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Balcombe village centre
Balcombe is located in West Sussex
Location within West Sussex
Area21.05 km2 (8.13 sq mi) [1]
Population1,765 [1] 2001 Census
1,917 (2011 Census)[2]
• Density84/km2 (220/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTQ306302
• London31 miles (50 km) N
Civil parish
  • Balcombe
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtRH17
Dialling code01444
FireWest Sussex
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
UK Parliament
WebsiteBalcombe Village
List of places
West Sussex
51°03′24″N 0°08′14″W / 51.0567°N 0.1371°W / 51.0567; -0.1371Coordinates: 51°03′24″N 0°08′14″W / 51.0567°N 0.1371°W / 51.0567; -0.1371

Balcombe is a village and civil parish in the Mid Sussex District of West Sussex, England. It lies 31 miles (50 km) south of London, 16 miles (26 km) north of Brighton, and 32 miles (51 km) east north east of the county town of Chichester. Nearby towns include Crawley to the north west and Haywards Heath to the south south east.


The name Balcombe may mean "Mining Place Camp". Bal is a Cornish word meaning a mining place as in Bal Maidens, and the same word may have existed in Ancient British Celtic. Although Coombe or Combe can mean a valley, it can also come from the Roman "camp".[3] So possibly from its name Balcombe could have once been a Romano-British mining settlement.

South of Balcombe on the London to Brighton railway line is the Ouse Valley Viaduct. Designed and engineered by John Urpeth Rastrick (1780–1856) in consultation with the talented architect David Mocatta, it was completed in 1842.[4] It is 100 feet (30 m) high and 500 yards long. It has 37 arches and was built with 11 million imported Dutch bricks.[5]

The village has a series of murals about World War I in its Victory Hall. Lady Gertrude Denman commissioned artist Neville Lytton[6] to paint the thirty-four feet (10 m) long by ten feet (3.0 m) high frescoes. The murals were featured on a television programme about the war in 2005.

Balcombe was the birthplace of Colour Sergeant (later Lieutenant Colonel) Frank Bourne DCM, who fought at the battle of Rorke's Drift in the Zulu War. He was the last British survivor of that battle when he died in Dorking in 1945.[7] Famous residents included actor Paul Scofield.

The River Ouse was once navigable from the south coast to Balcombe, for the delivery of Dutch bricks to the viaduct.


Listed buildings[edit]

Balcombe civil parish contains 59 listed buildings. Of these, two are Grade I, four are Grade II* and the remaining 53 buildings are Grade II.

The Grade I listed buildings are:

  • The Parish Church of St Mary (List Entry Number 1354797) - see below.[8]
  • Stone Hall (List Entry Number 1286412), a late C17 house. It was the dower-house of the Balcombe Place estate.[9]

The Grade II* buildings are:

  • Balcombe Place (List Entry Number 1025775), a Tudor style country House, built in 1856 by Henry Clutton for John Hankey of Naylands.[10]
  • Kemp's House (List Entry Number 1192986), a late C17 house.[11]
  • Edmund's Farmhouse (List Entry Number 1193049), a C15 timber-framed building, with a C16 wing added behind.[12]
  • Ouse Valley Railway Viaduct (List Entry Number 1366101), designed by John Rastrick and David Mocatta; constructed in 1839–41.[13]

Scheduled monuments[edit]

The parish contains no scheduled monuments.

St Mary's Church[edit]

St. Mary's church, Balcombe

St Mary's Church is Balcombe's parish church, located to the north of the village, on London Road (B2036), at 51°03′45.6″N 0°08′10.3″W / 51.062667°N 0.136194°W / 51.062667; -0.136194. The original church was built in the late 13th or early 14th century; it consisted of a chancel (now the south chapel) and a narrow nave (now the south aisle). The west tower, with a shingled broach spire, was added in the 15th century. The church was rebuilt in 1847–50, adding a north aisle (now the nave);[14] and again in 1872–72, when the current north aisle and chancel were built.[15] The church is built of local sandstone, with a Horsham Stone roof.[16][17] The church is a Grade I listed building, listed for the tower (List Entry Number 1354797, first listed 28 October 1957).[8]

The church is in the Church of England Diocese of Chichester, Archdeaconry of Horsham.

Rail transport[edit]

The village has a railway station which lies just north of Haywards Heath on the Brighton Main Line. Balcombe railway station helped expand a predominantly farming community into one of the popular London commuter villages. The station offers direct services to London Victoria, Cambridge (via London Bridge), and Brighton. To the north of the village is Balcombe tunnel.

Oil exploration[edit]

Test drilling and possible fracking for petroleum[18] deposits was proposed in 2012. A protest group was formed and a picnic was held. There was considerable opposition in the local population to exploration plans. Cuadrilla Resources, the company that proposes to drill the well, engaged in public relations efforts attempting to convince villagers that the project was both useful and safe. Previous exploration by Conoco in the same area in 1986 was abandoned.[19]

In July 2013 a licence to drill the well was granted by the Environment Agency and Cuadrilla began transporting equipment and supplies to the test site. The well would be 3,000 feet (910 m) deep with a possible 2,500 feet (760 m) horizontal leg. As of August 2013 Balcombe had emerged as a focus of opposition to fracking in the Weald Basin of southeast England and vigorous protests were in progress.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]

In March 2014, a group of residents set up a renewable energy co-operative called REPOWERBalcombe, with a view to healing the rifts that emerged during the protests.[29] REPOWERBalcombe aims to match the village's domestic electricity demand with community owned solar power.[30]

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (TV series)[edit]

Balcombe was used as the location for Arthur Dent's house in the first episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (TV series) in May 1980. Dent wakes up to find bulldozers about to demolish his house. The show's producers said they spent two months searching for the ideal location, before finding the farmhouse at Edmonds Farm in Balcombe.[31][32]


  1. ^ a b "2001 Census: West Sussex – Population by Parish" (PDF). West Sussex County Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  2. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  3. ^ Mitchell, Bruce (1995). An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-17436-2.
  4. ^ Hollingsworth, J. P. (2009). Old Balcombe. Catrine, East Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing. pp. 1–3. ISBN 9781840334661.
  5. ^ Snow, Jon (September 2008). "Brave New World". Saga Magazine. p. 61.
  6. ^ Huxley, Gervas (1961). Lady Denman, GBE 1884–1954. London: Chatto& Windus Ltd. p. 132.
  7. ^ Rorke's Drift, Adrian Greaves, Cassell, 2003, See also 1861 Census for Balcombe.
  8. ^ a b Historic England. "The Parish Church of St Mary (1354797)". National Heritage List for England.
  9. ^ Historic England. "Stone Hall (1286412)". National Heritage List for England.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Balcombe Place (1025775)". National Heritage List for England.
  11. ^ Historic England. "Kemp's House (1192986)". National Heritage List for England.
  12. ^ Historic England. "Edmund's Farmhouse (1193049)". National Heritage List for England.
  13. ^ Historic England. "Ouse Valley Railway Viaduct (1366101)". National Heritage List for England.
  14. ^ Clutton, Henry. "Balcombe, St. Mary: groundplan and gallery". Lambeth Palace Library (Church Plans Online project). Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  15. ^ ?Christian, Ewan. "Balcombe, St. Mary: groundplan". Lambeth Palace Library (Church Plans Online project). Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  16. ^ Allen, John. "Balcombe – St Mary". Sussex Parish Churches. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  17. ^ Salzman, L. F., ed. (1940). 'Parishes: Balcombe', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes. London: British History Online. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  18. ^ Stanley Reed (7 August 2013). "Goals Collide in Drilling Protests". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  19. ^ Stanley Reed (24 May 2013). "British Villagers, Fearing Fracking, Protest Plan for Drilling". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  20. ^ Jan Goodey (July 2013). "The UK's anti fracking movement is growing". The Ecologist. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  21. ^ Geoffrey Lean (28 June 2013). "Fracking faces tough foes in leafy Sussex Shale gas and oil may hold the key to Britain's energy troubles – but not if grassroots protesters have their way". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 July 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  22. ^ Robert Booth (25 July 2013). "Anti-fracking protesters halt Sussex shale gas operation: Activists in Balcombe block lorry carrying equipment for drilling operation that is due to start next week". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  23. ^ Robert Booth (26 July 2013). "Anti-fracking activists arrested at West Sussex drilling site: Police remove protesters blockading Balcombe site where energy company Cuadrilla is looking for shale oil". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  24. ^ "Fracking Demo: Police Arrest 18 Protesters: A dozen people have been charged after scuffles at an anti-fracking protest in the village of Balcombe, West Sussex". Sky News. 27 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  25. ^ Jon Henley (30 July 2013). "Fracking protest: who's who in the battle of Balcombe?: The campaigners lining up against the exploratory shale-gas well in West Sussex are a surprisingly disparate bunch, including a pop star's daughter and a former page 3 model". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  26. ^ Peter Walker (1 August 2013). "Frack Off protesters bring a little fire engine trouble to Balcombe oil site: Fracking firm's work at West Sussex drilling site brought to a halt after activists locked themselves to vehicle parked outside gates". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  27. ^ Stanley Reed (16 August 2013). "Shale Gas Company Suspends Drilling in Southern England". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  28. ^ "Fracking protesters gather for six-day camp as Balcombe drilling suspended: Cuadrilla scales back operation on advice of police, with up to 1,000 more campaigners expected in West Sussex". The Guardian. Press Association. 16 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  29. ^ Lonsdale, Sarah (2 July 2014). "Balcombe: divided by oil, saved by solar power". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  30. ^ "Balcombe: 'now everyone's working towards the same goal'". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  31. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube.
  32. ^ "Filming Locations for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and More". 4 March 2018.

External links[edit]