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1977: Cuckfield between the Wars recalled - people, pets, events and wild plants....


On leaving school at fourteen, I really should have gone out to work, but Dad needed someone to help in the shop and to help Aunt in the house. But I was very dilatory, and spent more time banging a broom on the shop floor to make out I was working while scribbling on the billheads, or reading the newspaper in which we packed up the shoes.


l was silly, I could have learnt a lot from my stepmother. She was a wonderful cook, and a marvellous needlewoman. She tried to teach me needlework by making me do half an hour alter school, but I was a clock-watcher!


She instigated the Lawn Tennis The Ladies Whist team, the Dancing Classes for children and adults under Miss Vera Sutton, and a leading light in the Women's Institute.


When any of the family came home with their families, out would come the long trestle table, and extra lovely food would be cooked like 'Fleedy cakes’ (The fleed or flay of the pig, a fatty substance, beaten for two hours into the pastry) and we played ‘Tip-it’ with the children afterwards. Like that she kept the family together. Dad liked his fishing, solo-playing, and Mr. Burtenshaw's cider.


He was proud to be a Liberal, especially when Mr. Corbett got in for East Grinstead, and was always setting the world to rights over the meal table. The times l have heard "what we want is an International Police Force”.


Sleeping in the next room l was intrigued one night to hear, “'tis no good Kate, I’II have to cut it". Next morning I asked "what was it Dad was going to cut?" Aunt laughed and said “My Corsets”.


By this time ‘Chum’ our dog had died, and Bill bought "Pompey" from Portsmouth. On one occasion Bill picked him up when they were tarring the road and both fell. We lost Bill to our sorrow, when he was only aged thirty-three.


We had a speaking tube connecting workshop to front shop, and once Dad called out "hold the ........!! there while you collect the money”. The customer said "Its alright. l heard”.


Cuckfield Park, the lovely old house in whose Lake Dad would go fishing was once the scene of a Pageant in which all the "locals" took part. Aunt Kate was a fisherwoman, and I a Court Jester. To the strains of “Barcarolle” two gardeners from the Park dressed as Gondoliers, pushed off in a punt containing an illustrious singer (imported from Holland). Needless to say the boat capsized. We all sang "for she is a jolly good fellow" as she was fished out.


Lake at Cuckfield Park c1930

Army manoeuvres took place on another occasion in the Park, and l remember a poor

girl getting killed by a tank.


No mention of Cuckfield would be complete without its flowers. The hedge from Longacre Farm in Ardingly Road to the "Spike" would be a blaze of colour in June with wild roses and honeysuckle. Red and White Horse Chestnuts in the Spinning Field. The field behind Miss Gibbs’ full of tottle grass and white marguerites.


Primroses in the Fairies Glen over the Golf Links, and if lucky a few precious cowslips. The carpet of bluebells in the beechwood over the park, out most of all the hedgerows in Gyllies Lane full of primroses, anemones. violets, ladies smock, and batchelor's buttons. I would often cycle there before breakfast on a Sunday morning, and bring Aunt back bunches of primroses tied to the handlebars.


A Mr and Mrs. Clark came to live in our old house. Mr. Clark had been a Phrenologist in Brighton, and I was most intrigued with his diagrams of heads, and longed to have mine "done" Aunt said he hadn't got all day!!


One of my delights at this time were weddings. Never missed one if I could help it. The wealthier folk always had an awning and red carpet from the west door to Church Platt, but l preferred the north door with its long watch up to the Lych Gate leading out into Church Street. l well remember May Harding's wedding, and Molly Thomas' with her retinue of bridesmaid and page in red velvet. Canon Wilson’s daughter Barbara and Nesta Bevan's (from the west door of course) were beautiful but there was no bride prettier than our sister Hilda, when she married her Sam. All in

white, with a lovely bouquet, and with May and Dory as bridesmaids, with lacy Dutch headdresses. l cannot remember the colour of their dresses, but I know Aunt made me a cream tussore dress which l loved.


Talking of Nesta Bevan reminded me of her sister Enid. She organised the G.F.S. (The Girls Friendly Society), and for some reason would always have the occasion to say “I’m afraid May". She had way of stretching her neck when she said this, and Dory could take her off beautifully. Miss Homewood helped Miss Bevan. She also befriended the little orphan from Orchard Cottage, one of whom died of TB. She told us how this child stretched out her arms. saying "Oh take me for a beautiful walk" as she lay dying.


Besides the G.F.S. there was "The Band of Hope". How we loved that, especially going by wagon (later Mr Markwick's lorry) to the Hassocks Pleasure Gardens stopping en route to sing "Shut up your Public Houses”.

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