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1947: What writers say about Cuckfield... (1)

1947: What they wrote about Cuckfield – Arthur Mee ‘Sussex’ (Arthur Mee 1947)

Cuckfield stands 400 feet high on the Forest Ridge, and has a Park that lives in Harrison Ainsworth books. It has a fine 17th century gateway at the end of an avenue of limes, a charming peep from the road. The house was the home of the Sergisons, one of whom, we read, was an honest man and M.P 200 years ago, and now lies in the church beneath a Flaxman monument showing his portrait in the figure of Truth as a woman with a mirror. The story is told of this house that the dead were always carried away by night.

The 17th century house near the church, Ockenden, was the home of Timothy Burrell, who kept a diary of much curious information from 1683 to 1714. One of his ancestors was vicar here, and another went with Henry V to France with one ship, 20 men-at-arms, and 40 Archers.

The church, in which our monuments by Flaxman and Westmacott, is 15th century with a fine 13th century tower crowned by a tall Spire seen in many Sussex pictures. The columns on the South of the nave are from the 13th century church. The roof of the nave and chancel is very unusual with 80 elaborately painted panels and painted beams supported by angels. The roof is 500 years old and has carved bosses with badges of the Nevills.

It is the only church we know with two brasses of one man. He's Henry Bowyer who died in the year of the Armada, and in both brasses he wears armour. In one his wife is kneeling with their five children.

The font has been here about 600 years and halfway through its life it was kicked by one of the horses of Cromwell’s army show me: the crack is there today. A helmet worn by one of Cromwell’s men hangs in the chancel. The chancellor has some ancient woodwork, and a neatly carved modern pulpit keeps it company.

On the wall of the tower is still hanging a printed card headed WATERLOO, which reads something like this:

A collection will be made in the church on Sunday 30th of July after morning service for the benefit of the families of the brave men killed and the wounded sufferers of the British Army under the command of the Duke of Wellington in the signal victory at Waterloo, when the very smallest contribution will be acceptable.

From the churchyard which has a tribute to Sarah Tullet, servant for 50 years at Cuckfield Place, is a magnificent view of the Downs with two famous windmills centred on the skyline. They are Jack and Jill of Clayton. Standing here we are in the presence of all that is mortal of a fine and famous man, Henry Kingsley. A plinth of stone nine feet high has been set up by his admirers and round the edge of it are cut the titles of his books. He lies in a glorious scene with a marvellous view of the hills about him, fit resting place for one who travelled far and wide.

Charles Kingsley’s brother

Henry Kingsley, dying at 46, the younger brother of Charles Kingsley, himself and novelist deserving to be held in lasting remembrance, was born in 1830 at Barnack, Northamptonshire, where his father was vicar.

Henry KIngsley c1867

He went at 23 to Australia where for five years he had an adventurous life, which included experiences in the mounted police. Returning home, he used his knowledge in the form of fiction in his stories, his books numbering a score. He also had journalistic experience, which included war correspondence in the Franco German war of 1870. After Sedan, where Napoleon the Third and his army were captured, Kingsley was the first Englishman to enter the town.

His writing was desultory and go-as-you-please, but was intensely vivid at its best, and his books are permeated with a fine spirit of chivalrous romance. Ravenshoe, his masterpiece, gives pictures of the Crimean campaign. No novelist had sketched more truly the best type of the English gentleman.

On a hill near Cuckfield bearing his family name was born a Merry Andrew among writers, Andrew Boorde.

Merry Andrew and his tales

About the year 1490 Andrew Boorde was born in the pleasant country round the village of Cuckfield. He was a very intelligent lad, was brought up at Oxford, and persuaded the Carthusian monks to admit him into their austere order before he had reached the regulation age. In 1521 he was invited to become Suffragan Bishop of Chichester but he declined, and seven years later, after 20 years of semi starvation under the hard rule of the monks, he could bear it no longer and secured his freedom from his vows.

Andrew then spent two years travelling from university to university in Europe learning all he could about medicine. He came back to cure the Duke of Norfolk, who introduced him to Henry the eighth.

After another journey abroad he returned home to find his royal master in full fury against his old Order. He followed his prior’s example refused to bow to the King’s will, and was sent to the Tower with him. But a few years later he submitted, and looked to Thomas Cromwell as his patron. Cromwell made use of him sending him abroad to test the opinion of Europe on his King's actions. He wrote home that only the French King favoured him. On this journey he sent from Spain the first seeds of rhubarb to come here, with directions for their cultivation. But not for another 200 years was rhubarb grown in the country.

In 1538 Andrew Boorde set out for the Holy Sepulchre, and on his way back settled at Montpellier to devote himself to the work by which he lives. There he wrote books on Health, but, most remarkable of all, he wrote the first printed guide book to Europe. He called it the First Book of the Introduction of Knowledge, and in verse and prose tried to teach the languages, customs, and coinages of 39 countries. Very witty are some of his lines, but mingled with sound sense and advice is much coarseness and ribaldry. The first printed example of gipsy language is in this book. Shakespeare knew the book, and the immortal lines in King John which end:

Nought shall make us rue

If England to itself do rest but true

echo Boorde’s description of Englishmen as

‘bold, strong and mighty, who if they are true within themselves need not to fear although all nations were set against them.

The rest of the life of this cheerful amusing man was spent in Winchester and London practising medicine and writing. He wrote a book on astronomy and another travel book, this time on England. But these books did not suffice as outlets for his sparkling vivacity and so this Merry Andrew compiled those Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham which have delighted young and old to this day.

For some sad and forgotten offence Merry Andrew was put in the Fleet Prison, where he died in 1549. He was a man before his time, a curious link between the dying world of monasteries and the bold and gay Elizabethans.

For more on Henry Kingsley please follow the links below.....

For more on Andrew Boorde please follow the links:

For more on Cuckfield Church:


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