In brief, the town’s origins can fairly be said to date from the second half of the 10th century when the original parish church was dedicated to St Swithun. East Grinstead in 1086 appears in Domesday Book as a number of holdings in East Grinstead Hundred. In the early 13th century the town was founded as a borough.
The Town’s Tourist Officer at the Library can provide visitors with a wide range of information about the town including the Bluebell Railway and timetable.
Town Guides and Books
The 1861 Adam & Charles Black travel guide to the South-Eastern Counties describes East Grinstead as ‘…an irregularly-built, but pleasant market-town, situated on an ascent which commands a good view of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. It contains some old timbered houses, and some modern ones of tolerable pretensions…’ Today this snapshot remains largely true.
The first book-length history of the town was published in 1906 by Wallace Henry Hills. Although now out of print, reference copies may be consulted in the Town Museum and Public Library. From the 1890s onwards, commercial photographers produced significant numbers of picture postcards of the town. Many have been reproduced in no less than five published books.
A definitive ‘History of East Grinstead’ was written by M. J. Leppard in 2001, a full and scholarly account of the town’s history.
In 2004 Dorothy Hatswell produced ‘A History & Celebration’ of East Grinstead, illustrated by pictures from the Francis Frith Collection, relating stories from the past with what can be seen today.
In 2006 M. J. Leppard published ‘100 Buildings of East Grinstead’.
All the books in print mentioned here can be obtained from the town museum and local booksellers Waterstones and the East Grinstead Bookshop. Dorothy Hatswell’s book is available only at the museum, where other publications of local interest are also on sale.
Over 800 images of old East Grinstead can be seen in the West Sussex County Council archive.