Merrie Harriers, Cowbeech (geograph 2012327).jpg
Cowbeech is located in East Sussex
Location within East Sussex
Population280 [1]
OS grid referenceTQ6190214466
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBN27
Dialling code01323
FireEast Sussex
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
East Sussex
50°54′25″N 0°18′05″E / 50.906970°N 0.301375°E / 50.906970; 0.301375Coordinates: 50°54′25″N 0°18′05″E / 50.906970°N 0.301375°E / 50.906970; 0.301375

Cowbeech is a small village in the civil parish of Herstmonceux in the Wealden district of East Sussex, England. Its nearest town is Hailsham, which lies approximately 3.8 miles (6.1 km) south-west from the village.

The village

The village has a pub with 16th Century origins, The Merrie Harriers.[2] It is also home to the Cowbeech Bonfire Society,[3] a Charitable Trust which organises a series of events each year to raise funds for local causes. These events include, among others, the village show (called Dig for Victory[4]) and a pantomime[5] in addition to the annual bonfire which gives the Society its name.


The name Cowbeech was first recorded in 1261 as Coppetebeche, referring to a ‘capped’ or pollarded beech tree, also recorded as Kopped(e)beche in 1296 and 1316. This was then shortened over the years to Coppebeche (recorded in 1517 and 1534), Cobbeach (recorded in 1622) and then to Cobeech (recorded in 1724), before taking its contemporary form of Cowbeech.[6]

The village was once a site of Wealden iron production. Cowbeech Forge (otherwise known as Crawle or Cralle Forge) stood alongside Hammer Lane, close to where it intersects with the Cuckmere River and produced iron between 1559 and 1693. In 1653 the forge was casting shot for the Office of Ordnance.[7]

Before 1826, when the village pub was renamed The Merry Harriers, it was known at different times as The Old House or The Cow.[8]

A conveyance document from 3 October 1417 transfers lands and tenements at Cowbeech in Wartling (Coppedebeche, Wortlynghe) from Thomas de Hoo, knight to Thomas Huchon of Uckfield (Ukkefeld), to Thomas Werm for the rent of a red rose at midsummer for Thomas’ life. This document makes reference to Stephen Synderford, William Stodenne, and Richard Stodenne whose family names live on in the Cowbeech area today as Cinderford Lane and Studdens Lane.[9]

Notable people

Lord Shawcross, Britain's Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials of 1945–46, lived at Cowbeech in the latter part of his life.[10]

Elsie Bowerman, first woman barrister to appear at the Old Bailey, suffragette and RMS Titanic survivor, moved to a house at Cowbeech Hill following the death of her mother and lived there until her own death in 1973.[11]

The Merrie Harriers inn was once owned by Sir James Duke, 1st Baronet, British Liberal Party politician who was Lord Mayor of London in 1848–1849.[12]


  1. ^ "Cowbeech population data".
  2. ^ "Merrie Harriers, Cowbeech". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Charity Details". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Step back in time at Dig For Victory". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Success at Cowbeech panto". Sussex Express. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  6. ^ "The Place-Names of Sussex, Part 2 (EPNS 7)". 1930. Archived from the original on 5 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Wealden Iron Research Group". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  8. ^ "The Sussex Advertiser". The Sussex Advertiser. 27 November 1826. The Old House, at Cowbeach, once the sign of the Cow, (and noted, not indeed for its Supply of milk, but for the sale a certain genuine extract, now very rarely to be met with) has been recently re-opened under the sign or designation of The Merry Harriers, and at which last week, the House-warming Dinner Served up to all the principal persons in the neighbourhood, is reported to have been such would have done credit to the larder and culinary department the first Tavern in Brighton. ((cite news)): Check |archive-url= value (help)
  9. ^ "Conveyance in tail male". The Keep. East Sussex County Council. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Farewell to Lord Shawcross". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  11. ^ "English Women's History". Archived from the original on 3 June 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  12. ^ Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service". Retrieved 5 April 2018.