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Maresfield - Not Just A Rural Backwater!


"The boat dug out from a log found on the Underhill stream and now preserved by the Sussex Archaeological Society in Lewes is evidence of Stone Age man in these parts.

That the Romans were here is evidenced by the iron-smelting bloomeries in the Parish, which are early indications of an industry which reached its peak in Tudor times. Ralph Hogge, though he retired to Buxted, spent his working life in Maresfield, casting the iron cannon which put England at the heart of the international arms trade. Maresfield was then a dirty, noisy place, with furnaces operating 24 hour shifts and the drop-hammers out-singing the Nightingales in the local woods. By contemporary standards, it was a large village, with a curate helping the rector, a doctor in residence, a tannery, a fulling mill for the local cloth industry, a grain mill, shoemaker, butcher and a blacksmith, an inn and shops and a population approaching one thousand, including Frenchmen and Germans working in iron – this at a time when Canterbury’s population was about 9000.

Maresfield furnace smelted silver for James I, but that was not the only royal connection. Maresfield had a royal palace as early as 1325, while John of Gaunt had his hunting lodge here, for he owned Ashdown Forest.

In more recent times, with Lady Shelley hosting the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria at Maresfield Park, the Empress of Germany opening the recreation ground and Prince Munster having tea with the Kaiser’s family a week before the start of the First World War, Maresfield’s royal connections continued until King George VI’s inspection of troops on the eve of D-Day. The army took over Prince Munster’s property in 1914; the Royal Corps of Signals was formed here in 1921; the camp built on Batts Bridge Road housed the Canadian Army and after the war, an Infantry O.C.T.U, the Intelligence Corps and a cavalry regiment, before being used to house Asian refugees from Idi Amin’s Uganda.

Nobody can accuse Maresfield of being a rural backwater all its life!"

Written by John Wrake

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