Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exploring Haywards Heath

Working once again through the preface to Meredith and Co. (1933) reminded me of my unsuccessful attempts to probe into the dedication of the third novel of George Mills, Minor and Major, published in 1939.

The edition I own and am reading right now [published by Spring Books in what would appear to be the late 1950s] has a dedication that reads: 'To the Headmaster, Staff, and Boys of Parkfield, Haywards Heath, where I received my early education, this book is affectionately dedicated.'

Information about the life of George Mills and his family around the turn of the 20th century is sketchy at best. Mills was born in Cornwall in 1896, and his father, Barton, took a position at the Chapel Royal of the Savoy in 1901, moving the family to London before George's 5th birthday.

George was then at Harrow School from 1910 to 1912. Would it be correct to assume that Mills likely attended Parkfield from approximately 1905 through 1910? I'll assume that, having 'named no names' in his dedication above, he was not currently working there, and was simply reminiscing about a happier, less complicated time in his life.

I haven't had much luck regarding a Parkfield School or Haywards Heath. It appears there had been a "Wick and Parkfield Preparatory School" in Haywards Heath, but all I've really been able to find out about it on-line is that it would have been located on Cuckfield Road and once had full inspection in 1936. Google Maps didn't help much, either. I "drove" up and down rural Cuckfield Road [B2114], east of Haywards Heath itself, from B2115 up to Handcross and only "passed" one school: Newish-looking Brantridge School in Staplefield.

Neither three enquiries sent to the Independent Association of Prep Schools, nor two enquiries of the Haywards Heath Archives, have brought so much as a single reply, let alone any information. It seems to be somewhat of a black hole in the landscape of Sussex history. [UPDATE, 30 July 2010: I apologize for my reference to a "black hole." Thanks to brilliant research by Barry McAleenan and Liz Graydon, we've located Parkfield School!]

Given the difficulty that I've had investigating prep schools, I appreciate all the more the gracuious offers of help and exceptional assistance rendered by the Eastbourne Local History Society during my search for Warren Hill School in Meads, and from Windlesham House in Brighton. Thanks once again to everyone involved in those investigations for all your help!

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