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1575: Cuckfield Park built by a wealthy ironmaster

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

Cuckfield Park from the east in 2015

In Margaret Holt's account. in the Spring 1993, Bulletin of the Wealden Iron Research Group Newsletter, we learn from former owner of Cuckfield Park a little about its history. Malcolm and Margaret Holt owned the property at Cuckfield Park in the 1970s. Margaret was a keen historian and actively researched the Cuckfield area and was very active in expanding the activities of the Cuckfield Museum.

The situation of the Cuckfield Park mansion is delightful and spectacular, the house set on rising ground with long views southward to the lakes below; a splendid avenue of redwood limes leads from the road to the diminutive brick built gatehouse of two stories, with four octagonal angle turrets lighted by bullseyes and round headed loops. One of the turrets contains an early 18th Century clock and a lead cupola encloses the bell; the wooden dial has only one hand and faces the house.

The house was also built in brick but when the south wing was added in Victorian times the facade of the old building was covered in stucco to match the new work. The front is symmetrical with a central two storied porch, the windows have wooden mullions and transoms and in the roof are five dormer windows with large cornices and gabled heads.

As well as the Victorian wing the house was added to in the 17th and 18th centuries, on the north and west, now forming a small central courtyard and enclosing the tall extension, or 'vice', which contains the staircase. The staircase rises from the ground floor to the attics without diminution; it is of the 'open well' type with massive newels, moulded heads and pendants, turned balusters and a high, moulded hand rail.

The magnificent screen in the morning room

Most of the ground-floor and first-floor rooms are panelled in oak of 16th century date and a magnificent Renaissance screen divides the Hall from the Morning Room; this has fluted shafts, Corinthian panels and high-relief carvings of beasts, allegorical figures, the Arms of Bowyer and Vaux together with a cartouche dated 1581.

Elizabeth, Henry's wife, was the only daughter of Thomas Vaux, Controller to the Royal Household of Henry VIII, a man of great position and wealth. There are also many excellent examples of 16th and 17th century firebacks still in situ in the fireplaces, traditionally from the Bowyer ironworks.

The porch leads into the hall which has a superb Elizabethan plaster ceiling with a remarkable series of armorial bearings and insignia of the families connected with the house and Manor, together with the Royal Arms of Elizabeth I as Henry Bowyer was in charge of her ironworks in Ashdown forest.

Henry died in 1589 and in his will he refers lovingly to his wife, making provision for her to continue to live in 'these landes were I have builded my new dwelling house in Cuckfield Park’, The estate then passed to his son, another Henry, who was knighted and, in 1600, became MP for the Rape of Bramber. In the late 17th century it devolved to a grand-daughter who decided to sell the estate and in 1693 it was bought by Charles Sergison, Commissioner of the Navy and Clerk of the accounts, a post he held through three reigns, William III, Queen Anne and George I - a period of forty years. The Sergison family owned the estate and Manor House for nearly 300 years before it was purchased by its present owners.

by Margaret Holt

From the Spring 1993, Bulletin of the Wealden Iron Research Group Newsletter.

External house view by 'Antiquity' a public domain image

Contributed by Malcolm Davison. With thanks to Wealden Iron Research Group


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