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1928: The lure of Haywards Heath and Cuckfield....

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 11 December 1928




Mr R. Thurston Hopkins could not have found a more appropriate title to describe his book of ramblings the county than “The Lure of Sussex.” To those who know it intimately, there is no more alluring county than Sussex, and there is nobody more familiar with its beauties and characteristics than Mr. Thurston. The author, who is the founder of the Society Sussex Downsmen, has explored many out-of-the-way authorities on the subject, and, having tramped over the country regularly for twenty years, has recorded just those little facts which are likely appeal to those who intend to spend a few weeks wandering in the South Country. This is a welcome substitute for the customary dry-as-dust guide book. Mr. Hopkins has already won a reputation as a topographical writer, and he is thoroughly modern in his treatment of his


He conveys a vast amount of engaging information about Downland shepherds, windmills, out-of-the-way footpaths and tracks, smuggling, sheep-bells, crooks, and cricket records. There is a chapter on Galsworthy’s West Sussex environment, and the frontispiece shows the literary genius in his residence at Bury. Of particular interest to Mid-Sussex readers will be the chapter on Haywards Heath. “People,” Mr. Hopkins remarks, “will tell you that there is nothing of interest in the town—information that is completely mistaken. The town lies in the heart of history; every footpath leads into history, and for those who care to look there much of interest on the road between Muster Green and Butler’s Green. Follow Boltro Road from the station and take a turn on Muster Green. One feels that this wedge-shaped space has history, and one is entitled to feel so. It must have been named from the fact that soldiers who were recruited and impressed mustered at this spot. Probably it I was used as


When Henry V was rounding up men to fight in France. Or again it might also have been a depot for guns which were being manufactured by the ironworks for Henry the fifth., In view of the fact that he was the first king to use guns and gunpowder on a large scale. To the north of Haywards Heath, around Tilgate Forest and Ashdown Forest, something like twenty forges were working ; and the guns would be dragged by horses to a convenient spot to await the Kings wagons to carry them down to his ships.

That spot we may hazard, may have been Muster Green.

Once it became a ‘depot’ an inn would be required, thus we expect to find the Sergison Arms exactly where it is. The inn itself goes back a good 500 years, we may be sure, but it was certainly rebuilt and re-christened by the side of some family at the close of the 17th century, when they came into possession of Cuckfield Park.

Dilating on Muster Green, Thurston Hopkins states that the Dolphin fair was held here and pigs and cattle were sold.


in their best attire, flocked in from the villages around to hire themselves for their next year’s service. “Each servant who obtained a situation,’’ Mr. Hopkins continues, “bedecked his hat with ribbons and celebrated the occasion at the Sergison Arms. Fun and dissipation became fast and furious, and all the ‘bad blood’ which had been brewed over quarrels during the past year on outlying farms was whipped up to froth at the Fair. Mr. Hopkins tells us that the Fair eventually resolved itself into drunken blackguardism, and was very properly suppressed. An interesting event at the Sergison Arms was the annual venison feast, being the custom of the Lord of the Manor to give the landlord a fat buck to feed his customers with. This continued until the Sergison family sold the house. The venison feast was always preceded by a hare hunt, and hares could then be found in the neighbourhood of Muster Green. He reproduces Mr. A. R. Pannett’s opinion that many of the old place-names of Haywards Heath have degenerated into modem names which are quite meaningless” —for instance, in the name of Boltro Road we I find all that is left of Bull Trough Farm. Mr Pannett hazards that


which stands on the Cuckfield Road, was a private chapel for Butler’s Green House. The author had been told of a ghost that haunted Butler's Green House, but Mr. Pannett informed him that the ghost had no right there. Mr. Hopkins also describes his visit to Cuckfield Park, which dates from the end of the sixteenth century and is the “Rookwood Hall” of Ainsworth’s romance, “People often look for the famous ‘Doom Tree’ which has been represented,” he says, “as a lime in the Great Avenue which is supposed to shed a branch when the death of an heir to the property takes place. Moreover, people generally find it, or rather, imagine they do. As a matter of fact, it does not exist, and no such tradition exists in the family records of the Bowyers and the Sergisons.” There is whole chapter devoted to Cuckfield. Mr. Hopkins relates his experiences during

Queens Hall - venue for Cuckfield's 'nightclub'


at Cuckfield’s "Night Club"—the Queen's Hall—and observes; There were more handsome girls in the Queen’s Hall that night than one would see in many of the great London hotels and clubs. It is certain that one could not see such abundant form and life and spirits at the Ritz or the Savoy. Later, Mr. Hopkins comments: “It struck me again and again that girls ‘run’ Cuckfield. Everywhere you see their trim, business-like figures at the head of affairs.” Hickstead, with its Castle said to have been a place of confinement in which prisoners were slowly starved to death, and with its inhabitants who ‘‘have a dialect as rich as a vintage of Napoleon cognac,” together with Bolney, are also dealt with. Mr. Cecil Palmer, the well known publisher, who has tramped Sussex with the author over many years, describes Mr. Hopkins in an introduction as a cheerful, and knowledgeable companion. Mr. Hopkins infuses these qualities into his book, and a more delightfully informative work it would be difficult to imagine. “The Lure of Sussex” is being sold at 3s. 6d., and it is published Mr. Cecil Palmer, 49 Chandos Street, London. To lovers of Sussex the book would be a very welcome gift.

For a youtube reading of the entire book 'The lure of Sussex' by Thurston Hopkins please click the links in descending order!



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