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1989: GCSE student uncovers 'Cottage glove industry' in Cuckfield

Mid Sussex Times January 27 1989

They made gloves fit for a Queen

Cuckfield once had a thriving glove-making industry, and Queen Mary once bought a pair of gloves made there. 

These facts have been revealed by Lydia thunder, 16, while working on a GCSE exam project in fashion.

Lydia’s mum Mrs Rosalind Thunder is president of the Cuckfield Women's Institute. She knew that the WI archives included details of group members who started making gloves for some pocket money about 70 years ago. 

This continued until 1940, and during the groups 20 years’ work they made hundreds of pairs of gloves for sale locally and at exhibitions.

The story persists that Queen Mary was one of the many customers to admire the hand stitched gloves so lovingly made in Cuckfield. 

“It's quite an interesting bit of history, said WI secretary Mrs Ruth Baker. ”The glove makers were really forerunners of today's WI markets.

Our archives contain a lot of glove patterns and a picture of a member showing some new gloves.

But we don't know her name. If someone reading the midi could tell us that would be very useful”.

Lydia Thunder, herself a member of the WI, used some of the original Cuckfield patterns for her project at Warden Park School. 

The village WI celebrated its 70th anniversary in March, and the glove making story and pictures are being sent to the National WI magazine. Home and country, for a special article.

Mid Sussex Times January 27 1989

Well spotted!

Mrs Emily Wells with the WI-made gloves c 1920

We always thought one of our readers would recognise the lady with the gloves - and you haven't disappointed us.

Last month we ran the picture with an article about Lydia Thunder, a GCSE pupil working on a fashion project, who unearthed the fact that some 70 years ago Cuckfield had a thriving glove-making industry.

Mrs Edith Ford from Amberley Close, Haywards Heath tells us that the lady in the picture is Mrs Emily Wells who was born in Cuckfield and lived there until she died at the grand old age of 101 in 1950.

She lived in Broad Street and Mrs Ford's grandmother, Mrs Phrusanna Moore, lived next door. Mrs Wells' grandson Tom, a retired builder, still lives at Cuckfield.


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