Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Down by the River, Part 2

January 25, 2022

Last month’s article looked at the River Ouse and Deans Mill, this month’s explores more nearby features along the river.

Did you know Lindfield has a castle? If Historic England’s Monuments Schedule is to be believed, on the northern bank some 500m downstream from Lindfield Bridge, on strictly private land, stand the remains of earth works described as a motte and bailey, dated to Norman times. Named Lindfield Castle it is also marked on Ordnance Survey maps as motte and bailey, although all that remains today are a series of humps covered by bushes and trees. Historic England’s record says the motte at the centre measures about 40m across and stands some 1.5m high. This was surrounded by a broad moat which joined to the river through gaps in the outer earthworks. North-west of the motte is a crescent shaped bailey 45m long. Outside a ditch linked to a stream entirely surrounded the castle. Such defensive structures were constructed in towns and on open land. The listing describes its position as ‘strong yet strategic location for policing of traffic crossing the Ouse’. However their papers do indicate an element of doubt as to its origin and suggest it might have been a system of fish ponds. This is plausible as in 1175 a nunnery was established somewhere close to the castle site. Fish ponds were a feature of religious houses in medieval times Another suggestion is the remains of a moated farmhouse.

Interestingly, on the 1845 Tithe Map, the earthworks are labelled ‘site of priory’. The adjoining two fields carried the names Nunnery Pond and Nunnery Plot, while standing close by is a wood which to this day is called Nunnery Wood. This small nunnery was no doubt closed on the orders of Henry VIII and quickly became a ruin. Since that time all traces of the stonework have disappeared.

As an aside, hanging on the wall in the Library Room, King Edward Hall is a copy 1840 map. Although difficult to see, in the top right hand corner is a small drawing that purports to show ‘The Ruins of Lindfield Nunnery as they appeared in 1601’ with a pond in the foreground.

Without an archaeological survey the precise location of the nunnery and the true origin of the earthworks will remain undiscovered, but it is pleasing to think Lindfield might have had a Norman castle.

A fact beyond doubt is that the Ouse did have an important strategic defensive role during World War Two. Early in the war, in the event of a German Invasion breaching the Sussex coastal defences, ‘stop lines’ were created along natural features to halt or at least slow any advance. One of the most important lines ran west to east along the Rivers Arun and Ouse with an anti-tank ditch joining them between Handcross and Slaugham.

The northern riverbank at Lindfield was revetted with vertical tree trunks making it difficult for tanks to mount the bank, so forcing them towards Lindfield Bridge which was heavily defended with anti-tank blocks, barbed wire and a pillbox. It was the responsibility of the Lindfield Home Guard to man this Type 28 pillbox, which still exists today just north of the bridge. There were similar defensive positions at the other local bridges. Home Guard member Sid Cross recounted several years ago being equipped with a Lee Enfield rifle and ten rounds of ammunition and ‘that was enough to kill 12 of the enemy – ten with bullets, one with the bayonet and the last with the rifle butt’. An anti-tank gun was not received until later in the war. Thankfully, the invasion threat soon receded! A short distance along the road is the southern entrance to Paxhill, which during the war was a Canadian Army camp.

There were similar invasion fears in the mid-19th century arising from the French, resulting in the Sussex Rifle Volunteer Corps being formed to defend the county. It was essential for these part-time soldiers to be able to shoot accurately. For 25 years, the men of the Lindfield unit had ‘been subjected to the inconvenience of having to walk to Cuckfield for target practice’. To correct this unsatisfactory situation, Colonel Dudley Sampson, the owner of Buxshalls, made land available upstream of Lindfield Bridge for use as a firing range. In August 1886, the 300 yard range was opened with much ceremony and a mock battle defending a nearby foot bridge. Two years later the range was extended to 600 yards and it was hoped this facility would encourage more Lindfield men to join the volunteers.

A more peaceful pursuit, also on Buxshalls Estate’s land, was established about 200m upstream from Lindfield Bridge, when in May 1906 the Lindfield Swimming Club was formed. Colonel Dudley Sampson agreed to grant the club permission to use a section of his riverbank, provided everything was conducted in a proper manner and all non-costumed bathers treated as trespassers. Accordingly, the club rules were established, and approved by the Colonel, prohibiting card playing, gambling and other improper conduct and requiring all bathers to wear full ‘University costumes’ in the club’s colour of navy blue. From the annual subscription rates it would appear membership was initially only open to men and boys.

The bathing place, as it was known, was soon set up with a changing hut and the land fenced off. Arrangements were made with the miller at Dean’s Mill to shut the sluice gates during Friday evenings to allow water to build up for the weekend. This allowed members to dive from low boards.

The club thrived, women were permitted to join and facilities constantly improved including men’s and women’s changing huts; a newspaper report also mentions ‘a clubhouse’. In 1924 the club had 229 members made up of 156 gentlemen and 73 ladies. It was decided to construct a new diving stage spanning the river, with platforms at 6ft, 10ft, 14ft and 18ft, and room ‘for ten persons to dive off the stage at once’. Permission was given to deepen the centre of the river to allow safe diving from the new higher top platform. Arrangements to blast the riverbed were duly made!

Swimming galas and diving competitions were regularly arranged for members and matches against other local clubs, with cups and medals duly awarded. The bathing place provided much enjoyment for villagers and many children learnt to swim and dive in the river. Sadly the facility was closed in 1938 due to a polio scare in Lindfield.

On this section of the Ouse, historic records for the 1500s and 1600s suggest a fulling mill stood, unfortunately little information is available, although its one time existence appears to be reflected in the names of the nearby farm and derelict river lock. Finally, adjacent to Lindfield Bridge, for many years during the 19th century, was a wharf, mainly for coal carried up the river from Lewes. The facility to transport coal in bulk by barge allowed Lindfield residents to enjoy cheaper coal and increased its usage in the village.

Down by the River

January 25, 2022

When did you last stand on Lindfield Bridge and look at the river? It is quite easy when driving from Lindfield towards Ardingly not to notice you cross a bridge over the Ouse, as only the briefest glimpse of the river is possible. The dark, slow flowing water passes through private land with no public access, perhaps making it Lindfield’s hidden and forgotten river.

The Ouse is 3.3 miles long and flows south in a gentle curve. Starting as a trickle near Lower Beeding it gains strength from a spring at Slaugham, and further small tributaries join as it journeys towards Upper Rylands Bridge (by the Balcombe viaduct). By the time it flows to the north of Lindfield it has grown into a river. The Scrase Stream that meanders through Lindfield joins beyond East Mascalls. The Ouse continues on its curving journey passing through Lewes and onward to the sea. Until medieval times it entered the sea at Seaford, but, due to silting up, the mouth became inaccessible to the larger ships being built at that time. In 1539 a man-made cut was made to take the river directly to the sea, with the new exit being named Newhaven, allowing ships to access Lewes. From Lewes to the sea the river was known as ‘The Great River of Lewes’ then pronounced Looze, from which the name Ouse is derived. The river upstream from Lewes was known as the Middewinde (various spellings) meaning middle. The last evidence for this name being formally in use was some hundred years ago when Midwyn Bridge was renamed Lindfield Bridge. The current bridge dates from 1938.

Throughout history the river has been a route for small craft to journey into the heart of mid Sussex. Thomas Pelham of Stanmer Park, MP for Sussex, arranged in 1787, at the height of canal mania, for William Jessop to undertake a survey to see if the river could be made navigable for barges from Lewes to Slaugham. Jessop’s report suggested the river be ‘canalised’, that is straightened, widened and deepened, from Lewes to Pilstye Bridge (on the Cuckfield-Balcombe road). The estimated cost was £13,595. The Upper Ouse Navigation Act passed through Parliament in 1790, creating The Company of Proprietors of the River Ouse. A contract for construction at the cost of £15,199 was signed and work started with a completion date scheduled for May 1792. Work did not go to plan and the builders were replaced in 1802. It was not until 1809 that 30 tonne barges, measuring 50ft long, could reach Pim’s Lock at Lindfield. From the passing of the Act, it had taken 19 years to complete 19 miles with 15 locks. The decision was then made to terminate the navigation at Upper Rylands Bridge (the hump back bridge by the Balcombe viaduct). This final section opened on 22nd April 1812, required four locks and a small basin for the barges to turn in, which has long been filled in, but the wharf cottages remain to this day.

The total cost was massively more than the original estimates. Tolls never reached the expected levels and, to make matters worse, the clerk responsible for managing the toll money was accused of misappropriating the money over a ten year period.

The main cargos were wood, chalk, marle and coal, charged by the tonne per mile. Trade gradually improved and in the 1830s the canal company secured a contract from the London Brighton & South Coast Railway to transport the building materials to build the viaduct at Balcombe. The coming of the railways signalled the terminal decline of the Ouse Navigation and the company closed in 1859.

A trade reliant on the river that lasted significantly longer was milling, with many mills being built on the river above Lewes. From the eighth century, land in and around Lindfield was controlled by the Canons of South Malling, with their Dean holding the land adjacent to today’s Lindfield Bridge. A short distance downstream, the Dean was responsible for building a water powered mill on the banks of the river, hence the name Dean’s Mill. A mill has existed on this site for over a thousand years. After the dissolution of religious houses by Henry VIII in the mid-1500s the mill passed into secular ownership. Following changing owners several times, it was acquired in the 1700s by the Pim family and a new mill was built in 1761. For a time their mill was both a corn and paper mill with both trades continuing to about 1850 when paper making ceased.

By 1858 the Pim family had left, and the mill was next occupied by Robert Jenner and his son, Samuel. In 1880 a new mill, which stands to this day, had to be built as the Pim’s mill building was virtually destroyed by a severe storm. The milling continued, with a succession of millers, until around 1930.

Dean’s Mill was bought by Mr and Mrs Horsfield in 1935 and milling recommenced, and, with a change in ownership in 1957, production of stoneground flour continued until 1976 when all milling ceased. The mill is now a private residence.

Shortly after acquiring the mill, Mr Horsfield diversified the business by converting the Elizabethan barn that stood in the grounds into a tea room and constructed a narrow gauge railway, Dean’s Mill Railway, as a visitor attraction. The railway opened in 1937 and comprised some three hundred yards of track with cuttings, a short tunnel and station platform. Passengers travelled in an open carriage fitted with rows of bench seats, initially pulled by a small steam tank locomotive but this was soon replaced. Service was suspended during the war and recommenced with a petrol powered locomotive. The railway remained popular until its closure in 1957 following the mill’s change in ownership. A Lindfield Life reader, Ron Batchelor, fondly remembers ‘it was a real treat to be taken by my parents on a Sunday afternoon to Dean’s Mill for a ride on the little railway with tea afterwards.’ A memory no doubt shared by many youngsters in the decade after the war.

Lindfield and the B2028

January 15, 2022

Lindfield has often been described as possessing an ‘historic High Street’, due to the attractive and varied architectural styles of buildings lining the road, but what is the history of the road itself? This north-south route has existed for millennia and appears to predate the Romans. Initially it would have been little more than a track running from the coast northwards. Following the Roman invasion it is well known that they started building roads across the country. One road went from London towards the coast at Brighton, taking a similar line to the old trackway, but Romans constructed a new road rather than develop the old trackway; this continued to be used by local people.

The Roman road passed to the west of today’s Lindfield High Street, taking a line through Sugworth Farm and the old Haywards Heath Sixth Form College grounds. Interestingly, when the Romans left Britain their road fell out of use and into disrepair, while the old trackway continued and over several centuries Lindfield gradually gew up along its route. For Lindfield it was an important route, serving as a droveway connecting the manorial lands that stretched from Stanmer to Crawley Down.

As centuries passed this trackway became a road, part of one of the routes through Sussex that radiated from London down to the coast. Richard Budgen’s 1723 map, the first Sussex map to show roads, identified the road from London running from New Chapel, north of East Grinstead, through turners Hill, Ardingly, Lindfield and Ditchling as a primary route: today the B2028.

The road deteriorated as usage increased. the surface changed with the seasons, from deep ruts baked hard to quagmire to frozen, which often became impassable in the wet. Maintenance within the parish boundary was a parish responsibility, but residents had little interest in paying to repair roads outside of the village to benefit through travellers. By the 1700s road conditions across the country had become so bad that drastic action was required. Parliament decided the solution was the introduction of tolled turnpike roads for major roads with each Turnpike. Trust responsible for maintenance and toll collection. Parishes remained responsible for the other roads.

The Act of Parliament, authorising the setting up of a Turnpike Trust for the road from New Chapel through Lindfield to Ditchling was passed in 1770. However, the Lindfield toll gate was not erected until around 1803. The road was subsequently extended into Brighton.

Toll gates were placed every few miles, locally at Turners Hill, Ardingly, and near Wivelsfield. Lindfield had two tollhouses and gates, Lindfield Gate across the High Street in front of the now aptly named Toll House and Side gate across the entrance to Hickmans Lane. Its toll house is now Doodie Stark. Consequently it was not possible to travel north-south through Lindfield or the length of the High Street without paying a toll. Needless to say, this was extremely unpopular and tradespeople were especially enraged. It is reported a life-threatening letter was received in 1803 by a Turnpike Commissioner following the erection of the Lindfield Gate! Throughout their existence they were regarded as ‘a most intolerable nuisance’.

The toll varied according to the type and size of wagon or carriage, or the size of the herd or flock being driven. There were various exemptions, notably carriages carrying people to attend church on a Sunday. Residents walking in the High Street were not required to pay a toll.

Non-payment of tolls was not uncommon and if caught led to a prosecution, as in the case of Henry Hoadley of Lindfield being fined 10s (50p) in 1865 for evading a 3d (1p) toll. Interestingly, a case was brought against a Mrs Nicholson of Clayton, who on travelling from Haywards Heath direction got their coachman to park the carriage in Lewes Road while she walked through the gate to collect a parcel and returned to her carriage. This was deemed non-payment and she was convicted of defrauding a toll gate and fined 6d. the amount of toll evaded, with 18s. 6d (95p) costs. The gatekeepers had to be ever watchful.

The gatekeeper’s job was not held in high esteem, although one benefit was the provision of accommodation at the toll house. Few details exist of the gatekeepers, but the Census returns for the Toll House in the High Street show George Nye as the keeper in 1851 and George Robina with his wife. Derinda, in 1871, Harriet Heasman kept the Side Gate in 1871 and 1881.

The right to operate the various gates on the turnpike were auctioned yearly in accordance with the Act. An announcement in the Surrey Advertiser in 1830 state ‘Tolls arising at the several Toll Gates on the Turnpike leading from New Chapel through Lindfield and Ditchling to the top of Bost Hill and hence to the the town of Brighton will be let by auction’ to be held at the Tiger Inn, Lindfield. Lot Four comprised the Lindfield Gate and Side Gate which had, in the previous year, ‘produced (clear of all expenses of collection) the sum of £119.12s.6d (£119.62p).

During the second half of the nineteenth century, faced with competition from the railways, tolls no longer generated enough income to maintain the road and make the Turnpike viable. In 1881, the Trust had insufficient money to maintain the Lindfield section and the Justices ordered £386.14s. (£386.70p) be levied by Lindfield Parish and paid to the Trustees for repairs. Turnpikes across Sussex had gradually closed, but New Chapel to Brighton Trustees soldiered on to the bitter end. The Trustees exercised their right to collect tolls for a further 12 months beyond their Deeds expiry date in November 1883. This greatly angered Lindfield tradesmen who regarded tolls as ‘a great block to progress’ and a ‘tax on townspeople using their vehicles for pleasure only’.

At noon on the 31st October 1884 the right to collect tolls expired. A few minutes earlier the assembled crowd had encouraged a brewer’s drayman to pass through without paying: ‘This he did, amid much laughter, but was pursued by the female (‘Heavenly’) gate-keeper, demanding the toll, which he eventually paid’. As the church clock struck, the gates were lifted off. The honour of the first free passage was given to the respected fly proprietor, Mr George Mason’, who living at Wickham House (near top of High Street), had paid the most tolls. that evening Lindfield tradesmen and others assembled at the Red Lion Hotel for a celebratory dinner. After the meal, Amon Anscombe proposed the toast ‘Success to Lindfield without the gates’. the following week George Mason was advertising a revised fare of 2 shillings (10p) from ‘Lindfield Town to Haywards Heath Station’.

Following the traditional 5th November bonfire on the Common the ‘fun of the evening’ moved to the High Street. Having started their merriment at the Red Lion, a crowd gathered outside the Bent Hotel. ‘Where in the street, quite a large fire formed of tar barrels, was blazing merrily’, and the fire boys hurled the ‘old pike’ on the fire. The fun continued ‘fast and furious’ until midnight watched over by Sergeant Smith and several policemen. A plaque on the wall outside the Toll House commemorates the removal of the gates.

When next driving on the B2028 be thankful you don’t have to pay every few miles.

Innes and Alehouses – Part 2

January 15, 2022

In the 1700s the land to the east of Sunte Avenue was common land mostly owned by the Manor of Ditchling. The north-west corner, around the site of the Witch, was however owned by the Manor of Framfield; held by the Sackville family. By 1798 this land had been cleared and enclosed as a farmstead known as Wigsells’ Watering occupied by a Nicholas Wisden. the name Wigsell could be derived from a Saxon word for a cattle and herdsman’s shelter.

George Clements purchased the property in 1851, and took it out of manorial control. a year later he sold it to George and Alfred Wood, owners of the Bear Brewery, Lewes, and by 1853 the Bricklayers Arms was opened. It was built by John Beard, a bricklayer, employing ten men. Being not too distant from the railways station at Haywards Heath, by the mid-1880s it had become a popular destination during the summer for ‘bean feasts’, a works outing and dinner, with parties travelling from as far afield as London and Brighton. it was the venue of choice for departments of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway’s engine works at Brighton, a London firm of book binders, and Reynolds builders of Brighton, among many others.

In 1898, the Bricklayers Arms was acquired by the Southdown and East Grinstead Breweries and later this brewery was purchased by Tamplin Brewery, Brighton, and in turn that became part of Watney Mann. In 1925, the Bricklayers changed its name to The Witch, reputedly the only pub with his name in England.

Another Tamplin’s pub, the White Horse, was situated opposite the Pond. Like the Red Lion featured in last month’s article, the sign of the White Horse and also moved twice. William Mason senior, joined two cottages in Walstead, Walstead Cottages, and obtained a licence to run the premises as a beerhouse. The first reference to a White Horse name first appeared in the Lindfield parish records in 1830s, this was just after the passing of the Beerhouse Act 1830. This name is usually associated with the Royal House of Hanover, as it was their crest.

In the early 1840s, the sign moved to Old Mead Cottage, now Mead Cottage, in Lewes Road, where it remained until 1851, when the sign transferred to the purpose built pub premises, built by George Mason, opposite the Pond (now Tamasha Indian Restaurant). However, it remained restricted to the sale of beer and cider only, with James Mason as the landlord. The Mason family connection continued for nearly five decades.

At a licensing hearing in 1867, it was claimed the White Horse had stabling for six horses and a three carriage coachhouse, but it transpired these were little more than coal sheds – the family also ran a coal and wood business. A full licence was not granted until 1931. Long-time landlords in the 20th century, Mr and Mrs George Cresswell, retained its character as a local pub and this continued until the White Horse ‘changed with the times’ becoming Tamasha a few years ago.

To the east of the village, in Snowdrop Lane, previously Sluts Lane, stands the Snowdrop Inn. The Mid Sussex Times reporting on a licence application in the 1930s said ‘the Snowdrop had been an inn for 300 to 400 years. It was an ordinary common inn for a great number of years. Afterwards it became a beer house, wit a six-day licence’. It would appear the Snowdrop’s history may have been considerably embellished to impress the Justices! At the time of the Tithe Map in 1848, the property was described as a ‘House and Garden’ owned by the Lowdell family, owners of the Bedales estate. The first identified reference for the property being licensed was in 1872, when a licence was granted to Edward Everest for the sale of beer and cider six days a week; it had to close on Sundays. Edward Everest had a market garden and shop and appears to have extended this business by acquiring the licence.

Apparently originally called Bedale Alehouse and later Lyoth Beerhouse, it was snot given the name Snowdrop until about 1907 when a Mrs Knight was the landlady. It remained an alehouse selling about 100 barrels a year, mainly to local farmworkers and those living nearby. It was not allowed to open on Sundays until the full seven day licence, mentioned earlier, was granted in the 1930s. In making the case for this licence it was claimed to be needed due to the development of Franklands Village.

On the road to Ardingly stood the Borde/Board Arms, now Grange Farm; it has also been known as Crawfurd Arms and Winterton Arms, being part of the Paxhill Estate with its name changing to reflect the family ownership. this alehouse could have existed as early as 1660s or earlier, as Rev Giles Moore, Rector of Horsted Keynes wrote in his journal that he purchased beer in a farm house when travelling between Horsted Keynes and Lindfield. By the mid-1800s, the Border Arms was becoming dilapidated and closed in 1867. George Saxby, the landlord for 40 years, was given notice to quit in 1849 and applied for his licence to be transferred to a new house built by himself, ‘situated by the canal side’ and ‘required for those who worked on the river’. The house, today Bridge Cottage, had its own brewery, but eventually closed following The Ouse no longer being navigable.

Moving across to Scaynes Hill, The Farmers – originally The Anchor – was another alehouse owned by an estate: the Bedales estate. Dating from around 1828, it is said that the name derives, not from any nautical connection, although an old ship’s anchor was displayed in the front garden, but because there was an anchor point used to ‘brake’ horse drawn wagons when descending the nearby hill. Rev Frederick Willett, formerly the vicar of West Bromwich, inherited Bedales in 1881 making it his home.

At this time The Anchor did not have a good reputation and during the late Victorian period temperance movement was in full swing. However, Rev Willett realised working men would not embrace teetotalism but could be encouraged to reduce their alcoholic consumption if the pub ambience and serving practice were improved. When the tenancy expired Rev Willett took the premises back into his direct ownership and installed a manager as licensee. The building was repaired, a club room with games opened, a quoits ground made in the orchard and an Anchor cricket team was formed. These changes almost ‘eradicated drunkenness’ and Rev Willett’s increased his income from £29 rent to a profit income of £40 a year. He regarded this an improvement method that ‘might be followed by any lady or gentleman owning such a property’. Shortly afterwards the Bedale estate, including the Anchor was put up for sale, and as The Farmers the pub trades to this day.

At the river end of the lane that goes from Scaynes Hill down to the Ouse, it is understood a cottage was once an alehouse known as the Miller’s Arms; now long closed. Unfortunately little else is known of this establishment, if you have information, please make contact.

A short distance further down the lane stands the Sloop Inn. this opened in 1833, originally probably as a beerhouse, and extended in 1860. apparently, sloops were the type of boat used to carry bricks for the building of the Balcombe Viaduct. It was no doubt opened to serve boatmen, men working on the nearby wharf and agricultural workers. It remain a beerhouse for many years, but like al the other pubs became fully licensed.

Inns and Alehouses

January 15, 2022

It is said that a village pub is the heart of the community. If this is the case then Lindfield must have always had a big heart. This is the first of two articles looking at the background of the inns and alehouses, past and present.

The selling of beer has been regulated ever since the time of the Magna Carta (1215). Richard II passed a law in 1393 requiring a painted sign to be hung outside all premises selling beer. In 1495 the Justices of the Peace received powers to supervise and suppress disreputable establishments. There were broadly two categories of pubs – alehouses licenced to sell beer and cider only, and inns that were permitted to also sell wines and spirits, additionally they traditionally provided food and accommodation to travellers. The former comprised one or two small rooms in a house. In the absence of other entertainment the number of licenced premises grew, as did drunkenness; this was no different in Lindfield.

The beheading of Charles I in 1649 led to the introduction of The Commonwealth that heralded an attitude of puritanism. Oliver Cromwell’s newly appointed Justices decided there was too much drunkenness and far too many alehouses and inns in England. Large numbers had their licences withdrawn and were forcibly closed. Lindfield did not escape this purge, and the Justices decided that the four licenced establishments should be reduced to one. The parish’s population numbered fewer than 650 people. Eventually the number of licences allowed to remain was increased to two. Unfortunately, the location of the permitted licenced premises is unclear, although one was an unnamed inn, possibly The Tiger. The other was Fuller’s alehouse about which no further details are known. On the restoration of the monarchy the number of licenced premises soon increased.

The former Tiger Inn standing at the churchyard entrance was originally an open hall house built, around 1400, by the College of Canon of St. Michaels at South Malling as Lords of the Manor. It is believed to have been used as the parish guest house. Subsequently, it became a house occupied by the Michelbourne family. Edward Michelbourne, the family’s most noted member, was knighted in 1599 and was a merchant adventurer licenced by James I to trade with other countries. During his voyages he discovered the entrance to the Hudson River and Coney Island. When the family moved away from the village, during the 1500s, the house became the Michelbourne Arms. Later the name changed to Tiger |Inn, allegedly after Michelbourne’s ship.

The building has been much extended throughout its life. In the late 18th century stables were built at the rear and it became a coach stop on the minor London to Brighton route; this ceased with the coming of the railways. It retained the character of a traditional inn and was frequently used for parish events, ranging from Lindfield Friendly Society’s meeting place to drill practice by the Lindfield Company of the Sussex Rifle Volunteers – a militia formed in response to the Napoleonic threat of invasion.

The tiger closed in 1916, having been an inn for some 350 years, and was purchased for £700 by subscriptions from parishioners becoming All Saints’ Church House. During World War II it was used as a YMCA canteen for soldiers and an Air Raid Precaution first aid post, with the wardens, both men and women, sleeping in the cellar when on night duty. An ambulance was kept in the garage at the rear.

Further down the High Street, an alehouse has existed on the site of the Bent Arms since at least 1660 and probably appreciably earlier. In 1682 it acquired a wine licence, becoming the White Lion Inn; an ermine lion featured on the Newton family crest who had been Lords of the Manor from 1618 to 1632. The main parts of the building can be traced back to this time. From the late 1700s the inn was owned by Richard Wichelo, a brewer from Brighton. The Assembly Room was added in 1785 creating the main entertainment and social venue for the village for the next 100 years.

During the late 1820s the White Lion was acquired by John Bent and the name changed to the Bent Hotel. John Bent had owned a sugar plantation and many slaves in British Guiana before becoming the MP for Sligo and then Totnes. He invested his money in land and property in Lindfield and built (Oathall (bottom of Oathall Road) as his home.

In 1839 the London to Brighton coach, ‘The Accommodation’, left the Bent for Brighton at 3.30pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Trains were soon to replace coaches, but brought with them a new trade – the summer day trippers on Sundays. To meet their needs the Bent introduced ‘an Ordinary (dish of the day) on Sundays at 2pm’.

Adverts in the 1880s described it as ‘The Bent Family and Commercial Hotel with private apartments and every accommodation for families’ and boasted a lock-up coach house and stabling and attractive gardens. A far cry from the 1960s when it was frequented by bikers creating much noise and drunken brawls in the street!

The Red Lion was established around 1747 as an alehouse by Mary Bishop, not at its present location but lower down the High Street at Ryecroft (next to the URC). Early inn signs often reflect the crest of the owner of the property. Land in the area of Ryecroft was owned by the Russell family and their emblem ws a rampant Red Lion. The Fairhall family became the landlords from 1785, and in 1804 the sign of the Red Lion moved up the High Street to Porters, also owned by Richard Wichelo. In 1833 the sign moved next door to its present location at the purpose built pub we see today; like the inns above, the Red Lion was also, for a time, a coaching stop.

The Mills family took over the inn and were enterprising landlords and during their time made Lindfield Sauce, similar to Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce. According to the bottle label it was served at George IV’s coronation banquet. The sauce had quite a following, with Willkie Collins, the famous Victorian author, regularly ordering half dozen bottles, as did other London gentlemen. Charles Mills issued token coins and on the reverse was the clasp hand motif of the Lindfield Friendly Society, suggesting the Society had moved from The Tiger to the Red lion.

The outbuilding to the rear was the HQ for the Lindfield Platoon of the Home Guard during WWII. Today in the garden stands the horse powered pump house relocated from Durrant’s Brewery site behind the Stand Up.

In 1853/4, John Arnold built the give houses and shop, known as Arnold Terrace, to the north of Denmans Lane. The Stand Up, occupying the northernmost house, was the beerhouse of Edward Durrant’s Brewery. Its name is derived from having no chairs or tables, so workers would not linger over their beer.

Following the demise of Durrant’s Brewery around 1906, it became ‘tied to Page & Overtons, the Croydon based brewery with its roots dating back to 1586. It remained a beer house, with two small bars and limited opening hours, until well into the 20th century; a wine licence was not obtained until 1929. Now occupying three of the five original houses, the Stand Up has retained its character as a ‘locals’ pub. For a time the name was changed to the Linden Tree.


January 10, 2022

By John Mills and Richard Bryant

Lindfield being a rural parish escaped the changes brought about by the industrial revolution, although onefactory was built early in the Victorian era.  It stood where Lindfield Medical Centre stands today.

In 1840, Thomas Durrant a wood turner, from a prominent Lindfield non-conformist family set up a piano business.  He soon established the Sussex Pianoforte Manufactory in a workshop next to his home, Broomfields, (54) High Street. His first employee, Alfred Steibler, a piano maker, came from London to make pianos. 

The Victorian values of hearth and home with a family’s entertainment centred on music making, created considerable demand for pianos.  His business quickly expanded and by 1851 he was turning out ‘cottage pianofortes’ and other types at a rate of 100 per year.  Some were transported to London and Brighton for auction with the ‘commendation of several first-rate professional men and dealers in England and Scotland’. To expand the thriving business and accommodate a growing workforce, Thomas Durrant needed much larger premises.

Around 1852, he bought Milwards, an old freehold property, opposite on the western side of the High Street.  Shortly after, Durrant demolished the old property and in its large back garden in 1854 built a new factory with a wide gated entrance and an extensive forecourt.  Unusually for Lindfield, it was a three storey building with a high roof and large windows necessary for good lighting.  Within 10 years he contracted P Jupp to install gas lighting: the gas being supplied by the Lindfield Gas Works, situated at today’s Chaloner Close.   The factory was described as a ‘modern, well-lighted and heated, clean, spacious building, specially built for the purpose for which it was used’.   Pianos were made on a ‘production line’ with each man performing a specific task.  Alfred Steibler was said to be the only Durrant employee who could make and construct an entire piano.

Anecdotally, it has been said villagers nicknamed this fine establishment ‘The Piggery’ because the workers were dubbed ‘the pigs’ on account of drinking so much beer at the end of the week in the Stand Up Inn.  

In addition to making and carrying a stock of new pianos for sale at the factory, the business also proudly advertised its Repairing and Regulating Department, ‘where every care is bestowed’ and a tuning service.

In 1860, the factory employed over 30 men and during the next two decades established sales branches in London and Birmingham.  By the 1880s, British piano making was in decline due to imported pianos made in Germany having taken a large share of the market.  The decision was taken in 1881 to close the manufacturing department.  Thomas Durrant retired in early 1882, selling surplus stock and other items, handing the business to his son, Richard Durrant.  Consequently the name was changed from Sussex Pianoforte Manufactory to R Durrant Piano Warehouse, advertising piano, harmonium, American organs tuned and repaired, in addition to sales and hire.

As the nature of the business had changed there was no need for such a wide gated entrance to the forecourt.  This was narrowed, to the current width of the walkway, to the Medical Centre and car park, by building two houses with shops, today Tufnells Home and Kitchens by Hamilton Stone Design. 

The Piano Warehouse under Richard Durrant’s management continued to be advertised in local directories until 1887, when he relocated his pianoforte business to Rugby.  He remained in business until his retirement in 1924.

Piano production having ceased less space in the building was required, as the Pianoforte Warehouse occupied only part of the ground floor thus freeing up the remainder of the premises.  The Durrants rented the spare space to G F Eastwood, who engaged a Lindfield builder, Charles Andrews, to convert the space into the New Assembly Rooms.  The Assembly Room was on the first floor with a Mission Room below.  Lindfield was in need of a larger entertainment and meeting venue as the only function rooms, at that time, were at the Bent Hotel and the Reading Room in Lewes Road.

The Mid Sussex Times reported at considerable length the opening of the New Assembly Rooms on 15 May 1883.  The rooms were complimented for being light, airy, very neat and tastefully presented.  There were ‘16 windows, letting light on the subjects, whilst from the ceiling there are two handsome gas pendants.  There is a balcony at the entrance end and a stage at the other, and seating arrangements for about 220.’  A grand curving staircase led from the ground floor entrance.  The Rooms were regarded as providing a ‘valuable acquisition to the town.’ 

The New Assembly Rooms were managed by a ‘committee of gentlemen’ with G F Eastwood as the Secretary and Josiah Durrant as Acting Agent and Booking Manager.

Until the opening of the King Edward Hall in 1911, the New Assembly Rooms were the centre of social life in Lindfield with regular events ranging from the Music Society concerts to harp recital and Captain Acklom’s Elocutionary Entertainment to Chrysanthemum Exhibitions.  Perhaps its most noted event was in 1884 when Oscar Wilde delivered a lecture on ‘The Value of art in modern life’.

In contrast to the entertainments upstairs, the Mission Room was the centre for the local temperance movement by the Church of England and Gospel Temperance Union promoting alcohol abstinence.  Meetings and lectures were held weekly and a lending library was provided, also occasional appropriate entertainments including ‘Mr & Mrs Brown and Miss Skelton the Singing Negro Evangelists’ and an ‘appearance by Wah-Bun-Ah-Kee (Red Indian)’; he was quite famous.

Following the relocation of the Pianoforte Warehouse, the New Assembly Rooms were enlarged.  Some of the ground floor space was taken by Edward Durrant as a showroom and store for his High Street shop; and was described in December 1888 as providing ‘baskets, aprons, wraps, cushions, pottery and lace goods’.

The opening of King Edward Hall and the Great War signalled the final decline of the New Assembly Rooms building.  Reputedly it was used as a rabbit farm to assist with food shortages during the war.  During the 1920s and 1930s it was used for furniture storage and became derelict, but was requisitioned by the military in World War 2 for an unknown use.

In the early 1950s, the building was brought back to life, returning to its manufacturing roots when Herbert and Paul Christian trading as O H Christian Ltd used the premises for their clothing manufacturing business.  They specialised in making good quality skirts for leading brands, hence locally being known as the Skirt Factory.  On the first floor was the fabric store with Paul Christian making the patterns and doing all the cutting.  Downstairs was the machinist’s area with many Singer sewing machines and the finishing and pressing department.  The factory employed around 20 local women, who enjoyed the perk of ‘overs’ being sold cheaply.

At the beginning of the 1970s, O H Christian Ltd went into receivership and the property became empty again.  Shortly after the building was demolished making way in 1974 for Lindfield Medical Centre and Toll Gate car park. 

LINDFIELD HISTORY Lindfield Vicarages

January 10, 2022

By Richard Bryant, John Mills and Janet Bishop

At the beginning of September, the Rev Dr Stephen Nichols takes up his duties as the Vicar of All Saints church.  He and his family will make their home at The Vicarage, situated behind Bower House beside the lane and footpath leading from the High Street to Hickmans Lane.  The house’s history will be explored later in the article, but first in centuries past where have the clergy resided.

In medieval times the Dean and Canons of the College of Canons, St. Michaels, South Malling held the parish and manors in Lindfield on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Dean was required to reside in Lindfield for 90 days a year and the Canons for 40 days.  It has been suggested that four of the oldest surviving houses in the village were built by the Canons in the 14th and early 15th century.  It is reputed that Bower House, built circa 1330, was the Dean’s residence but evidence to support this assertion is lacking.  Similarly evidence the Canons resided at Thatched Cottage and Clock House is difficult to find, consequently it is not possible to positively identify their residences.  There is little doubt, however, that Church Cottage was the clergy’s dwelling in medieval times and is referred to in old records over the years as the Parsonage.

In the 1530s and 1540s, with Henry VIII on the throne seeking a divorce which led to the English Reformation, establishment of the Church of England and the dissolution of religious houses.  In March 1545 an order for the dissolution of the College of Canons was issued and all their possessions, land and tithes were taken by the Crown before passing into lay ownership.  Only a fraction of the tithes were given to the church.  Tithe income was intended to fund the church.  Lindfield parish became a poor living unable to provide dwellings for incumbents and the clergy had to fund housing from their own resources. 

Rev Francis Killingbeck is recorded in 1580 as living at ‘Tyes’, where Martins and Abbots now stand.  He appears to have preferred to buy his own house rather than pay rent to Church Cottage’s new owners.  This marked the end of the use of Church Cottage.

During the next couple of centuries the clergy lived at various properties in the village.  Notable among these was Rev Humphrey Everynden who in the 1620s built his ‘parsonage,’ in upper High Street, that carries his name today.  Rev Henry Barwick also lived at Everyndens in the 1790s before having to downsize to either 111 or 113 High Street.

Following his arrival, Rev Francis Sewell in 1841 leased Pear Tree House, junction of Lewes Road and High Street, until 1849 when he accepted a living in Lancashire moving away from Lindfield for seven years.  For Sewell’s return to Lindfield he planned a grand mansion as his vicarage to be financed by a complex funding arrangement to which he would contribute £1500 towards the £3000 cost.  The intention being that on receipt of the balance from parishioners and other subscribers the property would be transferred into the ownership of the church for the benefit of future vicars.  He returned in 1856 on completion of his mansion which he named The Welkin, meaning Vault of Heaven.  On his death in 1862 insufficient money had been subscribed, no doubt due to being very grand in substantial grounds with two long drives.  Ownership of The Welkin remained in Sewell’s estate before being sold.  The church continued to remain without its own vicarage for future incumbents.

In contrast, Sewell’s replacement, Rev Frederick Mills had to rent Townlands until circumstances required him to vacate the house. Unable to fund alternative accommodation he and his family became homeless and had to ‘squat’ in the abandoned National School room on the Common until evicted.  A parishioner took pity on him and provided a home.

Moving on from this low point, Miss A H Davis of Walstead Place bequeathed a £3,000 trust fund to the church for the sole purpose of providing a vicarage.  This came to fruition in July 1902 with the completion of a vicarage house, Glebe House, in Denmans Lane.  It was built by Messrs Anscombe & Hedgecock to a design by Walter Millard of Grays Inn, London, on a two acre site given by William Sturdy of Paxhill.  The impressive house comprised an inner hall, three sitting rooms, a drawing room, 6 bedrooms and a dressing room, plus servant’s accommodation.  Stone from the Paxhill quarry was used in the construction.

The first minister to reside at the new vicarage was Rev Edward d’Auvergne.  On his retirement Rev Arthur Mead took up residence for a short while.  The high cost of living in and maintaining this large house was quickly realised, a parishioner commented ‘it would take a rich man to continue living in the house’.  The Parochial Church Council decided it was no longer suitable accommodation for the clergy and in 1917 leased it to tenants to supplement the parish stipend; it was later sold.  Rev Mead moved to Church Cottage initially leased before being purchased in 1926, by the Church Council, from Walter Tower of Old Place.  Thus reuniting Church Cottage with the church for the first time since medieval times.  The cottage ceased being the vicarage in 1933 when the newly arrived Rev Sidney Swann and his wife Lady Theodosia Bagot wanted a house of their own and bought Bower House.  At that time it was two cottages which he reconverted to one house and extensively renovated.

Upon Rev Swann’s retirement, the Church Council again faced having to acquire a suitable house for the new incumbent Rev Richard Daunton-Fear.  In 1937 the Church Council bought the Mission Hall from the County Towns Mission following their move to Chaloner Road.  The plan was to demolish the hall and build a new vicarage on the site.  Due to problems in agreeing a suitable design and lack of money the scheme was abandoned in August 1938 and the property sold to Miss Maud Savill.

Shortly afterwards, Little Townlands was acquired as the new vicarage and remains so to this day.  The land on which the vicarage stands was just a field, belonging to Townlands, until the 1880s.  Plans were drawn up for a cottage, stable and coach house to be constructed at the bottom, southern end, of the paddock.  When built in 1888 the buildings had been realigned and moved towards the northern end.  They are described in the 1910 property survey, commissioned by David Lloyd George for proposed tax purposes, as ‘brick and tile, 3 stall stable with loft, 4 horse coach house and a 4 roomed adjoining cottage’.  The coachman initially occupied the cottage and later the head gardener at Townlands.

The property was purchased by Mr & Mrs Arthur Hooper previously of Nash House, High Street, during the late 1920s, to create a ‘holiday home’.  In February 1930, Cuckfield Rural District Council gave permission to alter and make additions to Little Townlands.  These involved considerably altering the two storey square cottage, at the back of today’s vicarage, altering the one storey stable, adding a one storey glazed passage along the north side of the stables and adding a new front section to create the property as seen today.


January 10, 2022

This article explores another Lindfield Black History connection.

The story begins with of Francis Smith senior in Nevis, an island in the Eastern Caribbean, the two islands which today form the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis.  The islands were among the first in the Caribbean to be colonised by European settlers.  English settlers arrived in Nevis in the 1620s, decimating the native population.  By the 1640s cane sugar became their main crop.  Sugar and it’s by product rum were profitable exports.  The settlers at first worked with white indentured labourers from Britain but soon began to import enslaved Africans.  By the late 1780s the enslave population was 8420 while the whites numbered 1510.

Among the white inhabitants were brothers, Richard and Francis Smith.  Richard managed sugar estates owned to the planter, James Smith, the brothers may have been related to James, Francis Smith was a ship’s carpenter, building local craft and repairing vessels from England working the triangular slave trade route.

In 1879, Richard died and Francis became ill prompting him to make his Will; dying shortly afterwards.  His possessions included two black boys, bequeathing one each to Francis and Jenny, children of a free coloured woman, Amelia Brodbelt.  She was the daughter of an enslaved black woman, also named, Amelia Brodbelt who had been granted her freedom in 1765. The rest of his possessions were shared equally between her five children: Francis, Jenny, Amelia, Hetty and Christiana.  Given the bequests and that her children had the surname Smith, without doubt Francis Smith was their father. The Offspring of a black mother and white father were known as ‘molattoes’.  Although not married Amelia Brodbelt was regarded as his surviving ‘spouse’.

Through her wider family Amelia benefited from an inheritance that gave her a property on the edge of Charlestown. With business acumen she and her four daughters ran some sort of hospitality and accommodation business; initially perhaps less respectable a brothel.  The business increasingly prospered and eventually renting properties that were occupied by the island’s Court, Council and Assembly. They became respected members of island society.

Turning to Francis Smith born 1787, the surviving son of Amelia Brodelt and Francis Smith, the ship’s carpenter.  Little is known of the Francis’ early years in Nevis, but his working life may have started in London.  Some prosperous, well connected coloured people financed their son’s work experience abroad. Amelia Brodelt may well have wanted her son to become a ‘merchant of London’. However by 1817 it is known he had settled in Haiti, working as a trader or merchant.

During his time in Haiti, Francis Smith met Josephine Villeneuve who was to be his life partner and mother of his many children.  She was clearly of African descent.  Their first child being born in 1817, followed on 13 February 1819 by Francis Villeneuve Smith.  His birth registration records his mother as a resident of Port-an-Prince, Haiti and his father a foreign merchant.  From her signature she was an educated woman and perhaps from well-to-do family.

As business opportunities in Haiti reduced, Francis Smith moved his family to London, in 1821 they were living at Brunswick Place, Shoreditch.  After a couple of years the family moved to ‘a more wholesome environment, settling in Lindfield’.  Francis Smith purchased Townlands, opposite the parish church, and its farm from Captain Pilford R.N.  Pilford having been in position the purchase and alter Townlands following promotion as a result of success at the Battle of Trafalgar and in recognition renamed the house Nelson Hall.  He sold due to money problems.  The farmland today being the site of The Welkin development and part of Hickmans Lane Recreation Ground.

While Francis Smith turned to farming and now regarded as an ‘Esquire’, Josephine was busy with their growing family, with William and Rosa being born in Lindfield and baptised in Lindfield Parish Church.  At that time it was quite common for parish registers to record people’s skin colour or foreign origin; the Lindfield register makes no such note, suggesting Francis Smith’s complexion must have been so light and his features so European that he passed as white. 

Josephine now called herself Marie Josephine and as her skin colour portrayed her origin, she may not have been readily accepted into village society.

As an aside, Marie Josephine Villeneuve always claimed, but unproven, her father was Pierre Charles Jean Baptise Silvestre de Villeneuve, a French naval officer stationed in the Caribbean.  Villeneuve commanded the French fleet defeated by Nelson at Trafalgar.  How ironic of Villeneuve’s illegitimate daughter lived in a house with Trafalgar victory connections?  It would be ironic if his daughter was living in a house acquired as a result of victory. Perhaps a fanciful thought.

The Smith family lived at Townlands for only a few years, leaving Lindfield, for whatever reason, sailing in June 1828 to Australia.


March 29, 2020

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

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