The Parish of Lower Beeding
Lower Beeding is a small village in West Sussex, lying to the east of Horsham. It includes
most of the area of the former St Leonard's Forest and is surrounded by farmland and
woodland. Previously in the Parish of Upper Beeding, the Parish of Lower Beeding was
formed in 1838, to resolve disputes between Magdalen College, Oxford, and local landowners
over tithes. Lower Beeding Villagers were angry at the lack of church provision and the
distance they had to travel for marriages and burials. Bewbush tithing was however excluded
from the new parish and remained parochially part of Upper Beeding until 1871. A Chapel of
Ease, St. John’s, Coolhurst was established in 1838 and the parish church, Holy Trinity in
Lower Beeding was built in 1839. The living was at first a perpetual curacy, but in 1866 a
vicarage was established, the first incumbent called vicar being instituted in 1883. The
advowson of the new living was settled on Magdalen College, which sold it in 1861 to W. E.
Hubbard of Leonardslee, from whose family passed it over to the Bishop of Chichester in
1922 or 1923. (ref: British History online)
Lower Beeding parish contains former royal hunting grounds, as well as St Leonard’s Forest,
where legend says a dragon hid in ancient times. The forest is a rich source of local folklore.
Leonardslee, a 33 hectare estate alongside the A281, is a spectacular Rhododendron
garden, planted in 1887 and regularly opens to the public. The parish, the largest in area in
the Horsham District, embraces the hamlets of Plummers Plain and Crabtree, each of which
has its own distinctive attractions. The forest area was much used by the Romans and the
Tudors who exploited its rich iron ore resources. There are two Hammerponds which were
created in the 16th Century to provide water to drive the smelting forges.
The 2001 census showed a population of 1001. (ref: Horsham.co.uk)
St John’s Church
St John’s Church, Coolhurst is situated on land belonging to the Coolhurst Estate. It was
consecrated in 1839. It was built by Charles Scrase-Dickins of Coolhurst.
Much of the interior woodwork was made from trees grown on the Coolhurst estate.
There is a private burial area to the west of the church owned and maintained by the
The stone for the roof came from a blacksmith’s shop in Slaugham which was demolished
in 1837 and extensive restoration of the roof was undertaken in 1975. The reredos, or
altar piece, was given to the church in memory of John Aldridge by his wife and children
after his death in 1880. It is a triptych, a three-panelled picture showing Jesus with the
disciples at Emmaus, flanked by the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist with
his Gospel and chalice in the panels either side.
St John’s Church contains some fine stained glass. Particularly notable is the east window
with its 13th Century style medallions by Ward and Hughes, circa 1860. The two windows
on the south wall, depicting the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus and St John the
Evangelist were installed in about 1899 and are the work of Charles Kempe, one of the
finest Victorian stain-glass makers. A Kempe Society exists to protect and preserve his
work. Kempe’s tomb is in Chichester Cathedral, as he was born in Sussex and died in
In 1889 St. John’s was completely restored and the chancel added from designs by J.
Oldrid Scott at the cost of £3,300.