Brief history of Hurst Green – Hurst Green Parish Council

Brief history of Hurst Green

The Civil Parish of Hurst Green was created in 1952 out of lands taken from the centuries-old parishes of Salehurst, Etchingham, and to a lesser extent, Ticehurst.

Hurst Green’s own parish church, Holy Trinity, was built in 1884. Much of the story of Hurst Green is entwined with the history of these other three parishes.

Looking at the village of Hurst Green , the earliest surviving document referring to “herst grene” is dated 1574. However, there are references to the great manors of Bernhurst in 1230, and Iridge in 1248, and records of some of the surrounding farms, such as Burghham, Eyelid, Boarzell, Bourne, some are at least as old as Domesday Book.

For centuries, Hurst Green village has been important on the London – Tonbridge – Lamberhurst – Robertsbridge – Battle route to the ancient Cinque port of Hastings, with all the business that such a highway implies. Boarzell’s accounts of the l570s show purchases from itinerant travellers of spices – ginger, aniseed, sugar, garlic, mace, cloves, pepper, mustard and cinnamon; exotic fruits – dates, olives, figs, pomegranates, Jordan almonds, prunes, raisins, rice, and oranges; and at least fifteen types of fish.

During much of the 1700s and early 1800s smuggling was rife, with the Hawkhurst Gang (and others) operating between the south coast and London. Several “incidents” with Excise men are recorded in and around Hurst Green. In 1796, Richard Russel, possibly the youngest highwayman on record at 13 years of age, was charged at the assizes for robbing the Hurst Green mail. He stole a draft to the value of £32 14s 0d, the property of a Mountfield man James Bourne. In consideration of his age he was only jailed for 6 months.

The first regular London-Hastings passenger carrying coach ran in 1745 taking three days to cover the route in either direction – reduced to one day by the end of the century. Traffic through the village increased with the development of the sea-side resort of Hastings, to be joined by St. Leonards from 1830 onwards.

From the mid nineteenth century there was a slow process of transferring non-religious responsibilities (the poor, highways, education) from the ancient ecclesiastical parishes to lay bodies.

Hurst Green’s “penny school” became a “free school” in September 1891, (records still show erratic attendance, and frequent epidemics). The Courthouse was opened in 1892 on the site of the old Toll Gate Cottage. The Toll Gate stood at the junction of the roads from London, Hastings and Etchingham. The Toll Cottage had a large lantern which was maintained by public subscription, the forerunner of local street lighting. The building ceased to be a court house about 1973.