Postcards from home: East Grinstead’s Chequermead water tower

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Lockdown has presented most of us with a renewed appreciation of our local area. Each week we’ll be sharing messages from staff, volunteers and members. Our director, Matthew writes from Sussex:
The view from my work station at home is dominated by East Grinstead’s Chequermead water tower – designed in Perpendicular gothic style and topped with a flagpole. The tower is now Grade II listed, but drew criticism from the SPAB when first proposed in the years immediately before WW1. Our quite reasonable concern was that, if built of brick as planned, the tower would harm the setting of nearby Sackville College almshouses (founded 1609, now Grade I listed and still in use) and its Georgian parish church, St Swithun’s. Both these buildings are constructed of local sandstone.
The water tower was eventually put up in 1914 with sandstone used for its walls. This fits well within the town and has allowed the structure to become a cherished local landmark, visible from miles away across Winnie the Pooh’s Ashdown Forest. The tower became redundant years ago, but after several abandoned re-use schemes it was very successfully converted to a house. Its owner – a local builder who carried out the conversion work – now lives there with his extended family. For his grandchildren it must be like living in a castle, but they are currently released from its walls to take their daily exercise in the adjacent car park, created from the playground of the former Chequermead school – now an arts centre.
Photos of the watertower in 1922 and 1993 kindly supplied by East Grinstead Museum.

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