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1882: A Cure for 'prigging' in Cuckfield

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 17 October 1882


To the Editor of The Mid-Sussex Times.

Sir,— Your remarks in a recent issue on the number of petty thefts at Haywards Heath, and suggestion that it would be advisable for the householders to become their own watchmen was to the purpose, and is equally applicable to the town of Cuckfield as well, and probably other places in the district.

There can be no complaint made of the want of vigilance on the part of the police, for if they were as strong again in number as they are they would be incompetent to detect the depredators who rob the gardens, or the mischief-loving sparks who have lately become an intolerable nuisance in this neighbourhood, and who out of spite, or from an inherent propensity for mischief, in the dead of night, destroy or injure their neighbours’ property, having no fear of being caught in the act by the bobby, whose motions they closely watch, and with whose beat they are intimately acquainted.

Cuckfield High Street c1890s (photograph courtesy of Cuckfield Museum colourised)

It was several years since, prior to the establishment of the rural constabulary, when the town was left to the mercy of a parish constable, whose duty was to do as he pleased, and not trouble himself with any kind of public interference beyond the service of summonses, or, it might be, frighten a set of mischievous boys bent on pilfering a turnip-field, an apple-orchard, or occasionally put some troublesome vagrant in the stocks, that these petty offences became unbearable, upon which the young men of Cuckfield formed themselves into a “vigilance corps,” and by detecting a few of the petty thieves and despoilers of property, who were punished or fined, put an end to the nuisance.

Now, what I should suggest is, that in order to assist the police, something of the kind should be established both at Haywards Heath and Cuckfield, and arranged so that, acting with the police, no kind of communication should supposed to exist between them. It would not be what most people detest —a system of espionage but merely a confederation to protect their own property, and that of their neighbours, conducted of course in secrecy, and with circumspection; nor would it an onerous duty to perform, if rightly managed.

It would be premature to suggest any plan of procedure, but it might be advisable for the inhabitants of each place most deeply interested to consult on the subject, and establish a nightly patrol, to be taken in turns, and appoint a committee to regulate the proceedings, and a small subscription would cover the expenses.

I am, Sir, yours obediently,

SENEX. Cuckfield,

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