Public Rights Over Crowborough Common

This community guide sets out the facts about Crowborough Common and the public’s historic right, granted in 1906, of free access to all 222 acres of the town’s largest and finest green space - an unrestricted right to roam.

The authoritative source of information on this matter is Crowborough Beacon Golf Club’s (CBGC) official history book: ‘The Life and Times of Crowborough Beacon Golf Club 1895-1995’.

The club published the book in 1994 to celebrate its centenary.  Earl De La Warr wrote the foreword.

Click here to view key pages from 'The Life and Times...'

Below are questions and answers about the public's rights with quotes from ‘The Life and Times…’ and CBGC’s website:

When did CBGC acquire the common?

They leased it for several years and then, in 1906, Earl De La Warr offered the common for sale for £750. As the book states: ‘Earl De La Warr indicated that he was prepared to make the transfer for this sum subject to certain conditions.'

What sort of conditions?

Horses could only be ridden on bridle paths, for example, but the key condition was that the public would have the right of free access. CBGC’s website (2008 archive) states: '...the committee acquired the Manorial Rights of Alchornes Manor [Crowborough Common] from the Earl at the price of £750. However, one of the Earl's conditions of sale was that the public were not to be excluded from the area.'

How did CBGC feel about the Earl insisting the public had access?

Mixed feelings it seems – these conditions are cast in stone. As CBGC say in their book: 'Perhaps in the future we might regret that we could never own the land and keep out the public…’

‘…we could never own the land and keep out the public ’ – that’s very clear, isn’t it?

Yes - never means never. The public will always have full access as this right can’t be revoked or extinguished.

CBGC had taken a lot on, hadn’t they?

Yes they had – as it says in the book: ‘Being Lords of the Manor gave substantial rights, but also responsibilities to commoners, property owners on the Manor and to the public at large.'

No regrets then?

No, the golfers enjoy their game and the public enjoy their rambles and dog walking.  Considerably less than a quarter of the common is golf course so there is space for everyone. 

CBGC sum it up in their book: 'Having the Manorial Rights is a hugely important asset to the Club…these rights have to be exercised with good sense and in a spirit of sharing with a public whose rights to air and exercise are not in doubt.'

Final question - why are people concerned about the new signs?

In a bizarre attempt to force walkers off the common CBGC recently declared that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) governs the common.  

This has backfired badly - Defra, East Sussex County Council and Natural England have all confirmed that CRoW does NOT govern the common – but it seems CBGC are too embarrassed to remove these misleading signs…  

Ironically, the De La Warr public access rights override CRoW in any event.

Click here to view pages from 'The Life and Times...'
Click here for a map of Crowborough Common
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