Cuckfield vicar Canon Cooper was a highly respected local historian and both an active member and knowledgable Chairman of the Sussex Archaeological Society.
He wrote a number of excellent and authorative articles for the Society's Sussex Archaeological Collections. After his death his son Wilbraham Villiers Cooper, compiled these into the first comprehensive history of the village 'History of Cuckfield' published in 1912. Today this book fetches eye-watering prices on the secondhand book market.
His most valued written work had the benefit of access to church records proving especially valuable for subsequent village researchers.
This was the obituary that the Sussex Archaeological Society published in 1909:
The Rev. Canon JH Cooper Obituary
The Society has again to record, and deplore, the loss of the Chairman of its Council. The Rev. Canon James Hughes Cooper, M.A., was in 1903 elected Chairman in succession to Chancellor Parish, and he left us on the 31st July, 1909.
He was the son of the Rev. James Cooper, M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Mathematical Master of St. Paul’s School, in London, from 1835 to 1861. He was born on the 14th August, 1831, and was admitted to that school on the 14th November, 1840. He remained a student there until 1850, in which year he obtained a prize for a composition in English verse, and the Sleath prize for an essay in Latin prose.
Having also gained a Pauline Exhibition to Trinity College, Cambridge, he joined that college in 1850, and passed out in the Mathematical Tripos of January, 1854, proceeding to the degree of MA in 1857. It is interesting to note that whilst he was an undergraduate he acted as secretary of the Cambridge Architectural Society, and composed several papers which were read at its meetings.
He was ordained deacon in 1855, and priest in 1856, by Dr. Gilbert, Bishop of Chichester; and for the first five years after his ordination acted as curate at Cuckfield under the then Vicar, the Rev. T. Astley Maberley, after which he was assistant curate for a further period of five years at St. Paul’s Church, Brighton.
In 1865 he was presented by Lady Haddington to the rectory of Tarporley, in Cheshire, and he retained that benefice for 23 years, acting also for some time as rural dean of Middlewich, and proctor in Convocation for the Archdeaconry of Chester. In 1882 he was nominated to an honorary canonry in Chester Cathedral at the instance of Bishop Jacobson. Whilst resident in Cheshire he was a member of the local Archaeological Society.
In 1888 Canon Cooper was collated by Dr Durnford, Bishop of Chichester, to the vicarage of Cuckfield, in the occupation of which preferment he remained until his death. He was buried on the 4th August, near to the south-east corner of the churchyard at Cuckfield, amid manifestations of universal mourning and sympathy.
Canon Cooper married in 1872 with Mary Agneta, third daughter of the Hon. and Rt. Rev. Dr. Villiers, Bishop of Durham, and has left her, and one son and one daughter, to bear his loss.
Canon Cooper became a member of our Society in 1890, and at once evidenced his keen interest in Sussex subjects by contributing papers to our volumes. In that year appeared an article of very considerable research dealing with the history of the Manor of Cuckfield, and this was followed in subsequent years by separate papers on the Vicars of Cuckfield, and on the Cuckfield families of Boord, Bowyer, Burrell and Warden.
His energies, however, were not confined to elucidating the history of that parish, for he also contributed papers on the Coverts of Slaugham, on St. Richard of Chichester, on the religious census in Sussex of 1676, and on Conventicles in Sussex in 1669, and also a few minor 'Notes'.
Flere et meminisse relictum est. [Latin for: Left to cry and remember]
From Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol LII, (52) 1909, P200
In the preface to 'History of the parish of Cuckfield' eminent Cuckfieldian TW Earle wrote:
'Mankind is divided into two categories, those who love Cuckfield
and those who don't or who do not know it.'
The History of Cuckfield: 1895 - A lecture given by Canon Cooper (part one) [Cuckfield Connections article]
History of Cuckfield: 1895 - A second lecture given by Canon Cooper [Cuckfield Connections article]
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.
David Jamieson writes....
Having read Malcolm's latest Cuckfield Connections on Canon Cooper my respect for the Canon has grown since I have followed in his footsteps by going to St Paul's School and being awarded the Pauline Exhibition to Trinity College Cambridge. And we both wrote books on history of Cuckfield!