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Canon Cooper inspires Cuckfield children to enjoy local history

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 17 December 1912

All who were fortunate enough to be present at the Schoolchildren’s entertainments in Queen’s Hall, Cuckfield, last week, must have felt both pleased and grateful at seeing Cuckfield history portrayed in such a picturesque and dramatic form—pleased to know that they have school teachers so devoted to their schools and so alive to the fact that history so taught will never be forgotten those children taking part, and grateful to one who has gone for the years of patient study he devoted to unravelling Cuckfield history and placing it before the public in an interesting and concise form. Canon Cooper will always be known as the historian of Cuckfield.

One of our readers remembers quite well begging from Canon Cooper the first lecture on Cuckfield, and the doubts he expressed that anyone would be interested in the dry details of Cuckfield’s history. How intensely interesting local history is when it touches our great national epochs can be appreciated by all who saw the children’s pageant. One could not help thinking how fortunate are the children who have the history of their town taught them in this manner, and how different was the Cuckfield history some knew.

Formerly it was only Cuckfield gossip, much of it personal: of how one of the Brookshaws stood on his head on the corner stone of the

Queens Hall Cuckfield

Church battlement, of the vast number of coaches that passed through, what a strange man was old Sam Waller, how some vicious person had dammed up the water in the Park and tried to wash away Mr. Caffyn’s new mill by letting it all out in the night, the mystery of the lost heiress of the Sergison estates, of how the carters returning in winter from market were obliged to get past the Park gates before dark or the horses broke into a sweat and tremble and refused to move, such was the influence of the haunted gates.

And there were the Cuckfield Riots, when an angry crowd surged round the steps of the Talbot Hotel : does anyone now know any details of these riots—whether they were Chartist or Corn Law riots? It would be interesting to know. There were also all the old tales of the Cuckfield fair—of one historical fight between one of the Jenners and Gipsy Lee; there was always more fighting than fairing on the second day of Cuckfield fair, even in young memories. But the old fair has gone, and the romance of country life is dying out.

Seeing the institution of the fair played by the children awoke old memories, and some could not help thinking it would be nice to see the fair down the old town once more, with its coloured stalls and lights and peepshows, cheap Jacks and roundabouts, &c. But the late Canon Cooper has taken one further back than this, and has taught people that the foundations of Cuckfield history were laid in the days of Romance, the days of Crusaders, Knight Errants, and Troubadours, of the tourney and the joust.

These ruminations have led to the hope that on a future occasion the children may give us a real Cuckfield romance play, woven from the materials of the town’s early history. The setting of the pageant and the charm of the thread running through the whole performance assure one that there are those in Cuckfield who can write such play and produce it.



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