2003: Cuckfield History Part 4

Updated: Jun 30

A History of Cuckfield part 4

The Report of the Charity Commissioners of 1819-1837 shows a number of charities in Cuckfield badly administered, and some lost, for example, the Allen Savage Charity of which they say “as no parochial accounts can be no worse kept than those of the parish of Cuckfield all inquiries as to the identity of this property have hitherto proved unsuccessful”.


The Commissioners discovered that the Guardians of the Cuckfield Union were using the land and buildings of the Middleton and Burrell Charity to save the Poor Rate. The Master of the Rolls appointed new Trustees to the Middleton and Burrell Charity in 1842. Since 1895 the income from this Charity has been spent on grants to educational institutions and small pensions to old people.


Cuckfield Workhouse c 1900 - colourised (photograph courtesy of workhouse.org.uk)

A meeting of landowners at the Talbot to protest against the proposal to bring the projected London to Brighton railway through Cuckfield resulted in their buying up land on the proposed route. As a result the line took a wide detour and was taken through a vast cutting in the heathland, which subsequently became Haywards Heath.


The railway started a decline in the fortunes of the town and the last stagecoach to profit ran in 1845. The Kings Head and Talbot lost their trade until the latter was empty and up to let a few years later.

The annual fair on September the 16th for the sale of goods dwindled into a pleasure fair when gypsies came and set up booths and roundabouts, first near the Kings Head, and later near the Rose and Crown.

Cuckfield was now a rather decayed little country town. the census of 1881 gives the number of inhabited houses as 415 with 20 uninhabited, and a total population of 2,429 .


The classes of society were still sharply divided. The “gentry” led by the Sergison family, organised amateur theatricals in the Drill Hall, led the subscription list for local charities and occupied private pews in the church (a chain was placed across the main road on Sundays to allow the Sergisons and their servants to cross safely - hence the name Chain Walk House today). The Vicar had considerable power, even reproving the Gentry when they failed to support his Temperance Society.


In the end the railway benefited Cuckfield by making it more accessible to London and new families built large houses in the parish. Mr. Turner built Woodcroft, Mr Bevan put up Horsgate in the 1850s and Alexander Kleinwort purchased Bolnore in 1898.


The local government act of 1894 created the Cuckfield Urban District Council, including the wards of Cuckfield, Lindfield, and Haywards Heath. Cuckfield thus lost its identity as a town.


Despite this there was evidently a strong sense of community in the early years of the century. The Queens Hall, built in memory of Queen Victoria's Jubilee was built in 1897 and became a centre for the Music Society and Lending library and the Cuckfield Debating Society. The same year saw the foundation of the Cuckfield Improvement Society which maintained footpaths, planted trees and made the swimming pool which gave pleasure to residents until relatively recently.


Queens Hall photographed on June 3rd 2022 (Platinum Jubilee Celebration day)

World War One did not change the face of Cuckfield, but 81 of its men did not return when the hostilities ceased in 1918. In memory of Richard Worsley, killed in the war, the Worsley family endowed and provided the recreation ground.


Between the wars Cuckfield suffered little change except the building of new houses in Courtmead road. But August-September 1939 brought a batch of school children with their teachers from east London to be billeted on the residents and to share the schools with the local children.


The large houses and estates were taken over by the army and a Canadian division was stationed in Cuckfield park, Ockenden Manor and Borde Hill. Cuckfield Infirmary was enlarged for the troops to become a modern hospital. The Canadians left a memorial of their stay in an oak seat in an arbour in the churchyard.


In World War Two Cuckfield was like the rest of the South of England, and became part of the frontline. Home Guard company was formed and a battle school operated at Woodcroft. A Royal Observer core post, near the churchyard, maintained an unbroken watch for more than five and a half years. Cuckfield had its share of bombs, including the second V.1 flying bomb to reach this country, which fell on Sidnye Farm.


Since the war many new houses have been built. Warden Court, a girl’s boarding school for nearly 100 years was pulled down and replaced by a new estate. Houses have been built on Ledgers Meadow, the nursery gardens of Barrowfield and on the site of the house known as Northern Breach. Many residents now commute daily to London and refer to the Old Town as a village.


An extract from the THIS IS CUCKFIELD book, written by Cuckfield Society founder the late Derek Wood, published by Cuckfield Society in March 1967


John Alexander writes:-

Born there in March 1953, lived opposite in Longacre Crescent until 1974, many visits there going to the shops at Whitemans Green to buy the 'old ladies ward' their 'fags' and sweets as a kid, and the church on Sundays, loved the social hall----and some of the female staff! happy days.


Maggie Clinton writes:-

I was born there in 53. Tonsils out I 58, volunteer in 1969, world in X-ray in 1970, came back in 1977 as a registered nurse. I loved this hospital with my heart and soul. Hard work, limited resources compared to some hospitals but staff like no others. They were the best, so loyal. Great parties in the social club and Docs mess. Thank you so much for this posting....made me happy


Tina Harris writes:

I was born there in 1984 x


Alison Ridley writes:

Very interesting. Thank you for posting .I was born there 1967


Roydon Dagger writes:

Born there 53 tonsils out 58 spent more time there than care to remember


Andrew Macreadie writes:

Had regular bed in casualty up until was 16 following various cuts etc!

I was born there in 66


Barry Bilsby writes:

My Mum use to tell me jokingly I was born in a workhouse


Ann Mc Cluskie writes:

I can even see my old office. What wonderful times we spent working there.


Tessa Boyer writes:

Such great times at Cuckfield Hospital


Ann Mc Cluskie writes:

I was a pupil midwife there in 1962


Richard Mark Ewan writes:

I knew a girl who worked at Cuckfield Hospital called Sue Ellis. She was my cleaning supervisor when I was a Saturday student worker. Also, I was born there too in October 1962.

Manuela Koflach Warburton writes:

Mum worked in the Sewing Room. Enjoyed the many trips to wonderful shows including the London Palladium organised by the Social Club!


Gillian Howick writes:

I have so many wonderful Childhood memories of Jack. My Dad Bob, (Robert Knight), Jack's younger brother also grew up in Glebe Road and only moved as far as London Lane when he got married, my Grandparents lived in Glebe Road all of their married lives and my Great GrandMother lived in Chatfield Road (Hannah Pennifold)- so as we only lived within a minutes walk of each other we were a very close family


John Alexander writes:-

I used to deliver Grocery's from the SPAR shop and newspapers to the Highlands, I was friends with John & Richard Taylor who lived there.


Alison Markwick writes:-

Many of the local Cuckfield "girls" got to meet their future beaux in the grounds of Cuckfield Hospital and the Borde Hill Estate where they were billeted in WW2. The Canadian soldiers would shower them with gifts of nylons and chocolate coupons in order to secure a dance at the Queens Hall in the High Street.



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