1938: Celebrating Cuckfield teacher, clockmaker and local historian Hubert Bates

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 29 March 1938

UP AND DOWN THE COUNTY By ‘The Roamer’


Mr. Hubert Bates, of Cuckfield, looked me up few days ago for a chat, and very enjoyable it proved to be, for Mr. Bates is a well-read man and his knowledge of “Cuckfield of the past" is second to none.


Born in London, Mr. Bates came to Cuckfield with his father at the age of four years. In 1790 his father’s father started business in Cuckfield as a watchmaker and jeweller, and grandfather, son and grandson between them served the public for 136 years. The last mentioned retired some twelve years ago.


As a young man Mr. Hubert Bates decided to take up teaching, and for two years taught at the Cuckfield Church School. Then one day an Inspector came along who thought his health would not be equal to the work, so he left and turned his mind to his father’s calling. In Mid-Sussex there are homes which still treasure the grandfather clocks made by Grandfather Bates upwards of 120 years ago.


Before 1708 every householder in this country had to pay tax on watches and clocks. Hence the introduction of public timepieces.


In his youth Mr. Hubert Bates sang in the Cuckfield Church Choir. Services, in his father’s day, were held in the morning and afternoon only, and worshippers who came from a distance would go after the first service to the old ale house (now known as Bennett’s Cottages in the churchyard) and partake of their lunch and learn the news of the week. The old half-glass door with its ledge for serving the tankards of beer is still there.

Bates Clock on display at the museum

The afternoon service never failed to attract large congregation. In later years the bellringers would ascend the belfry in the evening and engage in change ringing for two or three hours, much to the annoyance of Nonconformists worshipping near by.


Mr. Hubert Bates, although a churchman, had many friends among Nonconformists, probably because he was Liberal. He had it his blood “not to be druv.” People could take him as they would —for better or worse. He had his opinions, and expressed them openly, but always courteously.


He never shirked his responsibilities as a citizen, and whether it was the Urban Council, the Queen’s Hall Committee, or any other organisation with which he associated himself he never failed to do his duty as he saw it. So on April 3rd next, when he will be 74. I am sure many in Cuckfield --and beyond—will join in wishing Mr. Bates “Happy returns of the day.”

Note: Edward Bates (1767-1845) established his business in Cuckfield in 1790 making clocks and banjo type barometers with William Bates (1816-1896) continuing the family business. A long case movement clock by William can be seen in the museum (when it reopens!).

Thank you to the Cuckfield Museum for the photograph of the Bates Clock