The first Roman invasion of Britain took place fifty-five years before the coming of our Lord, but the conquest of the whole island was not completed for 100 years. For many reasons the Roman occupation remained a military colonization, and our land never became so completely Romanised as did the continental provinces of that wonderful Empire. But still its amazing influence has affected us profoundly, its roads and buildings are here still, while its laws and speech enter into our daily life.
We all know the tradition that a Roman road passed through Ardingly, though we look in vain for the raised straight bank which is its marked feature. Fifteen hundred years have passed since the Romans left Britain, and in that time a lesser road, such as ours, might easily have disappeared beyond all proof, but here again the value of names comes in, for Ardingly Street, the cluster of houses near the Church, marks the spot where the Roman Street passed, and Street Lane is the lane which led to it. Cold Harbour, a name which occurs some 70 times near the line of known Roman roads, appears in Clayton and also between Paddockhurst and Turners Hill.
The course of the road has been traced from Clayton to Butler’s Green, Cuckfield, and from thence by Wickham Farm to Ardingly Church, Wakehurst, and so on due north towards London. The section between Clayton and the sea is uncertain.
In 1779 the paving was removed in some parts and used for the making of the turnpike to Brighton. What happened in our own parish we know not, but the track which we can follow from Selsfield to Butler’s Green without setting foot on the modern highway, except to cross it, undoubtedly preserves the line of the old road. Although altered by cultivation, and wandering through many enclosures, it still does not deviate more than ¼ of a mile from the straightness characteristic of a Roman road.
Of late we have become familiar with the tramp of soldiers and the rattle of arms, and our thoughts turn back to those far-off days when the Roman soldiers, clad in the shining armour which served St Paul as a wonderful object lesson for the Christian equipment, marched through the hills and valleys so familiar to us, along the road of their own making. May our path be as straight as theirs, straight for the City of God.
Archeological Society visit to Ardingly 1869?