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c1750: Was the main road realigned?

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Photo by Deborah Day seen in Cuckfield Gossip from a balloon July 2021 - did the road once continue left of the Church?

In a recent article we discussed how the imposing lime tree avenue from Cuckfield Park at one time extended on the other side of the road. We posed the question 'why?' and suggested that perhaps the path to the manor house once met up with a differently aligned main road to Anstye.

The present route, that we are familiar with to Ansty, that today goes past the cricket ground may have been created to provide an easier route for stage coaches with a team of four horses tomore easily access the King's Head yard (behind the old post office and adjacent to 'the umbrella tree'). To adopt this new route the road had to plough straight through the avenue of lime trees at Cuckfield Park.

If this realignment hadn't been done - coaches heading north, for example, would have travelled over what is now the churchyard, past the church, up Church Street and then turned sharp left in a wide sweeps left and right into the coaching yard, while avoiding any other traffic on the road.

Below we have a map showing what the previous coaching route from Ansty might have looked like.

All this is just a theory and we would stress that there is nothing physical or in writing to support it, so any evidence - for or against - would be welcome.

Other road alignment changes

The roads in the area were significantly improved to benefit the coaching traffic, much of the cost being born by the imposition of tolls on the passing traffic.

The road at the former High Bridge was lowered in 1810, this is a few yards south of the A273 bypass roundabout. In the same year Edward Bates recorded in his diary the words 'High Bridge Mill lowered' which suggests that the stream was lowered and the water wheel reconfigured to meet it.

The road at High Bridge was slightly diverted to the east in 1835, when the present bridge was built. This was according to Rev James Cooper in his writings compiled in 'A History of Cuckfield' published in 1912.

A cutting was made just south of Ansty near Harvest Hill to give coaching traffic an easier climb. We also know that the Market Hall (aka Market House) - which invariably feature in a market town - once stood in the centre of Cuckfield High Street (and adjacent to The Talbot), and that it was removed perhaps at the end of the seventeenth maybe early eighteenth century. The most likely reason being to ease the traffic congestion in a narrow High Street and allow coach traffic to freely pass. See our article Cuckfield Market Hall revelation.

More recently, in 1971 the 'High Bridge' road was widened, slightly raised and realigned west again when a culvert was installed to replace the bridge that had collapsed. See: Too many sighs at a bridge - 50 years on.

The suggested original alignment of the main road - with 1897 map superimposed showing the avenue of trees

The Lych gate is a relatively recent addition (1893) and Church Street would have been the main through route.

An aerial showing the 'double kink' in the main road (to right). Ansty is top right.

Map created on

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details


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