Telscombe

The unlovely coastal development sprawls across the cliffs less than a mile away, but in this fold of the Downs is a perfect piece of old England. Untouched and unspoiled.

There is only one way into Telscombe for car travellers and the narrow lane peters out at the end of the village at a spot famous for its bank of wild daffodils in the springtime. A church dating back to Saxon times, a cluster of old cottages and the timeless, empty hills all around … this remote place is certainly idyllic and owes its character to one man.

Ambrose Gorham, a retired bookmaker, became the squire and benefactor of Telscombe at the end of the 19th century. He refused to allow any development to take place there but was not a backward-thinking patriarch. He improved the state of the cottages, restored the church of St Lawrence, laid on mains water in 1909 and brought electricity into the village in 1930. Every Christmas he gave each child in his parish a book and a pair of Wellington boots.

Squire Gorham never lost his taste for the sport of kings and trained many winners at his Telscombe stables. The most famous product of the Downland ‘Gallops’ was Shannon Lass, winner of the Grand National in 1902.

When he died in 1933, the squire bequeathed all his land to Brighton Corporation on trust, stating in his will that the purpose of the gift was to preserve the rural nature of the village. Significantly, as an ex-bookie, he stipulated that the incumbent should be non-teetotal and should be a smoker. The Gorham Trust exists to this day, ensuring that the village retains its tranquillity.

In earlier days, Telscombe man James Lulham gained an unfortunate place in the record books as the last man in England to be hanged for sheep stealing. He went to the gallows in 1819.