1865: Rights and Privileges of Cuckfield people are under threat!

Updated: Mar 19


Sussex Advertiser - Tuesday 19 September 1865


CUCKFIELD. Interference with the Rights and Privileges of the People.


—A correspondent writes as follows:— Cuckfield fair was held as usual Saturday, and there was an assemblage of shows and stalls; but there seems to be an inclination to put down or curtail the privileges of this very ancient institution, on the ground that there is no charter authorising its existence.


Now, I find on referring to a manuscript deposited in the parish records, that in the year 1271, a charter was granted by John, Earl de Warren, in the reign of Edward I., authorising the inhabitants of Cuckfield to hold a market for the sale of grain, etc, on Fridays; and at the same time, the Earl authorised, according to the Court Rolls, the holding of two fairs in the town and manor of Cuckfield, to wit, on the Thursday Whitsun week, and on the 16th of September, for the sale of horses, cattle, swine, sheep, goods, ware and pedlary, which fairs were to last for two days, the Lord of the Manor being entitled to receive from every person exposing goods for sale the sum of one penny, which is called the “show penny," and one penny extra from every person who breaks the soil for the erection of a stall or booth, or for any other purpose connected with the rites the fair.

Cuckfield High Street circa 1870

This was called the "pitch penny," thus giving the right of a “penny pitch and penny show" to the lord. The impost has been sedulously exacted by the reeve or beadle of the Manor for 594 years, and the custom kept up, and on this occasion Mr Clarke, reeve of the manor, gathered the ‘'toll," which was cheerfully paid. On Saturday, as well as on former occasions, Superintendent Akehurst and the police under him paid the utmost attention in directing the keepers of the stalls and shows where and how to pitch their establishments, so as not to impede the thoroughfare or stop the traffic; but even this appears to have failed to satisfy Walter Wyndham Burrell, Esq., for although the ground was measured and twenty-five feet scope, with forty feet sweep, allowed opposite the armoury, a removal was demanded. But this was not acceded to further than a few inches, with which he was obliged to he satisfied.


However, it was not until evening that the strongest objection was put in, when Mr. Butler, a very respectable man, and chemist, of Redhill, well known among the farmers and others around here, having paid his toll to the reeve, was selling his medicines at the corner of the Brewery lane, when Mr. Burrell came along and ordered him to remove his “pitch,” which merely consisted of an upright, on which he had placed his box.


This he refused to do, and high words ensued in which not very choice epithets were used but the “pillman” turned out more than a match for the magistrate, claiming his right and holding it, but telling Mr. Burrell that had he politely requested him to remove he would have done so but was not to be driven.


It caused a good deal excitement and confusion. I make these remarks on account of the popular feeling expressed, the public being determined to uphold their rights and privileges, to which they are entitled by long usage and custom, this being a chartered town, and the Lord of the Manor alone has the right to uphold or suppress the fair.


Although the business of the market is transferred to Hayward's Heath, the custom is still kept up, on Friday evenings, by the farmers who meet to smoke their pipes and talk affairs over; but the Whitsun fair has been in disuse for some years. It will be seen another year, if the September fair is put down or not but I answer in the negative.”

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