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1992: Four Cuckfieldians remember childhood experiences in the old town

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

Ron Knight remembers…

I can remember as a small child Saturday night being rather special. All through the summer the Cuckfield town band played from 6 to 8 pm outside the paper shop.

Most of the men worked until midday on Saturday, so the week’s shopping was done on Saturday evening, the shops being open until 9 pm.

Cuckfield was a busy shopping centre. There was a choice of two large grocery stores; International stores and Hoadleys, two fruiterers, Hobden and Stevens, three butchers; Farncombe, Hobbs and Tedey, I. Heaver, the fishmonger plus various other shops, all of whom were kept busy.

While the women shopped, the men usually played quoits behind the White Hart in or had a drink in one of the local pubs. Saturday was in fact regarded as a social evening and we children enjoyed a late night out.

Tom Wells remembers …

My earliest memories of Cuckfield date back to 1916. I was born in New Road which is now called Chatfield Road. As a child we used to spend a lot of our winter evenings at the Cuckfield Gasworks watching them make the gas.

During our school holidays a great day out was going to Haywards Heath Market on a Tuesday to help Mr Hobbs the local butcher, drive cattle from market to his field.

There used to be a farm at the end of Chatfield Road, owned by Frank Webber who also owned land and buildings called Park Barn where Warden Park School is now. Cowman Percy Stenning used to drive the cows for milking along the road from Park barn to Chatfield Road.

Every November George Smith would bring his cider press and crush Frank’s apples. The juice was then put into big wooden barrels and rumour has it that Frank used to hang a dead rat in each barrel – it evidently worked because his cider was always very good.

The cider makers of Brook Street circa 1920s. George Smith is standing on the left

Ernest Malins remembers…

As a young child during the First World War I saw Cuckfield filled with soldiers and horses – the troops mustering in preparation for the war to end all Wars.

Post Office Rifles in South Street 1915 (colourised)

Khaki uniforms were everywhere, neighbouring fields were used for stabling the horses in temporary field kitchen sprang up.

Large houses such as Ockenden Manor were filled with army personnel – the mounting tensions must have been felt acutely by local residents in Cuckfield at this momentous time in our history.

Olive Mitchell remembers …

In my early years on a summer’s evening we used to go to the first field in Newbury Lane and our dad used to take part in a game of quoits. They used to toss the quoit which was quite a heavy iron thing to encircle a stake. Previously the quoit pitches were in ‘The Friary’ garden which was then open land.

Saturday evening was another event as most of the shops stayed open until 8 pm when many families did quite a lot of their shopping. Afterwards, many parents used to go to the pubs for a drink and the children used to have a glass of lemonade outside which was quite fun as we all enjoyed each other's company.

Mr and Mrs Godsmark who lived in Marshall's Terrace, at the top of the High Street used their front room as a sweet shop. On the bottom step outside there was a bucket with cut flowers and on Saturday evenings men in the village used to call in for a buttonhole on their way down for an evening drink.

From Cuckfield 900 - Souvenir Programme


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