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1914: 'The Kindness of Cuckfield people is proverbial....' (both then and now!)

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 27 October 1914


To the Editor of The Mid Sussex Times.

Sir -I attended the meeting at the Queen's Hall. Cuckfield, on Friday last under the impression that it was a public meeting and that we should have an opportunity of asking questions and expressing our own views. However, the Vicar, as Chairman, refused to allow me to ask questions or to speak, stating that he had decided what the meeting was to do.

I admit this was a surprise to me, because a committee of ladies had been formed to deal with the matter, and because the Vicar himself had previously stated that it would be tactless to attempt to tie down the meeting to any definite scheme. Under these circumstances I must ask your indulgence to say a few words on behalf of the Cuckfield Home for Belgian Refugees through your columns.

About the end of September, when many thousands of these poor allies of ours, driven from their homes in Belgium, were seeking shelter in England, the Vicar was requested to start a movement for their assistance in Cuckfield. This at the time he declined to do, so certain ladies, recognising more accurately the urgency of the case and the need of immediate action, undertook themselves to start a Home. These ladies, led by Miss Pearson and Mrs. Maddock, knowing the wishes of Cuckfield people, started the scheme, and other ladies joined in. They found a suitable house, and having a guarantee for the rent, they took it, and sufficient furniture and necessaries were at once provided by kind friends, with the result that in two days the Home was ready and they were enabled to give a temporary home to two families of Belgians who had lost their all.

Broad Street c1912 where first Refugee house was located (photograph courtesy of Cuckfield Museum)

After these ladies had got to work, but before the Broad Street Home was complete, the Vicar called a private meeting at the Vicarage, a Committee of well-known ladies was appointed to extend the good work and start a second Home, and, all praise to them, they began to do so at once.

Unfortunately the delay proved fatal to their efforts, the golden opportunity was lost—no more refugees were to be sent to East Sussex. At this private meeting I understand it was decided to call a public meeting to discuss what measures should be adopted, and I went to the meeting to suggest that, for one thing, the Cuckfield Home in Broad Street should receive some support.

It is more interesting to carry on the work in our own town; no money is wasted on salaried officials. and any money given to it comes back into the town where it is so needed. However, as I have said, this was denied me. I find that by some I am wrongly credited with having started this Home, but beyond contributing towards the expense in a small way and advocating its support I am not entitled to any credit in connection with it.

To the ladies I have mentioned is due the praise of starting this good work, and to the many other ladies who have given generously and to the kindness of Cuckfield people in general belongs the success it has achieved.

The kindness of Cuckfield people to those in trouble is proverbial. but I was quite unprepared for and deeply touched by the very many kind expressions of sympathy and the gifts in money and in kind from all classes and from all denominations which have been given to us for this Cuckfield Home, as the immediate result of Friday's meeting. Many of these gifts have, I know, entailed real sacrifice, and the Committee cannot sufficiently thank the kind donors.

We can only hope that it may be some return for their generous assistance to know how deeply grateful these poor exiles are for their gifts. We have relied upon the kindness of Cuckfield and we have not been disappointed, but the work is hard and money is still wanted and will be wanted

Any donation, however small, will be most gratefully accepted and carefully expended. l am confident that these good ladies can rest assured that the people of Cuckfield will see their noble work carried through to a successful issue.

The lion-hearted Belgians have given their all for us, and we in turn will do our little bit for those in Cuckfield.

I must apologise for the length of this letter, but I plead for a good cause.

I am, Sir,

yours obediently,


Haywards Heath,

26th October, 1914.



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