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Life in Cuckfield 1831-1833 Extracts from John Mitchell's diaries

Updated: Oct 18, 2020


In 1941 by the permission Mr. W. E. Mitchell of Annandale, Cuckfield, further items from the diaries of his uncle, the late Mr John Mitchell, of Cuckfield were published in the Mid Sussex Times.

January 3rd 1831

To belfry to ring for H.R. Highness, Duke of Sussex (1)

January 12th

Dinner at Mr Best’s The Prosecuting Society (2)

February 26th

Revolutions continually breaking out abroad. (3) One has just occurred in Italy, where they have shaken off the power of the Pope

March 1st

Meeting of the Militia Club (4) at the White Hart: a “soldiering concern”

April 12th

One of the severest tempests I ever saw.

April 23rd

The King dissolved Parliament to have the sense of the country on the Reform Bill: went personally to the House (5)

April 24th

Bell ringing for dissolution

May 7th

The most severe frost last night that was ever recollected in May

May 25th

Father gone to bury Mr Juniper, Slough Green

May 26th

Father gone to Scaines Hill to bury Mr Isted’s wife

June 1st

Ship Club almost a bankrupt

June 14th

Parliament met this evening

June 27th

Went to Lindfield to play a match of cricket against Lewes. A good deal of dispute by the objection of two Cliff players. Pleasant afterwards, though the game was not played out. Lindfield, 94 and 48 for two wickets: Lewes 115.

July 11th

Rode to Lewes in a cart to play return cricket match between them and Cuckfield and Lindfield. Good game, although not played out.

July 21st

Went up to Ashfold Lodge to play cricket for Mr Trotter. Beat our adversaries. Shocking bad management, not any eatables nor anything else to be got

July 28th

A barn near Pound Hill caught fire with the lightning

August 17th

Miss Caffin hurt slightly by lightning in a thunderstorm

September 5th

James Bannister died this morning; buried on the 10th, Ardingly

September 8th

Coronation of King William IV. (6) Very dull at Cuckfield, nothing going forward. Went down after dinner, and rung the bells about half an hour, which was all we heard about the concern all day

September 12th

“Scots Greys” going back to Brighton

September 14th

Went to Mr Grainger’s harvest supper.

September 18th

Edward Francis died. His remains consigned to the grave at 4PM on the 23rd, much lamented by his friends and companions: aged 20 years

October 21st

Father gone to Streat to attend Mrs Ewin’s funeral. She died on the 17th.

November 1st

Dreadful riots at Bristol (7)

November 17th

John Turner married to Miss Caffin

December 2nd

Very busy all day distributing Charity School subscriptions

December 25th

Mrs Booker, Balcombe, died. Funeral there on the 30th

January 25th 1832

Uncle Streeter died this morning, aged 84

January 26th

White Hart party of ringers met to have a Christmas supper

January 27th

Mr William Best died. Funeral February 2nd

January 29th

Funeral of Mrs Mitchell

February 22nd

The cholera reported in London. Very much hope Report will prove false. (8)

February 27th

Second Foot guards passed through for London

March 3rd

First foot guards going from London to Brighton

March 4th

We have not had either wind or rain for nearly a month. The most remarkable weather ever known at this season

March 12th

Father gone to Lindfield with Mr Wileman to have a hunt with Mr Allin

March 21st

This day is dedicated to His Majesty, William 4th, as a general fast throughout England and Ireland against the alarming approach of “cholera morbus” (9) as apprehended by the Board of Health. It was generally attended to here, and I never knew the church so full before. The sermon preached by Mr Fearon was as his sermons generally are well appropriate to the purpose.

March 24th

The Reform Bill passed the House of Commons last night

April 9th

The second reading of the Reform Bill came on tonight in the House of Lords. It was carried on the 14th by 9

May 8th

Funeral of Mr Ayres at Slaugham

May 10th

Earl Grey and the present Ministry defeated on Monday evening last (7th): the King declined creating peers: Ministry resigned.

May 15th

Reported that Earl Grey and his colleagues resumed office.

May 23rd

Rook shooting. Capital morning’s sport. Killed 16.

May 28th

1st Guards passing through

May 31st

Reform Bill passed committee.

June 4th

Reform Bill read last time in Lords.

June 6th

First feast of the Ship Club since its dissolution. Rather a grand turn-out - the Reigate and about 50 members - Royal Assent given to the Reform Bill by Commission.

June 11th

A very serious insurrection in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday last (5th and 6th)

June 17th

Down town to ascertain the news about Jacky Last, who attempted to poison himself.

June 25th

Father gone to Ship on jury on the body of little Baldwin, who was drowned yesterday

June 30th

Jacky Last died at the Ship - a most distressing case

July 1st

Jacky Last, by order of Mr Byass, (10) was interred this afternoon. A most absurd idea, in some way or other, prevented him from being carried into the church. Some imagine they were afraid of the cholera; but it is throughout a most ridiculous thing, for he died and was disposed of as a dog.

July 2nd

Breaking up of the Fox Club of the old party. Met to drink out the forfeit of the old landlord.

July 12th

The church clock, after being out of repair and standing still for almost two years, was put in order and completed this day. A rather unexpected visit by Mr William McGeorge, who walked from town this morning to see grandmother and relatives in the country.

July 16th

With Edmond in coach to Brighton to play cricket match for Tester (at the Dolphin) on the Race Ground. A very good match. Our first innings, 97: Brighton 82.

August 4th

Father gone to St. John’s (Burgess Hill) to see a cricket match between Balcombe and Keymer.

August 14th

Confirmation at Cuckfield. Supposed about 114 from our own parish

August 30th

To Board Hill to play the return cricket match with Mr Barwell’s party. Beat them by 9 runs.

September 2nd

With Edmund and two Knowles to the Dyke. Put the horse in at Poynings, a most “elegant” place, a beer shop, the head inn!

September 7th

Poor old Ned Beeheley fell in a fit yesterday and expired at this morning: much lamented

September 23rd

Nearly to Broad Street with Ellis Turner conversing on the melancholy death of Mr Anthony Tanner, who was found dead last evening about nine at Laine’s Barn

September 28th

Uncle Thomas Picknell died suddenly last night. Remains deposited in the silent grave on October 2nd, attended by the whole of the family

September 30th

The water question in the neighbourhood becomes serious. Almost all the wells out, and water never known to be so scarce.

October 5th

Mr Curteis, the Member for the County, at the Market and gave a speech stating his principles, which seemed to be generally approved by the hearers

October 12th

The little town of Cuckfield quite a political place. Darby and Cavendish both been spouting in the Market.

October 29th

Father gone to Mr Wisden’s to assist in the funeral of Mrs W., Who was found dead in her bed a few days since


November 16th

The parish has got so poor that it cannot afford new ropes for the bells. Poor old Martin died, and the small bell was tolled.

November 18th

Mr James Webber robbed down the High Bridge by four men: most daring thing.

November 25th

A very great fire broke out at Ardingly about 8 PM and raged dreadfully. Nearly all the town ran to the Green to see it. Another very large fire was seen to the west at the same time.

December 4th

The old Rotten Borough Parliament dissolved yesterday

December 11th

Uncle Samuel Picknell died this afternoon after an illness of three or four days. Interred on December 16th about 5 PM, when there was an immense concourse of people. Obliged to have candles in the church and churchyard. The elections for Boroughs are going on with a great deal of spirit. The Destructives and Conservatives muster all their forces against the Reformers but the people must succeed, in spite of of all their influence. Dreadful work going on at Antwerp between the Dutch and French. (11) The bombardment was commenced this day week by the French forces.

December 21st

A grand turnout with the voters this morning, with colours and flag for Cavendish (12)

December 22nd

The election over, and Curteis (13) returned with a great majority

December 23rd

High Bridge to see the place where little Wilmer Lost his life by being drawn in between the wheels of the mill.

December 27th

With Thomas Knowles and William mcGeorge to the Ship to see a badger bait. It began with dogs fighting, and the badger fight was drawn. It was not much of sport, nor was I much gratified with the site, the first time of seeing a badger.

January 29th 1833

This day will not stand out the least in the annals of English history. On this day the first reformed Parliament met. They have plenty of work: the affairs of Belgium are as yet unsettled. Ireland will not be neglected: the Church requires much consideration: the Bank and East India Company’s charters, with many other things: the affairs of Turkey will open a wide field for political discussion, (14) as the Pasha of Egypt has dispersed the Sultan’s army, (15) and Russia wants to assist.

February 6th

Yesterday was a grand day in London. The King opened Parliament with a most excellent speech from the throne in person.

February 18th

The day of hearing appeals at the Kings Head. A great number there. The “little devil Winton” find them nearly all

February 24th

Burial of Thomas Holland (27), Whiteman’s Green.

February 26th

Grandmother McGeorge departed this life, aged 82 years, funeral March 3rd

March 5th

Elsey, the man who was killed in the stone pit by a slip of earth caused by heavy rains. A regular Irish Wake

March 10th

Burial of Stephen Ede

March 24th

Funeral of Mr Flint

March 26th

Went to Mr Plimley’s field to decide the statement that if three bullets were put in a gun and fired off the concussion would be so great that they would do no execution at any distance, which, to my expectation, was not the case, for I shot them in a tree at 15 yards, out of sight and out of depth. Mr Anscombe strongly supported the opposition.

March 31st

A converted Jew has preached several times at the Chapel this week

April 11th

A meeting was held at the Poor House to elect a Permanent Overseer. It was expected to have been a severe contest, but on the conditions being read, Chilcott resigned. The opposition then was between Noble and Barber, but Barber was elected without a hand for Noble.

April 14th

This day was appointed for a public thanksgiving for the disappearance of the “cholera morbus". I did not know of the appointment until I heard the prayers read in the church.

April 15th

A public meeting at the King’s Head to petition against negro slavery (in the British Colonies)

May 2nd

Funeral of Mrs Bashford

May 7th

The influenza has been almost universal this Spring, and it is as much dreaded in London as the cholera. Attacks most powerful, and many fatal cases.

May 20th

Dragoon guards passing through for Brighton

May 27th

A grand match of “four corners” at the Kings Head.

May 30th

Fair day. The worst fair and the dullest I ever knew. No appearance at all of the second fair day (31st). This has been the hottest May I ever recollect.

June 5th

Ship club day. About 60 members, second year, a very grand display, more bustle than at the fair.

July 6th

Pavey, Thomas Mitchell and myself went to the field to lay wait, having lost some ducks last week

July 19th

Jane Jenner buried. Was taken suddenly ill in London, died in three days and was brought home.

July 20th

News arrived two days ago of the total annihilation of Don Miguel’s fleet by Capt C. J. Napier, who was in the Portuguese service. (16) It was one of the boldest naval exploits on record. Don Pedro’s squadron consisted of small frigates and Don Miguel’s of first rate vessels: but the former being commanded by an English officer and the crews likewise consisting of British Tars, they were capable of encountering such obstacles. Mr Best’s watercart (with horses) runaway from Bedlam and down as far as the King’s Head. No damage done.

July 28th

The third time Mr Vincent has preached here. He gave a most excellent sermon, but his delivery was not the most agreeable.

July 30th

Proceeded to the Ship to meet Mr Trotter’s wagon, then to Mr Barwell's for a cricket match. In the last innings Edmund and myself got upwards of 80, and we so completely beat the “Dons” that they gave up and would not bowl any longer.

August 16th

Poor old Pink, the celebrated poacher, was consigned to his resting place on Tuesday evening (13th)

August 20th

Father gone to Brighton to see a cricket match between Sussex and England. Sussex lost by one run only.

August 21st

To Balcombe to play a cricket match against Reigate. A most capital game, although we got beaten.

August 28th

Meeting at the Kings Head to consider the propriety of establishing a horticultural society in Cuckfield. Resolutions to do so passed, and 16 signed their names.

September 4th

To Reigate for a return cricket match which we lost by 80 runs. A party of us went into the cave, almost 200 yards underground, which is supposed to be aware the Barons met before compelling King John to sign “Magna Carta”

September 10th

Accounts received of the gale on Friday and Saturday week (August 30th and 31st) are most dreadful, it being the most destructive on sea and land ever known at this time of year. There were shipwrecks of all descriptions, the worst being the loss of the convict ship Amphitrite (17) off Boulogne, the whole of the crew, 108 female convicts, 13 children, 12 seamen, Captain, surgeon and wife, being drowned except three seamen. It appears that the whole of them might have been saved but for the obstinacy of the Captain and surgeon who would not suffer then to land, as, should any escape, they would have been responsible. The British Consul was at the time absent from Boulogne. The ship was bound for Van Dieman’s Land.

September 14th

The tempestuous weather of last month has greatly diminished the number of cases of cholera; the sacrifices made on sea have lessened those on land. We still hear of devastation is of the gale in all quarters of the world.

September 30th

The Cuckfield Horticultural Society’s first show at the Kings Head. It was excellent, especially considering that the Society had only being established about six weeks, and was considered by judges to exceed the Hurst show, which has been established three years.

October 17th

Went to assist carrying the remains of poor Thomas Lintott to the grave. He departed this life on Saturday last (12th), universally regretted. I never saw a funeral so strongly attended. A great many of the inhabitants followed, as well as all the children of the Free School, to whom he had been teacher. He was one of the best of our party, and respected by them all. I do not know that he had a single enemy. Had he taken Mr Byass’s advice and had his leg off some time since his life might have been spared.

October 20th

The bells were rung muffled for poor Thomas Lintott, and had a very solemn effect. The singers mustered in church this morning in full force, as he was a ringer and singer both.

October 26th

The King has gone to Brighton

November 5th

Up in the battlement with G. W. and others, firing off rockets out of our guns.

December 3rd

Father gone to Haywards Heath to meet of the foxhounds. Could not find, but got good drag.

December 31st

The weather throughout the year has been remarkably fair, but the latter part very boisterous and much damage done. A plentiful harvest and a good time for getting it in. Corn of all descriptions has been selling surprisingly low best wheat at £12 and £13 and never recollected to be better or heavier.

January 3rd 1834

Inquest on the body of Mr Tester, who was found dead in his bed yesterday.

January 15th

The great old sow was raffled for at the Ship on Monday evening (13th). Myself, Joseph Brigden and Gog Evy bought a ticket and Joe won. He was foolish enough to sell his share for 30 shillings.

January 18th

Continual rains since the beginning of last month. Most of the water mills round here are flooded. Whether remarkably mild. Snowdrops and crocuses in full bloom in the garden, likewise polyanthus, wallflowers, stocks and roses, and the fields are green as in April.

February 4th

Parliament met for business

February 19th

Mr John Mitchell, baker, died. He was buried on the 25th and a dumb peal was rung for him, he being an old ringer.

February 26th

Grenadier Guards from Brighton passing through.

February 28th

Father gone to bury Major Durrant.

March 13th

Mr John Wileman met with a serious accident coming Home from Brighton.

April 15th

A grand show of animals, reptiles, etc opposite. A regular row, and disillusion off partnership between the parties.

April 23rd

The trades unions are becoming very powerful. Many thousands attended a meeting in London on Monday (21st). All peaceable.

May 6th

The Brighton Glee Singers at the Ship. Went to hear them. Some good singing. The great room was crowded almost to suffocation.

June 16th

The storm on Saturday (14th) did much damage, and it was heavier at Brighton, Lewes, Ripe etc than for nearly 40 years. Hailstones fell at Cuckfield today as big as marbles, and at Lewes and Ripe on the Saturday as large as 7, 8 and 12 inches in circumference.

There is a chasm in the diaries from July 3rd 1834, to January 1 1836, but among the changes that took place in the meantime, the diarist stated, was “that, abominable and detestable ‘Poor Law Amendment Bill’, which as a whole, is detested by every friend of the poor man, as it falls with equal severity on the evil and well disposed. The system of uniting several parishes in one against their will is, I think, a very arbitrary one, it being impossible for a board of guardians to discriminate as to the wants of a is Poor man as well as a vestry, composed of the parishioners who reside in the same parish as the applicant. With regard to trade, never was there a world of business, all being done by contract; consequently it is impossible for a small trader to complete with a large one.”



(1) Augustus Frederick , 1773-1843 was created Duke of Sussex in 1801. He became estranged from his father and the court because of his liberal political views. He supported the abolition of the slave trade, Catholic emancipation, the removal of civil restrictions on Jews and dissenters, the abolition of the Corn Laws, and parliamentary reform.

(2) A prosecution society/association was an organisation of citizens, typically in the same community, who paid dues to cover one another's costs of privately prosecuting offenders should a crime be committed against them.

(3) The Revolutions of 1830 were a revolutionary wave in Europe which took place in 1830. It included two "romantic nationalist" revolutions, the Belgian Revolution in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the July Revolution in France along with revolutions in Congress Poland, Italian states, Portugal and Switzerland. By 1830, revolutionary sentiment in favour of a unified Italy began to experience a resurgence, and a series of insurrections laid the groundwork for the creation of one nation along the Italian peninsula.

(4) A militia is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need.

(5) Prime Minister Grey had been ready to ask for a dissolution, and King William IV reluctantly agreed; the King dissolved Parliament in person (amid a great political tumult) on 22 April

(6) The coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide took place on Thursday, 8 September 1831, over fourteen months after he succeeded to the throne of the United Kingdom at the age of 64, the oldest person to assume the monarchy. The ceremony was held in Westminster Abbey after a public procession through the streets from St James's Palace, to which the King and Queen returned later as part of a second procession.

(7) The Bristol Riots of 1831 took place after the House of Lords rejected the second Reform Bill, which aimed to get rid of some of the rotten boroughs and give Britain's fast growing industrial towns such as Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds greater representation in the House of Commons. Four rioters (of about 500-600 young men) were killed and 86 wounded, although many more are believed to have perished in the fires set by the rioters, with a total death toll put as high as 500. Four men were hanged despite a petition of 10,000 Bristolian signatures, which was given to King William IV.

(8) The epidemic actually reached Great Britain in December 1831, appearing in Sunderland, where it was carried by passengers on a ship from the Baltic. It also appeared in Gateshead and Newcastle. In London, the disease claimed 6,536 victims

(9) Cholera morbus is a historical term that was used to refer to gastroenteritis rather than specifically cholera

(10) Dr Lovel Byass (1785-1865) was a Cuckfield surgeon

(11) The Siege of Antwerp took place after fighting in the Belgian Revolution ended. On 15 November 1832, the French Armée du Nord under Marshal Gérard began to lay siege to the Dutch troops there under David Chassé. The siege ended 23 December 1832.

(12) In 1814, at the age of 21, Cavendish was elected Member of Parliament for Aylesbury, a seat he held until 1818, and later sat for Newtown from 1821 to 1830, for Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) from 1831 to 1832, for East Sussex from 1832 to 1841, for Youghal from 1841 to 1847 and for Buckinghamshire from 1847 to 1857.

(13) Herbert Barrett Curteis (1793–1847) was an English Whig politician. He sat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom for 13 years between 1830 and 1837. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Sussex from 1830 to 1832, for East Sussex, and for Rye, Sussex, from 1841 until his death in 1847.

(14) The Treaty of Constantinople was the product of the Constantinople Conference which opened in February 1832 with the participation of the Great Powers (Britain, France and Russia) on the one hand and the Ottoman Empire on the other.

(15) The Battle of Konya was fought on December 21, 1832, between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, just outside the city of Konya in modern-day Turkey. The Egyptians were led by Ibrahim Pasha, while the Ottomans were led by Reşid Mehmed Pasha. The Egyptians were victorious.

(16) The fourth Battle of Cape St Vincent was fought on 5 July 1833 and was a decisive encounter in Portugal's Liberal Wars. A naval squadron commanded by the British officer Charles Napier, on behalf of Dom Pedro IV, regent for the rightful Queen Maria II, defeated the navy of the usurper Dom Miguel.

(17) Amphitrite was built at Appledore, Torridge, (equally Bideford), and launched in 1802. Under various owners and masters she traded across the North Atlantic and to the Baltic. She wrecked in 1833 with heavy loss of life while transporting female convicts to New South Wales.

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