The Last Ride. David ’s Report

Three Bridges to Ashurst Forest – Saturday 16 April 2016

Jim was alone when he boarded the train at Brighton Station, fearing that there might be no takers for this Saturday ride in light rain, which was arranged to meet up with some of the London Clarion section at the Three Crowns pub at Ashurst Wood on their ride to Eastbourne. When he arrived at Three Bridges, Jim was met by Chris and David who had come by car, and Sikka, Tessa and Sue who had come from Hove and had taken an earlier train.

We immediately set off for Worth Way, which is sign-posted NCN21, soon passing St. Nicholas’ Church in Worth, the 4th oldest church in the country with its chancel arch and apse having been dated to between AD950 and 1050. As we had previously visited the church during an earlier ride in October last year, we continued over the M23 and followed Worth Way with David promising that the rain would stop by 11am. Soon after passing the disused Rowfant Station and Crawley Down Pond, we stopped to admire the architecture of the Jacobean house of Gullege, the home of the Alfrey family from 1361 to about 1662.

Gullege in 2016

Gullege. There was some debate about whether it was still occupied, or had deteriorated. Photos of Gullege taken in 2011 are available on Flickr, for comparison – Jim.

The imposing large chimneys were built as monuments to the prosperity of Elizabethan and Jacobean agriculture and the wealth created by the iron industry. There is evidence of human activity in the Gullege area dating from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.

East Grinstead

East Grinstead – one of the oldest high streets in the country?

Pressing on we navigated the Saturday morning traffic and shoppers in East Grinstead and the High Street, over-shooting the roundabout just after Sackville College, before doubling back along the Forest Way and then turning east towards the A22 and our lunch rendezvous at the Three Crowns. Looking back we could see Weir Wood Reservoir, formed by damming the valley of the River Medway, which is said to provide a daily average of 14,000 cubic metres of drinking water to the town of Crawley and other parts of Mid-Sussex.  A sewage works is located just north of the dam and a water treatment works at the eastern end of the reservoir, and discussion wandered on to the use of recycled water. It was suggested that whilst treated wastewater should be suitable for sustainable landscaping irrigation, some commercial and industrial needs, its use as drinking water should be considered with caution because of the secondary chemicals and heavy metals which would not be removed by the treatment processes. It was noted, however, that recycling is widely used in some countries such as Singapore, which suffer extreme water stress.

We were welcomed by a friendly publican and his team at the Three Crowns, and served with good food ranging from local lamb shank, fish pie, vegetarian lasagne, wraps and soup, washed down with Young’s and Ringwood beer and soft drinks. Ian also joined us here for lunch, having come by car, before our friends from London Clarion, Alex and Alan arrived for an energy break before the long ride to Eastbourne.

Group photo after lunch

L-R David, Chris, Alex, Alan, Jim, Ian, Sikka, Sue, Tessa. Photo courtesy of a long-suffering barmaid not used to cat herding.

Jim drew our attention to a plaque proclaiming that “an inn called the Three Crowns has been present on this site since before 1725, with early inn signs often reflecting loyalty to the Crown, and the Three Crowns is so named to celebrate James VI of Scotland’s succession to the throne of England on 24 March 1603. King James was now the first king of what he liked to call Great Britain, forever joining the ‘Three Crowns’ of England, Scotland and Wales”. Other references state that James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, which uniquely positioned him to accede to all three crowns after his mother was compelled to abdicate in his favour. In 1603, he succeeded the last Tudor monarch of England and Ireland, Elizabeth I, who died without issue, and reigned all three kingdoms for 22 years, a period known as the Jacobean era. Perhaps Ian can guide us on this anomaly and then we can suggest the plaque is edited.

Three Crowns plaque

After lunch we planned to cycle back the way we came along Worth Way, but initially made a small diversion to look at the ruin of Brambletye House that provides much mystery and romance within its Jacobean architecture of three ancient, stone towers, but few hard facts.

Brambletye House

At the top of the central tower is carved the date 1631, and the initials CHM and a weathered coat of arms above the door suggest the abode of Henry Compton and his second wife, Mary Browne. They came into ownership of the older double-moated manor at Brambletye by way of Richard and Edward Sackville, brothers of Henry’s first wife, Cecily Sackville, after his widowed mother married the 2nd Earl of Dorset, creator of Sackville College. The old manor at Brambletye is detailed in the Doomsday Book and handed down through the families of Montague, Aldham and Saintclare to Richard Lewkenor, local MP and County Sheriff, but fell into disrepair by the time of Henry and Mary’s marriage in 1620, and so Henry built a new house very close by, which rose up above the manor from an impressive vaulted basement. The moat of the old manor still survives, which we could investigate on a subsequent ride to this area.

Our thanks to Jim for another interesting and educational day out.


Ian adds: David has too much faith in my historical knowledge. But I won’t hide behind the usual historian’s excuse – “It’s not my period.”    When I learnt that we were going to a pub with that name  I assumed that the 3 crowns were England, Scotland and Ireland.  I don’t think Wales comes into it.  Very unfair etc and it was a very long time ago but I think the medieval monarchs – mostly called Edward – who built all those impressive castles in Wales to intimidate the poor locals just incorporated that country into the kingdom of England – which in those pre-national days was the sort of thing your kings and emperors went in for.  They would, I think, have been astonished and outraged by the suggestion that their new “subjects” should have been consulted.

Scotland of course remained a separate kingdom, though ruled from James I (and VI) onwards by the same blokes (apart from the interregnum) until the UK was created in 1707 – which,incidentally makes our state just a few decades older than the USA. Something many people don’t realise. James I a century earlier had been keen to promote the idea of Great Britain (which is simply a translation from the French Grande Bretagne– grande to distinguish it from (little) Bretagne, or as we say, Brittany.) But it sounds quite impressive, though it was slow to catch on until the Act of Union.

A second Act of Union – in, if I remember rightly (it really isn’t my period!) – 1800 added the Kingdom of Ireland and the UK remained The United Kingdom of Great Britain ( i e geographically England, Wales and Scotland) and Ireland” until Irish independence in the 20th century reduced it to “and Northern Ireland..”   It seems inevitable that if enough people vote to leave the EU in June that will be soon followed by a second referendum in what was often called North Britain in the 18th century – never really caught on permanently – followed by Scottish independence and the end of the UK. Which would be very sad, I think.

Well, you did ask, David!


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