Sussex plays host to many quirky villages, and Cuckfield proves no exception
More than a couple of famous faces have hailed from the village. Amongst the celebrities to have been born in Cuckfield are Dominic Glynn, the composer of Dr Who, and England cricketer James Vince.
And Cuckfield was also once home to a strange tradition. On every August bank holiday between 1951-1965, the ‘Donkey Grand National’ took place on Whitemans Green. This event, which attracted 10,000 people to the area every year, centred around donkeys racing on the field, who often carried carriages of people behind. And rather than just focussing on the enjoyment of a summer tradition, competition was evidently in the air, as around twenty bookmakers would make appearances in order to take bets on the races.
Although the Donkey Grand National is a distant memory, the modern-day Cuckfield still has plenty on offer.
For those wanting to learn about the history in its entirety, you can take a trip to the Cuckfield Museum. In particular, the museum focuses heavily on prehistoric matters, as the aforementioned Whitemans Green is the site of one of the earliest dinosaur findings anywhere in the world.
If you want to head to the area where these Donkey Grand Nationals took place, and also have a keen interest in sport, then the Cuckfield Recreation Ground would be an ideal visit. Interestingly, the annual donkey race was stopped in 1965, in order to make way for these leisure facilities. As well as sports pitches, which are home to Cuckfield Town Football Club, this hidden gem also boasts tennis courts, and a children’s play area.
When the annual event was forced to stop, the locals took this news hard, and vowed to find a new way to bring money into the village, to replace the revenue created by the donkey race. The race was replaced by a move to make Cuckfield an independent state in 1966. In this way, the residents raised money by paying for votes in their very own mayoral elections. Nowadays, this rather corrupt tradition continues, but the position is now merely honorary, and the money spent on the ‘election’ goes to charity.