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1920: Stunning skies over Cuckfield recorded in a popular book

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 22 June 1920


To the Editor of The Mid-Sussex Times.

Sir —Please accept my most cordial thanks for your high appreciation of my “Weather Book.” It may interest your readers to know that the work was entirely written in the midst of their very beautiful countryside, from which most of the descriptions of sky scenery are drawn.

Those marvellous herring-bone clouds mentioned in one of the chapters on “Supposed Weather Signs” were seen from Colonel Stephenson Clarke’s park at Borde Hill. As the account of them has attracted a good deal of attention, perhaps I may be permitted to reproduce it here, as follows:-

"Weatherguiding clouds shall come next. There are two, in particular, which will remain a life remembrance. It was one radiant afternoon in Spring as I was crossing a private park in the South of England that they gradually came into view. They were herring-bone clouds of perfect shape, and they stretched parallel to each other right over the sky from north-west to south-east. The wan moon was riding high, and the eastern cloud of the two drifted over it so slowly as to need very patient gazing to detect that it moved at all.

The moon, spectral it looked, was clearly visible through the cloud. The companion ‘herring-bone’ on west side soon afterwards broadened considerably, and at length could be called a herring-bone no longer. Two such beautifully-formed clouds of this type I had never seen before, and I stopped to enjoy the sight at leisure, seated all the while on a bank where tufts of primroses gleamed softly in the grass and filled the sunlit air with delicate scent.

That ideal Spring afternoon with its two wonderful herring bone clouds, so perfect as to seem painted with a fine brush on the blue vault, inaugurated the long period of superb weather with which late Spring of 1919 will always be associated.”

Herringbone Clouds is a photograph by Michele Kaiser which was uploaded onto February 28th, 2013.

The best sunset effects - of which I have attempted to describe—were obtained during my always delightful walks up the Balcombe and Cuckfield roads and across the fields near the finely-situated farm of Mr. Higgs. The one described pp. 167-8 of the “Weather Book” was observed from the latter view-point:—

“An ominous sunset was one in mid-March of 1919. The clouds in the immediate vicinity of the lowly sun turned a bright green and remained thus for quite half minute, whilst the general tone of the surroundings was orange, amber and salmon pink. It was the last-named hue that made the sunset so suspect, for it was more like a smudge than defined colour, such as the other clouds exhibited. The impression made on my mind was that a windstorm was raging there and had blown the salmon-pink cloud into a shapeless mass.

Near it was a deep-yawning aperture, around whose rugged edge a sickly green light glimmered, with the ponderous red ball of the sun flaming in the centre. Flanking it, there stretched parallel to the horizon an immense blue-black cloud with a scarlet hand across it that seemed to quiver the uncertain light like a shuddering streak of blood.”

Joseph Elgie's 1920s book 'Elgie's Weather Book for the General Reader'

Occasionally I had the good fortune to witness a glorious sky-picture from the road between Muster Green, Haywards Heath and Cuckfield, such as I depict on page 170:—

“The sunset of one December day was a picture of wild gorgeousness, and when its fires had died down there stole on the almost aching sight weird glow palish green. Instinctively, one accepted the scene as an omen of storm. And so it proved to be—with a dawn of wind and rain, and a day of dark, massive clouds sweeping and swirling low before the resounding gale".

The halo and corona described under the date of Dec. 15th, 1918, page 155, were seen during a walk to and from that altogether charming village of Lindfield. So many useful observations (ever to be remembered with pleasure) were made from the summit of the hill above High Beech Farm, on the way to Ardingly, that I named the elevation 'Observation Hill', and always now refer to it by that name. And what stores of fresh, pure country air and inspiration did I not get in my innumerable strolls through the fields past the farms of Mr. Packham and Mr. Pearce and onward nearly to the Cuckfield road!

May I assure your readers, Sir, that l am not yet finished, in a literary sense, with their charming countryside.

Very faithfully yours,


London, June 16th, 1920



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