History of Fairwarp

Fairwarp is a delightful small village situated on the edge of the six and a half thousand acres of the enchanting Ashdown Forest.

Although a relatively small community, Fairwarp is a very active one with a number of organisations and clubs and a full calendar of events, including the annual fete held on the Village Green, Family Cricket & Croquet day at the Fairwarp Queen Elizabeth II Sports Field and weekly services at Fairwarp’s Christ Church. “The Church in the Forest” as it was supposedly the only church built within the forest boundary.Fairwarp is a wonderful starting point to set out to explore the Ashdown Forest whether on foot, horseback or cycling with a welcome break at The Foresters Arms for lunch and a drink.

Fayre Wharp

Fayre Wharp is mentioned in 1519 and the main occupation in the area, being charcoal burning, providing the source of heat to melt the iron produced at nearby Oldlands Farm.

Also on the other side of the village towards Nutley, cannonswere finished off, with the centres being bored at Boringwheel Mill farm.

From 1793 regiments from the army were stationed at nearby Duddleswell, during the build up to the Napoleonic Wars.

The church was built in 1881 as the village became large enough to host its own parish, prior to that the village was in the parish of Maresfield.

During the 1930’s the radio station at Duddleswell was built to provide long distance communication to the British Embassies and Forces overseas.


Whilst there is no mention of the village of Fairwarp (Fayre Wharp) until 1519 there are significant Roman connections in the area.

At Duddleswell there is a preserved section of a road that ran across the Ashdown Forest and onto London from Lewes. This is part of Ermine Street. The road was built around 100 AD and made of slag and cinders, probably from the iron industry of the area.

There is evidence that the Romans produced iron as a bloomery (early furnace) has been found in the Fairwarp area. The name Oldlands is suggested comes from “old ironworking lands”. Here a number of Roman Coins have been found.

Local heresay claims that there was a Roman posting station at Duddleswell. The origin of the name Duddleswell comes from a chapel, St Dudeneys – Dudeney’s well.


The first mention of Fairwarp is in 1519. There was a court case in Nutley where the village is mentioned in connection with the felling of all the trees between Nutley and Fairwarp by the “King’s Men”. The wood being the vital ingredient in iron production, this would have been a blow.

The principal industry of the area at the time was charcoal burning for use in the production of iron. Oldlands Farm was a site of iron production and the various marlpits around the area bare testimony to the extraction of the stone for this industry.
Boringwheel Mill Farm area was where the centres of cannon were hollowed out.

Oldlands Farm is believed to be originally a 16th century ironmaster’s house and was connected to the ironworkings in this area. It has been said, that the forge known as Old Forge (Old Forge Lane) made horseshoes for Edward II and the railings around St. Paul’s Catherdral.

All around the community, there are names that reflect this industrial past: Furnace Wood, Old Forge Lane and Marlpits.


In 1777, the village consisted of a single farmhouse on a track across the Forest. This dwelling does not appear on the 1805 Ordance Survey Map but may be the dwelling at the bottom of The Street in the main part of the village.

By the late 19th Century Fairwarp has become a thriving community boasting the church (consecrated in 1881), school (opened in 1873), post office and pub. The 1878 Ordnance Survey Map shows the extent of the growth during most of the last century, the community was able to support a Silver Band and Cricket team.

Sadly these, the school, post office etc. have all disappeared.


Within Fairwarp there is a meadow nature reserve managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

The Meado “boasts” traditional Wealden meadow flowers and grasses including betony, musk mallow and dyer’s greenweed. In addition, the meadow has an ancient hornbeam hedge. The area is known as Brickfield Meadow and is now a nature reserve. During Spring and Summer there is a wide range of butterflies and moths attracted to the wild flowers.

nature reserve managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.



Oldlands Hall is the big house on the hill for Fairwarp. The history of the estate and house is extremely interesting, especially in the context of the development of the village.

Article:”Alexander Nesbitt, a Sussex Antiquarian, and the Oldlands estate.” by Janet H. Stevenson.



The community roll of honour includes the names of 25 men who gave their lives in the first world war.  There is a memorial to these men in the churchyard of Christ Church. The names of 6 men who died in the second world war have been added.. Two other soldiers from the first world war are buried in the churchyard.


Fairwarp has two sites of interest relating to the Second World War; The Airmen’s Grave and The Italian POW camp.


On the night of the July 31st 1941, a Wellington bomber was returning from a raid on Cologne. One of its two engines had stopped and the pilot was attempting to reach an airfield close to the English Coast.

The weather that night was poor and the pilot was unable to identify a suitable landing place and crashed on the southern slopes of the forest. All six crew members were killed. They were all in their early to mid-twenties.

Capt. and 1st. Pilot
Sergeant and 2nd. Pilot
Air Gunner
Rear Gunner
Sergeant and Observer
Wireless Operator

Harry Vidler
Vic Sutton
Stan Hathaway
Len Saunders
Wilf Brooks
Arthur Cave

It was the mother of Vic Sutton that first erected a wooden cross at the site of the crash. She was living at Nutley at the time. In 1954 a stone cross was erected and a fence put round the area to keep the sheep out. Then in 1971 the wall of local stone was erected by the Forest Rangers. The site is really a memorial to the men and not their grave.

The memorial can be found just west of the village off the B2026. On Rememberance Sunday there is a special open air service held at the grave. The service is very moving and many people attend.


Just leaving the main village, heading east on The Street, tucked away in among trees is two dilapidated buildings that formed the POW camp. There is little information about the camp and it is slowly returning to nature.


During “Wings for Victory” Week villages were asked to raise money for planes and in return had a plane named after it.  Sir Bernard Eckstein handed Mrs Shorthouse (who was secretary of the War Savings Group) a cheque for a quarter of a million pounds(£250,000) who combined with the Oldands Hall Group in sending £730,000 from Fairwarp, making a record contribution as the best village in England.