Richard Baker’s visit was big news in 1978

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Richard Baker was the voice of BBC news for almost 30 years. He introduced the first television news broadcast on July 5 1954, and stayed with the Beeb until 1982.

In 1978, he was in Cuckfield, opening a £70,000 classroom block at Mill Hall School for the Deaf.

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Called Peacocks, the new classroom was named after Michael Peacock, from Battle, who had spent two years raising money for the project, approaching private and public industries and charitable trusts.

The Peacocks sign was unveiled by his daughter, who had been a student at Mill Hall.

Mr Baker proved to be a top man by turning up at the school three-and-a-half hours before the official opening so that he could spend time getting to know the 52 children and talking to the staff, including headteacher Helga Webster.

The Mid Sussex Times reported: “Before 200 assembled parents, pupils and staff at Mill Hall, he said that the school’s teachers and he were in the same business – communication – but that their job was infinitely more difficult and earned the deepest admiration.”

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Mr Baker told the paper: “There is a wonderful atmosphere here, warmly welcoming and helping the boys and girls to concentrate on their work.”

The school stayed at Mill Hall until 1996, when it was moved to Newbury, in Berkshire. Mill Hall’s history stretches back much further than 1978.

David Mortimer contributed an article to Cuckfield Museum detailing the history of the house, which is believed to date back to the 1850s.

It was expanded in the 1890s, was used as a hospital during World War One and housed evacuees from Stepney during World War Two.

In his article, Mr Mortimer spoke of Shirley Reid and her mother Florence, who lived at Mill Hall and were remembered fondly by the evacuees.

He wrote: “One of the evacuee boys who lived at Mill Hall in World War Two kept in touch with Shirley and remembers her with great fondness, as he does her mother.

“When, on his first day, he asked Mrs Reid whether he was allowed to walk on the grass she not only said he was but bought him a football and boots to play on it with his co-evacuees from Stepney.”

The article in full can be found online at cuckfieldmuseum.org/buildings/millhall.

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