Cuckfield History: Alfred Browne

Easter Sunday Hero

By Kate Fleming

In order to imagine the setting, I would like you to travel back in time one hundred years to Easter Sunday 1917, and gently place yourself in our beautiful Holy Trinity Church. The people of Cuckfield are gathering for Evensong, as indeed they still do today, but then the times were different. Great Britain was at war, and had been for over two years, the young men had gone to fight for King and Country, and those left behind were under pressure to increase the war effort. There were food shortages, and patriotism was wearing thin. Rev Maddock, officiating at the service, was recently back from the front and the congregation, in a world deprived of immediate first-hand news (unlike today), was keen to hear about how its boys were faring in the seemingly distant world of mud filled trenches and lethal flying bullets. Mothers, wives, sweethearts, daughters and sons of men at the front have gathered to worship and pray for peace in the world, their thoughts and desires busily weaving through their minds.

Also busy about the church was the Verger, Alfred Browne. Having already prepared the church for Easter with festival white altar cloths and hangings in place of the sombre violet of Lent, he had one more task to fulfil before he supposedly joined the established congregation. As compiled meticulously by him in the Verger’s List of Duties, he needed to strike the Union Jack flag at sunset, and, as this was already underway and darkness imminent, he had to make haste. He must have crept silently up the staircase to the battlements so as not to disturb the start of Evensong, and carefully opened the door. When... Shock! Horror! Flames sprang from the door accompanied by fumes which could only mean that the spire and maybe the church full of worshippers were in grave danger. Alfred Browne needed immediate help to avoid a major disaster.

[Read the full story on page 22 of April 2017 Cuckfield Life magazine]