Very few, if any, crimes of world-wide notoriety have been associated with the town of East Grinstead, but it has been the scene of events, both civil and criminal, which have excited considerable local interest and which will bear re-telling in brief form.
The old records tell us that, in consequence of the deplorable condition of the roads in Sussex, the Winter Assizes were held alternately at East Grinstead and Horsham and the Summer Assizes at Lewes, the county town, but this was by no means a fixed rule, for reports are still obtainable of cases tried at Assizes held in East Grinstead during the months of summer. On July 7th, 1565, the Charter of Seaford was exhibited before the Judges here, and Assizes were also held on June 17th, 1678.
The Court House stood in the High Street, the Middle
Row at one time forming one end of an almost continuous
line of buildings, which joined the four cottages, known
as the Round Houses, formerly standing on the site now
occupied by the Constitutional Club. At the Lent
Assizes in 1684 the floor of the Court gave way while
a trial was in progress, and in Sir William Burrell's
collection of manuscripts this event is thus described by
Mr. Bachelor, who appears to have been at that time
a surgeon of East Grinstead:—
On the 17th of March, 1684, the second day of the Assizes, a jury being sworn, consisting mostly of Knights and gentlemen, on a trial between Lord Howard and another person of distinction, the floor of the Nisi Prius Court fell down, and with it all the jury gentlemen, counsel and lawyers into the cellar; yet no person received any considerable injury except one witness, who was cut across the forehead. The bench where the Judge sat fell not, but hung almost to a miracle. The rest of the trials were held in the Crown Court, and the Sessions House was soon after quite pulled down.
The building was, however, immediately re-erected, principally at the cost of the "burgage holders"—or, in