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1912: Thomas Bannister 'left nothing undone'

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Brighton Gazette - Wednesday 03 July 1912


Well-Known Mid-Sussex Auctioneer.

A notable Mid-Sussex figure has been removed by the death of Mr. Thomas Bannister, J.P., of Limehurst, Haywards Heath, which occurred on Sunday at Seaford. Possessed of great business abilities he was considered one of the best live stock salesmen in the South of England, and as an agricultural auctioneer had few equals.

He had been Fellow of the Surveyors' Institution since 1881; Chairman of the Sussex and adjoining Counties Agricultural Valuers’ Association for many years, and a representative on behalf of that Association to the Central Association of Agricultural Tenant Right Valuers. He was a member the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the Smithfield Club, the Council of the Sussex County Agricultural Society, the Sussex Book Society, and the Large Black Pig Society.

He had acted as judge of Sussex cattle the Royal and other leading summer shows, the Smithfield Christmas Show at Islington, and at many local fat stock shows. He was an enthusiastic farmer and breeder of pedigree Sussex cattle and large black pigs.

A Native of Cuckfield.

Mr. Bannister born at Cuckfield. on 1st January, 1842, a son of well-known farmer of the old fashioned school, who farmed West Hoathly, Ardingly, and other places, and settled down at Cuckfield. Mr. Bannister's early years were spent on Kenward’a Farm, near Lindfield. As a lad he was far from being robust, and on this account was not considered by his father to be sufficiently strong for the strenuous work of farming. He also had a-decided leaning to study.

Educated by the late Mr. Thomas Welts at Lindfield, be was articled under Mr. John Agate, agricultural valuer, at Slaugham. About 1865 he was resident at Cuckfield. Haywards Heath at that time was beginning to shape as a rising town. Roads were but lanes, but Mr. Bannister began to enter the business life of the district as auctioneer, and one his earliest auction sales was the disposal of some effects of an old timber merchant named Newnham. In the vicinity of the railway station there were several timber yards and many sawpits.

It was amid the sawpits that Mr. Bannister conducted the sale, a very small one, close by where the Liverpool Hotel now stands. He saw the possibilities of an auction mart at Haywards Heath. married Miss Caffyn, daughter of the late Mr, B. Caffyn, of Cuckfield. He built Limehurst, his residence at Haywards Heath in 1860, and there he had resided ever since. His office was attached to his residence until comparatively a few years ago, when a more commodious range of business premises became necessary, and the building in Market-place then became the seat of the great business worked up.

The First Stock Sale.

It about 1868 that Mr. Bannister held his first stock auction sale. At that time the Corn Market at Haywards Heath was held on Wednesdays. The tradition is that Mr. Bannister's first stock auction sales was of three sheep, penned in between three hurdles, but whatever the beginning, the foundation was laid of one of the largest, if not the largest cattle market sales in Sussex. The sales were first held monthly, then fortnightly, and finally weekly as now. The day became changed to Tuesdays. The first sale took place in small paddock close by the Station Hotel, near where the cattle ring now is. and the extensive range of market premises at Haywards Heath speaks eloquently of the business built up by Mr. Bannister. For some time tho late Mr. K. Caffyn assisted his son-in-law in keeping the market well supplied with stock, and the business grew at a rapid rate. A change in later times was the introduction of a son, Mr. Douglas Bannister, into the business. as well as Mr. R. M. Ogilvie, and the firm assumed the title of Messrs. T. Bannister and Co.

Thomas Bannister c1900

At Heart a Farmer.

In addition to the market business, Mr. Bannister was in great request as auctioneer, valuer, and agent. For over 40 years he had acted as agent for the Sergison Estate, and sold most of the building land in the town of Haywards Heath. Owing to his foresight in imposing building restrictions and making provision for wide roads, the open and rural character of the town has been preserved. He left nothing undone to promote the progress of Haywards Heath. Mr. Bannister was at heart a farmer.

There is maxim among old Sussex farmers that there are two kinds of farming that do not pay, bad farming and too high farming. Mr. Bannister had no sympathy with bad farming; his tendency was towards high farming. In later years Mr. Bannister became the owner of Sugworth Farm, which lies to the north of Haywards Heath, by Borde Hill, where he, in addition to high-class farming, established some brick-making works, and also built properties.

He also acquired Bridgers Mill, water and steam, close by the Haywards Heath railway station, on the north side the town. He gave his attention to mixed farming, including fruit, and in stock raising his fancy went towards tho county breed. He was a very successful breeder of Sussex cattle, and the Limehurst strain became well known. He preached and practised the gospel of early maturity in stock raising, believing in the principle of getting stock fit for market at the earliest possible moment. Mr. Bannister took a prominent part in public affairs. He was a member of the old Haywards Heath Local Board, and afterwards first Chairman of the Urban Council, while he also served for some years on the Cuckfield Board of Guardians. Politically his sympathies were Liberal. He leaves a widow, three sons and three daughters.


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