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1888: Cuckfield Court at the Talbot closes; new Haywards Heath Court House used for the first time

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 24 January 1888



Yesterday (Monday) the Cuckfield Bench of Magistrates formally inaugurated their sittings at the new Petty Sessional Court House, Haywards Heath.

East Sussex County Police Station Paddockhall Road

The building is an important addition to the public edifices of the rising township, the dignity of which cannot fail to be greatly enhanced by this, its latest acquisition.

In describing the Court House and its origin, it may be mentioned that although it was commenced in the Jubilee year, the new structure was in no way associated with any of the loyal celebrations of the year 1887. The erection of the structure was resolved upon in order that the public business might be transacted with less inconvenience than had attended its performance at Cuckfield. By many people the new building has been called a “Town Hall” but this is incorrect.

The building is simply a police station, which having residences for the District Superintendent, a police-sergeant, and two constables, will be the head-quarters of the Cuckfield Divisional Police. In addition to these, the principal feature is a Court House, where evil-doers will have their deserts meted out to them, and where other magisterial business will be transacted.

The site of the structure is most conveniently situated. In carrying out the building operations an old cottage was demolished, which legend says was once the residence of the notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin. One or two mementoes of bygone days—standing by the cottage in the shape of a tree or two—were spared in consequence of an arrangement between the Local Board and the Justices. However, as these venerable relics stand in the pathway it is evident that whatever advantage may be gained from the air of rusticity they lend to the surroundings is more than counterbalanced by the inconvenience which results to pedestrians travelling down Paddockhall-road.

The site is a few yards from the west side of the railway station, and is situated at the corner of Boltro and Paddockhall roads. The exterior of the building has very attractive appearance, being built of red brick from St. John's, Burgess Hill, with Bath stone windows. In front there are neatly-planted gardens, which are bounded by a low wall of local stone, with stone copings. Messrs. Dore and Son, of Eastbourne, were the contractors for the work, but unfortunately they were compelled to suspend their operations last November.

The corner of Boltro and Paddockhall roads

Owing to their inability to execute the work they had undertaken the duty of completing it devolved upon the County Surveyor, Mr. Henry Card, C.E., who furnished the plans for the building. In carrying out his task Mr. Card received the invaluable co-operation and assistance of Mr. C. Rapson, of Burgess Hill, who as clerk of the works had superintended operations from the commencement. The magistrates were fortunate in securing the services of Mr. Rapson whose extensive experience, recognised capacity, and indomitable energy, have largely resulted in the production of a building which is a credit to all connected with its erection.

The block consists of a residence for the Superintendent, and for the policeman in charge (over the police station). and pair of semi-detached houses for police-sergeant and constable. Besides these there are stables, with harness room, coach-house, yard, etc., the entrance to which is in Paddockhall-road. These are most commodiously arranged, and fitted in the most approved style. Yards also adjoin all the residences. The water supply is at present denoted by a well-house.

Coming to what may be termed the public portion of the building, the Magistrates' entrance is the northeast corner, through an elegant portal facing the railway station. The outside doers are of massive oak, grained. The entrance leads to small lobby, with handsome pitch-pine dado, for the Justices’ use, and communicates with the office of the Superintendent, and with the Court Room, which is the principal item in the block. This is a commodious, well-lighted, and capitally-arranged building about 40ft. long by 25ft. wide. The ceiling is adorned with several handsome hammer beams, which give the building a distinctive appearance.

Facing north and south are two large windows, while in the eastern wall are placed two lesser lights. The south window is glazed with cathedral glass. A dado of pitch-pine, which harmonises with the rest of the fittings, runs round the room. The fittings are in selected pine, highly varnished, and finished off in excellent style. The Magistrates’ bench is placed under the southern window. It is raised, and is in semi - circular form. The exquisite panelling at the back and the rostrum of the Chairman are prominent features.

Immediately in front of the Magisterial bench a seat has been provided for the Clerk to the Justices, who site in front of the Chairman. For the accommodation of solicitors and others who have business at the Court a massive oak table is provided, with green baize top, and with seats arranged around.

Facing the magistrates, the witness box is the left-hand side of the room, the prisoners’ dock being on the right-hand side. Between the two is placed the accommodation for the Press. This arrangement is the best that could possibly be devised, and will afford advantages which are in striking contrast to the disadvantages under which the Fourth Estate often laboured at Cuckfield, owing to witnesses sometimes being placed at one side of the room while the reporters were placed at the other side.

Interior of the Courthouse

Across the Court then runs a rail, behind which is the space allotted to the public. If the chamber is crowded it will accommodate about 150 spectators. At the rear of the Court is a narrow, raised platform, from which a full view of the proceedings may be obtained. It is sufficient to say that all the surroundings of the room are in harmony with the popular idea respecting the “majesty of the law."

Haywards Heath has reason to congratulate itself on acquiring such a substantial building, the accommodation of which will be found ample for some years to come, and the internal arrangements of which are as complete as human ingenuity can devise them.

The Police-station entrance is on the right of the court room. The doorway is surmounted by the Sussex coat of arms and the legend “East Sussex County Police" carved in stone. This is also the public entry to the court room, on the left being a witnesses' waiting room, about 15ft, square, an ample space sufficient to meet all requirements. This room communicates with the court room.

On the right of the entrance lobby is the police charge room, about 20ft. by 14ft., furnished and barred in the most substantial fashion. From the back of this room runs a corridor leading to the cells, which are five in number. Their dimensions are about 12ft. by 8ft. They are furnished with all necessaries, and are solidly constructed. The corridor which is of good width, leads to the court room, that prisoners will be spared the humiliation they endured at Cuckfield of making their pilgrimage to the dock in the presence of the spectators.

A prison cell

By the new arrangement this will be obviated, as a few steps from the door to the dock on a prisoner going into court, or from the dock to the door quitting it, will be all that the public will see of a prisoner as he enters or leaves the room. The building is warmed by hot water apparatus of the most approved description, and the ventilation seems superb. It is well supplied with water and is illuminated by gas. Everything seems to have been done to render the building suitable for its purpose. Its contiguity to the railway, moreover, will be a great advantage to solicitors, defendants, prisoners, witnesses, and all persons having business to transact at the Bench.

PETTY SESSIONS—MONDAY. Before Mr. C. L. Peel, C.B. (chairman), Colonel J. Holden-Rose, Admiral the Hon. T. A. Pakenham, Captain J. J. Lister, Mr. P. Rawson. Mr. T. T. C. Lister, and Lieut.-Col. Dudley Sampson. Major Luxford, the Chief Constable, also occupied a seat on the Bench.


Before proceeding with the magisterial business. Mr. Peel said;—

ench. INAUGURAL SPEECH BY THE CHAIRMAN. Before proceeding with the magisterial business. Mr. Peel said;—

lt is my privilege, as the senior Magistrate, to preside at the opening of this Court, which has been provided for us by the County, and which I trust will be found convenient, and effect a saving of time to many of those whose business brings them here and to the professional gentlemen who from time to time so ably assist us in the consideration of the more important cases.

I cannot take my seat for the first time in this Court without recalling the day - which is much longer ago than I choose to recall - when I first took my seat on the Bench, and the changes which have taken place since. Then many parts of the district which were purely agricultural have since assumed a more urban character. The population has largely increased. Sanitary measures have been more carefully attended to in consequence of the alteration in their system of Local Government. Important changes and improvements have been made in the construction and drainage of habitations of all kinds. Education has been very widely diffused, and much has been done to improve the condition and promote the comfort of the labouring class. There is no greater instance of the changes to which I have referred than the spot at which we are now assembled.

At the time I am speaking of Haywards Heath was a small roadside station. It has since become an important junction, the centre of a thriving district, with its own Local Board, and this court house and police station belonging to the county, with its own gas-works and weekly market, and other signs of increasing prosperity and I think that altogether we may be fairly satisfied with the condition of our district.

I have no statistics before me, but I should say from general observation, that crime, if it has not diminished, certainly has not increased in anything like the ratio of population. There is an absence of serious crime, and indeed if we were to eliminate from our charge sheets what is caused by drunkenness, and the consequences of drunkenness our duties would be comparatively light.

There is I think, a widespread respect for law and order, without which no country and no district can prosper. I believe there is a general satisfaction with the way in which justice is administered, and with the judicious manner in which the police under my friend, Major Luxford (whom are very glad to see here to-day), perform their duties.

I cannot conclude these few observations without referring to the fact that the last sitting of our court at Cuckfield was almost coincident with the death of one who has so long presided over it—our lamented and esteemed friend, Mr. Norman. I do not know exactly how long Mr. Norman presided over this court. I know that when I joined it some 35 years ago he was practically, if not nominally, chairman. At all events, I know that although latterly from advancing years and increasing infirmity he was unable to attend our meetings, yet up to the last hour of his life he took the deepest interest in everything connected with the business of this court. (Hear, hear). He has been taken from us full of years and full of honour, and he has left us an example which all may do well to follow. We cannot all aspire to his abilities and legal knowledge and acumen, and his excellent judgment in all things, but we can all of us endeavour to emulate the zealous and unostentatious discharge of public duty, the earnest desire to administer justice without partiality, favour, or affection, and the genial kindness and consideration towards all classes of the community which marked the character of John Manship Norman. He is deeply regretted by a large circle of attached friends, and his loss will be deplored, not only in this Petty Sessional Division, but in the county which he served so long, so faithfully, and so well. (Applause).


John Mitchell, labourer, Burgess Hill, summoned for being drunk and riotous at Burgess Hill on the 14th inst., pleaded guilty.—P.C. Lewis said the offence took place between 10 and 11 o’clock in the evening. The riotous conduct consisted in wanting to fight.—Fined 5s., and costs 8s. Time allowed to pay.


Percy Stedford, brickmaker, Sheffield Green, was charged with night poaching on land in the occupation of Mr. H. C. Hardy, at Horsted Keynes, on the 21st inst. Prisoner appeared in court with his head bandaged, as did also the witness Bates.— William Bates, game watcher, Horsted Keynes, said that last Saturday night, about 11 o’clock, he was watching on one side of Otteye wood, when he saw three men, of whom prisoner was one, at the other side of the wood with dog. The dog flew at witness, who knocked the animal off, and one of the men then struck him on the forehead with a gun.—lt appears that after the encounter with Bates the prisoner was captured by Frank Bennett, a gamekeeper, who gave him into P.C. Mullard's custody.—Supt. Denman asked that prisoner should be remanded for a week. The application was granted.


George Hobden, carpenter, Burgess Hill, was summoned for stealing, on the 29th December last, a quantity of old iron—about 4 cwt.—of the value of 5s., the property of William Willett.

—Prosecutor, a poultry dealer, living at Anstye, Cuckfield, deposed that he had a quantity of old iron, consisting of two large iron tyres, four or five iron shears, and some old axles, in Mr. Stone's yard at Burgess Hill. He missed a portion on the 20th ult., and had since seen it in Mr. Miles' blacksmith's shop.—Thomas Stone, blacksmith, Burgess Hill, spoke to the placing of the iron on his premises by prosecutor, and said defendant was working there for himself when these things were missed. On the 29th ult. witness saw him taking part of the iron away. Defendant told him he had bought it of Willett, so witness let him take a portion away. Willett asked him to buy the iron for 6s

.—William Miles, blacksmith. St. John’s Common, deposed that defendant sold him some old iron, he believed the week before Christmas, and the tyre produced was among it. Defendant told him he bought it.

— William Meeds, coach-builder, Burgess Hill, stated that defendant brought him an axle for sale, and asked him 2s. 6d. and then Is. 6d. for it, but witness refused to buy.—James Burtenshaw, dealer, Burgess Hill, deposed that ten days before he had bought an old iron axle of defendant, and gave him 6d. for it.

— The Magistrates' Clerk : Where is the book containing those transactions?

—Witness.- I have not got one. He told me it was his, or I should not have bought it. Defendant elected to have the case summarily dealt with.

—Thomas Stone, re-called, said that prosecutor told him to tell defendant that unless he paid 5s. for the iron he should prosecute him. He told Hobden, who said, “If he wants the money, let him come after it, or wait till I come that way.’’

— Prosecutor, in reply to the Bench, admitted threatening to prosecute defendant if he did not pay. He had had dealings with Hobden, who would not pay.

—The Magistrates thought there was not sufficient evidence to convict, and suggested that prosecutor had his remedy in the County Court. The case was therefore dismissed.


At the close of the business Mr. C. Clarke, the proprietor of The Mid-Sussex Times, presented each of the Magistrates present with a sketch of the new buildings viewed from the north-east, printed in gold.

Thank you very much to Charles Tucker for the excellent police station/ courthouse photographs

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