My father tells me that about 50 years ago these robbers were caught and brought to justice. For a long time they had robbed and threatened to murder any who refused to tell them where the money was kept, or resisted them when they broke into the houses.
They were generally masked, and used to hide in the forest land near Warninglid. One night they entered this house, Old Mill, Cuckfield Park, then in the occupation of Mrs Penfold and her son John, and stole a gun, a watch, and some bacon.
They also entered the house at Haywards Heath, next the Sergison Arms, where the fire was last week. It was then in the occupation of two old ladies, sisters, and their cousin, a young man, lived with them for company. But he had a serious illness, and a nurse was engaged to attend him. Her bed was under the window, her patient's bed being on the other side of the room.
One night the robbers came in by the window, stepped on the nurse's bed and gagged her; then, pointing a pistol in the sick man's face, threatened to shoot him if he moved or spoke. The two sisters they told the same. They then took everything of value they could find, and departed.
It was thought some of the robbers knew the cousin was ill, or they would not have gone there; he was known for a plucky man. The robbers were masked. The youngest sister had a ring she valued very much, her father having given it to her for a birthday present; that was taken. I think it was a green stone in the ring, called cat's eye.
About two years after this robbery the thieves were caught. Miss Ann's ring was found in their possession, and restored to her again. I was shown the ring many years after by the lady herself. Cockman was the name of the leader of the gang, so they were sometimes called ‘Cockman's lot’.
M. Stoner, Old Mill
Nurse Stoner’s Diaries, The Danewood Press, 1996.
Nurse Mary Stoner (1855-1947) was Cuckfield’s first District nurse
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.
The gang were also called The Frimley Gang and there is more on their criminality and arrests on Cuckfield Connections; please see the link for the Haywards Heath robbery above