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The mysterious origin of 'Whiteman's Green'

A postcard of Whiteman's Green in the early twentieth century

A traditional story handed down through generations tries to explain the origin of the name Whiteman's Green.

When Cuckfield Church was being built the proposed site was on Whiteman’s Green, but whenever the stone was placed a mysterious figure In white would remove the material to the other end of the town where the church now stands, the pride of Cuckfield. This mysterious supernatural figure in white was allegedly what gave rise to the name of Whiteman’s Green.

In some ways the story has some credibility - the stone used in the church is indeed Cuckfield sandstone that was quarried at Whiteman's Green and, when so much was to be used, it makes sense to build it near the source of building material, rather than carry it nearly a mile down the road. The Holy Trinity Church most likely dates from 1088 when William, 2nd Earl of Surrey, confirmed his father’s wishes (with charters listing sixty churches), by building 39 of them in Sussex.

Could the source of the name go back further? Another explanation is that the name 'Whiteman' comes from the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. 'White man' was the description of a person with a pale complexion or blond hair. The Anglo-Saxon period includes dates between 410 and 1066.

The place name goes back a long way - there are records of tythes 'which goeth from Whiteman's greene unto Pilstie's bridge on the west pte …' and those words were written in 1564.

The Wayfarer columnist for Sussex Daily News (Mr AW Mapey), who lived in Cuckfield pre War, suggested that 'white man' might have come from the appearance of flour millers who worked in the windmills there. Windmills date back 3700 years, so that's possible too.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


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