Coleman’s Hatch

This scattered hamlet on the margins of Ashdown Forest has more than one claim to fame. It has one of the most modern churches in rural Sussex – not that you’d know it. Holy Trinity church was completed in 1913 but is Early English in style. Prior to that villagers worshipped at Hartfield or at the church dedicated to St Richard de Wych built by Thomas Charles Thompson in the grounds of his private estate at Ashdown Park.

At Newbridge was the first Wealden ironworks to produce cast iron by the new process of blasting. One Henry Fyner was in 1496 commissioned to make arms by Henry VII who was fearful of a Scottish invasion. French experts were enlisted as workers – cast iron production on the Continent being considered more sophisticated – and in time a small Gallic colony evolved. It is possible that the supply of cannon balls found on the Mary Rose when she was hauled from the Solent in 1982 were cast here.

George ‘Grevious’ Heasman lived in a shack in these parts in the latter half of the 19th century and for a man who took pride in telling people he had never done a day’s work in his life he certainly showed enterprise and initiative. He eked out a living poaching rabbits and deer from forest and private estate alike, making wine from gorse flowers and vegetables … and selling lost golf balls, retrieved by well-trained dogs, to a dealer from Brighton.