Tributes to ‘Mrs Burgess Hill’

Violet Packham - known as Mrs Burgess Hill SUS-180304-120908001
Violet Packham - known as Mrs Burgess Hill SUS-180304-120908001

Tributes are being paid to a woman known by many in Mid Sussex as ‘Mrs Burgess Hill.’

Violet Packham - who had lived in the town for most of her life - has died aged 104.

Despite her age, Violet was fiercely independent and, up until recently, had “continued to live her life to the full,” said son John.

He said Violet, of Foundry Court, Burgess Hill, went out “every day to meet up with friends and socialise.

“She regularly attended shows at the Martlets hall and was a member of the local organ and Conservative clubs.

“She loved to go out for days and visit Brighton, Crawley and Henfield where she would independently make arrangements with her friends and travel by bus.

“She was known by many of the local shopkeepers as ‘Mrs Burgess Hill’ and would often be pointed out by them to customers who would be astounded by her age when told.

“Having spent 100 years living in Burgess Hill she had become part of the fabric of the town and was recognised and admired by many of the town’s community.

“She passed away peacefully in St Peter’s and St James’s Hospice after a short illness with her family at her side.”

Violet was born in Brighton in 1914 to Charles and May Swannell but her father Charles was killed during the First World War in France.

Her mother, a nurse, later met and married her second husband, William Ford, Violet’s stepfather.

The family moved to Burgess Hill in 1918 where William was employed as a telephone exchange operator in Prospect Place, Junction Road, which also became the family home.

Violet was a pupil at the Junction Road school and later became a maid in service at Barons Court, Burgess Hill.

She met her future husband Jack Packham who was working as a butcher’s roundsman in the town and married him when she was 22.

Jack served in the RAF during the Second World War and later resumed his trade as a local butcher. The couple lived happily for many years and became well known throughout the town.

Their son John was born in 1935 and he went on to marry his wife Rosalind and they had two children, Martin and Jayne.

Violet spent her working years as a machinist for Jaeger, a supervisor at Bribond signs and Ann Veronica before retiring.

During her working years she was an active member of the Burgess Hill Operatic and Choral society where she appeared in many shows.

Jack passed away in 1993 after which Violet continued to live alone in their home in Foundry Court. At her 100th birthday celebrations, Violet attributed her long healthy life to ‘a glass or two of gin a day.’