The Turnpike Road

The earliest road was made by the Romans from Brighton to Newchapel running through the parish to the west of the church (not then built) up to Selsfield. A second way was developed as at drove road from the South Downs to the Saxon outliers for summer pasture. This road became the highway which exists to-day. Sussex roads, particularly in the Weald were notorious for their deep rutted almost impossible condition in the winter and for being rutted rock hard in the summer. The Rev. Arthur Young in his General View of Agriculture Sussex (1), wrote “The transport of vast loads of timber and corn through a heavy clay soil (for there is no bottom) renders them nearly impossible in winter for wheels of any description; and in the dry weather the hardness of the clay is very prejudicial to the feet of cattle”.

The roads were narrow with overhanging hedges and trees, opening to the occasional field in Ardingly, as in many places in the Wield as The Rev Arthur Young wrote (2) “Good roads are an infallible sign of prosperity; but so indifferent is the state of the Weald respecting its husbandry, arising partly from the predilection which gentlemen have for their shaws and woods in a very stiff soil, that to have good roads is hardly possible….the forest like appearance of this part of Sussex is such, that it cherishes every drop of rain that falls, by sheltering roads from the wind and sun and preventing the absorption of the waters”. Most travellers if not on foot used pack mules and horses for their travel.

Brandon and Short say “without adequate roads every commodity in the Weald had to he carried on foot or horse back..the results were crippling to agriculture (3) and further “in wet weather the deepest clays ways were impassible. yet alone carriages and waggons, as Cobbett found out at Ewhurst, Surrey (Cobbetts Rides 1930 edn p.198) and horse riders often abandoned roads for a course over farmland…they further quote Walpole in 1749 “lf you love good roads never go to Sussex (Walpole 1906 edn ii p l78)”.(4)

These quotations apply to the main drove road through Ardingly which became a Turnpike Road in 1770. The earliest detail of this road is from Thomas Attree’s map of the Wakehurst Estate in 1727 (5) (see sketch Rl ). The turnpike act of 1768 for the road (6) states that “in winter some parts are impassable for carriages, very dangerous for travellers on horseback …trees, bushes and underwood growing in the said road to be removed. The trustees appointed to erect gates and toll houses and to collect tolls. The following Ardingly men were trustees :- John Attree, Dennis Clarke, William Clifford, Thomas Harmer, John Hamlin, William Nichols, William Newnham, Jasper Wheeler and John Wicking, parishioners to find labour.” McAdamisation had now arrived and made a big difference to Sussex turnpikes as well as the one through Ardingly.

The most interesting part of the road is that of Binghams Green, near William and Henry Bingham’s house called Upper Lodge. In the 17th Century they produced their own half penny so they must have been men of commerce. The road turned left in front of their house into High Beeches (the Cuckfield Road), then right, into the village. This large green was no doubt the site for the Pedalry Fair held every May 30th. Notice from the map the worn pathway through the middle to the main street known as Hapstead Green with its nine houses. In the nineteenth century the rising popularity of the sea side towns like Brighton made it necessary for good roads to be constructed for those coming from London and for the wealthy who were acquiring country houses with hunting and park facilities.

The Turnpike acts were to make a tremendous difference to Britain’s roads and this was true for some Sussex roads, for by 1837 22% of roads had been turnpiked including the one through Ardingly. Ardingly’s turnpike road was part of the road from New Chapel in Surrey to Ditchelling Bost Hills and then to Brighthelmeston. An Act of the 8th April 1830 states “Act for repairing, widening and keeping in repair the road from New Chapel in Surrey, Copthorne (via Turners Hill and Ardingly, but not stated) Lindfield to the town of Ditchelling..from thence to Brighton. There were 59 trustees appointed and they included locals Charles Jolland of Buxshalls, Edward Peyton of Wakehurst, Sir Charles Wetherell of Wakehurst lands and Gibbs Crawford a landowner in Ardingly. The trustees met at the sign of the Tiger Inn, Lindfield on the 30th April 1830, the first of many meetings to put the Act into execution.

Toll houses were established in the centre of Lindfield town and in Ardingly at the junction of Hapstead Green and High Beeches. The was a further toll house at the cross roads in Turners Hill.

The following tolls were introduced :-

  • Every horse, mule, beast drawing carriage………6d
  • Every horse, mule, beast laden-unladen, not drawing ………. ..2d
  • Every ass or beast of burden laden-unladen not drawing …. ..1d
  • Every drove of oxen, cows or cattle ………………………………….. ..10d per score
  • Every drove of calves, sheep, lambs or swine ………………………. .5d per score
  • Only one toll per day for every passing; re-pass free. There was a half toll at Lindfield.

Although the turnpike through the village was an important one and well used as a drove road and some carriages carrying passengers, it is not mentioned in William Tristram’s “Coaching Days and Coaching Ways”.

Directories which began to appear in the early 17th century do give some picture of what local traffic was available. I have extracted sonic information from directories kept in Crawley Public Library:-

DirectoryYearInformationPost Office
Piggot’s1815Through Cuckfield to London. Carriages and coaches through Ardingly from Red Lion, Lindfield. To London at 12noon. From London 3pm
Piggot’s1828Post through East Grinstead daily
Piggot’s1839Carrier from Worth; Edw Pierce Mon & ThursPost through East Grinstead daily
Kelly’s1845Carrier Jn. Mason to Brighton every Fri night, return Sat nightPost through Cuckfield by foot
Kelly’s1855Carrier Hy Carter to Brighton every Fri night return Sat nightPost through Cuckfield
Melville1858(Records Pedlary Fair 30 May)
Kelly’s1862Carrier Hy Carter to Brighton every Fri night return Sat nightPost through Cuckfield
Post Office1867do.Post arr 8.30am, dispatch 6.30pm
Post Office1874do. but daily to Haywards HeathPost Haywards Heath
Post Office1878Carrier Hy Carter (owner of Gardener’s Arms)
Kelly’s1882do.Railway to Haywards Heath from Ardingly. Express post boxes now in village and at station.

The above discloses a fair amount of traffic through Ardingly from early in the 19th century, with both coaches and carriers. The turnpiked road from l770 must have been passable most of the year with access to London and Brighton.

By 1845 carrier John Mason was regularly carrying to Brighton and back. For this there must have been enough goods for regular trade probably at the market. When the 1841 railway opened carriers were still going to Brighton. It was not until Ardingly station opened in the 1880s that the Railway had an effect on road transport, and postal deliveries and collections increased.

The local markets at Lindfield, Cuckfield and now Haywards Heath however would still need the local carriers. It was known that much cattle was driven was still driven to market at Smithfield, London, for I have seen invoices and notes found at the Crown Inn, Turners Hill, when it was being repaired only a few years ago, written by cattlemen and butchers. The Crown was used regularly by drovers because it had a number of barns and grazing facilities next to the road. Local markets would still be needed for fresh meet and a price not much lower than Smithfield for it was well known that the driving of cattle all that way would considerably reduce the weight of cattle. The Mid Sussex Times, which began publication in 1880, regularly printed the prices of cattle and corn which proved the local markets were well used.

The Lower Rylands Bridge on High Beeches was frequently flooded and the Vestry of 22 September 1806 (7) records £30-3s-2d was raised from 41 properties at 2½d in the £; the most being paid by Capt. Jos. Peyton of Wakehurst at £5 17s 4d.

A plan of the Ardingly Turnpike as proposed by surveyors in 1824 is reproduced in a tracing from the East Sussex Record Office (R2). The proposal was to widen the narrow road and clear the overhanging hedges. Further to cut through Bingham’s Green, and then Hapstead Green. Turnpikes or gates were proposed at the junction of the Lindfield Road and High Beeches Lane on the Cuckfield/Haywards Heath road at the western end of Bingham’s Green. This was not adopted as will he seen in a later map. Another proposal was on the road near Bolney farm to the north to cut. through Jenkins Croft. This also did not take place.

One of the results of the drove road after turnpiking was the growth of the village along the side of the road at Hapstead Green. The 1841 Tithe Map enlarged on the sketch map R3 shows the development of houses on the waste land either side of the road. On the eastern side of the Green Hapstead farm and farm buildings, Bough Cottage, an old beer house, a smithy, a small dwelling and a much larger dwelling and shop at the South end were well established. Hapstead Green was in fact a narrow green running down a wide street.

At Binghams Green the original road turned west at Upper Lodge Farm which had been owned by two men of commerce named William and Henry Bingham. The road turned north into the village. The new road went straight up through the green with the toll house and its two gates being established at the apex of the Green effectually closing both roads.

More houses were built to the north of the Turnpike just before Wakehurst Place around the Gardeners Arms and became known as Little London.

Map R4 of 1884 shows clearly the Victorian development at Hapstead and especially Hapstead House built by Potter, an engineer from London. Map R7 of 1910 shows even more development, especially the workers cottages in a twittern behind the green to the east. More development had taken place in the nearby Street Lane. All the obvious signs of a growing and more prosperous village.

The Parish Church chest (5) contained Highway Surveyors papers from 1869 listing all the labourers who worked on the road. For example, regular labourers were a Henry Backshall and a Thomas Daws paid wages of 2s-2d per day. Occasional labourers were taken for clearing snow for three quarters of a day at ls-6d. Various villagers were paid for carting flints. The trustees of the road were paid for example E. Waugh Esq is recorded as receiving for half year ending 29th September £230 7s 5d. A Mr. Howard is paid for five carts and ten horses carting gravel at Ardingly Hill three times at £2 a time. The extent of the road was six and half miles and the materials used for repair of gravel, flints and stones amounted in 1870 to £505-12s-10p and the amount levied from the road £500-6s-2¾d. It looks as if the Trustees were often gaining little profit if not out of pocket!

The Turnpike tolls must have been of great aggravation to the parish of Ardingly for the minutes of a Vestry Meeting held at the Greyhound Inn Thursday 25th April 1861 (7) the following is recorded, “That in the opinion of the Vestry it is expedient to abolish the Toll Bars and convert the Newchapel to Brighton Tumpike Road into a Parish Road and to contribute an annual payment….upon the debt of the Trust at a reduced rate out of the Highway Rate. This proposal was rescinded later. The Vestry minutes record this aggravation continually.

Whatever the aggravation the road was well used used through Ardingly and contributed much to its development.

It must be noted there were two other roads serving the parish, that of Street Lane and West Hill to Balcombe and Cob Lane to West Hoathly. As these roads went steeply down and up the valleys on either side of the parish they were not used much for heavy traffic unless absolutely necessary, even after the station at Balcombe was built.

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