Tilgate Park is a large park situated in Tilgate, South-East Crawley. It is the largest and most popular park in the area. Although it is mostly associated with the area surrounding Tilgate Lake, a large area of the park is also silvicultural forest, there is also a Local Nature Reserve called Tilgate Nature Centre for protected and endangered species.
Originally a 2,185-acre (8.84 km2) part of the Worth Forest, the park and the surrounding areas (including the modern day Furnace Green, Three Bridges and part of the Ashdown Forest) were part of the larger Tilgate estate, first recorded in 1647. From that time, industries including Ironworks and furnaces were dismantled and replaced by a landed working estate.
The manor of Tilgate was bought by Sir Edward Culpeper and Sir Walter Covert, who owned the manor of nearby Slaugham, from Edward Nevill, 8th Baron Bergavenny. The manor was seized completely from Sir Walter before his death in 1632. It was described as an estate in 1647, and passed with the manor of Slaugham down the Covert family line, before passing to another family, the Sergissons, in the early 19th century. The estate was purchased in 1861 by George Ashburner, head of a rich local family, who built a large French-style mansion in the early 1860s which was simply called Tilgate Mansion. Ashburner's daughter married John Hennings Nix, and the estate passed to her when George Ashburner died in 1869. The families merged and became "Ashburner Nix", and Tilgate passed down with the family until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, when the estate was split into separate lots and sold off individually.
The Crawley Borough Council purchased part of the estate in the early 1960s, and demolished the original mansion in 1965. Today, the site is marked by the popular restaurant The Inn In The Park. Local band The Cure played at the Inn in the Park (possibly then known as "The Lakeside Inn") at an early stage of their career. There are three large lakes in the park, probably used in the medieval iron industry. However, they are now purely ornamental, and extremely popular among fishermen. The biggest lake in the park, Tilgate Lake is most famous for its association with Malcolm Campbell, who carried out flotation trials but not water speed trials there.
Tilgate Park is accessible through two entrances. The main entrance is on Titmus Drive in Tilgate. There is also a second entrance on the southbound Crawley A23 Ring Road. The original entrance to the old estate was at Tilgate Lodge – now a bank – near Three Bridges railway station.
Tilgate Nature Centre is a local Nature reserve financed by the local council and features over 100 different species of animals including endangered wild birds and threatened domestic (farm) mammels. Education programs are offered for children, families and schools.
Approximately 125 acres (0.51 km2) of woodland in the southwest corner have been earmarked for a possible university campus, approximately from K2 leisure centre to the Pease Pottage motorway roundabout.
- Crawley Borough Council article on Tilgate Park
- Crawley Borough Council website on the Tilgate Estate
- British History website on the Tilgate Estate