Fairwarp WI members share their stories

Updated: Jun 15

Fairwarpian WI members have distinguished themselves in one way or another, but there is not sufficient space to mention them all. Echo readers will recognise some of them and would probably have their own stories to add.



Amelia Martha Burgess (1872 – 1961). (From a history by R Burgess.)

Millie married Will Burgess in 1894. Will was the only son of John Burgess, wheelwright at Fairwarp. Millie became a teacher at Fairwarp School and later Head Teacher there – her work being regularly commended by the Teaching Inspectorate. The Burgesses took a major interest in village affairs. Will was keen on bowls (and on the Foresters Arms!), and Millie supported the Bridge Group, and was a Founder Member of Fairwarp Women’s Institute. When the Village Hall was built in 1925, there was some friction in the Burgess household. Millie wanted it to become the venue for the Bridge Club; but, Will wanted to reserve it for bowls and snooker. Millie had her way and the men were consigned to the back room. Early in the 1930s, Millie retired from the school and handed over to Miss Picton for whom they built Moorland Cottage. During the building, the Water Authority discovered the serious problem of fouled water in the village, which had claimed many young lives earlier in the century, and proceeded to lay new pipes for which they charged. The cost was so high that the Burgesses had to sell two of the cottages they owned, and finally had to leave Inglenook (now Regency Cottage), which John Burgess had built, and they moved to Portslade.


Jean Gorringe (19?? - 2020) Memories

At the age of 13 I played for the junior stoolball team, and the senior side when I was 15. I also played for the North Division side as well as the Sussex team against Kent.

Often on a summer Sunday night the Silver Band would play outside the Foresters Arms. Once a week Fred Tester would show films at the village hall. These included Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Tarzan and King Kong. There were socials and dances in the village - often with live bands. Whist drives were popular.

Frank and I got engaged in 1959 and were married in Fairwarp Church in 1961. We have lived in Jasmine since 1964. I started helping Mr. Macmillan in the shop in 1968/9 and continued working there when the shop was sold to the Sucklings – in total about 30 years.


Caryl Suckling (19?? - ??) and the Village Shop and Post Office

Caryl and Norman Suckling will long be remembered for their generosity and kindness in the community. Customers at the Village Shop (now the Old Post Office) had monthly accounts with weekly deliveries at no extra cost. Try to get that kind of service today. Caryl saved up new first day covers and special edition stamps for collectors, and collected the payment ‘as and when.’ She took in parcel post for those villagers who were away from home during the day, and for many years allowed the visiting chiropodist to use her private home for villagers to have their feet attended to. Norman died after a long illness while living in Fairwarp. Caryl soldiered on bravely in the shop for several years; and sadly died suddenly soon after finally retiring and moving to Uckfield.


Margaret Ridley (née Coleman). Memories of Village Life.

I went to Fairwarp School and was involved in the Church and Sunday School and choir. The Headmistress was Miss Picton, and Infant Teachers were Mrs. Appleby who was lovely, and Miss Watman, who for no reason used to hit us across our knuckles with the ruler. Miss Picton used to put the fear of God into me. I joined the stoolball team at the age of eleven, and we practised behind the school on the forest. I met my husband David playing stoolball, and in March we will be celebrating our Golden Wedding.


My sister Maureen (now Maureen Chewter) and I used to have to carry the accumulator to Lampool to be charged up, so we could listen to the radio. In 1958 we had our first TV, which was a 12” in a cabinet. All the children along the lane used to come and watch.

Mother was rushing around one day to get us ready for school. I was playing in the playground and wondered what was dropping down! It was my night-gown which was under a wool vest and a bodice!


Dear Mrs. Ann Sainsbury did an awful lot for the local children. The village fete was held in Captain Lingford’s house. Peggy Thorby (nee Pope) used to put on the pantomimes. I was a fairy! (Still a fairy!) My sister was a rabbit. Arthur Dadswell who lived in Forge Cottage used to organise the coach outings to the seaside, which was wonderful. All villages used to mix in for the bonfires and fancy dress. Cophall Farm had a little theatre for village shows, and we had live bands in the village hall in 1951.



Ann Sainsbury (19?? - 20??)

I joined the Fairwarp WI in the spring of 1962 when Mrs. Nancy McNair was President. The meeting was held at Mrs. Hunt’s house (now the Vicarage). Mrs. Hunt was the mother of the racing driver. At the next AGM, I found myself on the committee and later took over as Treasurer for 6 years from Clarice Johnson. I became President in 1971 taking over from Jean Gent, and after 3 years handed over to Mrs. Pretty.


I took part in the County play “A Boy with a Cart” by Christopher Fry and we performed at The Dome in Brighton for 3 days.


I learned how to do Danish tapestry, cookery, découpage and upholstery. Later, we had fun composing and embroidering the present tablecloth, the previous one having been printed with lino-cut in rather dull greens and browns. We entered the County competition at Ardingly every year.


When I first joined nearly all the residents of Duddleswell and Putlands, including members of the first committee were active members.


Myrtle Wade (1925 – 2005) Contributed by Ann Barnes.

Myrtle lived for a long time in Fairwarp and was blessed with many skills and a charmingly gentle personality. She was very artistic and painted the forest view, which for over twenty years has covered one end of the village hall. She also contributed to the Millennium map of our village, which is situated on the wall nearby in the village hall. The Fairwarp Echo cover sketch was also designed by her.


Myrtle’s other dedication was the Children’s Church which she ran for many years until she became ill. Although the vestry space was small there were always children enjoying her creative ideas based on Christian principles for part of the service. In the summer she also hosted several Teddy Bears’ Picnics in the garden of Romany Cottage for the younger members of the community.


Fairwarp WI have her to thank especially for the design of the embroidered table-cloth which shows The Street on the front panel and forest flora and fauna on the sides. In 1996 all members of the group completed some part of it. It was exhibited at the Ardingly Show and still takes pride of place on our main table each month at WI meetings.



Jane Rattray (19?? - 2020)

In the mid 1970s I opened an antique shop in Fairwarp Village (Dunluce now York Cottage). I sold pine furniture, china, treen and old tools. I stripped the pine, repaired and polished it before it went into the shop. Every Monday in the early hours of the morning I drove to London. I had a stall in the old Covent Garden market where I bought and sold antiques. I sold the shop in the summer of 1986, and moved to Broom Cottage with my three boys. I ran a B&B from there for the next eighteen years. Now I have retired to a little house at the bottom of my garden, which is very nice and peaceful.

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