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Why East Grinstead?

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Why East Grinstead?

Post by Ivan on Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:27 pm

East Grinstead is an unremarkable town straddling the A22 in West Sussex, close to the borders of East Sussex, Kent and Surrey. The infamous Dr Beeching, who slashed Britain’s railway network in the 1960s on behalf of the Tories, lived in East Grinstead, but the town’s only real claim to fame is its Queen Victoria Hospital, where plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe treated burns victims in World War Two.

In 1994, a documentary entitled ‘Why East Grinstead?’ was produced for Channel 4. It tried to find an explanation, but reached no definite conclusion, for why a town with a population of not much more than 20,000 was home to a remarkably high number of diverse religious and spiritual organisations.

So what exactly is there in East Grinstead? The Church of England has four places of worship in the town and Roman Catholics have one. There is a Baptist church, a Methodist church and a United Reformed church. There is a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses and a meeting house for the Latter-day Saints (Mormons). There is also the New Life church, the Kingdom Faith church and the Full Gospel church.

That’s quite a lot, you might think, for a small town in a country where only a minority of the population attends places of worship, but we haven’t finished yet. The Opus Dei Prelature has a conference centre near the town and Rosicrucians also have a presence. The London England temple of the Latter-day Saints is just over the Surrey border, and the United Kingdom (and former world) headquarters of the Church of Scientology is on the south-western edge of East Grinstead. (Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, lived in the town until 1967.)

So why East Grinstead? Here are some thoughts:-

- East Grinstead is located on the Greenwich Meridian. Perhaps that’s important to some religious groups, I’ve no idea. However, towns such as Cleethorpes and Boston in Lincolnshire, Royston and Ware in Hertfordshire, and Oxted in Surrrey are also on the Greenwich Meridian but don’t seem to have attracted such a diverse range of spiritual organisations.

- During the brief but bloody reign of Mary Tudor (1553-1558), Anne Tree, Thomas Dunngate and John Forman were burned at the stake in East Grinstead because they wouldn’t renounce the Protestant faith. In Lewes in East Sussex, another town on the Greenwich Meridian, seventeen Protestants were burned at about the same time. However, Lewes isn’t renowned for being a hotbed of religious activity (although an effigy of the Pope is burned ever year there on 5 November), so I doubt if these martyrs have any significance in turning East Grinstead into such an attraction for all shades of religion.

- One interesting theory arises from the local presence of ley lines. They are alleged alignments of a number of places of geographical and historical interest, such as ancient monuments and megaliths. It’s been suggested that these alignments were created for ease of overland trekking by line-of-sight navigation during neolithic times and had persisted in the landscape over millennia. In 1969, the writer John Michell associated ley lines with spiritual and mystical theories about alignments of land forms, drawing on the Chinese concept of feng shui; he believed that a mystical network of ley lines existed across Britain.

- Did American sects such as the Mormons and Scientologists just settle for a fairly prosperous and not too populated area only ten miles from Gatwick Airport and thirty miles from London?

- One possible explanation offered in the ‘Why East Grinstead?’ documentary was that religious leaders had settled there because they liked the views! East Grinstead is located in the Weald and is close to the Ashdown Forest, where the Winnie-the-Pooh stories were set, so there is certainly some attractive scenery in the area. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the most plausible!

Maybe it was a combination of several of these ideas? Any thoughts?

Main source used:-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Grinstead

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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by trevorw2539 on Thu Dec 27, 2012 6:20 pm

Don't think that religions are particularly interested in the Greenwich Meridian. Most 'major' churches were established in East Grinstead before the GM was established universally 120+ years ago. Before that most countries had their own Prime Meridians. Only when transport progressed and the need for an universal standard became evident was GMT established internationally.
Many of the 'minor' churches are off shoots of mainstream churches. We also have the Salvation Army.

The town I live in now is about the size of East Grinstead. In its extended form it has 8 CofE churches, an RC Church, 2 Baptist churches, 2 Methodist, various 'New life' etc churches, a Pentecostal church, Seventh Day Adventist, Kingdom hall and a Quaker hall.
Oh. There's an athiest church called the 'Black Pig'. Open for services within licensing hours. Confessions heard after 'last orders please'. Wink

I know of no church that is interested in 'ley' lines before establishing a branch, even if ley lines have any significance in spiritual terms.

Mormons first 'started' in this country in the middle 19th century. That was in Lancashire. At one stage there were more Mormons in the UK than in the US! They also have a Temple at Chorley in the North.

I would suggest that the proximity to London was the prime reason for the Mormon Tabernacle.

That Hubbard was acquainted with East Grinstead would no doubt have helped. He spent 2 years in London before establishing his global headquarters at Saint Hill. And with the money he received he could well afford it.
I think 'Gatwick' was not destined to be London's second airport until the 1950's, though in operation as an airport before (military in the war).

The views of Kent and East Sussex, with their rolling wooded hillside, and lovely villages, thatched roofs are indeed beautiful.

But then I'm biased. I was born in that area - in Kent. I lived and worked in East Grinstead for 3 years. I used to know the area like the back of my hand.

Ah. Modernisation. What a destroyer of beauty. Country lanes full of cars, lorries, unsightly roadsigns.

Just my views Rolling Eyes
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Ivan on Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:35 pm

trevorw2539. Thanks for that interesting and thoughtful response. Some years ago, I worked in East Grinstead for eight weeks. My lasting impression is of one long traffic jam if you try to enter the town from the north. I also know Kent well; my sister lived in Gillingham (not one of the prettiest parts of the county) until she died just two weeks ago.

The idea that ley lines might be important to some religious groups came from the ‘Why East Grinstead?’ documentary. If the concept is comparable to feng shui, then it might have some significance, but I agree that it seems unlikely. I also agree that the Greenwich Meridian probably isn’t a factor.

Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead became the global headquarters of the Scientologists in 1959, and the building of the Mormon temple near East Grinstead commenced in 1955, so the proximity to Gatwick Airport could have been a contributory factor in why that area was chosen by both groups. (As you said, the Mormons built a second UK temple in Chorley, but not until 1998.)

Perhaps the East Grinstead religious phenomenon came about because that area is pleasant, had plenty of available land and is not too far from London or a major airport. Or maybe, as Cole Porter wrote in 1935, it was “just one of those things”.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by trevorw2539 on Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:59 am

I agree that Gatwick could be a factor. Another point is that the East Grinstead Temple is called the 'London Temple' and is responsible for LDS work in the south/midlands of the country, plus Wales and some overseas areas. Easy access to London and the country's rail network may have been another factor.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Dec 29, 2012 12:31 pm

East Grinstead made a remarkable contribution during WW2, as the site of a burns unit run by Sir Archibald McIndoe treating the hideous injuries of RAF aircrew.
Despite the injured pilots heroism, there was a general feeling that the public would not have been able to handle their physical appearance in normal day-to-day circumstances. Two good friends of McIndoe - Neville and Elaine Blond - assisted in developing more community help and support for the pilots so that they did not feel ostracised from the very people they had been helping to protect as fighter pilots. The Blond's persuaded some families in East Grinstead to accept into their homes as guests the recovering pilots at the hospital. Gradually more and more families agreed to help thus bringing the pilots more and more into the town's community.

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/archibald_mcindoe_and_the_guinea.htm
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Ivan on Sat Dec 29, 2012 12:53 pm

East Grinstead made a remarkable contribution during WW2, as the site of a burns unit run by Sir Archibald McIndoe treating the hideous injuries of RAF aircrew.
I did refer to East Grinstead’s only claim to fame in the first paragraph of the opening post on this thread. All very worthy stuff, but I can’t see how it helps to explain the apparent religiosity of the town and its locality.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by trevorw2539 on Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:59 pm

Oftenwrong. It still does.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 08, 2013 8:02 pm

Another son of East Grinstead has made a name for himself being the Sunday Times' political commentator on the US, where he now lives. Andrew Sullivan is what we would describe as a Conservative, but has no time at all for Republicans, which makes his blog required reading.

Google "The Dish" for a flavour of his writing.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jan/06/daily-dish-andrew-sullivan?amp;per_page=50&orderby=oldest
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by stuart torr on Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:32 pm

Hi Ivan, in response to your opening post, and the queen victoria hospital which was famous for its treatment of burns. I do not believe that it was just our lads from the raf that were treated there, but also it treated american pilots and german ones too. This maybe where you get such a cross section of religions from, not directly from the pilots, but families and children taught to follow their parents beliefs. It certainly is very interesting why this particular place should have so many religious outlets.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Bellatori on Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:00 pm

The OP reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago about the University of Cambridge Classics Tripos finals. The students arrived for the last examination. A three hour philosophy exam and opened the paper to find one question... WHY?. The only person to get a first (so the story goes) sat for five minutes, wrote two words and walked out...

So I give the same repost....

WHY NOT?!

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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by stuart torr on Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:21 pm

Well Bellatori a place is a place is it not?
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Dan Fante on Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:22 pm

Bellatori wrote:The OP reminds me of a story  I heard a long time ago about the University of Cambridge Classics Tripos finals. The students arrived for the last examination. A three hour philosophy exam and opened the paper to find one question... WHY?. The only person to get a first (so the story goes) sat for five minutes, wrote two words and walked out...

So I give the same repost....

WHY NOT?!
I've heard that loads of times. Laughing It has to be apocryphal but I would love it to be true.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Shirina on Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:57 pm

Yeah, why not East Frownstead? Or even East Smirkstead. *shrug*
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Bellatori on Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:16 pm

Dan Fante wrote:
Bellatori wrote:The OP reminds me of a story  I heard a long time ago about the University of Cambridge Classics Tripos finals. The students arrived for the last examination. A three hour philosophy exam and opened the paper to find one question... WHY?. The only person to get a first (so the story goes) sat for five minutes, wrote two words and walked out...

So I give the same repost....

WHY NOT?!
I've heard that loads of times. :lol:It has to be apocryphal but I would love it to be true.  
The other similarly apocryphal story about degrees from cambridge concerns a Professor of Music. Apparently he used to take the finals papers up to his office on the fifth floor of his department after a particularly good evening meal and wines. He would then throw all the papers over the stair rail outside his office. Those that fell to the floor below got firsts; those that fell to the third floor got upper seconds and so on and those that fell to the ground floor failed. It was said that he claimed that once upon a time he actually marked them but this was quicker and no one had ever complained...

"Historically, the University of Oxford awarded fourth-class honours degrees and, until the late 1970s"... I taught at a public school in South Croydon for a few years (before I got a proper job!) and one French Teacher had a 4th from Oxford. Shocked At a review it was suggested that he went to France and learned the language. Only a Public school could have a French teacher who could not speak French worth a damn Very Happy 

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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:50 pm

We all know people who can speak French, until they get to France.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Bellatori on Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:57 pm

oftenwrong wrote:We all know people who can speak French, until they get to France.
As every Englishman knows all you have to do is say the same thing in english with a silly accent and very loudly and slowly... bloody johnny foreigner should be able to speak english anyway Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy 

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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by stuart torr on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:45 pm

That's what the French say about us too Bellatori.Laughing Laughing Laughing 
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by bobby on Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:52 pm

Its a shame they now refuse to be a foreigner in their own country isn't it?
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Bellatori on Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:21 am

I had to laugh the other day when I saw the list of the ten biggest French cities. Apparently #5 or #6 is London Very Happy 

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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Dan Fante on Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:45 am

Bellatori wrote:
The other similarly apocryphal story about degrees from cambridge concerns a Professor of Music. Apparently he used to take the finals papers up to his office on the fifth floor of his department after a particularly good evening meal and wines. He would then throw all the papers over the stair rail outside his office. Those that fell to the floor below got firsts; those that fell to the third floor got upper seconds and so on and those that fell to the ground floor failed. It was said that he claimed that once upon a time he actually marked them but this was quicker and no one had ever complained...

"Historically, the University of Oxford awarded fourth-class honours degrees and, until the late 1970s"... I taught at a public school in South Croydon for a few years (before I got a proper job!) and one French Teacher had a 4th from Oxford. Shocked At a review it was suggested that he went to France and learned the language. Only a Public school could have a French teacher who could not speak French worth a damn Very Happy 
He did go to Oxford though Laughing 
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Dan Fante on Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:47 am

Bellatori wrote:I had to laugh the other day when I saw the list of the ten biggest French cities. Apparently #5 or #6 is London Very Happy 
Similar to Melbourne being the third largest Greek city (iirc). Not that there are a lot of large cities in Greece.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by Ivan on Fri May 02, 2014 11:28 pm

I’ve now read that the Anthroposophical Society, which believes humans can contact spiritual worlds, has a base to the south east of East Grinstead. It’s an organisation based on the writings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) and was founded in Switzerland in 1913.
 
So why East Grinstead? Dr Amanda van Eck, the deputy director of ‘Inform’, which looks into minority religious movements and spiritualities, concludes: “It’s close to London, has lots of large, unusual properties and a tolerant, genteel population.”
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat May 03, 2014 11:27 am

".. a tolerant, genteel population."

Exactly like "Cutting Edge", of course.
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Re: Why East Grinstead?

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