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1850: Haunted brewer's home

The former brewer's home called 'Hill Rise'

This fascinating information was supplied by Mrs Joan A Freeman* formerly of Hove in June 1981 to Peter Holtham of the Sussex Archaeological Society and kindly passed to me by Dr David Muggleton author of 'Brewing in West Sussex'. It concerns the brewer's house called 'Hill Rise' on the southern corner of Ockenden Lane.

[*Joan Audrey Pace was the Cuckfield daughter born 1907 of the proprietor of the clothing business on the corner of Ockenden Lane].

We will be publishing a timeline and history of The Talbot which will give more information about the Cuckfield Brewery which was set up by Tom Best, who also built his private residence 'Hill Rise'. Originally it didn't incorporate shops and is built on the site of the old 'King's Head Inn'.

Pace clothing shop seen to the left c1910

I would think that 'Hillrise' was built c1850 and I believe the first tenant after the brewers was a Mr Best later of Moonhill near Anstye.

My father must have gone there c1895 as far as I know. It was an interesting house and it had 70 doors and windows with wine cellars running under the whole house which one could enter in the house and come up a flight of steps with a heavy iron bar grill beside it. I presume to do with the barrels.

There was a very wide hall sloping down to a large dining room with beautiful carved doors and a tremendous grey marble fire place with a basket grate with hobs either side - all very handsome.

Leading from this were French windows into a delightful green house where there had been a small water mill on a bank of greenery and heating pipes. At the end of this another door, opening into a fair sized garden and turning right was another door leading into what had been a bird aviary, quite large.

1903 De Dion Bouton

Continuing through the garden was an opening which led on to large asphalt space where my father had two garages built, one by the garden and the other at the top opening onto Ockenden Lane. As he was crazy about cars this contained his first car which I believe was a De Dion Bouton - many of these followed.

Also on the ground floor was a large kitchen and a butler’s pantry, also a toilet and outside it a built in hand wash basin. There was a front, side and back entrance to the house. Going up stairs one turned to the left through a door to a separate wing, where there was one huge bedroom and a bathroom heated by the kitchen range which had a boiler.

There were five other bedrooms apart from the one that was shut away with a bathroom. It is a wonderful house [we played] hide and seek - my brother [Ed: Eric Hillyard Pace who was two years older] and I and our maid [Alice Mary Chatfield? born 1892] - as downstairs there were several winding passages all leading back to the one kitchen via the butler’s pantry.


Pictured in the 1920s

My father and I always thought the house was haunted (occasionally) as we both heard footsteps and things were disturbed in the top garage but no sign of break in.

Also when I was playing the piano and the door was shut I could hear a sound and I saw the door handle turn, I was so scared I jumped out of the window into the road. This was several times when I was alone in the house for an hour or so. The strange part was that my mother and brother heard nothing, only father and I.

[Could this be 'Geranium Jane' the ghost from the King's Head that was formerly on the site?]

Of course I didn’t mention another toilet upstairs with really good mahogany fittings and shelves. There was another toilet outside the back door. The front door was in Ockenden Lane and opened into a square hall.

Around the year 1930/31 my father re-built and designed everything - building a hair dressers in part of the garden, then a post office (still in use 1981) then I believe now there is an estate agents and another shop on the comer.

In Ockenden Lane there is a small house taking up the north east back corner all very difficult to explain as you can image but all built with special Horsham stone and every detail done with great care. Incidentally the west of the original house was covered in ivy. It was very solidly built and must have looked very attractive around the 1850’s. My father bought the house from the brewers eventually.

A second letter from Joan dated October 1981

Yes 'Hillrise' was the brewer’s residence and the actual brewery I have now learnt it was at the back of our house where the Galleries are now [Spice Village now].

When we lived there, there was a house but after we left the family died and moved and it was changed to the Gallery. There was a high wall separating our garden from the house. The yard at the side was a bit left over I suppose **?? used.

Long before my time there was apparently a King's Head Inn on the site of our house but as our house was built around 1880 … If you proceed up Ockenden Lane there is a short turning to the right and I understand there were stables there for the brewery horses.

Dates from the 1911 Census

From letters by Joan Audrey Freeman (née Pace) written in 1981 answering questions about the brewery site.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


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