Ditchling Barn and Green… A history

Part of Ditchling Village Green, facing east to St. Mary’s Church

The Green to the west of the Church and Graveyard was originally the farmyard for Ditchling Court Farm.  However, the Farm and its lands had been under threat of development since the sale of the Abergavenny Estate in 1939.  Pre-war development by Lord Cohen was averted by the 2nd World War, but had not gone away.

Court Farm, was essentially a Dairy Farm until 1957, but as with many farms in the area could also be classed a mixed farm as it had a range of animals, with arable land to sustain them.  Most of the properties in the lower part of Lodge Hill Lane were agricultural buildings:
Three Beams – Cart Lodge
White Barn/Court Cottage – Stables
Lodge Hill Cottage – tied cottage
I also understand there were a series of ponds to the west of Lodge Hill Lane itself.  Court House had been sold off earlier.

Post war there were numerous attempts to acquire the farm and develop what is now The Green, including new housing on the land between Ditchling and Keymer.  By 1962 development was imminent but for outrage from members of the village.  In early 1963 a sale in principle to trustees nominated by the Parish Council was tantalisingly close, but destined to fail.  The then owner renewed his efforts to develop the farmyard.

1964 brought renewed effort and a new resolve to save the farmyard with a “special meeting” of the Parish Council being held on 20th May 1964.  By 24th June 1964 an organisation known as “Friends of Ditchling” had been formed and details of the purchase outlined and for the ongoing maintenance of Ditchling Court Farmyard as The Green formulated.  The formal membership of the “Friends of Ditchling” society was established on 28th October 1964.  An informal meeting was held on Saturday 30th January 1965 to recognise the conveyance of the land to the Friends of Ditchling.

Over the following 2-3 years efforts were undertaken to landscape the farmyard to achieve:
“the maximum amount grassy area, the view to the west of the Church opened up, footpaths from the village should be linked to the Green, the single aisle cowshed, the cart lodge and the flint walls should be retained.”

The Barn and the Cart Lodge (now leased to The Ditchling Museum), and the sale of the “tithe” barn, of which the old foundations still remain adjacent to churchyard. (The tithe barn was dismantled and re-erected as the Corbet Theatre in Loughton, Essex).

The Friends of Ditchling is now a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, with the sole aim to “preserve the area known as The Green as an open space, with access for all, free from commercial trade and signage”.  Thus, maintaining a rural open space as per the aims of the original benefactors.

Can I recommend you support the Ditchling History Project (ditchlinghistoryproject.org) who produce an excellent series of titles on the history of Ditchling.  The information above is largely sourced from their title Ditchling Village Green, which can be obtained from them, along with a number of other publications.

Please look around our website to find out about how to become a member of the Friends of Ditchling and/or how to hire The Barn and Sunken Garden, and thus support the Trustees in maintaining the Green for future generations.

Colin Marshall
(Chairman, Friends of Ditchling)

Aims & activities
The charity is responsible for the land and buildings known as “Ditchling Village Green”. A barn and the green are hired out for weddings and other events. The trustees then use the funds generated to maintain the facilities and make improvements to both the barn and green. The principle aim being to retain the area as a green space, with access for villagers to use.

Charity no. 1114124