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19th century: Fine clothes given to the poor

In this article by Margaret Holt, she looks back at how the wealthy could, and sometimes almost reluctantly would, provide for the poor.

It must not be supposed that landowners were totally oblivious to the needs of their workers, and many were not only good landlords but conscientious ones as well, but it is obvious that any charitable effort on their part fell far short of basic requirements.

Certainly the ladies of the village quietly carried out many kindly duties, especially at times of illness and childbirth, but unfortunately, once again it was totally inadequate to the problem of such poverty.

It is ironic that funerals could be a time of amelioration; for instance in 1883 Miss Robinson of Balcombe House, Balcombe, instructed her executors to give for the day of her funeral, to 50 women of the parish - the gift of a dress with trimmings - and all the small girls were to have the same; the boys were to have a cap and neck-tie and all the men who worked on the estate would receive a suit of 'black cloth clothes'.

Much earlier in the century Nathaniel Blaker of Pyecombe relates that when the war was ended, after the Battle of Waterloo, much of the army stores were sold and some allocated to the poor in Sussex.

Many of the village girls were wearing long red cloaks, of such quality that they were 'handed down' for several generations. But apart from such wonderful gift, children in the main, wore the ordinary 'round frock', as did their fathers.

by Margaret Holt, in the Cuckfield Museum archives


Malcolm and Margaret Holt owned the property at Cuckfield Park in the 1970s. Margaret was a keen historian and actively researched the Cuckfield area and was very active in expanding the activities of the Cuckfield Museum.


Cartoon published in Punch 18 decemebr 1858 volumes made freely available on Google Books. milkmaid is shown wearing a cage crinoline which she has transformed into a yoke to carry milk pails. Original caption reproduced beneath.

Leigh Manor by Donald Maxwell from Coaching Days and Coaching Ways, by Outram Tristram, 1893

Contributed by Malcolm Davison. From the Cuckfield Museum archives.



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