Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 15 September 1936
To the Editor of THE MID SUSSEX TIMES
I am sorry I have not been able reply before to Mrs. Bevan's query as to whether I would like to see the Churchyard Cottages demolished. My answer is—Certainly not! I always feel that they have an historical value, and I should strain every nerve and search all pockets to oppose such a catastrophe. I do not feel, however, that this argument is on “all fours” with a country cottage in a field or lane.
I have always been told, and I think correctly, that these picturesque cottages in the churchyard were originally the old “Church Ale House,” where between the morning and afternoon services the country worshippers ate their lunch and drank their pints of ale and “where village statesmen talked with looks profound, and news much older than their ale went round.”
It will be within the knowledge of most of your readers that there were no services in the evening in country churches in olden days. This, l am told, was owing to the long distances the worshippers came and also the difficulty in lighting the churches in those early times. I have seen several of these old “Church Ale Houses,” and I believe they obtain in many places up and down the county. I hope ours will be allowed to remain, whether for habitation or some other purpose, and most particularly that old half-glass door of Nurse Stoner’s domicile.
Tradition says that years and years ago it was through that glass door a mysterious and tragic incident in Cuckfield history was discovered at the hour “when churchyards yawn, and graves give up the dead,” but I dare not say what. The custom of no evening service obtained in Cuckfield for a long time.
My father has told that in his young days in the early decades of the last century the ringers always practised “ringing” on Sunday evening, frequently being in the tower all the evening. I suggested that it must have annoyed the Vicar, and my father replied : “Oh, no, the old Vicar rather encouraged them to ring, as the noise of the bells so much annoyed the Nonconformists at their evening service just the other side of his garden !”
P.S.—Can any Cuckfield or other person produce any further information relating to the old Churchyard Cottages?