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1933: Talk on how Staplefield began....

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 17 October 1933


The Vicar Speaks on The Early History of the Parish. 

Interesting details concerning the early history of Staplefield were related by the Vicar (the Rev. W. A. Dengate) at the monthly meeting of the Women’s Institute held in the Village Hall last Tuesday afternoon. Ten members of the Handcross Institute and number of the senior children from the local schools were also present. 

Mrs. Dengate (Vice-President) presided, supported by Mrs. Rowe (Acting Hon. Secretary). The latter announced that an invitation had been received for six members to attend the monthly meeting of the Cuckfield Institute on November 15th, and a letter was read from Mrs. Hermon (President) thanking the members for their kind message of sympathy with her in the illness of Mrs. Hermon, who, she was pleased to say, was certainly better. 

Staplefield Common (colourised) c1900

Mrs. Dengate announced the election of one new member (Miss Anderson) and extended a cordial welcome to their visitors from Handcross, and to the boys and girls. The speaker also thanked those members who had responded her appeal, made last month, for gift* to tho school canteen. 


in opening his talk, explained that in the early days Sussex was covered a thick forest from one end to the other, and the word “field,” which ended so many of their place names, was derived from little clearings in the forest where people started villages. Sussex was the most inaccessible, spot in England for a long time, and even the Romans did not succeed in penetrating the forest to any great extent, as there were signs of only one or two Roman roads in the county. Then came the Saxons, and the Vicar referred briefly to St. Wilfrid, who spent six years in Sussex. By the year 690 the whole of England had become Christianised. Following this short introduction, the speaker explained that Staplefield had not been a self-contained centre for long, as for many years it formed part of Cuckfield, and for the history of the village they had got turn to the history of Cuckfield. For the first list of local names they had to to tho subsidy rolls, and the speaker quoted a number of local place names, including Biggs, Pilstye, Sydnye and Tyes, which were derived from the names of people who lived in the district centuries ago. The iron industry also had a centre in the district, there being furnaces at Slaugham, Tilgate and Blackfold in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the “sows” or pig-iron from these were taken to forge Holmsted. It was probable that the actual forge at Holmsted was close to the present Hammerhill bridge, and where Forge Cottage once stood. In 1664 Holmsted forge was in ruins. The word "Holmsted" meant the place of the holly, and the estate was held for centuries by the Burrells. In speaking of other places in the neighbourhood tho Vicar made the 


that Tyes. which went back to 1279, connection with George Washington, whose great - great - great - grandmother, Margaret Butler, lived there. Of Nymans they had more or less of a complete record since 1675, and in connection with this estate, the Vicar spoke of former owner, Mr. George Harrington, who was a great benefactor to the parish when it was separated from Cuckfield. “All that I have been saying does not concern Staplefield as a separate parish.” remarked the Vicar, who then exhibited a map and said that his grumble was that when the opportunity arose in 1843 the authorities did not make it a better shape. The population on paper was 800, but only small proportion of those were centred in the village. The Rev. T. A. Maberly, a former Vicar of Cuckfield, was responsible for dividing the parish off, and Mr. and Mrs. George Harrington were generous friends in the building of the Parish Church, Vicarage and Schools. The first burial took place in November, 1847, the Vicarage, which was built in 1855-6, was designed by the then Vicar, and the schools were erected in 1849. Thomas Mann, the first Head Master, retired in 1870 to take up tailoring at Handcross, where he died in 1885. Among the reasons given in tho old log books for children’s absence from school were garland day. picking up acorns, hop picking, gala day and beating. Even a Manager was responsible for keeping a child away from school for the purpose of beating. An entry in 1893 stated that a child name Juniper was kept away from school to mind cows on the Common. When 


was erected in 1877 was hoped that it would be of assistance to children to get to school punctually, but later a Vicar found some boys shooting with catapults! In conclusion, the speaker said it was the custom to-day, with such easy means of transport, for people to seek amusement outside their own parish. But it was in their own district, that they would find a lasting centre, and it was their duty to hold together and keep their parish going as a little centre of England. (Applause). 

The Vicar having been thanked for his talk, tea was served by the hostesses, Mrs. Ralph and Mrs. Toogood. 

The members' stall was in the charge of Miss Pritty, who also won a competition for giving the largest number of uses for a lemon. Members also brought photographs of themselves when children, and Mrs. Howe was successful in identifying the greatest number. 



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