The power of the Lord of the Manor was equalled only by that of the Church in the Middle Ages. The tithes of Cuckfield were paid to monks of Saint Pancras who retained them until the Reformation even after they had made over the patronage of the church to the Bishop of Chichester, who holds it to this day. The Church is first recorded as the church of Holy Trinity in 1202 and in 1250 Richard de la Wych, Bishop of Chichester, appointed the first vicar of Cuckfield, Walter de Warnecamp.
The Bishop also encouraged the building of the first stone church. The tower, buttresses and the pillars inside the present church were built about this time but the main part was completed about 1366 in Decorated or Perpendicular style. From 1480 to 1508 Gerrard Burrell was vicar. He was succeeded by his nephew, Ninian Burrell, who was vicar for 27 years and during this time Henry VIII broke with the papacy.
Reverend Robert Middleton who was vicar from 1690 to 1713, founded a Charity, augmented by Timothy Burrell four years later, for putting poor children to school. This charity was wrongly used by the trustees in 1738 when they bought from Jane Stanbridge the Bull Inn, in Ockenden Lane which became the Cuckfield workhouse for 100 years. The building has now been converted into private houses known as Beadles and The Old Court House.
The Reverend Joseph Fearon, Vicar, from 1801-1817 took an active part in the political and social life of the town . He purchased for the church high oak pews from Saint James’s, Picadilly, and completed the peal of eight bells.
In 1842 Reverend TA Maberley became vicar and spent much of his private fortune on restoring the church over the next 20 years. He sold the high pews.
Cuckfield was so loyal to the King and Church that the nonconformists made no headway here during the 17th century – the Bishops Return of 1676 recorded that there were no nonconformists in the village. It was not until the 18th century that a few Baptists formed a church but with the Evangelical revival, leaders of the thriving Congregational and Independent Churches of Brighton began to encourage the formation of churches in the villages of Mid Sussex.
In 1820 a small group of village folk obtained a certificate from the Bishop under the Toleration act, 1819, to meet for worship and in 1821 the Chapel was opened in Broad Street on land given by Stephen Ward of Brighton. In 1832, this little group formed a Congregational church by Covenant.
The Congregational Church has had a long line of ministers although it was not always easy to raise the money for the stipend. The minister between 1862 and 1865 was the Reverend Charles Horne, MA, Who became a journalist after leaving Cuckfield; his son – born in Cuckfield – was the Reverend Charles Sylvester Horne, MA, who later became a member of Parliament and one of the most eminent Congregational leaders. It is interesting that radio and TV celebrity Kenneth Horne is a son of Charles Sylvester Horne.
The present Church was built in 1869/70, and latterly fell on hard times, but is once again growing.
Cuckfield has no Roman Catholic Church of its own, but this situation is soon to be remedied. Mrs Miller a former resident has given an acre of land in Ardingly Road on which it is proposed to erect a Church, house and car park. The architect is currently working on detailed drawings.
A Methodist chapel existed in Cuckfield in London Road, from the 19th century. Gradually however, it declined, until it ceased to be a chapel and was used as a storehouse. In 1966 the building was demolished.
In 1772 a Zion Baptist chapel was built in Whitmore Lane, off London Road. The chapel flourished up to the time of the First World War, but thereafter it also declined until it shut in 1957. Happily, it was reopened six months later and in 1962 a pastor was called for. Since that time the chapel has continued to grow.
To cope with the expansion a new chapel, seating 250 is to be built in the grounds of Millhall, Whitemans Green. The old chapel will be retained because of its historical interest.
From: 'This is Cuckfield' published by the Cuckfield Society 1967