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Dialect confusion and the earliest Cuckfield cricketing heroes

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 17 July 1888



Not being sufficiently versed in archaeology, ethnology, any other ‘ology' sufficiently explanatory, I must plead an inability to decide as to the origin and original title of the estate now known as Bolnore, it not being extremely important so long as we know it by its present name and do not confound it with any other place beginning with the syllable “Bol,” or “Bull,’ as Bolney or Bulltrough; it may be a corruption of Bolneath, an ancient manor in the locality. But let this be as it may be, all the advice I have to give is, form your own opinion, and in the choice of the original title in the reply of the showman to the child leave you to choose “whichever you please,” good reader.

There is so much perplexity in spelling, or even pronouncing, the names of places, at least of many, given them by our ancestors, and in course of time such an admixture of languages, as to make what we term the English language no language at all, it being merely a confused dialect, differing according to the original stock from which the inhabitants sprung, the young adopting the idiom of their elders, and handing it down, so that it becomes a set form of language in the district.

But it may be urged that education has improved our language and made it more comprehensive. I admit that education and association combined have in a great measure rendered the variations of dialects in use much more comprehensive, but finding a general inclination among the rising generation to retain its vulgarisms, and not adopt more decent and sensible kind of words in expressing their ideas, I do not see much improvement or refinement in mind or manners among them. However, this is over-running the scent again, and I must hold hard, but just relate an anecdote to show how the local pronunciation of the name of a place leads occasionally to confusion.

It was many years since, some 70 or 80, when commercial men travelled the miry roads of Sussex on horseback in crossing the country, and were called “Bagmen,” that a traveller on his journey from West to East put up and passed the night at "The Talbot,” Cuckfield, enquiring in the morning his road to Hurstmonceux. As the landlord, landlady, or the servants of the house could not inform him, Old Ned, the ostler, was called in.

Now Ned was an oracle as to localities and distances, boasting that there was no town or village, turnpike gate or public-house between the South Downs and the Surrey hills within 60 miles east or west but he knew. However, Ned was puzzled; he did not know and had never heard of such a place, and it was decided to consult the postmaster, Ned accompanying the traveller to the office, where he made the request.

"Why Ned,” responded the postmaster, "you ought to know how to get to Horsmouncez.”

"I should think so,” replied Ned.

"Well, that is where the gentleman wishes to go.”

"Then”— exclaimed Ned, turning round and addressing the commercial, "why hadn’t you said so?” —and at once gave the necessary directions.

Cuckfield as a town and parish has been variously spelt in old records, and even now many of the natives do not pronounce it as it is spelt, but call it Cookful, by which name it seems have been known previous to the first syllable being made to approximate with its original in the ancient British language, Cux, that has from time time been changed into Cox, Coke, Cook, according to the scribe’s idea of pronouncing it.

But this is not to the purpose. We have left Bolnore and Butler’s Green, and the Wigperry witch, and arrived at Muster Green, the origin of which, or at least the name, having been some time since explained in Clarke’s Directory, I will not plagiarise; but there still stand the old oak trees in front of “the Sergison Arms” said to have been raised from acorns procured by Mr. Warden, of Butlers Green, a century or two ago from the Royal Oak in the New Forest, in which Prince Charles, afterwards called "The Merry Monarch,” roosted when making his escape from the Republican troops.

But the Green is a much altered feature from what it was in my memory; yet over yonder, to the east, the clump of fir trees on the brow still remain, also said to be a memento of the civil wars, and planted to mark the spot where a hand-to-hand conflict took place between the royal troopers and Ireton’s horse during a retreat of the former after the siege of Arundel Castle, and succeeding a fight in the lane near Cowfold, the occupation of Cuckfield Church, demolishing the font, and defacing the tablets by the Cromwellian troopers. It is supposed by some that the old public house on the green is the same that the author of Brambletye1. makes the scene of the fugitive Sir John Compton playing a most audacious prank with the sign board, that displayed the countenance of Cromwell, the Protector, during the time of the Commonwealth, and not unlikely, from its being in the vicinity of the regicide, Colonel Chaloner, of Kenwoods, Lindfield, the house was designated so as to suit his Republican principles.

Old Tom Kennard’s long-tailed Welsh ewes and lambs, or the trampers’ donkeys, and old Jack Gower’s old mare, and a cow or two, and it might be a pig or pony, no longer usurp the Green. Old Jack’s cottage on the south side is gone, with his old carthouse, and a range of genteel residences and shops have sprung up instead. Molineux’s malthouse is turned into comfortable cottages, and all is changed.

The fairs too, that flourished for five or six centuries, and were established in the feudal times by charter, have dwindled away, and of late years have been discontinued altogether. Originally they were intended for the sale of pedlary and pigs, corn and cattle, but what articles composed pedlary in remote ages I must leave the reader to surmise. In modern times the principal useful articles offered for sale were handbills and hedging cuffs, leather leggings, and cheap-jack’s wares, but I cannot class Butler’s pills, "warranted to cure all diseases,” pedlary. As to pigs, it was until of late years a main mart of the district, but the introduction of weekly stock sales by Mr. Bannister has completely done away with it. For corn it was never patronised, and for cattle but slightly.

So the public have lost nothing by the abolition of the fairs except the fun and frolic of the evening, and the delight of the pugilistic fraternity in a fair stand-up fight for a finish, the landlord of the old hostlery being the only loser by it.

Some few of the ancients may however remember the stirring and exciting cricket matches that in times long past were played on the Green, and we have all heard of the celebrated Lambert, the father of the game, in whose name the first published rules and laws were issued, playing on the side of Cuckfield against the, at the time, invincible Twineham Club, puzzling Will Wood, their famed bowler, by his batting, and eliciting a repetition, from an old gentleman who was looking on, of the observation, "Why don’t you place a man there?” after every successful hit, until Lambert giving the ball “a skyer” struck it clean off the Green into a walnut tree, when a person going to the old gentleman quietly observed, "Hadn’t they better place a man there, Sir?” received no answer, but it put a stop to the old gentleman’s criticism.

The last time that Lambert played on the Green was in the decline of his long career, when he was caught mid-wicket by Mr. A. Dumsday, to the praise and honour of that gentleman, who is in his old age enjoying ‘otium cum dignitate' close by the scene where he accomplished "the deed that gilds,” or did gild, his fame as a cricketer.

But others, famous in the annals of cricket, have displayed their skill on the Green, including, upon one occasion, Mr. Minn, the Kentish crack both as hitter and bowler; the celebrated Lillywhite; Box, the Nonpareil wicketkeeper; Brown, whose under-hand bowling delivered the ball with the velocity of a catapult; Meads, Morley, of the Sussex eleven; Charles Pierpoint of Lindfield, good wicket-keeper, who fancied himself in that line equal to Box, who was an Ardingly man, but he wasn’t; his brother Tom, a good hand in a county eleven, who once played at Sheffield in a match, Sussex v. Yorkshire, took his bat with him and brought it back without fetching a run. Old George Saxby, too, of Lindfield, who once lowered Lambert’s wicket on Lindfield Common, by whom he was heard to say, "Oh, that’s your great Surrey player, is it? ’Tis no trouble to take his wicket,” to which Lambert responded, "You have done it once, George, but you will never do it again.” Nor did he, although they played in opposite teams several times after, Lambert scheming the running, being perfect master of the bat, so as to avoid his having an over at his wicket.

Joe Anscombe, the elder, was also in his prime at that time, and leader of the Cuckfield eleven, whose over-hand delivery of the ball puzzled the batsmen, who playing at what seemed a wide ball it twisted in under the bat and lowered the wicket. Then there was Tom Martin, of Hook-house, an under-hand bowler, who sent the ball as straight to the middle stump as a well-aimed rifle bullet to the bullseye; and old Sam Mitchell, the Cuckfield postmaster, who was safe, barring accidents, to make an innings; Harry Bennet, a first-rate fieldsman; Tim Gard, the carrier, who for once in his life, at a match on The Level, Brighton v. Cuckfield, by making a good innings, so won the game, and carried his bat out, that, it was said, he marched about Brighton with it on his shoulder for two or three days after.

But that generation of cricketers have long been gathered to their fathers, and those who succeeded them are now old grey-haired fossils, who no longer handle the bat, but sit in the booth and watch the game, applaud a slashing hit or a clever bit of fielding, condemn bungling, and cry butter-fingers if a catch is missed.

I shall have, however, in a future letter, something to say of their exploits when in their prime, and leave cricketing for better weather than we are having just at present. It is well known that Haywards Heath joins the Muster Green, and here again comes an alteration in the cognomen that formerly caused confusion, of which I can give one or two short anecdotes.

At the time when the only public conveyance was the road, and coaches by far the most convenient, a jauntily dressed damsel alighting from the coach at “The Talbot” door, enquired of a lounger looking on, in second-hand refined style, the road to Haywards Heath. The person addressed, not knowing old Ned, the ostler, stepped forward, and having recognised her, said bluntly, “You mean Youards Heath, Mary! Go along, you know your road well enough.” Away went the girl, Ned observing, “Why, she has only been in London three months, and now pretends she don’t know where she’s got to, when she was bred and brought up close by.” This, however, was sheer affectation.

But upon another occasion a Cuckfield gentleman travelling through Ireland made a stay for few days at an hotel in Waterford. The London and Brighton railway was then making, and one morning he was joined by some commercial gentlemen at breakfast, when a London paper was brought in, containing an account of a fatal accident near Haywards Heath. This led to a controversy between the Cuckfield gentleman and one of the commercials, the former stonily asserting the locality to be between Cuckfield and Lindfield, which the other as positively denied, saying that few a years before he had travelled that part of Sussex for a London firm, and knew the locality well, therefore it I must be near the borders of Surrey.

“You say you know Lindfield?” queried his opponent.


“And Cuckfield?


“Do you do not pass over a common on going from one town to the other?”

“Yes, but that is not the name of it.”

“Suppose I call it ‘Youards Hoth,’ “ replied the Cuckfield man.

“Ah, now you’ve hit it,” exclaimed the commercial, and this with a hearty laugh and good-humoured explanation ended the controversy.


Cuckfield museum keeps records of a range of local sporting interests. See



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