Today we traveled to West Hoathly, in Sussex, to see the first gardens that I had chosen from the many offered this weekend on the National Garden Scheme. Driving well over an hour we arrived in the center of the small village of 9 homes, including the pub. The Priest House is our first destination. The only one of its kind open to the public, this 15th century Wealden hall house stands in a traditional cottage garden on the edge of the Ashdown Forest. Originally owned by Henry VIII it was given to Anne of Cleaves, wife number four, upon their divorce. The herb garden is planted with over 170 culinary, medicinal and household herbs. Today a special exhibition for the NGS, featured on the upper floor, built in 1600, reveals pictures of local children and their place in the workforce in the 19th century. Many children, as young as five and six, were farm laborers and chimney sweeps. It was not uncommon for the chimney sweep to get stuck in the chimney and die. The Priest House is maintained by the Sussex Archaeological Society and provides rotating exhibits, research, and other learning experiences.
St Margaret’s Church, settled in 1090, records the names of the village from Hadlega, later standardized to Hodlegh, then West Hoathly. This Anglo-Saxon word signifies a heath covered clearing, or the dense woodland of the Ashdown Forest. In 1556, Ann Tree was burnt at the stake near here for refusing to renounce Protestantism, one of seventeen martyrs to suffer this fate in Sussex. A brass memorial in the church commemorates her.
The Manor House was built in 1627 for Mrs Catherine Infield of Gravetye Manor, as a dower house. Her family was the wealthy owners of the local iron works. Later abandoned to smugglers the buildings and grounds were rejuvenated in 1884 when “the greatest English Gardener” William Robinson bought it. Upon his death it was turned over to the Forestry Commission. It now sits vacant and forlorn.
The Phlox and Rose Cottages are 19th century weather boarded over timber framed cottages. They were the newest houses in the village!
The Upper Pendent is a timber framed, tile-hung 17th century home which previously housed the village stores and post office in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Cat Inn is the 16th century pub of medieval origin standing in the crossroads of the village. The name is derived from an emblem of the Sackvilles of Knole, which is a leopard. We will be learning a lot about the Sackvilles, a very prominent family in Kent. This is the pub I had picked to stop in for lunch after touring the village. It was highly recommended by the locals also. We sat in the lovely terrace and had a most agreeable meal. Now on to the next garden in the “burbs” of West Hoathly.
P S For a good read about the wives of Henry VIII, I suggest, Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. The author draws on early biographies, letters, memoirs, account books, and diplomatic reports to bring each woman to life. Very interesting!