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Volume 3 – Summer 1997


Brickmaking at Ridgewood
by Molly Beswick

This is the fascinating record of Benjamin Ware & Co Ltd, brick, tile and pottery makers whose company’s antecedents go back to the 1770s when George Taylor first dug clay and made bricks at Bates Hole (Union Point).  Later development transformed the company into a classic of Victorian enterprise, carrying that forward into the 20th Century despite serious difficulties consequent upon two world wars and an intervening depression.  According to Robert Ware its decline came suddenly, unable to innovate and change.

Uckfield House – the Kelly connection
by Peter Ferguson

Peter Ferguson’s masterly unravelling of an intricate, complicated and complex life course gives the reader an interesting, authoritative history.  

Sarah Kelly (nee Birch) was born in Ramsgate of a ‘hard-working, respectable family’.  Seduced at a young age by an Anglo-Irish middle-class rake (Paul Meredith) and abducted by him to Ireland on the promise of marriage, she was eventually abandoned in Dublin with a young child.  After a time of near destitution, she met, became the mistress of, and was eventually married to, Edmund Kelly a solicitor and land agent (thirty-five years her senior) with three Irish Estates and, at some time, that of Uckfield House.  The couple visited and resided there from around 1828.  Edmund died in 1845.

Sarah was sole legatee.  Kelly’s Irish relations contested the Will, and were  finally defeated by Sarah, not wholly successfully, after some years of litigation.  Following her husband’s demise she managed the Irish properties assisted by her nephew, George Strevens.  She was with him on her Ballinderry estate in 1856, inspecting some completed work when attacked and shot by two assailants never subsequently identified.  Strevens was tried for complicity and acquitted.

Kent and Sussex Families
by Simon Wright

Simon Wright adds to an earlier study by identifying a number of long established families resident in this corner of South-East England:  the Streatfeilds, Holfords, Fullers, Offleys and the Maryon-Wilsons.  In this short piece his focus is upon the Lade family, continuing with and correcting, the task he began in Volume 2.  He shows how and where that family connects with the English minor aristocracy of their times.  

Newbridge Furnace and Finery Forge
by Dot Meads

A short commentary about the Furnace and Forge upon its 500th anniversary.  Commissioned in 1496 by Henry VII to supply items for the Royal Artillery’s Scottish campaign.  The notes support the modern commemorative plaque created by the Wealden Iron Research Group, and installed by Michael Edwards, a distinguished engineer, on 14th December 1996.

Uckfield Grammar School in the 1920s
by Walter James

This is an intriguing insight into the final years of the school’s activity as seen by one of its scholars. He offers a  pupil’s perspective on some of the staff and their eccentricities.  His perception of the last two headmasters is youthful.  The first, Mr Treble,   “ looked like a cross between an austere solicitor and le Carre’s (character) Smiley as played by Alec Guiness”.  

Of Dr. McGregor he writes   “ He wanted the boys to be able to perform, not only in debate, but in recitation and on the stage, as though he aimed to produce a breed of public figures and politicians.”   He describes ‘flopping-up’, a form of schoolboy initiation, and a school world that seems slightly surreal in contrast to 21st century practice.

Corrections and Comment corner

Brief notes correcting three minor errors in Volume 2

Industrial relations in a rural community
by Denise van Dijkhuizen

This short essay looks for the reasons why trades unionism was not strong in and around Uckfield in the 19th century.  It records the unrest and disturbances in the wider regional and national rural communities, the considerable distress apparent from the local parish (Old) Poor Law records and the commencement of the (New) Poor Law Amendment system after 1834.   

There are two contemporary newspaper reports (1830 and 1870 respectively) which reflect popular middle-class Victorian attitudes of the time towards industrial unrest.

Dr. Charles Leeson Prince
by Mike Hakiel

The son of Charles and Mary Ann Prince of Uckfield.  He qualified as a doctor, and in his early career assisted his father who was a principal doctor in the town during the 1820s and 30s, medical officer to the Board of Guardians from its inception, and Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths after 1837.  Charles Leeson eventually succeeded to this office.

Charles Leeson Prince was a typical mid and late Victorian man of letters, and a scholar of some distinction.  In later life he was a Member or Fellow of learned societies for Astronomy and Meteorology in addition to his Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and Licentiateship of the Society of Apothecaries.  

He published two books which record the local climates of respectively Uckfield and Crowborough, month by month over some 20 and more years.  The former book to 1875, and the latter up to 1897.

His books also contain various and diverse analyses of, for example:  the nature of snow, tables of local births, marriages and deaths, and the form of local geology.  His interests included archaeology and photography.  

Professionally he noted particularly the improved quality of life for the poor, comparing it at the beginning and the end of his professional career.  Born in 1821, he died at Crowborough in 1899 and is remembered on one of the family tombstones in Uckfield Holy Cross churchyard.

The development of policing in Uckfield, Part 2
by John Dibley

The conclusion of an article  begun in Volume 2 and covering primarily Uckfield and district developments in crime recording, transport (the introduction of motor vehicles), the new police station and lock-up, staffing, arrangements for taking prisoners to court, and the responsibilities of magistrates.

Captain Henry Fowler Mackay
by Simon Wright

The Chief Constable for East Sussex, appointed in 1841 and resident for a time at Hylands, Framfield which became the first County Police Headquarters.  The article tells of his entry, by purchased commission, into  the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, from whence he retired and was appointed to lead the newly established East Sussex police force.  His was a typical appointment of the time;  former soldiers were recruited to lead and man the new service modelled and structured along military disciplinary lines.  Mackay’s headquarters and home were eventually established in Lewes where, retiring in 1881, he lived on until 1898.

Uckfield Mill
by Tania Berry and Mike Hakiel

The Uckfield watermill (known historically as Ramsleigh Mill) is first mentioned in documents dated 1243 and leased by John Wharnett.  It has a continuing pedigree until circa 2000 when it ceased as a mill and the building was converted into office accommodation.  

Tania Berry and Mike Hakiel have together, but differently, recorded its history.  From the mid-17th Century onwards familiar Uckfield names appear in the agreements and documents.  The Mill is shown to be an important feature of first the town’s economy, and subsequently its contribution to that for the region.  

A village in war-time
by Margaret Eldridge

Margaret Eldridge writes about how it was, when it happened, and what it was like to live and work in the virtual front line of German attack during the second world war.  She describes her fortunate escape while driving a farm tractor at Little Horsted when a German fighter plan came  ‘hedge-hopping’  in search of targets.  

She tells of the village rallying to Anthony Eden’s call and forming a Home Guard platoon.  She writes about their military professionalism when a German bomber crashed with its crew baling out just in time.  She reflects upon the oddity (probably immediately post-war) of German prisoners working and being housed on the family farm.  She recalls that the Canadians were stationed near the village prior to D-Day 1944.

The school log shows, despite the tensions, that the termly routine continued relatively uninterrupted.  There were exceptions during bad weather, a not unusual event in a rural school, and the accommodation and integration of evacuees none of whom stayed for long.  Many local people and events are remembered in this sharp snapshot from World War Two history.