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1903: 120 make whistle stop tour

Sussex Archaeologists Summer Meeting, Saturday 12 June

It is about fifteen years since the Sussex Archaeologists as a body visited Cuckfield, or Kukefield as it was called in byegone days. In selecting this interesting portion of Sussex for their summer outing the Society hit upon a district rich in archaeological associations and possessing great natural beauty.

A programme which could not fail to be attractive to the members had been drawn up for the occasion, and the meeting proved one of the pleasantest summer gatherings the Society has yet had. Mr MicheJl Whitley, the invaluable Hon. Secretary, made the arrangements with his usual care, being assisted by the Clerk to the Society (Mr CG Turner). [Full list of 120 attendees below]

Arrangements having been made for visits to places in Cuckfield and several miles outside, members living at the extreme ends of the county had to make an early start in order to reach Haywards Heath, whicb is the station for Cuckfield, by a quarter to eleven, the time fixed for the assembly.

All, the ladies included, were punctual, and the weather being fine, the party had a pleasant drive to Cuckfield in conveyances supplied by Messrs. Golding, of the Station Hotel, Haywards Heath. The irregular and quaint appearance of the town of Cuckfield and the old-world atmosphere which surrounds it at once appeals to the archaeologist, and, as soon as they arrived, the members felt that an interesting day was in front of them.

According to Horsfield, the place is supposed by some to have taken its name from the British Coce or Coke and the Saxon fold. It is not mentioned in Domesday being then waste land, but quite a number of ancient families appear to have had seats here from the sixteenth century onwards.

Cuckfield Place, the principal mansion in the neighboruhood, is the property of Captain Sergison, but is now occupied by Mr Breitmeyer, and, as recorded below, the visitors had the privilege of going over the house and grounds. The Nevills, the Burrells, and the Coverts are names closely associated with the past history of Cuckfield.

Naturally the first object to which the students of archaeology turn when they visit an ancient town is the church. Cuckfield has a church of considerable interest, and the Society could have wished for no one better than the Rev. Canon Cooper to tell them its history and point out its principal features. When the party had taken seats in the sacred edifice the revered Canon, who by the way is a Vice-President of the Sussex Archaeological Society, gave a brief and excellent description of the church.

He remarked that he would not say much about the architecture as that was somewhat mysterious. The church was founded by William de Warrenne, and prior to the 11th century it was served by the monks of Lewes Priory. In 1250 Richard, Bishop of Chichester, appointed his chaplain as the first vicar of Cuckfield.

§One of the most remarkable features of the church was its roof. This was apparently put up in the time of Henry VII. It was interesting as bearing the badges of the Nevills which seemed to suggest that it was given by a member of that family. The roof was restored by their neighbour, Mr CE Kempe, in 1865. The font was of the 13th century. the numerous monuments which the church contains were specially alluded to, and the Canon described the remarkable series of memorials to the ancient Burrell family in the south aisle, extending over a period of 300 years.

The Burrells were great Sussex iron masters. The Sergisons had been in Cuckfield more than 200 years, and were still flourishing there. There were monuments to various members of that well-known family. Perhaps the less said about the windows the better, although they were supposed to be good specimens at the time they were put up. The church plate, including an old pewter vessel of 1636, two old registers, and the charter for a market at Cuckfield, granted by Charles II, were exhibited in the tower at the west end of the church.

The party then walked to Cuckfield Park, which was visited by kind permission of Captain Sergison and Mr Breitmeyer. The latter gentleman allowed the visitors to inspect the interior of the mansion, which history relates, was built at the latter end of the 16th century.

The approach from the high road is through a stately avenue of lime trees to the gate house, which has evidently been left in its original state. The mansion was formerly the residence of the Bowyers and Hendleys, and was purchased by Charles Sergison, Esq., about the commencement of the last century It is of considerable size, and seated in a wooded park which contains a number of deer. The oak panelling, handsome ceilings and staircase, and the old firebacks one bearing the date 1579 were much admired.

On leaving the place a member of the party pointed out to our representative the Doom tree, which has a tradition of a tragic character associated with it. It was now nearly one o'clock, and luncheon was the next item to be considered. An excellent repast was provided at the Talbot Hotel, and it is interesting to note I that the dining-room in which the luncheon was served used to be the Court-house for Cuckfield. Lefroy was tried here.

Canon Cooper presided over the company, and after luncheon several new members were elected. The Chairman announced that among those who were unable to be present were Mr CE Kempe, Captain Sergison, and Mr RA Bevan. He also proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Captain Sergison, Mr Breitmeyer, and Mrs Wrightson, for their kindness in granting facilities to the Society for spending an interesting day, the motion being very warmly received.

It had been arranged to visit Slaugham and Bolney in the afternoon. The former parish is about five miles from Cuckfield and the drive over was much enjoyed. On arriving at Slaugham Church the visitors found a new lych gate in the course of erection. It was a memorial to the late Mr WH Loder, and will when finished be an exceedingly handsome piece of work.

Mr PM Johnston gave some valued information respecting the church, which is an ancient and spacious building. It dates back to the 11th century, and is in the decorated style of English architecture. The southern chancel was the private chapel of the Coverts, an ancient family of great wealth and fame. Mr Johnston diew attention to the old square font, which has a representation of a fish on one of its panels.

The elegant Covert brasses and mounments were also referred to. Mr Bigg, a local resident, added a few remarks, mentioning that the church owed the restoration of the carved work to the late Prebendary Haweis, a former and much beloved rector of the parish. In the churchyard Mr Bigg pointed out a yew tree which tradition said was older than the church. It is an immense specimen.

A visit was next paid to the ruins at Slaugham Place, once the seat of the Covert family. Of the grand old residence which at one time existed here only a few ruins are left — a portion of the north-east front and the north wall of the garden.

The Coverts flourished at Slaugham Park in the reign of Henry VII, and were famous in the reigns of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, and James I. It is said that they had manors from Southwark to the sea. Canon Cooper informed the gathering that the house was erected about 1605 for Sir Walter Covert, who, however, did not long eniov it, as he died in 1631.

It was a great question as to what had become of the Coverts. They appeared to have suddenly disappeared, and he (Canon Cooper) was of opinion that the property came to an end through the carelessness of Sir Walter's heirs. The only relic seemed to be the grand staircase in the Town Hall at Lewes. This was taken from the mansion to the old Star Inn at Lewes. The property now belonged to Captain Sergison, one of whose ancestors acquired it in 1737.

Leaving Slaugham the party drove to Bolney and looked over the church Mr PM Johnston was once again to the fore with some interesting information. He pointed out the Saxon doorway and the pre-conquest windows in the chancel. An old silver chalice and a communion cloth, with a representation of the Lord’s Supper and figures of saints worked in it were a communion cloth, with a representation of th Last Supper and figures of saints worked in it were admired. The return journey to Cuckfield was then made, and the party visited Ockenden, the ancient - home of the Burrells. This brought a most interesting programme to a close, and tea was then partaken of at the Talbot Hotel, through the kindness of Canon Cooper and other friends in the district.


The party numbered a hundred and twenty or thereabouts, amongst those who had signified their intention of taking part being the. Rev. Canon Cooper, Major Maberly, Rev. AH Boyd, Rev. HJ Dyer, Mr AP Boson, Mrs Hampden Turner, Mrs Wrightson, Rev. TA Holecroft, Mr MS Guiseppi, Mr PH Johnston, Mrs Maxfield Smith, Miss Maxfield Smith, Mr HV Pryce, Mr HG Briggs, Mr W Wainwright, Mr H Sands, Mr RW Heath, Mr EC Holmes, Rev. GS Pownall, Rev JL Ogle, Mr FV Cripps, Mr JC Stenning, Mr FJ Timmins, the Misses Cook, the Rev. FG Haslewood, Mr and Mrs FS Shenstone, Mr JHA Jenner, Mrs TW Danby, Mr and Mrs R Lambe, Mrs. Mellor Brown, Rev WC Thompson, Mr HJ Strong, Mr J McAndred, Mr T Sutton, Mr J Sawyer, Mr CG Clayton, Mr HC Lane, Mr R Quinnell. Mr J Moon, Mrs CE Holman, Mr G Barham, Mr FW Patching, Mr W. Harrison, Mr W Strickland, Mrs Halliwell, Mr M Sullivan, Rev WR Tindal Atkinson, Captain G. Godfrey, Commander Brant, Mr J Wood, Rev WR Nightingale, Rev WGA Young, Rev H Wynne, Mr EC Shoosmith, Mrs. Veasev, Miss S. Box, Mr. A. F. Greaves, Mr. WA Rigby, Mr J Haines, Rev AF Bellman, Mr C Dawson, FSA, Mr C Martin Major Woollett, Mr and Mrs Holman Bishop, Mr H Mitchell Whitley and Mr CC Turner.

Sussex Agricultural Express - Saturday 12 September 1903

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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