How did Haywards Heath get its name?

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 18 December 1928


To the Editor of The Mid-Sussex Times.

Dear Sir,—l was very much interested in your review of Mr. Thurston Hopkins’ latest book on Sussex. The suggested origin of local place-names are certainly intriguing, if not convincing.


In reference to Muster Green, if this place had been used for a mustering ground for considerable bodies of troops, depot for large ordnance and iron work, I am inclined to think some Sussex historian would have found reference to the events in old county writings or documents of some kind.


Sign for Haywards Heath

It has been suggested that in ancient days the Green was used as a place to muster herds of hogs, etc., before turning out into forest woods. But the word “muster" does not have a rural sound. And then there Is Haywards Heath. Mr. A. R. Pannett, I believe, traces the name to a medieval family named “Hayward.” But does that go back far enough? What is the origin of the name "Hayward"? In Saxon times we know the land cultivated by the people was all communal or common land, and was fenced off or hedged against the herds of hogs, etc., that roamed the forest or woodland.


So important was this “hedge” that an official called the “hedge warden” was appointed and held responsible for it. Green, in his “Making of England,” states that there were several wardens—the hog-warden, bee-warden, hay-warden. I have in a book of Saxon derivatives the following : "Haeg, Haigh— a hedge: as hedge, haw, hawthorn. Hayward.” Thus the Haegwarden becomes later the Haywarden and Hayward. May not the common cultivated land have ceased somewhere near Haywards Heath and the "haywarden" living nearby eventually given the name of his office to the Heath ?


The great authority on place-names, Isaac Taylor, gives: "Haigh - a place surrounded by a hedge and usually an enclosure for the purposes of the chase.” This gives us a second speculation. May not the Earl Warenne’s great hunting park at Cuckfield have been of considerable dimensions and reached from the Wyllies Lane on the west to Haywards Heath on the east, and the same haeg-warden fulfilling the same duties have handed down the name of his office to our Haywards Heath?


It seems unreasonable to think that the great Earl Warenne would come over to Cuckfield and build there a stone church and large , house or palace likewise believed to have been built of stone, if only to hunt in such a small park as we now have at Cuckfield. Then, Sir, there is the Steeple House and the Butler’s Green ghost but of that another time.


Yours faithfully,


HUBERT BATES.