1938: Memorials and two Lychgates in Historic Cuckfield Church

Updated: Jan 9

From Southern Weekly News August 27th 1938

By "Wayfarer, Sen."


Before sauntering away from Cuckfield church and taking the high road again there are several interesting features of the old church which visitors delight to see and the Cuckfieldians take for granted. In the stately homes of England, of which there are several in Sussex, there is generally to be found a selection of old masters and a gallery of pictures of ancestors or benefactors.


Cuckfield church, of course cannot present a gallery of pictures, but it is a storehouse of monuments, commemoratives of notable “worthies” or benefactors, or distinguished residents, who have made Cuckfield so historic. Not a few have been connected with the church as Vicars, churchwardens, or benefactors in one way or another. There are about 100 such commemorated monuments, tablets or features of the church itself. I can only give a few in which visitors seem to take most interest.


Architectural features of course are much sought-after, and noted. These range from the early English, and Decorated and Perpendicular periods, down to modern ideas of church architecture and decoration.


A grand renovation of the interior seems to have been brought about in 1855 and following years, when the Church lost its high pews and its three-decker pulpit and a gallery disappeared in one night – a mysterious affair. The singing gallery at the west end of the Church had been set up in 1699, and one had been erected to accommodate the scholars of the old Grammar School, which I have referred to in a previous article. All the galleries however, are now among the “have beens”.


There are interesting traditions about the font which have been published from time to time. It has been said that the bowl of the font dating from the early English days, was broken up during the Cromwellian period, but a vicar came into office who had the pieces joined together and the bowl restored to its proper purpose. In 1846 the font was given much attention at the hands of members of the Waller family, who provided the present base and tiled the surrounding floor. The Reverend H. F. Waller Bridge, rector of Worth, now represents that old family.


Singular Monument

A singular monument is one of black marble, to Guy Carleton “a gentleman well qualified for his piete, discretion, courtesy, worthily beloved”. He died in Lewes on Good Friday 1628 and was buried “at Cockfield two days later being Easter Days”. He was the son of a Bishop of Chichester.


One monument has inscriptions in three languages, English, Latin and Greek, ending with the warning "The end of all things is at hand".


The massive marble memorial in the chancel to Charles Sergison, M. P., who died in 1732, the first Sergison to reside at Cuckfield, bears the following elaborate inscription – "He laudably served through several offices in the Royal Navy till 1719, viz,. for a term of 48 years, 38 of which as a Principal Officer and Commissioner of the several Kings and Queens and their greatest Ministers and all his superiors, about which time the civil government of the Navy being put into military hands, he was esteemed by them not a fit person to serve any longer. He was a gentleman of great capacity and penetration, exact judgement: close application to business, strict integrity".


A monument to Mary Ann Sergison, who died in 1804 bears the name of Westmacott A. R. A., the famous sculptor.


There are of course other Sergison memorials in the church, or slabs close together, the Reverend Tobias Henshaw (1681), who made many gifts to the church, and who was also Archdeacon of Lewes and Treasurer of Chichester Cathedral, half brother to Bishop Gunning of Ely, author of the prayer "for all sorts and conditions of men" and the Reverend Robert Middleton (1718), who was one of the earliest benefactors of Cuckfield starting the well-known Middleton-Burrell charity for the parish. On the walls of the nave are tablets or slabs to Hopestill Warden (1749), a curious Christian name; to Sir Henry Rycroft, who died in Brighton in 1846, to the Reverend H. Plimley, a former vicar of whom a story is that while a young man travelling in Russia, he was condemned to exile in Siberia, but escaped owing to the murder of the then Tsar.


Burrell Family

Memorials of the Burrell family are very numerous, and would occupy an article by themselves if fully described. Several give us “scraps of history”. They range in date from 1508 to 1807. The oldest name is Gerald Burrell, vicar from 1483 to 1508, and states that he was the son of Sir John Burrell, a Devonshire knight who attended Henry V to France in 1415 with a ship, 20 men at arms and 40 archers, and that his grandfather came from an ancient family in Northumberland.


The monuments to an old friend and benefactor Timothy Burrell, who passed away in 1717, and his wife, who was a daughter of Sir Henry Goring, Bart., Of Highden are in Latin. She died in 1682. Timothy Burrell augmented the bequests of the Reverend Robert Middleton, and the charity gained the name of the Middleton – Burrell charity for all time. A tablet close by to William Fetepeace, a relative of the Burrells, spells the place name 'Coockfeild.'


The tablet of Peter Burrell, Surveyor General of the Crown lands, who died in 1775, sets out the marriages of his daughters. Their husbands included the Duke of Northumberland, the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, and the Earl of Beverley. Their brother married the eldest daughter of the Duke of Lancaster and Kesteven, and became the first Lord Gwydyr.


The tablet to Sir William Burrell, the eminent Sussex antiquary, bears the name of John Flaxman, another famed sculptor. Sir William died at Debden, near Dorking, and was buried at West Grinstead, where another tablet by Flaxman commemorates him.


A tablet of Captain Percy Burrell, of the sixth Dragoon guards records that he was killed on his 28th birthday, 1807, 'at the fatal and ill concerted attack' on Buenos Aires, in which action he showed great gallantry. These are only a selection from the Burrell memorials in Cuckfield church.


I think we may leave the far past and come to memorials of those who are remembered by some of the old folk of Cuckfield. The chancel screen is the memorial to a dearly loved vicar, the Reverend T. A. Maberly, during whose time the great renovation and beautifying of the church took place. He passed away about a year before I came in close touch with Cuckfield. He was often described to me as a real friend of the people.


The Reverend Canon Cooper, who had been a curate under him, wrote the following in his valuable history of Cuckfield – "In 1842 Thomas Astley Maberly became vicar. His memory and the devoted affection which he inspired throughout the parish are too fresh in the minds of older inhabitants to require or allow any personal tributes; tributes which might well be extended to his family, which has never failed in generous zeal for the church, nor in public spirit and service to the parish, and county." The organ was rebuilt in the North chancel in the Reverend T. A. Maberly's time. His father, Mr Joseph Maberly, of Mytten, the family residence, was a church warden.


The north Lychgate, that well-known feature of the entrance to the churchyard designed by Mr C. E. Kempe, of Lindfield, whose work is so prominent in the windows and other parts of the church, was built in 1893 by the Maberly family in memory of Mrs Maberly. They also gave the window in the tower representing St Richard. The south chancel aisle was also converted by the Maberly family into a chapel in memory of major T. A. Maberly, J.P., who was known by us all for so many years in his public and official capacity.

The North ('Maberly') Lychgate built in 1893

The Reverend T. A. Maberly was succeeded as vicar, by Archdeacon Mount, who officiated at my wedding 60 years ago on the 31st of August. The Sanderson chapel built by Henry Bowyer, and rebuilt under Mr C. E. Kempe's supervision was converted into a vestry, in memory of Archdeacon mounts short vicariate.


He was succeeded by Canon Cooper, who became the Cuckfield historian and chairman of the Sussex archaeological and record societies, doing much to stimulate local patriotism inside and outside the parish, also education and sport. The screen of the tower vestry is the parish memorial to that eminent vicar. His daughter, Miss Cooper, inherits his flair for historical research, and is prominent in the affairs of the Sussex archaeological society. He was succeeded by Prebendary Fisher, another link with the Maberly family by marriage.


The pulpit is the memorial to the Honourable Lady Peel, wife of the late Sir Charles Lennox Peel, family clerk to the privy council, a family which must be included among the past benefactors of Cuckfield.


Second Lychgate

There is a second Lychgate which was the family memorial to Mr Mrs R. A. Bevan. It is a copy of one at Beckenham. Mention of this Lychgate recalls memories of Mr and Mrs R. A. Bevan. They even and family, who resided at Horsgate so many years, and his good deeds in the past are remembered by so many.

Bevan Lychgate on the west side of Cuckfield Churchyard

Two centenarians, Henry Beaney (died 1869 aged 101), and Anne Kennard (died 1894, also aged 101) are among those at rest in that beautiful "God's Acre".


Canon Wilson succeeded Prebendary Fisher. The Cuckfield War Memorial, a tall cross, was erected on the south side of the church in 1903. On Canon Wilson's retirement, the Reverend Hilton Wright became the present vicar of Cuckfield.



Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 04 April 1911

A plan for the enlargement of the Church School playground and new lych-gate at the Church Platt was submitted and approved.

Sussex Agricultural Express - Friday 29 September 1911

A HANDSOME LYCH-GATE is being erected at the Church Platt end of the churchyard. It is to be a memorial of the late Mrs. R. A. Bevan.


Sussex Agricultural Express - Friday 10 November 1911

THE NEW LYCH GATE and enlargement of the playground is now complete, and all must be struck with the improvement that has been effected in that side of the church-yard.

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