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1882: Local demands action to provide playgrounds for children

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 17 October 1882



To the Editor of The Mid-Sussex Times.

Sir,— The season for hoop driving among the boys always arrives about this time of year, they having an understood system of allotting the time of commencing and changing their outdoor amusements.

It is an innocent and healthful exercise, and should be encouraged under proper restrictions. Not so strict certainly as that laid on the bicycle riders, for they do not come upon you as it were by stealth, as noisy fellows little by force of lungs and the rattle of their hoop sticks give notice of their approach; but it is in the public street they ought to be restricted from driving.

Child poses with iron hoop and hoop stick c1890

We have in Cuckfield the National School, to which is attached the Infant School; and the British Schools at the Independent Chapel, to which a host of boys and many girls come from the country as day scholars, the boys with their iron hoops and the girls with their wooden ones, and yet neither of these schools have a playground, or at least any open space that can be so termed, the consequence of which is that during the recreation hours, from twelve to two, they throng the street, and by driving their hoops up and down the town hill cause considerable annoyance and danger to travellers.

It is by no means pleasant for elderly persons, or ladies, passing up the pavement to be met at the sharpest part of the descent by half a dozen iron hoops coming down furiously upon them, some of them at a pace beyond the control of the drivers, to the imminent danger of broken shins or a fall. And on the main road, perhaps, there are as many more charging down the hill to the danger of riders or drivers proceeding in an opposite direction on horseback or in vehicles.

The schools clear out at four o’clock in the afternoon, and the girls and boys from the country are gone, but the boys of the town are left, some of whom may be classified as street Arabs, and keep the game going during the evening, ready to abuse and even throw stones if interfered with, and if one of them is caught and corrected for his insolence, away he runs home blubbering, and tells mother a terrible tale, that either brings down upon the transgressor who has struck her child a volley of abuse, or it may be a summons for an assault.

I do not wish in any way to curtail the amusement of the rising generation, or see it done, for, according to the old saying, “we were boys ourselves once,” and carried out our games as they are now, but restricted in a great measure from doing so in the street; and through the kindness of the late Mr Webber, who then occupied the Laines Farm, we were allowed to use the old Church meadow, now laid out as the burial grounds and garden plots, as a playground after haying was over; but now the lads, who must be allowed scope for recreation and healthy games, are driven into the street after cricketing is done, which Major Sergison allows them to practice in the park during the season, having only a small plot at the back of the White Hart Inn on which they can congregate.

The conductors of the school cannot be blamed for what the boys do when off their hands; but driving hoops in the street might be prohibited and it be made compulsory to provide recreation grounds, even if some few garden plots should be confiscated, and for the dissenting schools in Station Road a slice of meadowland might be given up.

AN OLD INHABITANT Cuckfield 6th 1882

for more on hoop rolling in history please click the link below....



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