Cuckfield Parish, West Sussex :: Shared Description

The old parish of Cuckfield was a typical large one covering an area of the high Weald and was bounded by Bolney to the south west, Slaugham to the north west, Balcombe to the north, Ardingly north east, Lindfield to the east, Wivelsfield to the south east and Keymer, Clayton and Hurstpierpoint to the south. The ancient parish was reduced in size by the creation of a new civil parish in 1848 covering Staplefield in the north western portion and towards the end of the 19th century it lost a chunk to the east to the new town of Haywards Heath. The parish is spread over a number of ridges within the Weald with the village itself situated on a southern spur which separates the watersheds of the River Adur to the south and the Ouse to the north. Geologically the parish stands on what is known as the Hastings Beds which contain mainly sandstone and mudstone, the later also contained clay ironstone which contained iron ore used for the Weald furnaces of the 16th and 17th centuries. Much of the landscape is typically Wealden, small fields, plenty of woodland, steep wooded valleys and fast running streams.

A former furnace to the south of the village was powered by a tributary of the eastern branch of the River Adur which rises to the south in Ditchling then curves around the gap between Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath. The river itself only briefly crosses the parish near Wortleford Bridge to the south but many of its tributaries can be found running south particularly from the large ridge that runs from Whitemans Green to the boundary with Slaugham. To the north of this ridge is the watershed of the River Ouse which rises near Slaugham runs south of Staplefield then provides the parish boundary with Balcombe before exiting near Upper Ryelands Bridge which was the extent of the 18th century Ouse navigation though there appears to be evidence that it was continued westwards to Staplefield. The fast running tributaries of both rivers powered a number of mills and furnaces leaving the landscape littered with large ponds some still extant whilst others have drained away. A number of smaller ponds which dot the landscape would have had origins in the quarrying of stone or marl.

The main settlement of Cuckfield is located to the south east of the parish and has its origins in cleared land from around the 10th century with the first written evidence of its existence dating from 1091. The settlement grew during this period and acquired a market in 1250 believed to have been located in a large square bounded by the church to the south and Ockenden Lane to the north which was gradually filled in over the centuries resulting in the narrow road layout of today. During the medieval period a deer park existed to the south east of the church until disparked in the 16th century. The family which did this had grown wealthy from the Wealden iron industry which operated two furnaces within the parish, one to the south of Mackrell's Farm and another to the north west on the road from Slough Green to Staplefield. Both operated from the late 16th to mid 17th centuries and gave the small town a large economic boost, one result being the construction of Cuckfield Park (Originally known as Cuckfield Place). During the 18th century Cuckfield would also benefit from being a coaching stop on the new London-Brighton turnpike opened in 1770 which continued until the opening of the railway in 1841. Originally the London-Brighton line was planned to go through the centre of the town but a meeting in the 1820s resulted in favouring a new route running to the east over a common known as Haywards Heath. The new station lying midway between Cuckfield and Lindfield along with the enclosure of the common encouraged a new settlement, Haywards Heath, to grow up which would eventually eclipse that of Cuckfield. As such the town remained a small backwater and managed to maintain some of its former character and thus today serves largely as a dormitory settlement.

A number of other settlements can also be found within the parish. The most important to the north west was Staplefield which became a separate civil parish in 1848 and is built around a small village green. Two of the roads that meet on here were originally on the main London-Brighton routes, that from Slough Green to the south was part of the 1770 turnpike whilst another from Pitts Head Crossroads was part of the 1816 turnpike, both of which headed north to Handcross. the latter was replaced by a more direct route through Slaugham Park in the late 19th century and is currently the A23. South west of Cuckfield is Ansty which also owes its origins to being on a medieval droving road. It later became Ansty Cross as it sat on a crossroads and it too saw the 1770 London-Brighton turnpike travel through it. In 1825 it was joined by another turnpike which ran east-west across Sussex and later became the A272. Other smaller settlements include Whitemans Green to the north of Cuckfield village which it is now joined too after ribbon development northwards along High Street. Here the old London-Brighton turnpike headed eastwards along a ridge to Slough Green where it then turned north to Staplefield. The current B2115 follows this route to Slough Green but continues eastwards to Pitts Head Crossroads and beyond to Warninglid. The northern route is now the B2114. To the north of Whitemans Green on the road to Balcombe on the current B2035 is the settlement of Brook Street. Another settlement called West Street was marked on early OS maps up to the end of the 19th century after which it disappeared and could be found on the western edge of the parish adjacent to Bolney and straddling Broxmead and Pickwell Lanes. Elsewhere much of the parish contains typically isolated Wealden farms dotted around the landscape.

A number of roads run through the parish. On the western side the A23 briefly heads though at Pitts Head Crossroads where it meets the B2115. The former opened in 1816 whilst the latter is a much older droveway following the peak of a ridge. The A272 westwards from Ansty to Bolney was opened in 1825 though its easterly route from Cuckfield to Haywards Heath is much older. This busy road regularly caused traffic problems within the town and thus a bypass was opened in 1988 to the south. The 1770 London-Brighton turnpike headed north from Burgess Hill through Ansty to Cuckfield then went north Whitemans Green before following the ridge westwards to Slough Green then headed north to Staplefield then Handcross. South of Ansty another turnpike was built to join the 1816 route via Goddards Green and Hurstpierpoint. The old route still proved profitable until the opening of the railway in 1841 with the last commercial coach stopping at the town in 1845. Of the minor roads, Pickwell Lane, Broxmead Lane and Deak's Lane are all ancient north-south droveways linking the wooded Wealden pastures to the old estates at the foot of the South Downs. The old road to Lindfield ran via Hatchgate Lane with much of now underneath the suburbs of Haywards Heath.

The town acquired a school in the 16th century and remained in use until 1991 when the then occupiers, a primary school, moved to a new site. A secondary school opened in 1957 to the east of the town and has regularly been the best performing state school in the county. The church dates from the 14th century though it is believed to have been built on the foundations of an older building.
by Simon Carey
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TQ2922 : Old Furze Field/Barn Field by Simon Carey
TQ3027 : House Croft by Simon Carey
TQ3024 : High Street, Cuckfield by Simon Carey
TQ3127 : Bay Field/Ten Acres by Simon Carey
TQ2921 : Site of Upper Wood by Simon Carey
TQ3027 : Pond Field/Dencher Field/Orchard Field by Simon Carey
TQ2724 : Upper Paternoster Field by Simon Carey
TQ2924 : Former Mill Pond by Simon Carey
TQ3224 : The Park by Simon Carey
TQ2922 : West Field by Simon Carey
TQ3123 : Dutch Barn Field by Simon Carey
TQ3124 : Pond, Blunts Wood and Paiges Meadow Local Nature Reserve by Simon Carey
TQ2822 : Upper Lug by Simon Carey
TQ2823 : Five Acres by Simon Carey
TQ3028 : Four Acres (2) by Simon Carey
TQ2724 : Wood Field by Simon Carey
TQ2923 : Edsaws Croft by Simon Carey
TQ3127 : Further Barn Field by Simon Carey
TQ3023 : Barn Field by Simon Carey
TQ2827 : Garden Cottage by Simon Carey
TQ2927 : Pond, Little Tolls Shaw by Simon Carey
TQ2927 : Ten Acres by Simon Carey
TQ2829 : Juppshill Shaw by Simon Carey
TQ3023 : Barn Field by Simon Carey
TQ2723 : Cut Hedges, Pickwell Lane by Simon Carey

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Created: Sat, 1 Nov 2014, Updated: Sat, 1 Nov 2014

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