Headmasters the Barbers – the oldest men's hairdressers in Sussex – to close down this Friday

The oldest men’s hairdressers in Sussex is closing down

Headmasters the Barbers, on Cyprus Road in Burgess Hill, has been open since 1932 and will open its doors for the final time this Friday (January 28).

Current manager, Jean Everest, is set to retire from hairdressing having worked at the shop since 1995 – and run the business since 2012.

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Jean said: “It was a really hard decision to say I'm done now. But it’s just time for me to go. My husband has retired and I don't want to be here anymore.

Jean Everest (Left) and Joe McCavana (right) have both managed the business, which was first opened in 1932 by the Swayland brothers.

“I've got customers who were here from the first day I started that still come now, in fact they bring their children and their children’s children.

I want to say a big thankyou to all my customers over the years. I’m so grateful to them all. We have had some fun times and I will take away amazing memories.”

The hairdressers was originally named Swayland, sharing the surname of the brothers who opened the salon in 1932 on Keymer Parade, before moving the shop to its current location in 1964.

It was then taken over by two people who did their apprenticeships under the brothers, John Packham and Pete Verall, who converted the building from a two-storey house to an upstairs flat and downstairs salon.

The hairdressers was originally named Swayland, sharing the surname of the brothers who opened the salon in 1932 on Keymer Parade, before moving the shop to its current location in 1964.

Joe McCavana, who started working for the company in 1984, said: “This place used to be a big part of the community. If you went down one of the pubs – people would say they were going to get their haircut from Joe, John or Pete – rather than just saying they were going to the hairdressers. It was a part of Burgess Hill life, like going to the doctors or the dentists or the opticians.”

Joe moved over to Burgess Hill from Northern Ireland to start working at the salon and was responsible for changing the name to Headmasters in the mid-1980s.

He said: “They advertised in the paper that they needed a hairdresser and my sister-in-law lived in Burgess Hill and sent the paper over to Northern Ireland. I phoned the owner John [Packham] up and had to explain to him why someone from Northern Ireland was applying for the job. I came over a fortnight later and had an interview on the Sunday, started the next day, and the rest is history.”

Joe took over the business from John and Pete in the late 1980s and worked at Headmasters until just before the pandemic in 2019.

The 77-year-old said on the closing of the business: “Yes it's sad that no one has taken it and carried it on, because it’s there and it's established. It’s so difficult to start up any business in an empty shop, but you come here and it’s a shop with confirmed customers and you can build up from there. It angers me really that no one is taking the opportunity because I can't see any complications as to why it’s not happening.”

The salon is currently in a rented property, so both Jean and Joe are unsure what the building will be used for next.

Jean added: “I’ve got a lot of customers that have said 'oh my god this is the end of an era', which is obviously quite a sad thing, but I think it’s time for a change. These things can’t carry on forever.

This building could be an opening for an new exciting business for Burgess Hill and I am excited for that potential person."

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