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The man who helped make Haywards Heath: a celebration of AR Pannett on his 77th birthday

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 02 October 1934



Our readers in Haywards Heath and many in the surrounding districts will, we are sure, join with us in congratulating Mr. Arthur Richard Pannett -popularly known as A.R.P.”—on the celebration, last Saturday, of his seventy-seventh birthday. Mr. Pannett, who lives Hvilestedet, New England Road, is one of the trio who are all that remain of the old brigade who laid the foundations of the township of Haywards Heath, the other two being Mr. George Hilton (who is 79) and Mr. Harry Plummer, J.P. (71).

No personality has been more closely linked up with the development of the place than Mr. Pannett, nobody has established himself more firmly in the affections of the people he has striven to serve. Guide, philosopher and friend - Mr. Pannett has been all these, and more. He has been the town's outstanding wit. If for nothing else, he will long be remembered for his epigrammical utterances, his pungent paradoxes and his scintillating skits on topical matters.


builder, Mr. A. R. Pannett was born on September 29th, 1857, in Boltro Farm House, Muster Green, now occupied by Mrs. Burgoyne. He was the eldest of six sons. Educational facilities in Haywards Heath were somewhat limited in those days, and when he was four years old he was sent to a dame's school, kept by Miss Pace, at Cuckfield. For two years he was a weekly boarder, but he afterwards had to tramp daily to and from Cuckfield. When he was eight, a Dr. Williams opened an academy in Clifton Terrace, Haywards Heath, and “A.R.P.’’ was sent there, his fellow pupils including St. John Smith, who afterwards became an auctioneer at Uckfield, and George Bunting,

Mr AR Pannett

who now lives at Richmond Villas, Cuckfield, and is 79. The principal of the academy, who was a doctor of science, taught—according to Mr. Pannett everything from “spelling to mesmerism.’’ He was rather too advanced for Haywards Heath, and it was not long before the academy was closed.

There were then only two boys' schools in the neighbourhood, one being conducted by the late Mr. Thomas Wells at Lindfield, and the other by Mr. Charles Knight at Wivelsfield. Mr. Pannett, at the age 10, went to Mr. Knight’s school. “I want him taught writing, reading and arithmetic,’’ his father told the principal, “ and if he doesn't mind what is said to him, don't afraid to clout him !’’ Mr. Pannett told us this, in an interview, with a twinkle in his eye, and added, “So I learned writing, reading, arithmetic and discipline. It was very good curriculum.”

At the age of 14 Mr. Pannett


For a time he worked with his father, gaining a knowledge of building construction, but he wanted to be an architect, and he strove towards this end. His father was, at that time, the sole builder in Haywards Heath. The first house he erected was Longcroft, Muster Green.

Boltro Farm House - A.R.P.s birthplace

Mr. Pannett remained with his father for about four years, and then he went to London. While the Law Courts were being built he was employed in the office of the clerk of the works. His father’s health, however, was failing, and when he was taken seriously ill, Mr. Pannett returned to Haywards Heath to look after affairs —and stayed. When his father died he sold out and embarked on his own an architect.

In those early days, Haywards Heath was mostly common land, the population being only about 2,000 or 2,500. Church Road was a track across the common, and led to the old windmill which stood just behind what is now Highland House and which had disappeared when Mr. Pannett’s father came to Haywards Heath. The mill, at which corn was ground, belonged to the Burrells, and the last miller was a Mr. Anscombe. Mr. Pannett, Sen., bought the mill house. According to the original lease, the tenant had to pay a rooster to the owners every September 29th as “ duty rent.” There was


the cottage being occupied by Mr. Martin, whose son still lives in Haywards Heath. What is now Boltro Road ran through Bulltrough Farm, and there were trestles and poles each end in order to keep it a private road. When the Local Board was formed, the road was taken over in the '70's, and—these are Mr. Pannett’s words —“given the extremely stupid name of Boltro Road.’ ” “ Boltro was a corruption of “Bulltrough,” the Sussex pronunciation of which was Bulltro.”

Asked if there was any truth in the story that Dick Turpin used a cottage at the bottom of Boltro Road, close to where the Police Station now stands, Mr. Pannett declared that there was no foundation for it. The so-called Dick Turpin's cottage was, he pointed out, three-roomed labourer’s cottage attached Boltro Farm.

It was in Mr. Pannett's young day's that the late Mr. Jesse Finch came from Horsted Keynes and settled Haywards Heath. Being of a speculative nature, he acquired land and erected houses. The late Mr. Thomas White brickmaker then, and Mr. Charles Clarke, the founder of The Mid-Sussex Times, was a printer in Boltro Road, while the late Mr. Fred Whall—a Jack of all trades—was in business as a hairdresser, umbrella repairer, bird-stuffer and retailer of musical instruments. Mr. Henton kept the "Sergison Arms” and Mr. Joshua Jones the

'Dick Turpin's Cottage'

“Star,” while Mr. Jacob Grist was host at the “Volunteer” (now the Sussex Hotel). The Heath Hotel was then a baker's shop, kept by Mr. Billy Kemp. Many of the leading


and there is no doubt that their coming here gave an impetus to the development of the place. Mr. Thorowgood lived at The laurels, Mr. Soper at Arnolds, Church Road, Mr. Treacher at Oaklands (which he had built). Mr. Reeves at Winnals, and Mr. Willard at Albion House, Boltro Road, while Mr. Hart, of Hart and Hobbs (hatters) acquired considerable amount of land.

The coming of the Local Board Mr. Pannett described as “an event.” The original Board, of which his father was a member, consisted of eight members, with the late Mr. Edward Waugh as Clerk. When Mr. Pannett, Sen., retired from the Board, it was the wish of the townspeople that his son should succeed him, “A.R.P.” sought election and was duly returned. He incidentally displaced the late Mr. Tom White, who, however, regained his seat later on. The late Mr. Jesse Finch was also a member. The big questions of the day were sewage disposal, paving and lighting. With regard to lighting, Mr. Pannett recalled that a particularly contentious member, Mr. Roberts, fell foul of the Gas Company over its charges, and he succeeded in getting the district lit by oil lamps for about two years. Eventually a reconciliation with the Gas Company was brought about. The first piece of tar paving laid was from the Railway Station up Boltro Road and Perrymount Road. At that time roads were made by simply throwing the flints down and leaving the public to tread them in! The first effort to improve upon this method was the introduction of a huge roller which was filled with water, and it took about


The first sewage disposal farm was in New England Road. For a time this worked very well, although it served only part of the district. Then bacteriological treatment was tried in Sydney Road, but this proved a failure. Finally, a system of broad irrigation at Wall House, Scaynes Hill, was decided upon. There was great opposition to the scheme, which was designed to take in the whole district. It was the Urban District Council which was responsible for the scheme, and Mr. Pannett considers that if there was one thing that Council had to its lasting credit it was this.

The spirit of willingness to serve on the local governing body in the eighties was very keen, and elections were lively affairs. Mr. Pannett remembers the time when the voting papers for the Local Board (which was succeeded by the Urban Council in 1894) were left at the houses, the people who delivered them being followed hot-foot by agents of the candidates. There was great competition amongst the agents to obtain possession of voting papers left at houses where the occupiers were absent, and these householders would have been greatly surprised to know their vote had been recorded, especially if it had helped to get on to the Board a man to whom they were antagonistic !

The land which is now the Recreation Ground originally belonged to the Sergisons, and was developed in the Victorian era. The frontages to Perrymount Road, Sydney Road, Oathall Road and Heath Road were assigned for building purposes, and the land between for a recreation ground. It was a peculiar piece of ground, said Mr. Pannett, there being bog about 30 feet deep in the middle, and old Mr. Dumsday, who kept the “Talbot at Cuckfield, and who had been a keen cricketer, conceived the idea of levelling off the land and


so as to make a cricket ground. He consulted two other old cricketers, Mr. Caleb Higgs and Mr. William Comber, who was in the employ of Mr. Thomas Bannister, and they agreed that the scheme was practicable. Mr. Pannett was asked to make the necessary calculations and plans, which he did, and the scheme was duly carried out by the governing body with the result that Haywards Heath has now one of the finest cricket grounds in the county. Victoria Park was then only a meadow, and it was sold by Mr. Pannett to the Urban Council in 1897 for £3,000. What a gold mine it would now be were it in the market !

Mr. Pannett saw the erection of St. Wilfrid's Church in 1865. “A good old chap” was how he described the first Vicar of Haywards Heath, the Rev. R. E.Wyatt, who had the church built. He did a great deal for the district, being unsparing in his efforts and always ready with his sympathy and counsel and purse.

Mr. Pannett entered whole-heartedly into the social life of the town. He was in great demand as chairman at smoking concerts, and he took a prominent part In the local “Parliament” of the day. being at one time Speaker. Today he holds office as Chairman of the Haywards Heath and Mid-Sussex Horticultural Society, also of the Haywards Heath Angling Club, and for the past 37 years he has been Surveyor to the Haywards Heath and District Building Society.

Mr. Pannett retired from active public life when he reached the age of He had then served about


He was the last Chairman of the Local Board. He also occupied for some time the chair of the Urban District Council. As a Guardian he did valuable work for many years. According to one authority,” commented Mr. Pannett to us dryly. “I ought to have been dead at three-score years and ten, and. according to another, I ought to have been taking the old age pension !”

Haywards Heath has produced no other humorist of the calibre of Mr. Pannett. His “rapier” wit has been a source of joy to his fellow townsmen and has brought confusion on the heads of his opponents. As a versifier he excels, and many a poem on a topical theme from his pen has delighted the readers of The Mid-Sussex Times.

“A.R.P” is not a man who has allowed himself to be actuated by what people might think of him. He says “One does not have to live long to discover that some people’s condemnation is as little to be regarded as their praise.” He finds Haywards Heath very different from what it used to be. In the old days everybody knew everybody else, and there was a real spirit of helpfulness in existence. He whimsically regards himself as “a moss-grown relic of a Haywards Heath which has disappeared for ever.”

Say what Mr. Pannett will, this cannot be denied : He has warmed both hands before the fire of life and made his fellows the happier for having known him.


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