1992: How and why Cuckfield became an independent State in 1966

WE DID IT OUR WAY

Cuckfield has always been a fiercely self determining community. To those who live here, Cuckfield is not a suburb of Haywards Heath, that Johnny-come-lately town to the east. In the mid 60s when the local council laid territorial claim to Whitemans green the indomitable spirit of Cuckfield cried “Enough!” It was time for Cuckfield to rise up as Phil Bowring recalls:


“Last year the independent state of Cuckfield was 25 years old. To find out how it came into being we need to look back to the summer of 1951.


“In that year the Cuckfield Donkey Racing Club was founded and the first annual race meeting was held on the ground where Warden Park School now stands. So successful was this venture that it was transferred to Whitemans Green where there was more space.

“The racecourse itself was laid out on the present playing fields while the car park occupied the rugby grounds. On August bank holiday Monday each year until 1965, racing took place – the highlight being the donkey Grand National with £100 of the silver cup for the winner.

Donkey Derby Course 1960s

“The AA guide to British villages wrote: ‘Cuckfield is known for its High Street, and its annual donkey race meeting’.

Donkey on the loose at Whiteman's Green

“In 1965 however the local council compulsorily purchased the Whitemans Green fields, and we were refused permission to use them again. We were furious and flabbergasted and desperate to think of some other way to raise a large sum of money. My husband Peter suggested a Mayor’s election, candidates to be voted for in hard cash. Corruption was encouraged, anyone could vote for any or all of the candidates as many times as they liked and could afford. He or she was thus elected to be Mayor for the following year.


“Rhodesia had recently declared UDI and we decided to demonstrate our annoyance with the council by following suit. In 1966, the organisation known as the independent state came into being, our avowed aims to care for the welfare of everybody in Cuckfield and to protect as far as possible our local environment.


“To emphasise Cuckfield’s independence, we issued our own passports – these provided more revenue, as did our cuckoo notes, (five cuckoos equals 10 old shilling or 5p) and our town postage stamps.

Passport to the Independent State of Cuckfield


“To begin with most people regarded the independent state as a gimmick to raise money, but we were soon able to prove that we had us serious side as well. We act as a banner under which people can rally when Cuckfield welfare is threatened.


“Every penny we raise is used to help some aspect of Cuckfield life. We paid for the repair of the paddling pool in the recreation ground, we have donated playground equipment to Millhall School and Court Meadow – camping equipment to the scouts, computer equipment to the primary school, a microscope to Warden Park, modernisation and improvement to the Cottage Homes, and comforts for the older citizens.


“Each December we invite anyone who is an OAP to a Christmas dinner and party in the Queen’s Hall. We also sponsor youngsters who have the chance to do something exciting and need help with funding.


“We ask any organisation or resident of Cuckfield needing help to contact us, we will always do our best to help.

Mayor's procession in the High Street during the 1960s

“That is the Independent State story to date – now we start on a new chapter for the next 25 years hoping that we can go from strength to strength.”


Thank you to Cuckfield 900 - Souvenir Programme


For more on the donkey derby in Cuckfield click the link: - https://www.cuckfieldconnections.org.uk/post/1957-windmill-girls-and-donkeys-at-whiteman-s-green-the-cuckfield-donkey-derby


Good hearted mischief in Cuckfield:- https://www.midsussextimes.co.uk/news/cuckfield-among-best-places-live-south-east-694691

Passport Photograph thanks to Cuckfieldstate.org


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