Burgess Hill in old picture postcards volume 1

Burgess Hill in old picture postcards volume 1

:   Frederic M. Avery
:   Sussex, West
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-4629-6
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Burgess HilI, situated 10 miles north of Brighton and 40 miles south of London, has evolved in a very similar way to many other Wealden Sussex towns differing only in one respect; namely the enterprise of a few individuals who developed the skill of moulding bricks, tiles and pottery ware from the clay subsoil upon which the town stands. During the first century, the Romans built a road from the south coast, through Hassocks where a vast cemetery was discovered and across the common, (now the town of Burgess Hill) in a north-easterly direction. The road eventua1Iy lead into Stane Street, the main route from Chichester to London, and the Burgess HilI area may have been a centre for the manufacture of some domestic pottery ware during the Roman occupation.

The Romans left from the early 5th century and the Saxons inhabited the locality from the mid-Sth century onwards.

It was during the late Saxon period that some of the Sussex parishes developed and after the Norman Conquest in 1066, Sussex was notionally divided into five main areas known as 'Rapes' , which in turn were sub-divided into 'Hundreds', then into parishes.

With the passing of time, the five Rapes (Hastings, Pevensey, Lewes, Bramber and Arundel) increased by one with the division of Arundel Rape, thus forming the additional Rape of Chichester .

From the 11th century, 'Parishes' were no doubt established, each having a church and during the next five centuries many medieval communities were under the jurisdiction of the Lord of the Manor, the Manor being either a complete parish or a further sub-division within the parish.

Although the area where Burgess Hill now stands, began as common land, the Western side approximately one third, and the Eastern side approximately two thirds, fell within the Northern part of the Parish and Manor of Clayton and Keymer, respectively. The parishes or manors of Clayton and Keymer fell within the Hundred ofButtinghill in the barony and rape ofLewes.

The common previously described, was used mainly for grazing, sourees of fuel and bedding, and graduaily developed into an important centre for the rearing of sheep also marketing of livestock, together with other associated agricultural and domestic wares.

By the mid-14th century, there is documentary evidence that 'St. John's' sheep fair held on the 'nativity of the feast ofblessed John the Baptist' on midsurnmer day each year, took place on the common (later referred to as St. John's Common). It was situated in the vicinity of the oldest part of our present town known as 'Fairplace' , adjacent to the old London-Brighton Road (which was turnpiked in 1770) opposite the 'Kings Head' public house, bounded by Fairfield Road and West Street.

The early development of the community took place mainly along the old London-Brighton Road and around St. John's common. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, more than twenty-five farmsteads were established around the common and some of the early routes crossing the common later became permanent roads. During this time, it was discovered that the clay soil was more suitable for brickmaking than for agriculture, and as weil as making bricks for the building of farmhouses (the oldest probably being Hammonds Place dating back to 1565) a trade developed in the simple manufacture and distribution of bricks to adjoining neighbourhoods. The pottery industry was established in 1813 by William Norman (formerly of Chailey) who employed the first potter, William Richardson of Tunbridge Wells, to work at his premises in London Road. With the prospect of increasing the local housing stock also brick tile and pottery making; it was agreed with the copyholders of land in the area east of the London Road in the Parish of Keymer, that the common land be enclosed in order to make the most effective use of the land.

In 1828, this became a reality and the eastern part of St. John's common bounded by Mill Lane (now Mill Road), Pottery Lane (now Station Road), Lye Lane (now Leylands Road) and Lon-

don Road was duly feneed off and sold. This afforded the oppor-

. tunity for more pottery works to open up in Pottery Lane, the main establishments being that of 'Gravetts' and 'Meeds', the latter works closing in 1941, having thrived for 93 years.

A further major event in the town in 1841 was the opening of the London to Brighton railway which by 1843 had established a small 'log cabin' station at Burgess Hill, to the east of St. John's common. In 1847 a branch line was extended via Keymer Junction, to Lewes and Eastbourne. The building of the railway made a vast impact on the local population which temporarily increased from 900 to 1350.

Another great advantage was that the distribution of brick, tile and pottery produets could now reach further afield, particulady the newly developing seaside resorts of Brighton and Eastbourne. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Burgess Hill had developed extensively and in 1855 the Clayton portion on the western side of St. John's common was also enclosed, which again lead to further development of road and house building within the Royal George Road and West Street are as.

On the extreme eastern side of the town, twenty years later, the Keymer Brick and Tile Works had commenced production under the direction of Henry Johnson and first known as 'Johnson & Co.', untill884 when the works were extensively damaged by fire, but later re-opened under new management. Most of the old brick, tile, and pottery works had ceased to exist during the first half of this century for varying reasons and the last surviving company now known as the 'Keyrner Tile Works' has thrived for 112 years and probably ranks among the few hand made clay roofing tile specialists , as the largest suppliers in the world,

The 'hamlet' of Burgess Hili also developed to the east and south of St. John's Common, and probably derived its name from John Burgeys who may have resided at Burgess Hil! Farm from the late 13th century. The 360 year old farmhouse

which stood just to the west of Burgess Hili railway station was demolished in 1958.

A Local Board was formed in 1879 to meet the town's administrative needs in respect of road building, sewage disposal, water supply and street lighting. Soon afterwards, the Board was anxious to encourage wealthy citizens into the town and efforts were made to promote the reputation of Burgess Hill as a 'health-resort'. At about the same time large detached properties in Silverdale Road (now part of a conservation area) were built to accommodate the more prosperous citizens from towns such as Brighton, Eastbourne and Worthing.

From about this time Burgess Hill incorporated St. John's Common, but it took almost a century for the name of St. John's common to fade into obscurity.

Since 1951, Burgess Hili has developed from a small township with a population of 8,500 to a large and popular residential town with a present population in excess of 25,000. In addition to the extensive housing development, the first being Chanctonbury Road in 1953, two large estates of factory units have provided employment for much of the local population. A new shopping centre 'The Martlets', was constructed in 1972 and a second phase is scheduled for completion in 1990.

Despite modern development and the loss of much of Burgess Hill's heritage, the past must not be forgotten. In recognition of this fact, one of the few remaining old farmhouses. in the midst of a new housing estate on the western side of the town, is scheduled to become a public house and restaurant; the parish church is to be renovated and other buildings in the town worthy of preservation may become community halls. Although the future of the town and its development must proceed with expedience it is equally important not to forget the past, and to this end lam grateful to all the local organisations, the local History Society and Town Council, for their aehievements in making the town a better place in which to live.

1. Eighty years ago, the main shopping thoroughfare, Church Road, consisted of small family businesses. On the right is Hampton's the furnisher's, and on the lef! (behind the men with the bicycle) is Kellams, the ironmonger's. Building began in Church Road about 1880 at the far end (with the exception of Terry's Corner, extreme left, added in 1887) and progressed down the hili towards the parish church. The building on the lef! in the foreground was built by William Oram and opened in 1892 as a Constitutional Club. Today, the building comprises a Bank on the ground floor, the Burgess Hili Town Council Offices on the first floor with other offices to the rear. The original Police and Fire Station, situated between Kellams and Street's the fishmonger on the left, was demolished in the 1960's. The road to the left between the Constitutional Club and Broad's the corn merchant, lead to the second and more modern fire station that served the town until the third and latest fire station was built on Tbc Brow about sixteen years ago.

2. Bank Buildings were built by Thomas Crunden of Oak Hall, on a grassy bank upon which sheep used to graze. They were built in Mock Tudor style during the late 1870's. Between the half-timbered panels at first floor level, decorative plaster panels were later discovered by accident, revealing the original designs, depicting storks and floral patterns. Bank Buildings are situated just down the hili from the railway station, on the other side of the road. At the right hand end of the terrace is the Railway Hotel which was probably built during the late 1840's. On the right hand side of the photograph the hedge fronting Burgess Hili Farm encloses the large aak trees, which were felled in 1933 to accommodate more shops. On the extreme left, outside Union Bank, stands the Reformers tree at 'speakers corner', na langer in existence.

3. At the bottom of Station HilI, Bank Buildings, in Mock Tudor style mark the start of the shopping centre in Church Road. Station Road forks to the left, and in the centre was Union Bank. The buildings on the left were constructed by a well-known local firm in 1933 along the frontage of Burgess Hill Farm. Opposite the Bank, where the shop blinds can be seen in the centre of the photograph, was Terry's Corner named after Edward Terry who came from Brighton and bought the corner shop in 1887 just after they were built. Eventually, Mr. Terry bought the adjacent shop in Church Road and another round the corner in Mil! Road. Within a few years Mr. Terry owned six shops in Victoria Buildings, selling almost every commodity that one could imagine. About fifty or more years ago, a petrol pump was also situated at the corner of Mill Road and Church Road. In more recent times the shops have been let or sold to other traders and the last of Mr. Terry's shops (for many years a gentleman's outfitter) closed in 1977.

4. John Burgeys, from whom the town may have taken its name, may have resided here in the late 13th and early 14th century. But Burgess HilI farmhouse was built in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, and unfortunately demolished in 1958. The house stood just down the hilI from Burgess HilI railway station and in 1631 a map of the farm shows fields totalling 117 acres. The land extended from Keymer Raad to London Raad and included a small one acre 'hop garden', the hops used in the brewing of beer. The house was probably built with bricks made on the site and on the left of the photograph is the duck pond where clay was most likely excavated for brickmaking. Eventually, the house was divided into three tenements but when it was demolished, all the materials were re-used in other buildings. In 1953 the land was being developed and the town's first housing estate in Chanctonbury Road was built over the next three years, and in 1954 Oakmeeds School was built on part of the land and the recently built Loridon-Meed school has its main entrance in Chanctonbury Road.

5. On leaving the railway station near the top of the hili, Station Road branches left at the bottom ofthe hili and Church Road, onee the main shopping thoroughfare leads further down the hili to the Parish Chureh. This photograph was taken at the road junction looking westwards along Station Road (formerly Pottery Lane), with Union Bank in the foreground. Further down the road was the Red Triangle Club set up byTrustees for the youth ofthe town in 1922 and latterly used by the loeal branch ofthe British Red Cross Society. Built originally in 1893 as a reading and recreation room, the empty premises will be auctioned this year. The three story building in the centre of the photograph was Elmhurst private school and the first house in the next terraee was where the late Valentine Dyall of theatre, film and television farne lived. Just around the corner, on bath sides of the raad, Meeds potteries were situated and further down, Gravetts potteries were on the corner north ofthe Station Road-London Road junction.


6. Just to the east of the Roman-Catholic Church, on the northern side of Station Road, William Meeds Snr. built his house, about 1884, where it still stands today. But further again to the east stood the Burgess Hili Coachworks owned by William Meeds Jnr., who did not want to work with his father in the potteries nearby. The Coachworks established during the early 1880's manufactured new carriages and repaired others with the best quality materials available. Mr. Meeds employed several experienced workmen and he also carried out the business of a general and shoeing smith, sawyer and wheelwright. Some of the coaches can be seen in front of the extensive prernises, which were demolished several years ago. Mr. Meeds died in 1934 at the age of74 and sometime during the 1920's the works were taken over by Mr. D. Langridge, a local builder. This photograph was probably taken about 1890 and was in the possession of William Meeds youngest son's widow, who has carefully preserved it even though somewhat faded. The site where the premises once stood has been a grassed area with some large oak trees at one end, but the second phase ofthe new town development, due to start this year, may incorporate the site for car parking.

7. Meeds potteries were situated both sides of Station Road from 1848 until the works closed in 1941. This photograph was taken about the turn of the century and shows one of a pair of conical 'beehive' kilns by the roadside. In the foreground stands the showroom and store that had a date, 1714, built into one wal! and was probably part ofthe Burgess Hili farm estate. Meeds potteries were the last ofthe old works to close, and the site remained derelict until1954. During that year, a new secondary school was built on part of the site and named Oakmeeds, after the tall oak trees that once existed around the site of Meeds potteries. A smal! development of houses were soon to follow on both sides of a newly constructed Meeds Road.

8. Although there were several brick , tile and pottery making establishments around the town, very few photographs of the kilns exist. This is the best photograph found sa far, of a Beehive Kiln built with old bricks jointed with a mixture of clay and brick dust, having a base about 4 metres square and conical roof reinforeed with iron bands. The overall height was about 5 metres and the doorway for loading and emptying the terra-cotta ware, was about 3 metres high. The Kiln taak about ane week to fire the wares, one week to cool down and another week to empty and reload and for this reason it was desirabie to have three kilns working in sequence sa that there was a continuous process of manufacture. Temperatures reached almast 1000° C initially and the men engaged in filling the kilns were known as crowders.

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