© Uckfield and District Preservation Society Ltd.          Registered Office - 47 Roman Way, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22 1UY  All rights reserved.   Company Registered in England Number 04471316    Registered Charity No 1102573         webadmin@udps.co.uk
Volume 9 – Autumn 2003


The Editor reminds members of the Society that future issues of Hindsight will be in the Autumn, commencing 2004.  He then appeals for more research articles from the many members and friends of UDPS.  Among his suggested  topics are these:
- Articles about local families.
- A study of Holy Cross Church which has origins in the 13th-14th century, but lacks detailed study.
- The large collection of documents (some 180) at the East Sussex Record Office, which call for close attention.
- Recollections of the Second World War in this district, and a study of Uckfield people involved in World War One.
- Uckfield Grammar School, for which no definitive account exists.
- The Maiden’s Head Inn which also goes back a long way.
And many other possibilities.

Counting Heads in Uckfield – the 1901 Census
By Simon Wright

This is a studied and thorough examination of many pages in the 1901 Uckfield Census to identify families, individual citizens who stand out in the town’s 19th Century story.  The article opens with a brief survey of early census activity, showing that the first British one took place in 1801 when Uckfield had 811 citizens.

In 1811 there was a disproportion between the number of males and females;  this was attributed partly to the fact that   “24 local Militiamen (were) mustered for training and exercise, and which in consequence could not be included in the …. Schedule”.  The given figures were:  Male 413, Females 503. Total persons 916.  Ed.

The author identifies the three enumerators for 1901, comments on the area they covered and notes that at the census date the town’s population was approximately 2,866:  1348 males and 1518 females.  

He then proceeds to identify groups of residents by trade or profession working systematically through the town centre and into the populated areas.  En route are Charles Dawson, Benjamin Ware, Henry Tyhurst, George Piper, William Weston, Agnes Markwick, the Misses Cardale, Mary Palmer, Elizabeth Dann,  James Windsor Gould, Edwin Kenward  and, essentially, the Uckfield squire, his wife and daughter among many others.  Simon Wright ends the article with ‘half a dozen success stories’ about local people who achieved much.

Greengroceries and the Gospel: the Thornes of Uckfield
by Simon Wright

Prosper John Thorn, (later John Prosper Thorne) had Dorset antecedents.  His father came to live in Sussex, married second, Eliza Baldwin from Kent.  By the end of the 19th century John Prosper was in business as a Seedsman and General Fruiterer.  His business was successful, and he strongly supported the formation of an evangelical church, meeting in the Uckfield Assembly Rooms.  The Dowager Lady Portman of Buxted was a prominent influence in the church’s development.

He purchased a Thorneycroft car, which he drove regularly to Brighton market to buy fresh produce for his shop.  He married a second time, following Emily’s death, and fathered a second family.  They appear to have moved into the former Police Station in Hempstead Road, renaming it Thornbury.  During this period his business expanded:  a second shop in Uckfield, and two others – Brighton and Nutley.  John Thorne died in 1926, mourned by his two families and many of his fellow tradesmen.

Rangers, reeves and rogues: a short history of the Kirby family
by Peter Kirby

This article contains the extraordinary personal account of his criminality by John Kirby (born 1760 or 1761), the second son of Nathaniel and Mary (nee Pim) Kirby of Blean in Kent.  It is “written in his own hand” but when and where is not stated.  He died in October 1791 off the Cape of Good Hope in a convict transport ship en route for Australia.  

The more honest members of the family, as the writer puts it, became estate workers, first in Kent and then on the Shelley estate at Maresfield.  His great grandfather, Samuel, became head game keeper and reeve.  His grandfather Herbert, became Forest Ranger to the Ashdown Conservators, succeeded in turn by his father ‘Fred’.  Fred had a sensitivity about the forest which enabled him to identify his whereabouts in a remarkable manner.  

Peter Kirby has drawn together a number of tales about the family, in particular those told by his father.  He has collected these together with those of his grandfather and recently published them for posterity.

The Owners of Bridge Cottage II – The Uckfield Colgates
By Peter Ferguson

This second article adds detail to that in Hindsight, Volume 8 which discussed the origins of Bridge Cottage, the headquarters of the Uckfield & District Preservation Society.  Peter Ferguson brings the family Colgate into focus first, from its origins in West Sussex, dispersing thereafter into East Sussex and Kent.

Henry Colgate (1643-1682) is the first identified owner of the cottage in 1662.  His son, also Henry (1677-1755) was in occupation of the cottage and, during his life-time, served on the Parish Vestry and as Overseer for the Poor.  Henry (III) born 1701 is described as a  ‘yeoman of Bridge Farm’,  as is his son John (1738-1774).  

By the end of the 18th Century, ownership had passed to others:  merchants and traders.  During the 19th Century the cottage came to be part of the Streatfeild estate and sold, ultimately, following the death of Annette Streatfeild in 1937-8.  As with the earlier investigation, Peter Ferguson has skilfully examined many documents to reach the presented conclusions.

Uckfield Fire Brigade
by Simon Wright

A Volunteer Fire Brigade was established in the 1860s and an engine purchased by public subscription.  The originator of the initiative may have been Luther White, blacksmith, who became captain.  Its services covered a large area, responding to calls from Mayfield and Hadlow Down and, often arriving at a fire too late to save the premises.  The alarm was dependent upon runners from the seat of the fire to where the Captain and firemen could be roused.  Telephone communication was non-existent.

Water-jet propulsion was by hand-pump – a six-man team worked the Uckfield engine.  Steam-powered jets and wheeled escape ladders came into local use in the early 20th Century, and motor transport, replacing horses, arrived in the 1930s.   

An Uckfield Fire Station, professionally staffed and manned was opened in 1938 in Keld Avenue;  financial contributions came from various sources including £800 from the Parish Council whose responsibility it became.  In 1941 the station and staff were incorporated into the National Fire Service (NFS) and post-war responsibility for the service passed to East Sussex County Council.

In a preliminary  to the main narrative text, Simon Wright traces the growth of fire emergency services beginning with the Great Fire of London (1666), the development of fire insurance by Phoenix and the Sun Alliance companies, and the formation of voluntary brigades.  He looks also at the technological developments including that ‘unsung hero’ John Braithwaite who, ahead of his time, developed the use of steam power for jet propulsion.

An adventurous woman:  Emma Batchelor and the Mormons
by Simon Wright

The essay begins with an overview of Mormonism to provide a background against which is set the outline life of Emma Batchelor.  Founded by Joseph Smith, and developed by Brigham Young who established the church at Salt Lake City, its membership was increased by converts from the British Isles,.  

Emma, the eighth of ten children born to Henry and Elizabeth Batchelor of Buxted, was baptised into the Mormon Church in Brighton together with her elder sister, Frances.  

Leaving domestic service and returning from Brighton to home, she decided (in1855) to apply for a Mormon Perpetual Emigration passage to Salt Lake City.  She sailed from Liverpool in 1856, arriving at the City after much hardship on the journey.  

The Mormons practiced polygamy, as advocated by Joseph Smith.  Emma was married, as a second wife, to Brother Kippen in 1857, leaving him later because of her treatment as a domestic servant, and in 1858 met, and married John Doyle Lee, a close associate of Brigham Young.

In 1875 her husband was tried for the massacre of emigrants at Mountain Meadows in 1857, ultimately found guilty – after a second trial – and executed in 1877. By 1880 she was in Sunset, Arizona, where she met and married Frank French.  During the next 18 years she became experienced as a practical healer working with great success among local Indian tribes and acquiring a significant regional reputation.  She was known as ‘Dr. French’.  She died, suddenly, on November 11th, 1897, collapsing as she was about to start her customary, daily medical round.  

Crown Close: A 1953 development
by Brian Phillips

Harold Macmillan, Housing Minister in the Churchill Government (1951-1955) promised to build 100,000 houses a year to resolve the post-war housing crisis;  Crown Close, Uckfield, was part of that programme.  The keys were formally handed over to the new tenants on 7 July 1953 by Reginald Bevins, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister, in the presence of dignitaries from Uckfield Rural District Council, the local authority owners.

Brian Phillips recounts the stages leading up to Durrant Brothers Ltd, of Framfield being awarded the builder’s contract.  He also notes the Committee members’ various perceptions of elderly persons’ needs including a belief that sleeping on the ground floor (bungalows) was bad for rheumatism.  (Dr. Petrie, Medical Officer, reassured them.)  He mentions early public mapping difficulties and finally the continuance of Uckfield’s eccentric house numbering tradition.  

Growing up in Halland in the 1930s and 40s
by Wyndham Gould

A boy’s village life around eighty years ago, seen in retrospect by Wyndham Gould.  Youthful curiosity and pranks, occasionally bored young men, and there were interesting local people;  this is a fascinating account for which these extracts are not untypical.

“In the early 1930s most of the village people drew their water from the village pump.”

“Milk was delivered by his daughters and by Allen Cottingham.  That was after school.  They raced up and down with the cans of milk hanging from the handlebars of their bicycles.”

“Our school PT session consisted of running round the playground;  on the long stretch we would gather speed and slide the remaining feet.  …. our new headmaster, Mr. Greg Morgan was disgusted at these antics and immediately ordered a pair of plimsolls for each child;  these cost one shilling and sixpence a pair which many parents could not afford to pay in one go, so they paid sixpence a week. ”

A Mr. Berry was the the village chimney sweep, handyman and generator of his own electricity  with “an engine, generator and loads of batteries”.  

The youths of the village, dressed in their finest clothes, stood on the roadside on Sundays, watching and commenting on the young women passing on their way to church.  Wyndham Gould’s mother told him how embarrassing that was to her generation.  

Local people attended East Hoathly church – a round trip of three miles, walking;  or went to the Mission Chapel in the village, run by Mr & Mrs Playne.  Life followed a regular pattern which only began to change when the AA patrolman at Halland crossroads was replaced by Halt signs and road markings, and the arrival of Canadian troops during the war.

John Fuller (Mad Jack) 1757-1834)
by Sir Geoffrey John-Smith

Sir Geoffrey told (in Hindsight 2002) of his initial researches into East Sussex Parliamentary history.  Here he introduces one of its early characters – ‘Mad Jack Fuller’ - who had an altercation with the Speaker and  ‘was very lucky in not being sent to Newgate (prison)’.   

He represented the so-called ‘rotten borough’ of East Grinstead – abolished under the 1832 Reform Act – and later, until his death in 1834, the new East Sussex constituency which was created by the Act.