Hadlow Down

A strange place to find an unusual business, especially one that got the royal seal of approval. The Keston Foreign Bird Farm, proclaimed in 1927 as ‘the only farm of its kind in the world’, was appointed agriculturalists to King George V and the Duke of Bedford. The exotic birds of the world flourished in this corner of Sussex and the business with them; as Southern Aviaries it was put on the market as a going concern in 1985.

In the middle of the 19th century Hadlow Down got its school, presided over by a one-legged schoolmaster indelicately known as Cripple Wood by his pupils. It also got its church. It was here that a farmer called Bridger wanted to have his son christened Beelzebub. The parson refused and Mr Bridger settled for Augustus.

The Spotted Cow and The Stonemason’s Arms, together with a little ale house in Tinker’s Lane famous for its home brew, have long gone. But The New Inn survives as the village’s hostelry. It replaced the old pub on the site which was burned down, some said deliberately, in the 1880s when the bailiffs were about to move in and take away belongings.

Passing through the village on the main road it does not seem to be a place of much antiquity. It is the older houses to the north and south of the village ridge which bear testament to a prosperous community during the days of the Sussex iron industry.

Something even earlier is the acre of land near Shepherd’s Hill surrounded by a 20ft wide pentagonal moat, now much silted up. It was not the site of a castle or fort; the theory is that it was once a secure place for the women and stock against attacks from wolves when the menfolk were away hunting. Its age is indeterminate, but The Moat was scheduled as an ancient monument in 1968.