EAST GRINSTEAD The town of East Grinstead itself retains the characteristics of the market town it once was, though it now has a relief road and other modern appendages. It is in two parts – the old town, which includes much of the High Street, and London Road, which contains the new major shops. It is becoming more of an industrial and commercial town, with new offices springing up. East Grinstead draws in people from the surrounding villages for their regular shop, though large or specialist items have to be sought in Croydon or Crawley. A farmers’ market is held twice a month in the High Street. The Kings Centre provides a swimming pool and sports complex for hearties, while The Atrium has a nightclub, a pub and two cinemas for night owls. The Chequer Mead Art Centre has a 320-seat theatre. One of East Grinstead’s attractions to commuters is that its station is at the end of the line, so there is no danger of going to sleep and missing your stop.
There are some pretty, old buildings in the centre of the town, including 14 hall houses in the High Street. Particularly handsome is Sackville College, a Sussex sandstone almshouse with high chimneys, quadrangle and gardens, which has been converted for sheltered housing. Otherwise there is a wide range of housing, mainly on modern estates. Cheap starter homes and flats cost between £100,000 and £120,000. A three-bedroom Sixties’ semi would cost £260,000; a larger, modern mock-Georgian four-bedroom house will fetch over £350,000.
Two manor houses outside the town are put to strangely contrasting uses. Saint Hill Manor, to the south, is the headquarters of the Church of Scientology. Gravetye Manor is one of the best small country house hotels and restaurants in Britain. For fishing, sailing and walking there is Weir Wood Reservoir. To the south is Ashdown Forest, where the countryside becomes very beautiful. Here you come up on to the High Weald, where you find some of the last remaining heathland in the south-east.