Hail­sham

LET’S MOVE TO... With thriv­ing lo­cal mar­kets and a bounty of ameni­ties, this East Sus­sex town ticks all the boxes

Sussex Life - - Front Page -

GET­TING THERE

“Hail­sham: a small town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Sus­sex. The vil­lage stands in a pleas­ant vale.” These were the re­marks of John Mar­ius in his 19th cen­tury Im­pe­rial Gazetteer of Eng­land and Wales, be­fore he went on to de­scribe the town’s var­i­ous ameni­ties, mar­kets and inns. Nearly 150 years on, it seems that lit­tle has changed. Hail­sham sits be­tween the High Weald and the South Downs, and still en­joys un­spoilt scenery of some of the county’s finest coun­try­side. His­tory lives on with var­i­ous mar­kets tak­ing place each month, and it con­tin­ues to of­fers a large se­lec­tion of lo­cal shops, pubs and restau­rants. It is now, how­ever, the largest of five towns in the Wealden district of East Sus­sex, home to more than 20,000 peo­ple. Although in a ru­ral set­ting, Hail­sham is within easy reach of ma­jor towns. It is just seven miles from East­bourne, 11 miles from Lewes, and about half­way be­tween Brighton and Hast­ings. Hail­sham ben­e­fits from fan­tas­tic road links, with the A22 from Lon­don to East­bourne pass­ing through the north of the town, and with the A27 to the south which will get you to Brighton in un­der an hour.

Hail­sham is also served by reg­u­lar bus links to most other nearby towns. The near­est rail­way con­nec­tion is just a few miles away in Pole­gate; here there are di­rect trains to Lon­don Vic­to­ria run­ning ev­ery half an hour, and nu­mer­ous fast trains to Brighton and East­bourne. Ne­olithic age, with ev­i­dence of its ex­is­tence well be­fore the Ro­man in­va­sion of Sus­sex in 43AD. It is men­tioned in the Domes­day book where it is called Hame­le­sham, with its cur­rent name thought to have come from the An­glo-saxon ‘Haegel’s Ham’ mean­ing the set­tle­ment of Haegel, Hella or sim­i­lar. It could even come from ‘Aella’s Ham’, re­fer­ring to the clear­ing of Aella, who was the first king of the South Sax­ons from 477 to 514 AD. In 1252, Henry III granted Hail­sham a Mar­ket Char­ter. The mar­ket was held in the High Street and Mar­ket Square, and the town con­tin­ues to see weekly live­stock mar­kets and monthly farm­ers’ mar­kets to­day, with stalls in the town cen­tre on Thurs­days or Satur­days. Hail­sham has a rich his­tory as a cen­tre for in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture, and be­tween 1540 and 1640 it was a chief cen­tre of leather­work and tan­ning due to its sta­tus as a thriv­ing cat­tle mar­ket town. An­other tra­di­tional in­dus­try here was rope mak­ing, and Hail­sham had the grisly task of sup­ply­ing the ropes used for hang­ings across Bri­tain and the colonies. Her­st­mon­ceux Cas­tle still stands to the east of the town, a spec­tac­u­lar struc­ture that is one of the ear­li­est ex­am­ples of brick build­ing in Eng­land. It now op­er­ates as an In­ter­na­tional Study Cen­tre for Queen’s Univer­sity in Canada. It was also briefly the lo­ca­tion of the Royal Green­wich Ob­ser­va­tory, and to­day houses the Ob­ser­va­tory Sci­ence Cen­tre. The cas­tle and grounds reg­u­larly open their doors for var­i­ous events through­out the year.

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