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Haywards Heath is a town and civil parish in the Mid Sussex District of West Sussex, within the historic county of Sussex, England.
It lies 36 miles (58 km) south of London, 14 miles (23 km) north of Brighton, 13 miles (21 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 with only a relatively small number of jobs available in the immediate vicinity, mostly in the agricultural or service sector, many of the residents commute daily via road or rail to London, Brighton, Crawley or Gatwick Airport for work.
Haywards Heath's Muster Green was the site of the Battle of Muster Green, a minor battle that took place in early December 1642 during the First English Civil War between a Royalist army under Edward Ford, High Sheriff of Sussex, and a smaller (but more disciplined) Parliamentarian army under Herbert Morley. Due to the fact that neither side possessed field guns, hand-to-hand combat ensued and after roughly an hour of fighting and 200 Royalists killed or wounded, the Parliamentarians emerged victorious and routed the Royalist army.
Haywards Heath is located in the east of the ancient parish of Cuckfield. A separate civil parish and urban district of Haywards Heath was created in 1894. From 1934 to 1974 Cuckfield, Haywards Heath and Lindfield were combined to form Cuckfield Urban District, but since 1974 the three settlements have had separate councils again.
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.
South Road in Haywards Heath
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 the 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).
The Priory of Our Lady of Good Counsel on Franklynn Road was built in 1886 and is Grade II listed. In 1978 it was converted to a restaurant and offices.
Haywards Heath was in East Sussex, but a change to the county boundary in 1974 brought it under the jurisdiction of West Sussex.