GUIDE TO DITCHLING
The rolling hills and picturesque villages of the glorious Sussex countryside inspired ‘Jerusalem’, William Blake’s ode to England, and Ditchling is the perfect place from which to explore. Why not start with a gentle stroll from Court Garden Vineyard to Ditchling, taking in the 18th-century Oldland Mill, the oldest working windmill in Sussex. Along the way you can enjoy stunning panoramic views across the Downs and wander through ancient meadows and grasslands, alive with wildflowers, butterflies, and the hum of grasshoppers.
Fancy getting back to nature for a little longer? Use our handy guide to the public walking trails that connect our partner vineyards and breweries and make the most of your day in this green and pleasant land.
Nestled against the rolling green hills of the South Downs, complete with Tudor manor, medieval inn, ancient church and even a duck pond on the green, Ditchling is the picture-postcard English village.
Ditchling has been part of Sussex history for more than a thousand years, with the earliest mentions dating back to AD 765. Over the centuries the ancient manor was owned by Anglo-Saxon Kings, Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor. After the Norman Conquest, Ditchling was granted to William de Warenne, who fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Doomsday Book records the village as having a church, a mill and around 195 households, making Ditchling one largest manors in Sussex.
Fast forward 800 years to the early 20th century, when Ditchling became a haven for artists and craftspeople, among them the painter, illustrator and designer Frank Brangwyn, and sculptor, printmaker and letter cutter Eric Gill. In 1921, Gill founded the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, a community of artists and craftsmen, including stone carvers, ceramicists, silversmiths, and weavers. The Guild was part of the wider Arts and Crafts movement of the period, and although disbanded in 1989, its legacy lives on in the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft.
Today, Ditchling sits at the heart of English wine country, surrounded by the highest concentration of award-winning vineyards in the UK.
PLACES OF INTEREST
ST MARGARETS CHURCH
On a sandy knoll overlooking the village green stands the Church of St Margaret of Antioch. While most of the present building dates from the late 12th century, traces of the earlier Saxon church survive in the nave. Like many buildings in Sussex, local flint was used to face the exterior of St Margaret’s. More unusual is the use of another common but less popular local material, chalk, which was used for some of the 13th-century carved decoration inside. St Margaret’s also boasts evidence of Ditchling’s more recent artistic past. During your visit, look out for the work of Charles Knight, Joseph Cribb and John Denman, all leading members of the community of artists and craftspeople who lived in and around the Ditchling in the early 20th century.
Opposite the church stands Wings Place, known for centuries as Ditchling Garden Manor. In 1540, this quintessential Tudor, timber-framed manor house was given by Henry VIII to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as part of the divorce settlement following their disastrous and short-lived marriage. Contrary to local legend, Anne is not thought ever to have lived there, but you might still hear Wings Place referred to as ‘Anne of Cleves House’. Later visitors to the house reportedly included British Prime Minster, William Pitt the Younger and hero of the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington.
Wings Place is just one of Ditchling’s architectural gems. With more than 50 listed buildings, there’s something interesting around every corner, from the imposing timber-framed Tudor houses of the High Street to quaint 17th-century cottages, and red brick Georgian townhouses. Keep your eyes peeled as you stroll through the village and soak up the old-world charm.
DITCHLING MUSEUM OF ART & CRAFT
Opened in 1985 in what was once the village school, this delightful museum is the legacy of the artistic community that sprang up in and around Ditchling in the early 20th century. Following a multi-million-pound renovation project in 2012, today Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft offers visitors a comprehensive account of the village’s artistic heritage. The Museum is home to a nationally important collection of artworks made by the artists and craftspeople who lived in the village, including controversial sculptor and typographer Eric Gill and Edward Johnston, designer of the London Underground font. Alongside a lively programme of changing temporary exhibitions, the Museum offers free family activities, a café overlooking the village green and well-stocked shop. An unmissable stop on the Sussex art trail!
FOOD & DRINK
THE NUTMEG TREE TEA ROOM
This classic English tearoom offers up plenty of 1940’s charm, complete with waiting staff in traditional white cap and apron, and a room named in honour of forces sweetheart, Dame Vera Lynn, who for many years made Ditchling her home. The Nutmeg Tree is the perfect spot to fuel up for a walk or indulge in a good old fashioned English afternoon tea.
Ditchling is home to two historic pubs, both with bucket-loads of rustic charm…
THE WHITE HORSE INN
Built in the early 12th century, the White Horse was a favoured resting point for travellers and smugglers alike. A labyrinth of interconnecting tunnels in the cellar suggest that the inn was a hub from which smuggled goods arriving from across the channel were distributed across the area. Today, the delightful walled garden at the White Horse is the perfect spot to enjoy an ice-cold local beer.
Dating back to the 16th-century, The Bull is everything a classic British pub should be. Low timber beams, open fires and well-kept beers make for a cosy retreat on chillier days, while in the summer months, why not enjoy a pint on the terrace or in the family-friendly garden, complete with stunning views across the Downs.