Balcombe Road

The road to Balcombe forms the boundary to Ardingly from its junction with Copyhold Lane till it crosses the river at Upper Ryelands bridge. It is a curious fact that there are more deeds in existence about this part of the parish than any of the better-known parts, Wakehurst alone excepted, and it is still more curious that though the deeds show the descent of the lands for hundreds of years there is a missing link at the end of the 18th century which prevents one putting one’s finger on the exact spot with which some of them deal. But the road from Balcombe is mentioned in each case as the western boundary. In a previous number the earliest reference to Naldred was recorded, and details were given of the Cripps family, from whom the neighbouring land got its name. In 1583 Scripses was owned by Thomas Michelbourne as a portion of Ditchling Manor. We find it afterwards in the Heath family, and in 1750 the Pelhams were in possession of “a messuage called the Kings and Cripses in Ardingly“.

In the Manor Court Book of South Malling in the British Museum there are two references to this part of the parish, dated 1438 and 1478, the latter quoting an earlier deed dated 1424. These entries show how an acre of land passed from John Cok to John atte Wode and, added to John atte Wode’s own 8 acres, passed eventually by marriage to Richard Michelbourne. The curious point about these records is that they appear in the Manor Court of South Malling, whereas the land is in the Manor of Ditchling and the transference of land from one manor to another is very unusual. It is probable that this John Cok mentioned in 1424 is a descendant of the Osberto Cok who was a taxpayer in Ardingly in 1327, as in those days the land descended from father to son as tenants, without question. John atte Wode probably took his name from Rivers Wood, against which he lived. The evidence points to the eight acres being just to the south of the wood, but it may be to the north between the wood and the river. Another holding bounded by “the King’s highway leading from Balcombe to Wivelsfield” (there was no Haywards Heath then) is also difficult to identify. The earliest mention of it is in 1524, and the deeds are continuous down to 1785, when Francis Warden left it by will to the son of Thomas, Lord Pelham, it being intermixed with his farm called Waldrett. The earliest deed calls it “le Cowarstrete”, and it goes through the following forms :- Cowarstret, Coward street, Cownstreat, Couarstreete, Cower street, Cower’s Street and Cowstreet. It is doubtless merged in the portion of the parish owned by the Earls of Chichester at the beginning of the 19th century, called Kings and Cripps Land, but the two messuages which it contained cannot now be identified. The name itself probably comes from the Cow-herd who occupied it, but the “street” is a puzzle not yet solved.

Place Name Index