Walstead Burial Ground

April 16, 2008 by

Until the early part of the 19th century burial facilities were mainly provided by the Church of England in parish churchyards and in some cases high status burials inside churches in vaults sunk into the floor. Across the country many parish churchyards had existed for close on a thousand years and had become full. Existing burials were frequently disturbed by new graves with the consequent risk to public health. Similarly new interments within the church also gave rise to health concerns. There were also issues concerning the burial of non-conformists and members of other religions, as parish churchyards were exclusively Anglican.

The churchyard at Lindfield was so full, it is understood, that new burials were being interred on top of existing graves, which accounts for the raised ground in the northern part of the churchyard.

The government recognising the widespread nature of these problems passed the Burial Acts 1852 and 1853 the later extending the provisions to all parts of the country. The Act allowed for the Parish Vestry [forerunner of a parish council] to form a publicly financed local burial board to establish a burial ground. Furthermore by ‘her Majesty in Council’ could order that burials be discontinued at specific locations. Such an Order in Council passed on 30th January 1854 applied to Lindfield requiring ‘burials to cease at once under the church and from and after the first of May 1854 in the burial ground.’

The churchwardens and parish overseers were faced with establishing a burial board together with the urgent and difficult task of finding a new burial ground. Two grants extending the closure date for the Lindfield churchyard were given with the final deadline being 1st September 1854.

A two-acre plot on Walstead Common on the northern side of East Mascalls Lane was eventually identified as a suitable site. Walstead Common at that time covered over 35 acres and was part of the Manor of Walstead held by the Earl of Chichester.

A Vestry Meeting held on 11th May 1854 agreed that the Lindfield Burial Board could borrow the money ‘required for providing and laying out the new burial ground,’ and for it to be charged to the parish poor rate. It was further agreed that the Board should ‘provide fit and proper places in which bodies may be received and taken care of previously to internment and to make arrangements for the reception and care of the bodies to be deposited therein.’

At a further Parish Vestry on 29th June 1854, the Burial Board as authorised ‘to expend the sum of Twelve Hundred pounds for the purpose of providing and laying out the New Burial ground.’

The following are examples of the Burial Fees set by the Parish Vestry to apply from 19th October 1854;


Vaults 4ft
Minister £1 15s 0d
Clerk £0  7s 6d
Sexton £0  3s 6d
Registering £0  0s 6d
  £2  6s 0d


Children under 12 Years of Age buried in a Common Grave
Minister £0  1s 8d
Clerk £0  0s 9d
Sexton £0  0s 9d
Registering £0  0s 6d
  £0  3s 8d


Persons Buried at the Expense of the Parish
Minister £0  1s 0d
Clerk £0  1s 0d
Sexton      £0  1s 0d
  £0  3s 0d


There was no tradition of cemetery design to draw upon and small burial grounds, like Walstead, were often utilitarian but with design references drawn from small country estates, i.e. an entry lodge, some landscaping, boundary walls and the mortuary chapels taking the place of the country house as the focal point. These four elements can be seen to this day in the Walstead Burial Ground.


Mortuary Chapels

Two mortuary chapels standing a short distance behind the Entry Lodge formed the focal point of the burial ground. The identical adjoining chapels each having their own porch and doorway, were dedicated for the separate use of the Church of England and Non-conformists. The Church of England chapel is on the eastern side. On the 1875 Ordnance Survey they are described, in language of the day as being for the ‘Episcopal’ and ‘Dissenters’ respectively.



The simply designed brick chapels with tiled roofs are in tradition ecclesiastical style with wood lined tunnel vaulted ceilings and tall stone framed three light arched windows. By the 1900’s the Chapels and Lodge were heavily covered in ivy.


Today the Chapels have been sympathetically restored to retain there their original character and are used as the offices of Impact Art.



Entry Lodge

The Lodge built of brick with a tiled roof had living accommodation on either side of the central arch and gabled entranceway that ran through the middle of the building. This archway, with sufficient width to permit the passage of a horse drawn hearse, aligned with the Mortuary Chapels behind which were connected by pathways running to their respective porches. The arch although now bricked in remains visible in outline at the rear of the lodge.


Boundary Wall

The specification for enclosing the ground required that ‘The walls to be built of good sound well burnt stock bricks, one brick thick on one course of one and half brick footings to a uniform height of five feet from the surface of the ground inclusive of a half round brick coping excepting a pier at each angle and on each side of a gateway. The bricks to be laid with a close neat joint in well tempered mortar of grey lime and sharp sand.’  It was stated that the wall should be completed with two months.

The original brick walls were replaced when the burial ground was enlarged and the boundaries realigned with the more substantial walls that largely exist today.


The original two acre site is shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey 25” scale map as being laid out with two wide curving pathways running northwards across the burial ground from each mortuary chapel. The map also indicates that trees had been planted around the perimeter.

In the original layout the ground to the east was consecrated land for Church of England burials. A central area was given over to common graves, burials without headstones and those buried at the expense of the Parish. The ground the western side was non-consecrated ground for non-conformist and other burials.

An early postcard, probably dated around 1900, shows that the ground was generously planted with evergreen trees and bushes, e.g. yews. Remnants of this pattern of planting remains to this day.

Around the turn of the nineteenth century a further two and a quarter acres of land was acquired and the enlarged site remains unchanged to this day. The two footpaths that were extended to the new northern boundary have since been removed.


‘Our Lindfield – A Sense of Place’ Exhibition

March 18, 2008 by

Lindfield is well known as an historic village and certainly the High Street is centuries old. However much of Lindfield is less than one hundred years old, in fact the majority of the houses are under fifty years old. Have you ever wondered what was there before the houses were built? Perhaps more specifically, what was the land on which your house now stands used for, or who owned it in the past?

The Lindfield History Project Group attempted to answer these questions and many others at its successful ‘Our Lindfield’ exhibition held on 6th–7th October 2007 at the King Edward Hall, Lindfield

The exhibition sought to uncover the past and little known facts about each road or area in today’s village, in effect rolling back time to reveal Lindfield before the houses. It showed how Lindfield progressed from little more than one road surrounded by farms to the thriving community Lindfield is today. Over a thousand years of history were highlighted to provide a sense of place.

Material from the exhibition will feature in future articles.

Our studies to build up a comprehensive picture of the development of Lindfield are ongoing. Do you have any photographs, perhaps of your house being built, original sale particulars or any other items relating to your house, road or Lindfield in general? If so please Contact us.

Memories of Wartime – Lindfield and Beyond

December 15, 2007 by

This study covers the years 1939-1945 with particular reference to the Second World War and its impact on the community. It was based on the recording of personal recollections together with information drawn from original and secondary sources – the aim being to compile a comprehensive picture of the war years. Our initial findings were presented in a successful exhibition in November 2004, and are available for those wishing to find out more by contacting the group. Subjects covered in the exhibition include:

  • Preparing for War
  • Experiences of those on active service
  • Day to Day Life
  • Effects of the War on residents
  • Protecting Lindfield
  • Voluntary Organisation
  • War in the Air
  • Military in Lindfield
  • Entertainment and Social Life
  • Evacuees
  • Diet and Food Production
  • The Peace
  • Those who gave their lives

During our research the diary of Lindfield resident Helena Hall was discovered. In this Miss Hall recorded local, national and international events throughout the war. Selected entries of relevance to Lindfield have been transcribed by the group. Should you have any information relating to wartime Lindfield, please contact us.

Helena Hall

October 15, 2007 by

Helena HallHelena Hall is best known as a local historian and writer. In addition to ‘Lindfield Past and Present’, she wrote a book on William Allen, several editions of the guide book to All Saints Church and a revised edition of the ‘Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect’. However, Miss Hall’s potentially most significant work, her journal of World War II, has not been published. Each day throughout the war, up to VE Day, she kept a diary in which she recorded, local, national and international events. It is a detailed and comprehensive record of the war years. Held at the East Sussex Record Office, it runs to some 4,200 closely written pages bound into 34 volumes.diary

Wartime Journal: selected extracts

Helena Hall on Air Raid Precautions:

16 June 1940, “Cellars in shopping places are now available as shelters for people caught in the streets during a raid. There are two here – one under Master’s shop for 50 people and another under Edmond’s shop for 60. They are intended only for those caught away from home.”

Helena Hall on Rationing:

13 January 1941, “The price of rabbits is controlled but one is seldom able to get a rabbit. There are still no sweets of any kind nor yet any chocolate to be bought. The keepers of sweet shops in the village print on their doors in white chalk ‘no sweets’. Onions are still a rare luxury and there are none for sale in this village.”

Helena Hall on Lindfield Military Camp:

10 March 1941, “Washing tanks and lorries in the pond has now been stopped although the surface is still oily. The swans hate the oil.”

Helena Hall on Village Life:

8 August 1942, “People trying to visit Brighton are to get heavier penalties – full fines are £100 or 3 months imprisonment.”

Helena Hall on the War in the Air:

16 June 1944, “..Most disturbed night for a very long time. There were four warnings at short intervals. On the one o’clock news and from the evening papers we learnt the Germans used pilotless planes.”

If you would like further information on this subject please contact us. Our aim is to publish a book of journal extracts relating to Lindfield.

Lindfield under the Elizabethan Poor Laws

October 14, 2007 by

In 1598 and 1601 legislation was passed which drew together the best of previous laws dealing with the relief of the poor. Under the 1601 Poor Law Act two to four men from the parish, generally tradesmen, were appointed as Overseers, with responsibility for collecting the Poor Rate and distributing the funds among the poor. The poor rate was set by each parish individually, according to their needs. In order to keep the rates down to a minimum the Overseers often made payment to the poor ‘in-kind’. This took the form of flour or clothing, with the Overseers giving out frocks, knickers, gowns, shift (women’s undergarments), stockings, tuck aprons and shoes, along with patterns for making clothes. As well as providing relief ‘out-of-doors’, the parish also took the most needy paupers into the workhouse.

Described as ‘a curious specimen of ancient domestic architecture’, Lindfield’s workhouse was believed to have been the West Wing of the building known today as Old Place, although Figg’s map of 1829 shows that the workhouse may in fact have been located further to the East, in the adjacent grounds. It was able to accommodate 32 inmates, a mixture of the elderly, disabled, able-bodied paupers and orphans. Expectant mothers were taken care of and their illegitimate children delivered at the workhouse. In exchange for their keep the able-bodied were expected to work, either inside the workhouse or being hired out by the master of the workhouse. Pauper children were apprenticed in an effort to provide them with a skill and thus break the cycle of poverty. The belief that the poor could help themselves to stay out of poverty was also evident when William Allen set up an agricultural experiment on the 100 acre Gravelye estate in the 1820s. He provided paupers with the opportunity to rent cottages which had land attached to them, allowing the paupers to farm the land in their own time, keeping the profit for themselves. The intention was that this would enable them to supplement their income and thus avoid needing to call upon the parish for relief.

Charities also played their part in helping the ‘deserving’ poor (those which society considered to be poor without any fault of their own – the elderly, disabled and young) and by the time that the government had recognised the need for reform of the poor laws in 1832 at least three charities were providing assistance to the poor as well as a Benevolent Society. A Friendly Society was also set up which provided a basic insurance against loss of income for those members and their families who would suffer should the wage earner not be able to work as a result of illness or death.

For over two hundred years the parishes continued to deal with the poor by their own interpretation of the Elizabethan laws until, in 1834, the Victorian Poor Law Amendment Act changed the way that local government was able to assist the poor. Legislation led to uniformity across the country and brought in the Union Workhouses in England, made notorious by their appearance in novels such as Charles Dickins’ Oliver Twist.