LETTER: Treacle mines and lost docks

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The wartime blitz of Eastbourne in 1940 was so severe that evacuation was advised. So I. as a little lad, came firstly to Billingshurst and then on to Horsham to spend nearly all the rest of the war years in Swindon Road with dear friends, ‘Uncle’ Frank, ‘Auntie’ Rose and Brian just after Victory Road School was destroyed by fire.

In those days Horsham was an unspoilt little country town and very different from the seaside borough that I had left but a relatively safe haven. It was a joy to escape to the peaceful Leggy Fields and Red River and see previously unknown wildlife.

Sometimes, in the school holidays, ‘Uncle’ Frank would take me out in his delivery van. It was like a guided tour as he told me all the names of the villages and their points of interest.

When delivering to Rusper, he always spoke about the famous Treacle Mines but I never actually saw them.

He would always say that they were the other side of those trees and had been very well camouflaged in accordance with the strict regulations for such an important production site.

When I asked what happened next to the mined treacle, I was told that it was exported from the Roffey Docks but that was of course a big wartime secret.

The secrecy was maintained carefully as, once this became known to the enemy, Rusper would be made an important target.

As the years went by, I found that other boys had heard of the Rusper Treacle Mines but, like me , had never actually seen the workings and, sadly, there does not appear to be any sign of the old pithead gear or shaft remaining so I presume that it closed when the supply of treacle became exhausted.

This seems a good time of year, on the eve of April 1, to enquire if anyone remains who still remembers the wartime legend and has any knowledge of its demise?

Did the seam of treacle run out? Was production halted by the EU? Or was it closed down due to concern about impending sugar tax?

DEREK J. SANTER

Highlands Avenue, Horsham

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