As a packed hall at Buxted heard last week, 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 10 seconds.
This and other surprising tales of Buxted life captivated the audience in Buxted Reading Rooms as parish councillor and landscape archaeologist Vivienne Blandford took listeners back to early village roots before tracing history through to the 20th century in an evening designed to raise funds towards a new village hall.
A manor in Buxted was first mentioned in 1279, when someone was caught poaching in the grounds, suggesting it was already a sizeable deer park.
Over centuries, Buxted Place, as it was known, moved from the marshy bottom of the park to its current commanding position on the top of the hill. The tale that the village was sited at Buxted Park until owner Lord Liverpool decided he’d had enough of his peasant neighbours and moved them on, was laid to rest.
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 farms and rural industry from Coopers Green to Pound Green. The advent of the railway sealed the position of the village, and new houses and businesses prospered in its wake.
Vivienne 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 little had changed of the original houses other than their neighbours and the number of cars parked outside.
The next fundraiser is a three-course charity dinner (£25) on March 18 at The Buxted Inn with entertainment by conjurer Bertie Pearce.