The seeds of the development of Slinfold were sown by the Saxons who arrived in the fifth and sixth centuries. In Sussex they first of all settled the coastal plain and the band of Upper Greensand along the scarp foot of the Downs, both very fertile areas. They also settled the Downs themselves which were more easily worked than the heavy, tree-covered, clay soil of the Weald. The Weald, however, played an important part in the Saxon economy, providing resources which were not available immediately round the settlements to the south. Groups of settlers tended to use particular areas of the Weald and some of these early connections are preserved in place-names. For instance Clemsfold (which was earlier known as Clympsfold) would have been used by the people of Climping.
As settlement in the Weald increased, the large and somewhat ill-defined tracts of Wealden land which had been used by the southern estates in early Saxon times had by the ninth and tenth centuries become smaller, more precisely defined, units. Each coastal and downland settlement had its own area of the Weald to the north which provided it with woodland pasture and a source of timber and firewood. These Wealden outliers could be separated from the parent settlements by a distance of anything up to twelve miles. Many of the earlier connections indicated by place-names were lost as patterns of exploitation changed.
There was limited settlement prior to 800 AD in the area which became the parish of Slinfold, as is indicated by the place name Lydwicke. This came from the Saxon hlith wic, meaning a farm on a concave hill slope, and just such a slope can be seen near Lydwicke. After 800 such topographical names were no longer used so precisely.
Scattered settlement took place throughout the area, each farm being surrounded by its own separately enclosed fields. Since settlement took place in a piece-meal fashion over time, in many areas large tracts remained as commonly-held wood pasture, and these were used by the local people as a place to pasture their animals and also as a source of fuel.
There was one such area of common land where now the village of Slinfold lies. Two roads came into this common, the present Park Street from the west and Lyons Road from the east. The Tithe Map of 1843 shows a line of field boundaries running from Park Street across to Lyons Road and it is most likely that there was a track here connecting the two roads and also defining the southern edge of the common. There was also a third road coming from the north, Clapgate Lane. This opened out into a funnel, which is a typical feature of a road entering common land. It was on this funnel-shaped piece of land that the original church was built c. 1100. The track connecting Park Street and Lyons Road fell out of use as the curved road connecting these roads to the church became dominant.
The building of the original church encouraged the gradual development of the village. By around 1500 the settlement was predominantly a farming community with, surrounding the church, a cluster of small farms, Nibletts, Rowfold and Windalls, and one larger farm, Old House. The farmhouse for Nibletts became the Kings Head, now the Red Lyon, which is the oldest surviving building in the parish, dating to c.1400. The site of the original Windalls farmhouse is Clapgate Cottage, which was rebuilt in the 1860s as cottages for farm labourers. The Old Bakery/Old Post Office was the farmhouse for the third small farm, Rowfold. This contains within it an open-hall house of about 1450. The present Old House Farm was built around 1650 and replaces an earlier building on the same site. There were also two artisans’ properties, Collyers and the dwelling replaced by Stanford House, each with about one acre of land attached to the house. These would have been occupied by craftsmen who supplemented their income by growing a crop of hay or corn upon their plot of land and possibly keeping an animal or two. Also in existence by this time was the Rectory. This was rebuilt in the 1830s and is now a private dwelling known as Ironwood House.
During the later sixteenth century several smoke-bay cottages were built. These no longer had a large area open from floor to rafters with smoke drifting up from the hearth on the floor and blackening the roof timbers above with soot. The smoke-bay was a narrow bay some three to four feet wide which was open from floor to rafters as the open hall had been, but the smoke was now confined within a small area. The smoke was further restricted as it was usual for one side of the bay to be partitioned off to form an entrance lobby which sometimes also contained access to the first floor. One smoke-bay cottage which lies to the north of the church at the entrance to Clapgate Lane is Churchyard Cottages. This was built as a single dwelling, later divided into two, then extended to form three cottages and finally returned to being just one property.
Chewton is another smoke-bay cottage. The rear range of Slinfold House is also smoke-bay cottage. The western end of this abuts an earlier timber-framed bay belonging to Cherry Tree Cottage, the front range of which has been encased in brick.
Further late 16th century development took place. One of the two properties replaced by Holdens dates to this time, as does Little Hammers, which started life as an outbuilding.
There appears not to have been further building within the village until the second half of the 17th century. Chapel Cottage was built around 1660 as a three-bay cottage with a central chimney. And Star Inn House, formerly White Briars, dates to c. 1680. This was purpose-built as the Weeping Eye alias the Star, taking over from Chewton, which had up to then functioned as an alehouse of the same name.
The village then remained remarkably static until the late 18th century. Hall Land was built in 1796 and was initially known as Tanyard House, the tanyard occupying the area to the west of Collyers, running up to the stream dividing its plot from Hall Land farm. Also dating to the late 18th century are Peppercorn Cottage and Saddlers. These appear to be a semi-detached pair of cottages, which is indeed what they are now. However, the two parts are not mirror images and were used for different purposes. The building is divided unequally, the northern part, now Saddlers, being the larger. This was always a dwelling. Peppercorn Cottage had just one room on each floor, with a cellar below, and appears to have been built as a store rather than a dwelling.
There was a rapid expansion in the 19th century, and during the hundred years from 1800 to 1900 Slinfold grew from a hamlet into a village. 3 & 4 Church View were erected early in the century, Stanford House dates to 1808 and Taylors to the late 1820s. Windalls was built by Edward Child in 1828 for his son Thomas on his marriage. Stone Cottages were built as parish cottages in 1835. Forge House dates to c. 1839 and the Old Forge was operating as a forge by 1841, replacing the earlier forge on the land on which Holdens was erected. Forge Cottage was built in the 1850s. Chapel View dates to 1878, being built by Thomas Ayling. Church House and South Lodge (in Clapgate Lane) were also built by the Aylings to a very similar design. Regency House was built around the same time. York Cottage dates to the early 1890s. The village’s amenities also increased during this century with the building of the School in 1849, the Chapel in 1878 and the Village Hall in 1881.
The 20th century has seen the infilling of vacant plots with the building of Little Platt in the 1950s, Birchwood in 1959, High Trees and what is now the Rectory in the 1960s. Padora-Nibletts at the beginning of Hayes Lane was also erected in the 1960s. To the north of Padora is Candleford, which was converted from an earlier outbuilding and dates to the 1970s. Garden House, behind Slinfold House, is the most recent, being built in 1979.
Most people are unaware that there used to be a small open area in the centre of the village. Slinfold House, together with the Old Bakery/Old Post Office and the Red Lyon have all had later extensions built in front of the original timber-framed dwellings. And gardens have been enclosed, taking more of the earlier open area. Before the later extensions and the gardens were created there would have been a small, but useful village green. Slinfold House faced on to this green, which explains why it was built sideways on to the road.