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1984: Cuckfield's yesterdays on display

Mid Sussex Times April 6 1984

All their yesterdays on show

A visit to Cuckfield Museum offers a unique glimpse behind the scenes of history

The museum, recently opened after a winter break, is situated at the top of the Queen’s Hall. Its cluster of Display cases, books and draws help to create a picture of villagers’ work, leisure, dress, habits, attitudes and culture over the years. 

Museum Curator Mrs Nickola Smith with a display of photographs from the Brookshaw family of Cuckfield

When exhibits relate to landmarks on the country's past, they concentrate on the Cuckfield people who took part in these events or left their effects. A programme from 1937 shows how the village celebrated the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

And it sounds to have been quite a party. There was a tableau parade, a fancy dress competition, a torchlight procession, a bonfire and a dance and whist drive at the Queens Hall. Speeches by the King, Stanley Baldwin and the prime ministers of the dominions were relayed over loudspeakers.

The 1937 Coronation programme

One of the many photographs on display shows swimmers at the old village bathing pool in 1937. The pool, formed by damming part of the river Adur, was later condemned as a health risk has been shut down for years. But it once formed an important part of village social life. The damming work was carried out by the Village Improvement Association, one of the first civic societies in England and the forerunner of the present Cuckfield Society. 

At about the same time as the pool was opened, the village school was staging productions of 'Princess Ju Ju' and 'Cinderella'.

Coronation Street Celebration May 1937

Programmes for the shows, printed on fragile silk, are also on display, together with pictures of the school headmaster and the tug-of-war team. 

Enemy attack

More recent material includes a note from the parish Records of the Second World War. The document giving instructions on how ‘to show our own aircraft that one is British’, was to be opened in the event of an enemy attack.

Its advice was to tie a triangular piece of cloth to your gas mask and hold it out horizontally when a British plane went overhead. ‘That’, the paper declares optimistically ‘will prevent them from dive-bombing or machine-gunning you.’

Cuckfield tug-of-war team c1900

An exhibition of 18th century silhouettes forms the museum’s centrepiece at the moment. But every corner, wall and case are crammed with things to discover about Cuckfield people and the creation of their community; articles that without the museum, would still be individual curiosities dotted about the homes in the village. But together they create an intriguing and intricate picture of the past, well worth a visit.



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