1897 - 1916
On the 5th June of 1897, a licence was granted by Earnest, Bishop of Chichester, “to authorise the performance of Divine Worship in the Mission Chapel of the Holy Spirit situated in Sydney Road... Which hath been provided with a Communion Table and other necessary Furniture”. The licence was granted to the Revd Thomas Geoffrey Wyatt, Vicar of St Wilfrid’s, on whose initiative the Chapel was built. Shortly after the Chapel became the Church of St Richard in 1916, Thomas Wyatt, bought, for the Priest-in-Charge, a large house in Sydney Road, with its adjoining extensive grounds.
The background to the building of what, was no great distance from St Wilfid’s, was the development of Haywards Heath during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Thomas Wyatt had foreseen development in the area at the time, centred round the Railway Station in Market Place and Boltro Road, in what he called his ‘new parish of St Wilfrid, Cuckfield’ (St Wilfrid’s having been created from Cuckfield Parish). Plans were afoot to break up the lands of Southlands Farm to develop Queens Road and of Gordon Road, with Church Avenue connecting these to the new chapel in Sydney Road.
Dr Thomas Compton, of Lindfield, owned much of Southlands Farm Lands, had agreed to give a piece of land for the site of the new chapel. Southlands Farm house stood at a point almost exactly half way along Sydney Road, set back some 150 yards on the northern side. At the front of the house was a pond which was filled in and the chapel, constructed mainly of iron (to indicate some haste), built between the site of this pond and Sydney Road at what was to become Church Avenue. The cost of this new chapel in Sydney Road was approximately £900, Miss Mary Otter, and her sister Elizabeth, grand-daughters of a former Bishop of Chichester, donated £400. The Bishop of Chichester’s Fund contributed £100 and the remainder raised by other giving. The mission Chapel of the Holy Spirit, although intended as a temporary structure, soon became known as the ‘Tin Church’!
The services were conducted by curates of St Wilfrid’s, but a degree of independence was permitted in that a curate was primarily in charge of services and pastoral work at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, houses were being built in Queens Road, Gordon Road and along one side of Mill Green Road and of College Road. Employment provided by local shops, the railway and by Mr Jesse Finch’s Building Yard. Additionally, by the Haywards Heath Steam Laundary and Thermogene Works both situated near the junction of Sydney Road and Queens Road. Thus, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit served a clearly-defined community, many of whose members both lived and worked in the vicinity.
1916 - 1937
The continuing growth of the northern district of Haywards Heath made an urgent case for the creation of a conventional district. This was also based on the importance of the railway, Commercial Square and expected further residential expanse. When the Chapel of the Holy Spirit became St Richard’s in 1916, Revd EFW Eliot was appointed the first independent priest-in-charge by Bishop Ridgeway. He resided in Sydney House, donated by Revd. Thomas Wyatt. The register of services commenced on 1st October with a Holy Communion at 8 am attended by 45 communicants. Sunday services comprised of 8 am Holy Communion, 11 am Matins and Sermon, 12.15 pm Intercessions, 3.15 pm Evensong and Catechism and 6.30 pm Evensong and Sermon. An additional Holy Communion at 7 am on the 3rd Sunday and another on the fourth Sunday at 12.15 pm replacing Intercessions and with Baptisms at 4.15 pm. A heavy programme of Sunday duties almost invariably undertaken by the vicar alone. In January a Parish magazine started and the first Vestry Meeting held on 10th April. The number of communicants at Easter 1917 was 197. Revd Eliot was married to Lady Kathleen Eliot who played the organ and assisted in training the choir which, in 1918, consisted of 16 boys, 3 men and 3 ladies. The first meeting of the PCC was held on 9th June 1920 by which time there were 552 names on the electoral role. The choir was well established, as well as a Sunday School, a Mother’s meeting, CoE Men’s Society, Girls Bible Class and Lads’ Brigade.
Locally, the Haywards Heath Gas Company, in Mill Green Road, had expanded to include offices, works and gas holders on both sides of the road. Now, in 1922, the Haywards Heath Electricity works were established in Gordon Road. Changes in transport were reflected in the adjoining Southdown Bus Garage and in the extension of Mr Griffin’s Motor Business to a new garage in Queens Road. Then, in the early 1930’s came the electrification of the railway along with it’s new station entrance and the Perrymount Cinema opened in Commercial Square.
The Revd W Johnson-Jones, who became vicar in 1921, spoke at the Vestry Meeting of that year of the extension of the work among young people in the Sunday School, Girl Guides Company (1st Haywards Heath) and the Lads Club which met in a hut erected in the grounds of the Parsonage. St Richard’s Football Team competed in the Sussex Junior Cup and Mid Sussex League, winning the Mowatt Cup in 1927. In April 1927, a Sung Eucharist was introduced at 10 am with the Sunday School following at 10.40 am. Electric light was installed in church but gas radiators retained, showing, in the Vicars words, “Our Catholicity”! Thus, St Richard’s came to represent the growing movement, emphasising the place of the Eucharist in the worship of the Anglican Church.
Between the wars, St Richard’s was served by a succession of dedicated priests, differing inevitably in temperament, approach and with distinct personalities, but all devoted to the needs of the people of the church and district. By the mid 1930’s some earlier organisations had ceased but there was now a branch of Mother’s Union, Mother’s Meeting and a Scout Group (2nd Haywards Heath) had been founded.