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Burgess Hill has developed from the northern parts of Clayton and Keymer parishes with later additions from Ditchling, Hurstpierpoint and Wivelsfield. It grew from an area of common grazing land known as St.John's Common, the name being taken from a sheep and lamb fair held on St.John the Baptist day and dates back to 1342. It was held in the north-west corner of the Common known as Fairplace.

There were 32 farmhouses around the Common before 1950, but only 8 now remain. Schools were later established for the growing population. Hotels were opened, catering for visitors who found it beneficial to take advantage of the town's amenities and tranquility. Part of the Martlets shopping precinct was once a tree lined road, with large houses built in times of victorian prosperity.

Large pleasure gardens opened in 1897 by local farmer and butcher Mr. Edwin Street, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The “Victoria Pleasure Gardens” contained a large lake covering 3 acres, used for boating and skating in the winter. (Mr. Street who weighed 23 stone would always test the ice first.) It is now the site of Victoria Industrial Estate.

From the sixteenth century a number of brickworks and potteries flourished, sending products far afield after the railways came in the 1840s. For 100 years from 1830 to 1930, three-quarters of Burgess Hill was predominantly brick, tile and pottery making works. Recently in business since 1875, was the “Keymer Tile Works” which closed in December 2014 and is now being redeveloped to accommodate 475 houses in stages on the 50 acre site.

The town developed from the outside towards the centre, where the “Market Place” Shopping Centre was the last to be completed in 1991 on derelict land known as “The Brow” (formerly Norman’s Brick, tile and Pottery making works that ceased operating in 1930.)

By 1956 a large industrial estate was completed, on land formerly part of the “Victoria Pleasure Gardens” The Victoria Industrial Estate is sited where the Victoria Pleasure Gardens once attracted thousands of visitors to a boating lake, swings, roundabout and refreshment rooms.

In the 1950s Burgess Hill was said to have been the fastest growing town in south-east England, the population being 8,500 in 1950, but now nearly 40,000.

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Late 1954 when the western side of Burgess Hill was considered suitable for industrial development, building work began and extended southwards on land formerly occupied by the “Victoria Pleasure Gardens”, from 1897 to 1940.

The first factory established about 1950 was “Corbetts Engineering works” housed in an old wooden building (which was formerly part of the pleasure gardens) and the access road was extended from Victoria Road (now Victoria Close) westwards terminating in a cul-de-sac. The 30 acre site to the south of the extended Victoria Road eventually accommodated about 30 factories, all completed before 1960. At about that time the estate road was again extended via Victoria Avenue into Royal George Road.

During the next 20 years gradual development was extended to Victoria Way, Victoria Gardens, Consort Way and Albert Drive (including a 3-acre site which was formerly a boating lake filled in during 1977) and more industrial units were erected. Since 1956 when the first new factory “Tylors of London” was opened at the end of Victoria Road, several more industrial units were planned, which now provide employment for more than 3000 people.

Access to the industrial estate from the A23 is now via a link road (A2300) opened in 1997 which joins Jane Murray Way (the western distributor road) leading to the main industrial estate, with direct access via Charles Avenue.

A smaller industrial estate developed in 1986 on the northern outskirts of the town is accessed from Marchant’s Way off the London Road. This comprises several industrial units known as the “Sheddingdean Small Industries Centre” (named after one of the local farms) which provides smaller lock-up units for those starting up in business.

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There have been four royal visits to Burgess Hill...

  • Princess Anne in 1973 to open “Van Den Burghs”
  • The late Princess Diana in Nov 1985 who opened the “Disabled Housing Trust”
    (now “The Disabilities Trust”)
  • Princess Anne opened "Charles of the Ritz" on 4th December 1986
  • The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in March 1999, who opened the “Triangle Leisure Centre” and visited Burgess Hill Town Council's “Help Point”

Film and T.V. stars that have visited Burgess Hill during the years 1956 – 1973 officiating at the “Goose Fair” an annual event that raised funds for “rest homes for the elderly” and other good causes...

  • “Professor” Jimmy Edwards (1956)
  • Ted Kavanagh of “Itma” Fame (1956)
  • Brian Johnstone (1956)
  • Benny Lee (1956)
  • William Hartnell-Sgt.Bullimore in the “Army Game” (1958) and recently appeared in Dr. Who
  • Frankie Vaughan (1958)
  • Jimmy Wheeler (1958)
  • Fred Emney (1959)
  • Julie Christie (1962) (who lived in Cuckfield)
  • Elsie + Doris Walters (Gert and Daisy) (1963)
  • Fred Dinenage (1968)
  • Peter Cleall “Duffy” in “Please Sir” (1971)

Stars who once lived and were associated with Burgess Hill...

  • The late Doris Hare who aged 95 she played Reg.Varney’s mum in “On the Buses”, in the 1970s. She was in show business for 84 years. Although not related, appeared with the late Robertson Hare who starred in “All Gas and Gaitors”. Doris Hare lived in "Noel Cottage" from about 1930 to 1940. An occasional visitor to her cottage was Noel Coward, hence the later naming of" Noel Rise".
  • The late Valentine Dyall who died in 1985 aged 77. Best known for the radio series “The Man in Black” and for playing stage roles such as “Abanaza” in “Aladdin” and parts for a deep haunting voice that frightened the audiences.
  • Comedy film star, the late Norman Wisdom at the age of 84, celebrated his Knighthood with his family at the "India Garden" restaurant in early December 1999. Sadly, he died on 4th Oct. 2010 aged 95.
  • Dame Vera Lynn occasionally visits Burgess Hill with her daughter Virginia to shop or visit Art Exhibitions.
  • Since about 2010, the famous "Beverley Sisters" (1950s and 1960s singers and recording artistes) are frequently to be seen in the town centre. The twins, "Teddie and Babs" (born in 1927) have a grand-daughter at the Burgess Hill School For Girls. The third sister Joy, the eldest, (who married famous footballer Billy Wright) lives in London where there are other grand-daughters. She has just celebrated her 90th birthday on 5th May 2014.
  • Sally and Judy Geeson (of film and TV fame) lived in Burgess Hill with their mother and father Vincent in Leylands Road. Vincent played cricket at St. Andrew's c.c. with Charles Clarke, who in the 1930s played for Sussex and Derbyshire. During the mid 1950s, Charles was also chairman of B/H UDC.

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