snippet of village History



In May 1887 it was remarked that nothing short of an earthquake would wake Wivelsfield. Many other Mid-Sussex villages had been making arrangements for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee since January. The gentry of the Parish then leapt into action. Within a month they organised and paid for a very commendable day's entertainment for their village. 

Ten years on the memories of this celebration must still have been fresh to all but the youngest inhabitants of Mid-Sussex. Neighbouring villages no longer felt it necessary to start organising themselves in January whilst Wivelsfield began in April, a full month earlier than in 1887.

Mr Pullinger, Pastor at Ote Hall Chapel, chivvied people into action at a Parish Council meeting. He had not heard of anything being done to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee and it was time to start, he said. Reminding them that the celebrations ten years ago had been most successful, he suggested that Major Hardman, chairman of the Parish Council, should convene a meeting to consider the commemorations. 


A Committee is Formed

A Parish meeting was held on Monday 26th April 1897 "to consider the commemoration of the Queen's Record Reign".  Those present were reminded of the celebration ten years before. If they could get a hearty response from the gentry and landowners of the parish, perhaps this time there could be a memorial that would last for years to come. A Reading Room was suggested as there was a crying need for a large meeting room somewhere in the village. Some at the meeting favoured a day of general festivities and rejoicing rather on the lines of 10 years ago. Ten years previously not much of the fund had been left over, so which was it to be? Speaking from experience, the Vicar felt that people would not subscribe if they were unsure of the objective. To murmurs of support he suggested a treat for the children, a dinner for the population over 60 years and upwards, together with a local cricket match in the afternoon followed by sports and prizes and then fireworks. A permanent memorial required much more money and doubts were expressed that enough money could be raised for both that and village festivities. A Reading Room would need accommodation for a custodian and there would be the expense of its upkeep. The majority seemed to lack the will and enthusiasm to provide the village with this much needed meeting place and the chance was lost.

Raising Funds

We do not know how money was raised or from whom. In 1887 a subscription list was advertised in the Mid Sussex Times. This had the effect of cajoling all who could or should contribute into raising a total of £74-9-6. For the Diamond Jubilee one can only scrutinise the committee. Major-General Leigh Pemberton, who owned the Abbotsleigh estate, was to be in London on Jubilee Day attending the celebrations there, but he could influence the other large landowners into donating to the appeal. There were six farmers and farm bailiffs keen to see that their workers and dependants should be well entertained and therefore presumably contributing themselves or persuading their landlords to do so. The Vicar and the Ote Hall Pastor were conscious of the needs of the old, the sick and the children. Then, of course, there was Mr Kenward, harness maker, school attendance officer, parish clerk and post master, with a finger in every pie.  Surprisingly there is no mention of any of the Renshaw family, as it was Sir Charles Byne Renshaw, who was to help provide the Reading Room to the village in 1912.


The Church Tower

At the annual Vestry meeting held the next day the churchwardens confirmed that the church tower needed urgent attention. They stressed the "absolute necessity to restore and reshingle, to provide a lightning conductor, etc.".   It was decided to appeal for the cost, which would be in the region £50.

The question was raised of a church memorial to the "Queen's Record Reign". Although it was suggestion that the walls should be panelled the Vicar, being on the Jubilee committee, could inform the Vestry of plans made the previous day.

This division of interests perhaps explains the Vicar's misgivings at the inaugural meeting. There were obviously difficulties with having two fund raising projects in the village at the same time. This became apparent in the 1920s when the Church tower had to be repaired again due, it would seem, to the skimped repairs in 1897.

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