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1917: "Good wine needs no bush" - the inns of old Mid Sussex

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 23 January 1917


"INNS AND INN SIGNS."


—At the last meeting of the Men's Conference, Mr. H. L Beale, of Burgess Hill, read an interesting paper on the subject of "Inns and Inn Signs," and quoted numerous examples of the names he had observed in his exploration of Sussex, the South and West of England, and the Midlands.


Having mentioned that the monasteries of former days were also inns and hospitals in addition to their main aspect as religious houses, the speaker went on to show that the sign board came into use as an indication of proprietorship by and under lords of the manor, landowners and others, and pointed out that as they became general they were not confined, as now, to licensed houses, but were also borne by business establishments.


Inn signs, he stated, had been classified as originating with religion, heraldry, distinguished persons, trades, sports and pastimes, and there were also those of emblematic and miscellaneous character—seven sections in all. He dealt with these seriatim, the lecture lasting for about forty minutes.


The origin of several signs in and around Hurstpierpoint was discussed, and it was shown that the New Inn there was probably the oldest licensed house in the village, and that the Queen's Head, High Street, formerly bore the name of the Cricketers. At Ditchling the Bull Inn pointed to the ownership of local land by the Nevill family, whose head is the Marquis of Abergavenny, and at Haywards Heath the Burrell Arms and the Sergison Arms testified to estate proprietorship by those well-known Mid-Sussex families.


Memories of the stirring period when George IV., as Prince of Wales, Prince Regent, and King, passed along the historic highway between London and Brighton were preserved by several inn signs on the two branches—via Hickstead and Cuckfield—through Sussex, and names alluding to the Regency days were also to be seen in Brighton. The Queen's Head at Bolney superseded a house or sign known as the Racehorse.


The Friar's Oak Hotel, near Hassocks, was not overlooked, but whether there was or was not any truth in the tradition that a religious house once stood on or near the site of the inn the Lecturer would not undertake to say. The old pictorial sign of the house, representing a jovial monk, with bottle in hand, under the oak which stands opposite, was still a treasure of the hotel. It was stolen from its post a good many years back, and was accidentally discovered in a London curiosity shop later and restored to the house, but hung indoors for the sake of safety instead of outside.


The proverb "Good wine needs no bush" was shown to have originated from the former custom of an innkeeper who sold wine having to display a ‘bush' (usually of ivy) on his house, and Mr. Beale said a resident of Cuckfield had informed him that a "bush" was at one time put out on an old cottage in South Street when the two fairs were held and the person doing this was entitled to sell beer without a licence for the occasion. In this case an oak bough was used. The people enjoying the privilege, which obtained in other parts of the country also, were known as "bush house keepers."


South Street c1911 On days when Cuckfield fair was held 'No. 27' (on the right) displayed an ivy bush to signify wine could be bought there

Other members of the company contributed information on the subject, among them being Mr. F. PIPER, the Rev. M. H. WALLER (who occupied the chair), Mr. LOWE, Mr. F. BOTTING Mr. F. HOWLETT, Mr. FOORD, and Mr. W. WALKER, and it was mentioned that at one time Hurstpierpoint had inns known as the Black Lion and the Swan.

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