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Volume 1 – Summer 1995


For twenty-five years since its foundation, Uckfield and District Preservation Society (UDPS) has sent to members Newsletters which often contained articles of the town and district’s history.  Hindsight is a new venture, to be published annually, and enabling new pieces to be published to a general public audience.

A New Look at Uckfield History.
by Simon Wright

The UDPS’s initial objective was to save Nutley Windmill from collapse;  longer term to draw attention to local historic buildings in need of care and protection.  After twenty years the former had been achieved and the Mill has been opened to the general public.  Attention could now focus on the longer term purpose and elaborate some of the interesting research into Uckfield’s history.

In tandem with the foundation of the Local History Group and exhibitions at Bridge Cottage which the Society now leased, a programme of more extended publication can be undertaken.  Hindsight is  the vehicle for this.

There are many topics for possible research and in this article Simon Wright gives a flavour of them in the following passages:  

“Where, and when,were the first cricket and stoolball (matches) played in Uckfield?  There are, it seems, letters exchanged between the Duke of Richmond and John Fuller of Uckfield concerning cricket matches in the 1740s.

Colin Brent mentions a letter posted at Uckfield in 1800.  Would it have been (from) the office run by Benjamin Piddington at what is now Bank Cottage?  A member of the Sussex Postal History Society might be able to discover the answer?  

Did you know that the first headquarters of the East Sussex Police was located at Thornbury in Hempstead Lane?  There is a great deal to be learnt about social conditions in the 19th Century from police records.”

The writer goes on to identify numerous people, events  and subjects whose history and background offer prospects for effective research.  He hopes that members and friends will strongly support the new publication.  

Among the headline research topics are:  the Hart family, the Maiden’s Head (or Maiden Head) Inn, the Uckfield poet Thomas Pentecost, and the solicitor Charles Dawson.  There is also the industrial, social and economic development to consider:  brickmaking, farming, milling, hop-growing and the Wealden iron industry.  Finally the East Sussex Record Office and the Sussex Archaeological Society have collections to be explored.

Some Themes and Problems in Uckfield History
by Brian Phillips

Brian Phillips presents two complementary aspects of historical study which are bound to enliven the pages of the new Hindsight over time.  First there will be many articles that touch upon local development, social life, economic activity, and political debate.  (“… individuals, families, properties or other aspects.”)  Alongside such specialist research, will be general studies – those which relate to, or underpin, the course of human activity and history.

 “History as taught to most people has paid little attention to communities or terrain where they have lived.”

Hindsight offers the opportunity to redress the balance.  The author draws upon a number of changes which exemplify his argument.  Modern archaeological research on the High Weald has shown extensive human activity occurred on the land throughout the long period between the Mesoliths and Iron Age man.  Another example of man’s movement is the clear structural evidence for a 28 mile ridgeway, unbroken only by two streams, between Uckfield and Rye.

Recent historic times reveal changes in communication systems that affected the life of communities;  Brian Phillips instances the variation from the old Lewes to London Roman road, the competing routes to the capital during the 17th and 18th Centuries, and the arrival of the railway in 1858.

He foresees in Hindsight   “..a highly stimulating challenge to compare Uckfield with its hinterland through the centuries, on to rich Victorian sources  like census, directories and newspapers.  How its experience differed from the rest of the locality seems to be a key question with a variety of ramifications to keep historians occupied for years…”   with diligent labour and much pleasure.

Index Editor’s note:  These first two articles, written by leading members of the Local History Group that had just been formed, are ‘bubbling’ with excitement and enthusiasm for the project.  They premised, when written, a significant future for the annual volume, and that is now apparent from the work of indexing the first ten volumes.

The Ghost of Manor Park
by R Tagg

Mr & Mrs Tagg claim separately, to have seen an ‘elderly lady wearing a blue dress’ in their bungalow’s garden built on the land of the former Uckfield House.  Commentary at the foot of the article refers to ghosts of an 18th century Lady Wilson from the Manor House and a couple in fifteenth century dress seen by  a workman during alterations to Olives in the High Street.  The elderly lady in the blue dress is suggested to be Sarah Kelly, a previous owner of Uckfield House assassinated in Ireland in 1856.  A former Uckfield resident claimed to be in touch with similar ghosts.

The Weston Family
by Rodney Victor Weston

In 1881 William John Weston, grandfather of the writer, established a Wheelwright, Coach and Carriage Builder’s business at Geneva, a large house in Framfield Road adjacent to three cottages of the same name.  He married Jane Downs in 1882 and had seven sons and four daughters, the last of whom was Edith.  She married Lancelot Vinall at the Baptist Church in 1920 and the writer reproduces an account of the occasion that was printed in the Sussex Express.

The family had moved to Butts Croft in Uckfield High Street, several years earlier having sold the business in Framfield Road.  In August 1921, William John Weston died and shortly after his widow and some members of the family migrated to Canada.  Others went to India, Ceylon and the USA.  

Victor Edward Weston, Rodney Weston’s father, inherited the Butts Croft * property, purchasing another in the High Street.  He and his brother Frederick developed a motor vehicle repair and body building business. This was later enlarged by purchase of other adjacent properties including Leicester House.  The large cellars in the latter were converted to an aquarium by the writer and used for the breeding and sale of tropical fish.
* See note in Volume 2, p.56  Corrections and Comments.

Richard Woodman – Protestant Martyr
by Simon Wright

Woodman was born at Buxted circa 1524, and legend ascribes his training as an iron founder to Ralphe Hogge, the Buxted cannon maker.  Richard Woodman set up a business in Warbleton;  during the reign of Edward VI he espoused the Protestant faith that was gaining ground in England following the Reformation.  

The death of Edward brought Mary Tudor – a devout Roman Catholic - to the throne as Queen, shortly to be married to King Phillip of Spain who, when wedded, became King of England.  Encouraged by him she embarked upon the persecution of Protestants.

The Rector of Warbleton, George Fairebanks, transferred allegiance from the reformed Church of England to the Church of Rome and denounced – it is said – Woodman as a heretic.  Richard was arrested, examined first by Dr. Christopherson – Bishop of Chester – and then Dr. Story, a leading ‘heretic hunter’.  He was condemned to be burned at the stake.  On 22 June 1557 the sentence was carried out at Lewes.  Richard Woodman, George Stevens, and William Maynard, with seven others including two women and a boy, were burned to death outside the Star Inn.  They became known as the Lewes Martyrs.

Simon Wright notes a sequel to the Marian persecutions.  John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was first published in 1570, a work begun in 1558, after Mary’s death and the accession of Elizabeth I   “…and it was ordered that every cathedral and the dining room of every superior clergyman should possess a copy”.

“Goodbye to the Bishop’s Prison.”

The Sussex Express of 4th October 1890 reported the demolition of a property on the South corner of Church Street, Uckfield and the High Street, under which there was the remains of a medieval cell.  Traditionally this was a Bishop’s Prison in which Richard Woodman, Protestant Martyr, was incarcerated on his way to execution in Lewes in 1557.  There is no historical proof of the tradition.

Some Observations on Sussex Dialect
by Simon Wright.

Sussex dialect has several characteristics.  These include the ‘reduplicated plural’:  ghostesses, postesses, and toastesses are examples, and Pharisees becomes fairieses.  Another is the Sussex slow drawl which appears to show a small contempt for the listener, and is expressive of  ‘we wunt be druv’.

Simon Wright recounts these instances of the dialect and mentions also that William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania in USA, was a Sussex squire at one time.  He married Gulielma Springett of Ringmer and took with him   “.. two hundred staunch  Sussexians…”   to America.  Their mode of speech and Sussex idiom may have had an effect upon later American speech.

Squires of Uckfield
By Pat Eves.

Pat Eves identifies and outlines the role after 1750 played by the Streatfeilds as Uckfield squires when the family inherited the estates through a marriage to a daughter of Gabriel Egles of Copwood.  She records Richard Beard Streatfeild, whose nephew, Richard Thomas was succeeded by Richard Shuttleworth and finally, Richard James who died in 1935.  “The family was obviously committed to the welfare of the residents of the Town and were known for their generosity.”

She also suggests that Richard Hart (1739-1784) is a candidate for the title of squire.  He was an Uckfield resident for a time, owned substantial property in the district, and was father of Rear Admiral Sir Henry Hart KCB.  

Pat Eves ends by saying that this is an area of continuing research.

The Poor Law
by Pat Eves

A short review of the Poor Law (pre and post 1834) with reference to its local nature before the Poor Law Amendment Act, and the harsh character of the Union of Parishes system which was introduced in 1834.  This brutal regime, she points out, is not exaggerated in Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist.
NB  Pat Eves has mistaken the old workhouse name, the Pilpole, for that of the Beadle or Governor as the old Workhouse Master was called.  Uckfield Parish Chest … Vestry Documents, 1754 & 1810 qv.

George Wren, the Uckfield martyr
by William Albery


The Case of the Short Straw
by Sally Pearce

These two articles are about the same person, George Wren, and the same circumstance: his trial at Lewes in 1832 for rick burning and subsequent execution in January 1833.

The record by William Albery was written in 1937 for the Sussex County Magazine as part of a series entitled The Farm Labourers’ Distress, 1830-1835.  Sally Pearce writes from a contemporary study of parish documents, news reports of the times, and related history.  The basic facts are common to both pieces.

Wren was from a pauper family;  he was arrested for sheep stealing in 1830, imprisoned at Horsham and tried at the Sussex Assizes.  Albery says he was acquitted; Pearce agrees but notes that the initial verdict was ‘guilty’  He was arrested two years later for rick burning.  Albery reports that Wren was at the Uckfield Parish Workhouse at the time of the incident and, on hearing the alarm raised put on his boots and went to help put the fire out.

Pearce again concurs broadly but adds much more detail about Wren’s behaviour some hours before the incident.  Both writers report  that Wren’s left boot coincided with a footmark at the point where the fire started.  Sally Pearce says that John Markwick, an Uckfield shoemaker, confirmed the match when asked to do so by Constable Fish who arrested Wren.

George Wren was tried at the Sussex Winter Assizes before Judge Baron Gurney.  He was found guilty but the jury recommended mercy.  William Albery says the judge simply ignored the jury and was determined to see Wren hanged.  Sally Pearce elaborates on this, using material from a variety of sources, and suggests reasons why the judge disregarded the jury’s recommendation.  Both writers consider that justice was not properly served or done.  Albery’s conclusion is one much more instinctual than is that of Sally Pearce  – he quotes no sources.  Her title offers an interesting insight.

Land Use in Uckfield
by Pat Eves

This is a brief report of the interest and excitement generated in a local study group (Tutor: Dr, Anthony Freeman) which looked closely at the 1875 Ordnance Survey Map and Schedule of Uckfield, and plotted land use therefrom.  Pasture with arable and woodland proved most common.  An interesting comparison was made with the Tithe Map of 1841.

Mid-Victorian Uckfield: a mysterious cultural revolution.
by Brian Phillips

Brian Phillips notices a curiosity in the history of Uckfield circa 1860 to 1870 and asks an important question.  He offers this short reflection about Hindsight, launched with this edition.  

A mechanics’ institute and library are listed in 1862 and again in 1867.  Henry Gilham is the Institute’s Librarian but Whiting’s 1869 Uckfield Visitor’s Guide does not mention either.  

In that year Whiting launched the Uckfield Monthly Illustrated Journal;  it contains an article, under the pseudonym of Peter Quince, which refers to the loss of a similar institution somewhere in England.  The monthly journal was short lived and closed within two years.  

Brian Phillip’s last sentence is:  “ Whiting’s brave publication lasted apparently, until May 1871.  How long will ours last ? ”

Brian Phillips raised this challenge.  Now, in 2005, Hindsight has lasted eleven years.  Perhaps, unlike the Mechanics’ Institutes, which did not chime with  rural England in 1860, Hindsight was not and is not ahead of its time. Ed.

The Morris family at Fernhurst, London Road
by Dick Gilbert

Dick Gilbert is the great nephew of Robert Morris whose diary is serialised in subsequent issues of Hindsight.  Here he recounts the steps that brought his great-great grandparents, with Robert, and great-aunts Mary and Alice to live in Uckfield in 1899.

Fernhurst was a newly built property commissioned from Charles Pelham of Uckfield, and constructed in London Road.  The family occupied it until 1917 when, following the death of the older generation, Alice and Robert  moved back to Eastbourne.  Mary placed the property on the market.  Much of the furniture was bought by Robert’s married sister, Ellen Isabel Gilbert (nee Morris) of Ryderswell, London Road.

Fernhurst with new owners later was called Burnt Mill, and in recent history was purchased by the East Sussex Health Authority for use as a community mental health centre.  Coincidentally the Centre’s first co-ordinator was Jane Morris, great-grand-daughter of James Berry Morris and his wife Maria Sophia (nee Willie) whose home it was in 1899.

The Uckfield Almshouses
by Norman Edwards

The Uckfield Almshouse on the East side of London Road between Henley House and Browns Lane, were sold by the Parish Vestry during 1839 and 1840 for funds to assist the construction of the Union Workhouse at Teelings Common.  The purchaser was Alexander Cheale (Snr).  His son (also Alexander) was the builder of other local properties including the National (Parochial) School, and Possingworth Manor.

Samuel Perigoe, veterinary surgeon, Churchwarden and Overseer lived at Henley House.  The sale would have come within his responsibility.

The Captain Swing Archive Kit
by Simon Wright

This is a report of a talk given by Dr. Anthony Freeman (to the Society) in February 1994.  It presents the view that the so-called ‘Captain Swing’ may have been a fictional character, although the riots engendered at the time by discontented and disaffected farm workers, were real enough.

The strong point is also made that the repression of the disorders was the result of action by the Whig Government, and Home Secretary, Lord Melbourne, whereas their predecessors – the Tories and the Duke of Wellington – had done little about the problem.

“Troops were dispatched to the affected counties” and  “rapid response” – mounted – squadrons were stationed at East Grinstead, Mayfield and Uckfield.  Of 2,000 persons (in southern England) charged, half were released, 500 were given short sentences and the rest transported to Australia.  A consequence of the latter is reflected in the number of genealogical enquiries received today by the East Sussex Record Office.

The lecture was enlivened by Dr. Freeman’s use of a documents kit, originally designed for 14 year olds, adapted for GCSE and further modified for use by adult groups.

The Eversfields
by Peter Ferguson

Peter Ferguson reports briefly upon his research into this family whose name comes from a settlement near Mayfield.  Thomas Eversfield (1542-1612), son of Nicholas, lived in Uckfield where four of his children were baptised.  Bridget (1574), Katherine (1576), Ann (1580) and John (1582).

Elizabeth, his first wife died in 1584 and Thomas, marrying Mary Levet in 1586, moved to Hollington near Hastings.  He was High Sheriff of Sussex in 1599;  his second son, Nicholas held the same office in 1619 and was MP for Hastings. In 1623 and 1628.  His grandson, Sir Thomas was also Hastings’ MP in 1645.

Other family members were connected with Buxted and Little Horsted.

A remarkable Sussex family
by Simon Wright

This article is a short digest of the Clarke family beginning with William, who married Anne, daughter of William and Anne Wotton (nee Hammond) resident in later life in Buxted.  William was presented to the Buxted rectory by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1724, remaining their for 44 years.  In 1768 he resigned his rectorship in favour of his son, Edward.

Edward, born 1730 was educated like his father at St. John’s Cambridge, became a Fellow, and was appointed domestic chaplain to Lord Bristol, English ambassador to the Spanish Court.  After marriage to Anne Greenfield he entered service as chaplain to the Governor of Minorca.  His eldest son, James Stanier was born shortly after he returned to England and assumed the rectorship of Buxted.  Edward, as his father, followed a scholarly career at Buxted.  His health was poor and the cause of an early death at age 56.  

After ordination, James Stanier Clarke  was appointed rector of Preston near Brighton in 1790.  During the war with France he served as chaplain on HMS Impetueux, in the Channel Fleet.  In 1799 he became chaplain and librarian to George, Prince of Wales (‘Prinny’).  Subsequently for twenty years he edited the Naval Chronicle, a distinguished magazine about naval history, and collaborated in a life of Lord Nelson.  He was installed canon of Windsor in 1821, continuing in royal service.

“It was in the person of Edward’s second son, Edward Daniel Clarke, that this distinguished family reached its apogee.”  Following an undistinguished career at Cambridge, he became a tutor to Hon. Henry Tufton with whom  he toured Great Britain.  This experience generated an interest in mineralogy.   The interest developed;  in 1799 it was expanded by a tour of Northern Europe in company of a Cambridge friend, John Marten Cripps, Dr. Otter – Bishop of Chichester – and Dr. Malthus the economist.  

It was a successful if hazardous tour, confirming Edward Daniel’s interest in geology, mineralogy and the ancient world.  In Russia he accumulated eight hundred specimens of minerals.  He wrote “Plants, minerals, antiquities, statistics, geography, customs, insects, animals, climates, everything I could observe and preserve, I have done.”  He recorded his travels and results in six published volumes which established his reputation as a  scholar, earned him the creation and first occupancy of a Chair of Mineralogy.  

In 1806 he married Angelica, daughter of Sir William Rush and, on marriage was presented first to the living at Harlton, and then the rectorship of Yeldham, both in the gift of his Cambridge College.  He had five sons and two daughters, devoted the balance of his life to parish duties but maintaining his contact with the academic world.  He died in 1822 at his father-in-law’s home in London.

History in Uckfield before the street numbers
by Norman Edwards

Norman Edwards writes about Uckfield as it was during the last part of the 19th Century and the first quarter of the 20th.  His main focus is the houses, villas, cottages, roads, corners and streets of the town.  He records change and development as well as what remains and continues.  Thus we hear of Rose Cottage,  Geneva House, Bird-nye-Terrace, Westmorland  and Mountfield Villas and how they have changed.  

There is memory of families and personalities.  Henry Tyhurst is remembered for his building, and influence;  William Dendy – ‘ of more anon’ Norman Edwards says cryptically – and the man with the ‘resounding Victorian name’ Samuel Staplehurst Avis who served the town in a variety of ways.  He mentions also Clanmorris Thompson, a man of many parts, Chilton’s new showrooms and David Horscroft, shoemaker..  He ends with a question: ‘ Who was S.R.H, Yate (of Yate Cottages), L & EAM, and J.W ?

Victorian Uckfield: A Scottish Perspective
by Brian Phillips

Brian Phillips has discovered an entry into a Scottish Guide which, in 1861, told Scottish people about Uckfield and its environs. Through marriage the Streatfeilds had Scottish connections, and other persons with Scottish links came to live in the town  during the subsequent decade.  The Guide is Black’s Guide to the South-Eastern Counties of England: Sussex (Edinburgh. 1861. pp 533-534)

Payment by Results

A review of Simon Wright’s book of the same name, published by the Uckfield & District Preservation Society with a brief reference to more recent commentary.  The work was based on the log-book record kept for 32 years by William Rollinson, head teacher of the Uckfield Parochial School.  Much of the text treats of the time during the 19th Century when the annual grant depended upon scholars giving a satisfactory performance and evidence of achievement, to visiting government inspectors.

Georgian Lewes
by Jeremy Goring

In this book review the writer presents the substance of Colin Brent’s book: Georgian Lewes 1714-1830 – the Heyday of the County Town.  The author has delved deeply into local archives: wills deeds, letters, diaries, account books, court proceedings and much more.  The item is reproduced by courtesy of the Sussex Archaeological Society.