Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

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THE BRIGHTON ROAD: The Classic Highway to the South.


THE GREAT NORTH ROAD: York to Edinburgh.

THE DOVER ROAD: Annals of an Ancient Turnpike.

THE BATH ROAD: History, Fashion and Frivolity on an old Highway.


THE MANCHESTER ROAD: Manchester to Glasgow.

THE HOLYHEAD ROAD: London to Birmingham.

THE HOLYHEAD ROAD: Birmingham to Holyhead.

THE HASTINGS ROAD: And The "Happy Springs of Tunbridge."



THE NORWICH ROAD: An East Anglian Highway.


THE EXETER ROAD: The West of England Highway.



[Illustration: GEORGE THE FOURTH. _From the painting by Sir Thomas
Lawrence, R.A._]


The Classic Highway to the South


_Illustrated by the Author, and from old-time
Prints and Pictures_



_First Published_ - 1892
_Second Edition_ - 1906
_Third and Revised Edition_ - 1922

Printed in Great Britain by C. TINLING & CO., LTD.,
53, Victoria Street, Liverpool,
and 187, Fleet Street, London.


_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

_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


_March, 1922._



Westminster Bridge (Surrey side) to -

St. Mark's Church, Kennington 1-1/2

Brixton Church 3

Streatham 5-1/2

Norbury 6-3/4

Thornton Heath 8

Croydon (Whitgift's Hospital) 9-1/2

Purley Corner 12

Smitham Bottom 13-1/2

Coulsdon Railway Station 14-1/4

Merstham 17-3/4

Redhill (Market Hall) 20-1/2

Horley ("Chequers") 24

Povey Cross 25-3/4

Kimberham Bridge (Cross River Mole) 26

Lowfield Heath 27

Crawley 29

Pease Pottage 31-1/4

Hand Cross 33-1/2

Staplefield Common 34-3/4

Slough Green 36-1/4

Whiteman's Green 37-1/4

Cuckfield 37-1/2

Ansty Cross 38

Bridge Farm (Cross River Adur) 40-1/4

St. John's Common 40-3/4

"Friar's Oak" Inn 42-3/4

Stonepound 43-1/2

Clayton 44-1/2

Pyecombe 45-1/2

Patcham 48

Withdean 48-3/4

Preston 49-3/4

Brighton (Aquarium) 51-1/2


St. Mark's, Kennington 1-1/2

Tooting Broadway 6

Mitcham 8-1/4

Sutton ("Greyhound") 11

Tadworth 16

Lower Kingswood 17

Reigate Hill 19-1/4

Reigate (Town Hall) 20-1/2

Woodhatch ("Old Angel") 21-1/2

Povey Cross 26

Brighton 51-5/8


Hand Cross 33-1/2

Bolney 39

Hickstead 40-1/2

Savers Common 42

Newtimber 44-1/2

Pyecombe 45

Brighton 50-1/2



George the Fourth Frontispiece

Sketch-map showing Principal Routes to Brighton 4

Stage Waggon, 1808 13

The "Talbot" Inn Yard, Borough, about 1815 17

Me and My Wife and Daughter 19

The "Duke of Beaufort" Coach starting from the "Bull
and Mouth" Office, Piccadilly Circus, 1826 31

The "Age," 1829, starting from Castle Square, Brighton 35

Sir Charles Dance's Steam-carriage leaving London for
Brighton, 1833 39

The Brighton Day Mails crossing Hookwood Common, 1838 43

The "Age," 1852, crossing Ham Common 47

The "Old Times," 1888 51

The "Comet," 1890 55

John Mayall, Junior, 1869 70

The Stock Exchange Walk: E. F. Broad at Horley 83

Miss M. Foster, paced by Motor Cycle, passing Coulsdon 86

Kennington Gate: Derby Day, 1839 95

Streatham Common 101

Streatham 107

The Dining Hall, Whitgift Hospital 111

The Chapel, Hospital of the Holy Trinity 113

Croydon Town Hall 120

Chipstead Church 135

Merstham 139

Gatton Hall and "Town Hall" 144

The Switchback Road, Earlswood Common 148

Thunderfield Castle 150

The "Chequers," Horley 151

The "Six Bells," Horley 153

The "Cock," Sutton, 1789 157

Kingswood Warren 162

The Suspension Bridge, Reigate Hill 163

The Tunnel, Reigate 167

Tablet, Batswing Cottages 172

The Floods at Horley 174

Charlwood 176

A Corner in Newdigate Church 177

On the Road to Newdigate 179

Ifield Mill Pond 180

Crawley: Looking South 183

Crawley, 1789 185

An Old Cottage at Crawley 188

The "George," Crawley 189

Sculptured Emblem of the Holy Trinity, Crawley Church 191

Pease Pottage 197

The "Red Lion," Hand Cross 201

Cuckfield, 1789 203

The Road out of Cuckfield 207

Cuckfield Place 210

The Clock-Tower and Haunted Avenue, Cuckfield Place 211

Harrison Ainsworth 213

Old Sussex Fireback, Ridden's Farm 223

Jacob's Post 224

Clayton Tunnel 233

Clayton Church and the South Downs 235

The Ruins of Slaugham Place 239

The Entrance: Ruins of Slaugham Place 241

Bolney 243

From a Brass at Slaugham 244

Hickstead Place 245

Newtimber Place 247

Pyecombe: Junction of the Roads 249

Patcham 251

Old Dovecot, Patcham 254

Preston Viaduct: Entrance to Brighton 256

The Pavilion 259

The Cliffs, Brighthelmstone, 1789 263

Dr. Richard Russell 265

St. Nicholas, the old Parish Church of Brighthelmstone 269

The Aquarium, before destruction of the Chain Pier 271



The road to Brighton - the main route, pre-eminently _the_ road - is
measured from the south side of Westminster Bridge to the Aquarium. It
goes by Croydon, Redhill, Horley, Crawley, and Cuckfield, and is (or is
supposed to be) 51-1/2 miles in length. Of this prime route - the classic
way - there are several longer or shorter variations, of which the way
through Clapham, Mitcham, Sutton, and Reigate, to Povey Cross is the
chief. The modern "record" route is the first of these two, so far as Hand
Cross, where it branches off and, instead of going through Cuckfield,
proceeds to Brighton by way of Hickstead and Bolney, avoiding Clayton Hill
and rejoining the initial route at Pyecombe.


The oldest road to Brighton is now but little used. It is not to be
indicated in few words, but may be taken as the line of road from London
Bridge, along the Kennington Road, to Brixton, Croydon, Godstone Green,
Tilburstow Hill, Blindley Heath, East Grinstead, Maresfield, Uckfield, and
Lewes; some fifty-nine miles. This is without doubt the most picturesque
route. A circuitous way, travelled by some coaches was by Ewell,
Leatherhead, Dorking, Horsham, and Mockbridge (doubtless, bearing in mind
the ancient mires of Sussex, originally "Muckbridge"), and was 57-1/2
miles in length. An extension of this route lay from Horsham through
Steyning, bringing up the total mileage to sixty-one miles three furlongs.

This multiplicity of ways meant that, in the variety of winding lanes
which led to the Sussex coast, long before the fisher village of
Brighthelmstone became that fashionable resort, Brighton, there were
places on the way quite as important to the old waggoners and carriers as
anything at the end of the journey. They set out the direction, and roads,
when they began to be improved, were often merely the old routes widened,
straightened, and metalled. They were kept very largely to the old lines,
and it was not until quite late in the history of Brighton that the
present "record" route in its entirety existed at all.

Among the many isolated roads made or improved, which did not in the
beginning contemplate getting to Brighton at all, the pride of place
certainly belongs to the ten miles between Reigate and Crawley, originally
made as a causeway for horsemen, and guarded by posts, so that wheeled
traffic could not pass. This was constructed under the Act 8th William
III., 1696, and was the first new road made in Surrey since the time of
the Romans.

It remained as a causeway until 1755, when it was widened and thrown open
to all traffic, on paying toll. It was not only the first road to be made,
but the last to maintain toll-gates on the way to Brighton, the Reigate
Turnpike Trust expiring on the midnight of October 31st, 1881, from which
time the Brighton Road became free throughout.

Meanwhile, the road from London to Croydon was repaired in 1718; and at
the same time the road from London to Sutton was declared to be "dangerous
to all persons, horses, and other cattle," and almost impassable during
five months of the year, and was therefore repaired, and toll-gates set up
along it.

Between 1730 and 1740 Westminster Bridge was building, and the roads in
South London, including the Westminster Bridge Road and the Kennington
Road, were being made. In 1755 the road (about ten miles) across the
heaths and downs from Sutton to Reigate, was authorised, and in 1770 the
Act was passed for widening and repairing the lanes from Povey Cross to
County Oak and Brighthelmstone, by Cuckfield. By this time, it will be
seen, Brighton had begun to be the goal of these improvements.

The New Chapel and Copthorne road, on the East Grinstead route, was
constructed under the Act of 1770, the route across St. John's Common and
Burgess Hill remodelled in 1780, and the road from South Croydon to
Smitham Bottom, Merstham, and Reigate was engineered out of the narrow
lanes formerly existing on that line in 1807-8, being opened, "at present
toll-free," June 4th. 1808.

In 1813 the Bolney and Hickstead road, between Hand Cross and Pyecombe,
was opened, and in 1816 the slip-road, avoiding Reigate, through Redhill,
to Povey Cross. Finally, sixty yards were saved on the Reigate route by
the cutting of the tunnel under Reigate Castle, in 1823. In this way the
Brighton road, on its several branches, grew to be what it is now.

The Brighton Road, it has already been said, is measured from the south
side of Westminster Bridge, which is the proper starting-point for
record-makers and breakers; but it has as many beginnings as Homer had
birthplaces. Modern coaches and motor-car services set out from the
barrack-like hotels of Northumberland Avenue, or other central points, and
the old carriers came to and went from the Borough High Street; but the
Corinthian starting-point in the brave old days of the Regency and of
George the Fourth was the "White Horse Cellar" - Hatchett's "White Horse
Cellar" - in Piccadilly. There, any day throughout the year, the knowing
ones were gathered - with those green goslings who wished to be thought
knowing - exchanging the latest scandal and sporting gossip of the road,
and rooking and being rooked; the high-coloured, full-blooded ancestors of
the present generation, which looks upon them as a quite different order
of beings, and can scarce believe in the reality of those full habits,
those port-wine countenances, those florid garments that were
characteristic of the age.


No one now starts from the "White Horse Cellar," for the excellent reason
that it does not now exist. The original "Cellar" was a queer place.
Figure to yourself a basement room, with sanded floor, and an odour like
that of a wine-vault, crowded with Regency bucks drinking or discussing
huge beef-steaks.

It was situated on the south side of Piccadilly, where the Hotel Ritz now
stands, and is first mentioned in 1720, when it was given its name by
Williams, the landlord, in compliment to the House of Hanover, the
newly-established Royal House of Great Britain, whose cognizance was a
white horse. Abraham Hatchett first made the Cellar famous, both as a
boozing-ken and a coach-office, and removed it to the opposite side of the
street, where, as "Hatchett's Hotel and White Horse Cellar." it remained
until 1884, when the present "Albemarle" arose on its site, with a "White
Horse" restaurant in the basement.

[Sidenote: SPORTSMEN]

What Piccadilly and the neighbourhood of the "White Horse Cellar" were
like in the times of Tom and Jerry, we may easily discover from the
contemporary pages of "Real Life in London," written by one "Bob Tallyho,"
recounting the adventures of himself and "Tom Dashall." A prize-fight was
to be held on Copthorne Common between Jack Randall, "the
Nonpareil" - called in the pronunciation of that time the "Nunparell" - and
Martin, endeared to "the Fancy" as the "Master of the Rolls."[1]
Naturally, the roads were thronged, and "Piccadilly was all in
motion - coaches, carts, gigs, tilburies, whiskies, buggies, dogcarts,
sociables, dennets, curricles, and sulkies were passing in rapid
succession, intermingled with tax-carts and waggons decorated with laurel,
conveying company of the most varied description. Here was to be seen the
dashing _Corinthian_ tickling up his _tits_, and his _bang-up set-out_ of
_blood and bone_, giving the go-by to a _heavy drag_ laden with eight
brawny, bull-faced blades, smoking their way down behind a skeleton of a
horse, to whom, in all probability, a good feed of corn would have been a
luxury; _pattering_ among themselves, occasionally _chaffing_ the more
elevated drivers by whom they were surrounded, and pushing forward their
nags with all the ardour of a British merchant intent upon disposing of a
valuable cargo of foreign goods on 'Change. There was a waggon full of
_all sorts_ upon the _lark_, succeeded by a _donkey-cart_ with four
insides: but _Neddy_, not liking his burthen, stopped short in the way of
a dandy, whose horse's head, coming plump up to the back of the crazy
vehicle at the moment of its stoppage, threw the rider into the arms of a
dustman, who, hugging his _customer_ with the determined grasp of a bear,
swore, d - n his eyes, he had saved his life, and he expected he would
stand something handsome for the Gemmen all round, for if he had not
pitched into their cart he would certainly have broke his neck; which
being complied with, though reluctantly, he regained his saddle, and
proceeded a little more cautiously along the remainder of the road, while
groups of pedestrians of all ranks and appearances lined each side."

On their way they pass Hyde Park Corner, where they encounter one of a
notorious trio of brothers, friends of the Prince Regent and companions of
his in every sort of excess - the Barrymores, to wit, named severally
Hellgate, Newgate, and Cripplegate, the last of this unholy trinity so
called because of his chronic limping; the two others' titles, taken with
the characters of their bearers, are self-explanatory.

Dashall points his lordship out to his companion, who is new to London
life, and requires such explanations.


"The driver of that tilbury," says he, "is the celebrated Lord
Cripplegate,[2] with his usual equipage; his blue cloak with a scarlet
lining hanging loosely over the vehicle gives an air of importance to his
appearance, and he is always attended by that boy, who has been
denominated his Cupid: he is a nobleman by birth, a gentleman by courtesy
(oh, witty Dashall!), and a gamester by profession. He exhausted a large
estate upon _odd and even_, _seven's the main_, etc., till, having lost
sight of the _main chance_, he found it necessary to curtail his
establishment and enliven his prospects by exchanging a first floor for a
second, without an opportunity of ascertaining whether or not these
alterations were best suited to his high notions or exalted taste; from
which, in a short time, he was induced, either by inclination or
necessity, to take a small lodging in an obscure street, and to sport a
gig and one horse, instead of a curricle and pair, though in former times
he used to drive four-in-hand, and was acknowledged to be an excellent
whip. He still, however, possessed money enough to collect together a
large quantity of halfpence, which in his hours of relaxation he managed
to turn to good account by the following stratagem: - He distributed his
halfpence on the floor of his little parlour in straight lines, and
ascertained how many it would require to cover it. Having thus prepared
himself, he invited some wealthy spendthrifts (with whom he still had the
power of associating) to sup with him, and he welcomed them to his
habitation with much cordiality. The glass circulated freely, and each
recounted his gaming or amorous adventures till a late hour, when, the
effects of the bottle becoming visible, he proposed, as a momentary
suggestion, to name how many halfpence, laid side by side, would carpet
the floor, and offered to lay a large wager that he would guess the

"'Done! done!' was echoed round the room. Every one made a deposit of
£100, and every one made a guess, equally certain of success; and his
lordship declaring he had a large stock of halfpence by him, though
perhaps not enough, the experiment was to be tried immediately. 'Twas an
excellent hit!

"The room was cleared; to it they went; the halfpence were arranged rank
and file in military order, when it appeared that his lordship had
certainly guessed (as well he might) nearest to the number. The
consequence was an immediate alteration of his lordship's residence and
appearance: he got one step in the world by it. He gave up his second-hand
gig for one warranted new; and a change in his vehicle may pretty
generally be considered as the barometer of his pocket."

And so, with these piquant biographical remarks, they betook themselves
along the road in the early morning, passing on their way many curious
itinerants, whose trades have changed and decayed, and are now become
nothing but a dim and misty memory; as, for instance, the sellers of warm
"salop," the forerunners of the early coffee-stalls of our own day.


But hats off to the Prince of Wales, the Prince Regent, the King! Never,
while the Brighton Road remains the road to Brighton, shall it be
dissociated from George the Fourth, who, as Prince, had a palace at either
end, and made these fifty-odd miles in a very special sense a _Via Regia_.
It was in 1782, when but twenty years of age, that he first knew Brighton,
and until the last - for close upon forty-eight years - it retained his
affections. He is thus the presiding genius of the way; and because, when
we speak or think of the Brighton Road, we cannot help thinking of him, I
have appropriately placed the portrait of George the Fourth, by the
courtly Lawrence, in this book.

The Prince and King was the inevitable product of his times and of his
upbringing: we mostly are. Only the rarest and most forceful figures can
mould the world to their own form.

[Sidenote: THE PRINCE]

The character of George the Fourth has been the theme of writers upon
history and sociology, of essayists, diarists, and gossip-mongers without
number, and most of them have pictured him in very dark colours indeed.
But Horace Walpole, perhaps the clearest-headed of this company, shows in
his "Last Journals" that from his boyhood the Prince was governed in the
stupidest way - in a manner, indeed, but too well fitted to spoil a spirit

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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Brighton road : the classic highway to the south → online text (page 1 of 18)