Copthorne was, until the latter half of the last century, regarded as an area rather than a particular village. Copthorne Common was one of several large stretches of waste land along the borders of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.
The name, Copthorne, means ‘the place of the pollarded thorn tree’. Apart from the farmers living beyond the edge of the Common, the population would have been largely transient. The need for these people to live off their own wits inevitably led to a degree of lawlessness which, locally, became notorious! There are stories of smuggling, (Copthorne seems to have been a distribution point for goods being brought up from the coast), and for prize fighting. Copthorne Common is now locally known to be divided into two; the Upper and Lower Commons. The Lower Common, south of the village, is used by Copthorne Golf Club as a golf course. The Upper Common belongs to Copthorne School but remains open to the public.
Copthorne initially developed at a road junction, but the main impetus for the growth of the village occurred on Copthorne Bank where the school and church were built around The Green during the 19th century. The village developed further in the 1950s, but it was following the release of housing land in the 1965 Village Plan that extensive residential development took place.
Although the character of the village is derived mainly from its landscape rather than its architecture, it has several attractive buildings, in particular a 17th century farmhouse, now part of the Copthorne Hotel.