> History - Pippingford

In 1833, the estate was owned by a William Bradford. There was by then a large house on the present site. On the fifth of November, Guy Fawkes night, a fire started. Local legend has it that it was caused by a drunken butler knocking over an oil lamp in the cellar. Nobody from the village came to the rescue, as although the flames were clearly seen, it was taken to be a really splendid bonfire party. The fire did not spread quickly, and most of the contents of the house were saved. Not so Mr. Bradford, he was ruined, and the estate fell into the hands of Henry Shirley, his lawyer.

Shirley sold it to Henry Mortimer, of Hannover Square, London. Moirtimer, who must have been extremely wealthy, built the present house. He employed a French architect, a Hector Horeau. The original drawing can be seen in the house. Hector Horeau had designed another grand house in the French Chateau style, Normanhurst near Battle. He had also won the award for his design for the Great Exhibition. Of course, being French. he was not allowed to do the job! Of his work, Normanhurst has gone, and only Pippingford remains. On the Death of Henry Mortimer, Pippingford passed to his nephew Mr. Grey. He was supposed to be a very nice man, and was well liked in the neighbourhood. He had no children, so the estate passed to his nephew a Captain Banbury of the Royal Engineers. That began the long association of the Army with Pippingford.

His Regiment is supposed to have been invited down for Summer Manouevers. There used to be a fine wooden bridge over "Break Neck Ghyll" which was bui1t by them. This was unfortunately burnt down in a forest fire just after the War. Captain Banbury died just before World War one, and the estate was bought by a speculator, Mr Anderson. He cut down all the most valuable timber and had the Ospreys, which had always nested by the old lake shot. At his bankruptcy sale the estate was bought by Hayley Morriss on his return from Shanghai. It has been in the family ever since.

World War two saw the return of the Army. In 1939 a tented camp was set up on Sheepfold Hill. and the officers were billeted in the Manor House. As the park in front of the house was thought to be suitable for paratroops to land, a trench was dug between it and the lawn, with three machine gun emplacements. The remains of this can be still seen. In a few months a permanent camp was built, to hold 3000 men. For most of the War these were Canadians, with the occasional British presence. After the troops had all gone home. the camp was used briefly to house displaced persons, many of whom were concentration camp victims. By 1950 it had been demolished, but the remains are easy to see today. The Army still use the estate as a training area in conjunction with Crowborough Camp. so the link with Captain Banbury is still tenuously preserved.


Pippingford Park is situated in the very centre of what was the old Ashdown Forest. When the Forest was at it's greatest extent, it was divided into three wards, each supervised by a warden. They were called; The East Ward, the West Ward, and the Costlie Ward. The boundaries between them were the three arms of the stream which flows through Pippingford, and is known as the Steel Forge Stream. This name is derived from the Iron furnaces which were present in the valley from pre Roman times right up to the end of the Seventeenth Century. The point at which the three streams join is known as Three Wards to this day, and is situated on the Southern boundary of the estate.

The earliest reference to the Ashdown Forest is in Roman literature , where it is referred to as 'Eska's Hill Forest'. Eska being presumably a local chieftan. Even at that time, the estate was an important Iron working site, and there was a fortified settlement, now on the Northern boundary, with what must have been a warehouse for the collection and storage of the smelted Iron. The settlement , known as "Garden Hill Fort" was excavated and fully recorded around twenty years ago. Interestingly enough, archeological research showed that the inhabitants of the fort built a stone and earth defensive wall around it at about the time of Caesar's first invasion. Some time later, it was taken down and the material used to fill in the surrounding ditch. This would tie in with the King of the region, Cogidubnus having made a deal with the Romans, and let them in. Their reward for his treachery, or practical common sense depending on your viewpoint, was to build him a splendid palace at Fishbourne near Chichester. This is well worth a visit. Garden Hill Fort then became very prosperous, supplying as it did the Iron which was so essential to the Roman conquest of Britain. Expensive imports were found among the remains, including pottery, known as Samian Ware, which was made in the South of France. The only complete pane of Roman window glass ever found in Britain was unearthed, and the fort bears the distinction of having the smallest Roman bath house ever discovered. The lead piping is still there.

By the end of he Sixth Century, the fort had become derelict with the fall of the Roman empire. The Roman farmland and gardens became over run by the forest waiting to claim it back, and it passed into History. Little is known of what transpired at Pippingford for many years, but it is a fair guess that Iron was still smelted on the old sites. After the Norman Conquest, Ashdown Forest became a Royal hunting preserve, and although various small farmsteads and dwellings were permitted, it is likely that habitation was strictly discouraged. The Forest was known as the Great Park of Lancaster, at one time, as it was owned by John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. The oldest maps show the estate as "Pippingford Warren". A warren was a preserve for game as well as rabbits. If one looks across the valley from the terrace in front of the manor house, it is possible to see the long mounds and other earthworks which were for the benefit of the rabbits. In those days, they were not a pest, but a valuable resource. Even as late as the Nineteenth Century, people were transported to Australia for poaching them.

The Iron industry in the valley flourished all this time, and the second blast furnace ever constructed in England was built at Pippingford. The remains can be seen to this day. The first one was at Newbridge, a small distance downstream. It is recorded that when the millpond became too silted up, a new one was constructed in the year 1500, three bowshots upstream. A longbow can shoot an arrow over 350 yards, so that would place it where the old dam is today. Henry the Seventh was on the Throne. Iron was smelted and forged there up to the end of the Seventeenth Century. By then, it had been discovered how to use coke for smelting, so the Iron Industry moved up to the Midlands where coal was to be found, and the Sussex Iron Industry came to an end.

A cannon, the only one ever found which has not been bored out was unearthed at the site on Pippingford, along with various other objects. These can be seen at the Anne Of Cleeves Museum at Lewes. At the end of the Civil War, Pippingford fell into the hands of Parliament, and is mentioned in the parliamentary survey of 1658. Amid the general rejoicing at the Restoration of The Monarchy, the Forest reverted to Charles the Second, and it appears that many plots of land within it eventually became owned by the occupants. The opinion is that they were servants of the King, such as wardens and keepers who were owed money by the Crown, and were given their land instead. There is a legend that Charles the Second had his Sparrow Hawks taken from nests at Three Wards. They nest there to this day.

In 1693 large areas of the Forest were enclosed by various wealthy persons. In effect they were stolen, and the various little farmsteads were bought by these gentlemen. Pippingford was enclosed by William Newnham. He set out the estate as it is today, and planted many of the old trees we see today.
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