Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

East Mascalls

February 9, 2018

In medieval times the Michelbourne family had close associations with Lindfield and especially the Tiger Inn.  The family went to live at East Mascalls and adopted the alias Mascall.  Richard Michelbourne in 1522 dropped the Michelbourne name in favour of Mascall.  His grandson inherited the property selling it in 1550 to his aunt Ursula Middleton.

Ten years later East Mascalls was purchased by William Newton who had acquired the Manor of South Malling Lindfield.  In 1695, Margaret Newton married William Noyes and their son, William, married Martha Herbert.  Subsequently Herbert became incorporated as part of the family name.

The property descended through the Noyes line to Thomas Herbert Noyes in 1800 and with his large family he occupied East Mascalls for 30 years.  In the years that followed the house fell into disrepair eventually becoming a ruin.

It was subsequently restored.


Lindfield Fair

February 9, 2018

King Edward III in 1344 granted the Dean of South Malling a charter for Lindfield to hold a weekly market every Thursday and two yearly fairs.  The fairs on the feast days of St Philip and St James the Less [May 1st] and St James the Great [July 25th] were for eight days each.  The only other parish in Sussex to have had a fair lasting eight days was Pagham.

Over the centuries the July fair, later held in August, prospered while the May fair ceased.  Sheep were the major animals sold at the fairs with many thousands changing hands.  The High Street and Common were the traditional sites for the fairs; the last sheep sale held in the High Street was in about 1903.  The commercial nature of the fair ceased in the early 1900s following the opening of the Haywards Heath cattle market.  Although, the tradition of an August fair continued, as a major entertainment event, with a visiting fun fair.

The Leslie Family

February 9, 2018

In 1906, George Leslie moved to Lindfield.  He was a successful professional artist and an Associate of the Royal Academy.  He built Compton House, a spacious 14 room house, as home for himself and his wife Lydia.

His unmarried niece Kate Leslie and her mother had arrived in Lindfield five years earlier commissioned a large house, Cotmaton, built by Parker Anscombe, on the land that is now Shenstone Close.  A few years later Miss Leslie built Oaklee and Littlecote, on two plots adjacent to Compton House in Compton Road.

Gertrude Jekyll, the well-known garden designer, a friend of the Leslies’ provided help with designing the gardens.  George Leslie created two ‘Lion’s head’ water fountains;  one was given to Gertrude Jekyll and installed in her garden at Munstead Wood.  The other remains to this day at Compton House.

Members of the family lived in Lindfield from 1901 to c1928 making significant contributions to the village, artistically, physically and socially.  For example, serving in the WWI VAD hospital in King Edward Hall and the Lindfield Amateur Dramatic Club was a beneficiary of their talents.

Compton House is now a nursing home, Oaklee has been greatly extended as retirement accommodation.  The other properties have been demolished.

Lindfield United Reformed Church

February 9, 2018

In 1810 a group of dissenters, who had formerly established links with the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel at Wivelsfield, together with the minister of the Union Street Independent chapel in Brighton applied for a licence to hold services in the Ballroom attached to the White Lion alehouse [now Bent Arms] in Lindfield.  The cause prospered and Stephen Wood, a successful Brighton builder and prominent member of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel in Brighton, built them a small chapel on the site of a former malthouse in the High Street in 1813.  He later retired to the village, living in the present Ryecroft and endowed the chapel.

In 1818 four members formed the Lindfield Congregational Church and 3 years later Stephen Wood’s daughter, Kitty Copeland, put the chapel into  a trust for “Congregational Calvanists.”  Its members were mainly drawn from the labourers and artisans of Lindfield and Ardingly.  The first attempts to bring education to the poor children of Lindfield originated from this chapel and an evening school for secular instruction pre-dated William Allen.

Perhaps it is worth noting that “Congregational” is an adjective which is often used quite loosely as an alternative to “independent”.  This refers to churches that like to organise themselves as a completely independent unit and pay their ministers themselves.  This is in contrast to the Presbyterians who were centrally organised and whose ministers were paid from central funds.   Theologically there is a difference in that the Presbyterians looked back to the 16th Century Reformation and the teachings of John Calvin in Geneva and the Congregationalists follow the independent thinking of an Englishman called Browne.  Oliver Cromwell was an independent/Congregationalist but many of the officers in his New Model Army were Presbyterians.  It all comes under the words “puritan ” and “dissent” and can get muddled.

The chapel flourished under the pastorship of Rev J E Judson [1843-1861].  it was rebuilt in ‘Early English design’ by W G & E Habershon.  the cost was about £1,200 and, largely due to Judson’s efforts, opened free of debt in May 1858.  Later it was Thomas Durrant, the Lindfield piano factory owner, together with Thomas Wells, the local headmaster, known as the “‘Father of Sussex Congregationalism” who provided strong leadership.

In 1879 the front of the church was remodelled together with other improvements to the building financed by James Proctor of Finches.  then in 1898 a school room was built on the back which, in turn, was replaced by the present large hall in 1960.

During WWI troops billeted in the village used the school room as a canteen and reading and writing room.  Electric lighting was installed in 1948 and major renovation work carried out to the interior in the early 1950’s.  In 1972 the Congregational Church of England and Wales united with the Presbyterian Church of England becoming the United Reformed Church.

A major extension in 1996 completed the present buildings.  In each case land was surrendered by Ryecroft next door which the church bought in 1888.  This was sold in 1952 and repurchased in 1984 and has been used as the Manse ever since.

Brief History of Summerhill House

February 9, 2018

The land on which the house stands was once part of West common held by the Manor of Ditchling.  Enclosure created a couple of fields and a dwelling was built, which can be clearly seen on surveyors draft dated 1794 for the first Ordnance Survey map.  One of the fields was named the ‘Golden Nob’ in the Tithe Survey of 1848.  the owner is listed as Francis Blaker with the annotation ‘now Charles Catt’. – circa 1848/50

The 1852 census describes the area as ‘Golden Nob’ and lists four families numbering 19 persons in residence.  In the next few years it would appear that Charles Catt acquired more land in the area and was responsible for building Summerhill House in the late 1850s perhaps 1860.  It is shown on Ordnance Survey maps that were produced following surveys conducted in the 1870.  The Catt family lived in the house and farmed the surrounding land for many years.

In the 1920’s, Mr and Mrs Donald Fraser owned the property, a man well known in the area.  It was then sold to the Col. Eggar-Byatt, the Diocesan solicitor for the Church of England.  He was a widower and lived in the house with his son and daughter, Neil and Elizabeth, together with his two maiden sisters.

Following the commencement of WWII, his children joined the forces.  Life became difficult with the need to travel to Chichester to undertake his diocesan duties, so he moved with his sisters to that city.

It was at this point that Summerhill House was first used as a school.  Hollingbury Court Preparatory School was evacuated there early in Word War II, probably in the summer of 1940 when the invasion threat was greatest.  It is understood their stay was fairly brief and the school returned to Brighton when the situation improved.

In 1945, Mr Cross leased, the property from the Eggars, as the home for Summerhill Court School and the property remained as a school until 2015.  The building was demolished in 2018.

Julius Guy: Inventor and Local Activist

February 8, 2018

Today our cars with their independent suspension on all four wheels give a smooth ride, despite the occasional pothole and bumps in the roads.  Likewise all roads have smooth hard surfaces.  It was not always that way.  Pity the traveller in the nineteenth century, the roads at best were of variable quality and horse drawn carriages gave their occupants a bumpy ride.

Elliptical springs that had traditionally been fitted to carriages in the 1800s did little to improve the ride for passengers.  Julius Guy, a Lindfield carriage builder, set about finding a way to improve this crude form of suspension.  In 1885, after trying various possible improvements, Julius Guy discovered that the attachment of India rubber cushion blocks to the springs considerably enhanced their performance.  he patented his invention as the Climax Combination Spring.

This simple but effective device received great acclaim.  His invention was exhibited at the Anglo-Danish Exhibition of 1888, where it was awarded a gold medal and diploma of honour.  The Exhibitors Journal described Mr Guy’s invention as ‘One of the best and greatest improvements’ to carriage suspension saying ‘the unpleasant jarring is considerably reduced’.  It further explained ‘Another advantage is that the liability of breaking either springs or axles, and the wear of the carriage is very considerably reduced;  the oscillation and extra strain on other parts of the carriage is also obviated’.

Julius guy was enrolled a Member of the Institute of British Carriage Manufacturers and his patent was taken up by very many carriage builders.  It was also applied to the carriages belonging to the British Royal Family and the King of Belgium . A testimonial written by Lord Suffield, relating to the rubber blocks fitted to the carriages of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, said they were ‘found to very much enhance the comfort’.  Praise indeed for a village coachbuilder.

Who was Julius guy?  He was born in 1831 at Chiddingly and after being apprenticed to his father, went to London and gained coach building experience at some of the leading workshops before opening his own business.  His wife’s health was affected by the foul London air and he decided to move to Lindfield in 1859, acquiring the business of Mr H Packham  Julius Guy’s home, workshop and yard were at the northern end of the Bent Arms, adjacent to Brushes Lane.

His business thrived, and with the introduction of the motorcar he transferred his skills from carriage building to being a motor body builder and repairer.  Julius Guy was also one of the first agents for the Car and General Insurance Corporation, the insurance company that pioneered the comprehensive motor policy.


Published in Lindfield Life April 2017

Fire-eating Legge: A Lindfield Hero

February 8, 2018

There were very few days during the Great War that determined how future land battles across the world would be fought; a son of Lindfield played a leading role in one such day – 15th September 1916.  His heroism and sacrifice went unrecognised.

during 1915 the war on the Western Front had settled into an entrenched stalemate with neither side making and sustain any significant gain.  To help break this deadlock a new weapon was required; this resulted in Britain inventing the tank.  Two prototypes were available by December 1915 and, following trials, the Army ordered 100.  At this time the Somme offensive was being planned as a major breakthrough, and it was hoped the tanks and their crews would be available for the first day of the offensive on 1st July 1916.  However, neither the crews nor the tanks were ready in sufficient numbers.

Being a new and untried weapon, the Army had to learn not only how to drive, operate and maintain tanks, but the tactics to be deployed for their use in battle.  In spring 1916, officers and men were drafted into the newly formed Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps and commenced training.  Second Lieutenant Reginald Legge was one of those recruited to be a tank commander.

Reginald’s parents lived at ‘Greenwoods’, High Beeches Lane, Lindfield.  After leaving Brighton Grammar School, he worked for a wholesale draper in Cannon Street, London before travelling the world as a merchant. A well travelled adventurer, he was working on the Gold coast prior to the war.  Returning to Lindfield in January 1915, Reginald joined the 2/1st Bucks Yeomanry [Royal Bucks Hussars] as a Trooper and was quickly identified as officer material.

On 4th March 1916 he attended a six week officer training course and, following being commissioned on 15th April 1916, aged 34, was posed to the Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps and became one of the first officers to undergo tank training at Canada Farm, Elvenden, near Thetford.

Reginald was posted to France in August 1916, together with fellow officers, tank crews, mechanics and 60 tanks.  However, due to mechanical breakdown, only 49 tanks were available for their first deployment into action at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

On the night of 13th September 1916, the crews fuelled the tanks, collected rations and ammunition ready for their debut.  the following day, Reginald and his fellow officers received final instructions and reconnoitred the route to their front line start points.  The terrain was extremely rough, heavily damaged by shell holes and cut by trenches making it difficult for the 28 ton monsters to traverse.  That evening the tanks moved forward in readiness to take part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette at zero hour on 15th September 1916.  Along the battle front only 32 of the 49 tanks made it to their start points, the others had either got stuck or broken down.

Seven tanks supported the 4st Division, organised into four groups. Tank D6, commanded by Reginald, the only tank in C Group, was given the task of leading the attack on the defences around Flers, thus opening the way for the infantry assault.

From his start point Reginald’s tank supported the infantry advance and made good progress towards Flers, reaching the division’s first objective. A British soldier described the tank as ‘lumbering past on my left, belching forth yellow flames from her machine gun and making a gap where the Flers road cut through the enemy trench!’

The tanks had a maximum speed of four mph on good ground and appreciably less over rough terrain.  Interior conditions were absolutely appalling, extremely noisy with intense heat, noxious engine, violent motion and flying red hot metal splinters as bullets hit the exterior.  Severe nausea could ensue after only short distances.

Regardless of the arduous conditions, Reginald continued turning d6 east and north to move down the eastern side of Flers.  Once inside the village he helped the infantry clear out of the Germans. as the assault continued towards the third objective northeast of the village, the role played by D6 was recognised by the Commanding Officer, 26th Royal Fusiliers, recording that ‘This tank was one of the greatest material use and the party in charge of its distinguished themselves considerably’.  Leading the advance, Reginald got ahead of the British Infantry line and in danger from enemy artillery, he continued north towards his next objective.  Aware that there was a German gun battery nearby, he went on the attack destroying one field gun but was fired upon by the remaining three guns.  Receiving a direct hit, D6 burst into flames and burnt out.

One crewman died in the burning tank, two died from their wounds at the scene, three made it back to the British line and one was captured.  There is some uncertainty regarding Reginald’s precise fate.  A crew member saw him in a nearby shell hole, possibly suffering serious wounds.  Reginald was posted missing in action by the British.

He is thought to have been captured by the Germans and to have died of his wounds the next day.  However, the Germans have no record of him being taken prisoner or of a grave.  In 1917 Reginald’s identity disc and Will were sent from Germany by the Red Cross and were eventually received by his mother, confirming his death, over a year after going missing.

A review after the battle identified that, out of the 32 that started the attack, nine tanks broke down after a short distance, five bogged down on the battlefield and nine were ineffective as they failed to travel at sufficient speed to support the infantry attack.  Only nine tanks played an active role in the advance, with tank D6, commanded by Reginald, making one, if not the greatest, contribution to the advance.

The first deployment of tanks into battle could hardly be regarded as a great success but their potential was proved and tanks were used to greater effect in future British advances during the Great War.  Despite playing a manor role in the advance and demonstrating the tanks’ potential, his brave actions and sacrifice received no official recognition.  He is remembered on the Lindfield War Memorials.

After the war, a fellow tank commander at the battle commented ‘Dear old fire-eating Legge came very near to being great’.


Published in Lindfield Life September 2017


St John’s: The Forgotten School

February 8, 2018

Last month’s article about Rev Francis Sewell explained that in the early 1850s, he developed a master plan to facilitate his return to Lindfield, from Lancashire, and to increase his influence and standing in the parish.  One element of his plan was the building of a new church school and school master’s house.

Despite having been influential in establishing the National School on the Common in 1851, Sewell found its building objectionable, inadequate and remote from the parish church and the religious guidance questionable.  He decided a new church school was needed to meet the religious education of local children, with good facilities close to the church.  He clearly had a desire to exert his influence on the education of children from the labouring classes and additionally extend this to the middle classes.

His plan required sufficient land to build the school building and master’s house ‘contiguous to the church’, together with land for a rectory house.  This was achieved by his purchase of Townlands Farm, in the first years of the 1850s.  The farmyard, fronting onto the High Street almost opposite the northern churchyard, provided adequate space for the school buildings.

He commissioned the architect, J Clarke of 13 Stratford Place, Oxford Street, London, a noted Architect of Schools, to design both the school buildings and master’s house in the Gothic style. The school was required to provide space for 100 boys, 100 girls and 70n infants in separate rooms and be appointed with modern facilities.

On 13th May 1856, the Bishop of Chichester, amid much ceremony, laid the foundation stones naming the school St John’s Parish School.  Sewell explained the scheme was not ‘to earn to himself any reward, but to fix the affections of the children upon their God.’  The cost of the school building and master’s house was estimated at £1630. Sewell contributed £630 and provided the additional funding which was to be reimbursed by donations.  Replacement of his funding would enable him ‘to convey them to the parish.’

Constructed in fine stone, by Mr Constable of Penshurst, the school was inaugurated on the 19th October 1856.  The National School on the Common closed and some hundred children transferred to the new school.  Under Sewell’s patronage, he wanted his school to be self-supporting and conduced on the principles of the Church of England, without the aid of the National or any other society.  In addition o being a day school for Lindfield and surrounding district, it also served as a Sunday school.

In spring 1857 the school buildings and master’s house were the first properties in Lindfield to be illuminated by gas.  Sewell had installed a small Hansor’s Gas manufacturing plant and tank on his land.

A newspaper report in August 1861 commented that the school was ‘among the finest educational structures in Sussex.’  It further noted, ‘at a merely nominal charge’ the education was ‘not only to the children of the poor, but also to those of the middle class.  For this purpose a certificated master, of long experience in large schools, an infant mistress, a governess and a pupil teacher have been engaged.’  In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, the curriculum included geography, surveying, drawing and bookkeeping.

Every year since the opening of the original National School and then St John’s Parish School, Sewell had organised and funded an elaborate school fete.  Sewell was an enthusiastic attendee and participant with the children, even when living in Lancashire he would travel by train to Lindfield to attend.  The fete in August 1861 was another similarly lavish event.  140 children marched through the village to a field, adjoining The Welkin, where ‘most plenteous sources of amusement were provided; kites, swings, traps, donkey riding, etc.’  Before tea, a ‘kite, life size, representing a Life Guardsman, was flown to a height of 300 yards,’ and repeatedly pulled a light carriage with a child on board across the fields!  After tea, the children watched a ‘succession of electrical and galvanic experiments’ conducted by Sewell and as darkness fell the marquee was illuminated by gas lights.  The event closed with the firing of the evening gun, ascent of fire balloons and the National Athem.

Three months later in November 1861, an advertisement appeared for St John’s Middle-Class Grammar and Mathematical School under the supervision and control of the officiating Minister of St John’s Church, Lindfield.  The boarding house with home comforts was in a ‘commodious private residence’, and pupils were to be prepared for ‘the Middle-Class Oxford, Cambridge, and the Civil Service Examinations’.  Annual fees for boards were £32 and non-boarders £8 – £12.  Sewell was clearly moving the school upmarket with the aims of the original National School to educate the ‘labouring, manufacturing and other poor classes of the parish of Lindfield’ no longer fitting his vision.  Presumably he intended to leave their education to others.

Sewell retained ownership of the school buildings and never conveyed them to the parish as his stated intentions, presumably because the desired contributions form residents to replace his initial funding were not forthcoming.  After a short illness, Sewell died in October 1862 and shortly afterwards the school closed and never reopened.

On the instructions of the High Court in Chancery, the buildings were put up for sale by auction in September 1863.  They were advertised as, ‘Lots 3 and 4.  the newly-built premises, St John School, consisting of boys’ and girls’ lofty school rooms, infant school rooms, offices, and schoolmaster’s cottage and garden’.

What became of the school building? Mrs Julia Sewell, acquired the buildings and in 1866, they were recorded as ‘now possessed by Mrs Sewell, the widow, and used on Sundays by Dissenters’.  The Sunday school run by Miss Trevatt resumed meeting there in the mornings and afternoons, and in the evening the London City Mission conducted preaching services.  The building became known as St John’s Mission.

Upon Mrs Julia Sewell’s death the property passed to her close relative, miss Dent, and she subsequently offered the building to the London City Mission, but they were not allowed to own property outside London.  Miss Dent approached the Country Towns’ Mission, and on their agreeing to send a resident missioner to Lindfield, she endowed the local mission, and it became the Sewell Memorial Mission in October 1909.

By 1937, the Country Town’s Mission had become increasingly uncomfortable with their premises being directly opposite the parish church.  It was decided to sell and use the money for the erection of a more suitable mission building in Lewes Road; this is today the Lindfield Evangelical Free church.  the old missions it was purchased in July 12937 by the parish church authorities with the intention of erecting a vicarage.  However, after three separate sets of plans were prepared, it was found that the premises were not suitable either for demolition or conversion.  Miss Maud Savill of Finches purchased the buildings in 1938.

During World War II the premises were used by evacuees and the military. Today all the buildings are occupied as private dwellings.


Published in Lindfield Life August 2017


An Old Sauce with a Mysterious past

February 8, 2018

Lea & Perrin’s Worcester Sauce is perhaps one of the world’s best known sauces.  First marketed in 1837, it became popular in the 1840/50s and is now widely used in cooking, as a condiment and, of course, an essential part of a Bloody Mary.  Today, instead of asking for Worcester sauce you could have been asking for Lindfield Sauce had its makers had the business acumen of Mr Le and Mr Perrin.

According to a Lindfield Sauce bottle label, dated about 1880, it was:

  • Prepared by the late Charles Mills
  • Used at the Coronation Banquet of George IV held on 19th July, 1821
  • Currently being made by Mrs Mills of Lindfield
  • A flavouring for chops, steak, poultry, fish, cold meat, etc.
  • ‘Pronounced by Savans and Epicures to be the Best English Sauce extant’

These claims warrant further investigation.

The recipe for Lindfield Sauce still exists and is held by a descendant of the Mills family.  The main ingredients included are vinegar, onions, sugar, soy sauce, cayenne pepper and spices.  It has to be matured in casks for at least two years before being usable and is said to be similar in character to Worcestershire sauce.

Who were the Mills family, and what was their connection with Lindfield?  In the latter part of the 1700s, George Mills, a blacksmith and cooper in Lindfield, had a son named Simon.  It appears Simon Mills joined the army as a young man, serving in the Peninsular War, being present at the battle of Oporto in May 1809, as a sergeant in the 24th Regiment of Foot Guards.  He is next found in 1815 in Pembroke with his wife Ann, where she gave birth to a son, Charles, and later a second son, Simon.

The first identified record of Simon Mills Senior returning to Lindfield is an entry in the 30th April 1831 Poor Tax return.  The entry identifies Simon Mills as the owner of the Red Lion, which at the time was located in the house today called ‘Porters’.  However, in 1833, Simon Mills moved the Red Lion next door to the newly built and current Red Lion building.  Following his death in 1839, the property passed to his widow, Ann Mills, and on her death their sons, Charles and Simon, inherited the Inn.  during the early years of the 1840s, Charles Mills took over as the innkeeper, a role he held until selling the Red Lion in 1869.  He then moved with his second wife, Mary, and their children down the High Street to the middle cottage of what today are known as Bank Cottages [near the junction with Lewes Road].

The 1880 label refers to it being prepared by ‘the late Charles Mills’, so presumably during the 1850s and 1860s he was making Lindfield Sauce at the Red Lion and storing it in the cellar until matured.  However, other than the label, no written evidence has been found specifically linking Charles Mills or the Red Lion with the manufacture of the sauce.  It is reasonable to believe Charles Mills was making the sauce at the cottage prior to his death in 1873, when ownership of the ‘brand’ and preparation passed to his widow.  Mrs Mary Mills is listed in the 1881 Census as a widow aged 49 years, with the occupation ‘Sauce Proprietor’.  She continued living at the cottage until her death.

Looking at the claim regarding its use, as a matured sauce it would have been suitable to add to meats and fish for extra flavour. The statement being ‘Pronounced by Savans and Epicures to be the Best English Sauce extant’, sounds flowery and extravagant but it is reflective of the advertising language used in Victorian times. Adverts for a similar rich matured sauce, Thorn’s Tally Ho Sauce, likewise proclaimed ‘So long patronised by Epicures …. pronouncement is not without foundation, as the sauce was not merely sold in the village but supplied to fashionable addresses in London and presumably elsewhere in the country.

One eminent regular purchaser, between 1882 and 1888, was Wilkie Collins, the famous Victorian author.  He was well-known for his fondness of food and good living. A letter written under his own hand from Portman Square, London in November 1882, acknowledging safe delivery of a supply, says ‘we will do all we can to recommend it’.  In another letter that year, Wilkie Collins asks Mrs Mills to send a very old friend ‘at your convenience – with account, half a dozen bottles of your sauce, which he likes very much’.  In placing an order for six bottles in June 1888, Wilkie Collins refers to it as ‘her excellent sauce’.

Similarly, there are orders for six and 18 bottles at a time from a purchaser, with an unreadable signature, living at Cavendish Square, London.  Certainly during the 1880s, Mrs Mills had a thriving mail order business for Lindfield Sauce, and her claim for it being regarded by ‘Epicures’ doe snot seem far-fetched.

The reference to Lindfield Sauce being used at the Coronation Banquet of George IV is more problematic.  An enquiry to the Royal Archive elicited the response that hundreds of dishes were served at the vast banquet, and it is possible Lindfield Sauce was used as an ingredient in one of the hot or cold dishes, but they do not have the recipes.  They further said, ‘sauce boats were used at the banquet but unfortunately it doe snot say what the sauces were – perhaps one of them was Lindfield Sauce’.

So was the claim that the sauce was used at the royal banquet true or just a clever piece of Victorian marketing for a sauce invested by Charles Mills after selling the Red Lion?  If it is indeed true, then Lindfield Sauce predates the similar Worcestershire sauce by many years.  It also raises the questions:  What are its origins, who was making it in 1821 and where?  Could it have been Simon Mills Senior, but he was not known to have been in Lindfield in the 1820s.  Perhaps we will never know the truth.

What we do know is that the production of Lindfield Sauce in the Village had ceased by the early 189s and Mary mills dies in March 1895.

If readers have any information that will solve this mystery please get in touch.


Published in Lindfield Life May 2017



The Next 500 Years – Lindfield from 1500

February 2, 2018

In last month’s article we looked at how Lindfield developed from its earliest days through to the time of the Reformation in the 1500s.  For eight hundred years much of the land in and around Lindfield formed the Manor of South Malling Lindfield held by the College of Canon, South Malling on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Henry VIII in seeking a divorce and the establishment of the Church of England led to the dissolution of religious houses.

In March 1545 an order for the dissolution of the College of Canons was issued and subsequently all possessions and lands were granted by the Crown to Sir Thomas Palmer of Angmering, a gentleman of the Privy Council.  After a couple of years the manorial estate was surrendered to the Crown.  Between 1574 and 1618 ownership changed six times, before being acquired by William Newton of East Mascalls in 1618.  Fifteen years later Thomas Chaloner of Kenwards bought the manor, becoming Lord of the Manor, until it was acquired in 1689 by the Pelhams, subsequently ennobled as the Earls of Chichester.  These names can be recognised today around the village.  The transfer of the manor to secular owners and the frequent changes in ownership lost the stability and stewardship long enjoyed under the Canon’s control.

Another major impact was the church tithes, paid to the Rector as his ‘living’ and for church upkeep, also passed into lay ownership.  After being acquired by William Newton the tithes descended through his family to John Nainsby.  Only £30 from the annual £600 tithes were given to the church. This led to difficulties in retaining a vicar and the church falling into disrepair.

Many of the houses lining the High Street, built in medieval times, needed replacement or at least renovation and modernisation, such as installing chimneys.  A good number ere re-fronted and it is for this reason that very few of Lindfield’s 41 timber framed houses have exposed timbers when viewed from the street.  From the late 1500s onwards for the next two centuries Lindfield saw a period of renewal and construction along the High Street, although apart from some encroachment on the Town Common, the village remained a one street community.  The 1600s and 1700s provided much of the architectural heritage prized today, for example Pierpoint House, Malling Priory, Nash House, Manor House, Everyndens, Froyles.  Lindfield House and Rosemary Cottage to name but a few.  A feature no longer existing, which stood for some three hundred years until the early 1800s in the middle of the High Street, opposite Doodie Stark, was a blacksmith forge and adjoining shop, both with a room above.  Horse-drawn traffic had to pass on either side of this ‘middle row’; it was probably longer in earlier times.

Just as ancient communication links had formed a key element in Lindfield’s earliest developments, so they would be an important factor in its later periods of growth.  Roads across Wealden Sussex were notoriously poor and the nor-south route through Lindfield was no exception until becoming a turnpike road in the 1770s operated by the Newchapel and Brightelston Turnpike Trust.  As the name indicates it went from north of East Grinstead down to Brighton and became a minor coaching route from London to Brighton, with the Bent Arms and Red Lion inns used as horse change stops.

Across the country in the 18th century canal building was at its height and following an Act of Parliament in 1790 the Ouse Navigation was established.  Modifications to the river allowed barges, 45 feet long., 14 feet wide, carrying up to 30 tons of mainly agricultural cargo and coal, to sail between Lewes, Lindfield and Balcombe.  the canal did not have a significant impact on Lindfield and its opening coincided with a period of economic depression.

The agricultural economy that had provided wealth and stability to Sussex steadily weakened during the late 1700s creating much poverty. Following the Napoleonic Wars and a succession of poor harvests, the social conditions deteriorated rapidly during the early decades of the 17800s.  By 1820 Lindfield was an extremely depressed parish, leading to it being chosen by William Allen, the Quaker philanthropist, as a suitable location for his experimental colony, off Gravely Lane, to aid impoverished agricultural labourers.  he also established an industrial school for boys and girls, on Black Hill, to educate children from poor families.  Universal free education was not available until the ‘Board’ school in Lewes Road was opened in 1881.

As the 1800s progressed the economy steadily improved and Britain was gripped by railway mania.  Neither Lindfield nor Cuckfield wanted the London to Brighton railway to pass close to their communities, so the line was routed along the parish’s western edge.  The line opened in 1841 with the station one mile from the village and initially called for the ‘Towns of Cuckfield and Lindfield’.  At that time Haywards Heath comprised little more than a couple of farmsteads and a few cottages whereas Lindfield had a population of over 1750 residents. The coming of the railway created Haywards Heath.  Some twenty years later, Lindfield was to have a station on the northern edge of the village on the planned Haywards Heath to Hailsham route.  The line was not completed but the remains of an embankment are still visible at the entrance to Lindfield, looking south by the 30mph limit sign.

Nevertheless the opening of the London to Brighton line led to a period of growth, and as Haywards Heath developed so did Lindfield.  A particular feature during the Victorian era was the building of fine villas on Black Hill and mansions around the outer edges, Summerhill, Finches, The Welkin, Old Place, Walstead Place, Beckworth, Oathall and a little later Barrington House.  Together with the existing large houses such as Paxhill, Bedales and Sunte they became major employers.  In the central section of the High Street old buildings were demolished and replaced by new shops in Victoria Terrace and Albert Terrace.

Reliance on agriculture for employment reduced as village businesses flourished, such as Lindfield Brewery, Durrant’s piano factory which employed ’25 hands’, Julius Guy’s coachwork, plus many jobs in the building trade and on the railways.   Lindfield’s commercial importance waned.

However, throughout the 1800s, Lindfield remained basically a ‘one street’ community.  It was not until the new century that new roads started to appear, such as Compton Road, Luxford Road and Eastern Road.  Following the tragic years of the Great War, the interwar years saw some growth, but it was not until after World War II that the expansion of Lindfield really took off and continues to this day.


Published in Lindfield Life January 2018