The group formed in 1988, taking their name from The Hay Wain a painting by English landscape artist John Constable.
The line-up included Paul Towler (b. 1965 Bristol, England; guitar), Jeremy Hunt (b. 1965 Manchester, England; vocals), Rachel Jones (vocals), Dave Yelling (b. 1965 Paulton, England; bass) and Marc Bendell (drums).
The band's first release The Surfin' Trowbridge EP, a flexi disk issued with Woosh fanzine in September 1988 was an early example of indie pop. The group established their own record label Emily's Shop Records for the release of their first 7" single, The Fisherman's Friend EP in July 1988 which saw them gain radio airplay from John Peel. The record was intended as a homage to the Fisherman's Friend throat lozenges produced by Lofthouse company who allowed the group permission to reproduce their brand's iconic packaging on the record cover. The group's second single The Freshen Up EP was released by German label Blam-A-Bit Records in September 1990. The group's first album Never Mind Manchester, Here's The Haywains, was self-released in 1990. The group's third 7" single Snuggle Up Warm With The Haywains was released in the USA in 1991 by Four Letter Words regarded as one of America's first indie-pop record labels. The group signed to Vinyl Japan in 1992 which would be their label until 1995. A 12" single Rosanna and a compilation album Get Happy With The Haywains were released by Vinyl Japan in 1992 followed by the band's second album Desperately Seeking Something in 1993, giving the band a wider international audience. The band's final 7" single Why Do I Get The Feeling Your Mother Hates Me? was released by Spanish label Elefant Records in August 1995.
After eight years together, the band engineered their own end with farewell shows during the summer of 1996. Singer Jeremy Hunt went on to co-run Cider City Records who have released recordings by US punk bands T.S.O.L. and Welt. His label released a posthumous compilation album by The Haywains, A37 Revisited in 2010. Songwriter Paul Towler went on to form The Casswells in 1996 who released one album for Vinyl Japan before splitting in 1997. After retiring from music in 1997, Paul returned to form alt-country tinged The Westfield Mining Disaster in 2006.