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Ditchling is a village and civil parish in the Lewes District of East Sussex, England. The village is contained within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park; the order confirming the establishment of the park was signed in Ditchling.[3]

Ditchling 2012 011.jpg
Village main road (Lewes Road) with post office and general store
Ditchling is located in East Sussex
Location within East Sussex
Area15.49 km2 (5.98 sq mi) [1]
Population2,081 (2011)[2]
• Density339/sq mi (131/km2)
OS grid referenceTQ325151
• London50 miles (80 km) N
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBN6
Dialling code01273
FireEast Sussex
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
List of places
East Sussex
50°55′N 0°07′W / 50.92°N 0.11°W / 50.92; -0.11Coordinates: 50°55′N 0°07′W / 50.92°N 0.11°W / 50.92; -0.11

An artistic community founded by the artist Eric Gill during the early 20th century, and known as The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic[4] survived until 1989.


The village lies at the foot of the South Downs in East Sussex, but very close to the border with West Sussex. The settlement stands around a crossroads with Brighton to the south, Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath to the north, Keymer and Hassocks to the west, and Lewes to the east, and is built on a slight spur of land between the Downs to the south and Lodge Hill to the north. Ditchling Beacon, one of the highest points on the South Downs, overlooks the village.

Ditchling Common, north of the village, is the source of the eastern River Adur which meets with the western River Adur near Henfield and flows on to the English Channel at Shoreham-by-Sea.[5]


In Anglo-Saxon times,[6] the people of Dicul settled here and King Alfred the Great held lands as a Royal Manor.

It is unknown exactly when the people of Dicul settled in the village, but Ditchling is first recorded in 765 as Dicelinga in a grant by King Alduuf of land bordering that of Ditchling[citation needed]. Later it is recorded that the Manor and its lands were held by King Alfred the Great (871-899). Alfred left it in his will to a kinsmen named Osferth, and it reverted to the Crown under Edward the Confessor. After the Norman conquest, the land was held by William de Warenne. The Domesday book mentions a church and a mill in Ditchling and the population was approx 150 households. In 1095 there is mention of a manor house, what is now Wings Place. The land passed through several hands until in 1435 it was owned by the Marquess of Abergavenny who held it until the 20th century, when it was sold to developers who failed to get planning permission to build.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Old Meeting House in Ditchling was an important centre for Baptists from the wider area, whose records and memorandum books allow a unique insight into a small rural religious community of the period. These records (in the East Sussex Record Office) bear witness to often fractious and heated debates about morality and religion.

In the 1960s, Ditchling's tithe barn was dismantled and moved to Loughton, where it now forms the Corbett Theatre on the University of Essex campus there. In January 2007, Ditchling featured in a five piece BBC Documentary entitled Storyville: A Very English Village. This was filmed, produced and directed by a Ditchling resident, but the series itself came under criticism from local residents.[citation needed]

There are two public houses, The Bull and The White Horse and the café/eatery Ditchling Tea Rooms (previously known as Dolly's Pantry). It has a few shops. Ditchling has community groups and societies, including the Ditchling Film Society and the Ditchling Singers.

In the 2017 novel Rabbitman, by Michael Paraskos, the village was the setting for a Catholic Worker anarchist commune in an imagined post-Brexit dystopia.


Ditchling is part of the electoral ward called Ditchling and Westmeston. The population of this ward at the 2011 census was 2,424.[7]


There are two Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the parish of Ditchling. Ditchling Common is of biological interest because of the variety of heath grassland habitats, created by the different drainage conditions throughout the common.[8] The second site is Clayton to Offham Escarpment, which stretches from Hassocks in the west, passing through many parishes including Ditchling, to Lewes in the East. This site is of biological importance due to its rare chalk grassland habitat along with its woodland and scrub.[9]

The Guild of St Joseph and St DominicEdit

The Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft.

Eric Gill, the sculptor and letter cutter, came to Ditchling in 1907 with his apprentice Joseph Cribb and was soon followed by other craftsmen. In 1921 they founded the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, a Roman Catholic community of artists and craftsmen, inspired by ideas of the medieval guilds and the Arts and Crafts movement. The community had its own workshops and chapel, and thrived for many years. Its affairs were finally wound up in 1989, and the workshops demolished. The legacy of the Guild led to the creation of Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft in 1985, which was renovated and re-opened in 2013.[10]


There is one school in Ditchling, Ditchling (St Margaret's) Church of England Primary School. This is a voluntary controlled primary school for children aged 4–11. Many of the children after leaving this school go to Downlands Community School in the village of Hassocks located in the adjoining county of West Sussex. Located in the centre of the village is Ditchling Museum.

Religious buildingsEdit

The Old Meeting House of 1740 is used by Unitarians.

Ditchling has a long history of Protestant Nonconformism.[11] The village has four extant places of Christian worship and one former chapel.

St Margaret's Church, Ditchling

St Margaret's Church, founded in the 11th century, is the village's Anglican church. The fabric of the flint and sandstone building is mostly 13th-century, although the nave is original.[11][12] In 1740, a chapel (now called The Old Meeting House) was built on the side of a late 17th-century house off East End Lane. It is now used by the Unitarian community.[12][13] Emmanuel Chapel, used by an Evangelical congregation, was built in the early 20th century but may have had a predecessor elsewhere in the village.[11][12] The Quaker community have a modern meeting house near the centre of the village.[14][15] The Beulah Strict Baptist Chapel (now a house) on East End Lane was in religious use between 1867 and the 1930s.[11][13]

Notable residentsEdit


  1. ^ "East Sussex in Figures". East Sussex County Council. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  2. ^ "Civil parish population 2011". Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  3. ^ "National Park is Confirmed". South Downs Society. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011.
  4. ^ S Y N T H E S I S — The Guild Of St. Joseph And St. Dominic
  5. ^ Information About River Adur | Canals & Rivers |
  6. ^ Ditchling
  7. ^ "Ditchling and Westmeston ward population 2011". Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  8. ^ "Natural England – SSSI (Ditchling Common)". English Nature. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  9. ^ "Natural England – SSSI (Clayton to Offham Escarpment)". English Nature. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  10. ^ "Adam Richards Architects converts a former cart lodge into a museum". Dezeen. 7 July 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d Salzman, L. F., ed. (1940). "A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7. Parishes: Ditchling". Victoria County History of Sussex. British History Online. pp. 102–109. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  12. ^ a b c Harris, Roland B. (June 2005). "Ditchling Historic Character Assessment" (PDF). Sussex Extensive Urban Survey (EUS). East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council and English Heritage. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  13. ^ a b Elleray, D. Robert (2004). Sussex Places of Worship. Worthing: Optimus Books. p. 19. ISBN 0-9533132-7-1.
  14. ^ "Ditchling Conservation Area Character Appraisal" (PDF). Lewes District Council (Planning and Environmental Services Department). April 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Ditchling Quaker Meeting". Ditchling Quakers website. Ditchling Quaker Meeting. 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2010.

External linksEdit