Together with its near neighbour Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath is the economic powerhouse of Mid Sussex, growing at a steady rate and providing jobs for many people all over West Sussex - although good road and railway connections mean that many of Haywards Heath's 25,000 residents commute to Gatwick and London too.
Inevitably a lot of Haywards Heath is modern, and relatively uninteresting - at least compared to some of the many other historic towns and villages in Sussex. Pevsner described Haywards Heath as "large and quite amorphous" and it hasn't got any smaller since he wrote. And there probably isn't any more variety to the town either as thousands of new homes have been built since then too.
Until Victorian times, Haywards Heath was a small village which was outranked by its neighbours Cuckfield and Lindfield.
Haywards Heath's development almost came about by accident.
An 1825 survey proposed a route for the proposed London to Brighton railway line passing through Cuckfield, but local landowners including the influential Sergison family kicked up a fuss and the plans were redrawn.
When the railway was opened in 1841 it passed through Hayward's Heath.
Cuckfield's "loss" was Haywards Heath's "gain", depending on how you look at it.
The railway brought prosperity to the town and the rest, as they say, is history.
And there are some interesting attractions nearby and plenty to do in the area.
Within Haywards Heath there’s a conservation area around Muster Green which gives a flavour of what the village would have been like before the arrival of the London to Brighton railway spurred Haywards Heath to grow into the modern town we have today.
There was a small civil war battle at Muster Green by the way in 1642 in which the parliamentarians routed a small Royalist force led by Sir Edward Ford of Uppark in West Sussex.
The ancient Dolphin Pub just off Muster Green is one of the oldest buildings in the town, dating from the 16th century. The pub had been named for 130 years after the Sergison family who owned huge tracts of farmland in around Haywards Heath before the modern town was built; but the pub recently reverted to its even more traditional original pub name. Great Haywards and Little Hayward are two other old and distinguished late medieval buildings in the town.
The former St Francis Hospital which was opened in 1859 as the county lunatic asylum by the Victorians is still an impressive collection of buildings, even though it is now being turned into a housing development called Southdown Park.
Haywards Heath AttractionsHaywards Heath is surrounded by very attractive countryside and is a good base for a walking holiday. Ashdown Forest and the High Weald are nearby and there is good walking around the nearby villages of Cuckfield, Lindfield, Staplefield and Slaugham. The Scrase Valley Nature Reserve is an attractive open space between Haywards Heath and Lindfield.
And in Beech Hurst Gardens with its miniature railway, Jubilee Gardens, Victoria Park, Blunts Wood and the marshy Western Road Nature Walk there is plenty of parkland and areas open to the public in and around Haywards Heath.
Haywards Heath's Clair Hall has a good repertoire of plays, music and other events throughout the year.
Nearby attractions include the Bluebell Railway and spectacular gardens at Borde Hill and Wakehurst Place. The fine garden at Wakehurst Place is the home of the interesting Millennium Seed Collection while Borde Hill Gardens is one of several top class gardens in this part of Mid Sussex.
Ardingly Reservoir is popular with walkers, anglers and dinghy sailors.
What's on in Haywards HeathFind out what's on in and around Haywards Heath and the rest of West Sussex.
Things to do in Haywards HeathSee our listings of things to do in Haywards Heath, which include clubs and societies to join in the town and information on hobbies and other pastimes.
Haywards Heath sports clubsDetails of all the sports clubs in Haywards Heath.
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