The location of the toll booth at Whiteman's Green [TQ 304257] was close to the junction with the road heading north to Staplefield, which in the coaching days was maintained by the Brighton and Lovell Heath Trust. It was situated on the northern side of the road with its gate shutting off the Horley and Cuckfield Trust road to Balcombe.
The building was brick built with a tiled roof and single chimney stack. The frontage to the road was narrow with a central door. After this turnpike was dissolved in 1863 it was sold by the Trust, and the building would became a 'bijou residence within easy reach of the shops' - or somesuch description. New owners added and extension at the back. Some older readers may recall it before it was demolished in the early 1970s, this was some 160 years after it was built in 1809.
Horley and Cuckfield Trust 20 May 1809
The Trust was set up with the aim of establishing a fast coaching road from the Chequers Inn, north of Horley on the original line of the A23, bypassing Horley and Crawley and joining the Brighton and Lovell Heath Turnpike at Whiteman's Green.
A study of Gardner and Gream’s map of 1795 shows a number of minor roads serving the area, some of which were incorporated in part in the new line of road, but sometimes a parallel new line replaced it.
One example is the long stretch from Horley avoiding Worth now part of the B2036 road. Part of the route was through tricky terrain, with steep gradients - this became the evenly graded road, through Balcombe to Cuckfield, while better for coaches it was also less direct. This section just over 12 mleslong West Sussex agreed through Act of Parliament in 1809 (49 Geo III c94).
As a more direct line for London to Brighton traffic this route north proved less popular and by 1820s had limited success. It was used by the 'Royal George' stage coach service from 1822, and the 'New Comet' by Auger & Co in 1823, and later the 'True Blue'.
Because of the considerable investment in its construction The Trust carried a heavy mortgage debt of £19,167 14s (£19,167.70). Apart from the village of Balcombe, the road passed through a thinly populated part of Sussex, so paying passengers would have been less than the main competitive route. Predictably there was insufficient traffic for the business to keep up with its interest payments.
By 1829 the Trust was £13,000 in arrears and had an additional debt of £3,000. The final nail in the coffin was when the the London to Brighton Railway was opened in 1841.
As Dr Brian Austen established in his research, the financial position worsened with income falling from £504 8s 6d (£504.47) in 1834 to £116 19s 6d (£116.97) in 1850. No interest had been paid to the mortagees for 34 years and the Trust was effectively insolvent. Powers had been renewed in 1830 (1 Wm IV c42) but an attempt to renew them again was opposed by the Cuckfield Vestry.
A motion was passed on 20 March 1862 and forwarded to the Secretary of State asking him not to renew the present Act or continue the trustee powers by a provisional order. This was successful and the West Sussex Gazette of 5 November 1863 reported the Trust insolvent. The toll gates were removed and road maintenance handed over to parish authorities.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.
This article draws on the excellent research by Dr Brian Austen in: ‘Turnpikes To Brighton’ P39 in Sussex Industrial History, Journal of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society, No 41, 2011 http://sias2.pastfinder.org.uk/sih_1970_2008/41-2011.pdf
Photograph of horse and cart from an early postcard c1900 (colourised).
Location map by Malcolm Davison. Map data with open database licence from openstreetmap.org. Copyright link.
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