Haywards Heath

Street Map

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Haywards Heath is a town in the Mid Sussex District of West Sussex, within the historic County of Sussex, England. It lies 36 miles (58 km) south of London, 12 miles (19 km) north of Brighton, 15 miles (24 km) south of Gatwick Airport and 31 miles (50 km) east northeast of the county town of Chichester. Nearby towns include Burgess Hill to the southwest, Horsham to the northwest, Crawley north-northwest and East Grinstead north-northeast. Being a commuter town, many of the residents commute daily via rail to London, Brighton, Crawley or Gatwick for work.

The name Hayward comes from Old English meaning an official who protected hedged enclosures from wandering livestock. There is a local legend that the name comes from a highwayman who went under the name of Jack but this is almost definitely apocryphal.

Haywards Heath gets a mention in English Civil War records. Early in December 1642 the High Sheriff of Sussex (Sir Edward Ford) advanced with Royalist troops towards Lewes in East Sussex from Chichester in West Sussex. He was intercepted in Haywards Heath by local Parliamentarians and defeated. Haywards Heath as a settlement is a relatively modern development. Following the arrival of the London & Brighton Railway in 1841, its size has increased considerably. Haywards Heath railway station opened on 12 July 1841 and served as the southern terminus of the line until the completion of Brighton station on 21 September. The position of Haywards Heath, and its place on both this railway and near the main road (A23) between London and Brighton, enables it to function as a commuter town, with many residents working in London, Brighton, Crawley and Gatwick Airport.

Other noted historical events in the town’s history include:

  • The opening of the Sussex County Lunatic Asylum (later called St Francis Hospital) in 1859. The superintendent here was, for many years, Dr Lockhart Robertson, later Lord Chancellor’s Visitor, and brother of the eminent ophthalmologist, Dr Argyll Robertson.
  • The opening of Bannister’s cattle market, the 12th largest in UK at one point, in 1859. This was closed to make way for a Sainsbury’s supermarket in 1989.
  • The opening of Victorian and Edwardian villas built as early commuter settlements in 1894
  • The opening of the Eliot Cottage Hospital, later King Edward VII Eliot Memorial Hospital, in 1906, named after benefactor, Alice Annie Eliot (1864–1904)
  • Schemes in the 1920s to help families on low incomes to become self-sufficient, resulting in the building of Franklands Village in the 1930s.

In the 1960s and 1970s, two light industrial estates were built. Office development has lately resulted in the town being a regional or national centre for a number of national companies and government agencies.

The population has risen from 200 in the early 1850s to 22,800 (2001 census), making it one of the larger towns in West Sussex. The area of the civil parish is 974.99 hectares (2,409.3 acres).

The parish church, dedicated to St Wilfrid, and the Roman Catholic church of St Paul are among the churches and chapels in Haywards Heath. Other places of worship include the Methodist church in Perrymount Road and two Baptist churches, St Richards (C of E), the Church of the Presentation (C of E) and the Ascension Church (C of E).

Haywards Heath was in East Sussex, but a change to the county boundary in 1974 brought it under the jurisdiction of West Sussex.

Housing in Haywards Heath has been expanded significantly in the last ten years due to the creation of Bolnore Village, located to the south west of the existing town. Planning permission was first granted in the late 1990s for 780 new homes on a greenfield site. Since then, phases 1, 2 and 3 have been built by the house builders Crest Nicholson in conjunction with several other developers. Phases 4 and 5 (located closer to Haywards Heath centre) are also proposed, but planning permission has not yet been granted.

The decision to grant planning permission for Bolnore Village was somewhat controversial, since the Ashenground and Catts Woods on that site formed a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).

As a condition for planning permission, the developers are required to build a relief road for the town, often referred to as Haywards Heath by-pass, which will re-route the A272 south of the town centre. Although the first section of the relief road has already been built, it remains incomplete after the economic downturn, which heavily impacted property developers. Construction work on the relief road is now expected to commence in 2013, with completion expected in 2015. The next stage of the relief road will see a bridge over the railway and across the south east part of Haywards Heath, eventually joining the A272 (Lewes Road).

In 2008, local residents won a bid to set up and run their own primary school for the village. The new school opened in September 2010 (after operating on a temporary basis at St Wilfrid’s CE Primary School since September 2009). The school building has strong green credentials, having achieved BREEAM excellence status by adopting technologies such as a living sedum plant roof and a ground source heat pump. The school has a strong environmental ethos, including a forest school programme in its curriculum through which pupils can explore the local woodlands.

The Mid Sussex District Council are planning to further modernise the town centre, and have published a Haywards Heath Masterplan which includes renovation plans for the railway station ticket office and new shared parking facilities. The next steps for the redevelopment are currently unclear since the council’s chosen developer, Thornfield Properties, went into administration in early 2010. However, the council remains committed to achieving the redevelopment through alternative developers.

A further 685 homes are due to be built in the final phases of Bolnore Village (phases 4 and 5), and new homes are also expected to be built in the town centre as part of the Haywards Heath Master Plan.

The Haywards Heath by-pass, which is expected to be completed in 2015, will divert the A272 traffic south of the town through Bolnore Village, which the district council hopes will improve the current traffic situation through the town centre.

Haywards Heath railway station is a major station on the Brighton Main Line. Some of the train services divide at Haywards Heath before continuing their journey to the south, or join other services before continuing north.

Haywards Heath is twinned with Bondues, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, and  Traunstein, Bavaria, Germany.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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