Lost: a village called Balsdean.

Toby drew our attention to a feature in The Guardian of 23rd May 2020 on Historic Ghost Villages by David Bramwell which briefly mentioned Balsdean, the hamlet which used to be just over the top of Kingston Hill down towards Woodingdean, on the outskirts of Brighton.  It was taken over by the military in 1942 and subsequently all its buildings, which included two farm-houses and some labourers’ cottages, were demolished. Also destroyed were the remains of a Norman chapel, which had been deconsecrated and turned into a farm building.

Grasscut: Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair. Photo: Source: andrewmfry

Bramwell mentions in an album 1 inch: ½ mile by the Brighton band, Grasscut  (consisting of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair –https://grasscutmusic.com/about/ ). This is accompanied by a map of Balsdean with a walking route. As you walk the route you can listen to a sequence tracks each related to a different stage of the walk. The map can be downloaded here.

Stuart Maconie (BBC 6Music) described the work as ‘pastoral psychedelia’. By an amazing example of random chance, a person with the same name as the journalist, David Bramwell, is credited as contributing words and vocal on one of the tracks, and playing the violin on another.

The article finishes with bit of tosh about Balsdean being a ‘ cold, strange place’ and we are warned to be wary of spectral figures in the vicinity.

Having said that, I ran through Balsdean just before end of the recent drought (6th June 2020) when the ground was parched. Where there had been the Georgian farm house and farm labourers’ cottages, the dry conditions had produced ghostly outlines of the foundations of the lost buildings on the dry ground.  I should have taken photos as evidence.

Balsdean Manor House in 1920s . Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilion and Museums, ref. HA930078.
Balsdean today: Balsdean farmhouse used to on the left just after the crossroad

David Cuthbertson’s presentation is a must if you are interested in how the Downs around Balsdean fared during World War II  https://southdownhill.com/2020/01/05/ww2-kingston-near-lewes-presentation-1940-1945  

One snippet from Cuthbertson’s presentation is how during World War flame-throwers were concealed in the banks of Ashcombe Lane (which today connects the village of Kingston to the A27 Brighton road) to impede the enemy advance in the event of an invasion. It added a completely new dimension to the concept of traffic-calming.  

One thought on “Lost: a village called Balsdean.

  1. Thanks for the link to my blog. It is currently just a place where I put random stuff about some of my historical research about the downs between Woodingdean and Kingston, including Balsdean. It is somewhere for me to think outloud. One day I might make it more user friendly.

    Interesting fact for runners who use the Snake Pass between Balsdean and Woodingdean; locals used to call it the German Road for it was constructed at the end of WW1 by German prisoners of war. The farmer was an engineer and entrepreneur – his new road had a gentle gradient to enable him to drive his new fangled motor cars to Balsdean.


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