Places of Interest
On the South Downs above Clayton village, is the famous landmark of the Jack and Jill windmills.
Jill is the white post mill (post mills were located on a central pivot and the mill was turned then able to be turned into the wind by horse or man power).
Jack is the black smock mill (a smock mill is named after the farmer’s smock shape of its base). Jack windmill is now a private residence, and the mill is currently undergoing restoration.
Jack mill was built in 1866 and continued working until 1927 when, in a thunderstorm, the sails of the mill were hit by lightning. The mill then spent many years as a derelict structure, but in 1973 a film company looking to use Jack as a setting for the film The Black Windmill, starring Michael Cain, arranged to have sails put back on and the mill re-painted.
There is a small visitor’s car park, off the A273 Brighton Road, in Mill Lane. It is operated by Mid Sussex District Council.
Oldland Windmill is an 18th century post-mill situated just north of Hassocks. It has been carefully restored over a number of years by an enthusiastic group of volunteers.
The mill is open to the public on certain days of the year. For full details, including the history of the mill and public events, click on the link above.
Ditchling Beacon at 813 feet is one of the highest points on the South Downs and another famous landmark. This beacon formed one of a chain of many others which were lit to warn of the arrival of the Spanish armada. More recently the beacon was fired to form a national chain as part of the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The views and walks from the Beacon repay the effort of the climb. There is also a car park for visitors.
The village of Clayton is situated just to the south of Hassocks and lies under the South Downs escarpment. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The Clayton church of St.John the Baptist , is a Grade 1 listed building
which dates from the 11th-12th century, and has been added to over the centuries. It is a fine building of Saxon origin and worthy of a visit to see the remains of wall paintings that were completed by early monks.
In the 17th century the paintings inside the church were lime washed by puritans. It was not until restoration of the church in 1893 that workmen chipping off plasterwork noticed the paintings underneath.
In 1963 the paintings were further restored to their present condition.
Visible from the A273, London to Brighton road is the Clayton Tunnel North Portal. This was built just after the London to Brighton railway was finished in 1841. Rumour suggests that the farmer would only sell the land to the railway company on condition that the portal was built by them with an ornate, castellated entrance.
Clayton Tunnel is the longest tunnel on the London to Brighton railway line which was built in the 1840’s costing £90,000.
The north portal to the tunnel is a unique local landmark. Constructed to resemble a fortress, with turrets and arrow slits it appears that trains are going through the entrance to a medieval castle! The building is now a private residence and is sometimes open to the public when the owners participate in the Brighton & Hove Open Door event.