top of page

1977- Lillian Newnham recalls the Cuckfield shops and shopkeepers in the period 'between the Wars'

Cuckfield shops are very different now l guess, but it is rather fascinating to look back and imagine the High Street as it was "between the wars". Starting from the Recreation Ground where l spent so many happy hours playing tennis with Leslie Etherton, Percy Waugh, Ron Hurm, Mrs Askew, Mrs Seldon, Mrs Ede and Winnie, and of course Aunt Kate (who was a wizard at the net).

Next came the lovely old house of Attrees' where Mrs Avery and Florrie Nye used to do the catering for almost everything in Cuckfield.

The Queen’s Hall: The venue for Dances, Concerts. whist Drives, Meetings wedding receptions etc. A lovely old building.

Bleaches - Sweet Shop: Both Mrs and Miss Bleach wore black, with white “‘Pinnies”. Pear drops (because they Iasted so long) comfits and liquorice bootlaces were my favourites.

At the opposite end of a group of cottages lived the Gamers. Mr. Garner was the Verger, and Mrs Gamer valiantly tried to teach me the piano.

Caffyn - Corn Merchants: A never forgotten smell. Old Mr. Caffyn wore a top hat always covered in flour. He was assisted by Mr. Hoath. Mr. Caffyn was the first person I ever knew to commit suicide.

Dr Farr - Marshalls: The beautiful house opposite us. the residence of the local Dr. Mrs Farr had an enormous ear trumpet. Whenever it was thrust toward me, for once I would dry up. Whenever Mrs Parr made strawberry ice cream, she would send Miss Heard over with the dish for us to lick out - delicious!

Marshalls c1920 colourised

Parkes Chemist: Mr. White was the chemist for years, but Mr Parkes more in my day. He was a a great tease and loved a joke.

Miss Tribe - Drapers: She and Miss Browning ran the Drapery shop. I used to often sleep over there as Miss Tribe was nervous. Also used to sweep and dust the shop to earn a few extra shillings. ( My favourite shop ).

Mrs. Thomas - Sweets: Every weekend l would be sent over to Thomas’s for Cigars for Dad, Chocolate for Aunt, and of course, some for me.

Knights - Ironmongers: A funny old shop. Owned by two brothers. Pitch dark, with fitments containing lots of small drawers in which nails would be kept. But they always knew where to find everything. Smelt of paraffin.

Stevens - Greengrocers: Run for years by Vi and Mary Stevens. When Vi died. Mary was assisted by her brother. During the second world Mary married a Canadian (they say he swept her off her feet) and she went off to Canada without even her hat!

Hobbs - Butcher: Harold Hobbs was known as a “card". l remember his wife, a stately soul, who had a proper nanny for her children, in grey uniform.

Mrs Pace - Draper: Another character Dory could take off so well, with a rabbit like twitch of her nose. Joan Pace, her daughter, was very pretty and a marvellous pianist.

Mrs Hodge - The Post Office: The Post used to be over the road next to Hevers but moved to smaller premises. Mrs Hodge was most efficient. l envied her ability to add up. Mr. King afterwards took over.

Lil Garner - Wool Shop: A great friend of Hilda’s ran it. Only a tiny shop wedged between the Post Office and Hoadley’s but l think she did good trade.

Hoadley’s - Grocer’s: A large shop. The cooked meat counter etc run for years by Perry (who was an authority on Cuckfield). Dick Hoadley the younger son was a Battle of Britain pilot and got killed I believe.

Carters- Bakers: More well known as "Buntings". (Mr. Bunting being a well known Cuckfieldian). Mr Carter spent most of his time at the Kings Head unfortunately. Afterwards taken over by the Kings.

Twiners - Laundry: A great employer for local labour as well as the entire Twiner family. I don 't remember their names except one sister was fat and another thin.

Mrs Cook - South Street Sweet Shop: Mrs. Cook was a bit starchy, didn’t like you to look round before buying sweets.  Son Tom Cook, a local celebrity, played football for Brighton and Hove Albion. She afterwards moved. to the High Street opposite Hoadleys.

Burtenshaw and Graham - Cycle shop: both great Cuckfieldians. Christine Graham was my age, but suffered with ‘sleeping sickness’ and had to spend her life in a wheelchair. Her mother was wonderful and lived to a great age.

Webbers Dairy: Not that we ever visited the dairy, for the old man would come with the churn, and all those lovely brass-handled measures. Lovely memory. Dairy afterwards taken over by Gubbins. Never the same.

The White Hart: One of the oldest pubs in Cuckfield, and a great favourite of Dads. Since it was the one nearest the Lake where he did his fishing. Run in my time by Mr. Stuchbury,

The Kings Head: The hostelry where the mail coaches used to stop in the old days The scene of Dad's solo evenings.

Askews - Undertakers: Not a popular shop. Run by Percy and Harry Askew. Harry

was a good cricketer and Tennis Player until plagued by arthritis. (he was very


Churchyard Cottages: Once a hostelry, now separate cottages. Mrs. Jeffery (Mum's

friend) lived in the end one, her son Jim in another, and Nurse Stoner, who was

famous for bringing most Cuckfieldians into the world.

Opposite the school in Church Street, lived Ernie and Mrs. Quickenden, both keen

card players Mrs Quickenden "did" many local functions, either in the catering line,

or a lav attendant.

Our Church – Holy Trinity: Only recently in May 1980, the Church steeple caught alight, and was destroyed. I hope they will be able to rebuild it. (Editor’s note - Lillian added this event later) Canon Wilson was Vicar throughout almost all these years, and a much loved man. He wrote six volumes of the people and the events of Cuckfield, and when I asked a subsequent Vicar if I might be allowed to borrow them one by one to show to my 90 year old father, said "No they were the property of the Church". I told him I was sure Canon Wilson would want us to read what he had so lovingly written, and I would take the greatest care of them, and surely that was better than to have them gathering dust in the vestry! got them grudgingly).

Seldons Butchers: Frank and Mrs Seldon were great Tennis players, and ran the Butchers shop at the bottom of the High Street, ably assisted by Emie Malins.

Vaughans Paper Shop: Or Newsagents cum everything else, I should have said. Mr and Mrs Vaughan ran the shop for years, then followed by Aubrey? (He died far too early),

Bakers - Jewellers: Claude Baker, another Tennis Player, I don't think Mrs Baker liked him playing much. Their shop always rather untidy. Probably due to the repairs having to be done in the front shop.

Marshalls - Gents Hairdressers: lt was here that Dad, upon being taken there by May for a haircut. said "'Er brought me - let 'Er pay”!

Hobdens- Greengrocers: A very little man with bow legs. I remember being sent for bananas, and he tried to give me an over-ripe one. Sent me into giggles when he snapped, “I’m not in them am l"? Ben worked there when he was very young l believe.

Frank Webber - Dairy: This shop changed hands quite a lot. lt was actually dairy cum Grocery store. Mr Webber was one of Dad's Solo School.

Talbot Inn: Another of the old Coaching inns, run by Mrs Stoner, assisted by her Sons Harry and Bill, and Bill's wife Ruby. l used to be sent here for a tot of Gin for Aunt and Miss Tribe, and 1d (penny) arrowroot biscuits for Pompey the dog.

International Stores: One could say the forerunner of the "Supermarkets" but run more like a village shop by Rosie Bates. Both Hilda & Reg worked there when they school.

Hevers Fishmongers: Mrs, Hever, the cause of my biggest and best faux Pas! Seeing her standing in the shop doorway, reminded me I had forgotten my errand, and I called out "On seeing your face reminds me I want some fish!”

Gowans - Drapers: lt seems we did rather well for Drapers in those days. Mr Gowan was also scoutmaster, and both keen Tennis players. 

Mr Humphries Furnishers: The Cuckfield Clock is attached to their house. Mr Humphry did repair work as well as selling furniture.

Harris - Saddlers: I loved the smell of this shop. I expect it was the leather. Mr Harris was a bit surly, but Mr Penfold very nice. His sons afterwards took over Miss Tribe’s as saddlers.

Fords - Cycle Shop; Don't mink I ever saw Mr Ford. It seemed to be entirely be Frank Leppard (another Cuckfield tradesman to die too early). He was very Jolly, and Bill would spend many hours there, as wireless' were Frank's sideline. Next to the cycle shop there was very old cottage, run by an old Lady who didn't like us sitting on her wall.

Whites Shoe shop: Strange the only two shoe shops were nearly next door to one another. Always remembered Mr White for his large goitre, and Mrs White for her dear little black satin granny bonnets. Annie White their daughter is still alive I believe, and must be a great age.

Next to our first house was Penfolds, another very old house. Their daughter Gwen was a bit of a simperer.

Then Mr and Mrs Clark, the Phrenologist, bought no4. from us. She was rather a recluse, but he liked nothing better than to sit in Dad's workshop, both setting the world to rights.

Newnham - Bootmakers: Just in case you should miss it, it had the name in large letters on the side of the house. Dad celebrated his 50 years in business in 1939.

Hazeldeans formerly Bank House: but always “Hazeldeans" to us. Jesse Hazeldean was Dory's age, and we always hoped they would fall in love, but he married “Toots" Rayner, while Jim married Nellie. Great friends of the Newnhams.

Tidy’s Butchers: Being Tradespeople ourselves, we naturally dealt with the shops in the village. Aunt would find out which were best for certain things; in Mr Tidy's case it was "sausages". May Harding's husband Arthur worked there. Mrs Tidy was very thin.

Humms - Bakers: The best Baker in Cuckfield. All home baked, as indeed Mr Carter's were then. Every Friday he would accept cakes for baking. Both Vi and Ron Humm were keen tennis players.

Mrs Avery - Twitten House: Mrs Avery and Florrie Nye moved over from “Attrees". I don't know how they could have left such a beautiful house, but I expect it was the work! They still continued with the catering.

Miss Blundell - Laundry: I well remember Miss Blundell reprimanding me for playing my King as third player at a Whist Drive. “My dad says - third player play high” said I, in my know-all voice!

Mr Fuller - The Forge: Although not strictly in the High Street (by the Rose and Crown in fact) I shall never forget the fascination of watching old Mr Fuller and his son shoeing Horses. The sparks that flew, the funny smell, and the heat.

I hope I shall always remember these things, for Cuckfleld in the "Years Between” was a happy place, where people had time to chatter over their purchases, Where “Mum and Dad" had time to take you for walks. Where the flowers smelt sweeter than they do today, and even “school" evokes happy memories.

Thank you Cuckfield, I shall never forget you.



bottom of page