1967: Cuckfield recalled by a 75 year old Cuckfieldian - Four butchers, five bakers, four shoe shops


The newsagents at the foot of the High Street c1925

My earliest recollections

In a short account written in 1967, Olive (Mabel) Askew of Glebe Road, Cuckfield recalled Cuckfield from before the turn of the twentieth century.


I am nearly 76 and I have lived in Cuckfield all my life. I was christened in Holy Trinity Church by Canon Cooper and married to the son of a Cuckfield tradesman in Cuckfield Church.


My earliest recollections, are all connected with Cuckfield. I was born here on August 23rd 1891 in a pretty little bungalow called 'Ruthven Cottage'.


It was very quaint - built in bricks with the upper port wood - and six brick steps leading to the front door. The sides of the cottage had jasmine and roses covering them and the garden had plenty of fruit and vegetables, also lovely flowers, like asters, marigolds, for my father [Henry Askew, who was carpenter and undertaker] always liked to exhibit at the flower show, a yearly event that took place in Cuckfield Park.


Our cottage was so pretty and quaint that many painters came to sketch and paint it - my brother still has one of the paintings. The cottage has now been altered and rooms added, and is now only a square house - and when I pass it, as I often do, I feel sad to think progress has spoilt my little old home.


We had a cat, dog, rabbits and chickens also a goat. My eldest sister [Madeline] was reared on goat's milk, and now at 82 still has a really lovely complexion.


Cuckfield was quite a self-supporting little town. We had many big houses around: Cuckfield Park, Ockenden Manor, Borde Hill, and 'Woodcroft'. These rich people employed many people, as gardeners, coachmen, butlers and the girls usually went into these big houses to work as soon as they left school.


Very few people went out of Cuckfield to shop, as we could get nearly everything we required. We had four butchers' shops (I have a painting of one now, turned into a private house) - five bakers' shops - and oh! the lovely crusty, warm-bread, so different from the 'cut loaves' of today - but we still have one baker, trading in the original baker's shop, and still making his own bread!


There were four large grocery shops, selling everything from foodstuffs of every kind, to candles - and attached to each of these was a drapery store where materials, gloves, stockings and hats could be bought. We now have only two bigger food shops and only one drapery store. There were four shoe shops - and each did repairing - and one shop 'Mr Newnham of High Street', a real craftsman and made shoes and boots.


There were greengrocers, and sweet shops - the little one next to the Queen's Hall - (now a house) - but oh - we loved to take our halfpenny in there and to receive two slices of toffee (home made) - or perhaps some other sweet she had made.


The Post Office moved four times before settling in the place it now occupies, and I often wonder, at the way our mail was taken to and from Haywards Heath - an elderly man started about midnight, pushing a wicker basket on wheels, with two or three bags of mail, and he walked the two miles to Haywards Heath, the bags were changed - and the same man pushed the truck back to Cuckfield.


As a child I loved to watch the blacksmith at work - he lived in a big, old fashioned house opposite the Rose and Crown - and he had his 'shop' at the back of the Rose & Crown. What a useful man he was! He mended kettles, saucepans and the boys' iron hoops - all the children loved Mr Barrow. The forge has gone, and just above, a new estate has been built and to his memory it is called 'Barrowfield'.


We loved to go to 'Brewery Lane' just off the High Street, for there stood the brewery. We stood on the steps and watched the cases of lemonade and ginger beer as they were loaded on the horse drawn vans. The brewery is replaced by a house and the road is called 'Ockenden Lane'.


There were two schools - the Church school and the Chapel school, but it mattered not a bit which school we went to. All children walked together, and many, as I did, found their lasting friends among the other school girls.


Contributed by Malcolm Davison. Original text in the Cuckfield Museum.

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