What it’s like to live in Alfriston
- Credit: Archant
Bearing links to some of the county’s famous smugglers, Alfriston is a small village with a lot of history – including an impressive ‘cathedral’
Nestled in the valley of the River Cuckmere, Alfriston is about four miles north-east of Seaford and south of the A27. The closest railway station is Berwick, which runs hourly services to Hastings and Brighton. London can be reached by rail in just over 90 minutes, with a brief change at Lewes. Regular bus services provide links between Alfriston and Berwick, Brighton, Lewes and Seaford.
Sitting on a small, flint-walled mound in the middle of the green, St Andrew’s Church can be dated back to Saxon times. It is built in the shape of a cross, overlooking the River Cuckmere, and due to its size, is known locally as The Cathedral of the South Downs.
The original vicarage – Alfriston Clergy House – can be found close by, originally built in 1350 under the reign of Edward III. In 1896, it became the very first house to be bought by the National Trust, purchased for a meagre £10 (around £1,300 in today’s money). A classic example of a Wealden hall house, it features a thatched roof and timber-framed walls. It was rented out by the church as a source of income.
The Smugglers’ Inn, formerly Market Cross House, is believed to have been the headquarters for one of East Sussex’s famous gangs. It is rumoured that its 21 rooms, six staircases and 48 doors offered a maze of passageways and doors, and created an easy escape for the gang in the event of an unknown caller. The Star Inn has been similarly linked to such activity. Outside a statue of a red lion can still be seen, which was once the figurehead of a Dutch ship. It was wrecked in the 1800s and raided by Stanton Collins and the famous Alfriston gang. The gang would use the Cuckmere River to transport illegal goods into the village. It was only broken up when Collins was caught for sheep rustling in the early 1830s. He was transported to Australia as punishment.
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Annual festivals and events
Each year Alfriston families get together for the annual summer festival, raising funds for local charities and Alfriston School. For the past ten years, Alfriston Summer Music has attracted world class musicians to concerts in both St Andrew’s Church and Lullington Church, nearby. The 2018 event, which runs from 24 to 29 July, was rebranded to the South Downs Summer Music International Festival.
The annual Christmas market in December also brings visitors into the town.
As well as three historic pubs, Alfriston boasts a small number of independent coffee shops and tea houses including Badgers Tea House, on North Street, which housed the village bakery for more than 200 years. An antique dealer, bookshop and barber can also be found in the village, as well as a traditional village store, complete with post office and ATM.
At the heart of the community is the Alfriston War Memorial Hall, able to accommodate up to 150 people. An excellent venue for wedding receptions, parties, and conferences, it also provides a home to the village’s art club, line dancing, yoga and bowls club, as well as a horticultural society, theatre group, historical society and WI.
Old School Surgery in Seaford offers GP services in both Alfriston, at The Furlongs, and in East Dean. The nearest dental surgeries can be found in Seaford, just over 5km away.
Meet the neighbours
The village is said to have inspired the popular hymn, Morning Has Broken, which was written in 1931 by Eleanor Farjeon, and popularised by Cat Stevens in the 1970s.
In contrast, international crime writer, Peter Cheyney, based his 1946 novel, Uneasy Terms, on the area, using one of the village’s historic pubs as a resting stop for his private detective.
Along with its own parish council, Alfriston is represented by the Wealden District of East Sussex County Council, by Conservative councillor Philip Ede. In Parliament it is part of the Lewes constituency. Since 2015 it has been represented in the House of Commons by Conservative MP, Maria Caulfield. In July she quit as the party’s vice chair for women over the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans.
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