Sheffield Park and Garden is an informal landscape garden and 250 acres of parkland, five miles east of Haywards Heath and close to Uckfield in Sussex. It was landscaped by Capability Brown in the 1770s. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1954. The gardens are some of the most photographed autumn displays in the country. The Japanese maples, oaks, beeches and birches, are mirrored beautifully in the four lakes, providing stunning reflections. There are many black Tupelos trees, the foliage of which turns purple in autumn and then becomes an intense bright scarlet colour. The tallest tree in the garden is a thirty metre giant redwood, one of many planted by the Earl of Sheffield in the 1870s.
As well as the renowned autumn colour, there are dramatic shows of spring bulbs and the rhododendrons, azaleas and the stream garden, are spectacular in early summer. Arthur Soames, who owned the Estate between 1910 and 1953, planted most of the shrubs and rhododendrons. The garden formed part of the Estate of the adjacent Sheffield Park House, which was remodelled by James Wyatt in the Gothic style. It is in private ownership and not open to the public.
Sheffield Park has a long association with the game of cricket. The Third Earl of Sheffield, Henry North Holroyd, created a cricket pitch and in August 1845, the first match took place at Sheffield Park, between teams from the local villages of Fletching and Chailey. On 12th May 1884, a match took place between a Lord Sheffield’s XI and an Australian team. Australia won by an innings and six runs. “The Sheffield Shield” is still played for today in Australia. W.G. Grace, the famous cricketer, was a friend of Lord Sheffield and often played for the Lord Sheffield’s XI. There was a notable fixture in May 1896, when the Australian team opened their ninth England tour against the Lord Sheffield’s team. It was attended by 25,000 spectators, including the future King Edward VII.
During the Second World War, Sheffield Park was requisitioned by the War Office and became a camp for Canadian soldiers. The regiments stationed here were, Cape Breton Highlanders, Royal Canadian Artillery and Regiment de la Chaudiere. They took part in the D-Day Normandy Landings on Juno Beach and sadly, took heavy casualties.
It is interesting to learn that Sir Winston Churchill, during the Second World War, was worried that his beloved black swans, at his home in Chartwell, Kent, may suffer injury by enemy bombing. He, therefore, transferred them to Sheffield Park and Garden.