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History of Cuckfield


  • The name Cuckfield is a Saxon ending - field “a clearing where forest trees were felled”.
  • Under the Saxons Sussex was divided into Hundreds – groups of 100 families pledged to keep the peace under the Hundred Court.  Cuckfield was in the Hundred of Buttinghill which comprised what is now Slaugham, Cuckfield, Crawley, Balcombe, Hurstpierpoint, Keymer & Clayton.
  • William Conqueror divided the old Saxon Kingdom into 6 vertical strips called Rapes.  He granted the rape of Lewes to William de Varennes (or Warenne) who was succeeded by 7 further Earls Warenne.
  • William de Varennes built a hunting lodge & chapel in a Saxon clearing and called it Kukefeld.  He gave it as an endowment to the Cluniac Priory of St Pancras which he had founded at Lewes.
  • His son William 2nd Earl Warenne confirmed their endowment in a charter in 1091 (now in the British Museum). This is the first written reference to Cuckfield.  No reference however in the Domesday survey.


  • The Priory archives show that in 1202 an Adam de Cucufeld gave a gift of land to the monks for the church of the Holy Trinity.
  • In 1245 Richard de la Wych, Bishop of Chichester (later St Richard, patron Saint of Sussex) made the church independent from Lewes Priory by creating a ‘vicarage’ and appointing its first vicar Walter de Warnecamp.
  • In 1255 King Henry III issued to John, Earl Warenne Cuckfield’s first grant for a market.  Markets were held on Tuesdays with a fair on 8 & 9 September.  It is most likely that the Southern Boundary of the market place was the churchyard and the Northern one along the line of Ockenden Lane. 
  • In 1296 the Subsidy Roll recorded 55 householders in Cuckfield and Hurstpierpoint and in 1327 thirty in Cuckfield alone.  The 1379 poll tax lists more than 100 people over the age of 13 in Cuckfield.  This included 2 tanners, 1 blacksmith, 1 cooper, 2 carpenters, 5 tailors, 1 thatcher, 54 married labourers and 34 bachelors or spinsters.
  • The earliest houses in Cuckfield date back to the 14th century and include Brainsmead cottages and No 1 Church Street.


  • In 1483 Gerald Burrell from Devon became Vicar and thus started the family’s connection with the town.


  • In July 1521 the earliest record of the grammar school appears in the will of Edmund Flower which states that “I may be reputed and named the first founder”.  He gives instructions on the appointment of the school master and the conduct of the school.  His money was insufficient however and further endowments were made in 1529 by the Rev William Spicer of Balcombe who was to be named “the second founder of the grammar school”.  Spicer gave further instructions on the curriculum which was to be “after the form, order and usage used in the grammar school at Eton”.  Many years later when Eton’s archives were destroyed in a fire they borrowed the curriculum from Cuckfield.
  • In 1573 the 4th Earl of Derby sold his quarter of the Manor of Cuckfield to Henry Bowyer a local ironmaster.  Iron was a major industry in the area from as early as the 13th century right up until the early 18th century.  Bowyer along with the Burrells and another local family the Coverts all had their iron making sites at Slaugham and Horsted Keynes.
  • Henry Bowyer and his wife Elizabeth dismantled the medieval manor hall near the church to build a new Manor house, now Cuckfield Park although then known as Cuckfield Place.  Their initials and the date 1574 can still be seen on the stone chimney piece in the dining room.
  • Stephen Borde II inherited an estate in Cuckfield from his father and built the present house at Borde Hill.  His initials and the year 1598 can be found on the West Porch

1600’s & 1700’s

  • In 1691 Henry Bowyer’s Great Great Granddaughter Mrs Mary Clark sold Cuckfield Place to Charles Sergison
  • The returns of the Bishop’s Commission for 1724 gave the number of families in Cuckfield as about 270
  • 1738 The Bull Inn in Ockenden Lane was bought and used as a workhouse for the poor.
  • In 1761 the first direct road from Cuckfield to London was made, re-routing the road to Brighton.  The earliest notice of London to Brighton stage coaches was in 1780 when the “Brighthelmstone & Cuckfield machine left London at 5am.  The fare to Cuckfield was 10s 0d.  The Prince of Wales (George IV) used to stop at the old King’s Head (then at the south corner of Ockenden Lane)
  • In 1780 the then vicar Charles Ashburnham began building a new vicarage house (now the Old Vicarage).


  • In 1800 the Hound, an alehouse was enlarged and renamed the Talbot.  It was rebuilt by 1830.
  • In 1804 the stagecoach fare to Cuckfield from London was 10s 6d.  George IV came to Cuckfield regularly on route to his new residence in Brighton (the Pavillion).   
  • Tollgates existed at Butler’s Green from 1807 until 1866 and Whitemans Green from 1809.
  • Around 1816 the new London to Brighton Road (now the A23) was completed and although stage coaches still came through Cuckfield, traffic was drastically reduced.
  • In 1820 the Congregational (united reform) chapel opened in Broad Street.  It was rebuilt as a church in 1869-70.
  • In 1821 the then Vicar John Fearon built a 2 roomed school house -  the Cuckfield National School on waste land near the Rose & Crown using a grant from the National Society for the Education of Children of The Poor in the Principles of the Church of England.
  • In 1822 Gideon Mantell discovered the fossilised remains of the first dinosaur to be found in England at Whitemans Green.
  • In 1825 a survey made for proposed London to Brighton railway.  Concerned landowners including the Sergisons met at the Talbot to oppose a route through Cuckfield.  In 1841 the London & South Coast Railway opened using heath land at Muster Green in Haywards Heath.
  • In 1844 The Cuckfield National School merged with the Grammar School and educated approximately 75 boys & 65 girls
  • 1845 saw the new Union Workhouse open in what is now part of the Chapelfields development.
  • 1845 saw the last commercial stagecoach call through Cuckfield.
  • In 1852 the minister of the Congregational Church opened “The British School” in a building behind the church for boys under 10.  This joined with the Grammar school in 1907.
  • In 1879 The ‘Mission’ Church opened at Brook St (now Picturesque)
  • In 1895 the Misses Ready’s private girl’s school opened at Whitemans Green.
  • 1897 saw the opening of the Queen’s Hall funded by public subscription.


  • In 1902 the Cuckfield Improvement Association was founded by RA Bevan and operated until the war.  One of their gifts to the village was the lime trees at Whitemans Green.
  • 1905 saw the last mail coach call at Cuckfield.
  • The old mill stream north of Mackerells Cottage was opened as a swimming pool in 1905 and the Cuckfield Swimming Club was formed for classes and a gala. The pool was enjoyed for half a century until it was closed in 1953.
  • The First World War meant that 463 Cuckfield men left the village to serve their country.
  • Official peace day on 19 July 1919 was celebrated with carnival at Cuckfield Park.  This was the last parish celebration held here until the Village Show returned in 2006.
  • In 1920 Mrs Worsley bought a field & gave to town in memory of her husband Richard and all men of Cuckfield who fell in the war. This is now the Worsely Memorial Playing Fields.
  • As World War II broke out, about 100 children and their teachers were evacuated to the village.  Cuckfield Park & Ockenden House were both used to house Canadian troops.  In 1940 a bomb fell in the road in Brook Street and in 1944 the first flying bomb in England fell at Mizbrooks Farm.
  • Cuckfield Union Infirmary became the Emergency Medical Service Hospital on the outbreak of war.  Temporary huts were built to accommodate casualties.  These buildings remained after the War when the National Health Act caused the site to remain as a public hospital.
  • After the war Mr & Mrs Eggers moved to Ockenden House and opened Ockenden “Manor” as a restaurant & guest house.
  • In 1956 Cuckfield County Secondary School (now Warden Park) opened.
  • In 1963 the Cuckfield Society was established.
  • 1979 saw the inaugural meeting of the Cuckfield Museum Trustees.
  • On May Day in 1980 the village woke to find that the church steeple had been destroyed by fire.
  • Also in May 1980 The Beech Farm Preservation Society was formed to stop the development of a holiday camp in New England Woods.  £351,000 was bid for the farm & woods and the Cucksoc set up an appeal for £15 000 for the wood.  The New England Wood Trust was subsequently established to administer the wood for the people of Cuckfield in perpetuity.
  • In 1989 a new bypass was opened to the North of the village relieving much of the traffic problem.
  • In 1991 the Cuckfield Hospital closed with all facilities moving to the newly built Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
  • Also in 1991 the Primary School (was the Grammar School) next to the Church, closed and relocated to new premises in Glebe Road.  The school building was bought by the Church and is now used for community groups and houses the church office and a nursery school.

With thanks to: A Chronicle of Cuckfield by Maisie Wright & Wikipedia.com