Friday, December 2, 2016

East Grinstead ~ Ashurst Wood ~ England

We have now made several visits to England to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law and family and I have posted several pages of those visits.  The home base for us is at East Grinstead and Ashurst Wood yet I have not shared the history of this town and the village.  History surrounds us wherever we go but to see some of the dates on the buildings really confirms the difference between the UK and home for us in Canada.

Parish Church of St. Swithun
The Parish Church of St. Swithun is located in the heart of the town of East Grinstead and was first built to serve the community and surrounding settlements about 1000 AD.  Like most churches in England that we have seen, the graveyard of very old headstones surrounds the church.  The original tower was destroyed by a fall in 1785 and then replaced with the gothic style of the 18th century to keep with the medieval predecessor of the original design.

Pipe Organ of the Church
Pipe organs can be seen in all churches in England, I am sure.  Those that we have seen have been massive and an incredible sight as we see here.  They are a Medieval musical instrument and one was first installed in the Bishop of Winchester’s church in 951.  The sounds were forced through the pipes with slides at that time.  The first keyboard for the pipe organ was used in 1361.  One of our visits will have to be made at a time that we can hear the beautiful sounds they produce with the pipe organ.

The Olde homes of High Street in East Grinstead
High Street is the main street in this borough built in early 13th century.  This was an important road for traffic from London to South Coast ports and some of the homes were built in very early days.  The date we see on one of the buildings shown here is 1450.  Another shown is the Cromwell House, which was built as a prestigious townhouse for the prosperous family in 1599.

Doors of old
The buildings were often named after the resident who originally built them and as time went on were added onto.  The Clarendon House was built in 1470.  They extended by building with the “Old Stone House” in 1630 then more extensions built in the 1880’s.  These doors were shorter than 6’ high which would suggest the people were a lot shorter in those days than we are today.

Sir Archibald McIndoe ~ Surgeon 1900-1960
The quote below this statue states “He led a pioneering team whose treatment gave the lives back to severely burned airmen of the Guinea Pig Club and other casualties of WW11.”

Sir Archibald McIndoe was a plastic surgeon who worked at the burns unit of Queen Victoria’s Hospital during WW11.  He had no book to guide him through his treatments of the burn victims but by the end of the war had successfully treated 649 victims, 57% were British and 27% were Canadian.   The Guinea Pig Club was so named due to the lack of information necessasry for burn treatments and to this day is a chapter of important history of East Grinstead.  My sister wrote: "As kids we were used to seeing very badly disfigured men who were going through their treatment.  They used to come onto the estate where I lived to the shop to buy their ciggies and papers etc and us kids never thought anything of it.   When the pub was built it was called the Guinea Pig across the road from the church."  East Grinstead became "the town that did not stare".

The Cenotaph in East Grinstead, Sussex
East Grinstead has a war memorial monument designed by the sculpture Earnest G. Gillick standing on High Street.  It commemorates the sacrifices made by the East Grinstead community members who lost their lives in WW1.  The monument was unveiled in 1922 with the names of those who died.  Several names have been added since that day of those who were also lost in battles. One of those occasions included a devastating bombing that killed many children enjoying a matinee in the East Grinstead theatre in 1943.  Read more of that here.

Estates and green fields of Ashurst Wood, Sussex
Within a mile of East Grinstead is the village of Ashurst Wood and for the first time, we took a walk to see the area surrounding the village.  Due to the population known to be so large in Great Britain, it is easy to assume there would be very little green space but that is so far from the truth.  We are always amazed at how many pastures and fields we see on our travels over there, as well as this walk!

Narrow roads
I have often talked about the narrow roads without side shoulders that offer so very little room to pass oncoming traffic.  We were walking along what I assumed was a walkway until I saw this car coming towards us! This is a road, not just a driveway that leads through a neighborhood and is regularly used by the local residents there.

Ashurst Wood, England
Then we visit the ‘downtown’ heart of Ashurst Wood village before walking back home.  This quaint village offers many things, as most villages do.  It has a school, community center, post office, general store, several little shops and services and a pub that we have yet to visit.  We will have to add that to the list for our next visit.  In the meantime, we shall enjoy the memories of our visits to the UK and will share those special times on the blog.


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