Uckfield town centre
|Uckfield shown within East Sussex|
|Area||7.5 km2 (2.9 sq mi) |
|• Density||4,810/sq mi (1,860/km2)|
|OS grid reference|
|• London||38 miles (61 km) NNW|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|Website||Uckfield Town Council|
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Governance
- 4 Geography
- 5 Development
- 6 Demography
- 7 Transport
- 8 Education
- 9 Churches and chapels
- 10 Notable people
- 11 Folklore
- 12 Culture
- 13 Sport and leisure
- 14 References in literature
- 15 References
- 16 External links
'Uckfield', first recorded in writing as 'Uckefeld' in 1220, is an Anglo-Saxon place name meaning 'open land of a man called Ucca'. It combines an Old English personal name, 'Ucca' with the Old English locational term, 'feld', the latter denoting open country or unencumbered ground (or, from 10th century onwards, arable land). A number of other places in the area also contain the suffix 'feld', which may be an indication of land that contrasts with the surrounding woodlands of the Weald, including in particular Ashdown Forest immediately to the north.
- A comprehensive historical timeline can be found at A vision of Britain website.
The first mention in historical documents is in the late thirteenth century. 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. 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. 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.
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 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 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.
Church Street contains a number of post-medieval buildings. These include the Old Grammar School (home of the former Uckfield Grammar School, closed in 1930), Bakers Cottage and the Malt House with Malt Cottage (all built before 1700), and Church House with Andertons, Copping Hall and Milton Cottage (all 18th century). Notable inhabitants of these properties were the Markwicks (builders and carpenters, from 1700) at Coppinghall and Milton Cottage (Interestingly, the current generation of notable Markwicks in Uckfield run the local picture house), 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.
Thought to have been built in the 15th century, studies have shown the cottage to date back to around 1436. Between 1500 and 1900 the cottage was inhabited by a number of local families including local merchants. In October 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund granted one million pounds to enable the restoration of the cottage. Work started in October 2014, with an estimated completion date of late summer 2015.
The town council consists of 15 councillors, representing four wards: Central ward (3 councillors); New Town (3); North (6); and Ridgewood (3) mayoral elections take place every year.
The MP for Uckfield was previously Charles Hendry, the town falling within the constituency of Wealden. Charles Hendry was the MP for Wealden from 2001, standing down in the 2015 general elections.
The town of Uckfield 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: Hempstead Fields, 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 1852. 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. Local residents have long been lobbying for flood defences in the town, and recently when the local Somerfield became a Co-op, its car park's walls were rebuilt as flood defences with a ramp to access the car park and a watertight pedestrian gate that can be closed when flooding is imminent. It is hoped that this new wall will act as a reservoir to contain the flood water until it recedes, allowing the water to flow back into the river Uck, which runs alongside the carpark. Due to the positioning of the river within Uckfield, any flooding is within the lowest part of the town centre and industrial estate, and so does not affect residential areas as these are all built on higher ground. The Hempstead Meadows Nature Reserve can be accessed from the car park (now owned by Waitrose, who took over from the Co-op) and shows classic meadows formed on the flood plain.
The West Park Nature Reserve contains a wide variety of habitats; it is located on the western edge of the town.
- West Park
West Park is a Local Nature Reserve. It has several access points and a board-walk which runs through parts of the Reserve. The Reserve is a vestige of ancient parkland, containing herb rich uncultivated wet meadow, woodland, some thriving wildlife and the remains of Mesolithic settlement.
- Hempstead Meadows
Hempstead Meadows is a Local Nature Reserve. The River Uck runs through the flood plain, occupied by the Hempstead Nature Reserve, and is an important area of wetland. The area has an abundance of unusual flora and fauna, which flourish on this ideal site. A new footpath, the River walk is a recent introduction to this area.
- Harlands Pond
- 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.
- Millennium Green
To the south of the town in Ridgewood the Uckfield Millennium Green is present on a site of disused clay pits (now a SNCI)
East Sussex County Council completed phase one of the "Uckfield Town Centre Highway Improvement Scheme" (UTC-HIS) in November 2014. In January 2016 phase two of the highway improvements were started, they are expected to take approximately eight months. The scheme will involve the creation of "10,000 m2 of retail space" within the town, it also "limits to 1000 the number of new homes to be built between now and 2027".
In June 2015 the Ridgewood Farm development was granted "outline planning approval". The development will see "1000 new homes" of which a "minimum of 15%" will be affordable housing. The development will include "a two-form primary school, a large employment space, community, health and leisure facilities and pedestrian and cycle paths." The development will also include a 73-acre Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (SANGS) nearby.
In July 2015 Network Rail announced plans to upgrade the train platform at Uckfield Railway Station to accommodate trains with up to 12 carriages, the works are predicted to last from November 2015 until March 2016.
In March 2016 developers were granted a 75% reduction on the roof tax of 146 proposed homes at Mallard Drive, Ridgewood.
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 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 allow the removal of a level crossing. The Wealden Line Campaign hopes to reopen the closed section to Lewes.
There are 20 local bus services in the Uckfield area; Brighton And Hove, CTLA, Renown Coaches, The Sussex Bus, Seaford & District and Stagecoach in Eastbourne all serve Uckfield. National Express coaches also operate to London.
Uckfield Community Technology College is the secondary school in the town. There are five primary schools which are: Harlands Primary School, Holy Cross CE Primary School; Rocks Park Primary School; St Philips Catholic Primary School; and Manor Primary School.
Churches and chapels
The Church of England parish church is dedicated to the Holy Cross. The Queen made several unannounced low-profile visits to this church, which became widely known locally when the newsagent was asked to stock a copy of the Sporting Life. The Roman Catholic church is dedicated to Our Lady Immaculate and St Philip Neri. Other churches and chapels include Baptist, Methodist, Evangelical (Grange Evangelical Church in Hempstead Road), 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.
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. Lady Lucan, his wife was also in Uckfield. Nicholas van Hoogstraten, a property developer, owns property in the area. He was engaged in a long-running dispute with the Ramblers' Association about a local footpath running through his land. Work came to a halt on Hamilton Palace in 2001. As of early 2016 the property remains unfinished and it is unclear whether building work is ongoing. Soul singer-writer Rag'n'Bone Man is from this town, winner of the Brits Critic's choice award 2017, he had a number one single all over Europe with Human. 
There are a number of mysteries and myths associated with the town and surrounding areas. The most well known is the disappearance of Lord Lucan, who was reportedly last seen at Grants Hill House in Uckfield. In addition, the hoax of the Piltdown Man occurred in the nearby village of Piltdown. There is a 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.
The Uckfield Picturehouse, an independently-run three-screen cinema, was established in 1916 and is one of the oldest in England. 
Uckfield FM is a Community Radio station that supported Uckfield for its four-week festival in June and at Christmas each year. In July 2009 the station was granted a licence by OFCOM to become a full-time Community Radio Station, broadcasting live to the Community of Uckfield and the surrounding areas full-time from 1 July 2010. The station was founded by Mike Skinner, Paddy Rea, Gary King and Alan French and now has over 80 members who are all voluntary. In the summer of 2008, ITVs Trinny and Suzannah was filmed at the Bird in Eye studios when Mayor Louise Eastwood was the star of the show. In 2014 the station was granted a five-year extension to its licence, this will take "Uckfield FM's service through until 2020".
The festival was originally intended "as a one off Millennium year celebration", from this event it has sought to "advance the public in the arts and in particular, the arts of music, speech, drama and the visual arts". A number of local organisations/events have grown from the festival some of these include "The Art Trail, The Film Society & Uckfield FM".
Uckfield hold an annual torchlight carnival on the first Saturday in September. The High street is closed in the evening and local bonfire societies, sports teams, schools and businesses join a procession through the town.
Sport and leisure
References in literature
Uckfield has featured several times in notable literary works.
- Uckfield was the setting for the book Maximum Diner by Christopher Nye. It is an autobiographical work which tells of Nye's successful attempt to establish an American-style restaurant in a small town. The Maximum Diner, under new management, is still[update] in operation.
- Uckfield was featured in Julian Fellowes's novel Snobs, which included the fictional characters the Marquess and Marchioness of Uckfield.
- Uckfield was mentioned in the last chapter of John le Carré's The Honourable Schoolboy.
- The manic playwright Roland Maule, in the play Present Laughter by Noël Coward, is from Uckfield.
- The cover of the Ladybird Books children's book on climate change, co-authored by Charles, Prince of Wales, depicts heavy flooding in Uckfield.
- "East Sussex in Figures". East Sussex County Council. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
- "Town population 2011". Retrieved 11 October 2015.
- A.D. Mills, A Dictionary of British Place Names (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)
- "The Historical Gazetteer of England's Place-names". placenames.org.uk.
- "History of Uckfield, in Wealden and Sussex – Map and description". visionofbritain.org.uk.
- "A Compendious History of Sussex". google.com.
- "Sussex Archaeological Collections Relating to the History and Antiquities of .." google.com.
- "Archive of Frere and Co of London, solicitors". nationalarchives.gov.uk.
- Adrian Pearce. "Bridge Cottage". udps.co.uk.
- "Bridge Cottage restoration will be 'truly amazing' – Uckfield News". Uckfield News.
- "Heritage Centre". bridgecottageuckfield.co.uk.
- "Welcome to Uckfield Town Council". uckfieldtc.gov.uk.
- "Rt Hon Charles Hendry". UK Parliament.
- "MP Charles Hendry set to retire after losing minister role". Kent and Sussex Courier.
- "RESULT: Conservative Nus Ghani wins Wealden seat". Kent and Sussex Courier.
- "Welcome to Uckfield". Uckfield Community Website.
- Ledgard Jepson. "Geographical Association – Managing Flood Risk – Uckfield Case Study". geography.org.uk.
- Report on the flooding of the Ouse catchment in 2000
- "Two towns get £3m flood defences". BBC News.
- West Park Local Nature Reserve
- "West Park, Uckfield". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
- "Map of West Park, Uckfield". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
- "Hempstead Meadows". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
- "Map of Hempstead Meadows". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
- "Core Strategy for Uckfield". wealden.gov.uk.
- "Ridgewood Farm 1,000 home development gets outline planning approval". uckfieldfm.co.uk.
- "SANGS area would cover 73 acres". Uckfield News.
- "Uckfield line platform extensions". southernrailway.com.
- "Major platform extension project between Edenbridge Town and Uckfield to hit timetables". Kent and Sussex Courier.
- "Check Browser Settings". statistics.gov.uk.
- "Local bus, coach and rail information for Uckfield". carlberry.co.uk.
- "Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company". buses.co.uk.
- "Holy Cross – Home". holycross.e-sussex.sch.uk.
- "home page". rockspark.e-sussex.sch.uk.
- "Home – St Philip's Catholic Primary School". stphilips.e-sussex.sch.uk.
- "The Queen's low-key visits to Uckfield (video story)". BBC News Online. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
call at 11 pm Saturday The Queen is coming to church tomorrow" ... "bit late to prepare a special sermon!"
- "BBC Inside Out – Lord Lucan". bbc.co.uk.
- "Is nan still on the loose?". sussexexpress.co.uk.
- "YOSP Home Page". yeoldesussexpages.com.
- "Uckfield FM to apply for a 5-year extension to broadcast licence". uckfieldfm.co.uk.
- "About the Festival – Uckfield Festival Website". uckfieldfestival.co.uk.
- "Uckfield Art Trail -". uckfieldarttrail.co.uk.
- "Station History". uckfieldfm.co.uk.