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1930: Celebrating the 'mother to Cuckfield'

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 18 March 1930

Something to talk about

Reference was made at a Nursing Association meeting in Mid Sussex last year to the conditions under which district nursing was carried out a generation ago and the specialised nursing of today in the towns and villages. The speaker stated that in his younger days there was a woman in nearly every village who knew a little more than her neighbours. She was called a “Granny” and nursed her neighbours without fee or reward.

The statement was an excellent illustration of the great advance made in the matter of district nursing, but it must not be forgotten that between the person of the “Granny” type and a highly trained nurse of today there was another type of person who possessed a great deal of the self-sacrificing devotion of her predecessor and a certain amount of the technical knowledge of nursing.

A splendid example of this type of village nurse still resides at Cuckfield, but she is known to everybody as Nurse Stoner, although she retired from active work about 17 years ago. There is no Cuckfieldian, in whatever part of the world he or she may be, who does not know Miss Mary Stoner and a large number have to thank her for kindly attention is during illness.

Nurse Stoner 1855-1947

Nurse Stoner was born at Mytten Cottage, when her late father, Mr William Stoner, was employed at the Old Tannery in Brook Street. She had a desire to become a nurse from her earliest years, and at the age of eight, while still at school, she made poultices for her mother during the latter illness. When she left school she went into service call, as did many other girls in those days, and her first place was as parlourmaid in the household of Dr Thomas Byass who resided at Marshalls.

Later she entered the service of Major Warden Sergison, of Cuckfield Park, as kitchenmaid, and subsequently she was cook to Dr George Farr White (a brother of the late Mr W.E. White, of Cuckfield), who lived at Kingston on Thames. She had a breakdown in health while in this situation and was forced to take a rest.

Following several other places, Miss Stoner became cook at The Mytten for Mrs Maberly, widow of the Reverend T. A. Maberly, a former vicar of Cuckfield. During all this period, Miss Stoner never lost her desire to become a nurse, and it is a coincidence that in nearly every household in which she was employed there was illness, and that she was provided with many opportunities to gain experience.

It was about Christmas, 1890, when Cuckfield had been without a nurse for two years, that Miss Stoner got her chance. She was summoned by the late Miss Maberly, who told her that Mrs Cooper (widow of Canon Cooper) had been to see her (Miss Maberly), and they thought that Miss Stoner would do very well for a district nurse. An interview took place at the vicarage, and the result was that Mr owner achieve the object for which she had lived – that of being Cuckfield’s parish nurse.

“Go and be a mother to Cuckfield," was Canon Cooper's first piece of advice to her, and local residents know how well she lived up to it! But before she could enter upon her new duties some training was necessary, especially as she knew nothing of maternity work. "Do you know anything about dressing a baby?" she was asked, and she replied that she “could get the clothes on somehow if the baby did not break in half!”

However, she was sent to the Brighton nursing associations headquarters as a probation of for two months, and this period was followed by a months tuition in maternity work at Saint Mary's home, Plaistow, London. At the end of three months she returned to her native town as nurse Stoner and began her new work. Her commencing salary was 15 shillings per week, while she received her board when attending cases.

Her district comprised the whole parish of Cuckfield, reaching from the Barracks in Brook Street, to Lovell's farm on the Bolney Road and to Bridge Farm on the Burgess Hill Road, was he also covered the Borde Hill estate and took in the cottages at Skewbridge.

There were no Austin Sevens in those days, and Nurse Stoner did most of her journeys on foot, generally carrying a lantern on dark evenings. Occasionally she was conveyed to a “case” in an outlying part of the district in Canon Cooper's pony trap, and was driven by either the vicar or Miss Cooper.

For upwards of 21 years she was "a mother to Cuckfield," and wherever there was trouble or illness nurse Stoner could be depended upon to do her upmost to alleviate it. She admits she was kept very busy, but she always preserved a happy disposition in the sick room, and no one could ask too much of her. She cannot remember how many hundreds of cases she attended or how many thousands of sick visits she paid during those 21 years, but she does know that she assisted 200 Cuckfieldians into this world.

It is her proud claim that not one mother died in all those 200 births, and considering the condition is existing in those days this record is a remarkable one. At one maternity case Nurse Stoner attended, the children in the house were suffering from an infectious disease, and only the most careful measures on the part of the Stoner prevented the mother becoming infected.

During the last four or five years of her work nurse Stoner received £40 per annum, and when she retired at Christmas 1912, the Committee of the Nursing Association presented her with an illuminated address and £51 10s 9d, subscribed to by about 200 residents who wished to show their appreciation of "her self-denying work and kindness as a parish nurse of Cuckfield during more than 21 years." No tribute has been more fully deserved.

Nurse Stoner continued to minister to many of the sick in the parish in an unofficial capacity for some years, and her help is always appreciated. Her treasured possessions include testimonials from a number of prominent residents who have now passed to the rest, among them being members of the Sergison family.

It is worthy of note that her father was employed on the Cuckfield Park Estate for the long period of 49 years, and served four generations of the Sergison family. The majority of the older residents of Cuckfield claim her friendship, I want an old acquaintance is laid to rest in the churchyard near her cottage one can invariably find a simple bunch of flowers from Mary Stoner. Such is the kindly nature of the woman who for so many years was “a mother to Cuckfield”.

Please follow the link to Cuckfield Museum below for more information about Nurse Stoner.


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