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1977: Personal reflections of growing up in Cuckfield 'between the Wars' Part 1 - family

CUCKFIELD “BETWEEN THE WARS” by Lillian Newnham (1913-1997)

Lillian Newnham grew up in Cuckfield before moving out of the area to Hereford in later life. This is the first part of her story of family life in our town......

'The book on Cuckfield by Maisie Wright, given me in 1977 by Hilda, prompted me to

write my impressions of the Cuckfield in which I grew up, Cuckfield "Between the


There were eight of us, and we lived in 4, High Street, one of the tall houses (56 stairs

from kitchen to attic), built we believe by French refugees.

Mary Jane outside the first shop c1920

Dad (Charles) was a shoemaker - not to be confused with shoe repairer, though he had to undertake that with the advent of mass production. He worked with Mr. Strangeman in a workshop up the garden. Afterwards Cris and Bill worked for him, and for a while Reg, though he had no ambition to follow in his father's footsteps, and soon turned to carpentry. I think Mum would have served in the shop, and all the other thousand and one jobs too, though l don't remember this. Mrs Jeffery (her friend, and the reason for my second ghastly name of Alice) helped with the washing in an old wash-house out the back.

Charles outside the shop c 1939

When l was eight years old we moved next door to 5, the other tall house. lt was slightly larger and had a better shop window.

A word about the family

(Cris) short for Crispin, the patron saint of Shoemakers. Before trudging to Moonhill on Sundays to see Gladys, he would turn out his pockets, and we would have to guess the "dates" of the coppers.

(Ben) Too young to remember him at home. He married Edie soon after the War. Rumour

has it he was the most mischievous of the lot!

(Hilda) She could do something no one else could do - sit on her hair - ginger, carroty, auburn, call it what you will, but it was beautiful. Always starry-eyed because she was in love with Sam. We have had more sweets out of Sam than anyone.

(Bill) Loved Billiards and Snooker. A great tease, especially to Aunt Kate, since she hated to lose when playing cards. Loved his gramophone, and always pestering Dad to let him buy one of the

new fangled wireless'. (He finally got it on the day of the abdication). Helped Dad in the shoe-repairing, as it was then.

We lost Bill to our sorrow, when he was only aged thirty-three.

(Reg) Loved Football and Girls in that order. Grumbled at me because I always wanted to fill a kettle when he was at the sink.

(May) The unafraid one! She, who said to the local "bobby" as she was climbing through the window after a dance, "shut up. You’ll wake my old Dad up". Who, collecting the registers at school, caught her finger in the door. I remember her sitting up in Mum’s bed, with her bandaged finger in the air daring us to sympathise.

(Dory) The quiet one. The one most like Mum, the one who sat on the stairs singing “Tell me the Old old story.” but if the occasion arose she too, was unafraid, as the librarian found when she took back a “filthy" book

(Me Lillian) Enough said! Being born in 1913, obviously I cannot remember the first World War, apart from being told that I sat on brother Ben’s, lustily singing "Here's the good old

beer, mop it down”.

Unlike some of my brothers, I loved school. Living so near, Mum would not allow us to be late. Ben would hug the railings outside our house saying, “I want to give Mum one more kiss” until he knew he was safe. Bill too, couldn't abide school, and more than once was brought home by Hilda, who had been sent for by little Miss Gibb with the words “Willie weeps”. '



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