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Independent State of Cuckfield

The History of the Independent State of Cuckfield
(taken from the Independent State of Cuckfield website)

From 1951 until 1965 all the money needed by Cuckfield concerns was raised at the annual Donkey Race meeting on the August Bank Holiday. This started in a small way on the land where Warden Park School now stands, but was transferred in 1953 to the land at Whitemans Green, which is now the football and rugby pitches.

Here each year the Donkey Grand National took place and would be attended by some 10,000 people and 20 bookmakers. So well known did it become that is was featured in the British Tourist information brochure, which was distributed overseas.

In 1965, however these fields at Mill Hall Farm were compulsory purchased by the Council for playing fields and the polite request to stage the Grand National there was refused. The organisers were flabbergasted by this decision, as were the local good causes who relied on raising money there and it was then that Peter Bowring suggested a Mayor’s Election. In those days each vote cost "sixpence". It was billed as a contest between "Publicans and Sinners" and Cuckfield's first mayor was Joe Mitchell, Landlord of the White Hart.

Rhodesia had recently declared U.D.I. so Cuckfield followed suit and the Independent State of Cuckfield was born. Passports were issued, stamps (which were used to deliver mail during the postal strike) and currency (five cuckoos equalled one shilling). This money was accepted in Cuckfield pubs and shops and mostly kept as souvenirs.

To begin with a lot of Cuckfield residents thought the whole idea rather silly, but the Independent State soon proved its worth. In 1971 the High Bridge on the A272 between Cuckfield and Ansty collapsed. Ansty was extremely worried at being cut off from shops, Doctors, Hospital etc. The county council refused to consider a temporary bridge and said people must wait for a permanent replacement. However Cuckfield's Mayor contacted them and persuaded them to change their mind and a "Bailey Bridge" was duly put in place.

On another occasion The Independent State of Cuckfield saved Cuckfield from a dreadful fate. In 1975 the Council proposed turning 32 acres of land at Sparks Farm, which is now a golf course into a refuse dump for domestic and industrial waste. Mr Bowring called a public meeting at the Queen's Hall and asked the council to attend. A long battle ensued but, at length, the council dropped the idea and Cuckfield was spared this horror.

The aims of the Independent State, when founded, were to ensure the welfare of all Cuckfield's citizens young and old and to protect local surroundings.

Some of the things the money raised has been used for include:

  • The repair of the Children’s paddling pool in the Recreation Ground
  • The modernisation and refurbishment of the Cottage homes
  • Camping equipment for the Scouts
  • Playground equipment for the schools
  • Sponsoring of youngsters going on Operation Raleigh or similar expeditions
  • Help with college expenses
  • TV sets, kettles and reading lamps for Cuckfield's older citizens
  • Equipment for the Hospital
  • Our annual Christmas Dinner for any OAP in Cuckfield who would like to attend

The only firm rule is that the money must be used for Cuckfield, but anyone living within its boundaries has only to ask and the Independent State will try and help. To contact the Independent State, email us using this link.

Phyllis Bowring