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My name is John Garrett, I was born in Horsted Keynes in 1945,at the time my parents & elder sister lived at "Leamlands" which was then was a small cottage. Our father Ernest Garrett worked on the Broadhurst Manor estate at the time, soon after the end of the war we moved to Hampshire. Several years ago my sister Jo entered a writing competition in which she took 2nd place. The subject was, Childhood Memories of Horsted Keynes
(We reproduce it below...)


These are recollections of a Sussex Village many years ago. From the forge to the long, low finger of the Village Hall pointing the way out at the far end, the road cleaved the Green in a gentle arc. A border of cottages with neat hedges and gardens presented a pleasant, tranquil and harmonious scene.

Within this half-mile were to be found all the amenities a small community could need. There were a Post Office-cum-general store, grocer’s, butcher’s, draper’s, shoe-mender’s and the little sweet shop, with the tinkling bell, where Miss Lucas patiently awaited the prolonged deliberations of the children on how to get the very best value for their precious pennies.

The two most imposing dwellings within the village itself were the rectory next to the ancient grey-stoned church and the three storeyed doctor’s house where one room was used as a surgery. Two pubs enticed their customers into their cosy interiors, “The Green Man” turning his faggot-laden back on the more superior “Crown”. Popular games played were darts, dominoes and shove-ha’penny.

The Village Hall was also a gathering place. Dances disturbed the dust in the ancient floorboards and film shows, gardening competitions, Womens’s Institute and the occasional amateur dramatic production took place there. On high days and holidays, however, the Green itself came into its own. The children, dressed in their best, the girls with garlanded hair, would dance around the maypole to the music of the gramophone, weaving intricate patterns with the gaily-coloured maypole ribbons.

Probably another Silver Jubilee photo from 1935. The village boxing club members show off their physiques to the girls.

The men displayed their strength and fitness in tug-of-war contests, athletics and the noble art of self-defence, (though many a bloodied nose belied their exponents’ skill!) After all these exertions the refreshments provided by the village ladies were gratefully consumed.

A large lake just outside the village attracted people to its banks in summer for picnics and bathing and no one seemed to mind the mud squelching between their toes and clinging to their costumes. Games of pirates were played on rafts fashioned from planks of wood tied to empty oil barrels. There were risks in these activities but that was all part of the fun and lessons were learned from these experiences. In winter the lake froze solidly enough for skating creating a scene reminiscent of a Breughel painting.

Most of the men of the village were employed by the local landowner as farmers, labourers, carpenters and gamekeepers. The fertile land produced crops of all kinds but particularly fruit orchards of apples, plums, gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and fields of strawberries.

In summer the women supplemented the family income by harvesting the fruit crop. With baskets strapped to their waists they worked their way up and down the rows gossiping and joking with their neighbours while babies slept in their prams and toddlers played among the bushes. It was hard work and hungry work and no banquet tasted better than their sandwiches eaten with fruit-stained fingers while sitting on the warm, brown earth. Hundreds of pheasants were reared each year to provide sport for the wealthy in winter and the young lads earned pocket money by beating the trees and undergrowth to put the birds in flight for the guns to shoot.

On Boxing Day a great attraction was the hunt meeting on the Green, the huntsmen in their scarlet coats making a colourful sight. Many followed the hounds on horseback and others followed on foot.

The village school, beside the church, consisted of two large rooms, each heated by a round-topped iron stove fuelled by coke. The windows were so high that no outside distractions disturbed the lessons. All the desks faced the teacher and the blackboard and discipline was strictly observed. Wholesome meals were served in the separate canteen to be eagerly devoured by the pupils, many of whom may have walked a mile or more to school. Seasonal games were played in their turn in the playground, skipping, marbles and conkers among them.

One day the most amazing thing happened. The children were told that an important lady was coming to visit them. They lined the narrow church path to welcome her and great was the excitement when Queen Elizabeth, who later became the Queen Mother, arrived. She took great interest in the school and inspected the canteen while the children ate their meal.

Older children had to attend the senior school in the nearest town some six miles away and on cold mornings, while waiting for the bus, the wide open doors of the forge tempted them inside. Here they gladly tolerated the coke fumes and noxious smell of burning horses hooves for the warmth of the fire and the thrill of pumping the huge bellows to produce an inferno hot enough to soften the stoutest piece of iron. They watched fascinated, as the blacksmith fashioned the horseshoes from the red-hot metal to the accompaniment of the ring of hammer on anvil.

Every Christmas a party for the Estate children was held in the manor house. An invitation was sent to ach one and as the big day drew nearer, anxiety rose in case yours had been forgotten and great was the relief when it arrived. A uniformed chauffeur collected each child in a limousine and that, in itself, was a treat as few people had cars in those days.

On arrival at the manor the children, dressed in their best clothes, were ushered into the great hall. There a wondrous site met their eyes. A huge Christmas tree, almost reaching to the ceiling, decorated and hung with gifts and long tables laden with sumptuous food: sandwiches, pastries, cakes and jellies. As darkness fell word went round that Father Christmas was coming and the children crowded to the high windows to watch the lights of his sleigh making its way down the long drive bringing a present for everyone.

Memories of such an enchanted day remained with them as they were driven home and for a long time afterwards.

A picture of the author's father in his Home Guard uniform, probably taken at Leamlands, Horsted Keynes.


There seems to be some continuing confusion about the antecedence of the following article. We have the original document signed by Marion Coon and written in the first person. Therefore we felt that it was reasonable to believe that Marion was writing about HER memories. It now seems that she may well have been writing about OTHER people, but delivered as if it were her memories - perhaps a lesson for future chroniclers! Whatever the facts this IS a very interesting document which deserves a wider readership. We have already had responses and comments from all over the world from California to Africa.   *Please see further note at the end.

Courtesy of Horsted Keynes Women's Institute we feature an account compiled by Marion Coon over 50 years ago in 1956 giving memories of villagers life more than 130 years ago. From the bonfire on the Downs to celebrate the Relief of Mafeking to going to work when 10 years old, this is fascinating history. This article has been scanned by us from the original notes, leaving the same spelling and punctuation as far as possible.

Horsted keynes forge.


 Presented to Horsted Keynes Women’s Institute
by the compiler
Marion Coon.

September 1956.

Horsted Keynes, The Crown Inn before its several fires c. 1908.

If you ask me, I think it’s our village green and our Church that’s provided the strongest link between the folks of Horsted Keynes since we were kids. Wet Coronation Day we may have bad, but when I was a girl the Green brought folk together for fun which may seem simple to the youngsters of to-day, with their ‘Telly’ and their dance-halls, but it makes some of us old ‘uns a bit homesick for such things, The torchlight procession through the village after the relief of Mafeking and the excitement after Lady smith. The huge bonfire on the downs for the Diamond Jubilee of old Queen Victoria, and the memorial service on the Grand Old Lady’s death when “sinking all differences” we all trooped down to the Church.

On the last Monday in May there was always a Fair on our Village Green, organised by the Se1f-Help Club, and it was a general holiday. In the morning at 10 the Brass Band (with my father in it) marched from the Green to Church for a service then back to the Crown Inn for lunch, after that the fun on the Roundabouts and swings went on until midnight. The gypsies used to congregate in Bonfire Lane during the previous week, under the eagle eye of Mr. Turner, our village policeman; he was always a thorn in the side of all gypsies in the district and a great character. Yes, and the Rector held a special service for the gypsies on the village green.

‘Course we had a bonfire there on Guy Fawke’s Night. Our stoolball team always did well against the villages around, and cricket was played at the other end of the Green.

Our 2 public houses still face each other across the Green and when the gentry went to Church down the steep 1ane their horses and carriages dropped them at the Church and mounted the hill to wait for them at ‘The Crown’, in the old days. I was pretty small when I was taken onto the verandah at the ‘Crown’ to watch the fireworks on the Downs to celebrate the end of the Boer War. There were some stocks and a ‘manor pound’ or ‘sheep pound’ near the ‘Green Man’ and at home we’ve still got our steel quoits which we used on the Quoit Rink nearby.

In contrast to all this excitement, I can look at that same Green of an early dewy morning and almost hear the padding of the sheep’s feet as the flocks were walked through the village, week after week, up to the Lewes Downs. Or I can hear the beagles barking, up at the kennels at Cinder Hill.

Some the families here are Huguenot descent, and good lookers too, while at Danehill the people were Saxon or ‘Forest’ folk. Between Horsted and Danehill lies a valley and  when I was a girl it used to be said, that that valley divided more than the 2 villages - our rivalries too.

Old Joe from the Woods, with a very respected surname in Horsted, refused to acknowledge any blood relationship with a man of the same name in Danehill, although he had to admit they “happened to share the same Grandfather”.

A1though the shops have switched around a bit - the Post Office is where the butcher was and vice-versa - yet the number of shops in our village is less than it was 60 years ago. In the ‘Church Monthly’ 1904 our two General Stores advertised ‘Finest bacon at 9d. per lb., butter at 1/- and gorgonzola cheese at 8d.. Men’s Nailed Boots at 4/11 and Women ‘s shoes at 3/3 per pair’. At the Toy and Fancy Repository at the top the Green we bought our favourite sweets - sherbert bags and Spanish 1icorice strips, 16 anise balls for ld., large peardrops or black peppermints, and I remember the tempting wooden dolls or stuffed ones in the window.

If we didn‘t fatten our own pig we could buy a 40-stoner for 70/-, and in our kitchen we’d cure our own bacon and sa1t enough pork for a 12-months’ supply. From the pig‘s head we made Flead Cake, and we put down large crocks of 1ard. For supper mum would cut out a slice of Rice Pie or give us some ‘Country Dick’, ‘which was a very hard cheese made at home and toasted. Of course we baked our own bread, in an outside brick oven which was heated with faggots and share with about 3 neighbouring cottages. From the crocks of cherries plums we’d make tarts and pies ‘till they were all gone, and we never saw bought jam, though now we have a jam factory on our doorstep.

‘Course, as you well know, Ma’ am, our kitchens were used to make more than just food. We were great ones for our elderberry wine, cherry brandy and blackcurrant wine, made in 9-gallon casks. We brewed our own beer too, although there’s cows and sheep now in Hop Garden Field. Old Nobby, in Sugar Lane, was building up a very nice industry until the excise people came poking their noses in, then he lost interest and stopped making: he’d buy cases of oranges and loads of plums and rhubarb, and he had about 3,000 gallons of very potent wine at one time, for which there was great demand. [webmaster: Brewed in the very brewhouse that we now use to edit the village web site!]

Though it was a tidy walk to our station, and still is, we used to go off to East Grinstead by train to shop at about 6 o‘clock of a Saturday evening; pay-day was Friday for the Farm-workers Saturday for others. No refrigerators in those days so on Saturday night the butchers would sell their joints cheap and often we’d buy it by Dutch auction and come away with a real bargain. Dutch auctions were also held by the Cheapjacks in the Assembly Room by the Green from time to time, and here Mum bought her ornamental china.

Funny how our village smithy still stands at the corner of the Green; trade was very brisk when we were children, not only for horseshoes but wheels as well. The blacksmith’s daughter taught us at school for a while. The British Legion Hall was built on the site of our old wheelwright’s shop, but his old brick oven and his cottage are there still.

We all walked to school, bringing our dinner and our books and slates in our satchels. When the Rector came across to the School, three or four times a week, we would all rise and salute him, as we had been carefully instructed to do - all, that is, except a few who had cantankerous fathers who’d told them not to. When Nell on the Green was there they used to pay 2d. a week at school: needlework was the most important lesson, though they learnt a bit of spelling, and sums too. Mr. Clarke was assisted by his wife our much-loved ‘Governess’, and their daughter.

There were 3 Sunday-Schoo1 services in different parts of the village every Sunday, because there were so many children and the district was so scattered. The family box pews in Church really did contain families come to worship. Father wearing his tan leather legging with straps and ‘round frock’ or smock, and a high hat. Mother’s style was a Paisley shawl and curtain bonnet, while we girls wore lace- up or buttoned boots with black stockings, 2 or 3 starched petticoats and, a white Holland pinafore. My brothers had knicker-bockers or Yorks! (below the knee) and always a cap or a straw bat.

The Misses Rodwell, who ran the Bible Class, took a great interest in the young men and persuaded most of them to join the Temperance Class, known as the Blue Ribbon Army. But, pity it was, they couldn’t quite convert them all, so they formed a Moderate Drinkers’ Class which seemed to be successful for a while, encouraged by Temperance speakers.

School Outings and Sunday School Treats were red-letter days. We paid so much a week to our Governess and gave concerts to help pay for the Treat to the Tower London. Once every two years Mrs. Benson, widow of the Archbishop, had the Treat at Treemans when swings were put up in the trees and, after tea jam and bread, and games, we’d come wearily home by waggonette. Sometimes the Rev. Smythe had, a Maypole in the Rectory Garden for Treats and Fetes. Once, about 1890 it was, a party of us villagers were taken to see the sights of London and one of them strayed and thought himself lost: the leader watched him go up to a policeman and ask “Seen any of our Horsted blokes about? Will Taylor the thatcher, or old Joe Martin the rat-catcher?”

You’d see in our Parish records about the Choir outing in 1901 – the men and boys, accompanied by the Organ Blower as well as the Rector, went to Portsmouth. They used Dad’s horse and van to catch the early train from Haywards Heath and Returned at after midnight “enlivened by the songs and humour of our basso profundo and much laughter.”

St. Giles Church is about half a mile from the Green and Church Lane was lit by oil lamps for the benefit, and encouragement of evening churchgoers, when I was a girl, and the remains of the iron brackets for the lamps can still be seen in the tree trunk at the cross-roads. Alterations to the church recall landmarks in our memories and Tom the Carter remembers seeing a 1ead coffin under the floor when the old Gallery was pulled down, and a memorial window unveiled to Miss Lucy Rodwell, and a new Organ installed - that was in 1904. That year, too, they built the Parish Room: this took the place the old Reading Room, where we’d go to see the daily paper, with the Assembly Room above.

Our Women’s Institute was one the first to be formed in Mid-Sussex by the late Mrs. Clowes; Nell, who had her Diamond Wedding the other day, was or of our first members. The Talk at our second meeting, in the Assembly Hall, was on Bees and was given by Mrs. Aitkens. That’s when the Bee Club started. Mrs. Corbett-Ashby, President a while back, is daughter of old Mrs. Corbett who was our Liberal M.P. and one time Chairman of the Parish Council

I’d say walking kept us pretty healthy 60 years ago, but if a doctor was needed someone had to walk to Chelwood Gate, from where the doctor came on horseback, or to Lindfield where the doctor had a pony and trap. Neil once told me she remembers a woman living at Bowling Alley Cottage who, although she had 11 children of her own, used always to assist at village confinements. We had our first Village Nurse in 1901 and, in the same year the Rector ‘s wife announced in our ‘Church Monthly’ that she now had “2 Parish Bags ready and the prospective mother must undertake to return them, washed, to the rectory when the month was up.” As to dentists if you wanted any teeth out you walked to Hayward’s Heath and walked back. Of course we were very proud to have living nearby the lady who began the District Nursing Movement in England: when she retired from her labours she looked after our Nursing Association.

Our Vestry Meetings seemed to have more authority than the Parish Councils have got now. Grandfather was an Overseer or Woodreeve for 40 years at 16/- a week and he and the Rate Collector and the Surveyor used to report at the Vestry Meeting.

Farming? Well, round about it was all farms. Workers on a good many of the farms, single men and boys, that is, lived in the farmhouse for 6-monthly periods. A Carter’s wages for the 6 months was £6.10 or £7., and, the boys got £3.10 or £4. Their main diet was fat pork and bacon and a pint of cider for breakfast with bread, and milk. On Sunday they had beef pudding with plenty of apple puddings and pies. The only time they had a big joint was Christmas, when a round of beef of about 40 lbs. was boiled in a huge pot. During that 6 months they could have a draw on their wages and the remainder at the end of the time, which was March 25th. That was called ‘Pack Bag day’ and, while the old ones stayed on, some left, they’d ask each other – “Gwin to pork again, Will, for the next 6 months?”

Some of the lads went as tradesmen’s apprentices or as woodsmen - gamekeepers used to have an organised patrol round the roads day and night to keep their game in bounds. Old Lewis‘s father was a claydigger up at Station Field, digging clay for bricks at 15/- a week. After they‘d finished work, they’d wash in the ponds left from the digging and probably cycle off to Brighton to watch the football, and the roads were pretty rough for cycling then – Clayton Hill was a shocker! The clay is still dug from that field and used for making Up at Hazelwood the head gardener of four earned 26/- a week, but his tobacco - shag that was - only cost 4½ an ounce!

The big house near us kept a staff of 9 and when I went into service at 10½ there I worked all day for 1/6 a week. When she was 14 our Amy worked under the vi1lage dressmaker at Strouds for 4/6 a week, making ‘round frocks’ or smocks, each embroidered according to its particular trade.

 The men mostly worked in Cords & ‘slops’, which was a loose jacket-cum-smock with a leather be1t around. Nell was 1 of 13 in her family and her father taught them respect and contentment and obedience, not by actually using his leather be1t but simply by starting to undo the buckle, when the effect on the wayward spirits round the table was narve1lous!

Ta1king of clothes, I well remember the lady at Valley Holme who, during the First War, drove a high gig to market at Haywards Heath wearing large flowery hats, a lamb’s skin draped flatly about her shoulders and grasping the reins with white kid-gloved hands. She said this was to show she was only farming ‘while the men are away’.

We often talk about old Captain Wyatt: when be was invited out to lunch he‘d always wear his white topee and carry a lantern; he had so many stories to tell they always took him until darkness fell. They say his topee‘s going into our next jumble sale!

Old Tom, the Carter - and he’s a good one for remembering things, is Tom - he says that at weddings rice was very generously thrown - “And that weren’t the only thing thrown, for the bridegroom would scatter handfuls of coppers and even sixpences to us waiting children as he came away from Church, and the crush was awful.”

Then at Eastertide some ladies living at Sharpthorne gave every family in the village either one loaf of bread or two, and us children would be sent to the Assembly Room to fetch it.

There was one chap in the village used to walk to London to see his sweetheart. He walked all Saturday night and spent a few hours on Sunday with his young lady and then walked back and started work on Monday morning at 7 as usual.

Alf the Poacher? My, how he‘d frighten us children, with his black beard and his long arms like a gorilla’s! But, though be ‘did’ 7 years once, there was a lot of good in him and many a time he‘d rob from one to give to another in need. Dad used to say when Alf went for his drink to The ‘Crown’ he‘d take a raw egg from his pocket and break it into his pot and swallow the lot.

Horsted Keynes always seems to have had connections with Archbishops and the last was Archbishop Davidson who used to come and stay at Ludwell: I remember receiving Holy Communion from his hands. Ludwell Spring, by the way, was one of the three springs in our village, and it never went dry.

0ur Station never fails to impress people and in 1900 a prospective resident came to look at Treemans but got no farther than alighting from the train before saying that a place with 3 big platforms wasn‘t her idea of the country, and hopped back into the train again. Later that same family did come and what a mound of luggage! There were 3 parrot-stands which always stood in the hall.

Storm, fire and flood have taken their toll over the years and our railwaymen had some hard winters when they worked day and night to move, with special poles, the fantastic ice formations in the tunnel with icicles 8’ long: one time a train of 49 trucks was filled with ice moved by the gangers. And there was a dreadful freeze-up in 1902, when the ice on Broadhurst lake was ‘bearable’ until April 1st, and what a crowd there was at the cricket match on the ice between Horsted and Cuckfield. During a rainstorm in 1888 they say tons of hay was washed down to the road from Nobles Farm and blocked the bridge. Couple of years later Warren House Farm was completely burnt out and the flames could be seen from Brighton, 20 miles away.

 Well, I have rambled on, and no mistake, but now I must be going, Ma’am, ‘cos there’s my bus for the Heath – a bit different from when we girls used to cycle along a rutty old lane that only went as far a Lindfield, with the nut trees meeting overhead ….. But there I go again. ‘Bye for now, Ma’am.

Marion Coon
Leighton Cottage,
Horsted Keynes.

 1956. This presentation ©2005

I was reading Memories of my Village on your website and was really surprised at the person's name attached to this item. I remember my grandmother being asked by a member of the W.I to recall her memories of village life.I have the notes she made this is word for word the same except for when the person mentions Grandfather was an overseer, in my grandmothers draft it reads Grandfather Murrell was an overseer. My grandmother was IVY OAKES my great grandmother was GERTRUDE MURRELL nee HIGGINS married to FREDRICK MURRELL they lived in BLACKSMITH COTTAGES. I spent my school holiday's in Horsted Keynes watching the blacksmith at work, going down to the lake to paddle, visiting my aunt Dorothy [my grandmothers sister] who lived in Rixon's Close, entertaining us on her piano and singing, she also sang in the church choir. I remember playing with Jill Deacon who also lived in the cottage's. There was a Cockatoo in a cage on the wall outside who always used to say 'morning Mrs Murrell' whenever she appeared. Gertrude Murrell passed away in1952 age 82 and Fredrick in1954 age 88 he worked up until two weeks before he died. I hope my grandmother IVY MADELE INE OAKES can take the credit for her memories as she was very proud to have written them. These are a few of my memories round about 1950 onwards


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