1926 - A Review of The Kings Head

Updated: Sep 27, 2020


Worthing Herald - Saturday 26 June 1926


SOME OLD SUSSEX INNS 4 - THE “KINGS HEAD”, CUCKFIELD By George Tremaine


DURING the prime era of coaching two inns stood out prominently in the annals of Cuckfield, as indeed in those of the entire Brighton Road. They were the "Talbot" and the “King's Head”. Every traveller knew them. Statesmen, diplomats, merchants, poets, sportsmen, actors, celebrities of every kind, men whose names to-day are household words, sought at one time or another the shelter of their hospitable roofs.


Sic transit gloria! The once famous "Talbot" now serves Cuckfield as a Post Office; creepers are gradually covering its red-brick walls. Where formerly famished travellers passed beneath the existing square Georgian portico, up the well-worn steps to a welcome meal, now pass the inhabitants in quest of a postage stamp or a money order. Alone the half obliterated lettering on the side wall of the hotel remains in evidence of bygone greatness.


The "King's Head" however, still flourishes, and opens its doors eagerly those whom business or pleasure calls to this most delightful of Sussex villages. Situated at a bend of the High street, and backed by the domineering spire of the parish church, it is impossible to conceive a more picturesque setting for an old-world inn. The coaches are no more, the unwanted stabling has been pulled down, the main route between London and Brighton no longer passes through Cuckfield, but the motorist is still faithful to the old hostelry.

An illuminating example of the lack of perspective occasionally displayed by antiquarians is revealed in a volume published in 1912 which purports to be a comprehensive history of Cuckfield. This book refers casually to the "Kings Head" in its list of local inns, and makes two or three brief references to the “Talbot". Roughly speaking, the entire space devoted to these important establishments runs to about thirty words. .


One is inclined to ask where the real of a parish centres. Is it in musty parchments, in the genealogical ramifications of isolated families, in crumbling monuments, in Court Leets, in the statistics of Rectorial Tithes? Or is it in the inn and the market place, those vital pivots of rural existence? We may be sure that to the people of Cuckfield these two famous hostelries, with their continuous stream of coaches and visitors, represented the very "hub of the universe".


This old coffee room of the "King's Head,” for instance, a spacious panelled apartment, with an atmosphere of repose and solid comfort, where you may sit to-day and let your imagination wander back into the days that are gone, what scenes it has witnessed! Herein were held the audits, inquests, harvest suppers, political meetings, magisterial sittings, everything, in fact, that counted for anything in the daily round of the neighbourhood. The writer has been privileged to peruse a bundle of family letters written by inhabitants of Cuckfield during the first half of the reign of George III. The ink is faded and the script almost indecipherable. There are repeated allusions to social and convivial gatherings which took place in this very room. In one particular letter a young girl looks eagerly forward to her first ball at the "Talbot," and is “vastly intrigued" by certain young men lately arrived by stage from London.


There are quite a number of interesting objects at the "King's Head." On the wall of the afore-mentioned coffee room hangs a black and gold lacquer cased clock with a dial of ample proportions. This was formerly the town clock, and served Cuckfield for years in a public capacity before removal to its present retirement. In the lounge is a cabinet filled with all manner of quaint trifles, ranging from children's toys to dried snake skins, given by various guests who have stayed at the hotel. The eye of the connoisseur, however, will most likely be captured by the fine series of Alken sporting prints which adorn the walls of the entrance passage, the acquisition of which represents many years of patient collecting on the part of the present proprietor.