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300 years of the Leney family in Cuckfield

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 06 May 1930


To the Editor of The Mid Sussex Times

Dear sir, some time ago, by your courtesy, I appealed to anyone acquainted with the second version of the old legend relating to the rebuilding of Cuckfield Church to kindly make it known. No one has ventured into print, but I have found an old lady who knows the lost version. This lady informs me that, when a child, the story she heard was that the old Cuckfield Church was burnt to the ground, much to the delight of the powers of darkness! However, when the stones for the rebuilding were gathered at Whiteman’s Green, it was not a great white man, but the devil himself who came every night and threw them down the hill, with the result we all know.

This tale, she said was told her when quite a little child by an old blacksmith named Tyler, who worked in a smithy at the top of the town Hill just above the “Attrees” behind the lime trees, where now stands the house with the alien name of “Waverley”. The mention of the old Forge (which are good many Cuckfield people will still remember) is interesting, as it was worked and owned for a great many years by the ancient Cuckfield family of Leney.


Whether it was at this smithy that Isaac Leney filed out the wheels and forged up the iron frame for the old church clock in 1667 will never be known, but it is a tradition in the Leney family that this was the site of their original blacksmiths shop. The Leneys appear to have held up their heads in Cuckfield for more than 300 years. There was an Annie Leney, buried in 1601, and from that time to the present their line has never failed and there has always been (and is now) an Isaac in the family.

During the latter part of the 18th and the early years of the 19th century, they appear to have possessed considerable property in Cuckfield. A list dated 1789 contains Isaac Leney’s name as a property owner liable to taxation. In a later valuation list of Cuckfield Parish, signed by Walter Smith as vestry clerk in 1801 and 1802, of those “liable to be assessed for the relief of the poor”, the name of Leney is found several times.

One entry is of a house owned by James Leney and valued at £5 10s, while Isaac Leney is charged as occupier of Birchetts and Robinsons at £15 10s. Isaac Leney also appears as the owner of six houses, the total values and mounting to between £20 and £30. A further and interesting item against Isaac Leney is as the owner of “stables and oak lands” for which he is assessed at £17 10s - a considerable amount in those days. The interest in this entry lies in the fact that these staples (as I am informed) were situated behind the above mentioned Forge, and that at one time all belonged to the Leneys, together with the adjoining land as far as Knowle, which included Oaklands and Percy’s Meadows.

All this is now embraced in the Waller estate. I have never heard when, or by whom, Leyton House was built, but it would appear that it was erected on a frontage of one of the Leney’s meadows. In the early years of the 19th century, Mr Samuel Waller was Clerk to the Justices of the Peace, and held court at Leyton House. In 1812 and 1813 and, when my grandfather was the Headborough of Cuckfield, he has several entries in his diary of “haveling” Cuckfield delinquents to Mr Waller's office before Mr Grainger. Unfortunately he does not say where Mr Waller's office was situated.

In an old universal directory of 1791 there is an Isaac Leney, a Cordwainer. A later Isaac Leney (born about 1788), who was four years a rural postman, figures in top hat and small bag complete in a Cuckfield group which was painted by Mr Joseph Anscombe about 1846 and now hangs in the Queen’s Hall. Many will remember Isaac’s son, who was one of the last post boys of Cuckfield. For four years he brought in the mail from Bolney and Hickstead in his little donkey cart and was popularly known as Scuddy Leney.

In conclusion, may I beg the dear old lady who wrote so interestingly from Twineham to favour me with her name etc so that I may per chance have the pleasure some day of a talk with her on old Cuckfield matters. I feel there are a lot of intriguing little tales hanging round our old town and church which is somehow never found their way into the parish history. Who knows anything of the Cuckfield riots? Thanking you sir, for so much space.

Yours faithfully

Hubert Bates




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