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