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Haywards Heath celebrates the Relief of Mafeking

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 22 May 1900


In common with every other English town Haywards Heath received the glad news of Mafeking’s relief with enthusiasm which it is difficult adequately to describe.

Sussex Hotel viewed from South Road Haywards Heath celebrating the Relief of Mafeking

It was decided at a public meeting of the inhabitants on Thursday evening to celebrate the happy event by decorations and a monster procession, with a collection in aid of the fund started by Lady Georgiana Curzon to relieve the destitute condition of the long-suffering inhabitants of Mafeking.

Some learnt of the relief of the place on Friday evening, but the majority of the inhabitants were not aware of it until Saturday morning. At six o'clock the postmen heralded forth the long-wished-for news to those who lived in Boltro Road by standing in front of the Post Office and cheering lustily for Colonel Baden-Powell, Lord Roberts and, finally, the Queen.

Very soon afterwards the Union Jack was flying from the Petty Sessional Court House. At about half-past six the bells of Our Lady's Priory rang out upon the half-awakened town. For a moment persons were at loss to understand the ringing, but the word passed from mouth to mouth, and the excitement spread with the rapidity of a prairie fire. About seven o'clock the bells of St. Wilfrid’s joined in the chorus of delight, and the Royal Standard floated from the church tower. In a very short time many hands were busy decorating, until the town was simply transformed into a blaze of colour. From shops, houses and public buildings flags of various descriptions and nationalities were hung, and here and there was to be seen the likeness of Colonel Baden-Powell encircled with bunting.

The decorations especially pleasing to the eye were those of the Rev. F. Hopper, Mr. Beeny, Mr. Alwen, Miss Gilmore, Mr. G. Clarke, Mr. Halbert and Dr. Newth. Fortunately the weather was delightful, the sun shining brilliantly ' during the morning and afternoon. Not only were the buildings bright with bunting, but vehicles also, and the faces of drivers were wreathed in smiles. Everybody was happy. Cyclists displayed from their machines the patriotic red, white and blue, and youngsters trotted about in bands wearing emblems of loyalty and carrying flags—or apologies for the same—and if all the world was theirs they could not have looked merrier.

People had little desire for business, and the tradesmen decided to put up their shutters at seven o’clock. Bills intimated that at this hour a procession would be marshalled on Muster Green, and it may safely be asserted that never have so many persons mustered there before. It was indeed a stirring sight. There were hundreds of both sexes and of all ages. To arrange the procession, and to get everything shipshape was no slight task. However, it was accomplished. Mr. Chrisp. attired in khaki, acted as mounted marshal, and Mr. Harris, who was dressed in a sort of regimental style, footed if here, there and everywhere to get the processionists to fall into line.

When all things were ready, which was shortly after 7:30, there was vociferous cheering. The Haywards Heath Brass Band struck up a lively air. and the grand procession was set in motion. Behind the Band was Mr. C. W. Wood with his motor car, which was gaily set off with Chinese lanterns and bunting. No “stormy petrol” drove the car, but a gang of youths tugged it along with ropes. We hardly like to think that they were as fresh as daisies when they came back to Muster Green about 9:15 A “thin red line” was behind the car, and next, with their flag, representatives of the Sussex Hotel Volunteer Friendly Society. Horsemen followed— Mr, Peake, who looked very fine as a Colonial cavalryman, and Mr. Maynard. The Alliance Lodge of Buffs, the brethren of which wore their regalia, and held aloft the Lodge's banner, followed next, and then, with flags, representatives of the Wivelsfield Cricket Club.

Then came one of the hits of the evening, which aroused all along the route the greatest enthusiasm—a tableau representing tie old fort of Mafeking which was an exact reproduction of the fort from which Colonel Baden-Powell has kept the British flag afloat. In front of the tower stood two lads in khaki on guard, while behind there was a soldier who had been laid low, with a nurse in attendance. The car was inscribed “The flag is still flying,” and the Union Jack was that flag. From time to time coloured fires were lit from within the fort, the effect being exceedingly fascinating. The Priory Community, assisted by Mr. J. Baker, were responsible for this effective tableau, and they are to be heartily congratulated.

The Fire Brigade, under Captain Jerred and Lieutenant Knight, with their fire escape and hose cart, next followed, and were enthusiastically greeted as they passed along. Then came a florally-embellished car, decorated with wreaths of bluebells and geraniums, amid which could be seen the Royal Arms and the Arms of the County, and on it sat Britannia (represented by Miss Chrisp), who was faced by two maids of honour holding lighted pendant lamps. The display was extremely pretty, and the spectators showed their joy and delight by cheering again and again. The Church Lads' Brigade received a good deal of attention, the youthful “soldiers” looking very spick and span. They were under the command of Captain Batten and Lieutenant Monoher. Behind this Brigade was a tastefully-decorated car (under the management of Mr. C. Mayo) bearing a group representative of “The Forces of the Empire." The characters were taken by Mr. Ellis Turner. Mr. E. Belton, Miss L. Pannett, the Misses Beeny, Messrs. H. and T. Walton, etc. The two first-named gentlemen were responsible for the decorations, and the result testified that their artistic powers ore of no mean order.

Next came members of the Haywards Heath Court A.O.F. in regalia, among them being Bro. H. Beach. C.R.. Bro. Jeffery, P.C.R . Bro. Hailey, P.C.R. and Bro. Willie Jolly, Secretary and P.C.R. A “capital bit of humbug'' was behind the last-mentioned group, viz., “Long Tom Muzzled,” provided by Mr. Rickson. Many were under the delusion for time that it was a terrible weapon of war, and the amusement was great when it was found that it was only a piece of gas main “faked” for the occasion.

Next there came an ambulance waggon with a wounded man and red cross nurse (Miss Short), Mr. De La Hunt arranging this item. Although there was nothing elaborate about it, it was one of those scenes that caused one to think. Following the waggon were the boys of Parkfield, under the Rev. Lewis Evans. They were just in their glory, and each carried a Chinese lantern, which gave a very picturesque effect to the procession. Then came the scholars of St. Wilfrid's School, at their head being Mr. Freeston and Mr. Mason. The elder lads carried dummy rifles, and others small flags and bannerettes. In the girls section was a little group of nurses, and an ambulance was carried. Haywards Heath has reason to feel proud of the children attending the National School.

Most amusing was the Jolly Butcher Boys’ Brigade. The “knights of the meat shop" were attired in their blue smocks and wore khaki hats and brandished aloft marrow bones and cleavers. People are not likely to forget them in a hurry. They were intensely funny. A decorated van, drawn by Mr. G. Pavey, ended the procession.

The route taken from Muster Green was along South Road, down Little Haywards Road, into Gower Road, and then out into Sussex Road, round by Triangle Road into Franklynn Road, up Hazelgrove Road and down Oathall Road to Sydney Road, then up Perrymount Road round by Mr. Hayes, and down Boltro Road and round Paddockhall Road back to Muster Green. At every part of the town crowds of people assembled, and they were completely happy with the privilege allowed them of marching, ringing and shouting as they liked.

Such demonstrations of patriotic ecstasy have never before been witnessed in Haywards Heath. Coloured fairy lights adorned several houses, and the crowd cheered heartily when they beheld the same. The Priory of Our Lady of Good Counsel looked most picturesque, and the processionists enthusiastically greeted the ladies there.

On the termination of the march, Mr. Chrisi called for cheers for Colonel Baden-Powell, which were lustily given. Other well-known warriors were also cheered. The throng which must have totalled about 5,000 persons—voiced “God Save the Queen” and “Rule Britannia,'' and then thoughts turned towards home. Mr. C. Clarke discharged some fireworks on Muster Green, and Mr. Gibson, of Oakhurst Lodge, on the northern heights of the town, made a large bonfire.

The collecting boxes—and we would bear testimony to the energetic way the collectors did their work—realised over £15. The work in connection with the demonstration was entrusted to the following —Finance Committee: Rev. T. G. Wyatt. Lewis Evans, F. Hopper and C. G. Hodgson, Messrs. Parker. Longley, Peri, Box and Parsons. Decoration Committee; Messrs Hilton, Miller, Tillman, Brown, Attree, Pannett. Plummer. J. Baker, Goaring, Purvey and Willmot; Procession Committee Rev. J. C. Hatten, Messrs Alwen, Chrisp. Jennings, Jerred, Newington, Attree, Bilton, Bucksball, Kent (2), Bolton, Uridge, Mouncier, Jolly, Stevens and Sands.

At the close of the proceedings the Committee assembled at the Public Hall, where, after the collecting boxes had been checked, votes of thanks were accorded to all who had helped to make the demonstration a success, especial reference being made to Father Hopper and the ladies of the Priory for their labours in connection with the Mafeking fort, the Britannia car etc. The Rev. C. G. Hodgson appropriately responded to the vote of thanks accorded to the Collectors, whilst the Rev. L, Evans (Treasurer) and Mr. Chandler (Secretary) also acknowledged complimentary votes. A congratulatory cablegram was despatched to Colonel Baden-Powell at the Committee's personal expense, and Mr. Chrisp was heartily thanked for entertaining the Committee with champagne, in which various toasts were pledged, to "B. P.“ and heroes of Mafeking of course most sincere.

During the meeting it was resolved to patriotically celebrate the Queen’s 81st birthday on Thursday next, and a committee was elected to arrange preliminaries. Yesterday (Monday) a further committee meeting was held (the Rev. T. G. Wyatt. Vicar, in the chair), and it was decided the celebration should take the form of a concert in the Public Hall, to commence at eight o’clock. A small committee was appointed to arrange the programme, which is to consist of songs. etc., with few short speeches in between. Mr. Chrisp was chosen chairman of the evening for the concert, and the entertainment was decided to be for adults only (young people under 18 not admitted). It is hoped the inhabitants will again decorate their premises on Thursday.

Many thanks to Charles Tucker for the above photograph



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