1888: A trip to Brighton 233 years ago


Rowlandson's painting of Cuckfield Fair 1789

This extract From Thomas Rowlandson’s ‘Sketches on the road’ dated 1789 featured in The Graphic in 1888 relates to the 'An Excursion to Brighthelmstone' - and his route through Cuckfield :


Crawley is the second stage from Brighton, its ‘George,’ as drawn by Rowlandson, and the ‘Rising Sun’ there are here held two annual fairs, for ‘oxen, horses, sheep, and toys’. On one of the beams of the ancient oak roof of the church is carved the legend.


Man yr wele be war: forwardly good maketh man blyude,

Bewar for whate comyth behinde.


Beyond the incidents introduced by the artist, our travellers found nothing at Crawley ‘particularly worthy of notice’; and the route was resumed past Hand Cross, Staplefield Common, and the ‘Jolly Tanner’, Slough Green, and the ‘Ship’ inn, until their post-chaise reached Cuckfield, where they took note of the Free Grammar School, founded in the reign of Oueen Elizaheth; and the ‘King’s Head’ and ‘Talbot’ inns. The charter for the market was granted by James II, probably a portion of that batch of Royal Charters the Earl of Bath carried about with him as an electioneering manoeuvre, which tactics caused the wily mover to be known as the ‘Prince Elector’. Cattle and horse-fairs were here held.


Our pilgrims arrived opportunely, and, while Rowlandson has pictured the scene, Wigstead has recorded in his note-book : ‘The Fair held in September is resorted to by a great number of pretty rustic Females, and by a multitude of happy Swains’. This is the locality of the race of Burrell and the Earls of Warren, and the vicinity abounds in traces of former great families; there is ‘Cuckfield Place’, an Elizabethan mansion, full of mystery and quaint corners, as Shelley declared, ‘like bits of Mrs Radcliffe’ and, on their route, our travellers pass ‘Fair Place’, St. John’s Common, ‘Hammond Place’, New Close, and Friars Oak, on the road to Stonepound, where passengers stay to take refreshments …


Graphic, Saturday 10 November 1888


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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