A town in the Mid Sussex District of West Sussex, and is situated 40 miles south of London,12 miles north of Brighton and 15 miles south of Gatwick Airport. It is twinned with Traunstein in Bavaria and with Bondues in northern France, and has an approximate population of 23,000.
As a settlement, Haywards Heath is a relatively modern development, being little more than wasteland belonging to the Manor of Hayworth up until the late 19thy century. However, following the arrival of the London & Brighton Railway in 1841, the town increased considerably in size. Haywards Heath station opened on July 12, 1841 and served as the southern terminus of the line until the completion of Brighton station later on September 21st. The location 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 of its residents working in London, Brighton, Crawley and Gatwick Airport.
Two major remains of the mediaeval period are the houses, Great Haywards and Little Hayward which date back to the beginning of the 15th century. A late 16th century survival is the Dolphin pub, which has since been refurbished and restored. Formerly the Sergison Arms, this Grade II listed building was so named to commemorate the local landowning family who sold off much of their estates and so enabling the urban development of Haywards Heath to proceed. Although its roots go much further back, Haywards Heath officially became a town in 1862. Legend has it that the town took its name ‘Hayward’ from the highwayman, Jack Hayward, who chose to stage many of his audacious raids on the heath.
Haywards Heath is surrounded by extremely attractive and accessible countryside which includes the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the north, the South Downs to the south and Ashdown Forest to the east. Haywards Heath has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Mid Sussex. The town’s economy is heavily reliant on the service sector, with many national organisations having regional or national offices located in the town. This has helped in the creation of a particularly good selection of cafes, restaurants and bars. The town is a local administrative, shopping and service centre.
The town is well equipped with leisure facilities. The Dolphin Leisure Centre has three pools and facilities for both indoor and outdoor sports. Victoria Park, in the town centre, includes a children’s play area and paddling pool and an Xtreme Action area for BMXing, blading and boarding. Along with The Broadway, Sussex Road, and Commercial Square there is a wide range of shops catering for all needs. Sainsbury’s is on the site of the former cattle market, which had operated in Haywards Heath since 1866.The Broadway is the culinary heart of Haywards Heath, boasting cuisine from Italy, France Spain, China, India, England and America. With Pizza Express and Cafe Rouge providing the option of eating alfresco all year round.