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1971: An extraordinary year

The year of 1971 was a very busy one in Cuckfield’s history. It marked the 400th anniversary of the building of Cuckfield Park by Henry Bowyer and the village really let its hair down and filled the year with some amazing entertainment.

Cuckfield Park house was used as the backdrop for a spectacular son et lumière with its dramatic reconstruction of the village’s history. Voices, actors, costumes and lights retold the story of the evolution of the village and the events that had elapsed since the Elizabethan mansion was built.

But that year would also mark the staging and the successful outcome of two local battles.

After the collapse of High Bridge in February 1971 village trade plummeted with the loss of passing traffic. One trader took just £1 in a day and a publican sold just two shandies all day. The villagers managed to pull off a coup and persuaded the authorities to get the government finance for the army (REME) to install a temporary Bailey bridge while contractors worked on a permanent, widened replacement road just a few yards north-west of the failed bridge. Read the full story.

The other battle was one of a different sort when the Sealed Knot 'invaded' on the village and reenacted the 'Battle of Cuckfield' in July 1971. This led to the formation of the local Sealed Knot regiments based at The Talbot Inn - who were kitted out and trained in time for the October's Mayor's Show.

The year of 1971 was very special indeed and brought out the best in community spirit with many local organisations pitching in with enthusiasm and sometimes dogged perseverance to get matters resolved. In July the Cuckfield Society masterminded 10 days of song, drama, there was a battle reenactment, a son et lumière staged and the very popular annual Mayor’s Show, and many other events as well. Quite extraordinary for just a small local community.


Photographs above were taken by the author, but are not of the son et lumière show itself but soon after the lighting had been installed. If you have any other photographs of this event please do let us know.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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