Memories of Mark Cross
Mark Cross does not have the known history that the neighbouring
villages of Rotherfield and Mayfield do. The article in North
Weald 3 years ago seems to be all that is known and is very
comprehensive, not much can be added to it.
Mr. Henry Dixon of Frankham had a son. Henry, and three daughters
- Lydia, Mary and Kitty. He built 'Little Frankham' for his
son and 'Strood House' for his daughters. The writer well remembers
these three old ladies being driven around the village by their
coachman, Mr Chatfield, at Christmas delivering parcels for
the children at the school. Mrs Henry Dixon must have been a
deeply religious lady for on the fly-leaf of a hymnbook given
to Lydia when a girl, she has written these lines: "No
light nor love nor life from duties spring where Jesus is not
Prophet, Priest and King".
It is probable that Mr Henry Dixon built School House, for
this is where the Head Mistress and teachers lived until 1924.
Miss Yates was the Head Mistress for the first 23 years of this
century. She maintained discipline by a kind strictness. A wonderful
At the turn of the century a Mr Chadwick lived at Frankham.
He had a son, who was a captain in the British Army during the
Boer War. When he returned home after the war, the people of
Mark Cross took Mr T. Pollington's landau to Rotherfield Station
and twenty young men of Mark Cross area took the place of horses
and drew him to Frankham. The next day Mr Chadwick Senior gave
a treat to the children in the field opposite the Church and
the following day to the adults at Frankham.
The Brickyard in Mark Cross closed in 1937. Bricks, tiles and
drain pipes were hand made and the kiln was fired with wood.
It took 3000-4000 fagots to bake one kiln load - 12000 bricks,
8000 tiles and 2000 pipes. The Windmill was burnt down in 1910.
In the picture of it being cleared up after the fire the man
in shirt sleeves is either Mr Frank Walter or Mr Edward Walter,
one of the owners. After it was re-built a gas engine was installed
to drive the mill. This engine made its own gas by burning anthracite
and was working until 1945/50 when SCATS bought it and installed
an electric one. Now, of course, it is a dwelling house. The
note in Col. Eeles book on Mark Cross stating that from the
time of the fire it was a warehouse is incorrect.
In the early part of the century and immediately after the
First World War, Mark Cross had a very strong cricket team.
In the early 1920’s the captain was a well known personality
Mr 'Bob' Wansbon. He led Mark Cross to victory when they won
the Crowborough and District League Challenge Cup. He was also
village postman for many years. Three attempts, in the writers
memory, were made to run a football club. These all failed.
In the early years of the century there was work in the village
for all the inhabitants. There was a grocers, butchers, wheelwrights,
blacksmiths, bakers, millers, brickyard, coal merchant and a
taxi service with horses and traps. In addition, farming, in
which many were engaged, and the large houses around employed
many inside and out. For instance the writer remembers when
'Frankham' employed 8 - 4 inside and 4 out.
This has now all gone. The only one remaining is T. POLLINGTON
& SONS and their base is now at Crowborough. Mr T, Pollington
first came to Mark Cross in 1870. His elder sons went to school
at the Church when it was a school and his younger to the new
school. Three generations of that name attended the school,
the last one Janet Pollington (a great grandaughter of T. Pollington)
leaving in 1956. The first person in Mark Cross to own a motor
car was Capt Drummond of Bassetts. He had a Studi-Baker and
in those slow and carefree days maintained he could get from
Bassets to Tunbridge Wells in 20 minutes.
One well remembers 11th November, 1918 and the Rev. J. Price
announcing the Armistice in the school. We were immediately
dismissed and then marched up the street singing the National
In 1921 the Misses Dixons' took all the children over 10 years
to an 'Africa and The East' Exhibition at Islington. Going from
Rotherfield station to Victoria. At Victoria they had arranged
for three large Wagonettes, each drawn by a pair of horses to
convey us through London. What a thrill for country lads and
In 1924 Mr and Mrs J. Boldero, who then lived at Frankham,
took us all to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. They
hired two of the Beacon Services 'char-a-bangs', not streamlined
coaches then but open tops and some had solid tyres. The journey
in those days took 4 hours leaving Mark Cross at 7am arriving
at Wembley at 11.30am Another thrill for country nippers.
When the Mark Cross brickyard was being moved from Sandyden
the drying sheds were stripped of their tiles and then carried
on the shoulders of a number of men and placed directly on the
posts already erected.
There were at one time a number of such brickyards in the area.
One was in the Strood field just by the school. The site of
the kiln is marked by the deep hollow in the field. This was
the school cricket pitch when we were boys around the 1920’s.
There were also brickyards at Spratts Read, Lake Street, Sheriffs
Lane Rotherfield. Broad Read, Five Ashes and Liversys' Brickyard
at the trip of Yew Tree Lane, Rotherfield. The wall around Trulls
Hatch was built by bricks made there. Most of these brickyards
also made flower pots. A flourishing industry in this part of
East Sussex during the last half of the nineteenth century.
Most of the old brickyards mentioned were fired with wood and
everything was done by hand. No making could be carried on from
the end of November to April because of frost. The drying sheds
for flower pots, tiles and pipes were open-sided and the bricks
stacked on hacks outside. The winters were spent in cutting
wood and making what was known as brush or kiln fagots for firing
the kilns. The other winter occupation was digging the clay.
This again had to be done by hand, the top two or three spits
were used for bricks and the next two or three spits were heavy
blue and yellow clay for flowerpots, pipes and tiles. This was
thrown up in two large mounds to be 'weathered'. In the winter
of 1878/79, Mr T. Pollington and his two elder sons walked each
day from Cooks Corner, Crowborough to Mark Cross to dig the
clay for the Brickyard they were to take in 1878.
The clay was carted to the yard and tipped into shallow pits
and well soaked with water. At the edge of the pit was what
was known as a Pug Mill. This was approximately 4' in diameter
and 6'-8' deep. A spindle went down through the centre with
iron blades fixed at right angles to the spindle. Fixed to the
top of the spindle was a long pole extending outwards to which
a horse was harnessed and went round in a circle. By this means
the clay was made malleable and ready for use. The bricks were
made by hand in a mould then laid on a barrow and laid on the
hacks to dry. The other products were made in another shed.
The tiles were made in a mould. flowerpots on a wheel and the
land drainpipes in a small machine pumped by hand.
When they were dried hard, the kiln was filled first with bricks
and all moisture dried out, then filled with other material
and dried out completely. After this the firing was gradually
increased terminating with 4-5 days continual firing night and
day. These kilns were about 6' deep and 12' above ground. They
varied in length and breadth. Underneath the bottom ran two,
three or four tunnels according to the size of the kiln and
in these the faggots were burnt. The floor had flues across
every 10", the bricks etc. being stacked so that the flues
went right up and through to the top, which was sealed.
The 'dial' for telling when all was fully baked was a brick
placed on end and was on both edges of the kiln, and one in
the middle. By the human eye you watched and when the middle
brick had sunk the thickness of two bricks the material inside
would be burnt sufficiently.