Wadhurst History

Wadhurst History

Wadhurst is a historic market town, granted a royal charter in 1253 and within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The landscape retains its mediaeval character of small irregular-shaped fields and scattered farmsteads, often grazed by sheep or Sussex cattle.  Oak and sweet chestnut dominate the wooded rolling hills and streams run red from iron ore in the local rock.  Close by, Bewl Water, the largest body of fresh water in the south east, is an active water sports and trout fishing centre.  Wadhurst was also the location of the Last Great Prize Fight on 10th December 1863, when Englishman, Tom King, beat the American, John Heenan.

Walk along the High Street and you follow the line of an ancient trackway connecting prehistoric and Roman ironworking sites and communities.  This became the old drovers’ road and, in 1767, the turnpike around which the village grew, Wadhurst centre still has over 25 buildings dating from between 1500 and 1800, and 40 traditional shops that attract people from outside the village.  Untouched by the advent of steam in 1851 (the railway station is a mile away), major changes followed an RAF aeroplane crash in 1956.

Oak and iron formed the character of Wadhurst.  It still has a working blacksmith and an old converted forge, grand ironmasters’ homes and the Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul where can be seen the finest collection of iron memorial slabs in England, dating from 1617 to 1799.  The Church also commemorates the fallen of the two World Wars.

Local oak was used to build great wooden warships at Chatham Dockyard.  It is said that oak from the Whiligh estate in Wadhurst forms the hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall, commissioned in 1393 by King Richard II; it was certainly used to rebuild it after its bombing in the 2nd World War.

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