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1934: 'Hidden treasures' on display in Cuckfield

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 30 October 1934


Curios and Antiques in the Women’s Institute Room.

Cuckfield people who visited the Women’s Institute Room on Wednesday afternoon with the object of inspecting the exhibition of antique curios and old-world treasures arranged by the Committee of the local Institute were surprised to see such a large and attractive collection.

The treasures sent in by members and other residents would form a museum of which any town the size of Cuckfield could be proud, and the majority of them were of great sentimental value. Some were obviously heirlooms, many had been collected from different parts of the world, and a few were of historical interest.

Miss Shirley Reid, the principal organiser, is to be warmly congratulated on the experiment of assembling private treasures for public exhibition. The idea originated from stalls of members’ treasures at Institute meetings, and perhaps next year the exhibition will be repeated on a larger scale with the exhibits arranged in sections. It would also be interesting to hear something of the history of the curios from the lips of the owners.

The embroidery and needlework exhibits naturally appealed to the ladies. A small finely worked sampler would not have a roused interest in a man. but a lady remarked that this alone was worth a visit to the exhibition. There were


150 years old, two christening robes worn in the 18th and 19th centuries, beautifully decorated Court waistcoat worn in 1840 and part of an Oriental dress worn at the Coronation of William IV. (1765). Specimens of needlework and embroidery 100 to 200 years old were interesting for their fine workmanship.

Example of Brussels lacework

Among a number of samplers was one which a Captain Cook’s daughter commenced and stopped when she heard of her father’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar. Pictures composed of hair, sand and silk revealed the artistic and curious handicrafts of bygone days.

Another series of exhibits included a water-clock (1705). which had to be wound every twelve hours by filling a barrel with water, a case of about fifty watch cocks, lent by Mr. Hubert Bates, served to illustrate English art in piercing, carving and gilding from 1680 to 1870. In the category of time-pieces may be included a minister’s hour-glass for sermons, which resembled a huge egg-boiler, and was dated 200 years ago. Exhibits with historical associations comprised a strand of the Duke of Wellington's hair, part of a gold chain taken from one of the king’s houses in Delhi after the mutiny


complaining of the bad state of a fever hospital, a letter written by Lord Palmerston in 1840 to Sir Henry Halford (physician), a chair used in the royal box at the Coronation of Edward VII., and a “wand of office" carried in the royal procession on that occasion.

There was also a ring given by Queen Adelaide to Lady Jane Peel in 1832, and an old work-box similar to that belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, in Holyrood Palace. Local products found their place in the exhibition. There was a grandfather clock made by Richard Gatland. who was born in Cuckfield in 1684. He was clockmaker to the Sergison family. The grandfather clock in the Queen's Hall was made by his son Edward.

Among other local exhibits were pottery of the first century found at Haywards Heath, coins, dated 1775, and wig curlers found under the floor of an old cottage in Church Twitten, and a rolling pin made by Mrs. Homewood’s grandfather in the middle of nineteenth century from a piece of a yew tree still standing in London Lane. There was a food section of one exhibit - the Iast piece of black bread given to British prisoner in Germany in 1918! Several residents contributed old newspapers, books and samples of printing, the last mentioned including a leaflet printed on the Thames during the frost of February, 1814.

Among the exhibitors were Mrs. Badcock. Miss Bengough, Miss Britten. Mr. H. Bates. Mrs. Botting. Mrs. Maxwell Campbell. Miss Cooper. Mrs. Cook. Mrs. Ede, Miss Eve, Miss Ferguson, Lady Ferguson, Mrs. Fryer, Mrs. Fare. Miss Fox, Miss Godman. Mrs. Huckett. Nurse Knight. Miss Knight. Mr. H. H. Knight, Mrs. Leake. Mrs. B. H. Mitchell. Miss McLeod, Miss Middleton. Mrs. Oswell, Miss Pearson, Miss Rooper, Mrs. H. Rowland. Mrs. Roberts. Mrs. Seal. Mrs. Simmons. Mrs, Montagu Turner. Miss A. I. Turner. Miss O. Turner. Lady Templemore. Mrs. Twiner. Mrs. Tidey, Mrs. Wilson. Miss Winder. Miss White, Miss Wade. Miss Whitford. Mrs. Wallinger and Mrs. Garnons Williams.

Members of the Committee and Mr. H. Knight acted as stewards. A large number of visitors inspected the exhibition, the proceeds of admission fees and gift stall being devoted to the funds of the Institute.

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