Constructed at the beginning of the 18th century, this Grade II-listed cottage in the village of West Hoathly is fluent in the architectural language of West Sussex, its impressive oak frame hugged by a red brick and hung tile façade. The house spreads over more than 2,600 sq ft, encompassing five bedrooms and a series of living spaces defined by dark timber set against a palette of gentle white. The cottage is nestled in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on an idyllic village lane lined with medieval, Elizabethan and Victorian buildings. Trains run direct to London Bridge from the nearby East Grinstead station.
Setting the Scene
The ancient village of West Hoathly, a name deriving from an Anglo-Saxon word signifying a heath-covered clearing, lies between the North and South Downs, on the edge of Ashdown Forest’s dense woodlands. The development of the village coincided with the establishment of the 11th-century parish church, St Margaret’s; it grew further with the onset of a thriving 15th-century iron industry. Construction of the railway in the 19th century saw further expansion. This rich history has given the village a charming depth, its architectural fabric reflecting the medieval, Elizabethan and Victorian periods. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
An arch cut through a wall of beech hedge reveals the front door of the cottage, set into a terracotta façade of rustic, arrow and bullnose hung tiles. The door opens to a generous hall with walls painted in ‘All White’ and woodwork painted in ‘Hardwick White’, both by Farrow & Ball, and flagstone floor; this palette continues throughout the house. With its wood-burning stove, sitting within a large inglenook fireplace, and square proportions, the room has the makings of a cosy snug.
From one side of the hallway a door opens to the dining room, where there is plenty of space for a large dining table for entertaining guests. Beyond the dining room is the living room, where the braces, joists, pegs and joints of the room’s dark oak frame take centre stage. A row of timber beams divides the room into two parts; the current owners have arranged a sitting area at the front of the plan around another impressive inglenook fireplace, which is fitted with a wood-burner and laid with a slate stone hearth. Casement windows here look over the leafy beech hedge, while the windows to the rear of the plan take in views over the garden and a brick-laid patio planted with bay and geranium. The eaves of the structure are revealed on this side of the room; light floods through a series of casement windows to make a bright spot for relaxing with a book or the morning paper.
Off the hallway at the rear of the house, a screen of bookshelves set into the timber frame denotes space for a study. Opposite, there is a handy WC. At the rear of the plan is an open plan kitchen and dining room, housed in an extension sympathetic to the 18th-century provenance of the house. French doors open to the rear terrace, which overlooks the expansive lawn, while bifold doors pull open to connect the room to the patio; bound by brickwork on three sides, this space has the feel of a walled garden. The kitchen, which features cabinetry painted soft white and a leathered slate work surface, is fitted with a five-ring induction hob and a deep Belfast sink. In the centre of the room, a large marble-topped kitchen island provides a wonderful place for preparing a meal. Adjacent to the kitchen, there is a handy utility room with doors that open to the front and the rear of the house, perfect for muddy dogs, coats and boots.
A staircase rises to the first floor landing, around which four double bedrooms – two with en suites – a family bathroom and a WC are arranged. In the primary bedroom, the oak braces of the eaves are exposed to create a voluminous space. On one side of the room there are built-in wardrobes; on the other side, there is an an en suite shower room with ceramic tiles and contemporary fittings that continue throughout the washrooms in the house. On the second floor there is a further double bedroom with adjoining shower room.
The Great Outdoors
The gardens of the cottage spread over approximately one acre. Doors open from the kitchen to the partially walled brick-laid patio, backdropped by the exaggerated peg-tiled cat-slide roof, a distinctive feature of the Sussex vernacular. The patio is perfect for potted plants and growing herbs, and an apple tree along one side provides a good degree of shelter.
A second terrace lies to the rear of the house, surrounded by plantings of lilac and mint. Steps lead to an expansive lawn, the outskirts of which have been planted with oak, hawthorne, willow and yew trees, now grown to maturity. Tucked in one corner of the lawn is a garden studio and shed for storage of tools, pots and garden furniture.
A brick path from the lawn leads to a parking area with space for several vehicles. Beyond this there is a second leafy garden planted with laurel and ash, and at the end of the garden is a pond, perfect for attracting wildlife.
Out and About
Bow Cottage is situated in the pretty village of West Hoathly. Nestled within the High Weald AONB, the house is in striking distance of some of West Sussex’s best walks and cycling routes, perfect for taking in the landscape of rolling hills, woodlands and open heathlands.
For those keen to explore the culinary delights of the region, the house is wonderfully located for some of the south-east’s best restaurants. There are two highly acclaimed pubs in the village: The Cat is only a few minutes walk away, pouring real ale from local breweries and English sparkling wine alongside an ever-changing menu in its 16th-century dining room; The Fox is much-loved by locals for its excellent seasonal fare, and is a perfect spot to enjoy an evening meal in the warmth of an open fire. Gravetye Manor, with its Michelin-starred dining room, is less than a 10-minute drive from West Hoathly. The restaurant is surrounded by a magnificent Victorian kitchen garden, designed by renowned horticulturist William Robinson, in which much of the produce for the changing seasonal menu is grown.
The Borde Hill estate, less than a 20-minute drive from the cottage, is worth a visit both for its magnificent Elizabethan manor house and its nationally renowned grounds. Spanning 2,300 acres, the Grade II-listed heritage parkland and ancient woodland is planted with an array of native and exotic varieties. The botanic gardens at Wakehurst are also nearby. The home of the millennium seed bank, the grounds at Wakehurst encompass walled gardens, meadows, glades and valleys.
There are several highly regarded schools in the local area, both state and private, including a Church of England primary school only a minute’s walk from the cottage. Cumnor House Sussex prep school, Hurstpierpoint College, and Ardingly College are all nearby. Further excellent schools less than an hour’s drive away include Rodean School, Brighton College and Tonbridge School.
Daily amenities, such as a supermarket, pharmacy and post office, as well as an array of cafés, the town of East Grinstead is just over a 10-minute drive away. From East Grinsted station there are direct train services to London Bridge and London Victoria in under an hour. Alternately, the city can be reached in just over an hour by car, and Gatwick airport in 20 minutes for international connections.
Council Tax Band: G
Early records show that the Saxons settled an area called Hafocunga Leaghe, which would finally become West Hoathly following a series of naming permutations from the 11th to the 16th centuries. In 1090, shortly after the arrival of the Normans, construction began on a new church in the parish, around which the small village emerged, and by 1296 there were 42 homes recorded in the village.
In around 1430, the Cluniac Priory of St Pancras in Lewes constructed the Priest House in the village as an estate office to manage the land they owned around West Hoathly. The oak framed hall house has infill in wattle and daub and a Horsham Slab stone roof supported by a crown post structure. Following the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1540, the house belonged at different times to Anne of Cleves, Thomas Cromwell, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
In the centuries that followed, the parish became dedicated to a flourishing iron industry; workers flooded the region, trees were felled to fuel the furnaces and ponds were excavated to power the bellows and hammers. A shortage of local timber in the 18th century, coupled with the rise of the coal industry, spurred the demise of the region’s iron works. The legacy of the industry survives in the large houses built for wealthy ironmasters, including the Elizabethan architectural spectacle of Gravetye Manor which was built in 1598 by Richard Infield and lies only a mile outside of West Hoathly.
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