gertrude Jekyll. The hospital closed in 2006, and has since been converted to apartments.[28]

Community health facilities are provided at the Midhurst Community Hospital in Dodsley Lane.[29]

Midhurst constituency[edit]

The town was first represented in the Parliament of 1301 and was consistently represented from 1382 onwards. Initially the town had two Members of Parliament. The electors were the owners of certain properties, which were marked by "burgage stones", one of these stones remains and can be seen in a building next to the public library. In 1831 there were only 41 eligible voters and Midhurst was considered a rotten borough. In the Great Reform Act of 1832 Midhurst was reduced to one Member of Parliament and the constituency was expanded to include most of the surrounding villages. In 1883 Midhurst lost its status as a borough and its right to elect a Member of Parliament.

At present Midhurst is part of the Chichester constituency and is represented in the House of Commons by Andrew Tyrie, Conservative.

Sport and leisure[edit]

April 2015, Midhurst CC game against Headley 3 in the I Anson league

Each year the town hosts the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup which is a major polo competition. This is held on the estate of Lord Cowdray, with the final played outside the ruins. Prince Charles and other members of the royal family are often seen there. This same spot was the venue for a charity concert featuring Pink Floyd (minus Waters) in 1993.

Midhurst has Cricket, Rugby and Stoolball Clubs based at the playing fields adjacent to the Ruins of Cowdray House, and a Non-League football club Midhurst & Easebourne F.C. who play at Dodsley Road in the adjoining village of Easebourne.

Indoor Cricket and Stoolball is played at The Grange Leisure Centre.

A new Grange Leisure Centre was opened on 3 March 2014.[30]

Midhurst featured in Anya Seton's historical novel Green Darkness.[31]


South Pond


Midhurst was linked by three lines, one from Pulborough in 1866, one from Petersfield in 1864 and one from Chichester in 1881. The line from Chichester to Midhurst closed in 1935 to passengers and in 1951 to goods traffic.

There were two stations, the London Brighton and South Coast Railway's (Chichester to Pulborough) and the London and South Western Railway's. All passenger services were concentrated on the LB&SCR station in 1925 by the Southern Railway. The last passenger trains ran in 1955.The line remained open, from Pulborough only, for goods traffic until 1964.


The A272 runs through the town east and west. The A286 runs through the town north and south.

The town is served by buses.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "2001 Census: West Sussex – Population by Parish" (PDF). West Sussex County Council. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  2. ^ http://www.ukcensusdata.com/midhurst-e05007617#sthash.lgLmLtLx.dpbs
  3. ^ a b "Neighbourhood Statistics". Neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  4. ^ http://www.ukcensusdata.com/midhurst-e05007617#sthash.grYozgiK.dpbs. accessed 26 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Tudor Midhurst". A Midhurst Society Publication (brochure). 2nd Edition 2009.
  6. ^ "Tudor Midhurst". A Midhurst Society Publication (brochure). 2nd Edition 2009.
  7. ^ History: Cowdray Timeline. Cowdray Heritage Trust. http://www.cowdray.co.uk/historic-cowdray/history/. Retreived 29 May 2015
  8. ^ "Midhurst Society - St Ann's Hill" (PDF). Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  9. ^ History, Cowdray Timeline. Cowdray Heritage Trust. http://www.cowdray.co.uk/historic-cowdray/history. retreived 29 May 2015
  10. ^ 'Midhurst', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1953), pp. 74-80 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp74-80 [accessed 28 May 2015].
  11. ^ Suss. Rec. Soc. xlvi, 315. Footnote 4 in 'Midhurst', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1953), pp. 74-80 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp74-80 [accessed 28 May 2015]
  12. ^ Cal. Inq. p.m. xii, 127. Footnote 5 in 'Midhurst', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1953), pp. 74-80 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp74-80 [accessed 28 May 2015]
  13. ^ Tudor Midhurst. A Midhurst Society Publication 2nd Edition 2009.
  14. ^ http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp74-80
  15. ^ http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp74-80
  16. ^ Tudor Midhurst. A Midhurst Society Publication. 2nd Edition 2009
  17. ^ History: Cowdray Timeline. Cowdray Heritage Trust http://www.cowdray.co.uk/historic-cowdray/history/. retrieved 29 May 2015
  18. ^ Tudor Midhurst: A Midhurst Society Publication. 2nd Edition 2009
  19. ^ Visit Midhurst website
  20. ^ Country Life Magazine article
  21. ^ Cloke, George (2000). "Midhurst Whites Brickworks" (PDF). Sussex Industrial History. Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society. pp. 24–28. 
  22. ^ 'Midhurst', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1953), pp. 74-80 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp74-80 [accessed 28 May 2015].
  23. ^ 'Midhurst', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1953), pp. 74-80 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol4/pp74-80
  24. ^ Nairn, Ian; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1965). The Buildings of England: Sussex. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 271. ISBN 0-14-071028-0. 
  25. ^ "History and Architecture". Midhurst Parish Church. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  26. ^ Nairn, Ian; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1965). The Buildings of England: Sussex. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 271–2. ISBN 0-14-071028-0. 
  27. ^ "ENGLISH HERITAGE REVIEW OF DIOCESAN CHURCHES 2005 (EXTRACT)" (PDF). English Heritage. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  28. ^ Penney, Stuart (28 April 2015). "Nursing a hospital back to health". Daily Telegraph. 
  29. ^ "Midhurst Community Hospital". NHS. 
  30. ^ http://www.chichester.gov.uk/index.cfm?ArticleID=21294
  31. ^ Seton, Anya (1972). Green Darkness. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-15979-0. 

External links[edit]