Never mind flash cars speeding through the village at break-neck speed, a hundred years ago Buxted was already dealing with speed devils, just in an unmotorised form.
As a packed hall at Buxted heard, one dare-devil local higgler – or chicken stuffer- was fined in the early 1900s for travelling 200 yards on his bicycle in an eye-popping ten seconds, writes Cathy Hemming.
This, and other surprising tales of Buxted life, captivated the audience in Buxted Reading Rooms as parish councillor and landscape archaeologist, Vivienne Blandford, took her listeners back to the earliest roots of the village, before tracing its history all the way through to the 20th century, in an evening designed to raise funds towards a new hall for the village.
The crowd heard that the first mention of a manor at Buxted appeared in 1279, with a record of someone caught poaching in the grounds, suggesting it was already a sizeable deer park.
Over the centuries the house of Buxted Place, as it was then known, moved position, from the marshy bottom of the park at the end of an impressive lime tree avenue – rather less impressive since the storm of 1987 – to the commanding position on the top of the hill that it holds to this day.
The oft-told tale that the village itself was sited at Buxted Park until Lord Liverpool, the then owner of Buxted Park, decided he’d had enough of his peasant neighbours and moved them on, was swiftly laid to rest.
Even at its peak, the Buxted Park settlement boasted no more than six houses, while the main road that would become the A272 was already dotted with farm houses and rural industry from Coopers Green all the way through to Pound Green in the east.
The advent of the railway sealed the position of the village, and new houses and businesses prospered in its wake.
Vivienne Blandford fascinated her audience with slides of ancient maps and a range of photographs – from the 1911 Ladies’ Stoolball Team to the Buxted Brass Band.
Locals particularly enjoyed photographs of houses in the village, coupling early black and white images – complete with children playing in a car-free High Street, with modern photographs showing that little had changed of the original houses other than their neighbours and the number of cars parked outside.
The event was held to raise much needed funds for the proposed new village hall at Buxted. Village Hall trustee Sheila Bartholomew introduced the event and reminded the audience that nothing would be accomplished without their support and generosity.
“If anyone has any ideas for raising more money, any sources of funding, or any capacity to help in anyway, we’d love to hear from you,” she said.
If the money can be found, the new hall will be constructed to offer multi-purpose, welcoming rooms to enable a wide variety of activities. There will be a large hall with an adjacent smaller hall connected to facilitate the combined use of the two for activities such as theatrical productions.
There will be a lobby area that could be used as a community café and meeting point. The hall will overlook the nearby children’s dedicated play area and provide a natural route through to the recreation ground to maximize the use of the available outdoor space in the heart of the village.
The next fundraising event is a charity dinner at The Buxted Inn on 18 March, costing £25 for three courses plus coffee, with entertainment from renowned conjuror Bertie Pearce.
There is also a musical treat on the horizon, with the Tunbridge Wells Orpheus Male Voice Choir performing at St Margaret’s Church on 13 June. For further information visit www.buxtedvillagehall.co.uk