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1927: Why Cuckfield is a Town!

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 28 June 1927

An interesting and attractive picture of Cuckfield, dated 1790, contained in the June issue of “Downland"—a magazine of the South Downs. It is replica print by Rowlandson hanging in the Queen's Hall, Cuckfield.

Cuckfield is also referred to in an article entitled “Downland Towns” (not seen through native spectacles).

The writer opens thus: “Living behind the green rampart of the Downs, the world is shut out, and, in time, one grows almost oblivious of its existence. I miss my old friend the sea, but when the long days and the thick milk come, I will climb to the brow of the hill and refresh my eyes with a kingly view of Sussex, wearing her girdle of topaz strung on jade.

Rowlandson's 18th century etching of Cuckfield

“The coast towns are as truly Sussex as the Downlands, but their native features are obscured by the traffic of outlanders. The little inland towns are different. They are always themselves, and they have no meretricious attractions to offer the seeker after feverish pleasures. Many of them can only be called towns by courtesy. In Cuckfield, once, I was reprimanded for using the term village, although to this day I cannot understand why it should be called a town.”

Would Mr. Hubert Bates like to fire a shot at the writer and, at the same time, enlighten him? “Downland” is published, at the price of 3d., by Frank Moore, “ Eastfield,” Bramber Avenue, Peacehaven.

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 05 July 1927


To the Editor of The Mid Sussex Times

Dear Sir,:—The amiable contributor to “Downland,” whom you quote in your last issue, referring to Cuckfield, writes:-

“I cannot understand why it should be called a town.”

Surely the writer cannot have read Canon Cooper’s History of Cuckfield, and he must be politely, but firmly, informed that Cuckfield should be called a town because it is a town; further, it has held that honour for more than six hundred years.

A town is defined “a number of adjoining houses to which belong a regular market.” In the reign of Henry III. (1255) the Earl of Warenne obtained a grant from the King to hold at his manor of Cuckfield a weekly market on Tuesdays and a yearly fayre at the feast of the Holy Trinity. The Warennes were very active in establishing markets and port dues in their Rape. This is not surprising, as much of the “dues” went into their own war chest.

The market charter was renewed by Charles II in 1670, and was granted to six of the chief residents in the parish, the principal applicant being Sir Walter Hendley, one of the Lords of the Manor, who was buried in Cuckfield Church. His helmet (with the crest of the golden martlet) and two banner staves hang in the sanctuary.

This charter is still preserved. Writing in 1884, Horsefield says ”There was formerly a market house in the town which had been many years taken down.” Three market towns grew up in mediaeval times in the heart of the Sussex Weald —Horsham, East Grinstead and Cuckfield. They all bear a Saxon origin in their names, and all have their own government and fine churches. Horsham, always looked on by Cuckfield as a big brother, is, of course, a fine town, with a population of 11,000 and a much larger and nobler church, but one cannot help noticing how the architecture of the two churches points to a similar date of building. One great authority on Sussex churches says you cannot view the interior of these 'two churches without admitting that the beautiful 13th century roofs were the work of the same craftsman. So having, like the above-named towns, survived all the changes of centuries, and having, in turn, been a “Local Board” and “Urban District,” and proved its right all through these 670 years to be its own local governing authority, Cuckfield feels justified in claiming its hereditary privilege to lie called a “town.” I haven’t left any space to allude to the picture in “Downland” of Cuckfield on market day, but I feel sure the date is wrong. The old fayre must be left for a future note, but I wonder how many remember it beng held the High Street?

Yours faithfully, Cuckfield. HUBERT BATES.



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