MEMORIES OF MY VILLAGE
Presented to Horsted Keynes Women’s Institute
by the compiler
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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?”
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!
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
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!
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’.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
JEAN DUNNE ATHY CO KILDARE IRELAND