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The Cuckfield Band was 'One of the best and widest known' in Sussex

Updated: Sep 27, 2020


(from 'OLD SUSSEX AMATEUR BANDS - Sussex County Magazine Volume 18 1944)

One of the best and widest known Sussex bands in the 1870s was the Cuckfield, then known as the Ockenden Band, so named after the Dower House of the Burrell family.

It was established in the 60s by Sir Walter Burrell, its president, in connection with the local company of volunteers. It was a full band of about 20 performers, which under its conductor, Ambrose Dumsday, an excellent cornet player, included in its repertoire and played some high-class music and was widely engaged about the county.

It had a stringent set of rules, with fines for absence and misconduct, but its military discipline was not such as to satisfy the adjutant of the battalion, who on an occasion of a military parade, ordered it off the ground. Upon this divorce it was newly named the Cuckfield Town band, under its new conductor Mr H. Askew, and continued its career a little precariously until the war of 1914 - 18 after which its remaining members merged with a new band formed at Haywards Heath.

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 29 November 1910



Inclement weather unfortunately marred the complete success of the parade of territorials and church lads brigades to Cuckfield Parish Church on Sunday morning.

However, a good number of the above mentioned units from various districts assembled in Broad Street and marched through the town to the church, where the centre of the sacred edifice was reserved for them, the side aisles being packed with civilian worshippers.

The force comprised the Cuckfield town band (under Bandmaster Gamon), members of the “A” Company 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (under Major L.C.R.Messel, with Lieutenants Reid and Warren), the Haywards Heath Church Lads’ Brigade and Boys Scouts (under Captain the Rev. W.S. Flynn), the Lindfield Church Lads, Brigade (under Captain J.Newnham), and the Slaugham Church Lads’ Brigade and Boy Scouts (under Captain the Rev. A.H.Boyd). The processional hymn was onward Christian soldiers, the organ is being Mr T. E. P. Attewell, while several members of the band also assisted in the musical portion of the service.

The hymn before the sermon was “Lo! He comes with clouds descending,” the address being delivered by the vicar (the Rev. R.Fisher), his theme being love of one's country, that is the text from the 137th psalm, verses five and six - “If I forget thee - oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy”.

The preacher, before speaking of the message given in the Psalm which he had chosen for his text, extended hearty welcome to the men and lads who were present that morning. They were bound together in the common service - Love of country, which aroused a strong feeling within them, and of which there was nothing like it. The colonist experienced it when he returned to the mother land, they experienced it when they went back to the place where they were born. It was not only when they were surrounded by friends or parents, but every bit of it called up love. There were some who said we ought to have love for the whole human race; but we had to unite in families and nations, and his text was a good instance of this. It was beautifully, but sadly expressed in the Psalm, and the Jew who wrote it was a true patriot. It was no mere feeble sentiment; their love of country should be shown in the active life and habits. Their duty was to defend her against external enemies, and to go so far as they could to guard against all that might bring about the downfall of the country. They need not be ashamed of the force to which they belonged, they were showing their love for their country in a practical way, and setting an example to those around them. No able-bodied man would shrink in the hour of need, and that I would come when they least expected it. War came of a necessity, and it was useless to think to defend their country without preparation. They must be ready to guard against the causes which might lead to the downfall of their nation. The national sin of self indulgence lead to the downfall of Israel, and they would do well to guard against the cause of that nations downfall. He (the preacher) need not repeat what their national sins were; but the root of all was self-indulgence. They should be masters over themselves, and they should not neglect God, who had built up the nation. Faith in God would make them strong against every foe which could attack either the body or the soul, and they should remember that the strength of every nation depended on its unity.

“Fight the good fight” was then heartily voiced by the choir and congregation, and during this hymn a collection was taken for the rebuilding fund of the Haywards Heath Cottage Hospital. After the vicar has presented the blessing the national anthem was sung, the choir, with Mr Herrington carrying the processional cross then receding to the vestry. The Rev. R.H.C.Mertens also took part in the service. The territorials and lads afterwards formed up in Church Street, and headed by the band marched up into the high-street, where major Messel thanked them all for their attendance that morning, and invited any of the church lads who contemplated leaving their brigades to join the territorials. The force then stood at the salute while the band played the national anthem and after dismissal wended their way homewards.


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