Fury at Butler's Green tollhouse ... 3


This (colourised) photo of Butler's Green tollhouse was taken pre 1866

The Butler's Green tollhouse and tollgate pictured was also known as Wigperry Toll and for a while 'Broad Street' [located at TQ 321238] this marked the westerly end of a 19 mile turnpike was 2 perches and the toll keeper named as John Pearce.


Bates also recorded 21 July 1814 'the Cuckfield gates let by auction at the Kings Head'. These were at Butlers Green, Ansty and Whitemans Green. The tolls for this gate were let for £172.

Further references to 'Broad Street Gate' appear in 1843 and 1852 in connection with auctions.


Butler's Green and Tyler's Green had two turnpikes passing within a few hundred yards of each other.


Firstly the 'Hodges and Cuckfield' started at Butler's Green and ended in Buxted (via Haywards Heath).


The other turnpike was the favourite London to Brighton route operated by 'the Brighton and Lovell (Lowfield) Heath Trust'. At Cuckfield, for a time, this took alternative routes southwards - one heading south through Ansty and past Cuckfield Park.


The second, and later deviation, started for southerly travellers on Cuckfield hill who then turned left into Broad Street, headed eastwards to Tyler's Green and then veered off down Isaac's Lane. They rejoined the alternative Ansty route at what we know today as Sheddingdean - no mini roundabout in those days!.


The King's farewell to Cuckfield

But in 1808 work on taking the turnpike away from Cuckfield High Street was given the go-ahead when an Act for the new route was passed in 1808 (48 Geo III c101). Soon after it took a line close to today's A23. This caused a catastrophic loss of trade in Cuckfield. And all this had been initiated because Parliament insisted that the future King needed faster access to London. This at a time when we were at war with the French.


In fact the new route would only save 1.25 miles and shave off 15 minutes journey time.


The two southerly routes

So why, up to this point, were there two routes south through Cuckfield?


The original southerly route laid down in the 1770 Act was south from Cuckfield along the present A272 to Ansty Cross then south along the B2036 to the foot of Fairplace Hill, St. John’s Common. But the inclines near where High Bridge used to be located were much steeper even than when the bridge was there and proved a serious challenge for coaching traffic especially in bad weather.


High Bridge

In the hope that the old route through Cuckfield could better compete with the Hickstead route the road between Cuckfield and Ansty (now the A272) was realigned in 1810. The gradient was reduced and in 1835 a slight diversion made to the east in connection with the building of a new bridge (Highbridge) over the small river south of Cuckfield Park. For more about this read 1971: Too many sighs at a bridge - 50 years on.


This alternative route was approved in the 1807 Act (47 Geo III ses. 2 cap 47) so that the turnpike could optionally head eastwards out of Cuckfield to Butlers Green and south by the A273 (Isaacs Lane). Meanwhile the alternative route through Ansty continued to be maintained. This diversion may initially have been conceived as a temporary diversionary route during the road improvements and then later proved useful to take traffic during the bridge construction.


The Brighton and Lovell Heath Trust (1770) was one of the longest Sussex trusts with a total of 35 miles of road and 16 gates. It was finally wound up on 1 November 1876 (38 7 39 Vict c39).


According to industrial historian Dr Brian Austen, the Hodges and Cuckfield Trust had to make a substantial upfront investment when the turnpike was initially constructed and it never managed to make much of an impression on the debt.


Although they had managed it to £3,917 2s 1d (£3,917.10) by 1850, with income of only £437 in that year, the chance of redeeming the mortgage debt in full by the time that the Trust’s powers expired seemed unlikely. It was calculated that at this level of income, without expending further sums on repairs and administration, it would take nine years.


Unpopular Butler's Green gate

As I mentioned in the opening article on Cuckfield toll roads, the payment at the 'Hodges and Cuckfield' tollbooth was so unpopular that, when the lease ran out in 1866, the people of Cuckfield got together and found the money to close the toll booth by compensating the bond holders.


This is explained in the Sussex Advertiser, 6 November 1866:


A meeting was accordingly held at Cuckfield, to consider the steps to be taken, at which it was resolved to raise by subscription a sum equivalent to a large portion of the debt, and make an offer to the trustees and in case they did not accept of it, to oppose tooth and nail the passing of the bill.


Terms were come to, and the act allowed to die out, and the road will, in future, be kept up by the parishes, in much better form that has been the case for years. Butler’s Green gate has been a terrible impost on the road from this to the station, and collected a heavier sum in tolls than all the rest put together, much to the injury of the Boardhill parish lane, that has been terribly cut to pieces by the heavy traffic going that way to avoid the gate, and the bar gate at Tyler’s-green also a great nuisance, both being a heavy expense to the trade of Cuckfield but they are gone for ever … [adding] … that four tollgates in the vicinity had recently have been done away with.


By 1938 the Butler's Green tollhouse had been demolished.


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

 

Source

Based on the painstaking research by Dr Brian Austen in: ‘Turnpikes To Brighton’ P39 in Sussex Industrial History, Journal of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society, No 42, 2012

http://sias2.pastfinder.org.uk/sih_1970_2008/42-2012.pdf


Photograph of Butler's Green Tollhouse lookng West towards Haywards Heath. This was a screened photograph in 'Mid Sussex through the ages' by Albert H Gregory, pub Charles Clarke 1938 (colourised).


Hodges and Cuckfield map is an adaption of one by Ron Martin of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society. The full map is in http://sias2.pastfinder.org.uk/sih_1970_2008/42-2012.pdf


Butler's Green toll house location map by Malcolm Davison. Map data with open database licence from openstreetmap.org. Copyright link.



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