Hailsham is small market town a few miles north of Eastbourne and the Pevensey Levels. Although not the prettiest of East Sussex towns, Hailsham still has plenty going for it.
Sussex market town
But with a recession looming and changes to its traditional market, Hailsham's future direction is a little uncertain.
Hailsham first found prosperity in the Middle Ages as a Market town and the auctioning of livestock has continued in the town long after many other Sussex markets had closed down. There is some doubt about whether this 750 year old feature of Hailsham life will continue for much longer as the land on which the market takes place is under pressure for redevelopment.
In the late middle ages many people in Hailsham made a living in the tanning industry. In 1780 Hailsham’s defining industry started up when Thomas Burfield set up his string and rope making works in the town.
Rope, of course, was a critical military supply in the 18th and 19th centuries when the backbone of the world’s largest empire depended on sailpower to keep it together.
Hailsham became well known for its string and rope making, even supplying the Home Office with the rope used by the Hangman. Even today Hailsham FC is known as The Stringers and the ropemaking industry continues apace in the town.
The Cuckoo TrailWhen the Hailsham railway line was closed in 1968 as part of Dr Beeching’s cuts it gave the town, which had been ticking along quite nicely, a it of a setback.
Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and the Cuckoo Line railway track has been turned into the attractive Cuckoo Trail – 13 miles of virtually car-free pathway for ramblers, horse riders and cyclists all along the old rail route from Heathfield to Eastbourne.
Hailsham PavilionOne of the architectural highlights of the town is Hailsham Pavilion.
The Pavilion is a compact but grand former picture palace with a lovely stuccoed classical facade. The Pavilion opened in 1921 as a cinema but shut down its projector in 1965, becoming a bingo hall. After this, years of decay followed until the pavilion was restored to its intended use as a cinema and concert hall.
Hailsham Pavilion was reopened in 2000 by the Hailsham Old Pavilion Society and now holds a mixture of films, theatre, music and more unusual entertainments like belly dancing and clairvoyance demonstrations.
Other Hailsham attractionsHailsham is well served with a mixture of a independent and national shops, good sports facilities and the Freedom Leisure entertainment complex. Hailsham also has its own Arts Festival, which was started in 2007.
The town also contains a good 15th century church, built on a Saxon site, and some attractive buildings interspersed with some less inspired modern ones. The Grange, alongside St Mary’s Church is a particularly beautiful former vicarage.
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Wednesday February 19