Many years ago it occurred to this writer that it would be an interesting thing to write and illustrate a book on the Road to Brighton. The genesis of that thought has been forgotten, but the book was written and published, and has long been out of print. And there might have been the end of it, but that (from no preconceived plan) there has since been added a long series of books on others of our great highways, rendering imperative re-issues of the parent volume.
Two considerations have made that undertaking a matter of considerable difficulty, either of them sufficiently weighty. The first was that the original book was written at a time when the author had not arrived at a settled method; the second is found in the fact of the Brighton Road being not only the best known of highways, but also the one most susceptible to change.
When it is remembered that motor-cars have come upon the roads since then, that innumerable sporting “records” in cycling, walking, and other forms of progression have since been made, and that in many other ways the road is different, it was seen that not merely a re-issue of the book, but a book almost entirely re-written and re-illustrated was required. This, then, is what was provided in a second edition, published in 1906. And now another, the third, is issued, bringing the story of this highway up to date.
CHARLES G. HARPER.
List of Illustrations
George the Fourth
Sketch-map showing Principal Routes to Brighton
Stage Waggon, 1808
The “Talbot” Inn Yard, Borough, about 1815
Me and My Wife and Daughter
The “Duke of Beaufort” Coach starting from the “Bull and Mouth” Office, Piccadilly Circus, 1826
The “Age,” 1829, starting from Castle Square, Brighton
Sir Charles Dance’s Steam-Carriage leaving London for Brighton, 1833
The Brighton Day Mails crossing Hookwood Common, 1838
The “Age,” 1852, crossing Ham Common
The “Old Times,” 1888
The “Comet,” 1890
John Mayall, Junior, 1869
The Stock Exchange Walk: E. F. Broad at Horley
Miss M. Foster, paced by Motor Cycle, passing Coulsdon
Kennington Gate: Derby Day, 1839
The Dining Hall, Whitgift Hospital
The Chapel, Hospital of the Holy Trinity
Croydon Town Hall
Gatton Hall and “Town Hall”
The Switchback Road, Earlswood Common
The “Chequers,” Horley
The “Six Bells,” Horley
The “Cock,” Sutton, 1789
The Suspension Bridge, Reigate Hill
The Tunnel, Reigate
Tablet, Batswing Cottages
The Floods at Horley
A Corner in Newdigate Church
On the Road to Newdigate
Ifield Mill Pond
Crawley: Looking South
An Old Cottage at Crawley
The “George,” Crawley
Sculptured Emblem of the Holy Trinity, Crawley Church
The “Red Lion,” Hand Cross
The Road out of Cuckfield
The Clock-Tower and Haunted Avenue, Cuckfield Place
Old Sussex Fireback, Ridden’s Farm
Clayton Church and the South Downs
The Ruins of Slaugham Place
The Entrance: Ruins of Slaugham Place
From a Brass at Slaugham
Pyecombe: Junction of the Roads
Old Dovecote, Patcham
Preston Viaduct: Entrance to Brighton
The Cliffs, Brighthelmstone, 1789
Dr. Richard Russell
St. Nicholas, the old Parish Church of Brighthelmstone
The Aquarium, before destruction of the Chain Pier
Robinson Crusoe, weary of his island solitude, sighed, so the poet tells us, for “the midst of alarms.” He should have chosen the Brighton Road; for ever since it has been a road at all it has fully realised the Shakespearian stage-direction of “alarums and excursions.” Particularly the “excursions,” for it is the chosen track for most record-breaking exploits; and thus it comes to pass that residents fortunate or unfortunate enough to dwell upon the Brighton Road have the whole panorama of sport unfolded before their eyes, whether they will or no, throughout the whirling year, and see strange sights, hear odd noises, and (since the coming of the motor-car) smell weird smells.
The Brighton Road has ever been a course upon which the enthusiastic exponents of different methods of progression have eagerly exhibited their prowess. But to-day, although it affords as good going as, or better than, ever, it is not so suitable as it was for these displays of speed. Traffic has grown with the growth of villages and townships along these fifty-two miles, and sport and public convenience are on the highway antipathetic. Yet every kind of sport has its will of the road.
The reasons of this exceptional sporting character are not far to seek. They were chiefly sportsmen who travelled it in the days when it began to be a road: those full-blooded sportsmen, ready for any freakish wager, who were the boon companions of the Prince; and they set a fashion which has not merely survived into modern times, but has grown amazingly.
But it would never have been the road for sport it is, had its length not been so conveniently and alluringly near an even fifty miles. So much may be done or attempted along a fifty miles’ course that would be impossible on a hundred.
The very first sporting event on the Brighton Road of which any record survives is (with an astonishing fitness) the feat accomplished by the Prince of Wales himself on July 25th, 1784, during his second visit to Brighthelmstone. On that day he mounted his horse there and rode to London and back. He went by way of Cuckfield, and was ten hours on the road: four and a half hours going, five and a half hours returning. On August 21st of the same year, starting at one o’clock in the morning, he drove from Carlton House to the “Pavilion” in four hours and a half. The turn-out was a phaeton drawn by three horses harnessed tandem-fashion – what in those days was called a “random.”
One may venture the opinion that, although these performances were in due course surpassed, they were not altogether bad for a “simulacrum,” as Thackeray was pleased to style him.
Twenty-five years passed before any one arose to challenge the Prince’s ride, and then only partially and indirectly. In May, 1809, Cornet J. Wedderburn Webster, of the 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own) Light Dragoons, accepted and won a wager of 300 to 200 guineas with Sir B. Graham about the performance in three and a half hours of the journey from Brighton to Westminster Bridge, mounted upon one of the blood horses that usually ran in his phaeton. He accomplished the ride in three hours twenty minutes, knocking the Prince’s up record into the proverbial cocked hat. The rider stopped a while at Reigate to take a glass or two of wine, and compelled his horse to swallow the remainder of the bottle.
This spirited affair was preceded in April, 1793, by a curious match which seems to deserve mention. A clergyman at Brighton betted an officer of the Artillery quartered there 100 guineas that he would ride his own horse to London sooner than the officer could go in a chaise and pair, the officer’s horses to be changed en route as often as he might think proper. The Artilleryman accordingly despatched a servant to provide relays, and at twelve o’clock on an unfavourable night the parties set out to decide the bet, which was won by the clergyman with difficulty. He arrived in town at 5 a.m., only a few minutes before the chaise, which it had been thought was sure of winning. The driver of the last stage, however, nearly became stuck in a ditch, which mishap caused considerable delay. The Cuckfield driver performed his nine-miles’ stage, between that place and Crawley, within the half-hour.
The next outstanding incident was the run of the “Red Rover” coach, which, leaving the “Elephant and Castle” at 4 p.m. on June 19th, 1831, reached Brighton at 8.21 that evening: time, four hours twenty-one minutes. The fleeting era of those precursors of motor-cars, the steam-carriages, had by this time arrived, and after two or three had managed, at some kind of a slow pace, to get to and from Brighton, the “Autopsy” achieved a record of sorts in October, 1833. “Autopsy” was an unfortunate name, suggestive of post-mortem examinations and “crowner’s quests,” but it proved not more dangerous than the “Mors” or “Hurtu” cars of to-day. The “Autopsy” was Walter Hancock’s steam-carriage, and ran from his works at Stratford. It reached Brighton in eight hours thirty minutes; from which, however, must be deducted three hours for a halt on the road.
In the following year, February 4th, the “Criterion” coach, driven by Charles Harbour, took the King’s Speech down to Brighton in three hours forty minutes – a coach record that not only quite eclipsed that of the “Red Rover,” but has never yet been equalled, not even by Selby, on his great drive of July 13th, 1888; his times being, out and home respectively, three hours fifty-six minutes and three hours fifty-four minutes.
In March, 1868, the first of the walking records was established, the sporting papers of that age chronicling what they very rightly described as a “Great Walking Feat”: a walk, not merely to Brighton, but to Brighton and back. This heroic undertaking, which was not repeated until 1902, was performed by one “Mr. Benjamin B. Trench, late Oxford University.” On March 20th, for a heavy wager, he started to walk the hundred miles from Kennington Church to Brighton and back in twenty-five hours. Setting out on the Friday, at 6 p.m., he was back at Kennington Church at 5 p.m. Saturday, having thus won his wager with two hours to spare. It will be observed, or guessed, from the absence of odd minutes and seconds that in 1868, timing, as an exact science, had not been born; but it is evident that this stalwart walked his hundred miles on ordinary roads at an average rate of a little over four and a quarter miles an hour. “He then,” concludes the report, “walked round the Oval several times, till seven o’clock.”
To each age the inventions it deserves. Cycling would have been impossible in the mid-eighteenth century, when Walpole and Burton travelled with such difficulty.
When roads began to deserve the name, the Mail Coach was introduced; and when they grew hard and smooth, out of their former condition of ruts and mud, the quaint beginnings of the bicycle are noticed. The Hobby Horse and McAdam, the man who first preached the modern gospel of good roads, were contemporary.
I have said the beginnings of the bicycle were quaint, and I think no one will be concerned to dispute this alleged quaintness of the Hobby Horse, which had a certain strictly limited popularity from 1819 to 1830. I do not think any one ever rode from London to Brighton on one of these machines; and, when you come to consider the build and the limitations of them, and then think of the hills on the way, it is quite impossible that any one should so ride. It was perhaps within the limits of human endurance to ride a Hobby Horse along the levels, to walk it up the rises, and then to madly descend the hills, and so reach Brighton, very sore; but records do not tell us of such a stern pioneer. The Hobby Horse, it should be said, was an affair of two wooden wheels with iron tyres. A heavy timber frame connected these wheels, and on it the courageous rider straddled, his feet touching the ground. The Hobby Horse had no pedals, and the rider propelled his hundredweight or so of iron and timber by running in this straddling position and thus obtaining a momentum which only on the down grade would carry him any distance.
Thus, although the Hobby Horse was a favourite with the “bucks” of George the Fourth’s time, they exercised upon it in strictly limited doses, and it was not until it had experienced a new birth and was born again as the “velocipede” of the ’60’s, that to ride fifty miles upon an ancestor of the present safety bicycle, and survive, was possible.[†]
[† Kirkpatrick Macmillan, in 1839-40, invented a dwarf, rear-driving machine of the “safety” type, and was fined at Glasgow for “furiously riding.” He made and sold several, but they attained nothing more than local and temporary success.]
The front-driving velocipede – the well-known “boneshaker” – was invented by one Pierre Lallement, in Paris, in 1865-6, and exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. It was to the modern pneumatic-tyred “safety” what the roads of 1865 are to those of 1906. It also, like the Hobby Horse, had iron-shod wooden wheels, but had cranks and pedals, and could be ridden uphill. On such a machine the first cycle ride to Brighton was performed in 1869. This pioneer’s fame on the Brighton Road belongs to John Mayall, junior, a well-known photographer of that period, who died in the summer of 1891.
This marks the beginning of so important an epoch that the circumstances attending it are worthy a detailed account. They were felt, so long ago as 1874, to be deserving of such a record, for in the first number of an athletic magazine, Ixion, published in that year, “J. M., jun.,” who, of course, was none other than Mayall himself, began to tell the wondrous tale. He set out to narrate it at such length that, as an editorial note tells us, the concluding portion was reserved for the second number. But Ixion never reached a second number, and so Mayall’s own account of his historic ride was never completed.
He began, as all good chroniclers should, at the very beginning, telling how, in the early part of 1869, he was at Spencer’s Gymnasium in Old Street, St. Luke’s. There he saw a packing-case being followed by a Mr. Turner, whom he had seen at the Paris Exhibition of 1868, and witnessed the unpacking of it. From it came a something new and strange, “a piece of apparatus consisting mainly of two wheels, similar to one I had seen, not long before, in Paris.” It was the first velocipede to reach England.
It is a curious point that, although Mayall rode a “velocipede,” and although these machines were generally so-called for a year or two after their introduction, the word “bicycle” is claimed to have been first used in the Times in the early part of 1868; and certainly we find in the Daily News of September 7th in that year an allusion, in grotesque spelling, to “bysicles and trisicles which we saw at the Champs Elysées and the Bois de Boulogne this summer.”
But to return to the “velocipede” which had found its way to England at the beginning of 1869.
The two-wheeled mystery was helped out of its wrappings and shavings, the Gymnasium was cleared, and Mr. Turner, taking off his coat, grasped the handles of the machine, and with a short run, to Mayall’s intense surprise, vaulted on to it. Putting his feet on what were then called the “treadles,” Turner, to the astonishment of the beholders, made the circuit of the room, sitting on this bar above a pair of wheels in line that ought to have collapsed so soon as the momentum ceased; but, instead of falling down, Turner turned the front wheel at an angle to the other, and thus maintained at once a halt and a balance.
Mayall was fired with enthusiasm. The next day (Saturday) he was early at the Gymnasium, “intending to have a day of it,” and I think, from his account of what followed, that he did, in every sense, have such a day.
As Spencer had hurt himself by falling from the machine the night before, Mayall had it almost wholly to himself, and, after a few successful journeys round the room, determined to try his luck in the streets. Accordingly, at one o’clock in the afternoon, amid the plaudits of a hundred men of the adjacent factory, engaged in the congenial occupation of lounging against the blank walls in their dinner-hour, the velocipede was hoisted on to a cab and driven to Portland Place, where it was put on the pavement, and Mayall prepared to mount. Even nowadays the cycling novice requires plenty of room, and as Portland Place is well known to be the widest street in London, and nearly the most secluded, it seems probable that this intrepid pioneer deliberately chose it in order to have due scope for his evolutions.
It was a raw and muddy day, with a high wind. Mayall sprang on to the velocipede, but it slipped on the wet road, and he measured his length in the mud. The day-out was beginning famously.
Spencer, who had been worsted the night before, contented himself with giving Mayall a start when he made another attempt, and this time that courageous person got as far as the Marylebone Road, and across it on to the pavement of the other side, where he fell with a crash as though a barrow had been upset. But again vaulting into the saddle, he lumbered on into Regent’s Park, and so to the drinking-fountain near the Zoological Gardens, where, in attempting to turn round, he fell over again. Mounting once more, he returned. Looking round, “there was the park-keeper coming hastily towards me, making indignant signs. I passed quickly out of the Park gate into the roadway.” Thus early began the long warfare between Cycling and Authority.
Thence, sometimes falling into the road, with Spencer trotting after him, he reached the foot of Primrose Hill, and then, at Spencer’s home, staggered on to a sofa, and lay there, exhausted, soaked in rain and perspiration, and covered with mud. It had been in no sense a light matter to exercise with that ninety-three pounds’ weight of mingled timber and ironmongery.
On the Monday he trundled about, up to the “Angel,” Islington, where curious crowds assembled, asking the uses of the machine and if the falling off and grovelling in the mud was a part of the pastime. The following day, very sore, but still undaunted, he re-visited the “Angel,” went through the City, and so to Brixton and Clapham, where, at the house of a friend, he looked over maps, and first conceived the “stupendous” idea of riding to Brighton.
The following morning he endeavoured to put that plan into execution, and toiled up Brixton Hill, and so through Croydon, up the “never-ending” rise, as it seemed, of Smitham Bottom to the crest of Merstham Hill. There, tired, he half plunged into the saddle, and so thundered and clattered down hill into Merstham. At Redhill, seventeen and a half miles, utterly exhausted, he relinquished the attempt, and retired to the railway station, where he lay for some time on one of the seats until he revived. Then, to the intense admiration and amusement of the station-master and his staff, he rode about the platform, dodging the pillars, and narrowly escaping a fall on to the rails, until the London train came in.
On Wednesday, February 17th, Mayall, Rowley B. Turner, and Charles Spencer, all three on velocipedes, started from Trafalgar Square for Brighton. The party kept together until Redhill was reached, when Mayall took the lead, and eventually reached Brighton alone. The time occupied was “about” twelve hours. Being a photographer, Mayall of course caused himself to be photographed standing beside the instrument of torture on which he made that weary ride, and thus we have preserved to us the weird spectacle he presented; more like that of a Russian convict than an athletic young Englishman. A peaked cap, an attenuated frock-coat, very tight in the waist, and stiff and shiny leather leggings, completed a costume strange enough to make a modern cyclist shudder. Fearful whiskers and oily-looking long hair add to the strangeness of this historic figure.
With this exploit athletic competition began, and the long series of modern “records” on the Brighton Road were set a-going, for during the March of that year two once well-known amateur pedestrian members of the Stock Exchange, W. M. and H. J. Chinnery, walked down to Brighton in 11 hrs. 25 mins., and on April 14th C. A. Booth bettered Mayall’s adventure, riding down on a velocipede in 9 hrs. 30 mins.
Then came the Amateur Bicycle Club’s race, September 19th, 1872. By that time not only had the word “velocipede” been discarded for “bicycle,” and “treadles” become “pedals,” but the machine itself, although in general appearance very much the same, had been improved in detail. The 36-inch front wheel had been increased to 44 inches, the wooden spokes had given place to wire, and strips of rubber, nailed on, replaced the iron tyres. Probably as a result of these refinements the winner, A. Temple, reached Brighton in 5 hrs, 25 mins.
By 1872 the bicycle had advanced a further stage towards the giraffe-like altitude of the “ordinary,” and already there were many clubs in existence. On August 16th of that year six members of the Surrey and six of the Middlesex Bicycle Clubs rode from Kennington Oval to Brighton and back, Causton captain of the Surrey, being the first into Brighton. Riding a 50-inch “Keen” bicycle he reeled off the fifty miles in 4 hrs. 51 mins. The new machine was something to be reckoned with.
On February 9th. 1874, a certain John Revel, junr., backed himself in heavy sums to ride a bicycle the whole distance from Brighton to London quicker than a Mr. Gregory could walk the 22½ miles from Reigate to London. Revel was to leave Brighton at the junction of the London and Montpellier roads at the same time as Gregory started from a point between the twenty-second and twenty-third milestones. The pedestrian won, finishing in 3 hrs. 27 mins. 47 secs., Revel taking 5 hrs. 57 mins. for the whole journey.
The bicycle had by this time firmly established itself. It grew more and more of an athletic exercise to mount the steadily growing machines, but once seated on them the going was easier. April 27th, 1874, found Alfred Howard cycling from Brighton to London in 4 hrs. 25 mins., a speed which works out at eleven miles an hour.
In 1875 the Brighton Road seems to have been left severely alone, and 1876 was signalised only by two of the fantastic wagers that have been numerously decided on this half-century of miles. In that year, we are told, a Mr. Frederick Thompson staked one thousand guineas that Sir John Lynton would not wheel a barrow from Westminster Abbey to the “Old Ship” at Brighton in fifteen hours; and the knight, accepting the bet, made his appearance airily clothed in the “shorts” of the recognised running costume and wheeling a barrow made of bamboo, and provided with handles six feet long. He won easily, but whether the loser paid the thousand guineas, or lodged a protest with referees, does not appear. He should have specified the make of barrow, for the kinds range through quite a number of varieties, from the coster’s barrow to the navvy’s and the gardener’s. But the wager did not contemplate the fancy article with which Sir John Lynton made his journey. At any rate, I have my doubts about the genuineness of the whole affair, for, seeking this “Sir John Lynton” in the usual books of reference of that period, there is no such knight or baronet to be discovered.
According to the Sussex newspapers of 1876, over fifteen thousand people assembled in the King’s Road at Brighton to witness the finish of the sporting event between Major Penton and an unnamed competitor. Major Penton agreed to give his opponent a start of twenty-seven miles in a pedestrian match to Brighton, on the condition that he was allowed a “go-as-you-please” method, while the other man was to walk in the fair “heel-and-toe” style. The major won by a yard and a half in the King’s Road, through the excitement of his competitor, who was disqualified at the last minute by breaking into a trot.
Freakish sport was at this time decidedly in the ascendant, for the sole event of 1877 was the extraordinary escapade of two persons who on September 11th undertook to ride, dressed as clowns, on donkeys, from London to Croydon, seated backwards with their faces towards the animals’ tails. From Croydon to Redhill they were to walk the three-legged walk – i.e., tied together by right and left legs – and thence to Crawley (surely a most appropriate place) on hands and knees. From that place to the end their pilgrimage was to be made walking in boots each weighted with 15 lb. of lead. This last ordeal speedily finished them, for they had failed to accomplish more than half a mile when they broke down.
John Granby was another of these fantastic persons, whose proper place would be a lunatic ward. He essayed to walk to Brighton with 50 lb. weight of sand round his shoulders, in a bag, but he sank under the weight by the time of his arrival at Thornton Heath.
In 1878 P. J. Burt bettered the performance of the Chinnerys, ten years earlier, by thirty-three minutes, walking to the Aquarium in 10 hrs. 52 mins. Most authorities agree in making his starting-point the Clock Tower on the north side of Westminster Bridge. 52¼ miles, and thus we can figure out his speed at about five miles an hour. All the athletic world wondered, and when, in 1884, C. L. O’Malley (pedestrian, swimmer, steeplechaser, and boxer), walking against B. Nickels, junr., lowered that record by so much as 1 hr. 4 mins., every one thought finality in long-distance padding the hoof had been reached.
Meanwhile, however, 1882 had witnessed another odd adventure on the way to Brighton. A London clubman declared, while at dinner with a friend, that the bare-footed tramps sometimes to be seen in the country were not to be pitied. Boots, he said, were after all conventions, and declared it an easy matter to walk, say, fifty miles without them. He challenged his friend, and a walk to Brighton was arranged. The friend retired on his blisters in twelve miles; the challenger, however, with the soles of his stockings long since worn away, plodded on until he fainted with pain when only four miles from Brighton.
On April 6th. 1886, J. A. M’Intosh, of the London Athletic Club, walked to Brighton in 9 hrs. 25 mins. 8 secs., improving upon O’Malley’s best by 22 mins. 52 secs.
The year 1888 was notable. On January 1st the horse “Ginger,” in a match against time, was driven at a trot to Brighton in 4 hrs. 16 mins. 30 secs., and another horse, “The Bird,” trotted from Kennington Cross to Brighton in 4 hrs. 30 mins. On July 13th Selby drove the “Old Times” coach from the White Horse Cellar, in Piccadilly, to Brighton and back in ten minutes under eight hours, thus arousing that competition of cyclists which, first directed towards beating his performance, has been continued to the present day.
The traveller does not see the true inwardness of the Weald from the hard high road. Turn we, then at Povey Cross for a rustic interlude into the byways, making for Charlwood and Ifield.
Few are those who find themselves in these lonely spots. Hundreds, nay, thousands are continually passing almost within hail of their slumberous sites, and have been passing for hundreds of years, yet they and their inhabitants doze on, and ever and again some cyclist or pedestrian blunders upon them by a fortunate accident, as, one may say, some unconscious Livingstone or Speke, discovering an unknown Happy Valley, and disturbs with a little ripple of modernity their uneventful calm.
The emptiness of the three miles or so of main road between Povey Cross and Crawley is well exchanged for these devious ways leading along the valley of the Mole. A prettier picture than that of Charlwood Church, seen from the village street through a framing of two severely-cropped elms forming an archway across the road, can rarely be seen in these home counties, and the church itself is an ancient building of the eleventh century, with later windows, inserted when the Norman gloom of its interior assorted less admirably with a more enlightened time. In plan cruciform, with central tower and double nave, it is of an unusual type of village church, and presents many features of interest to the archæologist, whose attention will immediately be arrested by the fragments of an immense and hideous fresco seen on the south wall. A late brass, now mural, in the chancel, dated 1553, is for Nicholas Sander and Alys his wife. These Sanders, or, as they spelled their name variously, Saunder, held for many years the manor of Charlwood, and from an early period those of Purley and Sandersted – Sander’s-stead, or dwelling. Sir Thomas Saunder, Remembrancer of the Exchequer in Queen Elizabeth’s time, bequeathed his estates to his son, who sold the reversion of Purley in 1580. Members of the family, now farmers, still live in the parish where, in happier times, they ruled.
One of the prettiest spots in Surrey is the tiny village of Newdigate, on a secluded winding road leading past a picturesque little inn, the “Surrey Oaks,” fronted with aged trees. It is, perhaps, the loneliest place in the county, and is worth visiting, if only for a peep into the curious timber belfry of its little church, which contains a hoary chest, contrived out of a solid block of oak, and fastened with three ancient padlocks.
But few go so far, and indeed the way by Ifield has its own interests and attractions. Here a primitive pavement or causeway is very noticeable, formed of a row of large flat blocks of stone, along the grassy margins of the ditches. This is a survival (not altogether without its uses, even now) of the time when
Essex full of good housewyfes,
Middlesex full of stryves,
Kentshire hoot as fire,
Sowseks full of dirt and mire
was a saying with plenty of current meaning to it. In those days the Wealden clay asserted itself so unpleasantly that stepping-stones for pedestrians were necessities.
The stones themselves have a particular interest, coming as they did from local quarries long since closed. They are of two varieties: one of a yellowish-grey; the other, greatly resembling Purbeck marble, fossiliferous and of a light bluish tint. Charlwood Church itself is built of Charlwood stone.
Ifield is just within the Sussex boundary. A beautiful way to it lies through the park, in whose woody drives the oak and holly most do grow. It has been remarked of this part of the Weald, that its soil is particularly favourable to the growth of the oak. Cobbett indeed says, “It is a county where, strictly speaking, only three things will grow well – grass, wheat, and oak-trees;” and it was long a belief that Sussex alone could furnish forth oak sufficient to build all the navies of Europe, notwithstanding the ravages among the forests made by the forges and furnaces.
In the church of St. Margaret, Ifield, whose somewhat unprepossessing exterior gives no hint of its inward beauty, is an oaken screen made from the wood of an old tree which stood for centuries on the Brighton Road at Lowfield Heath, where the boundary lines of Surrey and Sussex meet, and was cut down in the “forties.” The tree was known far and wide as “County Oak.”
For the rest, the church is interesting enough by reason of its architecture to warrant some lingering here, but it is, beside this legitimate attraction, also very much of a museum of sepulchral curiosities. A brass for two brothers, with a curious metrical inscription, lurks in the gloom of the south aisle on the wall, and sundry grim and ghastly relics, in the shape of engraved coffin-plates, grubbed up by ghoulish antiquaries from the vaults below, form a perpetual memento mori from darksome masonry. On either side the nave, by the chancel, beneath the graceful arches of the nave arcade, are the recumbent effigies of Sir John de Ifield and his lady. The knight died in 1317. He is represented as an armed Crusader, cross-legged, “a position,” to quote “Thomas Ingoldsby,” “so prized by Templars in ancient and tailors in modern days.” The old pews came from St. Margaret’s, Westminster. But so dark is the church that details can only with difficulty be examined, and to emerge from the murk of this interior is to blink again in the light of day, however dull that day may be.
From Ifield Church, a long and exceeding straight road leads in one mile to Ifield Hammer Pond. Here is one of the many sources of the little river Mole, whose trickling tributaries spread over all the neighbouring valley. The old mill standing beside the hatch bears on its brick substructure the date 1683, but the white-painted, boarded mill itself is evidently of much later date.
Before a mill stood here at all, this was the site of one of the most important ironworks in Sussex, when Sussex iron paid for the smelting.
Ironstone had been known to exist here even in the days of the Roman occupation, when Anderida, extending from the sea to London, was all one vast forest. Heaps of slag and cinders have been found, containing Roman coins and implements of contemporary date, proving that iron was smelted here to some extent even then. But it was not until the latter part of the Tudor period that the industry attained its greatest height. Then, according to Camden, “the Weald of Sussex was full of iron-mines, and the beating of hammers upon the iron filled the neighbourhood round about with continual noise.” The ironstone was smelted with charcoal made from the forest trees that then covered the land, and it was not until the first year or two of the last century that the industry finally died out. The last remaining ironworks in Sussex were situated at Ashburnham, and ceased working about 1820, owing to the inability of iron-masters to compete with the coal-smelted ore of South Wales.
By that time the great forest of Anderida had almost entirely disappeared, which is not at all a wonderful thing to consider when we learn that one ironworks alone consumed 200,000 cords of wood annually. Even in Drayton’s time the woods were already very greatly despoiled.
Relics of those days are plentiful, even now, in the ancient farmhouses; relics in the shape of cast-iron chimney-backs and andirons, or “fire-dogs,” many of them very effectively designed; but, of course, in these days of appreciation of the antique, numbers of them have been sold and removed.
The water-power required by the ironworks was obtained by embanking small streams, to form ponds; as here at Ifield, where a fine head of water is still existing. Very many of these “Hammer Ponds” remain in Sussex and Surrey, and were long so called by the rustics, whose unlettered and traditional memories were tenacious, and preserved local history much better than does the less intimate book-learning of the reading classes. But now that every ploughboy reads his “penny horrible,” and every gaffer devours his Sunday paper, they have no memories for “such truck,” and local traditions are fading.
Ifield ironworks became extinct at an early date, but from a very arbitrary cause. During the conflicts of the Civil War the property of Royalists was destroyed by the Puritan soldiery wherever possible; and after the taking of Arundel Castle in 1643, a detachment of troops under Sir William Waller wantonly wrecked the works then situated here, since when they do not appear to have been at any time revived.
It is a pretty spot to-day, and extremely quiet.
From here Crawley is reached through Gossop’s Green.
A new era for Brighton and the Brighton Road opened in November, 1896, with the coming of the motor-car. Already the old period of the coaching inns had waned, and that of gigantic and palatial hotels, much more luxurious than anything ever imagined by the builders of the Pavilion, had dawned; and then, as though to fitly emphasize the transition, the old Chain Pier made a dramatic end.
The Chain Pier just missed belonging to the Georgian era, for it was not begun until October, 1822, but, opened the following year, it had so long been a feature of Brighton – and so peculiar a feature – that it had come, with many, to typify the town, quite as much as the Pavilion itself. It was, moreover, additionally remarkable as being the first pleasure-pier built in England. It had long been failing and, condemned as dangerous, would soon have been demolished; but the storm of December 4th, 1896, spared that trouble. It was standing when day closed in, but when the next morning dawned, its place was vacant.
But Brighton itself is eternal. It suffers change, it grows continually; but while the sea remains and the air is clean and the sun shines, it, and the road to it, will be the most popular resorts in England.