1943: Baby delivery diverted to Chownes Mead

Updated: Mar 21


The grand exterior of Chownes Mead.

I was browsing through the web pages of Barry Ray’s excellent Slaugham Archive website and I came across the page on Chownes Mead which had been contributed by John Skinner. It recalls that when Cuckfield Hospital was being used by the Canadian Army to care for war wounded - local mums-to-be were having their babies delivered at Chownes Mead Maternity Unit. From birth date evidence, this happened between March 1943 and 1946.


The maternity team.

The house was requisitioned by the Canadian Army and, in conjunction with Cuckfield Park, was used as their command headquarters before Chownes Mead became a maternity hospital. This allowed Cuckfield Hospital to prepare for and subsequently treat the rapid intake of casualties following D-Day in June 1944.


Chownes Mead

The Matron.

Chownes Mead is a renovated Grade II house tucked discretely away on what was the connecting road, Chownes Mead Lane, between the Cuckfield to Haywards Heath road and Isaac’s Lane. Coming from Cuckfield you would fork right at Tyler’s Green and the entrance to the estate is next to the ‘Coach House’ on the right.


In 2011, estate agents Savills put the property on the market for £3.5 million. The prospectus and photographs give an excellent account of this secluded and luxurious property.



The splendid staircase

The property was built on the site of a former farm called Chownes between 1912 and 1920 by banker Sir Alexander Kleinwort and was a sister house to Heaselands.


The main reception rooms are spacious with high ceilings with splendid views of the gardens and parkland designed by Gertrude Jekyll. There are many period features such as beautiful marble and stone fireplaces, hand carved Norfolk oak panelling and ornate stucco ceilings.



The three years as a maternity unit must have been a delightful retreat for the staff and the women they assisted. The Slaugham Archives posting attracted a lot of response and recollections from readers and in June 2013 Clare Stoner recalled:


'The oak panelling in the drawing room was probably removed by Lady Woolton before my parents arrived as it has always had plain cream walls as far back as we can remember. Many people turned up on our doorstep over the years who had been born in the house. This included many Canadians.'


The rear view overlooking the magnificent grounds.

The ornate showpiece landing.

Many other people recalled that they had been born there - up to a date of 1946 - and some young mums had their babies delivered there as a result of falling for the charms of attractive young Canadian soldiers after their arrival in Mid Sussex.


If you have any more photographs, particularly of it as a maternity unit, or have further reminiscences of Chownes Mead we would love to hear from you. And if you can identify the staff in the photographs that would be a useful contribution too.


Check out our other related article 'The man who named the Lord Woolton Pie'


Sources

The posting by John Skinner on the Slaugham Archives has many interesting recollections from people born at Chownes Mead:


This posting https://www.slaughamarchives.org/picture/number628.asp


The estate agent’s prospectus for Chownes Mead

https://www.slaughamarchives.org/picture/number1677.asp


From Geograph, a view from the lan and mention of the farm: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4357139


With thanks to Barry Ray and the Slaugham Archive.


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.