Community driven village of Lindfield is dedicated to preserving what makes it unique

The village of Lindfield, located just a five minute drive outside of Haywards Heath, has a rich and varied history.

Peter Voigt and his cat, Josephine
Peter Voigt and his cat, Josephine

It dates back to 765 AD, its name meaning ‘open land with lime trees’, and the High Street is lined with lime trees and more than 40 medieval and post-medieval timber framed houses and shops.

There are dozens of events for the community to take part in: Lindfield Arts Festival, an annual event in its eleventh year which promotes creative arts in the village; May’s village day and village run; the bonfire society’s celebrations and a village festival night.

Brenda Johnson, who has lived in the village since 1968, has been running Lindfield’s welcome pack scheme for more than 25 years.

Brenda Johnson

She said: “It’s been going ever since it was revived by All Saints Church in 1969.

“There would be one person on every road who would look for any new people moving in.

“If you just moved into a new road, you don’t know anybody even in this day and age where so much information is on your smartphone, it’s still nice to have somebody knock on the door and say ‘hello welcome to Lindfield, here’s a bit of information here you might be interested in, have you got any questions?’.

“It hopefully promotes the feeling of being welcomed into the community.

Lindfield pond

“This is one small way of trying to promote that feeling because, generally speaking, they’re very pleased to see you.”

Brenda said the scheme means she gets to know people of all ages.

She said: “It’s easy to meet people when you’ve got small children because you go down to the school and talk to other parents.

“It’s not so easy when you’re older, or maybe you’ve been commuting to London and haven’t had time.”

Lindfield High Street

Despite the popularity of the project, and her long list of volunteers, she said it can be hard to find someone to cover every road in the village.

She said: “I think perhaps in the earlier days, you had more people who retired at a slightly younger age.

“Now people haven’t got that five to 10 years of retirement when they still got good health and energy, if they don’t retire until around 70.

“And so I think it’s becoming more difficult, but nevertheless it’s the personal contact, the person saying hello, or smiling actively as you go down the street that we try to promote here.”

Lindfield

Brenda said she took it over partly because of how many people she knows in the village ‘in so many spheres’.

She’s also an avid walker, and spends a lot of time walking around the village.

She said the project helps to preserve the community spirit in the village: “It’s got the links with the churches, but it’s the welcome and the smile which is the important thing.

“I’m always looking for more people, the numbers of people who are really keen and enthusiastic.”

The village has a common, which has been used for events from fairs to bonfire celebrations and sporting events, and a pond which is home to fish, ducks and herons.

Peter Voigt, 76, runs a violin restoration business on Lindfield High Street.

He is the ninth generation of Voigt in the business, which started in 1699 in Germany.

He started working in the trade in 1960, and established his own restoration business in 1986.

He said: “I’ve never not been happy to come into work on a Monday morning, and I really like living in the village.

“I thought I might move up north and fish in Scotland as the south east gets busier, but it’s so accessible here.

“But living here, it’s a slight reassurance that the world is out there. It’s very convenient, the village is pretty.

“No matter how often you go up the High Street you can spot something different each time.”

His grandfathers ran their violin business from Liverpool and London, but Peter moved to Scaynes Hill in 1970 and Lindfield in 1981, and hopes he ‘never has to move’.

The building used to house a women’s clothes shop, and Peter still has two of the shop dummies - ‘the Gladyses’ in the attic, which he used to pull out for window displays.

Peter said: “The violin trade has gone very quiet, and nearly stopped a couple of years ago.

“Even if it doesn’t recover, I’ve no intention of closing the shop even if it costs me money.

“It’s an outlet into the world.”

Peter’s become more of a collector than a seller these days, having more than 50 violins, as well as restoring violins as accurately as possible, but likes it when young people show an interest in music.

He said: “I like youngsters in the shop who are picking up an instrument or kicking a ball around, doing things, because the world is made up of so many not-doers.”

Nobody could accuse Peter of not doing a lot, however, as away from his day job and caring for his two cats, François and Josephine, he refurbishes and races single-seater classic cars, which is how he met fellow racer Brodie Branch.

Brodie, 57, has lived in Lindfield for eight years and said: “Peter is most eclectic man you’d ever like to meet.

“I really like the village cinema in the King Edward Hall. It has all the latest releases and an interval for tea and cake, and it’s a great little get-together.”

Another quirk of the village is that it’s the birthplace of Swooving.

Swoove, which stands for sing, whoop and move, was set up in 2015 by Esther Rose Featherstone.

The first ever Swoove Fitness class was held at Lindfield Primary School in September 2015, and was sold out.

Esther, who moved to Lindfield 10 years ago, said: “Community - It’s what drew us here, hands down. It’s what made my business a success. The people are wonderful, and we wouldn’t live anywhere else.

“Someone once said to me they feel like they’re on holiday here, and I agree!”

We asked our readers on Facebook what they love best about living and working in Lindfield.

Sam Farrant said her children love the animal garden on Luxford Road and Nina Otero said she ‘can’t imagine living anywhere else’, and she loves ‘the community spirit’.

Lee Wallin said: “It’s just one of those villages where everyone smiles and say good morning to each other, hold doors open for each other, you don’t feel any threat to your doorstep, the community as a whole are amazing, seemingly full of empathic people that are more than willing to help out another villager in whatever form.

“I’ve lived here all my life, no-one used to even lock their doors, it’s a safe haven and I think we are all quite proud of the style of living here we maintain.”