Spring Display

Haywards Heath: Cuckfield's Noisy Neighbour

Our Spring display’s title hints at the relationship between Cuckfield and its larger, busier and still relatively new neighbour, Haywards Heath.

Cuckfield was the small, ancient village which rejected the coming of the modern world when the railway arrived in 1841 so that the station was built in the middle of the Heath –a deserted place with a few scattered farms and cottages and a windmill at its highest point. 

 St Wilfred's Church and Lych Gate
  Sussex Lunatic Asylum











Haywards Heath grew up rapidly from the mid C19th around the station as people realised they could live in the country and easily work in London or Brighton and the town’s situation, in the centre of Sussex, was to make it a county hub.

  Sussex Road
Our display opens with an early C19th painting of the empty Heath contrasted with a densely populated aerial view of the station area from the 1970s.

We look at the early years of the town from the establishment of the cattle market to the vast Sussex Lunatic Asylum sited on edge of the town in 1859 which eventually became St Francis Hospital after the Second World War.

When the railway first arrived, the nearest church was at Cuckfield but in 1865 the town’s own church, St Wilfrid’s, was consecrated.  It stood at the highest point of the Heath near the site of the former windmill, the churchyard being part of an old brick field, and came to signify the heart of the town in a material and spiritual sense.

The town’s population expanded between the wars and the electrification of the railway with speedier travel brought more commuters and prosperity to the town but there was a shortage of housing.  We look at a project, headed by the Rotary Club, to relieve this in the building of Franklands Village in the mid 1930s.  A 45 acre site was cleared below the Birch Hotel and the renowned local architect, Harold Turner, was called on to produce modest but beautifully designed houses. 

If you are interested in this or any other Cuckfield topics, why not visit us in the museum. Click here to see our opening hours.