The Parish (1939 - 1989)
Important milestones in the life of St Richard’s have been at times of national crisis, the formation of the conventional district during the Great War, and the establishment of the parish of St Richard’s in the Spring of 1939. The issue of the London Gazette for 14th March recorded the approval, by the King in Council, to setting up of ‘a Consolidated Chapelry to the consecrated Church of St Richard, Haywards Heath’. The population by 1939 ‘at certain extremities of the new parish of Saint Wilfrid, Cuckfield, and the parish of Lindfield’ now justified the formation of a new parish from these two parishes and the building of the new church made it seem appropriate for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to make representation to this effect. This was approved on 9th March and was registered a short time afterwards by the Registrar of the Diocese of Chichester.
There had been considerable housing development in the area with building in the Lucastes area to the west of the railway and with the expansion of the Summerhill and Sunte estates around College Road and Gander Hill and also near Oathall Avenue and Greenways to the east of the new parish. Then, with the coming of war, a halt was called to new building. Evacuees to the area from St Mathew’s School, Westminster, were accompanied by Revd RC Ratcliffe who gave assistance at services. St Richard’s Parish Hall was in use nightly from 5 pm till 10 pm as a canteen for troops stationed nearby. On Thursday’s it was used by the local ARP organisation. Scouts gave assistance as fire watchers, using the hut at the rear of the church. In 1942, a Parish Communion was introduced at 9 am once a month so that the Home Guard could make their communion before parade.
In November 1956, plans for a new vicarage in Queens Road, which had been mooted since the ‘thirties, were completed. It was designed by Mr Ralph Knight and build by Finch & Co. The old vicarage beside the church, in Sydney Road, gave way to flats, whilst the Chapel building which had been the first St Richard’s, and since served as a meeting place, was demolished for housing development.
Housing development continued in the area of Harlands Road and Balcombe Road with the creation of the Barnmead Estate. Contact with families was kept primarily through Sunday School during the ‘sixties and seventies and a ‘Thursday Club’ was run to the benefit of the elderly.
St Richard’s has, like other churches, looked at the needs of others, an annual parish seaside outing in Fr Richardson’s time, for children and adults, usually to the Isle of Wight or Haylind Island was the result of fund-raising objectives. More latterly, St Richard’s supported the work of the Church of England Children’s Society and of Christian Aid.
In 1962, a new hall was built behind the church, and has since been well used by various groups and clubs. Initially, it was by a Wives Group which flourished as well as the St Richard’s branch of Mothers Union.
As members of St Richard’s, Our thanksgiving should be for the opportunities that we enjoy. Our concern should be for the many, in our parish, for whom their parish church is not a reality. Such a lack of interest, over a number of decades, is, of course, a national rather than a local issue. Nevertheless, we do need to consider options to tackle the problem. Our vision for the future must always be outward, in our relations with our fellow Christians, in our sensitivity to the need’s of Gods World, and our awareness that, despite all our failings, he is always at work in and through us.