The road over the Beacon and across the Common was little more than a bye-road, with scarcely enough traffic over it to keep the grass from growing upon it.
At Hurtis Hill there was an old farmhouse, and also one where the house now called Alice Bright stands. This was formerly known as Izzard's Farm, being the property of James Izzard, who was considered a well-to-do farmer, and was of some importance and notoriety, as he gave away annually on every S. Thomas's day forty sixpences to the poor.
There is a very old farmhouse at Stone Cross. It is perhaps the oldest of all immediately around Crowborough which have not been altogether renewed. The plan of the interior bespeaks its age. The chimney-place in the living-room extends the entire width of the room - the oven door is at one end of it, but the oven itself is built outside on to the wall of the house, and projects beyond it the whole length of the oven.
The ceilings are low, hardly six feet from the floor. The walls - those of them, at least, which have not been repaired - are made of blocks of sandstone. The rafters are visible, and the old beams run across the ceiling. The ceiling of the stairs is so low that you must bend as you go up them. The windows are narrow, and have small diamond-shaped panes of glass.
Outside it is like a venerable sturdy body, with a thatch which might be compared to a hoary head. Like a veteran, it waits calmly for the end; yet it battles with time and clings to life. Reluctantly it parts bit by bit with its crumbling materials. The walls which remain of the old building are timbered, having square frames of oak filled in with plaster, and below are built with sandstone to the depth of three feet. A small garden surrounds it, which is sheltered by trees. A little gate leads into a corner of the meadow outside it. Across this a paved footway extends to the larger gate opening into the. public road.
All its inmates are gone. It is deserted and left to decay, as an old nest is forsaken by birds. The dreary echo of your own footsteps is the only sound you hear in that old abode, which once resounded with happy, merry voices.
There were farm-houses at High Broom and at Redbridge, both claiming to be of very old date, but the present buildings have been either extensively repaired, so as to leave little of the old building remaining, or have been altogether rebuilt.
For many years the only place of worship at Crowborough was the chapel built by Sir H. Fermor, Bart. The Nonconformist chapels were built long after, the oldest being the one on the Lye Green Road, close to, but not in Crowborough parish, known as Forest Fold, which has been in existence between sixty and seventy years. Before the present building was erected, Worship was performed in a barn.
The shop first established in the parish was on Chapel Green, in the building opposite to Mr. Turk's present grocery store. Here might be had a little drapery and grocery, but the stock and variety were very limited.
The shops at the Cross were established long after, within the memory of persons now living.
Carriers brought from Lewes and London the little that was required for the small community.
A coach passed over the Beacon Hill in its journey from Brighton to London, via Tunbridge Wells. Another coach ran over the Duddleswell Road and Church Hill, past the Five Hundred Acres, from Brighton through Uckfield, Maresfield, and Tunbridge Wells to London.
The postal arrangements of the period would be intolerable to us now. The nearest post office was at Rotherfield, and letters were not delivered, but were retained at the office till applied for.
The postage, which was paid by the claimant, was never under 1s. 2d. Mr. Howis, who lived at the Warren, always sent for his letters to Forest Row, a distance of seven miles or more. Probably the postal service to that place was more frequent and regular than at Rotherfield.
There was but one turnpike at Crowborough, and that was placed a little beyond the Crow and Gate Inn. It was done away with about sixteen or seventeen years ago.
Few, if any, of the people of the place had learned to read or write, there being no opportunity of getting instruction until after the Fermor School was established in 1734, and then only a limited number of children could be received into the school. Neither were there any churches or chapels nearer than Rotherfield. A few of the farmers attended at Rotherfield Church, but none of the labouring population ever thought of entering a place of worship. Even after the Fermor Chapel was built very few persons attended it.