1971: What writers said about Cuckfield (3)

Our heritage

A short history of Cuckfield.

In the Middle Ages Cuckfield was one of the market towns of Sussex and most of the houses and shops in the main street today were there over 300 years ago when, in 1670, Charles II renewed the charter to hold a market on Fridays which the Lords of the Manor had held since 1250. Many of these houses do not look old because they have been “modernised” through the centuries and their Victorian fronts hide the old timber framed houses behind.


The church is the oldest building. The tower, buttresses and some of the pillars were built in 1250. The main part was completed in the 14th century in the perpendicular style and the beautiful steeple was added at this time. The interior has been altered a good deal and was completely remodelled in the fifties of the last century. Besides the monuments to the great figures of the past, like Gerrard and Walter Burrell, Henry Bowyer and Charles Sergison on Cuckfield Park there is much of interest for the history of Cuckfield in the Church. The Parish Registers of Births, Burials and Marriages dating from 1598 show names like Burtenshaw and Godsmark, of present day Cuckfield residents. In the bell tower there is a record of a famous peal rung to celebrate the victory of Waterloo, and these same bells were rung all day long on November the 11th, 1918.


In 1521 a rich London merchant named Edmund flower left money for the Cuckfield grammar school, and this endowment was increased in 1529 by the Reverend Spicer whose fine house called Spicer’s Farm stands today just as he built it on the way to Balcombe. In 1846 the school ceased to be a grammar school but part of the building of 1632 is still used by the primary school.


Elevated view of Cuckfield School c1900 courtesy of Cuckfield Museum


In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Cuckfield prospered from the iron industry of the Sussex Weald. The ironmasters who cast guns for the Queen's armies and for her ships fighting the Armada grew rich and built themselves fine mansions in and around the town; Henry Bowyer built Cuckfield Park, Steven Borde built Borde Hill and Walter Burrell Ockenden House.


Cuckfield was important again in the coaching age (1760 to 1830) as the last staging post on the main road from London to Brighton. The Prince Regent used to stay at the old Kings Head (now demolished); In 1804 Cuckfield was providing 50 pairs of horses a day for posting and about this time 50 coaches a day were passing through the town.


As the iron industry moved from Sussex to the north Cuckfield became a quiet country town but it still had some small industries. The Gatland family followed by the Bates family made clocks and rope and cord was spun. There were stone quarries at Whitemans Green which provided materials for the building of the Brighton Pavilion but they are more famous as the place where Gideon Mantell found the fossilised bones of the gigantic prehistoric animal, the iguanodon, now in the Natural History Museum, London.


Cuckfield was by-passed when the railway was made to Haywards Heath in 1841 and it had ceased to be a market town when it was united with Haywards Heath and Lindfield in one local authority in 1929.

Since the war several small new housing estates have been built and today more of its working population are employed outside Cuckfield that in it. But these commuters are as keen to preserve its character and the beauty of its surroundings as their predecessors who were born and lived all their lives here.


from 1971 booklet, origin unknown

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