Crowhurst

Yew trees are a standard feature in all old country churchyards, but here is the oldest in the county, 40ft in circumference at the last count and so cracked with age that a grown man can climb inside. Testaments to its age range from 1,000 to 3,000 years. Certainly it must have been flourishing when William the Conqueror passed this way so it is not surprising that a story has grown up that the Normans hanged a Saxon from the tree because he refused to reveal details of Harold’s approaching army.

The invaders left their mark on the place. The Domesday Book describes Crowhurst as ‘devastated’.

Just below the church are the remains of an old manor house dating from the 13th century. Its builder, Walter de Scotney, chief steward to the Earl of Gloucester, came to a sticky end. He was accused of murdering his master and the Earl’s brother. He was tried at Winchester and executed in 1259.

Crowhurst’s old quarry is a haven for wildlife, supporting amongst other things a massive badger sett and burrowing bees. So the parish council reacted angrily when Battle Rifle Club proposed turning the site into an open air shooting range. The fauna won the day.

Godfrey and Ann Munn were licensees of The Plough Inn for 33 years until their retirement and introduced the famous Crowhurst Pumpkin Show. It ran into trouble when outsiders started to muscle in and the locals boycotted the event until finally a ban was put on visiting growers. Pumpkin fanciers compete in various classes, including heaviest, best shaped and ugliest. Cowman Tom Masters had perhaps the most ingenious growing method, the slurry tip at his farm producing monsters weighing in at more than 50lbs.

The Rev James Price Bacon-Phillips (1857-1938), letter writer extraordinary, was rector here for 28 years. He claimed to have had up to 9,000 letters printed in the Press and thousands more sent to newspapers on which he had not been able to check the fate of his missives. One of his key topics for such a prodigious outpouring was the way witnesses were bullied in court by opposing counsel.