This month, on July 4, Americans at home and abroad will be celebrating Independence Day. To coincide with the day, RH History Uncovered looks at origins of the street names of Haywards Heath which are more Mid West than Mid Sussex.
Today, Haywards Heath’s America Lane is a residential road, however, the street and those surrounding it tell a tale of social reform. They were named after a settlement project which was created in the 1820s by Quaker industrialist, social reformer and philanthropist William Allen who lived in Lindfield.
Allen was born in 1770, he was the eldest son in a Quaker family, and he was educated at a Quaker school in Rochester before working in his father’s silk business. As a young man, he became interested in science and attended scientific lectures at St. Thomas’s Hospital and Guy’s Hospital.
Historically, America Lane roughly marked the parish boundary of Cuckfield and Lindfield, in 1823, Allen set up a self-sufficient agricultural community where America Lane stands today. Labourers were given cottages and plots of land, access to loans, and technical guidance, and did very well.
Allen wrote about the idea of establishing new colonies at home, his philosophy was that these communities would help discourage emigration, instead he thought people should find opportunities in Britain, and in turn the project would encourage higher levels of self-sufficiency amongst the rural poor.
At the time, people were leaving rural Sussex behind like much of Europe including Ireland, Scandinavia and Italy to cross the Atlantic to find fortune in what was considered the land of opportunity. Due to this experience, local people began to call the area America, and the name soon stuck.
The settlement project proved highly successful and remained in place up until the Second World War, as the Second World War ended, it was decided that the cottages should be demolished and replaced
with new housing suitable for the Post-War era, which was largely completed by 1950.
Inspired By America, Found In Haywards Heath
Amongst the American inspired street names in Haywards Heath, are: America Lane, Boston Road, New England Road, Penn Crescent, Washington Road
By Jacob White