Introduction to Uckfield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The town was originally called Uccafield.[2] Uccafield derives from the Celtic word for ‘High’ or ‘Height’ – Uchafedd, this in turn coming from the Indo European ‘Uchch’ya’. When the Anglo Saxons heard this word they changed the ‘fedd’ part to something they understood – ‘Feld’ from which ‘field’ derives. The original river Uck name was most likely related to the ancient Celtic word for ‘water’ or ‘stream’ – Uisge, derivations uske, usci, that give river names still existing such as the Usk. When the Celts came along the sound of the river name was so close to the sound of Ucha that the name became Uch or Ucca over time and eventually Uck. So Uckfield really means something like ‘high place’ – Uchafedd – and the river derived its modern name from this Celtic word. There are, however, other theories as to how the name came about. One theory suggests that it came from “Oak in Field”, something which is reflected in several town crests. Another theory is that it used to be the free land of a Saxon man called Ucca.


A comprehensive historical timeline can be found at The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex website.[3]

The first mention in historical documents is in the late thirteenth century, although evidence has been found of Stone Age tribes here c. 9000 BC. Uckfield developed as a stopping-off point on the pilgrimage route between Canterbury, Chichester and Lewes. The settlement began to develop around the bridging point of the river, including the locally-famous Pudding Cake Lane where travellers visited a public house for slices of pudding cake; and the 15th-century Bridge Cottage, the oldest house still standing in Uckfield, now a museum. The town developed in the High Street and in the New Town areas (the latter to the south of the original town centre).

The Eversfield family, who later became prominent in Sussex history, giving their name to the prime waterfront street of St Leonards-on-Sea, first settled in Uckfield from their Surrey beginnings.[4] The family, who later owned the mansion Denne Park in Horsham, which they represented in Parliament, acquired a large fortune through marriage, real estate acquisition and iron foundering.[5] Their climb to wealth and prominence was a heady one: in fifteenth-century Sussex they were described as ‘yeomen’, but within a generation they were already among the first rank of Sussex gentry.[6]

Church Street Uckfield

As its name indicates, Church Street was at the heart of the original settlement of Uckfield, near the medieval chapel (built c.1291), which was replaced by the present parish church in 1839. Situated on an ancient ridgeway route from the direction of Winchester in the west to Rye and Canterbury in the east, it would have seen many travellers (in the traditional sense) well before 1500. Some would have been on short journeys, either on foot or on horseback, to or from local markets and fairs, but others, bound for destinations further afield, would have spent the night at local hostelries along their route such as the Red Lyon (until recently the Maiden’s Head), the King’s Head (now the Cinque Ports) or the Spread Eagle. Since Uckfield was part of the Archbishop’s extensive Manor of South Malling, some of these travellers could have been bound for Canterbury for business or other (e.g. religious) reasons, though others had destinations elsewhere along the route.

For those who care to spend an hour or so in the vicinity, Church Street contains a number of attractive post-medieval buildings. These include the Old Grammar School, Bakers Cottage and the Malt House with Malt Cottage (all built before 1700), and Church House with Andertons, Coppinghall and Milton Cottage (all 18th century). Notable inhabitants of these properties were the Markwicks (builders and carpenters, from 1700) at Coppinghall and Milton Cottage, Edward Kenward (19th century maltster) at the Malt House, Thomas Pentecost (a Victorian leather cutter and local poet) in a cottage near the Grammar School and General Sir George Calvert Clarke (commander of the Royal Scots Greys at Balaclava) at Church House.


The town council consists of 15 councillors, representing four wards: Central ward (3 councillors); New Town (3); North (6); and Ridgewood (3). The current mayor (2007–08) is Louise Eastwood: mayoral elections take place every year.[7]


The town of Uckfield [8] has grown up as a road hub, and on the crossing point of the River Uck. Traffic on the A26 between Tunbridge Wells and Lewes, from the north-east to the south-west, joins with that on the A22 London – Eastbourne road around the town on its bypass; whilst the long-distance cross-country A272 road (the old pilgrimage route) crosses them both north of the town.

As the town has grown, new housing estates were developed: Harlands Farm, Rocks Park, West Park, Manor Park and Ringles Cross among them.

Parts of Uckfield, owing to its location on the river, have been subject to extensive flooding on a number of occasions, the earliest recorded being in 1800.[9] More recent floods have occurred approximately every nine years: in 1962, 1974, 1989, 1994, 2000 and 2007, although those in 2007 were not as severe as previous floods.[10] Local residents have long been lobbying for flood defences in the town, although at present there is little progress on this front.

The West Park Nature Reserve contains a wide variety of habitats; it is located on the western edge of the town.[11]


The local Tesco has proposed the re-development of the central town area as has the town council. The Hub has reccently been completed which was acquired for an unknown figure although it is presumed to be about half million. The main complaint from citizens was the cost and that it would increase their tax bills. Also as a youth centre it only benefits the youth of the town and nobody else alothough some people will say it does benefit everyone.


The population of Uckfield in 1811 was 916; in 1841 was 1,534; in 1861 was 1,740; in 1871 was 2,041; in 1881 was 2,146; in 1891 was 2,497; in 1901 was 2,895; in 1911 was 3,344; in 1921 was 3,385; and in 1931 was 3,555. In 2001 it was 13,697.


Uckfield is connected to London Bridge railway station by Southern rail services on its Oxted Line via East Croydon. Until 1969 the rail link continued to Lewes; after it was closed Uckfield became the terminus; the station building was rebuilt in 1991 to avoid the necessity of a level crossing. The Wealden Line Campaign hopes to reopen the closed section to Lewes.

There is a total of 20 local bus services in the Uckfield area;Brighton And Hove, Countryliner, RDH, Eastbourne Buses serve Uckfield. Also National Express coaches operate to London.[12]


Uckfield Community Technology College is the secondary school in the town. There are five primary schools: Manor School with nearly 400 pupils on roll in 14 classes and in October, School Council elections take place. There is also Harlands Primary School, Holy Cross CE Primary School; [13] Rocks Park Primary School;[14] and St Philips Catholic Primary School.[15]

Churches and chapels

The Church of England parish church is named Holy Cross. The Roman Catholic church is dedicated to Our Lady Immaculate and St Philip Neri. Other churches and chapels include Baptist, Methodist, Evangelical, United Reformed Church and the King’s Church. Local villages and parishes also have their own sites of worship. There are no non Christian religious houses.

Notable people

Emma Lee French was born in Uckfield in 1836. Uckfield was the last place Lord Lucan was seen, at Grants Hill House, the home of his friends Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott. Nicholas van Hoogstraten, the property developer, owns property in the area. He is engaged in a long-running dispute with the Ramblers’ Association about a local footpath running through his land. Van Hoogstraten is currently building a mansion, Hamilton Palace, on the outskirts of Uckfield.Hamilton Palace

Trinny Woodall attended school locally. In 2008, she worked with the mayor of Uckfield to give her a makeover.


There are a number of mysteries and myths associated with the town and surrounding areas. The disappearance of Lord Lucan is one. In addition, the hoax of the Piltdown Man occurred in the nearby village of Piltdown. There is also the tale of Nan Tuck’s Ghost, in which an old witch is said to have lived in a wood in nearby Buxted. There is an area of the wood where nothing grows, and the ghost is said to chase people who wander along Nan Tuck’s Lane at night.


Uckfield is twinned with the town of Quickborn, Germany.

The Picture House is the town’s cinema, opened originally in 1915, and refurbished twice since then, the latest reopening being in February 2000.[16] Uckfield FM is the community radio station that supports Uckfield for its four-week festival in June and at Christmas each year.At the present time it is applying to OFCOM to become a full time Community Radio Station. Uckfield is underserved by other stations in the area and the town has found real social gain from these projects. The station has now presented 8 month long broadcasts and has become well establised. Last summer ITVs Trinny and Suzannah was filmed a the Bird in Eye studios when Mayor Louise Eastwood was the star of the show.[17]

Farmers Market

Uckfield farmers market operates on the first Saturday of each month in the Luxfords car park, from 8.30 am to 2.00 pm. The market is now the largest market of its kind in Sussex, and has an average 35 stalls offering a very wide range of local foodstuffs, plants and flowers. There are also several stalls with crafts and artwork, so there is something at the market for everyone. To guarantee customers get the very best, the market has very rigid rules that ensure all produce is from local resources, and retailed at point of sale by the producer.The average food miles the distance from local producer to table is 8 1/2 miles. Compare that to the miles travelled by meat, dairy produce and vegetables bought at the supermarket!

Nature Reserves

-West park Local Nature Reserve

West park nature reserve is situated with several access points, has a broard-walk running through parts of the Reserve. The Reserve is a vestige of ancient parkland, containing herb rich uncultivated wet meadow, woodland, some thriving wildlife amd remains of Mesolithic settlement.

-Hempstead Meadows Local Nature Reserve

The River Uck runs through the flood plain, also occupied by the Hempstead Nature Reserve, and is an important area of wetland. Heampstead meadows has an abundance of unusual flora and funa, which flourish on this ideal site.

A new footpath, the River walk is a recent introduction to this popular area.

-Harlands Pond

Harlands Pond, located via Mallard drive, home of thewarty-skinned common toad. Regular visitors include the stately Heron, flying teradactyl-like over the pond and it’s permenant residents, the coot and morrhen.

-Nightingale Wood

Almost adjacent to the pond is nightingale Wood. This is a cool, shady haven, containing many different tree species and is a valuable site for early purple orchids.

References in Literature

Uckfield has featured several times in notable literary works.


A Holocaust denial group headed by the infamous Siegfried Verbeke has its postal address and main bank account in Uckfield.[18]