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n 1843, the expansive grounds that now form Beech Hurst Gardens were small fields, belonging to two local farms. The following two decades saw them transformed into the gardens of a Gothic revival house, complete with stables, a glass conservatory and tall bay windows. The estate passed through several owners until World War I when it was used as a military convalescent home for Haywards Heath Hospital. In between the wars, owner William Johnson


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Yapp exploited the potential of the Gardens by using the burgeoning technology of the day. The invention of the lawnmower made large, manicured lawns possible and the latest glass and iron manufacturing techniques led to large glasshouses being built. Even the bedding displays were not immune; exotic plants and non-native species were being imported so that a vibrant year round display counterbalanced the dreary English winter. A pergola walk blossomed with creepers, ramblers and hardy shrubs, lending a Mediterranean feel while a traditional Victorian rose garden brought a sense of history to the scheme. World War II meant that the estate was again requisitioned, this time as an army camp. Once fighting ceased, Yapp only lived another four years before bequeathing the gardens to the people of Haywards Heath in perpetuity. During the 1950s, the council undertook large-scale restoration, removing the glasshouses, rose garden and summerhouse. New features were added to the grounds to complement their new public use: two bowling greens, tennis courts, a pavilion and a miniature railway line. Today, the 5.5 hectare gardens are a well-loved part of the town landscape, catering for a variety of clubs including lawn bowling, petanque, croquet, tennis and the Sussex Miniature Locomotive Society. The railway, with its steam train, has one of the longest tracks in the country at almost half a mile – zipping through a tunnel and around the wildflower meadow before heading back to continued on next page





SUSSEX LIVING March 2012


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