Fred Bennett of Blackboys had a remarkable escape from one of the more spectacular accidents of the Edwardian era.
He was at the wheel of an East Sussex County Council traction engine travelling through Uckfield in the summer of 1903. As it crossed the river Uck the entire bridge collapsed and the nine ton engine plunged into the water below. It fell straight down, maintaining an almost vertical position. Had it turned over and fallen sideways Bennett would have most certainly been killed but, apart from shock, he was unhurt.
The workmen travelling with him, Horace Wright, of Wadhurst, and Alf Yeomans, of Nutley, also survived and their relatively minor injuries were tended by Mr Sweet, a local surgeon. Huge crowds gathered to goggle at the sensation and the stricken engine in the river provided local cameramen with an unexpected photo opportunity that subsequently became a famous postcard.
The picturesque derivation of the unusual name Blackboys is the condition of the charcoal burners when they emerged from the woodlands at the old settlement here. Less engaging but probably more accurate is that the name means Black Wood or Blake’s Wood; and there is also a record of a Richard Blakeboy.
The Blackbovs Inn, an old coaching establishment dating from the 14th century, has a variation on the old pub game of Ringing-the-Bull where the players try to land a ring hanging from a piece of cord to the hook on a huge bull’s head mounted on the wall. Here a stag’s head replaces the bull.
Ronald Shiner, the actor who starred in a string of West End farces including Worm’s Eye View in the 1950s, retired from the stage to become landlord here.
It was another landlord who repeatedly fell into the trap set by Horace Beddington, Sussex Express district reporter for many years and a familiar character as he travelled from job to job in his pony and trap. Horace’s ploy was stunningly simple and totally unoriginal, but it never failed to get him a free drink at The Blackboys which mine host grudgingly felt obliged to provide:
Landlord: “Good evening, Mr Beddington, and what can I get for you?”
Horace: “That’s very kind of you to offer, landlord. I’ll have a pint of your best bitter.”