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1950: Railway stations serving two villages

Haywards Heath Railway Station in 2008

It’s interesting to read WH Parker’s perspective on the influence of the London-Brighton railway on the Mid Sussex area, with its impact on local population growth around the railway stations. These quotes are to be found in the Geography magazine in March 1950:

The most emphatic illustration of the effect of station-siting was provided by the London-Brighton line. The policy of the company was to place a station where the line ran between two villages, to serve them both: Three Bridges between Crawley and Worth, Haywards Heath between Cuckfield and Lindfield, Hassocks between Hurst and Keymer.

There was also a station at Burgess Hill to serve a roadless clay country of scattered hamlets. These stations became the centres of entirely new towns. The increase in Cuckfield parish in 1871 is ascribed to ‘the erection of a large number of buildings around Haywards Heath which, being easily accessible from Brighton, is selected as a place of residence by many persons engaged there in business.’

In the rail period people living close to Haywards Heath station were nearer in time to the centre of Brighton than those living on the outskirts of that town: Hassocks, Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath were all part of the rail-station controlled expansion of Brighton.

To sum up, the influence of the railway on residential settlement was exerted through the station, nearness to which became an asset. The towns became concentrated settlements close-built round the station. In the countryside it was the station itself, rather than the village it was intended to serve, that became the focus. The bad roads of Sussex, the worst in the kingdom, enhanced the value of proximity to rail.


Settlement in Sussex, 1840-1940, by WH Parker

Geography Vol. 35, No. 1 (March, 1950), pp. 9-20 (12 pages), pub: Geographical Association

Can be read in full at

Photo by Mike Quinn, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia public domain image.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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