Alfriston is an ancient village set amongst the South Downs in East Sussex, only four miles from the chalk cliffs of Seaford. It stands where an ancient ridgeway, used by prehistoric man, crossed the River Cuckmere, which today is part of the long distance walk, the South Downs Way. It has a peaceful, timeless atmosphere, almost untouched by modern life.
The narrow high street winds south from the small square, which contains an old market cross, the only one to survive in East Sussex. This commemorates the market granted by Richard I. Many of the buildings are medieval. The Star Inn is one of the oldest in England, dating from the 15th century. An outstanding feature is its magnificently carved woodwork. At one corner stands a large red lion, formerly the figurehead of a 17th century Dutch ship. In the 19th century, The Market Cross Inn was the headquarters of the Alfriston gang of smugglers led by Stanton Collins. He was eventually transported to Australia for sheep stealing.
The Village Store dates from the 19th century and still has the original 1891 counter. The Flint Tower in the car park is a village mystery. Its original purpose is unknown. Suggestions include an ammunition store, a fish curer, a lead shot furnace or even later, as a play house.
If you drive straight through the village, you will miss the glory of the Tye, the village green and St. Andrew’s Church, known as the “Cathedral of the Downs”, which can be found down narrow lanes off the main street. St. Andrew’s Church stands on an ancient Anglo-Saxon mound and dates from the 14th century. It has a central shingle spire in the form of a Greek cross. The church’s marriage register is probably the oldest in England, as it dates from 1504.
On the edge of the Tye, stands the 14th century Clergy House. It was bought by the National Trust in 1896, the first building to be acquired by the Trust. It is a pre-Reformation vicarage. This half-timbered and wattle and daub building has been restored, as far as possible, to its original state, including a clay floor and soot blackened timbers.