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1975: Scent of Battle looms over a rubbish tip

The People - Sunday 26 January 1975


Scent of Battle looms over a rubbish tip.

Cor, what a shower! Invading bureaucrats are heading for a load of trouble if they advance on a country towns beauty spot.

Battling citizens are ready to meet them with cannons, firing the most repelling shots of all – cowpats.

BBC's Nationwide programme took up the story in 1975. Here, the reporter speaks to camera in front of the site (now Cuckfield Golf Course) earmarked by West Sussex County Council to become a rubbish tip.

“That should make things hum,”, said their army commander Mr George Stevenson.

He reckons the town hall men will run at the first whiff of cow shot. Even their retreat will be covered.


The men behind the guns at the ancient town of Cuckfield, Sussex, are the Sealed Knot Society who raise money for charity by re-staging Civil War battles with up to 2000 men.

Now Cavaliers and Roundheads have joined forces in earnest to repel the officials of West Sussex County Council who planned to turn 32 acres of the beauty spot into a rubbish tip. "In our mock battles we use two ton cannons,” said Mr Stevenson, a retired High Court official, who is Colonel in Chief of the society. "We usually pack them with soft material that blows up with a lot of smoke and a big bang. But if these people try to tip their rubbish we are quite prepared to use other things.

"Canon barrels can be stuffed with cowpats. That should put the wind up them.

We have two guns of our own but I have only to lift the phone and we will have half a dozen guns from Essex, Kent and London. We could put a ring of Canon round them".

Members of the Cuckfield Corps d'Elite stunt team prepare for battle

And they're not just shooting a load of bull. Besides using Canon the defenders, dressed in the Civil War uniforms, full stand ready with Pikes and swords. "I don't think any lorries will get through," said Mr Stevenson. "If they attempt to spill their rubbish we will hold up traffic for miles around."

Why has the society become involved in a row over rubbish tip? "We are the regiments of Cuckfield and we will help to defend it against this vandalism," said Mr Stevenson.

The Cuckfield crisis has even revived the declaration of 1966 when residents announced they were "an independent state" to raise money for charity by issuing "passports" and "currency." Now the state president, retired Lloyds underwriter Peter Bowring, has issued a stirring call to citizens: "Cuckfield is threatened – prepare yourself for action!"

In the event of a state of emergency – to be sounded by banging of dustbin lids for 15 minutes – every able-bodied citizen is to assemble at the rubbish tip to repel lorries.



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