Not many people know that the lime tree avenue at Cuckfield Park once extended over the Cuckfield village / Ansty road and across the field beyond - nearly as far again. See the map below dated 1897.
AR Hodges, in an article ’Routes for the rambler - Cuckfield’ West Sussex County Times and Standard dated 22 July 1938, referred to the rumours of connections between Cuckfield Park and Butler's Green House:
'... that the beautiful vista of trees obtained from the Clockhouse at Cuckfield Park had originally continued across country to Butler's Green.'
And in an article 'Peeps Into The Past' The Mid Sussex Times, 2 June 1931:
'The fact of there being another avenue of lime trees identical in size, age and variety, at Butler's Green, and that the Sergisons and Wardens of Butler’s Green were closely related, lead our thoughts in that direction. Those who are experienced in forestry, and ‘know’ trees, suggest that the probable age of the limes in both avenues is from 170 to 180 years [ie 1706-16].'
If it did stretch to Butler's Green - that's a length of 1/4miles. While it might have been an intention of the Bowyers or Sergisons to plant such a grand lengthy avenue - but it's generally accepted that this was never realised.
Rerouted north/south road?
One possibility is that this line of trees may have met at 90 degrees to the original alignment of the Cuckfield / Anstye road and the main gates were once located there.
The rerouting of the road may have been carried out to help stage coaches which, when heading north, had to turn the King's Head yard (behind the old post office close to the 'umbrella tree'. This would have been difficult approaching from Church Street with a team of four horses.
But entering from the south along what is now Chain Walk, this gave them a much easier line. They could then exit the yard along, what we call today, Ockenden Lane and then up the High Street. But the rerouting cut through the avenue of lime trees. The reverse applied for the southbound coaches. We will explore this further in a future article.
The other, perhaps less likely, explanation is that Henry Bowyer local ironmaster and builder of Cuckfield Park dismantled the medieval manor that they lived in near the church to build a new grand mansion, (then known as Cuckfield Place). The initials of Henry and Elizabeth his wife and the date 1574 can still be seen on the stone chimneypiece in the dining room.
Could it be that the tree avenue was conceived to link the original Cuckfield Place owned by the Bowyers, which no longer exists, to the 'new' Cuckfield Park or to the lakes and ironworkings? But the age of the lime trees (according to the Middy article) post dates 1500.
Ideas or further evidence will be welcome!
Map created on www.openstreetmap.org.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.
Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details https://cuckfieldmuseum.org.