Herstmonceux is a vibrant village in East Sussex located on the A271 between Battle in the east and Hailsham in the west. It has a population in excess of 2,600. Although originally known as Gardner Street, the village name of Herstmonceux was derived when a Saxon lady by the name of Idonea de Herst married a Norman nobleman, Ingelram de Monceux in the 12th century.
Staying in the area would not be complete without a visit to the renowned Herstmonceux Castle. A grade II listed building with moat set in 300 acres of beautiful woods, parkland and stunning themed and formal gardens, it dates back to the 15th century. Sadly by 1740 it was virtually uninhabited and fell into disrepair. The interior of the castle was dismantled in 1777 leaving only the exterior walls still standing and the castle remained a ruin until the early 20th century when a Colonel Lowther became its owner and set about its restoration. Following his death the castle’s next owner, Sir Paul Latham, continued the work that Lowther had begun, completing the project in 1933.
Favoured for its rural location with clearer, darker skies than Greenwich in London, Herstmonceux Castle was the favoured location for the Royal Observatory when it was relocated here following the castle’s sale to the Admiralty in 1946. It took over a decade to complete the move and became known as the Royal Greenwich Observatory. It remained here until 1988 when it was moved to Cambridge. Fortunately for visitors to the area several of the telescopes remain and the empty dome which used to house the Isaac Newton Telescope is a landmark which still remains – visible from afar. Further buildings on the site have been converted to an interactive science centre for families and is particularly popular for school outings.
Today, the castle is the international campus of Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada – known as The Bader International Study Centre and although the castle itself is only open to the public on a handful of occasions during the year, the magnificent grounds and gardens can be visited from April to October.
A stroll down Gardner Street from the centre of the village will surprise and delight you with all there is on offer – fine French dining at The Sundial Restaurant; exotic Indian cuisine courtesy of Eastern Promise; traditional fish and chips at The Willows; The Brewers Arms – originally two 15th century cottages but a pub since the 1830s – is now a traditional, warm and welcoming free house serving excellent beers and from Thursday to Sunday a mouthwatering menu of burgers, steaks and pizzas cooked in their outdoor pizza oven!; a popular coffee shop – Geo’s Coffee House – (which has recently relocated to larger premises right in the centre of the village on the mini roundabout) where delicious locally roasted coffee, iced frappes, locally sourced beer and ales, handmade paninis, locally home made cakes and sweet treats, are all served by Geo himself; a small but well stocked bake shop; enjoy a relaxing beauty treatment courtesy of Natural Beauty by Zara; Lloyd Williams Antiques and Interiors with its eye-catching display of decorative and unusual items which definitely requires a wander round; a wonderfully well stocked convenience store and Post Office; Crafts at The Malthouse providing everything a crafter could possible need; 2 hairdressers and a barbers …… and even your pets are catered for in The Village Pet Shop!!
PLACES TO VISIT IN HERSTMONCEUX: Herstmonceux Castle Grounds and Gardens; The Observatory Science Centre; All Saints Church, The Windmill at Windmill Hill