Uckfield’s history may not immediately be evident but the town was granted a market charter in the 1200s and large elements of the medieval community, while hidden, are still contained in the High Street.
So says Mick Harter, president of the Uckfield and District Preservation Society who in this feature takes to task Uckfield News independent columnist Observer who expressed the opinion on Saturday that Uckfield ‘being a relatively modern town, doesn’t have a huge amount of history’.
“Oh dear, Observer, you really have gone out on a limb in expressing an opinion that Uckfield ‘being relatively modern town, doesn’t have a huge amount of history’
“Now I’m not sure how you are defining ‘modern’ or ‘not a huge amount of history’ so that may be the problem. Certainly Uckfield isn’t mentioned in the Doomsday Book although it was granted a market charter in the 1200s so perhaps it is modern?
“And Pilgrims did come through here on their pilgrimages to Canterbury, progressing up Pudding Cake Lane (according to legend) past the Holy Cross church that was indeed modernised in the 1840s but whose church registers go back to 1538.
“The fact that Uckfield was important enough to have a church when the population of the whole of England and Wales in the 1530s was around three million, is quite a statement.
“Although not immediately evident, buildings along both Church Street and the top end of the High Street still do contain large elements of that medieval community albeit hidden by later modernisations.
“Yes, it is true that the population of the town probably remained fairly constant all the way up to the 1800s. As the 1811 census shows, the population was by then 916.
“The coming of the Railway in 1858 marked the great change for the town with shops spilling down the High Street, engulfing the few large properties that stood in their way whilst residential units sprang up to line London Road and New Town with grand properties that are still there today.
“So Yes, Observer, much of our visible built history is from the last 150 years but it certainly isn’t to be dismissed as it does present a picture of the past with tangible supporting ephemera of the people who lived and worked in the town.
“And it’s great that others are now starting to value our past. The Uckfield and District Preservation Society has been doing just that since 1968 when saving old things certainly wasn’t fashionable.”Without the thousands of volunteer hours their various members have given in the past we wouldn’t have Bridge Cottage, a building for 1436; a Conservation area from Hooke Hall to Grange Road, Nutley Windmill or the numerous publications recording the history of the town and local area.
“Even now we have presented a paper to Uckfield Town Council’s Environment and Leisure Committee meeting on November 9, proposing a plan for the relocation of the Cardale memorial back into the High Street. A piece of Uckfield history brought back into the heart of the community!
“One of the great benefits of the Bridge Cottage restoration Project is that there will be, what we call a Heritage Hub; a place where all the papers, ephemera and stuff we have accumulated on local people, events and places will be available, under controlled conditions for the community to find out more about itself.
“One of our early aims is to mount an exhibition about the hundreds of Uckfield men who went off to World War 1, to pull together all the information we already have about these individuals and their families.
“Not just a roll call of names but a window onto their world during those brutal days of the early 20th century. Hopefully Private Corden will feature in that event along with his compatriots.”
• Thanks to Mick Harker for sending us this information and the pictures from the past.
• More about Uckfield’s history on UckfieldNews.com
• There’s also an assessment of Uckfield’s history in a report produced as part of The Sussex Extensive Urban Survey undertaken between 2004 and 2009 by an independent consultant.