1938: The passing of Mr George Hilton - one of Haywards Heath's great public servants

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 12 April 1938


DEATH OF MR. GEORGE HILTON SEN.

Business and Public Activities in Haywards Heath.

With a regret that will be shared by a large number of our readers in Haywards Heath and the surrounding districts, we record the death of Mr. George Hilton, Sen., of 79 South Road, founder of the firm of Messrs. George Hilton and Sons, house furnishers and undertakers, of South Road.


His health had been failing for a considerable period, and after being confined to his bed for just over a week the end came peacefully early yesterday (Monday) morning. Mr. Hilton celebrated his 83rd birthday on February 1st.


The sympathy of a large number of friends will go out to Mrs. Hilton and her two sons in the loss of a beloved husband and father.

George Hilton's furniture showroom

Mr. Hilton's connection with Haywards Heath dates back fifty-five years. Bom at Folkington, he served an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker and upholsterer at Hastings, and in1882 he came and looked at Haywards Heath with a view to beginning business on his own account. He found a small shop in Sussex Square which he regarded as suitable, and there the seeds of the successful business as it is to-day were sown. It was Mr. Hilton’s proud boast that from the beginning he was


NEVER IN WANT OF A JOB.

Mr. Hilton retired thirteen years ago (having reached the age of 70) in favour of his sons, who later were joined by Mr. P. G. Darking.


Over a long period Mr. Hilton rendered valuable service to the town in a public capacity. He joined the old Haywards Heath Urban Council nearly thirty-eight years ago. He was Vice-Chairman for two years from 1907 to 1909, and Chairman from 1918 to 1921. He served as Chairman of the Recreation Grounds Committee, and in this capacity he was instrumental in persuading the Council to construct a path—jocularly known at the time as “Hilton’s Folly" -across Victoria Park. To-day the path is used by hundreds of people every day, thanks to Mr. Hilton's foresight. For many years he served as the Council’s representative Manager for the Council Schools and St. Wilfrid's Schools, and for two years he was representative Trustee of the Middleton and Burrell Charities. He was at one time a member of the Haywards Heath Group of Council School Managers and Chairman of the School Attendance Committee appointed by the County Council. Another body on which he served was the Old Age Pensions Committee.


Ever since he came to Haywards Heath Mr. Hilton had been intimately associated with the work of the


SUSSEX ROAD METHODIST CHURCH.

At the time of his death he was Church Steward, while as a Trustee and Superintendent of the Sunday School the supporters have much to thank him for. Two years ago he handed over his Sunday School duties to his son Mr John Hilton, but not wishing to lose his association the Church gave him the title of Hon. Superintendent. He assisted to form the Brotherhood Band, a product of the local Free Churches, which was the unofficial Town Band for several years before the war. and acted as its President, while after the war, when a Town Band was started, he served as Hon. Treasurer for several years.


Another organisation to suffer loss by Mr. Hilton's death is the Haywards Heath and Mid-Sussex Horticultural Society, of which he was one of the founders and a member of the original Committee. He was also one the earliest members of the Board of Management of the Haywards Heath Hospital. In the days of the old Haywards Heath Parliament Mr. Hilton sat as the “Member for Hastings,” and he was actively associated with a former Ratepayers’ Association. Those were “the good old days,” and no sitting of either organisation was dull if Mr. Hilton and his contemporaries could help it. But it must be conceded that Mr. Hilton worked for the welfare of the town and its people in strict accordance with his principles. His word was his bond, and where help was needed he gave freely. From the angle of generosity he will greatly missed.


The funeral service will take place at the Sussex Road Methodist Church on Thursday, at half-past two and the interment will follow in the cemetery.

Thank you to Andrew Zvirbulis for the photograph and Charles Tucker for the information about George Hilton.


Charles Tucker writes: This photograph is of George Hilton's furniture showroom. George Hilton was a relative newcomer to Haywards Heath, arriving in 1882 from the Eastbourne area, with very little money and just a bag of tools. By the mid 1880s he had opened a store in Acton House in South Road and described himself as a Cabinet Maker and a furniture warehouse. In the early 1920s he opened another furniture warehouse in Hazelgrove Road, now housing Tesco Express. The showrooms shown in the photograph were on the north side of South Road and were the last showrooms to be opened in 1932.

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