Clearing with heather © Will Frost

Clearing with heather

Headley long ago

The name Headley, ‘Hallega’ in old English, means a clearing with heather. There are three villages named Headley in South-East England and they’re all in acid heathy areas, perfect conditions for heathers.

Headley can trace its origins back many years. It was part of the Copthorne Hundred, an administrative division devised by the Saxons.

The Manor of Headley is listed in the Domesday Survey of 1086 and it was held by Ralph of Felgeres. Previously, the manor was held by Countess Goda (the mother of King Harold) and it was granted to her by King Edward the Confessor.

At this time the heath would have been used for grazing animals and collecting furze, bracken and firewood by the villagers.

Lords of the Manor

Purley Plain Headley Heath © Kenneth Scowen

Headley’s Lord of the Manor granted various rights to his tenants. These were granted many years ago and continued to around 1965.

Find out more about Headley's Lords of the Manor

Headley at war

Purley Plain - home to a secret during the war © Will Frost

Like so many other rural places in Southern England, Headley played its part in defending our nation. The Canadian Army trained on the heath, as did other troops.

Find out more about Headley at war

Did you know?

Follow our map © National Trust

  • After the war, films were shot on the heath, including Albert RN
  • Devasting fires in 1956 burnt half of the heathland
  • Aspen, Bellamoss and Brown ponds were created in the 1970s

Looking after Headley

Fundraising and looking after Headley

Fundraising and looking after Headley

In the early days a local committee was formed to manage the heath and raise funds for its maintenance. The heath was very run down when the War Office derequisitioned it in 1948.

Today the Friends of Headley Heath continue to raise funds, and we work together to protect this beautiful area for all to enjoy.

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