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Subject: Mid Sussex, Haywards Heath, Crawley, Bev Lyon, Balcombe drilling protest
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Balcombe village centre
Balcombe is located in West Sussex
 Balcombe shown within West Sussex
Area  21.05 km2 (8.13 sq mi) [1]
Population 1,765 [1] 2001 Census
   – density  84/km2 (220/sq mi)
OS grid reference
   – London  31 miles (50 km) N 
Civil parish Balcombe
District Mid Sussex
Shire county West Sussex
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district RH17
Dialling code 01444
Police Sussex
Fire West Sussex
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Horsham
Website Balcombe Village
List of places
West Sussex

Balcombe is a village and civil parish in the Mid Sussex district of West Sussex, England. It lies 31 miles (50 km) south of London, 16 miles (26 km) north of Brighton, and 32 miles (51 km) east north east of the county town of Chichester. Nearby towns include Crawley to the north west and Haywards Heath to the south south east.


  • History 1
  • Rail transport 2
  • Oil exploration 3
  • Villages 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The name Balcombe may mean "Mining Place Camp". Bal is a Cornish word meaning a mining place as in Bal Maidens, and the same word may have existed in Ancient British Celtic. Although Coombe or Combe can mean a valley, it can also come from the Roman "camp".[2] So possibly from its name Balcombe could have once been a Romano-British mining settlement.

South of Balcombe on the London to Brighton railway line is the Ouse Valley Viaduct. Designed and engineered by John Urpeth Rastrick (1780–1856) in consultation with the talented architect David Mocatta, it was completed in 1842.[3] It is 100 feet (30 m) high and 500 yards long. It has 37 arches and was built with 11 million imported Dutch bricks.[4]

The village has a series of murals about World War I in its Victory Hall. Lady Gertrude Denman commissioned artist Neville Lytton [5] to paint the thirty-four feet (10 m) long by ten feet (3 m) high frescoes. The murals were featured on a television programme about the war in 2005.

Balcombe was the birthplace of Colour Sergeant (later Lieutenant Colonel) Frank Bourne DCM, who fought at the battle of Rorke's Drift in the Zulu War. He was the last British survivor of that battle when he died in Dorking in 1945.[6] Famous residents included actor Paul Scofield.

The River Ouse was once navigable from the south coast to Balcombe, for the delivery of Dutch bricks to the viaduct.

Rail transport

The village has a railway station which lies just north of Haywards Heath on the Brighton Main Line. Balcombe railway station helped expand a predominantly farming community into one of the popular London commuter villages. The station offers direct services to London and Brighton. To the north of the village is Balcombe tunnel.

Oil exploration

Test drilling and possible fracking for petroleum[7] deposits was proposed in 2012. A protest group was formed and a picnic was held. There was considerable opposition in the local population to exploration plans. Cuadrilla Resources, the company that proposes to drill the well, engaged in public relations efforts attempting to convince villagers that the project was both useful and safe. Previous exploration by Conoco in the same area in 1986 was abandoned.[8] In July 2013 a license to drill the well was granted by the Environment Agency and Cuadrilla began transporting equipment and supplies to the test site. The well would be 3,000 feet (910 m) deep with a possible 2,500 feet (760 m) horizontal leg. As of August 2013 Balcombe had emerged as a focus of opposition to fracking in the Weald Basin of southeast England and vigorous protests were in progress.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

In March 2014, a group of residents set up a renewable energy co-operative called REPOWERBalcombe, with a view to healing the rifts that emerged during the protests.[18] REPOWERBalcombe aims to match the village's domestic electricity demand with community owned solar power.[19]


Other villages within the parish include Balcombe Lane.


  1. ^ a b "2001 Census: West Sussex – Population by Parish" (PDF). West Sussex County Council. Retrieved 1 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Mitchell, Bruce (1995). An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.  
  3. ^ Hollingsworth, J. P. (2009). Old Balcombe. Catrine, East Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing. pp. 1–3.  
  4. ^ Snow, Jon (September 2008). "Brave New World". Saga Magazine: p.61. 
  5. ^ Huxley, Gervas (1961). Lady Denman, GBE 1884-1954. London: Chatto& Windus Ltd. p. 132. 
  6. ^ Rorke's Drift, Adrian Greaves, Cassell, 2003, See also 1861 Census for Balcombe.
  7. ^ Stanley Reed (7 August 2013). "Goals Collide in Drilling Protests". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Stanley Reed (May 24, 2013). "British Villagers, Fearing Fracking, Protest Plan for Drilling". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ Jan Goodey (Undated, but July, 2013). "The UK's anti fracking movement is growing". The Ecologist. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  10. ^ Geoffrey Lean (June 28, 2013). "Fracking faces tough foes in leafy Sussex Shale gas and oil may hold the key to Britain’s energy troubles – but not if grassroots protesters have their way". The Telegraph. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ Robert Booth (July 25, 2013). "Anti-fracking protesters halt Sussex shale gas operation: Activists in Balcombe block lorry carrying equipment for drilling operation that is due to start next week". The Guardian. Retrieved July 25, 2013. 
  12. ^ Robert Booth (July 26, 2013). "Anti-fracking activists arrested at West Sussex drilling site: Police remove protesters blockading Balcombe site where energy company Cuadrilla is looking for shale oil". The Guardian. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Fracking Demo: Police Arrest 18 Protesters: A dozen people have been charged after scuffles at an anti-fracking protest in the village of Balcombe, West Sussex.". Sky News. July 27, 2013. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  14. ^ Jon Henley (July 30, 2013). "Fracking protest: who's who in the battle of Balcombe?: The campaigners lining up against the exploratory shale-gas well in West Sussex are a surprisingly disparate bunch, including a pop star's daughter and a former page 3 model". The Guardian. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 
  15. ^ Peter Walker (August 1, 2013). "Frack Off protesters bring a little fire engine trouble to Balcombe oil site: Fracking firm's work at West Sussex drilling site brought to a halt after activists locked themselves to vehicle parked outside gates". The Guardian. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 
  16. ^ Stanley Reed (16 August 2013). "Shale Gas Company Suspends Drilling in Southern England". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  17. ^ "Fracking protesters gather for six-day camp as Balcombe drilling suspended: Cuadrilla scales back operation on advice of police, with up to 1,000 more campaigners expected in West Sussex". The Guardian. Press Association. 16 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  18. ^ Lonsdale, Sarah (July 2, 2014). "Balcombe: divided by oil, saved by solar power". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "'"Balcombe: 'now everyone's working towards the same goal. Channel 4 News. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 

External links

  • Balcombe History Society
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