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1980: Ansty recollections life pre WW1

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Oral History from Cuckfield

From 'West Sussex History Journal and newsletter of the West Sussex Archives Society:

September 1986


Maisie Wright recalled in 1986....

'A few years ago, the West Sussex Record Office organised an oral history project. It concerned the living conditions of working people before 1914. Extracts from a transcript of the first of two interviews given by residents of Cuckfield are reproduced here.' (Editor's note: - A transcript of the second interview will appear later this week)


James Young. 1894-1983


James Young was born at Ansty where his grandparents kept the Old Green Cross Inn before it was rebuilt in the early 1900s. His father started work at the age of 11 at Ansty Farm and worked there all his life at a wage of 16 shillings per week, which rose to £1 at the end of his time. J.Y. lived and died in Ansty. Until his marriage, he lived with his parents and elder sister in a four roomed cottage with a garden where they grew all their own vegetables. Asked about what else they ate he replied:-


James Young: We practically lived on rabbits"

Your father caught them?

James Young: "Yes. Ferreting. We kept them (the ferrets) down on the farm"


(James Young was educated at Cuckfield National School with headmaster Herrington)

James Young: "Mr Herrington’s favourite subject was the British Empire. He told us all that we should be proud of the British Empire. The first thing we had to do was to stand and salute the flag before we went into school."


"Did the flag fly all the time?"

James Young: "All the time, and at half mast if any important person had died."

(The railway was well established by this time but J.Y. remembered the coach service through Cuckfield).


"Did you ever see horse drawn coaches?"

James Young:"Oh yes! I can remember the coaches coming from Brighton"

"To London?"

James Young: "Yes. To the Kings Head, Cuckfield."


"Was it an ordinary passenger coach and how many horses did it have?"

James Young: "About four and they stopped at the Kings Head for the changing."

"Were there people on top, or were they all inside?"

James Young: "You would see some on top and some inside."


"Do you remember the first time you saw a motor car?"

James Young: "I remember when I was at school we got tired of playing in the playground and we came out on the road and we saw a car broken down the Chain Walk and we went down to look at it.


Chain Walk c1900

Then I saw a horse and cart approaching from Ansty and although the motor wasn’t running, this horse wouldn’t go by it. The coachman did all he could to make him; gave him a whip up and that was enough for the old horse. He swung round. He had one passenger with him. He shot the pair of them in the ditch and then he made off to Ansty. There were many other cases (of horses) like that. They hated the things."

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