TWO MEN AND A TUDOR MAP by Patrick Fletcher and Allan Mackenzie

9th August

A map of Heathfield

© British Library Board Maps MT.6.1 (13) 12/03/2015

We first met to discuss old maps acquired from the East Sussex Record Office. Allan was interested in the oldest, dating from 1595. It showed a line around the Heathfield and Burwash Downs, common land situated between Burwash and Heathfield. There were houses with the names of people who lived in them just outside the common land boundary also a beacon and a pound for lost animals. The map on the left show the western part of the Heathfield Down.

The idea came to us that we could try to find the boundary and the features shown on the map and locate them in today’s landscape. Amazingly, it seems to us looking back, this we were largely able to do. Mostly, we either found the remains of a hedgerow, or a stream, that had been used over 400 years ago to mark out the boundary between common and private land.  Where a hedgerow had been removed we used more recent maps such as the Heathfield and Burwash tithe maps to find where it had been.

We have to credit the unknown map maker, Henry Allen of Tonbridge, for our success. His map was remarkably accurate. It was drawn for Sir Thomas Pelham who had recently acquired ownership of the land. He and his early successors enclosed some of the common land, mostly in the Burwash Down.

A beacon

A map showing a beacon © British Library

Using the map, we found the site of a long-lost beacon, used to warn of the coming of the Spanish Armada.  Another map, dated 1610, shows it between Burwash and Heathfield. It is shaped like a tower, quite a rare form of beacon we think. It signalled to the next beacon westwards at Cross in Hand.

Using an overlay technique and anecdotal evidence from a resident who previously lived on the site we were able to pinpoint the location of the beacon.

Below is a photo of Allan standing in front of what is left of the base of the beacon.

We had some strokes of luck. Despairing of finding the animal pound in an untidy patch of wasteland strewn with rubble, we found on our next visit the site was full of trenches dug for a housing development enabling us to view layers of soil and find evidence of what the animals in the pound had left behind them! Allan found a copy of a painting by Turner at home showing the Heathfield Down, complete with rabbits, as it was in 1816. The owner of the oldest house still standing drawn on the map, probably dating from 1475, was kind enough to allow us in to look around and take photos.  A murder, the Duke of Windsor and the mafia also feature.

The book was written as an afterthought but, we hope, provides encouragement to others interested in our local history.

The authors are Allan Mackenzie, who is a sculptor, and Patrick Fletcher, a retired educational psychologist.

The paperback costs £19.99, the kindle ebook is £1.99, both from Amazon. It is lavishly illustrated with maps and photos.

Allan Mackenzie

Allan MacKenzie standing in front of what is left of the base of the beacon.