CROWBOROUGH is one of those strange areas that are sedate and suburban to the core, with a serviceable High Street that has Boots, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. A farmers’ market is held on the fourth Saturday of every month. The town began as a series of big hilltop hotels built around a golf course. Later it became a popular retirement haven and then, in the early Fifties, came an explosion of housing estates, which turned it into a commuter dormitory with a population of 23,000. There is a leisure centre with swimming pool, badminton and squash.
The Warren is the smartest part of town, built to the north and looking down over Ashdown Forest. Homes in the Warren are mainly detached houses with four or five bedrooms, priced in the £500,000 to £1m bracket. Most of the larger houses once stood in grounds of at least one acre, but have since had smaller houses or flats built around them. This infilling has spoiled the previously rather gracious character of the area.
On the newest estates, a one-bedroom starter home costs £115,000, a three-bedroom house £295,000. Much of the building in and around the town centre is Victorian, and the least attractive streets are those near the station and the industrial estate. Further out are a number of former 16th- and 17th-century farmhouses. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived at Hurtis Hill, and when he died in 1930 he was buried in his back garden overlooking Crowborough Common and the golf course. His body was later exhumed and reburied in Minstead Churchyard in the New Forest. The house has since been turned into a residential home for the elderly, Windlesham Manor, but the town still fills up with Sherlock Holmes fans for the annual Conan Doyle festival.
Rotherfield, nearby, has at its core a conservation area studded with listed buildings, antiques shops and Victorian terraces. Prices are 10–15 per cent higher than in Crowborough. A small cottage costs around £285,000.