1945: Cathedral of Mid Sussex


3000 trees planted on the South Downs in the shape of the letter V to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

Sussex Agricultural Express - Friday 12 January 1945


Many interesting historic facts and anecdotes were mentioned by Mrs MA Clowes, of Cooksbridge, in the course of a talk to members of Hassocks and District Townswomen’s Guild on Friday. Mrs Clowes took members on an imaginary trip along the old turnpike road from Offham to Hurstpierpoint, and thence to Cuckfleld and Chailey.


She recalled that the old Lewes to Chichester main road went through Westmeston and the underhill road to Clayton. It was at Plumpton that Major Maskell introduced the pippin apple to Sussex, and also the first black and white chicken, and he was reputed to have taken his first beautiful apples to Anne of Cleves at Lewes.


The speaker recalled the planting of the Plumpton 'V' in trees on the Downs in 1887, and told how the following year was unusually dry and all the local farmers and children - including the speaker - carried water to keep the young trees in the 'V' alive. Ditchling was now a centre of art, but it had always been a centre, with its goosebury show, singers and Ditchling Court parties, and she recalled the proverbial small boy's description of London as being like the busiest part of Ditchling.


Hurstpierpoint was originally the postal centre, and all letters addressed for as far away as East Chiltington, were marked 'near Hurstpierpoint'.


Iit was on the hills above Danny that Charles II said. 'This country is worth waiting for', just before he left for France from Brighton in a boat lent by Tattersall. The latter was rewarded with a ring, as well as financially, and the ring is now in the possession of Lady Shiffner.


Cuckfield real centre of Sussex

Cuckfield was then the real centre of Sussex, with its lovely church serving as the cathedral of Mid-Sussex; Bishop Otter often preached there. Haywards Heath with its railway station had now come to the fore, although it used to be 'Haywards Heath near Cuckfield'.


From Cuckfield through Chailey and Newick, there ran a ridge of sunshine, where the sun shone longer than any other part of England; this probably accounted far the profusion of fruit, orchids and carnations grown in the district.


Thence to Chailey Common, where the Duke of Wellington was brought up as a boy*, and now associated with the wonderful work being done by Mrs Kimmins. Finally Cooksbridge where the last meal was cooked when the soldiers lay before the Battle of Lewes.


Speaking of the Sussex Beacons, Mrs Clowes said that her grandfather was in charge of the beacon on Black Cap, when the rider came from Newhaven with the news that the enemy was approaching the coast. But the invader did not come, any more than he did after Dunkirk.


Poems on Sussex by Kipling and EV Lucas concluded the address, and Mrs. Clowes was cordially thanked by Mrs Tipler.


Miss Jones presided and the members stood in silence as a tribute to the memory of two members, Mrs Randall Davidson and Mrs Pearson.


The tea hostesses were Miss Sidgwick, Miss Allwood, Mrs Rush, Miss Grigg, Mrs W Grinsted, Mrs Sayers, Mrs Schofield, Miss Reid and Miss Shelley. Mrs. Vyvyan and Mrs Shepherd were welcomed as new members.


* Not true, according to modern research it was NW Dublin. Dangan Castle is a former stately home in County Meath, Ireland, which is now in a state of ruin. The castle is the former seat of the Wesley (Wellesley) family and is located outside the village of Summerhill. [Ed.]


Photograph and article contributed by Malcolm Davison.