Friday, 5 October 2012

Cuckfield, Sussex

Holy Trinity is fascinating; I had it pegged as a Victorian rebuild but apparently it's C15th, no doubt with later restoration. The vernacular  architecture in Sussex makes me see Victoriana in every church I visit down there - perhaps the Gothic cult emanated from there?

The exterior not so much but a fascinating graveyard and a great interior.

Ninian Burrell 1614 (3)

Guy Carleton 1628 (1.1)


Cuckfield. It stands 400 feet high on the Forest Ridge, and has a park that lives in Harrison Ainsworth’s books. It has a fine 17th-century gateway at the end of an avenue of limes, a charming peep from the road. The house was the home of the Sergisons, one of whom, we read, was an honest man and an M.P. 200 years ago, and now lies in the church beneath a monument by Flaxman showing his portrait and the figure of Truth as a woman with a mirror.

The 17th-century house near the church, Ockenden, was the home of Timothy Burrell, who kept a diary of much curious information from 1683 to 1714. One of his ancestors was vicar here, and another went with Henry the Fifth to France with one ship, 20 men-at-arms, and 40 archers.

The church, in which are monuments by Flaxman and Westacott, is 15th century with a fine 13th  century tower crowned by a tall spire seen in many Sussex pictures. The columns on the south of the nave are from the 13th century church. The roof of the nave and chancel is very unusual, with 80 elaborately painted panels and painted beams supported by angels. The roof is 500 years old and has carved bosses with the badges of the Nevills.

In the church there are two brasses for one man, Henry Bower, who died in the year of the Armada (1588), and in both brasses he wears armour. In one his wife is kneeling with their five children.
The font has been here about 600 years. The chancel has some ancient woodwork, and there is a neatly carved modern pulpit.

On the wall of the tower is still hanging a printed card headed WATERLO0, which reads something like this:

A collection will be made in the church on Sunday 30th July after morning service for the benefit of the families of the brave men killed and the wounded sufferers of the British Army under the command of the Duke of Wellington in the signal victory of Waterloo, when the very smallest contribution will be acceptable.

From the churchyard is a magnificent view of the Downs with two famous windmills centred on the skyline, Jack and Jill of Clayton. A monument nine feet high commemorates Henry Kingsley, Charles Kingsley’s younger brother who was also a novelist best known for his book Ravenshoe about the Crimean campaign.

About the year 1490 Andrew Boorde was born in the pleasant country round the village of Cuckļ¬eld. He was a very intelligent lad, was brought up at Oxford, and persuaded the Carthusian monks to admit him into their order before he had reached the regulation age. In 1521 he was invited to become Suffragan Bishop of Chichester but he declined, and seven years later, after 20 years under the hard rule of the monks, he secured his freedom from his vows.

Andrew then spent two years travelling from university to university in Europe learning all he could about medicine. He came back to cure the Duke of Norfolk, who introduced him to Henry the Eighth.
After another journey abroad he returned home to find his royal master in full fury against his old Order. He followed his prior’s example, refused to bow to the King’s will, and was sent to the Tower with him; but a few days later he submitted, and looked to Thomas Cromwell as his patron. Cromwell made use of him, sending him abroad to test the opinion of Europe on his king’s actions. He wrote home that only the French King favoured him. On this journey he sent from Spain the first seeds of rhubarb to come here, with directions for their cultivation. But not for another 200 years was rhubarb grown in this country.

In I538 Andrew Boorde set out for the Holy Sepulchre, and on his way back settled at Montpelier to devote himself to the work by which he lives. There he wrote books on Health, but, most remarkable of all, he wrote the first printed guidebook to Europe. He called it the First Book of the Introduction of Knowledge, and in verse and prose tried to teach the languages, customs, and coinages of 39 countries. The first printed example of gipsy language is in this book. Shakespeare knew of it, and the lines in King John which end:

Nought shall make us rue
If England to itself do rest but true

echo Boorde’s description of Englishmen as bold, strong and mighty, who if they were true within themselves need not to fear although all nations were set against them.

The rest of his life was spent in Winchester and London practising medicine and writing. He wrote a book on astronomy and another travel book, this time on England. But these books did not suffice as outlets for his sparkling vivacity, and so this merry Andrew compiled those Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham which have delighted young and old to this day.

For some sad and forgotten offence Merry Andrew was put in the Fleet Prison, where he died in 1549.

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