Uckfield Millennium Green is situated in the southeast
corner of Uckfield on the site of clay pits dug to support
the activities of the brickworks of Benjamin Ware &
Sons. Brickmaking in Uckfield, and at Benjamin Ware
& Sons in particular, is more fully described by
Molly Beswick in Hindsight Volume 3 published by the
Uckfield and District Preservation Society. (www.udps.co.uk)
Uckfield Millennium Green site totals 21.99 acres and
as such is one of the largest of the present 499 English
Millennium Green sites. In 1910 it straddled two Parishes;
14.73 acres (enclosure number 698) within the Framfield
Parish with the remaining 7.26 acres (enclosure numbers
383 and 8) in the Parish of Uckfield. The Ordnance Survey
25 inch map of 1910 clearly shows this division. The
bulk of the area is described in the 1910 Schedule as
arable and at that time was grazed by livestock from
the adjacent Shipreed Farm. Francis Barchard of Horsted
Place then owned the farm.
Beswick describes in her article how the adjacent brickworks
of Benjamin Ware & Sons thrived in the early 1920s
under the able management of William Ware. Whilst clay
was initially dug from a large pit on the brickyard
site, other sources were constantly sought to keep up
with the demand for bricks and tiles.
land of Shipreed Farm was an obvious local source of
clay that could be obtained with minimal additional
transport costs and, on the 9th March 1922, a lease
for the site was granted to Benjamin Ware & Sons.
Yellow clay was dug for flowerpots from all over the
site whilst clay pits were dug to allow extraction of
grey clay for pipes and shale clay for brickmaking.
Clay-working machinery was quickly installed and a narrow
gauge track laid to allow raw material to be hauled
to the brickworks by small locomotives. Although the
slump of the late 1920s caused a temporary decline in
brick and tile demand, by the mid 1930s business was
again booming. With such prosperity William Ware was
keen to secure his major local source of raw material
and on the 21st December 1937 he purchased the site
for £2000. Francis Barchard had died by this time,
the sale deeds being engrossed by his widow, Maud Agnes
the next 20 years the land was worked to exploit the
available clay. Since its first occupation by Benjamin
Ware & Sons in 1922, two deep pits had been dug
and two shallower workings created. However, by the
early 1960s suitable clay on the site was running out.
Although new sources of clay were being obtained from
a company-owned site at Holmes Hill in Whitesmith, the
introduction of both building blocks and the plastic
flowerpot rendered handcrafted items non-competitive
and in 1970 the works closed.
Brickworks site was sold for light industrial development
whilst the 21.99 acres were for a time abandoned. East
Sussex County Council eventually bought the site with
a view to establishing a recycling plant in the disused
claypits. Fortunately by this time nature had already
started to cover the scars left from the clay extraction.
All manner of vegetation and wildlife had now become
established on the site such that in 1996 the two deep
clay pits were declared a Site of Nature Conservation
1997, with help from the Uckfield Town Council, East
Sussex County Council and some interested local residents
a successful application was made to the Countryside
Agency for a grant to establish a Millennium Green on
the site and on 30th March 1998 a Trust was established.
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