Cuckfield Hospital: Gone But Not Forgotten
Cuckfield Museum’s new display, running until October, commemorates the 20th anniversary of the closure of Cuckfield Hospital in June 1991.
The decision to mark the anniversary is due in part to one of our committee members noticing an anonymous poem “My Friend” pinned to a wall of the PRH X-ray department. We don’t know who wrote it but it does seem to sum up the affection for Cuckfield Hospital felt by so many of those who worked there. Maybe someone will be able to tell us about its origin?
We celebrate the long history of the Ardingly Road site from the completion of the Union Workhouse in 1845, its wartime occupation by the Canadians and subsequent years as a busy, much-loved NHS General Hospital until closure and the final transfer of patients by jumbulance to the Princess Royal Hospital.
So many people have kindly lent us photographs that we have been able to compile a whole extra album covering hospital life in its heyday, preparations for departure, the Hospital’s last day, the empty buildings and then demolition as the site was prepared for what was to become the Chapelfields housing estate.
Cuckfield Brides 1885-2010
Cuckfield Museum is celebrating the royal wedding with a display of our own Cuckfield brides over the years. We have six wedding dresses with a Cuckfield connection. The three oldest come from our collection and we have been lent three.
The oldest is from 1885 when Mary Ann Gander of Paynes Place Farm married Henry Burt of Barnsnape Farm, Broxmead Lane. The couple were at the farm for over 60 years. The dress has a tiny fitted waist and a little peplum flounce and is brown which was typical of the time - white or cream grew in popularity after the wedding of Queen Victoria in 1840 but was only worn by the wealthy - otherwise the dress would very likely have been worn again for Sunday best.
Our most recent dress was worn by Helen Burgess last year at her wedding. It was worn for a Humanist celebration of marriage to Matthew Hodson (after the registry office ceremony) - which makes it very different from our other weddings which were all in church. Helen lived in Cuckfield from the age of 2, firstly in Deaks Lane and then Courtmead Road. The dress was worn at Knepp Castle.
The Cuckfield Royal Observer Corps Display
The recent display on The Royal Observer Corps attracted much interest. The ROC opened a post in Cuckfield in 1925, close to the church. The post was manned throughout WW2, day and night and in all weathers, tracking enemy aircraft as they flew in across the Downs. It was part of Britain's first line of defence from air attack.
The post continued to operate after the war and with the advent of the Cold War the underground nuclear bunker was constructed. During this period the central role of the ROC was to serve as a warning system for nuclear attacks and to monitor the fall out pattern afterwards. The underground post was closed in 1991, at the end of the Cold War. Recently it has been carefully restored by two enthusiasts, Mark Russell and Ed Combes, to show its operational status as it would have been around 1980. It was opened to the public for the first time last summer and more open days are planned in future.
The Jenner Display
The ephemera of a lifetime was recently on display at the Cuckfield Museum. The Jenners were a well established local family and under the terms of the will of Mary Jenner, who died earlier this year, the museum were offered some fascinating items. The family lived in their home in Cuckfield for over 80 years, buying the house in 1929 for the princely sum of £507.
They were obviously people who cared for their belongings and threw very little, if anything, away so that we have a unique record of a Cuckfield household which supported the local community, where simple toys were cherished and useful items kept to hand on to the next generation. There is something very poignant about seeing all these items that we all remember so well.
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