A Brief history of Burgess Hill
It is difficult to believe the bustling, successful and ever-expanding town we know today was, for most of its existence, rather small-scale and decidedly rural. Even the small country town of 150 years ago, with its fledgling tile and brick making sector, was a far cry from today’s Burgess Hill with its high-tech companies, commercial centre and links to the national communication network.
Burgess Hill grew out of the ancient parishes of Clayton and Keymer, both Saxon settlements and mentioned in the Domesday Book. The name is almost certainly derived from that of the Burgeys family who were taxed here in 1296, 1327 and 1332 when the name of John Burgeys appears on the Subsidy Rolls.
The first National School was opened about 1838 in a disused stable, moving diagonally across the London Road to occupy the corner of Pottery Lane (Station Road) and London Road in 1850. Mr and Mrs Henry Breed and their daughter Esther were the first teachers. Among its pupils have been Vallence Jupp, the Sussex and England cricketer, and Donald Sinden the actor. Junction Road (Manor Field) School opened in 1890 and there were a number of private schools many of them taking boarders.
FARMING COMMUNITIES BEFORE THE VICTORIAN PERIOD
The whole area was dependent upon agriculture. As well as the two villages there were many farms scattered across the parishes of which a number of farmhouses still stand within the town boundaries. To the south and a few yards to the west of the London Road is Hammonds Place, this was substantially rebuilt by the Michelborne family in 1565 but retains part of an earlier structure dating from the 1500s. Pollards Farmhouse and part of Freckborough Manor House, on the eastern boundary, date from Tudor times. Grove Farmhouse, a little further to the east and south of Station Road, can be dated to about 1600 and was built at roughly the same time as Farthings in Keymer Road. Chapel Land Farmhouse is probably the oldest building dating to about 1480. Fowles Farmhouse (now called Old Timbers) was built about 1588. High Chimnies in the Keymer Road (once called Woodwards) and West End Farmhouse were built during the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. The Burgess Hill Farmhouse and outbuildings were demolished in 1958 and the car park opposite Wolstonbury Court now stands on the site. The farmlands covered the whole of the area which now contains the Chanctonbury Estate and Oakmeeds Community School. The area around the school buildings, surrounded by oak trees, was once a large pottery works owned by the Meeds family, hence the derivation of the name Oakmeeds.
ST JOHN’S COMMON
Here, from the 14th Century, was held the annual St John's Sheep Fair on St John the Baptist day, June 24th, until it finally ceased in 1912. Brick and tile manufacture was established in the 17th Century and, during the Commonwealth several small parcels of Common land were granted to enterprising men anxious to build themselves a house and start a small business. By the early 18th Century four shops and one or two alehouses had been established on, or immediately adjoining, the Common where a number of craftsmen - smiths, wheelwrights, weavers and shoemakers - also plied their respective trades. It was the enclosure of St John’s Common (the part in Keymer in 1828, and that in Clayton in 1855) together with the opening of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1841 that paved the way for expansion and led to the birth of the town as we know it today