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History of Cowden

Cowden comes from the Old English ‘cū’ meaning ‘cow’ and ‘denn’ as ‘woodland pasture, especially for swine’; therefore, a ‘woodland pasture where cows are kept’. The Textus Roffensis records Cowden as Cudena. 


The Romans built the London-Lewes road across what is now the garden of Waystrode Manor. The first owners of the manor received it from King John in 1208.

Cowden parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. The Normans built the church, although Gilbert Clare, Earl of Gloucester, rebuilt it late in the 13th century, and added the chancel in the 14th century. However, the bell turret and south porch did not appear until 1418 when Robert Burford cast and hung a bell. An unknown founder cast another bell in 1584, with John Wilnar adding a tenor in 1635 and John Hodson a treble in 1654. The first clock on the church tower arrived in around 1652. In 1742, the ill-gotten gains of Joan Wickenden paid for the installation of the ceilings amongst other repairs. Thomas Mears added a bell in 1791. John Whichcord added the north aisle in 1838. In 1884, the architect W O Milne carried out a major restoration.


Crippenden Manor, built around 1607, once belonged to the ironmaster, Richard Tichbourne. In 1649, Robert Tichbourne, presented a Londoners' petition to the House of Commons, in favour of the execution of Charles I. As one of the Commissioners, he prepared the way for union with Scotland in 1651. Cromwell knighted him in 1655 and made him a peer two years later. Although, arrested and condemned to death after the restoration, they commuted the sentence to imprisonment in Dover Castle and later the Tower of London where he died, in 1682.


In the reign of Henry VIII, the iron master dammed up the stream, known as Kentwater, at Scarletts to create ponds for the supply of power to the iron furnace. Henry required the iron for cannons, which were test fired over the pond into the bank at Holtye Common and Rogers Town. The iron industry fuelled the furnaces with wood and, therefore, had an impact on the areas woodlands as it did employment in the village.