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1822: Cobbett rides through Cuckfield

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

William Cobbett, National Portrait Gallery

Sussex Journal: Through Croydon, Godstone, East-Grinstead, and Uckfield, to Lewes, and Brighton; Returning by Cuckfield, Worth and Redhill

Extract from Cobbett's diary:

Kensington.Friday, January 11, 1822

Came home by the way of Cuckfield, Worth, and Red-Hill, instead of by Uckfield, Grinstead and Godstone, and got into the same road again at Croydon.

The roads being nearly parallel lines and at no great distance from each other, the soil is nearly the same, with the exception of the fine oak country between Godstone and Grinstead, which does not go so far westward as my homeward bound road, where the land opposite the spot just spoken of, becomes more of a moor than a clay.

Though there are oaks, they are not nearly so fine as those on the other road. The tops are flatter; the side shoots are sometimes higher than the middle shoot; a certain proof that the tap-root has met with something that it does not like.

William Cobbett, Rural Rides (Letchworth: Temple Press, 1932)

Portrait: Wikimedia public domain image.

Who was William Cobbett?

William Cobbett (9 March 1763 – 18 June 1835) was an English radical pamphleteer, journalist, politician, and farmer born in Farnham, Surrey. He was one of an agrarian faction seeking to reform Parliament, abolish "rotten boroughs", restrain foreign activity, and raise wages, with the goal of easing poverty among farm labourers and small land holders. Cobbett backed lower taxes, saving, reversing commons enclosures and returning to the gold standard.

He opposed borough-mongers, sinecurists, bureaucratic "tax-eaters" and stockbrokers. His radicalism furthered the Reform Act 1832 and gained him one of two newly created seats in Parliament for the borough of Oldham. His polemics range from political reform to religion, including Catholic emancipation. His best known book is Rural Rides (1830, in print). He argued against Malthusianism, saying economic betterment could support global population growth.


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details


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