Memories of Haywards Heath high street


The high street is forever changing, with independent stores having to shut their doors and even household names like Woolworths going out of business.

Michael Botting tells the Middy his memories of the shops in Haywards Heath around the 1950s and 1960s.

He said: “I remember fondly as a schoolboy in 1950 delivering prescriptions for Dixons the chemists who were in The Broadway, Haywards Heath. In those days it was perfectly acceptable for a 14-year-old to deliver drugs to customers on a trades bike.

“Sometimes I carried two heavy oxygen cylinders in the basket of the bike and then carried them up three flights of stairs to a patient. All part of the service, health and safety laws were not so stringent then. It is now a clothes shop but the chemist’s advertising is still there etched on the windows.

“The Co-op in Sussex Road was always busy and everyone who shopped there had a dividend number and they looked forward to a bonus payment at the end of the year. They had a system where the assistant put the money and bill into a brass canister which was then hooked onto an overhead wire and – whoosh! – it would take off across the shop like a rocket to the cashier’s desk, and then returned with the change and receipt the same way.

“Just along the road Broadbridges the gent’s outfitters gave a friendly service and I think they may have been the first to offer credit. They are still trading today a bit further along the road. Across the road was Hobbs the radio and electrical shop which is still there and I remember Norman Hobbs operating his fairground organ with some catchy tunes outside of the shop.

“Around the corner in Triangle Road there was a grocery shop run by Tom and Kath Wolvren. Tom could tot up bills on pencil and paper with great accuracy, and then carefully pack the goods into cardboard boxes awaiting delivery. I remember they had a freezer installed which was quite a novelty then.

“Sainsbury’s was in South Road then and when I was 11 or 12 I did shopping for my mother. Food was still rationed and there were separate queues for cheese, bacon, meat and groceries. I had an embarrassing moment one day as I reached the cheese counter when a stern-faced manager asked me to send my mother along to see him. Poor mum had rubbed out the pencil marks on the ration book in order to get more food. She just didn’t have any scruples when there were four hungry boys to feed.

“Who can remember the Corona man who drove his lorry round with sparkling coloured fizzy drinks. He was a great favourite with the children.

“The Home and Colonial stores was just down the road in competition with Sainsbury’s. Brenchleys also in South Road was a high class ‘deli’.

“A colourful character that I remember was Charlie Sissors who trundled around on a bike with a sharpener attached plying for trade and a few shillings. Charlie often muttered a few choice words if you declined his offer of sharpening up your knives or tools.”