Heathfield

Heathfield lies on the A265, midway along an ancient track called the Ridgeway. Since pre-historic times, this has been the link between the Weald and the South Downs.

From 1600 to the 1800’s the Fuller family from Brightling ran an iron furnace at Heathfield which produced cannons for the Royal Navy. The Iron Ore was mined locally, and local charcoal (some from the local village of Blackboys) was used to fire the ore.

Heathfield Park with its walled perimeter lies to the East of the town. At one time Heathfield Park had been a zoo and there are stories told locally of an escaped Zebra seen wandering along the High Street.

Heathfield Park also has a round castellated folly, called the Gibraltar Tower. This tower was built in 1792 by Francis Newbury, in honour of General Sir George Augustus Elliot, a Governor of Gibraltar, who successfully defended ‘the Rock’ against the combined Spanish and French forces between 1779 and 1783.

At the south eastern corner of the park lies Old Heathfield, with its pretty cottages, church and The Star pub. In the churchyard lies a fine example of a Harmer terracotta decorated gravestone, this is best viewed from the road, as it lies behind trees, and faces west.

The last remnant of Heathfield’s natural gas industry – an old stand pipe, can be seen among the trees, near the bridge in Ghyll Road, north-west from Sandy Cross on the B2203. The gas was discovered in 1895 when engineers were actually looking for water. At its height, Heathfield produced some 15 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, and provided the railway station (which sadly no longer exists) with lighting until the 1930’s. Ultimately the operation never proved to be commercially viable. A medallion was struck to commemorate the Coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra – one side portrayed the Royal heads, and the other an inscription ‘Heathfield, Sussex, 1902. Natural gas first used for light and power’.

Cuckoo Fair (April)

According to local legend, England would enjoy no spring at all without the news from Heathfield. It all began at “hefful fair”. In 1315 the bishop of Chichester was our lord of the manor and he made the grant of a market and fair. The great day of our legend falls on the first of these dates, 14 April, when glad tidings are spread far and wide from Heathfield, by the old woman of Heffle Fair. She carries a basket hanging from her arm and during the day she opens it to let the cuckoo fly out and that tells all of England that winter has finished and spring is at the full and summer is on the way. Sussex folk still reckon to hear the cuckoo on the fair’s traditional day, the 14 April.

Heathfield & District Agricultural Show Society (May)

A one day Agricultural Show held this year on Saturday, 24th May 2014. The showground will be open from 8am to 5pm at Little Tottingworth Farm, Broad Oak, Heathfield, East Sussex, TN21 8TH with Cattle, Horse and Sheep classes, displays, Flower Show, Country Ways, Food Marquee, Bandstand, Children’s Amusements, Crafts and Trade Stands. Average attendance: 20,000.

Le Marche (August)

During the early 1990s, Heathfield, like many Wealden market towns, was having a tough time with many empty shops and the local traders were barely struggling to survive. By late 1996 there was a desperate search for new ideas to breathe life into the town to sustain economic viability. In 1997 the event started – taking place on the August bank holiday Monday, with equal numbers of French and English traders, entertainment with street theatre and jazz on the bandstand and story-telling in the library. In the wake of the event, the twinning association was set up and Heathfield twinned with Forge-les-eaux.