History of The White Hart

Henfield in West Sussex is a thriving old country village with a variety of shops in the High Street, historic buildings, fine churches and delightful walks in superb countryside. Brighton is just eight miles away and Devil’s Dyke, with its panoramic view of the sea and the South Downs, is just a few miles south. The lovely market town of Horsham lies a few miles to the north.

The Civil War to Victorian Coaching Inn

The White Hart started life as a hostelry and coaching point in the early 1600s and in 1647, during the English Civil War, the Commissioners for the Survey of the Manor of Henfield met there.

That was the year in which the discontented soldiers of Oliver Cromwell marched on London to protest at their conditions and lack of pay. The Civil War (1642-1651) was a time of unrest for the people of Henfield, as in all areas within a reasonable distance from London

Henry Bysshop (1606-1692) lived at Parsonage House, Henfield, and was appointed Postmaster General by the newly-restored King Charles II in 1660

Henry Bysshop (1606-1692) lived at Parsonage House, Henfield, and was appointed Postmaster General by the newly-restored King Charles II in 1660[/caption]
Henry Bysshop (1606-1692) lived at Parsonage House, Henfield, and was appointed Postmaster General by the newly-restored King Charles II in 1660One of the local dignitaries who frequented the White Hart at that time was the owner of Parsonage House, Henry Bysshop (1606-1692). His brother Edward was a Royalist prominent in the failed campaign of 1642 to capture Lewes for the king. Parliamentarians occupied Henfield and Henry is said to have hidden in a secret cupboard at Parsonage House to escape arrest. He later fled to America but returned to England in 1645, pledging allegiance to Cromwell.

Writer JB Morton, “Beachcomber” of the Daily Express, was also a White Hart regular in the Thirties and Forties when he lived at Potwell House in Cagefoot Lane (former home of botanist William Borrer).The late Sixties singer Adam Faith, another celebrated Henfield resident, was also a White Hart visitor.
More recent celebrities have included Sussex cricketer Chris Adams.

Cricket was first played on Henfield Common in 1764, making it the oldest cricket pitch in England. In 1687 the first Henfield Common spring fayre took place. Today a summer fayre takes place every two years in July.
The White Hart was a focal point of Henfield as it grew from a small village on the route from Horsham to Shoreham to a leading residential area served by railways and, much later in the 1960s, Gatwick Airport – a 20-minute drive away.
In the early 1900s a giant RAC sign denoted the White Hart as a popular stopping off point for the few motorists then around – in the days when the horse and cart were still the most common form of transport.

Recent renovations have uncovered centuries of different types of building work which have been left exposed in the North Bar of the White Hart as you enter from the car park doorway.
It is another historic feature that will draw the casual visitor back to savour the delights of this charming old English pub.

When King Charles 11 was restored to the throne in 1660, Henry Bysshop was made Postmaster General for three years. He introduced the postmark to England (once known as Bysshop’s Mark), proof of when a letter has been despatched.

William Borrer, the celebrated Henfield Botanist (1781-1862) born on Barrow Hill and later resident of Potwell House in Cagefoot Lane. His daughter Fanny married the Rev Charles Dunlop, curate of Henfield from 1837 and vicar from 1849.[/caption]

Among other famous Henfield residents who have been regulars at the White Hart over the centuries have been William Borrer (1781-1862), the famous botanist who introduced so many varied trees to the village – including the famous Red Oaks (after which the residential home is named). He was also a world expert in lichens. The garden of the house he was born in on Barrow Hill (where he planted and recorded 6,600 species of plants) is where Mill Drive and Cedar Way Estate are now. Borrer later moved to Potwell House in Cagefoot Lane.

His son William Borrer Junior (1814-1898) carried on botany and natural history work. He was a noted taxidermist and hunter, recording many incidents of shooting exploits, including grey partridges on Henfield Common and hawks (now protected) on the South Downs. He moved to Cowfold where he set up a museum at Brookhill House, noted for a massive collection of birds’ eggs – later given to Brighton Museum.

Charles Dickens is said to have visited the White Hart in the mid-1800s, possibly for meetings with one of the literary personalities who lived in the area – or one of his journalist friends from when he was editor of a London newspaper and also a Parliamentary reporter.
Later famous people who were regulars at the White Hart included Prince Littler, the theatrical impresario, and Admiral Oliver, Beachmaster for the Normandy Landings, both buried in Henfield Cemetery.