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1415: Was Sergison Arms a gun depot?

Postcard of Sergison Arms c1975

Sussex author Thurston Hopkins in his book 'The Lure of Sussex', makes some observations about the Sergison Arms and Muster Green which contradict the idea that the green was related to the Civil Wars:

One feels space has a history, and one is entitled to feel no. It most have been named from the fact that soldiers who were recruited and impressed mustered at this spot.

Probably it was used* when Henry V [1386 – 31 August 1422] was rounding up men to fight in France [1415]. Or again it might also have been a depot for guns which were being manufactured by the ironworks for Henry V, in view of the fact that he was the first king to use guns and gunpowder on a large scale. To the north of Haywards Heath, around Tilgate Forest and Ashdown Forest, something like twenty forges were working; and the guns would be dragged by horses to a convenient spot to await the King's wagons to carry them down to his ships. That spot, we may hazard, may have been Muster Green.

Once it became a 'depot', an inn would be required, thus we expect to find the Sergison Arms exactly where it is. The inn itself goes back a good five hundred years, we may be sure, but it was certainly re-built and rechristened by the Sergison family at the close of the seventeenth century, when they came into possession of Cuckfield Park. Dilating on Muster Green, Mr Hopkins states that Dolphin Fair was held here, and pigs and cattle were sold.

... An interesting event at the Sergison Anns was the annual venison feast, it being the custom of the Lord of the Manor to give the landlord a fat buck to feed his customers with. This continued until the Sergison family sold the house. The venison feast was always preceded by a hare hunt, and hares could then be found in the neighbourhood of Muster Green. He reproduces Mr AR Pannett’s opinion that 'many of the old place-names of Haywards Heath have degenerated into modern names which are quite meaningless' - for instance, in the name of Boltro Rood we find all that is left of Bull Trough Form.

from Mid Sussex Times, 11 December 1928

* Guns were used to damage defences at the Siege of Harfleur at the beginning of the campaign rather than at Agincourt. Check out this excellent video by leading expert Dr Dan Spencer of Southampton University demonstrating an early cannon at the Royal Armories, Fort Nelson. From our previous article on ironworks in Cuckfield, we would add that there is no evidence of gun manufacture in Cuckfield, however cannon balls were made.

Photo: the cream Mini Countryman is almost certainly the author's!

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


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