The Slaugham Archives

Chownes Mead maternity unit
The Slaugham Archive
Chownes Mead maternity unit

The large country house of Chownes Mead, being located between Cuckfield and Haywards Heath, is a few miles outside of the area covered by this website, but many inhabitants of Staplefield and the Slaugham parish will have visited there during WWII and in later years until about 1951. The house was requisitioned for maternity use and I was born there in October 1944. I understand that Cuckfield Hospital was in use by the Canadian forces during that period and indeed built by them.
The house was constructed in 1912 with the gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll and has had many important persons staying there over the years. In 2011, estate agents Savills were instructed to offer the property for sale with a price tag of £3.5 million.
The main picture is of poor quality but shows four nurses posing in the garden.
The Large Version shows three nurses with cots, a washing bowl, and weighing scales big enough for up to six babies at once!
The Document shows a nurse with some sort of long-necked seagull about to drop a baby in the waste-paper basket!
In 2011 the property was put up for sale through the estate agents, Savills, and the brochure can be viewed at picture #1677.
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Picture added on 15 February 2013 at 15:54
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My late parents purchased Chownes Mead in 1955 before I was born. My family lived there until April 2012.
We were delighted to see John Skinner's photographs of the house and especially the interior. The oak panelling in the drawing room was probably removed by Lady Woolton before my parents arrived as it has always had plain cream walls as far back as we can remember.
Many people turned up on our doorstep over the years who had been born in the house. This included many Canadians. If you have any more photographs or reminiscences of Chownes we would love to hear from you.
Added by Clare Stoner on 21 June 2013
I was born at Chownes Mead on April 30th 1946 to Canadian father and English mother from Burgess Hill.
Added by John McCormack on 22 July 2013
I, too, was born at Chownes Mead on 24th May 1945, and in about 2000 my husband and I spent a few hours trying to find it, having travelled up from Yeovil in Somerset.
We eventually discovered a stone pillar bearing the name, beside a new road layout, though we were not fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the house.
Added by Valerie George (née Tompkins) on 21 October 2013
I was born here 6th May 1943.
Big thanks to Andrea King at Cuckfield Museum.
Added by Michael Johnston on 29 November 2013
Like many of your contributors, my brother and I were both born at Chownes Mead during and immediately following the Second World War.
I am Dennis Charles Johnson, born on 12th December 1945. My brother, Christopher Raymond Johnson was born on 15th January 1943.
Of interest, I have discovered amongst my late parents' belongings, receipts relating to the charges involved in the attendance of a doctor at both our births.
Added by Dennis Johnson on 20 February 2014
My father, Rene Joseph Lebeau, a member of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC), served overseas in England during WWII.
In 1944, he met, dated and married an English War Bride, and my Mom, Irene Ivy Francis, of Haywards Heath.
On the 7th of April 1945, just before the end of WWII, I was born in Chownes Mead, Cuckfield, M.D., in the County of East Sussex. I sailed with my Mom, aboard the SS AQUITANIA, from Southampton to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, (Pier 21), at the age of one.
I would be very interested in knowing more about this large country house in Chownes Mead that served as a Maternity Ward during the WWII years.

Added by Raymond Rene Lebeau on 18 March 2014
I was born at Chownes Mead on 24th September 1944
Added by Anita Thomas on 16 September 2014
Happy Birthday, Anita!
Here's wishing you a very enjoyable day of celebration.
Added by Barry Ray on 24 September 2014
I was born at Chownes Mead on 12th April, 1943.
I would like to have known what time of day, but Mum and Dad are long gone.
I don't know if any records were kept?
Added by David Reed on 23 October 2014
My Mum, Margaret Dumbleton (née Head), was born here on 3rd April 1944.
Her mother, Irene Head, lived in Hackney and was an unwed mother. Her father was James Claxton, who was a married man.
Added by Sandra Lewis on 07 March 2015
I was born here on 15th October 1943.
My mum apparently fought for the right to keep me as the local social services were trying to get me adopted. This happened to a lot of unmarried mothers at this time. Fortunately my mum had the support of her parents.
My father, I found out many years later, was in the Canadian forces.
Added by Lord Keith Hollobone on 15 March 2015
What a great pic of Chownes Mead.
I, like Keith above and many others, was born there to the then single Mum, Eileen Batchelor, on 12th December 1943.
She also kept me but, sadly, I have never traced my birth father. It would be great to know if any records are accessible as no luck so far.
Added by Angela Chitty on 16 March 2015
Angela, I presume you do not know your father’s name as you were given the same family name as your mother on your birth certificate and I presume your mother did not supply you with the name of your birth father.
It is a long shot but the West Sussex County Archives online say they have a collection of “Baptisms at Chownes Mead maternity home and West Hylands hospital, 1940-51”. However the “Click here to see online catalogue for this record” button took me nowhere! You could contact them direct if you were baptised there.
Chownes Mead is actually in the parish of Cuckfield, and you could contact the Cuckfield Museum. Contact details are on their website.
Good luck with your search.
Added by Barry Ray on 18 March 2015
Thank you for reply, Barry. Research is ongoing and complicated with lack of information but I do have the name of my father, but no DOB or service number.
Mum was in a unit in Crowborough called Melbourne House pre and post my birth. I was baptised in Lewes, Sussex.
I know I have to do some basic on-foot research now as I have been down most other avenues!
Added by Angela Chitty on 19 March 2015
Very best of luck to you Angela. I would like to let this site know that it took me 20 years from the time of finding out that my Dad was actually my step-father, to finding my deceased father's family.
I'm happy now as I have an identity as far as my paternal family goes.
Added by Lord Keith Hollobone on 19 March 2015
I was born at Chownes Mead on 21st May 1944.
My mother was Betty Erridge and lived at Newick; my father was in the Royal Navy at the time.
I am told that May was very hot that year and the babies were put outside on the terrace in their prams.

Added by Julie Paris on 10 October 2015
Since my first post here, I have found a Canadian brother (now sadly deceased), and a sister with whom I am in constant contact.
She refuses to call me a half-brother, to her I am her brother.
Happy days! Now I know who I am properly.
Added by Lord Keith Hollobone on 10 October 2015
I was born there on 1st May, 1944.
My father was in the RAF and my mother came from Guernsey and was unable to see her family because of the German Occupation.
Added by Anon on 28 May 2016
I am looking for Joseph Edward Hruza, born at Chownes Mead on May 13th 1944. His father's name was also Joseph Edward Hruza, a corporal in the RAF.
His birth certificate says that he was adopted.
Please, is there anyone out there that can shed a light on my mystery?
Added by Anne Douglas (Canada) on 22 July 2016
I was born at Chownes Mead in December 1943. I understand that my mother was there for some weeks before this as evidently she "had her dates mixed up"!
She said that quite a few babies came and went during her protracted stay and she got to know the place and the occupants quite well.
She died nearly three years ago, aged 93. I have a lovely brochure that Savills kindly gave me when the property was last sold.
Added by Angela (née Dobinson) on 11 August 2016
I was also born at Chownes Mead, May 11th 1943.
I was given a tour by a charming young lady while in the Canadian navy, probably in 1965. The delivery room had been converted to her bedroom.
Added by Brian Martin Degg (Canada) on 26 December 2016
I was born at Chownes Mead on 12th December, 1943, my mother being a single parent. She was staying in Melbourne House before my birth.
I would so much love to know if there are any records that may give me my father's name. Maybe a Canadian soldier.
Added by Shirley Bennett (née White) on 19 January 2017
I think you and I are among hundreds in the same position. Our fathers would be long gone or very elderly.
Added by Michael Johnston on 19 January 2017
I was born in Chownes Mead on 10th October 1943.
Dad was away in the war, with Mum living in Danehill.
Added by John Kinchington on 01 February 2017
My mother was born at Chownes Mead on 26th January 1945, to my English grandmother, Emily Richards, and a Canadian serviceman, Charles Cooper.
Sadly my mother passed recently but I made a promise that I would try to track down the Canadian side of the family.
If anyone can help it would be great, especially any information of Canadian units in the area.
I know my mother's evacuated family were housed at Spring Cottage, Newick, not far from the maternity home.
Many thanks.
Added by Pete Kendrick on 08 November 2017
I was born in Chownes Mead on 20th March 1943 and I have been trying for years to find my father whose name I dont know (but it is not Sproston).
My mother's name is Priscilla Sproston (née Turner) and was also known as "Kit" for her first name.
I would love to hear from anyone who can offer advice on finding my father.
Added by Patricia Karen Wright on 13 December 2017
I was born at Chownes Mead on 10th October 1943.
My parents were living at Christopher Cottage in Danehill at the time.
Added by John Kinchington on 14 December 2017
John Kinchington, your mother and mine must have been there at the same time; my birth date was the 15th October 1943.
My mother was a single mother and she told me years later that she struggled against the Social Services as they tried to take single mothers children away for adoption. My mum had the support of her parents or I suppose it could have happened.
I have since discovered that my father was a member of the Canadian forces.
I found his family, but unfortunately he had died, of old age, not the war.
There now an insight into those days and ages.
Added by Lord Keith Hollobone on 14 December 2017
To all those looking for relatives from Canada I would suggest contacting the Department of National Defence in Ottawa, Canada.
Added by Mick Feist (Canada) on 18 December 2017
Thank you Mick Feist, very informative.
I actually found my family through Facebook, but then I had a name which my late mum had given me along with a couple of old photos.
I didn't find out that my dad wasn't my father until i was 47 years old.
Added by Lord Keith Hollobone on 18 December 2017
I was born in this maternity unit on 12th January 1944.
My sister also had her son there in December 1943. There is only 13 days between me and my nephew. My sister was 22 years older than me.
Mother and sister were in the unit together!
Added by Heather Brealey (née Satchel) on 02 February 2018
Does anyone know how long the mothers and babies would have stayed here?
My mum was born here on 3rd April 1944. Her mum lived in Hackney.
Added by Sandra Lewis on 02 February 2018
Hello Sandra, I cannot give you an exact time as Mum never spoke about any of her experiences especially during this time. An approximation from my birth certificate shows I was born at Chownes Mead on 12th December 1943 and my birth registered on 5th January 1944, residence still being Melbourne House, which seems a long gap from time of birth.
My birth certificate is a printed version I obtained in 2001.
Sorry I am unable to be more precise but sadly that seems a journey many of us are familiar with whilst trying to seek our birth fathers.
Yes, I agree with Angela. My mum was so ashamed of me being born with her being unmarried which meant I wasn't told any details of that until I was 47 years old. I had always thought that my dad was my father.
By the time I found my birth father's family he had passed away and most of his family didn't want to acknowledge me. Thankfully a brother did and later on a sister did. The others didn't think their father would do such a thing, be unfaithful and abandon his child.
Such is life. No one seems to care nowadays.
Added by Lord Keith Hollobone on 07 February 2018
My mother is still alive and her recollection is that she went into the manor house once she started to go into labor and stayed for 3 weeks afterwards. This was pretty common in those days.
She also said that a barn or outbuilding was converted into a dormitory-style infirmary where the pregnant mothers stayed!
Added by John McCormack (BC Canada) on 12 February 2018
Amongst my late mother's photos is a picture of Chownes Mead, very similar to the one above.
She has written on the back "Home of Mr Cyril Kleinwort, taken over by military 1939."
My mother worked for Kleinworts Bank and was evacuated with the bank to Bolnore during the war.
Added by Susan Leaver on 22 February 2018
I was born at Chownes Mead on 28 November 1944.
My mother was married to whom I thought was my father, but at the age of 17 I was told 'my father' adopted me.
I have been trying to find the name of my birth father. My birth certificate has a line crossed through 'name of father'.
Does anyone out there know of any records that may be archived?
My mother lived in Holly Road in Haywards Heath although her home is Portsmouth. She was 'sent to the country' to have me.
Added by Jean Goodson on 29 July 2018
I was born at Chownes Mead in June 1945.
My parents were from Horsted Keynes.
Added by John Garrett on 23 March 2019
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