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1675: Impassable roads - and London 'focus of all that's bad'

‘The muddy cart’, Public Domain image

In 1675 there were four roads out of London into Sussex in 1675, and they all went to places on, or near, the Sussex Coast; but going through the Weald of Sussex at times these were almost impassable. When a new route was proposed about 20 years later that went through Cuckfield - it was rejected by Hurstpierpoint:

The impassable state of the Sussex roads appears to have been looked upon in the light of security by some of our ancestors; for when the road from London to Brighton, through Cuckfield, was made, it was first proposed to carry it through Hurstpierpoint; and would probably have been the line adopted had not the residents there, and in the neighbourhood, petitioned Parliament against it, under the fearful apprehension that it would be the means of bringing down from London cut-throats, pick- pockets, etc, and of introducing amongst them every kind of contamination.

In this fear, an ancestor of mine, resident close by a good old Sussex squire, cultivating his paternal acres largely participated; he was far too familiar with Sussex mud to look upon it as a nuisance, or to wish for different state of things; as long as it did not find its way into the top of his boots, he was content to wade through it.

But of London pollution he had a great abhorrence. He looked upon the Metropolis as the focus of everything that was bad. The journey to London by these roads in 1675, and even half a century or more later, generally occupied the whole of two days.


Sussex Archeological Collections Vol 19 P212

Sussex Archeological Collections Vol 15 P143


The illustration was from the Fontaine's Fable 'Hercules and the Waggoner' (1876-1890). A translation of it below has a message for all of us:

Hercules and the Waggoner

A farmer was driving his wagon along a miry country road after a heavy rain. The horses could hardly drag the load through the deep mud, and at last came to a standstill when one of the wheels sank to the hub in a rut.

The farmer climbed down from his seat and stood beside the wagon looking at it but without making the least effort to get it out of the rut. All he did was to curse his bad luck and call loudly on Hercules to come to his aid. Then, it is said, Hercules really did appear, saying:

“Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and urge on your horses. Do you think you can move the wagon by simply looking at it and whining about it? Hercules will not help unless you make some effort to help yourself.”

And when the farmer put his shoulder to the wheel and urged on the horses, the wagon moved very readily, and soon the Farmer was riding along in great content and with a good lesson learned.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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