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Volume 6 Summer 2000


A reflective editorial which asks why do we study local or family history ?  Our reasons may be to trace our ancestry back to the Conquest, but nowadays unlikely.  More prosaically we seek to understand who our ancestors were, why they did what they did and how they lived;  how like or unlike us they were.

There are deeper reasons too perhaps, because we wish to understand what made us what we are.  And there may be other aspects as well:  we are anxious to play our part in the conspectus of man’s life on earth.

A small part of that challenge is already addressed by ‘Hindsight’ but there are other challenges waiting to be tackled.  Who within the Society will respond ?

Charles Dawson – 1864-1916
by Simon Wright

In Church Street, Uckfield, in AD 2000, were the offices of Dawson & Hart, solicitors.  The name Dawson is that of the solicitor, antiquarian and amateur archaeologist who lodged for a number of years at No.1 Aylesford Terrace.  He joined the firm of Langham & Son (solicitors) at Wakelyns in 1887-8 and became a junior partner.
Dawson & Hart (the latter was at first a clerk and later solicitor and partner) succeeded Langham, Son & Dawson in the practice.

Charles became clerk to the Uckfield Urban District Council, secretary to the local Water Company, solicitor to the Gas Company, secretary for the Uckfield Building Society and the holder of several offices and Trusteeships elsewhere in Sussex.  By 1900 he was well established as the principle legal representative in the town.

He also followed his interest in archaeology, being a founder member of the Hastings & St. Leonard’s Museum Association and exhibiting there many of his archaeological finds.  He became a prominent member and activist in the Sussex Archaeological Society at their Lewes Headquarters.  

In 1903 he successfully negotiated with the Marquess of Abergavenny, ostensibly on the Society’s behalf but in reality on his own, to purchase Castle Lodge which the Society rented as its library.  In 1904 he married Helene Postlethwaite, a wealthy Lewes widow, and moved into the Lodge.

The pursuit of his archaeological interests culminated in the excavation of a gravel pit at Barkham Manor and the apparent discovery of ‘Piltdown Man’.  This find was later discredited as fraudulent and destroyed Dawson’s reputation as an eminent archaeologist and member of the Geological Society.  It also raised some doubt over his professional practice although that is not questioned by subsequent research.  

Simon Wright concludes the article with a personal assessment, but points out that Dawson’s actions cast a long shadow upon the veracity and authority of English archaeological practice.

The Growth of Uckfield Cottage Hospital – 1881-1954
by Sally Pearce

Uckfield Cottage Hospital was offered to the town by R J Streatfeild in 1881, to be rented from him.  He had originally built the property on the site in 1866.  It was to be run by a committee and supported by voluntary contributions and patients’ fees.

Public subscriptions varied in amount, and there were constant financial difficulties.  Local doctors were honorary physicians to the hospital, the first being Drs. Lucas and Langdale who served for many years and were still in post in 1915.  The poor and destitute were excluded and catered for by the Union Workhouse infirmary at Teeling’s Common, Ridgewood

The death of Annette Streatfeild in 1937, daughter of the late R J Streatfeild, created a crisis resolved by purchase from the Will Trustee and the sale of the freehold to the Marquess of Abergavenny.  War-time (1939-45) created staffing problems;  the Executive Committee were concerned to maintain standards despite financial problems and staff shortages.  Discussions about the possibility of a new hospital were also carried on.

In 1948 the hospital was transferred to the newly established National Health Service.  By 1954 a considerable refurbishment and re-equipment programme had brought the hospital a higher standard of facilities and staffing.  However, in the 1990s a decision was taken to relocate to a more suitable site, the hospital was closed and the buildings demolished in 1995.

Uckfield Cottage Hospital – a child patient’s view
by Pamela Batchelor

A short, tightly written account of Cottage Hospital experience during World War 2 and the dedication of Uckfield’s Dr. Bell who, appreciating the need for urgency, took Pamela Batchelor’s young brother rapidly to the hospital in his car.  A sub-set shows  what the hospital was like on the inside: staff, wards and war-time food.

The Morris Family – Lewes, Eastbourne and Uckfield
introduced and annotated by Simon Wright

The first of several ‘Hindsight’ articles, drawn from the diary of Robert Morris who came to live at Uckfield in 1899, a member of a family originating in Lewes and becoming established in Eastbourne in the 1800s.

The diary extracts date from 1892 to 1899 and touch a variety of local, national and international events, incidents and happenings – to persons and groups – during those seven years.

Simon Wright shrewdly summarises the character and personality of the diarist, Robert Morris, in the following passage:

“Whether he was ever involved in the business side of E.M & Son (Ebenezer Morris and Son, iron founders and manufacturers) is uncertain but seems unlikely since he makes no mention of it.  He lived for 83 years”  [1865-1948] “the life of a gentleman of leisure.  He had artistic talents, he was interested in birds and photography and attended chapel.  He loathed Liberals and Socialists, despised Roman Catholics, took a keen interest in military matters (especially the Volunteer forces), enjoyed walking and bicycling, was an avid reader of newspapers and never missed noting in his diary assassinations of royal personages, wars and other disasters, especially when they involved railways, ships, submarines and aeroplanes.  Illnesses of family and friends, and of course their deaths,seem to occur on almost every page of the diary which becomes more detailed after the move to Uckfield. “  

The published extracts were written whilst Morris was still resident at Eastbourne but an entry for November 29th 1898 reads:  “It seems the new house at Uckfield”  [in London Road]  “has been commissioned and is supposed to be finished by June next.”

Olives – a 15th Century building and its early connections
by Peter Ferguson

Olives is a Grade II listed building on the East side of Uckfield High Street occupied in the year 2000 by the Halifax Building Society.  With antecedents going well back into the 15th Century it was the location of a tanyard and tanhouse for many years.  Peter Ferguson has written a fascinating account of parts of its history. He has skilfully analysed a range of Parish Records, Overseer’s rate books, Framfield Manor Court Baron proceedings, Wills of the Olives and Snatts families, documents held by the Society of Genealogists, and recognised authorities who include Ernest Straker  [Wealden Iron]  and a private collection with the intriguing title of M. Hamerton Wakelyns, (University of Brighton).

There are particularly valuable extracts from the Wills of Thomas Snatt (1578/79), William Snatt (1595/96) and of Annis (Agnes) Snatt, William’s widow, whose probate grant was on 25th April, 1616.  The Olives succeed the Snatts and are in residence during the 18th Century.  The Will of Thomas Olive (1751) gives further insights into the site and also his ownership of Wakelyns, almost opposite to Olives.  The record is incomplete.  Peter Ferguson ends:     “ we are still not absolutely certain where they (the Olives) came from, who carved the enigmatic stone block on the building’s façade or what, (if anything) the date 1515 signifies.”  He looks to further research for solutions.

Life in 18th Century Sussex  
a sombre happening and a critical question ?

Chicken fattening in East Sussex
by John Taylor

The writer is the grandson of a successful chicken fattening farmer;  his father was inducted into the business which prospered up to circa 1939/40 and briefly after the war.  However it declined rapidly following the introduction of the broiler industry and related developments.

He describes, in some detail the industry’s origins around Heathfield in the late 18th Century when live fowls were sent to the London market.  Higglers (chicken collectors) visited local farms to collect birds on behalf of suppliers.  Birds were cram fed with Sussex oats mixed in condensed milk initially by women and later by machine.  Suppliers became fatteners in their own right and sent fattened, prepared birds to the London markets.  

First transported by road, the fattened birds were later sent by rail: from Uckfield after 1866 and Heathfield from 1884, the industry prospered.  By 1914 Dan Taylor, John’s grandfather, at Croxted Farm, Framfield was producing more than 100 dozen chickens per week on a site having a capacity of around 4,800 birds.  During the Thirties a local road transport company increasingly replaced rail.  

John Taylor concludes by acknowledging the post World War Two primacy of broiler production and expresses appreciation of the survival of an ancient Sussex industry in a new form.

The Streatfeild family and the Rocks Estate,
by Simon Wright

Richard James Streatfeild, born 1844, died in 1931 owning estates at Rossington in Yorkshire near Doncaster, and East Sussex in and around Uckfield mainly to the south and west.  The heart of the Uckfield estate was Rocks House, which his father, Richard Shuttleworth Streatfeild, had built in the late 1830s, to designs prepared by Sydney Smirke.  It replaced a Georgian family home, Copwood, inherited by Richard Thomas Streatfeild – R J S’s grandfather - in 1770.  His survivor was Annette Streatfeild, an only child, born in 1866.  Upon her death in 1937 the estates were sold.  That at Uckfield was purchased by a local business consortium formed at the instance of W. A. Clark of St.John Smith & Sons who were  charged with the sale of the properties.

The Streatfeilds were Kent people;  the Uckfield branch came from Chiddingstone.  Through marriage they had acquired by inheritance, and purchase,  the estates offered for sale in 1937.  Richard James, soon after his marriage  in 1865 had progressively involved himself in the town’s affairs and business.  In the course of his life he provided a number of institutions:  renting to a Trust the property which became the Cottage Hospital, establishing the Uckfield Institute, leasing for 999 years the Victoria Pleasure ground, facilitating the provision of the Public Hall, being a churchwarden and a governor of the Uckfield Grammar School.  He chaired the Urban District Council when this was created in 1895, supported the Horticultural Society and, during the first world war, raised the local reserve volunteer ‘home defence’ force.

This article traces his antecedentsand describes the early demise of his father.  It introduces his grandmother and a distinguished step-grandfather, respectively Anne Shuttleworth Streatfeild and Richard Prime, her second husband.  It also records the legacy which Uckfield townspeople have in Lake Wood, formerly part of his estate, and the present use of his former home (Rocks House) now Buckswood School.  It reveals the intricate interconnection of members of this upper middle class family whose roots go back to the early years of Elizabeth the First’s reign (1558-1603).

Life in 18th Century Sussex:  
how the Isfield good wives treated a wife beater.

The Hare and Hounds Inn, Framfield Street, Framfield
by Dave Quensel

A record of the public house ownership from circa 1750, and the people who, as owners or tenants, continued the local connection.  A remarkable feature of this is the long association of the family of Joseph and Eleanor Banks, who became tenants in 1834.  Their last descendant left in 1927.

Originally known as the Greyhound, the house became the Hare and Hounds during the second half of the 19th Century.  It was successively owned by the Bear Brewery of Lewes, the Southdown and East Grinstead Brewery, Tamplins, Watney Combe and Reid, Watney Man and finally by the Grand Metropolitan Brewing, Foods, Leisure & Retailing Group.

Delivering the Mail – Letters and Postage over Five Centuries
by Simon Wright

Beginning with the famous Paston letters this article traces the sending and delivery of mail from before the times of Elizabeth I and ending in the Twentieth Century with Uckfield citizen George Bingham Towner, whose father, Henry, collected and delivered post in Little Horsted and elsewhere.

This masterly survey provides the contrast between the old and the new, when the recipient paid for letters and packages delivered by courier or mail coach and the introduction of the pre-paid letter and parcel post.  John Clare, the poet, had a ruse to avoid paying the charge.  The achievements of William Docwra of Bath, who pioneered a penny post are recorded.  Rowland Hill started the transition to a new method with the pre-paid ‘Penny Black’ which had to be cut from the sheet.  Later perforated edge stamps were invented, making cutting unnecessary.  These were the forebears of the 19th and 20th century postal revolution.  Into all of this the growth of Uckfield’s own postal service became involved over time.

The Bingham-Towner Family in Uckfield
by Carolyn Baird (nee Towner).

This is about a Sussex family of many different talents, recorded in censuses since 1831.  In that for 1971, George Bingham Towner (1881-1975) the writer’s grandfather, is entered as a photographer.  He was well known for his work, and an Uckfield resident of some distinction.  

Her great-grandfather, Henry Bingham Towner (1848-1934), delivered the post in Uckfield and Little Horsted.   Carolyn Baird’s father was the architect of several Uckfield houses, and had offices behind Hooke Hall.  On her grandfather’s death, her father sold his business and returned to Cornwall.  “Thus”  she writes,  “the Towner name disappeared from the Uckfield area”.

Uckfield Millennium Green
by Mick Harker

This short essay describes the creation of the Millennium Green on a site where Benjamin Ware had part of his large, pottery and tile works.  Mick Harker believes it to be a fitting commemoration which may provide a ‘breathing space’ on the southern outskirts of the town given the contemporary  rate of building and development.  Support for the project came from several quarters:  the Countryside Agency with a 50% grant, Uckfield Town Council, and the balance, the outcome of steady, dedicated work by many local volunteer supporters and fund collectors.

Bridging the gap – a wood between two parishes
by Dawn Harker

Dawn Harker gives a perspective of an ancient wood now secured by the Woodland Trust from further encroachment by developers, and bridging the space between Uckfield and Buxted.  

She recalls the value placed by earlier peoples on woodland species:  sweet chestnut, ash, hazel and sycamore each of which had substantial uses in the primitive economies.  

She notes that the Trust has a plan for Views Wood’s future, and that this includes the possibilities for improving wild life habitat.

General Sir George Calvert Clarke (1814-1900)
by Simon Wright

General Calvert Clarke’s father, John Calvert Clarke was tenant of Kidbrooke Hall, Forest Row.  Soon after the boy’s 15th birthday his father wrote to Major General Lord Fitzroy Somerset requesting support for his son to enter military service.

Calvert-Clarke was eventually admitted to Sandhurst and subsequently enlisted in the 2nd Dragoons, (Royal Scots Greys) where he rose steadily through the officer ranks, serving at various of the British overseas territories.  Simon Wright describes in considerable detail the actions of the Crimea War (1853-56) during which the battles of Balaclava, Inkerman and the siege of Sebastopol took place..  Calvert-Clarke was on active service in this episode of history and was there when the Charge of the Light Brigade occurred with disastrous results for the British soldiers involved.

On retirement in 1870 he came to live in Uckfield taking an active part in local affairs.  He became Chairman of the Board of Guardians and the Grammar School Governors;  he supported the Uckfield Institute and the Horticultural and Music Societies in a variety of ways.  He served as a Churchwarden during Church  restoration in the 1880s.

Comments and Corrections

There are a considerable number of minor amendments and corrections to Three Centuries of Sussex Cricket.  (Hindsight. Volume 5, 1999.).  
Because they are complex and detailed, readers are advised to review them alongside the original text.

Simon Wright acknowledges his gratitude to Roger Packham and Roger Heavens for the precise information he received.