The Roads and Bridges of Ardingly

At a time when road difficulties are much discussed, a few notes about our predecessor’s “Waies” may be interesting.

We need not discuss Roman roads, though we have the remains of one running through the parish and the name of Street Lane to remind us of the time when the Street (or straight road) was of more importance than the Lane which led to it.

In the 16th century Richard Culpeper gives us a piece of documentary evidence in his will dated 1516. He leaves money for mending of the ways between Wakehurst and Seldwyke Cross (Selsfield). Also after founding an obit or annual memorial service in the Church from the profits of Loggeland (Upper Lodge) the residue may be spent in “amending foul wayes.” That they were in great need of improvement may be gathered from his request that one or both of the Churchwardens should attend the memorial service being qualified by the remark “unless he or they lose their way”.

In the 17th century other methods were at work. The following entries are taken from the Hundred Roll of Street, in which Hundred Ardingly then was:

Streate. View of frank pledge1 held there 13 April 1615
Headborough of Ardingly, Richard Bawcombe

Day given by which Sir Edward Culpeper K: Ninian Jenkin and John Burges are to repair the bridge called Cobb Bridge under penalty of 6d for each default.

Day given to the tithing of Ardinglie to repair the Bridge called Ree Bridge and to take the water there into their lands under penalty of 40/s before the feast of St. Michael next.2

24 April 1617
Ardingelygh. Headborough Edward Paine.
The jury present that Ninian Jenkin has not cut his hedges in Cobbs Lane containing 40 perches so let him pay the fine imposed at the last view namely 12d for each virgate which amounts in the whole to 40s

9th April 1618
Ardingly. James Pike (Headborough) comes with his tithing, and the jury present that John Pilbeame, Richard Bawcombe, Richard Payne Edward Moory, Richard Willard, George Cheesman and Thomas Backshill are resident and have made default so each fined 3d

The jury present that a certain bridge the lower Rye Bridge is greatly in disrepair and ought to be repaired by the tithing of Ardingly so they are in mercy and are to have a day to repair the said bridge sufficiently by the Feast of St. John the Baptist next under penalty of £5.

The occupiers of lands on either side of the Kings highway in Ardingly between Upper Rye Bridge and Bridgers Mill in Ardingly to cleanse their ditches and cut their hedges.

Richard Parkes to clean his ditches and cut his hedges by the Kings highway in Ardingly called Bakes (Parkes) Lane.3

21st April 1620.
Headborough for Ardingly, Richard Leppard.
Day given for occupiers of lands near Boord Hill unto Kennards’ park pale commonly called Awwell Lane4 and similarly between Cobbgate5 and Cobbridge to cut their hedges and cleanse their ditches in Ardinglye.

(1) We see here a stage in the evolution of our present Local Government from the old Saxon method of ten tithings sending their ten men to form the Hundred Court, when the free men justified their right to freedom by a pledge, the headman of each tithing or borough being chosen for the year at the same meeting. The ten men were responsible for the good behaviour of their respective districts and also to see that the orders of the Hundred Court were carried out.
(2) Lower Rye Bridge, over the Ouse below the Railway Station, has always been a trouble to the parish and the Churchwardens Accounts contain many entries of expenditure upon it. It was on the main line of communication with the market town of Cuckfield. Ree, the “river” bridge, becomes Rye and later Rylands. It is sometimes wrongly called Avins bridge, which is the Railway bridge and not that over the river.
(3) Parkes’ holding and Upper Rye Bridge are on the Balcombe Road, near the Viaduct.
(4) Now Copyhold Lane.
(5) The mention of Cobbgate is interesting. The date is forty years before the first Turnpike Act, but the principle of a toll was in use long before that, and as this was a bridge maintained by private owners they probably put up a gate to enable them to collect it. Ninian Jenkins is still commemorated in Jenkins Croft.

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