Historical Information about Heathfield
Heathfield and Waldron, East Sussex, lie on the crest and southern slopes of one of the main ridges of the High Weald in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To the south there is the coast and South Downs. To the north there are fine views towards Mayfield and Ashdown Forest. It is close to the Kent border.
The topology of the area was formed some sixty-five million years ago when the region rose above the sea, creating the Downs and the Weald. Later erosion of the High Weald cut through the chalk to expose the underlying sandstones and clays and create the ridges and steep-sided ghylls, dense forests, woods, flora, wildlife and springs and streams. For many centuries its peripheral position was emphasised by difficult access, especially in winter.
The original settlement at Heathfield, East Sussex, grew up along the ridge which runs east-west some 150-170 metres above sea level. Waldron (originally Walderne), further to the west, also lies a little way off the ridgeway, where ancient routes meet at Cross-in-Hand. Waldron itself grew up in a clearing in the 400 acre Forest of Walderne and in the early 19th century a third of the parish was woodland. Modern Heathfield has grown up in the bowl-like valley of Waldron Ghyll.
The Origins of Heathfield
Weald means a wood and the accounts of the Sheriffs for the year 1230 record Heathfield as Hatfeld, meaning open land overgrown with heather.
The earliest traces of human habitation in this part of the Weald go back to the Neolithic (New Stone Age) people who came over from the continent sometime before 3000BC. Some of their implements and those of the later Bronze Age (2000-5000BC) have been found in Waldron. Travellers came this way, skirting around the great Wealden forest which was only sparsely populated. Hunters lived off its wild boar, wolves, deer and other animals. They also traded skins, cloth and timber products. Charcoal provided the basis, together with iron ore mined in the forest, for the development over two thousand years ago of primitive iron-making. The Romans, who arrived in AD43, greatly expanded its production and remains of iron-works, as well as Roman pottery have been found in both parishes.
The first real roads in England were the outermost threads of the web from Rome. It was near Dover in Kent where Julius Caesar landed in 55BC and the main Roman invasion in AD43, almost a hundred years later, was still further to the east. East Sussex then lay in the Kingdom of Verica and was missed by the scythe of war as it accepted the Roman protection. Chichester was the capital and the surge of movement was on the Roman military road to the west, no pilgrims yet came eastwards to Canterbury. The current High Street was a Roman road which went all the way to Hawkhurst.
It was from the coast that the impetus later came for opening up the Weald. Pigs were driven up in late August to be fattened on the mast of the forest before returning for slaughter at the end of the year. After the arrival of the Saxons early in 5AD and the establishment of the South Saxons, these seasonal excursions (the routes can still be traced) led to the clearing and more permanent settlement of the Weald. The pattern of fields and settlements they established has only been significantly modified in the last hundred years. The Saxons also brought Christianity to Sussex.
A thousand years roll on until the next invasion; in 1066. William, Duke of Normandy, cousin of Edward, the late English king, decided to conquer our island. Senlac, north of Hastings and near the present town of Battle, saw the fight on the 14 October when Saxon Harold lost his life and William gained his crown, now William the Conqueror. His subsequent administration bred communication and he had to keep the way open to the continent and East Sussex lay across it. He had also to collect his taxes. The county was divided into six Rapes which were sub-divided into several Hundreds. Heathfield/Hatfeld or Hefful, lay in the Rape of Hastings, forming a parish in the Hundred of Hawkesborough. Waldron was in the Pevensey Rape. It would seem that Heathfield had at least the rudiments of a village before the Norman period and was established between the 12th Century and the Black death of 1349. Heathfield was awarded the Market Charter in 1316.
The first national census of England was made in the Domesday Book which showed the exact number of tenants under the Crown, the size and value of their estates and the payments they owed to the crown. One such mentioned in the Domesday Book is Cross Farm in Waldron.
The Middle Ages
The major work of clearing and settling in the High Weald was undertaken between the late 12th and early 14th centuries. During this period, huge tracts of former forest were brought into cultivation on new 'assert' land. Pioneering settlers were exempt from labour services to the lord of the manor and give the status of free tenants. These independent yeomen were to give a special character to the area, as well as the absence of a dominant lord. By the second half of the 13th century the growing settlement at Heathfield provided a range of crafts and services.
The pioneering surge in the Weald was brought to a halt largely as a result of the Black Death which arrived in Sussex in 1348, resulting in half the population dying in a few months. Although some of the survivors were able to profit from the shortage of labour, agricultural depression and feudal dues weighed heavily on the rural population which led to widespread discontent. The Weald became a centre of unrest and area of lawlessness, its dense woodland offering shelter for criminals and rebels.
Violence erupted again in the Weald in 1450. Shakespeare wrote of the incident in the second part of Henry VI but wrongly places the scene in Kent. It comes in Scene Ten of Act Four and ends:
"Is't Cade that I have slain, that monstrous traitor?
Sword, I will hallow thee for this thy deed,
And hang thee o'er my tomb, when I am dead:
Ne'er shall this blood be wiped from thy point,
But thou shalt wear it as a herald's coat,
To emblaze the honour that thy master got"
If you go to Cade Street (originally known as Catt Street) you will see our most famous monument. The killing of Jack Cade, 'The Captain of the Rebels,' by Alexander Iden, Sheriff of Kent. Henry VI was a weak king and a gentle man and the affairs of England were in a sorry state beneath his rule. The sparking point came in 1450 with defeat of our army in France and the loss of Normandy. All the gains of Agincourt by the fifth Henry in 1415 was lost - with only Calais left. Taxation was heavy and unfair; public money was wasted on every side and officials extortionate in their means of collection. Discontent was rife around the country and it was no surprise when Jack Cade aroused the men of Kent. Some say he was Irish, a murderer by the name of Mortimer, others claim he was an illegitimate offspring of the Royal House and supported by the Duke of York (who was after the throne for himself). Cade's stated aim was "to correct public abuses and to remove evil counsellors". An army of 20,000 armed men of every social class rallied in Blackheath. It withdrew to Sevenoaks as an army of the King advanced from London but formed there to give battle and win victory - the way to the capital was now left without defence.
Flushed with triumph and drunk with power, this army degenerated into a murderous mob. Now they thought of plunder rather than of political reform. There was looting and pillage and two high officials lost their heads by public execution - the Treasurer of England and the High Sheriff of Kent. Inevitable defeat came at the hands of troops under the command of the Captain of the Tower. Dispersal followed a promise of general pardon. Cade's was in the name of Mortimer and this the King revoked.
Cade tried again to raise a force at Rochester but only organised an ineffectual rally. On the run now, he made for a place he knew - Heathfield. He hid on a farm but came out one day to take part in a game of bowls on the south side of the road at the top of what is now called Cade Street. On the other side stands the monument, the Cade Stone, and this marks the spot where Sheriff Iden tracked his man down, and some say, took aim with his bow. He had been on the trail from Rochester; a wounded Cade was put into a cart and on the way to London died. The corpse was dragged through London on a hurdle; decapitated, disembowelled and quartered. Portions were exhibited in London, Blackheath, Norwich, Salisbury and Gloucester. This was the normal custom of the age. The monument reads "Near this spot was slain the notorious rebel Jack Cade by Alexander Iden, Sheriff of Kent, AD1450. His body was carried to London and his head fixed upon London Bridge. This is the success of all rebels and this fortune chanceth ever to traitors". Cade had failed but the way was open now to the Wars of the Roses.
Please see article below on Jack Cade's march on London published in the Sussex Express on the 1 February 2019.
The accession of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, in 1485 coincided with the beginning of a new period of rapid economic growth for the Weald. There was strong support locally for reform where the Lollards (who were anti-clericals and denied the validity of sacraments) had much influence and the Puritan teachers found a ready audience for their message.
Robert Hunt, vicar of Heathfield from 1602 to 1606, sailed as chaplain with the 1607 expedition to settle the colony of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English colony in North America (13 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in the Mayflower) and so became the first christian minister to preach in America.
Iron was crudely smelted here in Roman times with forest charcoal used in the process, as well as for domestic fuel. There were ironworks here in 1574 when ordnance and shot were supplied to the forces of the first Elizabeth. Names of manufacturers operating without the Royal license were listed, as with "Sir Rychard Baker, ij fordgs, ij furnaces, in Heathfelde and Warbleton".
The British Museum preserves the accounts of the Clerk of Waldron Furnace from as early as 1628. It was for cannon that Heathfield gained renown, but they also made domestic articles. They were cast from wooden model, turned by lathe to the exact dimensions. "An Account of Guns to be made for the King" is a regular entry around the middle of the 18th century. The Fuller family of Heathfield owned the Heathfield Furnace. The rise and fall of the industry ran from about 1614 to 1787. The first John Fuller, founder of a dynasty, died in 1755. The Fuller establishment was one of the largest ordnance foundries in England and provided employment for the greater part of the population. The goods were tested as well as made and were exported. There was also the Pelhams who owned the Waldron Furnace and Richard Woodman (well-known martyr of Warbleton who was burned at the stake in Lewes on the 22 June 1557) who owned a furnance in Warbleton, but these were much smaller concerns.
The timber that fed the fires was giving out - there is a history of hauling of heavy timber to the Medway and the Thames for the building of ships that must have bled the forest too - and the making of guns was soon at an end. As far back as 1661 one finds accounts for "scythes, hoockes, sickles, white-ware, nayles" and now the declining industry fell back on such items as "plates, hammers, anvils, grates, forge tackle, pig-iron" and more precise tools such chisels, tongs and compasses. The Heathfield furnace finally blew out in 1787 under the last John Fuller, known locally as Jolly/Mad Jack Fuller. James Watt had now perfected his steam engine, the age of the factory had come and names like Bolton, Preston and Blackburn edged in to take the places of villages on Sussex Downs and Wealds.
In the Victorian age occupations increased in variety and in addition to farming, timber and building work, there was now a widespread industry in chicken-fattening. Trains would bring in chickens for fattening from all over and take them away when they were ready. Lots of people did a bit of fattening in their back gardens, putting up lews (shelters made from faggots) to keep out the wind. Chickens would be put on a cramming machine to fatten them up with a mixture of sour milk, ground oats and rendered down fat. Men would do the plucking and the women did the stubbing (pinching out the beginnings of new feathers). As this activity expanded, it spawned a range of related activities such as corn and seed merchants, carriers and suppliers of equipment and machinery, as well as the increase in the production of cereals and hops. This industry started in the 1860s and finished around 1960 when broilers were introduced.
There was a tannery in Newick Lane, two in Waldron and a rope-walk at Cade Street. There were four watermills (Twissell's, Potten's, Stream and Leopards).
There were eight windmills (Cross-in-Hand, Blackdown, Sandy Cross, Mutton Hall, Pontins (Burwash Road), Owlsbury, Lower and Piper's (a saw mill in North Street, Punnetts Town) and one south of Mill Road. Heathfield, by virtue of its geographical location, was an ideal area and a map of the area in 1874 shows four of the mills. The first known map reference for a windmill at Cross-in-Hand is dated 1724, but could go far back as 1598.
Between 1801 and 1851 the population of the parish of Heathfield doubled from 1,200 to just over 2,220. In 1851 Cade Street was a thriving little community supporting two harness-makers, a saddler, blacksmith, carpenter, baker and confectioner, butcher, bootmaker, schoolmistress and three inns. Waldron was smaller and grew more slowly. Its population rose from 752 in 1801 to 1,106 in 1851, but then it started to attract more up-market residents.
Springtime Legend - Cuckoo Fair
According to local legend, England would enjoy no spring at all without the news from Heathfield. It all began at "Hefful Fair". In 1315 the Bishop of Chichester was our Lord of the Manor and he made the grant of a market and fair. The dates chosen were the 3 April and 18 June, amended by the calendar correction of 1752 to 14 April and 27 June.
The great day of our legend falls on the first of these dates, 14 April, when glad tidings are spread far and wide from Heathfield, by the Old Woman of Heffle Fair. She carries a basket hanging from her arm and during the day she opens it to let the Cuckoo fly out and that tells all of England that winter has finished and spring is at the full and summer is on the way. Sussex folk still reckon to hear the Cuckoo on the Fair's traditional day, the 14 April.
There is an ancient song "twas written 'bout the Cuckoo by a monk (John of Fornsette) from Reading who lived full seven hundred years ago":
"Summer is icumen in
llude sing cucu!
Growesth sed and bloweth med
And springeth the wude nu
Ewe bleteth after lamb
Llouth after calve cu
Bulluc sterteth, buch verteth
Murie sing cucu
Wel singes thu, cucu
Ne swik thu naver nu!"
Heathfield Park, originally known as Bailey/Bayley Park, is believed to have had a house built there in about 1500 when the Dacre family owned it. Of all its owners, perhaps the most illustrious was Lieut-General George Augustus Eliott, who bought the property in 1766 with the prize money he gained for being second-in-command at the capture of Havana. In 1774 he was in command of the forces in Ireland and in 1775 was sent to command the garrison of Gibraltar. On his return to England in 1787 he was raised to the peerage as Lord Heathfield of Gibraltar.
The Park was an island of wealth in the midst of widespread poverty. The final decline of the local iron industry meant that the area now relied heavily again on agriculture for employment. The enclosure of uncultivated land including Heathfield and Waldron Down led to some improvements in husbandry but for many tenants it was hard making a living from the poor soil. This hit the poorer people hardest and some in Waldron were gaoled for stealing wood and grass. Not surprisingly the area became notorious for highwaymen and smugglers (the first hard surfaced turnpike went from Heathfield to Battle and Robertsbridge in 1813 preceded by Cross-in-Hand to Hailsham in 1754). Some landowners were more enlightened and Sir Charles Richard Blunt who bought the Park after Newberry's death in 1819. The wall he built around the Park in 1833-1836 was undertaken in part to provide local jobs and he also loaned the parish money to pay poor relief and helped fund sixty people from Heathfield and twenty six from Waldron to emigrate to the United States during 1830 and 1831. Blunt's record as a reformer won him a seat in Parliament for Sussex, which he held until he died in 1840. He also took a keen interest in the National School which opened in Old Heathfield in 1819.
The Gibraltar Tower was built in 1793 by a later owner of the Park, Francis Newberry, one time High Sheriff for Sussex (who also erected the Cade Memorial at Cade Street) in commemoration of the late distinguished proprietor of the estate. The tower is situated at the north-western corner of the park on an elevation of about 600 feet above the level of the sea and cost £3,000 to build. The tower is built of stone and from the bottom is of an octagonal form to the height of about 15 feet, whence it rises in a circular column to the top of the battlement, which is 55 feet from the ground. It is 22 feet in diameter and contains a circular staircase. The views from the top of the Tower are very extensive over the wealds of Sussex and Kent.
Waldron Cricket Club
The Club was founded in 1757 and the first match recorded was in 1746. The 100 year centenary game scheduled for the 24 May 1857 never happened because of heavy snow. A notice board (later found on a door of an outside toilet in Warren Lane) was put up on the ground to notify travelling parties (horses and carts) that the game was off.
The cricket club played its home fixtures from origin on church land to the north side of the road. The ground was named as the" cattam," which is a breton word that may well have been a ladies game that became stoolball. In 1921 the Lucas family offered the cricket club the use of the existing site, both flatter and with better drainage (again called the cattam). The bank above the square was known as "the batter" which came from the breton word, similar to abattre, "a wall that diminishes upwards!" The ground, laid on a windswept slope of sandstone, has outstanding drainage and combining that with the legend of the centenary game, the club motto has become "nives ludum impedire solum possunt" which translated from the latin, means "only snow can stop play!"
In June 1923 the surviving men of the 1st World War built the pavilion over a weekend and the pavilion was given to Waldron CC by R E Hassell Esq in the memory of his late brother Lt Col Robert de Bray Hassell OMC. When the floorboards collapsed in the late 1990s the discarded beer bottles (now in the Star Inn public house, Waldron) from that original working party were found underneath.
The bi-centenary game, planned for 1957 and recorded in the AGM minutes of that year, eventually was run in 1960 with all players dressed and equipped in the style of 1757.
The new pavilion was installed in time for the commencement of the 2007 season (the 250th anniversary. It has taken since 1992, when the campaign first was conceived, to bring this about and most of the credit for that lies with the Cattam Committee formed by helpers from the whole community who wanted to support improved sporting facilities in the village. In the latter stages the President, Sir Roger Neville and Vice President, Roger Dann, were both instrumental in the execution of the building itself.
The official address of the club is the Star Inn where some memorabilia is kept.
Heathfield Railway Station
Extracts taken from Old Heathfield and Cade Street in to the 19th Century by Shineen Galloway, Pauline McIldowie, Roy Pryce and Joanne Williams. Contact: Colin Mackenzie Tel: 01435 866988
Into the Railway Age
In the late 1870's an aristocratic newcomer to the Heathfield area, Lady Dorothy Nevill, described it as 'a remote old-world district which seems to have been wrapped in slumber ever since the furness of the old Sussex ironmasters were extinguished'. This view underestimated the changes that had been taking place since the 1840's but the pace of change was to be greatly speeded up by the arrival of the railway in 1880. Its late arrival, almost thirty years after the London-Hastings line had reached Witherenden Station (now Stonegate) some six miles away, was due both to the rivalry between the South East Railway and the London, Brighton and South Coast Company (which only reluctantly built it) and also the physical difficulties presented by the terrain between Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne. The line was eventually constructed on the cheap and had to go through low-lying ground to the west of Heathfield and its park to avoid the need for a long tunnel. To serve the area, a station was built about a mile away from the existing settlement waste ground very close to the boundary between the parishes of Heathfield and Waldron.
In the short term the people of Heathfield and Cade Street greatly benefited from this new arrival. This was particularly true of those in the local poultry industry whose products now had much easier and swifter access to the London market. In its opening year the new station handled £60,000 worth of dead poultry and by 1894 this had risen to £140,000 charged for some 1,300,000 chickens. Local nurseries also benefited in similar fashion. Local people now had much easier access to the coast and day trips to Eastbourne and Brighton became popular. Easier access also attracted summer visitors to the area for what became known as 'The Season, a useful source of additional income for those with accommodation to rent. In September 1891 for instance, the Parish Magazine reported that 'Our village is again crowded with visitors, many who wished to obtain lodgings being unable to do so'.
It was not long before the powerful commercial pull of the station began to attract development not only in its immediate vicinity but also along the existing east-west road (now the A265) a short distance away. It was here that a new generation of shops appeared, together with a bank, a garage, offices and workshops. - as well as the strategically situated nonconformist Union Church. Whereas the established church had dominated the original Heathfield, it was now the Dissenters who raised their flag in the centre of the new town.
Around this nucleus rapidly developed an urban settlement of solidly built and substantial houses. At first this rival was known as 'Station District' but as early as 1899 the need for a more distinctive name on the part of the postal authorities led to it being re-named 'Heathfield Tower' (after the Gibraltar Tower which overlooked the burgeoning new township). From then on it was only a matter of time - though it took another 36 years - before the new arrival acquired the name of the original village, which in turn became known by its present name of 'Old' Heathfield. The same process also gradually meant the demise of the shops both there and at Cade Street, though several managed to keep going until after World War II. It was not all loss, but it was a new phase in the history of these two old settlements, and another story.
Between 1881 and 1911 the population of Heathfield Parish rose from about 2,000 to 3,150 and Waldron parish from 1,342 to 2,178. Some of the incomers were well-off people looking for a country base which could now be reached easily from London.
Before the Cuckoo Line fell silent
The Cuckoo Line from Polegate to Hailsham first opened in 1849 and an extension northwards to Groombridge on the Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells line opened in 1880. The line provided a swift and efficient route to market for the countryside's booming farming industry. The logical extension to the expanding rail network seems to make even more sense today as local people face a 10-mile-plus drive along rural roads to Berwick, Polegate, Stonegate and Wadhurst to catch the commuter train.
In the 1960s stream trains ceased to operate in Southern England and the demise of steam coincided with the closure of the majority of branch lines in Sussex. All that is left now is a quiet path encircled by trees and used by dog walkers and cyclists. The 13 mile Cuckoo Trail is a pretty and popular leisure link between Eastbourne and Heathfield. The name Cuckoo had been adopted by the railwaymen who first worked on the line and it relates to the Sussex legend of an old woman who released the first cuckoo of spring from her basket at the Heathfield annual fair.
As the railway arrived places along the line flourished. Polegate became an important junction with its new station (now a pub) to serve the line. At Hailsham the railway transported materials and products for brickworks at Nightingales Farm and the town's main products of rope and sacking. The next station was Hellingly, now a private residence clearly seen from the nearby bridlepath. The railway was used to carry building materials, coal and stores and sometime visitors and staff, to the nearby mental hospital. Northward at Horam there is still a 1930's Southern Railway concrete platform with its own lamp standard. The Heathfield Station house and booking office is now the Steamer Trading Cook Shop where the owners have restored the building with great sympathy and the old railway cottages are still there, next to the Cook Shop.
Heathfield was one of the busiest stations on the line with the heaviest passenger traffic and a large goods depot which finally closed in 1968. Unusually, the station was lit by natural gas discovered when the railway company sunk a borehole in search of water. The supply of natural gas lasted until mid 1930's.
As road competition increased the demand for rail traffic fell and by the 1950's there was just one train an hour. By 1965 a survey showed just 250 daily passengers and 23 season ticket holders, making the line an inevitable target for closure.
The Cuckoo Trail was bought by Wealden District and East Sussex County Councils in 1981 and was built as part of a 6,500-mile national cycle network for the UK.
To find out how to get there log on to http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/leisureandtourism/countryside/walks/cuckootrail/
The Discovery of Natural Gas in Heathfield
Extracts from Why the Discovery of Natural Gas is a matter of National Importance by The Natural Gas Fields of England Ltd
The first record of the discovery of an inflammable natural gas in East Sussex is contained in Mr Henry Willett's 13th Quarterly Report of The Subwealden Exploration (Netherfield) 1875. It is stated that in making experiments on the temperature, etc, at various depths and on lowering a light into the bore-tube, an explosion occurred. Strange oscillations in the depth of the water are reported to have been noticed, which at the time were attributed (inter alia) to the discharge of inflammable gases derived probably from the petroleum-bearing strata beneath (the Kimmeridge clay).
Another discovery of inflammable gas occurred in 1895 in the stable yard of the Heathfield Hotel (now Sainsburys and GREAT Hairdressing), close to Heathfield Station. At the depth of 228 feet the foreman of the work noticed that the water which had been put down the bore-hole to assist the working of the tools was "boiling". As he was about to lower a candle to discover the cause, the gas arising from the bubbles caught fire and burnt "to about the height of a man". Subsequently the foreman attached small tubes and ignited the gas at a distance of 15 yards from the bore-hole. Although he appears to have reported the details of the strata traversed to his employers, he does not seem to have reported the discovery of the gas. This boring was not carried any deeper, as no water had been discovered. The bore-hole has been covered up and the upper part cemented and used as a sump.
The third discovery was made in August 1896 at a site about 100 yards distant from the last one, on lower ground, in the railway cutting between the north-eastern end of Heathfield railway station and the mouth of the tunnel. The Railway Company desired to obtain a better quality of water for their engine-tank than that afforded by the present surface-spring supply. Accordingly a 6 inch bore-tube was sunk, commencing at the bottom of a sump 73 feet deep, into which the surface water had been allowed to flow. Gas appears to have been discovered a long time before its inflammable properties were tested, a strong odour of gas having been noticed for some days, but the smell was attributed to the presence of "foul air" in the bore-tube. The gas continued to increase during the remainder of the depth bored, eventually being abandoned at the depth of 377 feet, no useful amount of water having been obtained. Heathfield Station was lit by the gas from 1898 to 1930, when the then Ministry of Mines decided to put it to better use. It was compressed into cylinders and sent away for research purposes. When supplies began to fail it was thought best to seal off the hole in 1963. The station was closed two years later.
Although in the late 1920s and early 1930s there was some rumour of an "oil belt" at Heathfield, no serious exploration work was done there between the wars. However some boring was carried out at Worth, Henfield, Hellingly and Hankham near Pevensey, all with the original Heathfield discovery in mind.
It was left to British Petroleum to drill the last Heathfield hole - 2000 feet east of the Station well (in the recreation ground adjacent to Gibraltar Tower) - in 1955. They did find some gas, but not enough to make further wells worthwhile. A total of seven wells were drilled in this area but the maximum production rate obtained, of only 30,000 cf/d, was insufficient for further development.
The Heathfield Park Cricket Club
Extract taken from Heathfield Park Cricket Club Souvenir Centenary Brochure 1978
The Heathfield Park Cricket Club started in 1878, although cricket was played somewhere in the Park Grounds in the early 1800s, and is still in operation. The Club has been most fortunate in having the use of the cricket ground on purely nominal terms through the generosity of the successive owners of the Heathfield Park of which it formed a part until 1964 until the estate was broken up and the Club was given the ground through the great generosity of Broadlands Development Co, who had acquired the estate at that time.
World War II - to-date
In September 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War, Sussex was declared a "safe area" and evacuees from London poured in. Soon the German army arrived on the other side of the Channel and as we now know its invasion plan targeted the Kent and Sussex coast and Heathfield was to be included in its initial occupation area. The plan was thwarted by RAF fighter pilots and the subsequent German attack on the Soviet Union. Several German planes were brought down in Waldron, Blackboys, Horam and Three Cups. Heathfield was spared in the attack on coastal towns, but had created land defences and prepared for the worst. The local district was included in a "banned" area and access and movement was tightly controlled. Heathfield Park was requisitioned and turned over to the Army, with the Gibraltar Tower being used as a look-out post and had a firing range close by. From the summer of 1941 Canadian troops took over the responsibility for the defence of the area. From early in 1944 Sussex was one of the areas where troops were concentrated for the launch of the invasion to re-conquer the continent. At the end of April the Heathfield Park become the HQ for the Guards Armoured Division and 5,000 men of the Worcesters were also billeted there.
Shop windows were blown out by a bomb in May 1941 (it fell in Marshlands Lane). Some 133 high explosives and 2,100 incendiaries fell in the district. From June 1944 900 V1 guided missiles hit the county and 159 came down locally causing extensive damage and loss of life. Four V2s fell in Sussex; one being in Burwash.
There was an ambulance station during war time (next to Kensingtons) in Heathfield and also the fire station, which has always been on the same site, was manned full-time.
Heathfield emerged from the war relatively unscathed and still surrounded by woods and forests. On the south side of the High Street there were small gardens and hedges. Since the 1930s Waldron Parish Council had tried to persuade owners to cede their rights to allow a continuous pavement to be provided, which they did in 1948. By then the population was around 3,000.
A Community Council was set-up to raise funds to purchase the State Hall for a community centre, but this failed. Whilst the State Hall was in private ownership (built in 1909 and is still in Station Road) it was used for dances. It was sold in 1962 (the same time the cinema closed) and became a clothing factory. In 1981 the Kings Church purchased the hall for their church.
Between 1965 and 1971 the population of the town grew at a higher rate than anywhere else in East Sussex, by approximately 6% a year. It rose to 4,000 in Heathfield and 3,000 in Waldron. Initially many of the new residents were retired but with the building of the new Community Secondary School (now Heathfield Community College) in Old Heathfield in 1950 attracted younger families to the area.
Between 1945 and 1972 the number of houses in the town more than doubled and several new estates were created. The opposition to the possible encroachment of Heathfield Park stopped the surge of development. From the early 1950s Waldron Parish Council fought for adequate car parking to cope with the explosion in car ownership. The Station Hotel was demolished in 1983 and was replaced with Budgens supermarket and car park. Wealden District Council was formed in 1974 and in the 1990s Heathfield and Waldron Parish Councils amalgamated making it the biggest parish in the country with approximately 11,300 residents.
Heathfield had a 9 hole golf course (off Mutton Hall Lane/Vines Corner) and was in use in the 1920s and 1930s. There was also a motor sport club and three football clubs: Heathfield United, Heathfield Hotspurs (still in existence) and Cross-in-Hand.
Heathfield and District Agricultural Show
The show was first held on the Hardy Roberts recreation ground at Cross-in-Hand in 1946; run by the Heathfield branch of the National Farmers Union as a fundraiser for local hospitals (it was pre-NHS). The show then moved to Little Tottingworth in about 1950, then to Holbans Farm at the top of Swife Hill before returning to Little Tottingworth Farm, Broad Oak, in 1962 where it has remained ever since. The Show had to be cancelled in 1948 due to petrol rationing and in 1952 due to an outbreak of foot and mouth, but apart from that has run every year.
The Show is held on the second bank holiday in May. The last Saturday in May or the first in June was not chosen by accident. Mr Henry Dallimore, whose idea it was to hold that first show in 1946, explained "According to two local weather experts the driest fortnight of the year, based on their records for 40 years, was the last week in May and the first in June".
The Heathfield Carnival
Extracts from The Local Magazine
Although revived in 2008 does anyone know when it actually began? Frances Crough remembers the Heathfield Carnival and other get-togethers in the villages such as the Pancake Race in Station Road in 1970 during the month of February, as well as other occasions in the year, when residents gathered to "have fun". In the 1970's and 1980's the Carnival was organised by the Round Table when the format was similar to the recent one with floats dressed by local organisations such as the scouts, schools and a few local businesses. The fete followed the procession held at Heathfield Park near Gibraltar Tower when it was open as a wildlife park.
In 2008 the Carnival was revived by the Heathfield and Waldron Rotary Club to bring the community together and raise money for good causes. A lot of time and effort was given by the Rotarians, Demelza and many others.
During the early 1990s, Heathfield, like many Wealden market towns, was having a tough time with many empty shops and the local traders were barely struggling to survive. By late 1996 there was a desperate search for new ideas to breathe life into the town to sustain economic viability. At that time Waldron's Councillor, Valerie Chidson, was also Chairman of the District Council and amongst the social events that she attended was a "vendange" at a Wealden vineyard where French traders were invited to bring produce across the channel. The vineyards barn was packed with English people fighting to buy baguettes and cheeses, and the idea was born for a similar event for Heathfield.
With nothing more than a strong feeling that this might work in early 1997 she pulled together a volunteer committee of local traders and local residents and councillors who all played very important roles in bringing over French traders to create the start of Le Marche.
The pattern of the event - taking place on the August bank holiday Monday, equal numbers of French and English traders, entertainment with street theatre and jazz on the bandstand, story-telling in the library - was set in that year. In the wake of the event the Twinning Association was set up and, thereafter, has played an important role.
With sponsorship from Wealden District Council, Sussex Enterprise, Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council and a number of local businesses. To the amazement of many it drew crowds of around 10,000 on a wet August bank holiday, when Heathfield was normally quiet.
Since that point in time Le Marche has grown to become one of Heathfield's major attractions of the year.
This is all down to a great deal of hard work by many people, businesses and organizations since 1997, but most of all the residents of Heathfield, Waldron, Horam, Broad Oak, Punnetts Town, Horam and the surrounding districts who support Le Marche on the day.
All Saints, Waldron
The church with its battlemented tower and fine peal of bells, stands near the centre of the village and dates from at least the 12th century although a church almost certainly stood on the site before that date. The present building was drastically restored in 1862 when the south aisle was added to match that on the north and the chancel arch was erected. The first recorded Rector, in 1195, was one Bartholomew and it seems likely that the daughter church, nestling in woods by Cross-in-Hand, was dedicated for this reason to St Bartholomew in 1863.
St Richard, Heathfield
Plans for the church were made in 1909 when Mr W H Ash of Runt-in-Tun Manor Estate bought land from the Heathfield Park Estate as a gift to the Church. The nave was dedicated by the Bishop of Chichester in 1912 and the main building finished in 1915. Local stone came from Stonegate and the font cover is of oak from Wadhurst. The south aisle, vestry and chapel were added in 1963 being constructed by William Sands and Son from Punnetts Town. The organ was rebuilt in 1977 by Hill, Norman and Beard.
Union Church, Heathfield
Built in 1900 and situated at the junction of the High Street with Station Road. In 1900 leased land to the growing number of shops and then petrol garages, but banned any licenced premises to be built.
All Saints, Heathfield
The church was reconstructed in the 13th century after a disastrous fire and the Star Inn, Old Heathfield, was built to accommodate the workmen during this process. A typical restoration took place in 1860 when the organ loft and gallery were removed. The list of vicars dates back to 1236 but it is certain that a building stood on the site before that date.
The Welcome Evangelical Church, Heathfield
Situated on Alexandra Road. The Welcome Mission (as it was originally called) first started in 1887 by a Miss Esther Bell in a hired tent, then later in a barn and then moved again in 1899 to a timber framed ironing building before finally moving to the "Gilbert Hall" in Alexandra Road where they are still based.
Methodist Church, Cross-in-Hand
This church is situated on the junction of the Lewes Road and Firgrove Road and was founded in 1896. At the rear of the premises a coach house was provided for the use of the preacher and other travellers so they could leave their horses and traps during the service.
The Heathfield Independent Chapel, Punnetts Town
The Chapel stands beside the B2096 road on the edge of Punnetts Town. This was built in 1769 and because of its white facade on the hill was used by mariner and traveller as a landmark. In 1777 a larger chapel was built.
Ebenezer Chapel, Broad Oak
The chapel was built in 1859 although its beginning was traced back to 1843.
Unless otherwise stated the information shown has been extracted from the following publications. The photos are kindly supplied by Mr Burgess and more can be found in https://www.heathfield.net/photos/page5.
Heathfield Chamber of Trade Official Guide, May 1964
Heathfield Chamber of Trade Official Guide, 1980
Heathfield and Waldron - An Illustrated History by Roy Pryce, 2000
Mr Aubrey Knapman has recently digitised two videos of photos and film footage of Heathfield between 1900-1992. To view these please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LND40eL0Row and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_60EB9xGetA