Volume 4 – Summer 1998
by Simon Wright
Windmills are wonderful machines. Simon Wright provides an introductory overview in this history of the Nutley Windmill and acknowledges the work of June Brown of the Nutley Historical Society. The Mill at Nutley is the oldest type in use in England: a post mill. The entire buck (body) can be rotated by means of a tailpole to meet the wind direction. The post mill was superseded by the smock mill on which a cap rotated whilst the body of the mill remained still.
Nutley Mill is now cared for by the Uckfield & District Preservation Society (UDPS) being the first building to focus the Society’s work. Its age is disputed; documentary evidence held by UDPS suggests that it was purchased by Henry Sitford c1820 and reconstructed on its present site. Sitford borrowed money from William Wells to sustain his corn grinding business but, subsequently unable to repay the loan, lost ownership to Wells in 1862. Twenty years later growing competition from the new roller mills increasingly rendered the Nutley Mill redundant
The intricate and complex web of sales, resales, and tenancies throughout the 19th Century is carefully and skilfully unravelled in this article. Anthony Turner had a family interest in the Mill. He was one of Hannah Stevenson’s great, great grandsons. She was Henry Sitford’s daughter. Anthony founded the UDPS and played a leading part in the restoration and rehabilitation of the Mill.
The History of Nutley
by Colin Hobbs
Colin Hobbs account of Nutley Village complements the story of its Mill. He believes the village was part of Duddleswell and Maresfield manors in the twelfth century. A Free Chapel was founded in 1176 but curiously situated half a mile from the present village site. The writer asks why? He offers an explanation. The chapel became disused and its chalice was presented to Maresfield Church in 1541.
By the 16th Century Nutley Village was reasonably well established. Property surveys in 1546 (Maresfield) and 1564 (Duddleswell), reveal numerous cottages, small houses and land, both free and copyhold. Rent values are generally modest and, circa 1500 the population of Nutley village was probably around 100.
The 1831 Census shows a significantly larger village but proportionate to the growth of the English and Welsh population since medieval times.
Nutley’s history has always been interwoven with the use and care of Ashdown Forest. The rights to cut wood, or to enclose parts of the forest have been the subject of disputes since the village began. Colin Hobbs instances some of these involving, among others, Captain Noble, Nutley resident and sometime Chairman of the Uckfield magistrates. The map accompanying the article, plots properties mentioned in the study.
by Pat Eves, June Mugridge, Bert Schmid and Rodney Weston
with recollections from others including, the Ditch sisters, Miss G Avis, Kitty Pierpoint and Joe Reed.
Childhood memories: Bert Schmid walked two miles to school, there and back, from Ridgewood, twice a day; children from most families (80%) went to the parish (Parochial) school behind the church. The rest to private schools, or with shared governesses. Memories of May Day festivities, dancing round the maypole; of Empire Day when the squire (R J Streatfeild), presented medals to the eleven year olds at the school, and a bar to older pupils who had received a medal previously. School summer holidays were for hop-picking or harvest. Annual holidays were not part of life although there were exceptions, as the Ditch sisters remembered when their dentist father took rooms for a week at the seaside. The excitement of Christmas was universal, whatever your family’s social standing.
Memories of starting work when domestic service was your lot. Pat Spreadbury remembered “I hated it. I had to hearthstone the kitchen hearth. I was a small girl then, and found the work terribly hard.” Later she earned 12.6d a week at a newsagents, whereas Kitty Pierpoint only received 2s.6d weekly as a telephonist in 1917. Joe Reed recalled driving an early Model T Ford lorry that relied on pedals not gears. Miss Avis helped her father drive cattle from East Hoathly to Uckfield market along dirt roads. Bert Schmid’s memory is of the Oddie’s electrical business and being sent on errands to Mrs. Oddie, the local artist (and inveterate smoker) at Lewes Villa in New Town.
Memories had different qualities; some of pride, some bizarre. Albert Pierpoint – Kitty’s father – was awarded the Silver Medal of the Institute of Clayworkers; Pat Spreadbury vividly recalled a twenty-four hour thunderstorm with incessant lightening ‘when a fireman was going up and down the road on his bicycle blowing his whistle and the lightening flickering round his helmet’.
This article is gloriously full of recollections and anecdotes: milk delivered from a churn by a bowler hatted Mr.Ashdown; doctors who were often grumpy; the Band of Hope; Miss Annette Streatfeild’s wolf cub pack; the spring flowering trees: lilac, laburnum and horse chestnut; hoop making and hazel wood bundles; swimming in the river and the Grammar School pool; the Slip Inn; finally, from Rodney Weston, the D.Day landings.
by Simon Wright
In January 1870 H J Whiting, Uckfield printer and publisher of the Uckfield Visitor’s Guide launched the Uckfield Monthly Illustrated Journal. Its stated purpose was to do good, and Simon Wright surmises that Whiting, a native of Hull, may have been ‘very much influenced in early life by Hull’s most famous native son, William Wilberforce’.
To do good Whiting believed was a personal duty without let or hindrance. He responded positively to engineering and scientific advances of the Age: the railway and the electric telegraph are instanced. His journal reflects his personal philosophy; thus in the argument of the time which asked whether Science and Belief were moving out of step, - Geology contrasted with Genesis – his essays clearly show his views and those of some part of Victorian Society. Simon Wright comments ‘we can almost sense the presence of Darwin, looking over his shoulder’.
Among Victorian values were thrift, temperance, abstinence from alcohol, and good domestic economy through clothing and coal clubs. Allegiance to the established Church and Anglican doctrine was essential. (Can one hear from the words of the Rev’d. Henry Lansdell, Head of Uckfield Grammar School, a waspish buzz about the Oxford Movement ?) Concern – and therefore charitable contributions of goods and clothing - to relieve the suffering and wounded from the Franco-Prussian war, was one topic for the Revd. Cardale’s sermons. Above all the ‘Cultivation of the Mind’, as in the essay by a certain Dr. Lambert, was seen as paramount.
Hindsight’s article ends on a lighter note, coupled with its author’s reflection on what Victorian values may offer today’s society.
Corrections and Comments Corner
Notes about minor errors in these Volume 3 articles:
Brickmaking at Ridgewood.
Uckfield House –the Kelly Connection
Captain Henry Fowler Mackay about whom there is also much additional information
Feudal Jargon made simpler
by Brian Phillips
This is an acute insight into the meaning of medieval words and legal phrases some of which are still used today. A flavour of the writing is to be found in the following representative passages:
“Tenure of land. This defined how it (the land) was held. Some property (fee simple) might be completely open to bequeath or sell (alienate). Customary freehold changed hands in these ways but subject to the custom of the manor or wider area (fee simple conditional). Such rules or rights might be listed in a custumal or extent.”
Documents and their physical shape: if created by one party they were straight-edged (poll). An agreement between two or more parties was cut with a wavy edge or (indenture) so that the pieces could be matched again to a perfect fit to help resolve any dispute.
Admission, grant, quit-rent, surrender, relief, heriot, moieties (half-shares), and many other terms are lucidly explained by Brian Phillips in this fascinating review of feudal jargon.
by Simon Wright
Pentecost is a surname associated with 17th century Dissent; Simon Wright wonders if Thomas’ religious outlook and strong beliefs stemmed from a Calvinist doctrine received from his mother. Born in Crawley in 1792, he moved to Newick, married Ann – a local girl – and came to Uckfield around 1822. He died in 1869 and was buried in Uckfield churchyard, his wife predeceasing him by five years.
He achieved the accolade of the Uckfield poet although from a labouring family and apparently with little early education. He was encouraged in his art by his friend and neighbour, Revd. John Underwood, the Uckfield perpetual curate and schoolmaster of the ‘Academy’. Whilst not great work, his poetry has a Victorian lyric quality and topicality that was well received. In 1856 he published a book of poems called Harp of Aeolus some examples from which are given in the article.
A leather cutter by trade he had several, possibly parallel, occupations: coal dealer, postman and tithe collector. He was one of three enumerators for the 1861 Census; the forms he completed give clear evidence of his fluent handwriting and meticulous attention to detail. He had two sons, Edmund and Albert. The former took up Thomas’ coal supply business. The latter is described in the 1861 Census as a ‘musician’.
Albert Pentecost gave a short violin recital in a concert held at Lewes on 31 January 1845 and reported by Sussex Express on 8 February. The reporter wrote: “…he gave us every evidence of great talent ..” Ed.
Uckfield Methodist Church 1897 – 1997
by Debbie McDonnell
1997 was the centenary of the Weslyan Methodist Church in Harcourt Road. Throughout the century it had experienced fluctuating fortunes, coming close to closure on several occasions when congregations dwindled.
Sophia Emma Baron purchased the site in 1893, and had erected a wood building followed, four years later, by a brick built Mission Hall which became today’s Methodist Church. In 1911 Sophia’s daughters inherited the property and, following their respective deaths, a Trustee Board was established in 1931. Methodists had been in the district since 1829, using a small chapel at Ridgewood. The Harcourt Road church succeeded it and the new Trustee Board took in wider interests drawing membership from Five Ashes and Lewes in addition.
When local membership was low suggestions were made for unity with the United Reform Church in Uckfield. Joint services were held but the Methodist Church retained its independence. By 1957 a rebuilding project was well established and work began in 1959. Refurbishment was facilitated in 1986 with the aid of the Manpower Services Commission, and – to celebrate the Anniversary – a Celebration Garden was created in 1997.
Debbie McDonnell concludes by sayng, “Despite many years of uncertainty Uckfield Methodist Church looks set to enter the next Century with a flourishing membership determined to uphold vision that the buildings be used by the Methodist Church ‘for preaching the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ”.
A Village School: Little Horsted in the 1860s ands 70s.
by Simon Wright
“There is no better way of obtaining a real insight into people’s lives and way of thinking in 19th Century England than to read an assortment of school log books.”
With this sentence Simon Wright introduces his selection of diary entries from 1863 to 1879 for Little Horsted Church School. He notes also a key problem for the school’s development: seven teachers (in a one teacher school) between 1862 and 1880. Membership of the all age class (ages 5 to 12) could rise to up to 40. ‘Payment by Results’ dominated part of the period under consideration, (Simon Wright’s short book sharply focuses this policy; UDPS 1991.) and the almost daily visits by the parish Rector must have been unsettling for the teacher and pupils alike.
Attendance fluctuated because of seasonal farming needs for casual labour: harvesting, hop-tying, potato planting and stone picking. Poverty also played a part: children often hunted rabbits to supplement family food supplies. Illnesses, sometimes endemic, contributed, as did severe weather. All children walked to school.
Two entries which have a familiar ring:
“Feb.18th (1879) Caroline Diplock is very troublesome and will not do what she is told and is therefore detained to do her lesson after the usual time.”
“April 28th. Samuel Miles and Henry Realf punished for fighting.”
Two entries that may surprise:
“Dec. 25th. (1877) No School today it being Christmas Day. Monitors
supplied the children with a orange each; children much pleased.”
“Dec. 26th. Opened the school today; but have a very poor attendance owing chiefly to bad colds which many of the children have.”
The diaries mention some happy moments. An afternoon tea given by the squire (F S Barchard) on the festival of St, Michael and All Angels; children collecting wild flowers to decorate the church on Ascension Day.
“The children went to Horsted Place after school to tea, and see the fireworks.” “12 of the older children went to the Crystal Palace.”
“Sept 3rd. Half holiday today it being Uckfield Flower Show in the afternoon.”
Identifying the Individual
by Norman Edwards.
Two formal group photographs of prominent male residents taken from a local publication: Around Uckfield. These are the Uckfield Urban District Council (c1897) and the Uckfield Institute Bowling Club (c1910). Almost every sitter is identified by a short note of personal information: a biospec, which enables the reader to place each in a context of Uckfield 19th and early 20th society. Two other photographs in the publication are referred to respectively on Pages 30 and 94. The pictures are not reproduced but similar information is given for the sitters in them.
Isfield through the ages
by Simon Wright
The village is a puzzle both in name and its absence from Domesday record. Earthworks indicative of a castle remains; little is known about it or the village before the 13th century, although part of the church is clearly 12th century Norman. Simon Wright identifies several local eminent families whose ancestors may have had links with the early village.
Isfield Place seems to date from the 16th century. The church contains some magnificent brass memorials and the tomb of Sir John Shurley, his two wives and nine children (1631). There are insights about other Isfield residents, events during the Civil War and Commonwealth (1642-1660), and references to a prominent local brickmaker: John Allchorn. Other matters include clergy plurality, the Upper Ouse Navigation and the rise and decline of paper making in the village.
Collapse of a Bridge at Uckfield.
Detail from the Sussex Express, the Surrey Standard, and the Kent Mail July 4th, 1903.
The collapse occurred on a Saturday afternoon at ‘twenty-to-one’. By Sunday evening at six o’clock a temporary bridge was in place – a remarkable achievement.
The cause was the excessive weight of a traction engine and trucks placing a stress on the cast iron bridge causing it to break. Gas, water and sewage services were also damaged since pipes which carried these were under the bridge. The passage of trains was interrupted. Miraculously the traction engine driver and his two fellow workmen escaped with minor injuries.
The incident produced a well co-ordinated, co-operative response by officials and workmen from the five different public bodies involved including the Uckfield Urban District Council and the railway station staff.
Conflict and Disorder in early 19th Century Uckfield
by Brian Phillips
Brian Phillips exemplifies some of the distress, violence and savagery occasioned by the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834, the legacy of which remained well into the 20th century and lingers on today. Disorder was not confined to Uckfield but ranged widely throughout East Sussex and elsewhere. He mentions specifically events in Yorkshire.
The promotion of a proposal for Poor Law Union Workhouses, replacing parish workhouses, is accredited to a local landowner, William Day, and not – as is often said – to Edwin Chadwick, first secretary of the Poor Law Commission.
The article recounts the theft of melons and cherries from Uckfield House, a mass meeting of labourers at Eastbourne, and the protest of ten labourers from Firle who lobbied the Lewes magistrates for a remedy. At Ringmer aggressive protests were punished with imprisonment and hard labour.
Crime in Uckfield in the 1840s was dealt with variously. A £10 reward for information about rabbit theft was offered by the Prosecuting Society. An assault on the police was punished with a fine; the parish vestry appointed an officer to have local responsibility but he had no direct connection with Captain Henry Mackay, then newly appointed as local Superintendent.
Conflict in court existed, although orderly and disciplined. An Uckfield practice of issuing “swarms of writs and summones merely for the purpose of putting money into attorneys hands” was soundly disavowed by a jury at Brighton magistrates’ court.
There were also times for celebration. Richard Shuttleworth Streatfeild’s 21st birthday was one occasion; another was Queen Victoria’s coronation.