Burgess Hill is a town and civil parish in the Mid Sussex district of West Sussex, England, close to the border with East Sussex. Located 38 miles (62 km) south of London, 10 miles (16 km) north of Brighton and Hove, and 29 miles (47 km) east-northeast of the county town of Chichester, it occupies an area of 2,339.57 acres (946.79 hectares) and had a population of 28,803 at the time of the 2001 Census. Other nearby towns include Haywards Heath to the north and Lewes, the county town of East Sussex, to the east.
Burgess Hill is predominantly situated just on the West Sussex side of the border dividing the two counties, although parts of the World's End district to the north east of town are across the county boundary in East Sussex. The civil parish had a population of 28,803 in 2001 and occupies an area of 946.79ha.
Burgess Hill is twinned with Schmallenberg in Germany and Abbeville in France. It has recently achieved the status of being a Fairtrade Town. Burgess Hill Town Council was awarded the status of Town Council of the Year 2006.
Although a Roman road was built connecting London to the South coast and passing through what is now Burgess Hill, there is no evidence that the Romans settled.
Burgess Hill originated in the parishes of Clayton, Keymer and Ditchling - all of them mentioned in the Domesday Book. The town's name comes from the Burgeys family when the name John Burgeys appeared in the tax rolls. The name of Burgeys stood for 'bourgeois', the inhabitant of a borough. By the Elizabethan period a community had established itself and many buildings dating from this era still stand.
The hill in the town's name is taken to mean different things to different people; many believe that the hill in question is the hill on which the train station currently stands, but there is a Burgess Farm on a hill in the south-east of the town, in Folders Lane. Whether this is the hill referred to in the town's name is not known - at least not for certain.
The few buildings in the area were the two farmhouses, at Hammonds Ridge (still standing as a residence) and one at Queen's Crecent, in the west of what is now Burgess Hill. But until the nineteenth century, the town was known as St John's Common, and much of what is now the town centre was common land used by the tenants of the manors of Clayton and Keymer for grazing and as a source of fuel. Buildings which supported the common land are the King's Head pub, a blacksmith's forge, and several cottages.
From the fourteenth century or earlier the annual Midsummer Fair was held on this common land on 24th June: the feast of the birth of St John the Baptist. The last such sheep and lamb fair was held in 1913.
This sheep and lamb fair was the first of year in Sussex, and there was much interest. It is said that flockmasters from as far afield as Hastings to the east and Findon to the west visited, and at its peak, more that 9000 lambs were exhanged at the fair, not the mention the numerous horses, cattle and sheep.
With the development of the London to Brighton mainline railway, however, those in the business soon realised that transporting sheep by train was much more costworthy and easier than using the old roadways. Most of the livestock trading business began to centre around railside markets such as those at Hassocks, Haywards Heath and Lewes train stations. By the dawn of the 20th century, the livestock trading business had all but left the Burgess Hill area.
By the early seventeenth century small scale brick and tile manufacture was flourishing and during this time parcels of common land were allocated for house building and small businesses. By the early eighteenth century brick making had been extended and four shops and one or two alehouses established on the common. Craftsmen such as smiths, shoemakers and weavers also worked there. Brickmaking by hand was still undertaken until very recently, by Keymer Tiles (formerly the Keymer Brick and Tile company) whose tiles can be found in buildings such as St. James Church, Piccadilly and Manchester Central Station (now G-Mex).
The growth of Brighton in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries brought an influx of professional people looking for places to live. With accessibility, the common was ripe for development with the result that the Keymer and Clayton portion were enclosed in 1828 and 1855 respectively. Between 1850 and 1880 the area changed from an insignificant rural settlement to a town of 4,500 residents.
In 1857, in an area now known as either 'the top of the town', or Hoadley's Corner, the Hoadley family of Heathfield established a large department store, of which the original building still stands, on the corner of Station Road and Junction Road. This successful business also had branches at nearby Ditchling, and Seaford too, but it was in Burgess Hill that the head offices were based.
In 1876, a large building known as Wynnstay was constructed opposite to the Hoadley's store on Junction Road, to house a Mr Sampson Copestake. Mr Copestake provided money to create a new parish, building a church, and purchasing land around it.
Wynnstay eventually became the Wynnstay Hydropathic Institution, known as the Hydro for short. The property was bought up and converted by a Professor Weidhaus when Copestake moved on, and converted to a nature cure establishment. It is thought that the views from the property, along with the fresh country air and proximity to Burgess Hill railway station were the reasons for this enterprise. The Hydro remained until 1909, when the business was moved to Franklands, a large property to the south of the town. Wynnstay later became a convent and school for Catholic children.
In 1897 the Victoria Pleasure Gardens were opened by local household name Edwin Street, a well-known farmer and butcher. The gardens were opened in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and contained a large lake, which covered three acres, and what can only be described as a small early version of a roller coaster, known as a switchback (an alternative general term for a roller coaster). The lake was used for boating in the summer, and skating in the winter. The frozen lake was always tested by Mr Street, a man of 23 stone, before being used in the winter. This area is now the Victoria Industrial Estate.
The town gradually enlarged, having its largest population increase between the years of 1951 and 1961, when the population of about 7,000 residents almost doubled. This earned Burgess Hill the title of fastest growing town in the south-east. By 1956, the Victoria Industrial Estate was completed, and has since expanded. It now contains the local headquarters of two substantial international companies. In 1986 a smaller industrial estate to in the north of the town developed, known as Sheddingdean Industrial Estate.
Housing estates (in chronological order) played their part in building up the population of Burgess Hill throughout the second half of the 20th century; in the west of the town they provided a wide mix of new residents; many of them young families (from South London in particular) and the Folders Lane estate more families settled, along with some more affluent residents.
The next substantial development was Priory Village in the south west of Burgess Hill, sometimes known as the Tesco estate, due to its proximity to the supermarket. Again, this brought in a mix of incomes, again, many of them young families.
This development carries on to this day, with two separate developments off Folders Lane, being the latest in an almost constant chain of construction, although neither of these developments in the south east of the town are on such a grand scale as many previous developments.
It must be noted that as well as the aforementioned developments, there have been two council estates built in the town - one close to Cants Lane, in the town's north east, and the area around Denham Road in the west, both of course adding to the ever rising population of the town.
Although now part of the town, World's End, to the north of the town, was originally a separate community. It still retains its own shops and community association, and is served by Wivelsfield railway station.
Some of the areas put forward for further development are the old Keymer Tileworks, space to the north of the town, and around the south east, off Folders Lane. With the proposed housing quota for the area high, it is expected to grow further as we progress into 21st century, and new housing will be created in the town centre in the form of flats as a result of the redevelopment plans, which are in more detail further down this article.
Burgess Hill is situated in the Sussex Weald, 10mi (16km) north of Brighton, and about 4.5mi (7.5km) south of Haywards Heath. Lewes, in East Sussex, is 12mi (19km) southeast of Burgess Hill, and the larger town of Horsham is 15mi (24km) to the northwest. Crawley, a major settlement is 13mi (21km) to the north, and Gatwick Airport is 16mi (26km) in the same direction.
The amenities and shopping services in Burgess Hill are also well used by the surrounding villages. The larger villages of Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint are 5 to 10 minutes drive away from the town centre, to the south and southwest respectively. Ditchling, Goddards Green, Keymer, Plumpton, Plumpton Green, Streat, Westmeston, Wivelsfield (which has given its name to a railway station in Burgess Hill), and Wivelsfield Green are other nearby villages.
One of the tributaries of the River Adur weaves its way through the town, known locally as Hambrook. The town is a nuclear settlement, radiating out from the centre, curbed on the western side by the ring road, and on the east side by the East/West Sussex border.
The northern central side of the town (around Wivelsfield railway station) is known as World's End. According to legend, when the railway was first being built, they reached that area, and declared it World's End, as there was simply nothing there, other that an endless expanse of countryside in every direction. As a result, they built a railway station, known as World's End station. For a brief period of time, the name of the station was changed back from Wivelsfield to its original World's End, but was changed back due to complaints from residents of Wivelsfield.
Burgess Hill is home to several supermarkets: Tesco, situated in the south west of the town, a Co-op superstore in the north of Burgess Hill, and branches of Waitrose, Lidl and Iceland are in the town centre.
Local: The town is home to Bright 106.4 FM, a popular local radio station based in the Martlets which broadcasts on 106.4 for Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath and the surrounding area, and 106.8 for Lewes and the surrounding area. Two free newspapers operate in the area, The Mid Sussex Citizen and The Leader. There is also The Mid Sussex Times (The Middy), which costs 38p and is issued every Thursday.
The town has two small shopping centres, the Market Place and the Martlets. as well as shopping opportunities on Church Road, Church Walk, Station Road, Keymer Road, and London Road. There are several local commercial districts around the town, at Maple Drive, World's End, Weald Road and Sussex Way.
Hammonds Place, to the west of London Road as it leaves the town to the south, is a handsome Elizabethan residence which was substantially re-built by the Michelbourne family in 1565, the date engraved on its porch. Part of a structure dating from about 1500 was retained with the house. Grove Farm House, just south of Station Road, can be dated to about 1600 and was built about the same time as Farthings in Keymer Road. Chapel Farm House and Walnut Tree Cottages on Fairplace Hill are on medieval sites and the present buildings date from the late Tudor period, as do Pollards Farm and Freckborough Manor House on the eastern boundary of the town.
High Chimneys in Keymer Road (a handsome farmhouse once called Woodwards), and West End Farm (now known as Old Timbers) were all built or, more correctly rebuilt in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The farm from which the town derives its name, referred to as Burgeshill Land in the 16th century, is now the site of Oakmeeds School and the Chanctonbury Estate. The farmhouse itself is long demolished.
Almost all the Victorian detached houses and workmen's terraced cottages built in the second half of the nineteenth century (when the town was renowned as a health resort) have survived.
Road: In 1770 the road from Cuckfield to Brighton across St John's Common was turnpiked. The A23 bypasses the town to the west, and joins up with the south end of the A273. The A273 follows the course of Jane Murray Way, directing traffic around the town centre and north on Isaac's Lane to Haywards Heath, or south through Hassocks on London Road. The A272 road runs north of Burgess Hill, from Winchester to near Uckfield. The B2112 runs east of Burgess Hill, going north–south, and both the B2036 and the B2113 pass through the town heading north–south and west-east respectively.
Railway: The opening of the London to Brighton railway in 1841 triggered a further expansion of the town, although Burgess Hill railway station was for many years a request stop and not a regular station. In 1877 the present station replaced the original one; some of the former buildings remain, however. Wivelsfield railway station serves the north end of Burgess Hill and was opened in 1886. First Capital Connect and Southern provide regular train services to London and Brighton from both Burgess Hill stations, and from Wivelsfield, one can travel on a branch of the East Coastway Line towards Hastings.
In 2004 Mid-Sussex District Council announced the Burgess Hill Master Plan, a scheme arranged with Thornfield Properties plc to massively redevelop Burgess Hill Town Centre. The Master Plan is part of a larger scheme which will also see the redevelopment of Haywards Heath and East Grinstead town centres.
The plan will result in the complete reconstruction of most of the town centre, and will also focus on the redevelopment of the Victorian era train station, which is seen by many as in need of updating. The implementation, which will take place over about half a century, also includes the construction of two hotels, the widening of a major artery road through the centre of the town, and the creation of a communal space as well as many new commercial opportunities.
The plan has been very controversial, primarily because it was planned to include the demolition of many residences and shops owned by the town's inhabitants. Some inhabitants were worried as to whether they would get a fair price for their property, and how local landmarks such as the independent Orion Cinema would be treated. Many were concerned what negative effects the redevelopment would have on their lives and the prosperity of the town as a whole. The Burgess Hill Master Plan was, and even after some major editing with consideration of the opinions of the townspeople of Burgess Hill and the surrounding villages, remains the most drastic out of all three Master Plans put across by the local council and Thornfield Properties plc.
There are a total of 9 churches and a Christian centre (that are recognised by the town council) in Burgess Hill, and no other known religious sites, pertaining to any religion other than Christianity.
Burgess Hill is also home to the Mid Sussex Christian Centre.
Burgess Hill contains two nature reserves, Bedelands and Batchelors Farm and on the east side of town is Ditchling Common Country Park, a area of common land, set up in 1975. In the town centre there is a large park (St. John's), and many other smaller recreation grounds around the town. There is a substantial leisure centre on the northern edge of Burgess Hill named the Triangle.. Replacing the lido in St. Johns Park, the Triangle is also used for conferences. The Triangle was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1999.
Burgess Hill is one of the few towns to retain an independent cinema. The Orion Cinema, opened in 1928, has two screens and shows a mixture of mainstream and arthouse films. There is also a local theatre, which puts on productions quarter-yearly, the most popular of these being a pantomime, performed in the Martlets Hall. Musical theatre productions by Burgess Hill Musical Theatre Society (formerly Burgess Hill Operatic Society) are also held at the Martlets Hall.
The town is also home to the Mid Sussex Brass Band which has a second section contesting main band and a thriving youth band. As well as supporting local fetes and concerts, the band plays at concerts throughout the year in venues from Horsham to Hever Castle, and travels to Schmallenberg, Burgess Hill's German twin town, for the Schmallenberger Woche.
Several local pubs and social clubs enter teams into the Mid Sussex Pool League, although any venue with of "The Duck" in Haywards Heath can apply to join. The league plays World Eight Ball Rules.
There is also a Squash Club that plays at the Triangle Leisure Centre every Saturday and Monday, and has a team that plays in the East Sussex County League.
There is also a Running Club that meet at the Burgess Hill School for Girls every Wednesday evening. Members compete in local and national charity and fun races.
The Skate Park in the centre of town provides sporting opportunities, and holds an annual competition.
The Triangle (or Olympos Burgess Hill as it has been rechristened) is one of the venues in the South East supporting the London 2012 Olympic Games, and will serve as a base and training centre for teams from around the globe.
A square in Schmallenberg has been named Burgess Hill Platz.