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 in 1566. The manor house, known as Tilgate Mansion, was probably built by 1647. The manor passed with that of Slaugham down the Covert family line, before passing to another family, the Sergisons, in 1702. After a successon of owners in the early 19th century, it was purchased in 1862 by a wealthy businessman from India, George Ashburner.
Ashburner's daughter Sarah in 1865 at St Nicholas' Church, Worth, married John Hennings Nix, partner with his brother Edward Winkelmann Nix in the London bank Fuller Banbury Nix & Co (since absorbed by NatWest), and the couple took over the estate from her father, who died in 1869. It was Nix who built a large French-style mansion in the 1860s, called Tilgate House, and by 1900 had demolished the old mansion.
On Sarah's death in 1904, the estate went to her son John Ashburner Nix, who died in 1926, and then to his brother Charles George Ashburner Nix who, on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, put it up for auction. The auctioneers split it into separate lots which were sold off individually.
Crawley Borough Council purchased part of the estate in the early 1960s, and demolished Tilgate House 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) mammals. Education programs are offered for children, families and schools.
- Crawley Borough Council. Accessed 18 June 2007
- "Tilgate Forest". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
- "Map of Tilgate Forest". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
- John Hennings Nix and Sarah Ashburner, 23 Feb 1865, Worth, Sussex, England England Marriages, 1538–1973 FHL microfilm 0919105-6, 0413753, 0919105-6, 0416753, retrieved 18 March 2016
- Weishampel, David B.; Dodson, Peter; and Osmólska, Halszka (eds.): The Dinosauria, 2nd, Berkeley: University of California Press. (2004). 861 pp. ISBN 0-520-24209-2. Pp. 517–607.
- Crawley Borough Council article on Tilgate Park
- Crawley Borough Council website on the Tilgate Estate
- British History website on the Tilgate Estate