Three sisters go down memory lane

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Three sisters met recently on the corner of Franklynn Road and Dellney Avenue in Haywards Heath, the site of their old family home, Petlands Farm.

They came to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of their father, Albert William Berry, who ran the Haywards Heath coal company, A. H.Berry and Sons, with his father and brother.



The company was founded in 1883 and closed finally in the early 1970s, making it one of Haywards Heath’s longest running businesses.

According to curators at Cuckfield Museum at the Queen’s Hall, Cuckfield, the Berry family could be said to encapsulate the history of Haywards Heath.

The 1841 Census shows they were already established at Petlands Farm at that early period of the town’s history, having come from Framfield. As historians will know, 1841 was the same year the London to Brighton railway reached the Heath.

The family continued to live at the farm although pressure for building land increased with the growth of the town on the back of the railway, and the building of St Francis Hospital in 1859.

By the end of the century the Berry’s land, which had stretched down to the Priory, was virtually all sold and the family had diversified into coal haulage.

Their coal yard in Franklynn Road was built on what had originally been their farmland.

Petlands Farm had been a well known landmark and dated back to the 17th century. It was a popular subject for post cards in the early 20th century and the family was so long established in that part of the town that the upper part of Franklynn Road was known locally as Berry Hill.

The house was pulled down in the 1920s but the name survives in Petlands Road and Petlands Gardens nearby.

Albert William ran the coal business with his father Albert Henry and his brother Sydney. Albert William died in 1970 but Sydney is still alive, aged 95, and lives in Eastbourne.

The Berry sisters - Michele, Ann and Maureen - have all left the area but were proud to be reunited in Haywards Heath to remember their father and his family.

The family was helped in their research by Cuckfield Museum, Haywards Heath historian Colin Manton and post card expert Mike Felmore.

Cuckfield Museum is open on Wednesday and Friday mornings from 10am to 12.30pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.

Admission is free but as the museum is an independent charity run by volunteers, donations are welcome. A small shop offers books and souvenirs for sale.