March 29, 2020 by

The August local history article in Lindfield Life explained that the Common and Pond uniquely defined Lindfield and challenged that similar features could not be identified elsewhere in the country.  It would be remiss not to pay tribute to another Lindfield icon, Humphrey’s Bakery, about which a similar claim could be made.  Namely, does any other community have a bakery that traded continuously from the same premises for 223 years.

At 65 High Street, Humphreys’ shop front proudly proclaims the bakery was  ‘Established 1796’.  Perhaps equally remarkable, it has been run by only three families since that date.  Having regard to the bakery’s history, it is appropriately located in one of Lindfield’s oldest medieval buildings; Humphrey’s, Bower House and Carriers were all constructed between 1300 and 1343.  Its age is evidenced by the massive arched timber framing on the building’s northern side, into which rather quirkily three tiny windows have been cut.  When viewed from the street it will be seen Humphrey’s shop is the cross wing of No 63 High Street, known as Wyncote.  This is also of medieval date, although its age is not apparent having been re-fronted.

The early history of the building is yet to be fully discovered.  However, a receipt document dated 1453, found during redecoration in the late 1940s, states the property was then occupied by ‘Thomas atte Ree’, probably a farmer.  He was paying rent of seven marks per quarter to the Dean of the College of Canons, South Malling; his Lord of the Manor. A mark was a unit of currency with a value of about 67p.

Returning to the bakery business, John Meads (1759-1826) a baker, first appeared in Lindfield parish records in December 1892, when with his wife, Ann, their daughter, Mary Ann, was baptised at the parish church.  In 1793, he took on a William Murrell as his apprentice.  John Meads appears again in the Poor Rate records as a ratepayer from 1797 at Humphrey’s, which he rented from Thomas Blaker, a cordwainer.  Accordingly, the claim that the bakery business at 65 High Street was established in 1796 is fully justified.

By the time of John Meads’ death in November 1826 he owned both Humphrey’s and Wyncote, having bought them from Thomas Blaker.  Under the terms of John Meads’ will, his wife Ann inherited all his property and goods.  She continued to run the business until about 1838, when control passed to her daughter Sarah Smith and husband Edward Smith, also a baker. Ann meads lived with Edward and Sarah Smith in the house until her death.  In 1844 Edward Smith bought the business and property from her executors for £500.

During their marriage John and Ann Meads had nine children.  together with some of their children, they are buried in All Saints’ northern church yard.  His headstone forlornly reads:

Afflictions sore long time I bore

Physicians were in vain

Till death did cease and God

Did to please to ease my pain

Their extended family became involved in many businesses up and down Lindfield High Street.

Edward and Sarah Smith and other family members ran the bakery business for some 40 years.  The property was sold around 1883 to Henry Gasston, a local miller.

It is at this time the eponymous Richard Humphrey appears.  Richard Humphrey senior was born in Brighton in 1855.  The Mid Sussex Times noted ‘as a boy he was employed on the same premises by the late Mr Smith, who was widely known for his gingerbreads and brandy snaps.  Mr Humphrey assisted in making vast quantities for the Lindfield Fairs’.  subsequently, as a Master Baker, he worked as a bread and biscuit maker in Haywards Heath.

On returning to Lindfield, in October 1883, Richard Humphrey senior entered into an agreement with Henry Gasston to rent the shop and dwelling (65 High Street) for £45 per year.  Likewise his son Richard, also working in the business, rented the adjoining Wyncote, which at that time housed the bakery.

An advertisement in Clarke’s 1884 Directory announced ‘R Humphrey, fancy bread and biscuit maker, pastry cook and confectioner, High Street, Lindfield.  Brown and home-made bread.  Families waited on daily at Haywards Heath’.

Henry Gasston, as owner of both properties, in 1896 built the first detached bakehouse replacing the bakery in Wyncote.  When Henry Gasston sold the properties to Richard Humphrey, senior, in 1912, this facility was described in the sale particulars as ‘Bakehouse and Flour Room, fitted with Webber’s 8-bushel Iron Oven, and Truck Shed, Stable for three horses, Van and Cart Shed, W.C., and Manure Pit.  Well of Water.’.

Richard Humphrey senior and junior were still listed as running the business in early 1940.  Following his father’s death in March that year, Richard junior took control but sadly died less than two years later.

Richard Humphrey senior had been well respected and active in Lindfield, having served on many local committees and as a Parish Councillor.  Like his father, Richard junior was a keen cricketer playing regularly for Lindfield Cricket club.

Consequent upon the Humphreys’ death, Clayton Wiles took over the bakery, having previously been a Master Baker and Confectioner in Guildford.  He ran the business throughout the 1940s and into the 1960s.  Following his passing in 1968, his son, David Wiles, took over the running of the bakery, having worked with his father for many years.

The name Humphrey’s has continued and the beautiful old style shop front retained, but one major change was made.  the modern bakehouse we see today replaced the old 1896 building.

Unfortunately the bakery closed this summer, it is understood, due to ill health.  The Wiles family having provided excellent service to Lindfield for the past 77 years.  there cannot be a resident, of any age, in Lindfield who had not enjoyed bread, cakes, pastries or a snack baked by David Wiles, our Master Baker.  His doughnuts are legendary – thank you.

The community can only hope a bakery of similar quality will continue the 223 years of tradition established by the Meads/Smith, Humphrey and Wiles families.


Published in Lindfield Life October 2019


March 29, 2020 by

The Christian festival of  Christmas began to be widely celebrated in the Middle Ages and many traditions established at that time have been carried forward into today’s festivities.  Some could, perhaps, be even older with roots in the celebration of the winter solstice, such as using evergreens as decorations.  Across the country, in the 17th century much drunkenness and other misbehaviour became associated with Christmas time.  In the increasingly puritanical climate of the Commonwealth, the Puritan rulers in 1647 banned Christmas, regarding it as a Catholic invention.  This ban was widely unpopular and its effectiveness questionable.

In 1660 following the restoration of the monarchy the ban ended.  The old English traditions of feasting merriment, dancing, carol singing and decorating homes and churches with evergreens joyously resumed. All the elements of the modern Christmas festive season were brought together and popularised thanks to Queen Victoria and Albert and Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.

The modern Christmas brought the introduction of the retail bonanza, which today starts in October. On the 25 December 1888, Mid Sussex Times published an article describing the ‘treasures for the delectation of the public’ available in Lindfield’s shops.  the following are a few extracts.

Masters’ (site of the Coop) had ‘an admirable display of fruit and biscuits’ together with ‘charming drapery and a capital assortment of china and earthenware’.  Similarly, Durrant’s (Lindfield Eye Care) ‘thoroughly enters into the spirit of the season with a show of Christmas cheer both liquid and solid’ also the shop’s showroom under the New Assembly Room (site of Medical Centre) ‘boasts of a rare collection of novelties, including, baskets, aprons, wraps, cushions, screens, pottery, lace goods.  Nearby, Miss Simmons’ shop (Tufnells Home) was ‘replete with a capital assortment of children’s toys ornaments, fancy articles, stationery and favourite new booklets’.

Holman’s (95/97 High Street) ‘stock of geese, turkeys, duck and game is sufficiently large and varied to satisfy all who want a good roast’, also ‘fruit and nuts as a dessert’.  Across the street, Henry Simmons’ shop ‘looks after those fond of nuts, bon-bons and the narcotic weed while general grocery is not forgotten’.  Humphreys and Charman’s (74 High Street) bakeries were both praised, and the latter’s ‘cakes iced and plain and confectionary, will be sure to make the public part with their bawbees’ (an old Scottish low value coin).  In a similar vein, Wearn’s shop (Somers) provided ‘a trinity of temptations in the shape of toys, Christmas fruit and hosiery’.  Box’s butchers (Cottenhams) had a ‘capital show of beef, mutton, pork, veal, lamb, turkeys and geese’.  Food a plenty was available.

Feasting, for those with money, has been at the centre of the celebration and today the turkey has become the most popular meat for the festive meal.  turkeys were introduced into this country from the Americas in the mid-1500s.  Early references to turkeys in Lindfield at Christmas time include, in December 1660, William Older being brought before the courts ‘for the felonious taking of one turkey hen’ belonging to ‘Walter Brett, gentleman of Lindfield’.  Three decades later, in March 1691, Sarah Edsaw, a widow living in Lindfield, entered into a lease for various lands in the parish belonging to Walter Burrell at an ‘annual rent of £50, and at Christmas two fat geese and two fat turkeys’.  For centuries goose was the favoured meat.

For many in the parish such meats were beyond their means, but a little seasonal cheer was brought to even the poorest.  Inmates at the village poor house as an addition to their usual meals of gruel and pottage, were treated to plum pudding on Christmas Day 1782.  Over the centuries for many mid-winter was a difficult time and charity featured strongly.  The Mid Sussex Times on 19 December 1882 reported that in Lindfield the winter weather was ‘throwing many of the labouring poor out of work’ resulting in many needing assistance from the Poor Relief Fund, and at the first distribution of soup there were ‘ready purchasers for soup at a penny per quart throughout the day’.

Christmas time was recognised as a time for giving and charitable deeds, as portrayed in Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’.  It is also a time for carols, with old carols such as ‘The Holly and the Ivey’ traditionally having been sung in the street long before being taken into the church. The Lindfield Waits Benevolent Society founded in December 1894, kept the old tradition alive singing carols ‘grievously early on ye morning of ye Xmas all through ye village in aide of ye Firemen’s Widows and Orphans Fund’.  This was an annual event by the Lindfield Fire Brigade;  the illustration is their 1912 poster.

Christmas festivities were austere during the Great War years, due to hardship and shortages of food, goods and of course menfolk away fighting the war.  Increasing number of casualties and fear of bad news was ever present.  However, Lindfield ladies devoted their time to charity and good causes.  The focus each autumn was ensuring men in the military were not forgotten by the village.  Money was raised for Christmas puddings, gifts and comforts such as knitted woollen scarves, mittens and socks.  In 1917 the Women’s Institute made or collected 92 gifts of soldier’s comforts for the Royal Sussex Regiment.  Similarly, the WI was very active in making children’s soft toys as their availability had ceased.

Two decades later and once more Britain was at war and Christmas festivities curtailed.  The Women’s Institute organised that every Lindfield man and woman serving in the forces would receive a gift parcel together with a Christmas card produced by Helena Hall.  In 1942, the men’s gift comprised writing paper, pencil, a Penguin story book, shaving stick, razor blades, a new 2/6d piece, a game, pack of cards, woolly socks or scarf with hood end and a printed letter from the vicar.  To give Christmas cheer to local children, the Canadian soldiers arranged Christmas parties in King Edward Hall, as a thank you for being made welcome in the village.

Children’s treats have always been a seasonal feature, earlier instances being a show entitled ‘Entertainment for children’ at the New Assembly Room, Lindfield (Medical Centre site) on 30th December 1884, comprising a ‘Celebrated Company of Marionettes’ and ‘A Musical Medley by Two Clown’.  On a less grand scale in 1895, the Sunday School organised a children’s party at Lindfield School.  The Mid Sussex Times reported ‘In addition to an excellent tea, a Christmas tree was provided, and each juvenile received something in the shape of a present’.

Needless to say, entertainment was not solely the preserve of children, adults participated in all sorts of fun.  Such as on Boxing Day 1901, ‘a grand match’ of the ‘noble game (football) was played on the Common between Lindfield Veterans and Hayward’s Heath Old Crocks.  A good crowd watched the ‘capital fun’.

Since being established in Lindfield, the churches have delivered the story of the nativity and the birth of Jesus, albeit the form of the services have changed over time.  Special services and carols are now a feature of the Christmas festive today.  Perhaps the true reason for the festivities is too easily overlooked among the increasing commercialism.


Published in Lindfield Life Dec 2019



February 7, 2020 by

Eighty years ago this September saw the start of World War Two. As tensions between Britain and Germany increased during the 1930s the Government started making plans for a major war. In 1938, Cuckfield Urban District Council, the local authority responsible for Lindfield commenced planning for an evacuation. The Government scheme provided for the dispersal of school children and under school age children with their mothers from ‘crowded towns where the result of air attack would be most serious’ to safer rural areas.

A survey was conducted to identify households with space to accommodate evacuees; everyone was expected to do their bit. Households taking in children with board and lodging would receive 10s 6d (52p) per week for the first child and 8s 6d (42p) for each additional child. Mothers with children under 5 years were provided with accommodation only, the payments being five shillings (25p) per week for the mother and 3s (15p) a child.
The first real sign that a war was imminent and inevitable was on 1st September 1939 when mid Sussex received the first wave of evacuees; the war started two days later. Children were evacuated by schools, and all travelled by special trains to Haywards Heath station for distribution around the area. Evacuees in the Cuckfield UDC area at the beginning of the war numbered 951 unaccompanied school children, 223 young children accompanied by 148 mothers, 95 teachers and helpers. It is thought over 300 evacuees were assigned to Lindfield. Further evacuees were received during the war.

After being given a drink and biscuit by the Women’s Voluntary Service, Southdown buses transported all the evacuees allocated to Lindfield to King Edward Hall. The unaccompanied children waited in the Hall to be chosen by residents. Most host families only wanted a single child not siblings. Some were prevailed upon to take two or more children, with a couple at Butterbox Farm, who had no children of their own, taking six evacuees.
A temporary dormitory was provided at Old Place for children who remained unchosen until the Billeting Office placed them with suitable families. Unplaced children were then accommodated in a communal home at Sewell’s Cottage (today St Johns Lodge), owned by Maud Savill, opposite the church.

Gladys aged 13, stayed at St John’s Lodge, which was run by Mrs Marx, recalls ‘we sleep on camp beds with one pillow and a blanket. There was no furniture apart from blackout curtains, trestle tables and benches. I used to help with the younger children, bathing the girls and washing their hair. Mrs Dennett with her son moved into help, as nine children were too much for one woman to look after. The soldiers had a cookhouse in the Mission Hall and they used to give us meat to help our meagre rations. Children paid a penny a week for treats such as jelly. We used to shake an apple tree behind the house to get apples.’ After about a year Maud Savill wanted the house and the children were found local families.
An evacuee, Lionel, came to Lindfield accompanied by his mother and young sisters, recollects ‘after arriving with our Jewish school we were taken to live in a tack room above stabling belonging to Mr McNaught at Little Walstead. We shared the tack room with Mrs Cohan, another mother and their children. My mother asked the Billeting Officer where food could be obtained. He kindly promised to take care of this and returned with milk for my six week old sister and various provisions including bacon. This was the first time I had encountered and eaten bacon. While at Walstead, Mr McNaught’s daughters taught me to ride, it was a revelation that people rode for pleasure. In London we had only seen horses pulling carts’.
The Lindfield School roll in September was about 180 and they were joined by some 200 pupils from Henry Fawcett School, Kennington, London, The schools operated separately with their own teachers, and in theory shared the school facilities, although Lindfield always had priority! The Reading Room and King Edward Hall provided extra classroom space, if a room was not available the children had to do gardening, collect acorns for pig food or blackberries for the Horsted Keynes jam factory. As the war progressed the number of evacuated children reduced as many returned to their families. In May 1943 those that remained were merged with Lindfield School.

Scaynes Hill School hosted St Gabriel’s School, Westminster. The newly opened Haywards Heath Senior School, (Oathall Community College) welcomed St Matthew’s, Westminster and Senrab Street School, Stepney, these formed the LCC Schools Unit which operated separately to the end of the war. The private schools also took in evacuated schools at various times.
Lindfield Women’s Institute, the Town’s Women’s Guild and Women’s Voluntary Service rallied to help by establishing a clothing depot, a canteen and playroom for mothers and their children, and social meetings with a penny being charged for a cup of tea and a bun. Similar support arrangements made by Scaynes Hill women.

For both the residents and evacuees there was a bit of a culture shock, on the one hand there was an influx of inner city children and families many from an impoverished background with ‘Cockney’ accents and ways. For the others a small village surrounded by field with animals, woods and country noises presented new experiences. All quickly settled into their changed life. One girl had the novelty, and anxious times, walking across a field of cows on her school journey. Another billeted with a family in America Lane used to walk their goat to its field each morning, and learnt how to milk.
After school the evacuees met up on the Common, their new green playground, and increasing mixed with the village children; who found it useful to blame the evacuees if anything went wrong.
Russell who came with his school from Kennington Oval was billeted in a council house in Eastern Road ‘with Mrs G, her son and daughter, there were seven of us in the small house. Then from time to time my elder brothers would stay. Also her husband when on leave, to say nothing of the generous hospitality to Canadian soldiers – though not at the same time! How we managed I can’t think. I only know I had never been as happy before’. Russell and other evacuees have fond memories of Lindfield, playing on the Common and in streams, enjoying entertainments, film shows and Christmas parties put on by the Canadian soldiers in King Edward Hall.
However there were also unhappy memories. Three sisters and another girl were billeted in a house where they were poorly feed, not well looked after and badly treated. The woman used their rations to feed her son and had black market sugar under her bed. They were not allowed upstairs during the day for fear of wearing the carpet! Unhappy, it was not long before they returned to London.
To end on a happier note, some friendships were established that last many years and two girl evacuees, Gladys and Dorothy, met there future husbands while staying in Lindfield eventually marring after the war ended.



Published in Lindfield Life Sept. 2018


















Along the Lane to America

April 10, 2018 by

Gravelye Lane for centuries was merely a track providing access to a couple of farmsteads and Northlands Wood;  then in the nineteenth century it became the route from Lindfield to America!  There are more points of historic interest along the lane than you might think.

Almost immediately after turning from Lewes Road into Gravelye Lane, on land now Grey Alder and Kidbrook, the Dowager Countess of Tankerville while living at The Welkin, opened a laundry in 1902.  It was run on charitable lines, to provide work and a home for women in difficult circumstances, struggling to regain their character through honest labour.  The laundry home called ‘Quinta’ provided accommodation for thirty female workers.  The laundry was taken over by the Salvation Army in 1912 until 1922, when it became a business trading as the Mid Sussex Steam Laundry.  A particular feature of the laundry was its 74ft high chimney.  Not only was this a local landmark it also housed the ‘start and stop work’ hooter.  Many villagers used to set their watches by the hooter such was the accuracy of the time signal.  On closing in 1972 the buildings were demolished and the houses built.

Further up Gravelye Lane on the left-hand side are small property sign bearing the name Criplands.  The first identified mention of the name is in the Will of William Neave dated 1625, in which he leaves lands and a house called Cripses, later known as Cripland, to his brother, John Neale.  On his death the land is inherited by his second son Nycholas Neale.  The Neale family had a lengthy connection with Lindfield as butchers and farmers.  Cripland farm passed through several generations before eventually leaving the family.

In 1742, it was purchased by Nicholas Tanner, a mariner from Brighton and his wife, a co heiress.  At this time the farm comprised a house, two barns, two gardens, an orchard and 30 acres of land and was rented by a Ralph Comber.  A series of complex transactions followed until October 1744, when Cripland was purchased by John Dutton and his wife.  At this point the Cripland story takes a twist.

In the eighteenth century there was no effective treatment for smallpox which often resulted in death.  At best an outbreak could be contained through isolating sufferers in a pest house.  In 1716 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, recently recovered from smallpox accompanied her husband to Constantinople, where she discovered that in Turkey healthy people were deliberately being infected with smallpox.  They were inoculated with a small amount of pus and then kept in isolation to avoid the risk of spreading the disease.  She introduced the concept of inoculation as protection against smallpox to Britain.  Gradually the procedure was adopted by a number of pioneering doctors.

One such doctor was John Dutton who practiced in Lindfield in the late 1720’s and is thought to have lived at Bower House.  He may have been using part of the premises as a Pest House.  In Easter 1741 ‘John Dutton, Churgeon’ (surgeon) had agreed with the Parish Overseers to ‘supply the Poor [of Lindfield) with physic and Chyrurgery’ for a year, and in May 1742 entered into a longer-term agreement to do the same for £4 4s per year, and £1 1s extra ‘in case small pox should happen to break out’.

In March 1744, John Dutton and his wife Elizabeth purchased Cripland and established it as a Pest House.  Around this time he started to inoculate people in the village with smallpox pus.  This caused great consternation with the inhabitants of Lindfield.  As a consequence, Dr Dutton was required to stop this practice and enter into a £600 bond with a term of 60 years payable should e recommence inoculations.

It is understood that Dr Dutton complied with the undertaking and subsequently sold the Pest House and accompanying land to John Verrall in February 1767.  However the property continued to be known as Pest House Farm until the late 1880s, when it reverted to Cripland Farm when sold by John Verrall.

In 1898, Henry and Ellen Howorth purchased part of the farm’s land on which they built Cripland Court in 1905, a spacious 12 bed roomed country house with colonial style balconies to the rear together with staff accommodation, a range of stables, and outbuildings.

Following the death of her husband in 1907, the property was put up for sale.  A tenancy agreement with option to purchase dated 15 November 1911 was entered into with Alexander Howden, a Ship Broker in the City of London.  The purchase was completed in 1913.  Following Alexander Howden’s death in 1914 and his widow eight years later, the property was sole in 1922 to Granville Bevan.  It remained in the ownership of Mr & Mrs Bevan for some thirty years.

Granville Bevan died in November 1950 and Cripland Court was placed on the market in 1952, being sold to Bishop & Sons Depositories Ltd in December 1953 who used it as a furniture store until the main house was demolished in the 1960s.

Almost opposite Cripland Court stood Gravelye Farm, continuing up the lane and shortly before the junction with Lyoth Lane stands Gravelye House.

In the early decades of the 1800s across the country there was much poverty amongst agricultural labourers, many were in fact paupers, placing great demand on a parish’s poor relief.  William Allen, an eminent chemist Quaker philanthropist and social reformer, thought it would be possible to reduce poverty by providing them with an independent means of support, thus reducing their reliance onto the parish.  His solution was to establish colonies of cottages with allotments.  In the late 1820s, Lindfield was chosen as a worthy for this experiment, as poverty was rife.  William Allen was helped by his friend, John Smith M.P. of Madehurst, who purchased 100 acres in the Gravelye area and placed some of this land at Allen’s disposal for creation of a trial colony.  Smith also built Gravelye House for William Allen’s use when visiting Lindfield.  At around the same time, Allen established the School of Industry to educate boys and girls from poor families on Blackhill.

The land selected by William Allen was down a track beside Gravelye House, close to today’s Hanbury Stadium, where he built 12 dwellings, six modest single storey thatched cottages each with an acre and a quarter of land, rented at 2s weekly.  Adjacent were six larger cottages with the same amount of land at 2s 6d weekly.  Additionally in Gravelye Lane he built three pairs of semi detached two storey houses with supporting land at 3s a week.

The cottages immediately became known by some as The Colony and by others as America, thought to have derived from the idea of a land of promise for settlers;  and as later Gravelye Cottages.  The America name endured for the area and appears on old Ordnance Survey maps and the track beside Gravelye House to the cottages took the name America Lane.  America is reflected in other road names today. Hanbury Stadium is named after William Allen’s business partner, the business growing into the pharmaceutical manufacturer Allan & Hanbury Ltd now absorbed with GlaxoSmithKline.

William Allen required tenants to be industrious men with large families.  Additional land could be rented if needed and guidance and small loans were provided for the purchase of seeds, fertiliser and a pig or cow.  The expectation was the labourer would cultivate his allotment in addition to working for a local farmer.  Locally in the short term it was a success, as no family went on parish relief after moving to The Colony.  However, the colony concept did not provide a feasible national solution.  After William Allen’s death in 1843 the Gravelye estate was sold and the colony concept ceased.  All the dwellings were condemned and demolished in 1940’s and 1950’s.

Contact Lindfield History Project Group on 01444 482136.  For a copy of William Allen Quaker Friend of Lindfield book £8.95 phone 01444 482685.











Wickham Farm

March 7, 2018 by

Before 1894 the Lindfield Parish Boundary extended to the Balcombe Road and Wickham Farm held a significant amount of land in this area.

Wickham Farm was first mentioned in 1279.  Three centuries later in 1583 Thomas Newnham leased the farm with 100 acres of land to a Lindfield yeoman called John Payne.  a family of this name recorded as living at ‘Santhill’ died of the plague during August and September 1603.  Both parents and their six children died together with Jone Laby and Mary Gilham who may have been servants.

The Newnham family were considerable landowners in Lindfield, as evidenced in 1636 by being included amongst those responsible for the upkeep of the fencing around the churchyard [Register of Church Marks 1636].

On 31st July 1882 Wickham Farm estate of 459 acres, came up for auction.  It was offered in four lots, with two being described as building land. This set the scene for the coming century and the development of Lindfield and Haywards Heath.

Discovering West Common

March 1, 2018 by

Today nothing exists of the West Common and you would be forgiven for thinking the area completely lacks historical interest.  Less than two hundred years ago the unfenced common extended from Sunte Avenue down to the stream that runs close to Blackthorns and from Hickmans Lane south to Summerhill Lane and then east along Scrase Stream.  the southern part belonged to the Manor of Ditchling with the remainder by South Malling Lindfield and Framfield Manors.  The land is mainly flat and in parts sloping with good well drained soil.  In early medieval times, could this land have been the ‘west field’ of the Lindfield cultivated in strips by villagers in the open field system?  Perhaps we will never know.

What we do know is that in the 1820s the land was largely unenclosed and contained only a few dwellings.  In the north western corner, at the junction called Pickesgreen Cross, was a small old farmstead dating from at least 1600, part of Framfield Manor, called Wigsel’s Watering, that extended into the area now Oakfield Close. This was replaced by the Bricklayers Arms, now the Witch Inn.  In the 1870s the Bricklayers became a popular venue for ‘bean feasts’; annual works outings travelling by train from as far afield as London and Brighton.

following the arrival of the railway, the road running along the western edge was made up and named Station Road [Sunte Avenue] as it was the most direct route from Lindfield to the station.  The first housing built was Albert Cottages, typical small Victorian houses with shared wells and privies at the bottom of the garden.

Towards the southern end, near Oakbank, stood two cottages known as Golden Nob.  the 1851 Census listed four families, the Beard, Bish, Gorrange and Miles families, totalling 19 men, women and children living in the cottages.  All the adult men were agricultural labourers. the Gold Nob cottages were demolished around 1860, when Summer Hill was built by Charles Catt of the Bishopstone Tide Mills.  The Catt family lived in the house for many years and farmed nearby land.  From the late 1940s it became a school.

In 1835 three acres of unenclosed land held by the Manor of South Malling Lindfield was sold for £56 5s. of to John Elliott, a Lindfield blacksmith.  John Elliott operated the forge in the middle of the High Street [mentioned in last month’s article] and built the forge at Spongs in Brushes Lane.  Perhaps with an eye for a quick profit, John Elliott sold the land to Edward Humphreys in October 1838 for £153.  In today’s terms this is the land of Chestnut close across to the west side of Summerhilll Drive and north to Hickmans Lane.

For a couple of years Humphreys rented the newly enclosed land to James Harding of burnt House Farm, before taking back the land on which he built a house in 1844.  the Poor Rate Valuations in the late 1840s record this house as Westfield Lodge, owned and occupied by Edward Humphreys; no connection with the baker of that name.  It was approached by a long diagonal drive, and when Summer Hill was constructed the drive was extended to this house and entrance lodges built.

By the mid 1850s Humphreys was living at Pear Tree House [junction of High Street and Lewes Road], another fine house he built along with St Annes. Westfield Lodge was rented to tenants before being acquired by William Copeland in c1870 when the property was renamed The Chestnuts.

The Mid Sussex Times in May 1877 carried an advertisement for the letting ‘unfurnished, a well-built detached villa residence, most pleasantly situated, approached by a carriage drive from the high road, and within 15 minutes walk of Haywards Heath Station, and known as The Chestnuts.  There is a large drawing room and dining room, two other sitting rooms, six bedrooms, and a dressing room, kitchen, scullery, cellars etc., also a capital garden with greenhouse and vinery’.  Even in those days easy access to the station was a desirable feature and evidence of Lindfield becoming attractive to commuters.

During the 1880s, The Chestnuts was taken by a Mr Hartland and then by Mrs Gertrude Lysons, the widow of Rev Canon Samuel Lysons, rural dean of Gloucester, a noted antiquarian and an early proponent of British Israelism.  this was the belief that British people are ‘genetically, racially and linguistically the direct descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of ancient Israel’.

The Chestnuts was sole in 1895 for £2,000 and subsequently described as being ‘brick built and cement faced’, with grounds containing a good lean-to-vinery, stables, detached coach house with loft and a small cowshed.  A substantial property but unfortunately we have no photographs of the house and grounds.  {If any readers have a photograph, please do make contact}.  The new owner was Charles Catt of adjacent Summer Hill.

Following a succession of tenants, in 1909 William Lancelot Knowles J.P., a member of the Stock Exchange, and his wife took up residence, having previously lived at Pear Tree House.  A county cricketer, he had played for Kent, Sussex and Gentlemen of England and in 37 first class appearances as a right-handed batsman scored 1439 runs with a highest innings of 127.  He was unstinting in his community service being involved with many clubs and organisations in Lindfield, Cuckfield and Haywards Heath.

In 1933, The chestnuts became the new home for the Parents’ National Educational Union School [PNEU] started 12 months earlier at Plumpton by Mrs Seymour and Mrs Morgan.  Called the Summerhill PNEU School it was the twentieth such school in Sussex and one of a family of about 800 scattered around the world. All the schools worked to a common ethos and curriculum. A notable local example, with its roots in PNEU system, in Burgess Hill Girls School which continues to thrive today.

After two years it ceased being a PNEU school and changed its name to Lindfield Preparatory School under the headship of Miss Arnold.  Education was provided on the ‘Froebel and other modern methods’ for children aged 6 to 12 years, with a kindergarten for younger children.  It advertised ‘Bright, colourful classrooms, Small Classes, Individual attention’ and ‘All general subjects taught’ with a large garden for games, tennis and cricket.  A limited number of places were available for boarders.  The school was short lived and closed in about 1937, the building reverting to a private residence.  There was no connection between this school and the school later established at summer Hill.  The house continued to be occupied as a private residence until being demolished in about 1960 and shortly after replaced by Nos. 1 – 8 The Chestnuts.

Returning to the 19th century, the Common was divided by a section of the New Chapel to Brighton turnpike road, now West Common.  By the 1840s, the Common on both sides of this road had been enclosed with fields, except for an area around Appledore Gardens but this soon became enclosed.  In 1852, at the Red Lion, four acres were auctioned as four building plots fetching £138, £145, £82 and £82.  The first two lots restricted the building of any dwelling of less value than £2900.  None of the plots were built upon at that time.

It was not until the interwar years that the area started to be developed with the building of Haywards Heath Senior School and housing at Oakbank and along West Common and Sunte Avenue plus the creation of a market garden, French Gardens.  Houses started to appear along Summerhill Drive, and although Chestnut Close was constructed by 1937 houses were not built until a few years later.  The remainder of the houses on West common land are predominantly post war.


Published in Lindfield life February 2018



Lindfield National School

February 10, 2018 by

From 1833, Parliament made grants available to build schools for the education of the poor.  The Church of England through its National Society for Promoting Religious Education was anxious to extend its influence and was active in setting up National Schools

Reflecting the perilous state of the parish there is no evidence that a National School existed in Lindfield during the 1830s.

At that time the village had one proper school, founded in 1825 by William Allen, a Quaker philanthropist.  This was the School for Industry on Black Hill for the children from families of the labouring classes living in the parish and nearby villages.  The school was open to all and had separate rooms for boys, girls and infants.  Although there were daily Bible readings, teaching was non-denominational and the children were expected to attend every Sunday the place of worship to which their parents belonged.  Following Allen’s death in 1843, the school continued on the principles of the British and Foreign Schools Society supported by the Congregational Chapel, and so it would have been regarded as a dissenter’s school.

According to Gregory in his book, Mid Sussex Through the Ages, in 1849 a National School was being ‘conducted in the old disused Workhouse at the top of the village’.  Perhaps this had been established a few years earlier by Sewell as part of his work to re-establish the influence of the parish church.  There was undoubted rivalry between the two Lindfield schools, as Gregory notes, ‘The British Schools continued to flourish in spite of every effort made to depreciate and lessen their popularity by the National School’s Committee’.  Some 175 children were attending the British School in 1851.

In that year, a new National School was built on the Common adjacent to Lewes Road.  The Earl of Chichester, by Deed of Trust dated 25 August 1851, gave the land ‘to the Minister and Churchwardens of the parish upon trust to permit the erection of buildings for the education of children and adults or children only, of the labouring, manufacturing and other poor classes of the parish of Lindfield’.  The managers named in the deed were ‘the incumbent ex officio, his curate, if appointed by him and four other persons’, these were the Earl of Chichester, Messrs Jollands, Noyes [junior] and Compton.  The ‘incumbent ex officio’ presumably was intended to refer to Sewell and the words ‘if appointed by him’ would indicate Sewell wished to have a controlling influence despite living in Cockerham, Lancashire.  He was described, in an 1854 newspaper article, as ‘the founder of this valuable institution’.

In 1854 newspaper article also reported the school’s annual fete held in the grounds of Lindfield House, saying ‘the pupils mustered in strong numbers and proceeded forthwith through the town from the School to a meadow, where a spacious marquee was erected to receive’.  They were met at the gate by Rev Sewell, who had travelled to Lindfield by train, and Rev Lloyd, afterwards ‘the rev gentlemen proceeded to distribute ……. cricket bats and balls, trap-bats, kites, air-pops, books, etc.’  A plentiful meal was provided for about 140 children and later for 40 visitors and teachers.  A brass band performed and at seven o’clock ‘a splendid balloon rose in majestic style’ signalling the end of the event.  This school treat was presumably mainly funded by Sewell as he journeyed to Lindfield to spend time with the children.

Another similar school treat was held in 1855, and the events indicate the National School was thriving.  The teachers at this time were a Mr & Mrs Sanders.

However by 1856, Sewell was describing the National School Room as objectionable: ‘1st, in respect of site, being on a low level.  2ndly, As to locality, being at a great distance from the Church.  3rdly, In respect of internal accommodation, there being no class-room exclusively for Infants, no means of separating the Boys and Girls for specially distinct exercises, no lavatory, no master’s residence, &c@.  To address these problems he announced the building of a new school opposite the church.  Having been involved in establishing the school on the Common only five years previous, he was now the school’s fiercest critic.

When Sewell’s new St John’s Parish School opened in October 1856 the pupils transferred from the National School Room on the Common to the new building.  The National School on the Common closed.  After his death in 1862, St John’s School closed and the recently constructed building put up for sale.  Unfortunately it was not possible for the school to revert to the original National School premises on the Common as this ‘had been given up to the Dissenters for the use of their Sunday Schools’.  Repossession was obtained in 1863 by Rev F Mills, the new incumbent, and following repairs the school reopened in January 1865.  Unfortunately, it did not thrive and with fewer than 30 children, plus an atmosphere of great dissatisfaction and refusal by contributors to provide funds, the school closed finally in March 1865.

Rev Mills and his family became homeless in mid 1866 and unable to find any accommodation, moved into the empty school building but within months were forced to vacate the premises.

Wickham Farm

February 9, 2018 by

Before 1894 the Lindfield Parish Boundary extended to the Balcombe Road and Wickham Farm held a significant amount of land in this area.

Wickham Farm was first mentioned in 1279.  Three centuries later in 1583 Thomas Newnham leased the farm with 100 acres of land to a Lindfield yeoman called John Payne.  a family of this name recorded as living at ‘Santhill’ died of the plague during August and September 1603.  Both parents and their six children died together with Jone Laby and Mary Gilham who may have been servants.

The Newnham family were considerable landowners in Lindfield, as evidenced in 1636 by being included amongst those responsible for the upkeep of the fencing around the churchyard [Register of Church Marks 1636].

On 31st July 1882 Wickham Farm estate of 459 acres, came up for auction.  It was offered in four lots, with two being described as building land. This set the scene for the coming century and the development of Lindfield and Haywards Heath.

St Augustine of Canterbury Church, Scaynes Hill

February 9, 2018 by

Until 1930, Scaynes Hill was part of the ecclesiastical parish of Lindfield.

Between 1858 the building comprised the present nave built in the Gothic style to a design by G Habershon, a notable Victorian architect.  It served as a chapel of ease on Sundays and a school during the week.

In 1880, Frederic Willett inherited Bedales and became the voluntary priest in charge of St Augustine’s from 1881 until 1905.  On arrival he used his money to pay for the building of the tower, north aisle, south porch and chancel in a matching style by the same architect.  The school moving to new premises built further down the road.

The church has on a number of occasions been embellished by benefactors, including in 1902 the provision of a stained glass window designed by Charles Eamer Kempe of Old Place, Lindfield.

The Chapel of Sothenbury, Scaynes Hill

February 9, 2018 by

The 1848 Tithe Map and Apportionment describes plot 1534 as Chapel Lands.  This was the site of the Chapel of Sothenbury held by the Canons of South Malling.  It was a chapel of ease, dedicated to St Peter, as the parish church in Lindfield was a considerable distance away.

The date of the building is unknown but it was in existence during the eleventh century.  By this time a number of farms existed in the area and the chapel served this community for some 500 years.

Perhaps it is most noted for a long running dispute, in the 13th century, over rent and ownership between the Canons of South Malling and the Prior of Lewes Priory.  The dispute reached the Vatican with a decision being made by Pope Honorius II, which was subsequently confirmed by Gregory IX.

After closure the chapel was demolished and tradition says the stone was used in the construction of Massett’s Chapel in the parish church at Lindfield but this is unproven.