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1992: Local Historian Shirley Bond looks back on her Cuckfield childhood

A Cuckfield Childhood by Shirley Bond

My family moved to Cuckfield in 1940 and lived in the same house in Broad Street until my parents died in 1988, so I have nearly 50 years of memories of the village.

I was only four when as Shirley Sangster we moved into Corelli, the house with the treble clef and music stave on the front nearest to Haywards Heath.

'Corelli' - Shirley Bond's childhood home in Broad Street

During the war in 1941, I started attending Cuckfield infant school, in Miss Gibbs’ class. I moved through the Infant section into the Junior school having various teachers including Arthur Rapley who taught there for many years. He walked with the aid of a stick which came in useful for keeping discipline or correcting those who couldn't get their sums right!!

Miss May Packham also taught me at the school and still lives in Cuckfield.

Whenever the air raid warning went off while at school we all had to trip into the church and sit under the church spire. I can only presume the authorities believed that no pilot would hit a religious building. I used to walk along Courtmead Road back home for lunch but those staying behind at school went to the dining rooms in Newbury Lane behind the church.

School sports days were held in the recreation ground as were all local sporting events except for the Cricket Club which had its premises next to Cuckfield Park on the road to Ansty.

Looking back the school was very old-fashioned by today's standards but gave me an excellent education up to the age of 11; very fortunate considering I was there in the war years which wasn't easy for anyone. In 1947 I sat the 11+ exam as everyone had to in those days, those who didn't pass it staying at the school in the village as Warden Park School wasn't yet built.

There has always been a general stores on the premises of Broad Street stores but for many years the shop was smaller as half of it was the living of the owner Miss Gillam.

Further along Broad Street, where the cul-de-sac of houses called Warden Close now stands was a tree lined driveway leading to Warden School, a small private boarding and day school for girls.

In 1942 at the age of 7, I joined the first Cuckfield Brownie pack. Meetings were held in the Church Hall every Saturday morning and were run by Brown Owl Miss Enid Bevan. There was no Girl Guide company in Cuckfield at that time, but as several of us reached the age of 11 and were ready to ‘fly up’ to the guides, the first Cuckfield Girl Guide Company was formed and run by Gillian Mitchell. There were only a few of us at first but the members soon grew at our meetings on Thursday evenings in the Church Hall. Regular church parades were held in Holy Trinity Church. Tracks, camps and all the other usual guide activities were enjoyed.

At this time, the School for the Deaf was in Cuckfield House, a large house next to the entrance to the recreation ground.

I was taken to Holy Trinity Church as soon as we arrived in the village and when old enough attended Children's Church each Sunday at 10 am. The vicar at that time was the Reverend Kemp. The children of Sir Kenneth Kleinwort attended this service and once or twice we were all invited to superb children's parties in their house at Christmas time.

All the children in Cuckfield were also invited to parties held at the Canadian servicemen’s base in huts along the road from Cuckfield hospital. The entertainment, good food and presence of chewing gum were most popular.

After being confirmed by the Bishop of Chichester in Holy Trinity Church, I joined the choir for the Sung Eucharist service held at 9 am each Sunday. In those days different choirs sang at different services all under the direction of the organist Alfred Bailey.

I consider myself fortunate to have been brought up in Cuckfield with all it offered for a happy and fulfilling childhood. I hope that these few recollections will bring back memories for others who live there at the time and give more recently arrived residence a picture of what Cuckfield was like those years ago.

From A Cuckfield Childhood by Shirley Bond (Cuckfield 900 souvenir programme - Mid Sussex Times 1992)

Shirley Bond's collection of articles and letters records the moving stories of eighty one locals who served and died in the Great War. Find out more from Cuckfield Remembered published by: UPSO Ltd 5 Stirling Road, Castleham Business Park, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex TN38 9NW 2007


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