Haywards Heath Social Club celebrates 100 years with special open day

Haywards Heath Social Club is celebrating its centenary this year with a fun-filled open day on Saturday (October 9).

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 5:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 6:16 pm

The club on Wivelsfield Road is hosting a craft fair from 10am to 3pm with tea, coffee and cakes for sale, as well as a tombola and a raffle.

There will also be music from Rick Bonner (4pm to 7pm) and Taller Than Jane (8.30pm to 12am), as well as a 1920s themed meal from 6pm to 8.30pm.

There will be close up magic from 5pm to 7pm.

Chris Packham, head of communications and social media for Haywards Heath Social Club.

The club was founded on June 6, 1921, as Haywards Heath United Services Club when the Mid Sussex branch of the Comrades of the Great War disbanded.

Since that day it has played a key role in the town, said the club’s head of communications and social media Chris Packham.

“Many people drive past the building without knowing what’s behind those doors,” said Chris, 55, a lifelong Haywards Heath resident.

He said members benefit from regular live entertainment, with bands playing on alternate Saturdays, and members can also get discounted drinks at the fully licenced bar.

Chris Packham and his daughter Georgina who is also a member of Haywards Heath Social Club.

The club’s snooker room has recently been refurbished, he said, and boasts four competition snooker tables, as well pool and bar billiards tables.

There are also fitness classes including salsa and pilates, as well as corporate facilities and even a ukulele group.

“We’re home to the Sussex Darts Organisation,” Chris added, saying that the club is a kind of ‘home ground’ for players’ inter-county matches.

“In past years we’ve hosted pensioners’ dinner dances, children’s Christmas parties and children’s outings,” Chris said.

Neil Chalmers, Haywards Heath Social Club's longest serving member of 58 years.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to cut back on these events,” he said, but he added that the club is now looking to revive activities like these and increase its presence in the community.

Chris also said the club has a welfare sub-committee that looks after members who are dealing with ill health or other kinds of misfortune.

On top of this, Haywards Heath Social Club nominates a charity each year at its AGM, helping local groups via events like charity quizzes, fairs and 24-hour static bike rides.

“In 2019 our chosen charity was Chesnut Tree House,” said Chris, adding that this organisation received £3,100.

Haywards Heath Social Club's original building.

A previous charity was Headway – the brain injury association and the charity for 2021-2022 is the Alzheimer’s Society, he said.

Sadly, Chris said that Covid disrupted the club’s fundraising efforts last year, along with many other planned activities.

“We did have to shut like so many other businesses in the entertainment industry,” he said.

“We had to close our doors between March 2020 until the relaxation, then we were open over the Christmas period and then we had to close again until May of this year.”

But, as the club has reopened it has seen members slowly regain their confidence to come out, said Chris.

“We’ve held some very successful live band entertainments and we’re starting to see now people booking parties in our function rooms again, which is great,” he said.

Haywards Heath Social Club today.

Haywards Heath Social Club is now trying to enhance its profile for catering too and it holds themed dining nights with its Indian and Mexican food evenings proving popular.

Chris, who has been a member of the non-profit-making organisation for 37 years and is on the management committee, said the most rewarding aspect of his role is seeing people enjoying themselves and being among friends as soon as they walk in the door.

He is looking forward to welcoming people into the club on October 9, mainly to show off the facilities but also to share the club’s history.

The original club premises in 1921 was set in a wooded area where The Broadway becomes Perrymount Road.

The tin hut was erected by ex-servicemen and the club was opened by Lord Leconfield (Lord Lieutenant of Sussex), who was received by Colonel Stephen R Clarke (president) and Mr W L Knowles (chairman) with a guard of honour by members of ‘A’ Company 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment.

The site was sold in the 1960s and re-developed along with its neighbouring buildings into Capital House.

But the club purchased a haulage yard on Wivelsfield Road and Thomas White built the new premises, which opened in 1973.

Neil Chalmers, 86, is the club’s longest serving member of 58 years and he will share some of his memories at the open day.

Having joined the club in 1963, Neil is one of the few members to have seen the original tin hut with its three snooker tables, lounge bar and sixpence slot machine.

There will also be a display of news cuttings and memorabilia.

Haywards Heath Social Club now has two function rooms and the main one can accommodate 150 people for events like baby showers, birthdays or wedding celebrations.

It has its own bar, a large dance floor, a raised stage and disco facilities.

The smaller function room can be used by 50 to 60 people.

Doors open at 10am on Saturday (October 9) and everyone is welcome.

Visit www.hhusc.co.uk to find out more.