The squire who went to gaol

Rouser 2013
Rouser 2013

Lower Dicker, with Sussex perversity, lies a mile or so to the north of Upper Dicker. Both villages have had a lively past.

In June, 1677, the treasurer of the Earl of Sussex recorded a successful sporting bet by his master and inadvertently put Dicker into the record books. The wager dutifully put down on paper was:

‘Paid to my lord when his lordship went to the creckitt match at ye Dicker 03.00.0’ (the princely sum, in those days, of £3).

No details of this match of long ago survive, but it proved that cricket flourished in the village and is one of the earliest recorded encounters in the history of the game. It has been played in Dicker ever since and the 300th anniversary was celebrated in suitable style when the local lads entertained teams from the MCC and Sussex County Cricket Club.

President of Dicker Cricket Club in the early years of the 20th century was Horatio Bottomley, one of the most colourful characters of his era. He was an MP, financial wizard, brilliant orator, womaniser and mammoth swindler.

And he livened-up country life with lavish parties, knew everyone by name and made patriotic speeches at the village school.

He was an orphan who made a fortune through newspapers and publishing, and built himself a mansion at Upper Dicker where he had the only telephone in the parish but allowed everyone to use it.

Fraudulent Australian gold boom companies, rigged competitions and lotteries were his undoing and in 1922 he appeared at the Old Bailey on 24 fraud counts and was jailed for seven years. He came out of prison a broken man and died, bankrupt, in 1933. The Dicker, the mansion home of his heyday and declining years, is now a school.

Upper or Lower, how did the Dickers get their name? It has been suggested it comes from the 10-rod ‘dickers’ of iron paid in lieu of tax or rent by some ironworks.

Pictured, Bottomley welcomed home after imprisonment.