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1923: 100yrs ago Church roof to be replaced

View from the south showing the Horsham stone roof.

At the Cuckfield Easter Vestry, held in the Parish Room on Wednesday evening, the problem of the repair of the Parish Church roof was discussed, and a definite step was taken in the appointment of a Committee, which was empowered to obtain expert advice as to the extent of the work necessary and the approximate cost. The Rev. Canon Wilson (Vicar) presided. being supported by Messrs. BY Bevan, JP and WE Mitchell (Churchwardens), and a fair number of parishioners. Mr W Herrington acted as Vestry Clerk.

The Vicar explained that technically that was a joint Vestry and Parochial Meeting, and any person on the electoral roll had a right to attend. That was why there were several present who would not be entitled to be had been a Vestry in the old sense.

He wished to take that opportunity to express his sincere gratitude to the parishioners for the exceedingly generous Easter offering which was most welcome and acceptable and especially valuable to his mind as showing the kindness and good feeling of the parishioners towards him. The offertory amounted to £165. The Vicar then expressed his thanks to the Churchwardens for their work during the past year, which he said had been extremely valuable. (Applause).

On the motion of Mr. R. HI. Mitchell seconded by Miss Mertens, a formal vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Bevan and Mr. Mitchell. Mr. Bevan remarked that most of the thanks were due to Mr Mitchell, who shouldered a great deal of the responsibility. It was always a pleasure to work with him. Mr Mitchell also briefly replied. The Vicar stated that he had asked Mr Bevan to again act as one of the Churchwardens and he had consented to do so,

On the motion of Mr S Knight, seconded by Mr Funnell, Mr Mitchell was also re-elected In introducing the subject of the repair of the  church roof, the Vicar said they would remember hat last year three heavy items of expenditure were foreshadowed. These were eventually raised to four. they being the flooring. heating, organ and roof. They had done the floor and the heating and had obtained the money for the cleaning and renovation of the organ.

Organ restoration

It was hoped the organ builders would commence the work the following week, and in a month's time it should be completed. The Finance Committee were extremely grateful for the help they had received. Mr Mitchell, said, in regard to the floor, it was hoped in future to lay a block floor. At present only necessary repairs had been carried out and the same could be said of the beating apparatus. The Vicar said they had inherited bad principles. When the present heating apparatus was installed the object evidently was to disturb as few graves as possible.


In regard to the lighting the roof was brilliantly illuminated, whilst those whose eyes were not so good as they used to be had a difficulty to read.

The roof

Mr WE Mitchell remarked that in regard to the roof a definite figure of the cost could not be given. His estimate of £1,000 at the Parochial Church Meeting was a round sum because some idea of the probable expense was required. The cost would probably be larger, and up to the present upwards of £137 had been received. The Vicar said that a gentleman had promised £50 as soon as the work was started and another gentleman had promised the last £5 required.

Roof had been on 3-400 years

Mr. Winder asked what was usually the matter with the roof. Mr WE Mitchell, said it was possible that the present roof had been on for three or four hundred years. They had to spend about £10 a year on putting back slates that fell off the north side. About twenty-five per cent of the slates had lead clips under them to hold them in position.

On the south side the state of the Horsham stone was very bad indeed. As far as he could see the rafters were sound but the stone work wanted replacing. In respect to this they were working on a dark horse in regard to expense, owing to the difficulty in finding any Horsham stone. It meant that they would have to strip both sides of the roof off, with the exception of that part on the north side which covered the organ.

This was done a few years ago to prevent water getting in and ruining the organ. The Vicar said it would be much nicer to have the south side done with Horsham stone if they could obtain it.  Mr. W. E. Mitchell said there was a proposal in 1914 to restore the roof properly and open up the clerestory windows, but the war intervened. Whether they would have liked those windows opened was doubtful.

Mr S Knight said the most difficult job would be to get the Horsham stone.  The whole  country was being searched for it at the present time. If they found any it was impossible to say what they would have to give for it. as there was none on the market.

He thought the stone on the south side could be taken off and replaced at a cost of 6500. The appearance of the roof from the outside gave him the impression there was not much the matter with the timbers. The Vicar said they were all agreed that the work was necessary and that it should be taken in hand with as little delay as possible.

Raising the money

The question was how was the necessary money to be raised? Mr WE Mitchell suggested that the Finance Committee should be appointed a Roof Repair Committee with power to co-opt additional members and issue an appeal. In reply to a question Mr. Mitchell said there was not the same danger on the north side as the south, where a gale might bring large portions of the stone off. If one part commenced to slip they could not say to what area it might extend.

Mr CHS Ellis thought it was not right to appeal to people for money without telling the approximate amount required. They should first get an expert's opinion on the amount of work required and the cost.

It would be the greatest mistake to issue an appeal which might fall flat. Let the parishioners know first what the cost was going to be, and he had no doubt that Cuckfield would find the money. (Applause),

The Vicar said the difficulty was to hunt the country to get the stone. Mr. Knight said at Ditchling he had seen tiles gradually substituted at the top of a roof as the Horsham stone became exhausted, but they wanted the stone if they could get it.

After further discussion Mr W Mitchell proposed that the Finance Committee, which consists of Messrs. WJ Clapp, AJ Green, HG Green, RH Mitchell, the Vicar and Churchwardens, should be appointed a Committee to consider the repairs of the roof and the church generally. Mr Bevas seconded, and the motion was carried. It was further derided that this Committee, which was given power to co-opt further members. should obtain expert advice and report to another Vestry meeting called for the purpose.

The Vicar said it would also be their duty to devise a scheme for raising the money. Mr. Herrington asked as to a sum of £100 placed in the bank some years ago for the purpose.  Mr WE Mitchell. said that amount was a balance on the general fund, and although the  Churchwardens placed it in the bank for future  outlay on the roof it was never collected for that  purpose.  It was withdrawn in subsequent years  to make up deficits on the general fund. This concluded the business, and it was decided  that the Finance Committee should meet on Thursday, April 19th.

Mid Sussex Times 17 April 1923

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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