Steyning High Street

The High Street is a combination of the ancient and modern with shops and houses mingling together, providing an intriguing mix of architectural styles and building materials including timber framed walls and Horsham stone roofs.

It is a thriving shopping and commercial centre with supermarkets, banks and the like alongside specialist independent retailers. It also hosts the famous “mini mall” known as Cobblestone Walk which has won several awards for innovation as a centre for small and start up retail and service businesses of all kinds.

The free (2hrs with free disc available from all local shops)High Street car park is a good place to start a tour of the street, all of which falls within the Steyning Conservation area. It is impossible to list all the many features and buildings but a few “highlights” are mentioned below. For those more keenly interested, there are a number of useful guides and books available from Steyning Bookshop and some from the library.

The car park itself was once a garden belonging to the White Horse Inn and used as a bowling green until the early 20th C.

Look across the street to the Clock Tower above the Old Market House, a building that served that purpose when the market was held in the High Street but which has since had many uses. In 1655 George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, addressed a Quaker meeting there. For a while it was the Town Hall, later the Police Station and then the Fire Station. The old Fire Bell notice is still preserved on the wall.

The clock itself was given to Steyning in 1860 by the Duke of Norfolk on the demolition of his country mansion at Michelgrove near Arundel.

As you walk down the High Street the first building on your left is a chemists and is a fine example of a 16th C timber framed building of the continuous jetty type. Old Cottage at no 69 is another fine timber framed building, once a forge. No 75, “Box House”, dates from around 1750. Once used by the Duke of Norfolk as a base for hunting. His “shooting box”; hence the name.

On the opposite side of the street is another timber framed building, nos 90-92 dated at around 1500 and one of Steyning’s oldest buildings.

As you reach the junction with Tanyard Lane, on your left is Chanctonbury Cottage, a picturesque timber framed building with a thatched roof and set well back from the road. Oxen were once shod here with shoes made in the smithy which stood opposite.

If you turn left just past the modern Fire Station into Sir Georges Place continue past a row of cottages on the right originally built for workers at the Tannery in Tanyard Lane. “Sir George” was Sir George Breach, the owner. A little further on your right, as far as the footpath, you will reach Court Mill, now an imposing private residence. The Mill itself was one of Steyning’s four water mills. If you go a little way along the footpath you will get a glimpse of the old water wheel which was made in about 1900.

Then take the footpath to the right at the style and you pass the beautifully thatched roof of Mouse Cottage. This has a builder’s mark on it dating it to1684. Turn right into Mouse lane. Here you find some more old cottages. On the left near the corner is a building known as Workhouse Cottages divided into three. This is an excellent example of the 15th C type of timber framed house called the Wealden. You are now at the junction with the High Street on a somewhat dangerous corner so be careful! The corner building opposite was once the George Inn, one of 14 pubs at the time!

Walk back up the High Street until you come to a twitten on your right. At the other end of the twitten turn left into Charlton Street. Almost immediately on your right is a little path to The Memorial Playing Field. This boasts a beautiful backdrop of the South Downs and provides recreational space for cricketers, footballers, kite flyers and more

Continue along Charlton Street past no 23 “The Soldiers Return”, another former pub. Opposite is the headquarters of Steyning Athletic Club. You will see where you are as you soon reach the rear of the High Street car park. Cross the car park and turn right past the HSBC Bank.

The Chequer Inn was an important posting stop on the London South coast run and in the late 18th C hid its mediaeval timber with a brick façade to provide a more attractive frontage for its fashionable travelling trade. The fine wrought iron bracket and sign made by Sussex craftsmen is a great feature of the High Street.

About 50 yards on past some more timber framed buildings you reach the White Horse Hotel, Steyning’s other old coaching inn. The original building suffered a disastrous fire in 1949 and the present building is an adaptation of the stables and outbuildings.

Of interest on the other side of the street are several old carriage entrances, some with nicely carved brackets supporting beams. Further along is the post office, another old timber framed building which belies its interior. The curious little face carved on one of the beams is an interesting feature. This, together with the former butcher’s shop next door, was once the Swan Inn. Note also an old mounting block for horsemen on the pavement at this point.

Next to Barclays bank is a building with a plaque over the door saying “Town Hall 1886”. In that year a public hall was built behind the front building and was used until the late 1950’s when it was converted to the Magistrates Court, since converted again in the 1990’s to private housing.

On the opposite corner at the junction with Sheep Pen Lane is Stone house, which, apart from St Andrews Church, is believed to be the oldest building in the town. Its flint lower storey dressed with Pulborough stone being probably early 14th C. The upper storey being 16th C. It has been used as a woollen cloth market and as a prison. Coins found locally support the theory that it was originally the site of a Saxon Mint.

Finally, for the more adventurous, a detour into Sheep Pen Lane and back into the Lower High Street via Dog Lane is interesting as is Jarvis Lane the next turning on the left going away from the High Street junction with Church Street.