THE BOER WAR MEMORIAL IN ST WILFRID’S CHURCHYARD

In the Parish Magazine for August 1902 it was proposed to erect a Memorial Cross in the churchyard to “three Haywards Heath men who laid down their lives in South Africa fighting for their country. It is desirable that there should be some public record, which may teach after generations the duty of self-sacrifice where the cause of their country is at stake.”

The memorial was placed in the north west corner of the lower churchyard up against the bank and hedge dividing the upper and lower churchyards. There is no record in the Parish Magazine to explain this rather out of the way place. Cuckfield’s Memorial for instance is placed on the path from the north door of the church to the Old School.

 

         The Boer War Memorial looking south to South Road    

Within a month about half of the estimated £70 cost had been pledged and by the end of December the full sum was in hand. A contract was signed with Messrs Rooke of Brighton for a granite cross, six feet tall with a curb stone, although the final cost was £105.1.9 partly due to the inclusion of three additional names. Although these men did not live in the parish as children, their families lived there, they were well known in Haywards Heath and were said for all practical purposes to belong there.  This required a further appeal for funds which was successful.

The dedication of the Cross took place on Sunday March the 15th at 3.00 p.m., initially in the churchyard and then in the church. The sermon was preached by the Dean of Chichester. The offertory and other money collected over the day were given to the Lord Roberts Fund for widows and orphans who had been left unprovided for owing to the war.

The first part of the service at the Memorial consisted of a psalm, prayers and a hymn, the first verse of which was:

“On the Resurrection morning

Soul and body meet again

No more sorrow, no more weeping

No more pain!”

The congregation then moved to the church where the hymn “O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come” was sung followed by The Magnificat, a Lesson, The Nunc Dimittis, The General Thanksgiving and appropriate prayers. This was followed by the hymn “Fight the good fight with all thy might”, the sermon and a final hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

On the east facing side of the base of the Cross are two inscriptions dedicated to the men of Haywards Heath who laid down their lives in South Africa.

On the south, west and north sides are the names of the six men in pairs giving details of their name, rank, and date and place of death. On the south facing side:

 William Craigie Prophit:  As the name suggests, he was not born and bred in Sussex and, unlike the others who came from farming or labouring families, his background was further up the social scale. His father was a minister in the Scottish Church and William was born in Lerwick in 1864. He married in London in 1894 and by the time of the 1901 census his wife and two children were living at “The Hollies” in Heath Road, hence the Haywards Heath Connection. He had already gone to South Africa! He signed up for 1 year to join the Imperial Yeomanry, describing himself as a gentleman. Unfortunately he died of enteric fever in March of 1901 at Winburg in the Orange free state. He was one of the three original names put forward for inclusion on the Memorial.

Stephen Constable: He was born in Lindfield in 1875, the son of Frederick Constable, a bricklayer, and Sarah his wife. His father and grandparents were also from Lindfield. He joined the army in 1891 for seven years with the colours and five with the reserve. He claimed to be 18 years old but was just 16, and was badly wounded in March of 1901 in the Western Transvaal and taken, slowly and painfully I suspect, to Netley Hospital in Southampton Water where he subsequently died. Netley Hospital was started in 1856 at the suggestion of Queen Victoria and finished in 1863. At the time it was the largest in the world but poor design meant that it was not a success. It was used by the military in the First and Second World Wars and demolished in the 1960’s. He was one of the three additional names added to the list.

On the west facing side:

Walter Reuben Trill and Trayton Trill. These brothers were two of ten children, whose father Stephen, an gricultural labourer,  was originally from Hellingly but resident in Lindfield between 1861 and 1881. In 1891 Walter was living with his parents in Chailey. There does not seem to be an obvious connection with Haywards Heath. Walter, the younger brother joined up for the war in South Africa but was killed near Lydenburg by which time he had received the Queen’s South Africa Medal for Elandslaagte and the defence of Ladysmith.

Trayton Trill, his older brother, survived until November 1901 being awarded the same medal with clasps for Orange Free State, Transvaal, Elandslaagte and the defence of Ladysmith.

Their brother Reginald and family were living at 14 Gordon Road, Haywards Heath in 1911. The two brothers were the other two names that were added to the Memorial list.

On the north facing side:

James John Marsh: He was born in Slaugham in 1873, one of 13 children to Edwin David Marsh, variously an agricultural labourer, coachman and gardener and his wife Eliza.  In 1871 the family were living in Slaugham with four children but after 1876 they moved to Saffron Walden in Essex where they were still living in 1881 with eight children including James John. Some time between 1883 and 1885 they moved back to Slaugham where another child was born before moving to South Road in Haywards Heath around 1887. By 1891 they were living at No. 1 St Wilfrid’s Villas, South Road but there is no sign of John James. In 1901 they were still living in Haywards Heath in South Road. Ten years later his mother was living in Hazelgrove Road. To be a corporal suggests that he was a regular soldier and his regiment was one of those besieged in Ladysmith. He died of peritonitis some 2 ½ months after the siege was lifted and was awarded the Queen’s South Africa medal. He was one of the original three names proposed for the memorial.

John Henry Ford: He  was born in Wivelsfield in 1864 but by 1871 the family had settled in Haywards Heath. His mother was still living in Gower Road in 1911 and was the caretaker of St Wilfrid’s school. He died of an unspecified disease in the Orange Free State near Bloemfontain. He was the last of the three original names.

THE MUSHET BOER WAR MEMORIAL.

In addition to the six names on the Boer memorial itself, there is one more memorial to that war in the east end of the churchyard. The tomb itself is of Robert Mushet Esquire, Melter and Chief Clerk of the Royal Mint who died in 1871. A further inscription was added later which reads “ALSO OF HIS SON PHILIP JOHN MUSHET SERG’ PAGETS HORSE I Y WHO DIED AT MAFEKING FEB1 1902 AGED 41” Robert and his family were living at the Royal Mint in 1871, so his burial in Haywards Heath seems odd. His widow was still alive in 1911 having lived in London all her married life. She died in 1913 in Watford. Philip was still a bachelor in 1891 and living with his mother and unmarried siblings. I have not found any connection for Philip and Haywards Heath which is probably why the Rector did not suggest his name for inclusion on the Boer War memorial.

Sources:

Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902 (accessed through www.findmypast.co.uk)

Census returns (accessed through www.findmypast.co.uk)

Parish archive

Parish magazines