Roads and Tracks

This is an open-ended article on some of the roads and tracks in the parish of Wisborough Green.

The Luth

The Luth is an ancient road that runs from the Durbans Road by Brooklands Farm to Green Bridge on the road to Petworth. The road is now rough and little used at its northern end and used only for residential purposes further south. The road has long been superseded by its deviation via the Green.

From Brooklands Farm (where there were two glass furnaces long ago) to where it crosses the Kirdford road, The Luth is now a green road and impassable to motor vehicles. After crossing the Kirdford road, it is metalled but still a green road or track at its southern end.

The road runs under the west slope of Butts Hill and is consequently well sheltered from the north and east and it is from this fact that the name comes. ‘Lewth’ is an old dialect word derived from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘heowth’ meaning warmth (see Parish’s “A Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect”). The present meaning of lewth is warmth or shelter and also used to be a term for a shelter or hedge according to Parish. Butts Hill is the hill bounded by The Luth, Petworth Road and Kirdford Road and of course, is now almost entirely built upon. The road would have been well used by travellers seeking a crossing of the Kird or Green River on their way from the Guildford road to Bedham or Petworth.

Incidentally, the old dialect word ‘lew’ and the current word ‘lee’ (i.e. in the lee of or on the lee side of) comes from the same source. Over the years, the road has been spelt ‘Looth’ and ‘Lute’. This should properly be spelt Lewth. Perhaps someone would care to campaign for a return to its original spelling.

The Ancient Road from The Luth to Bedham

The Luth joined the A272 Billingshurst to Petworth road at the bottom of Plough Hill (as it used to be called) just to the east of Green Bridge. This very ancient road was well used and of better quality which no doubt encouraged traffic from Brookland to go by way of the Green.

Green Bridge is described in the 1801 and 1804 Indictments as “carrying the Petworth to Horsham road over a certain River called Green River.” It is interesting that this name does not seem to be used elsewhere. The stream it crosses is locally called the Kird, a back-formation from Kirdford “which joins the Arun at Arfold.”, now known as Orfold.

Immediately south-west of the bridge, the ancient road climbed the short hill to Amblehurst and to Shurlands where it went straight on to Bedham and Fittleworth. The original Petworth road turned right off this road much further on and can still be followed through the woods as a track past Ingrams and Redland to Crimbourne and Hawkhurst. It then went to Bedham Village through Flexham Park to Petworth. However, early in the eighteenth century, the Petworth road was rerouted to branch off to the right at Shurlands Corner to run past Strood Green.

Holy Water Lane

Holy Water Lane used to be a stone path that ran from the church back gate across Billingshurst Road and then down to the Green River. The upper part was a narrow tree-lined path; some of the trees that lined it still remain next to the extended churchyard. After crossing over the main road, the middle part ran along the western side of Harsfold Lane just before the ditch that formed the western border between Harsfold Lane and the field that goes towards The Elms. The paving stones are still there in this middle part of the lane, but lying about 4” beneath the grass verge; probing with a spade will reveal their precise position.

After passing the derelict Bennett’s Farm building and barn on the right, the lower part ran close to Harsfold Lane down to the river a few yards upstream from Simmonds Bridge where there was an earlier bridge. The curve of the hedge line on each side of the river, though fragmented on the northern side, also indicates the course of the path and the old Harsfold Lane. By probing, the course of the path down to the river’s edge can still be traced some six inches below the surface. In 1860, the current bridge, with its both of its approaches on new embankments, replaced the earlier bridge and the original path fell into disuse, though the paved upper and middle parts would have remained in use as Harsfold Lane would have been unmetalled and therefore very muddy at times.

In 1964 the greater part of the vicarage grounds was sold off for housing and the present vicarage was built. The small development was known as Glebe Way and its road and access to the new vicarage entailed the destruction of most of the upper part of the lane, though the tree cover and foliage of the highest part just up to the church gate is an indication of how it was. The loss of the upper part of Holy Water Lane was very sad for many people as the narrow tree-lined lane was pleasantly shady and rather attractive.

The name of the lane has changed subtly over the years. It was most recently known as Holy Water Lane and it was reputed to be used to fetch river water for church use long ago. However in the early nineteenth century it was known by a different name as the following bills raised during work to the churchyard indicate:
13th November 1807 from Jno Beer 7 days work in Hollow Water Lane 10s 6d
To carriage 3 Ld gravel from Newbridge to Hollow Water Lane 12s 0d
8th November 1809 To Carriage 3 tuns of gravel from Newbridge to Hollow Tree Lane 7s 6d
9th July 1818 Three loads Sand to Hollow Water Lane 15s 0d
(NB. The gravel would have been brought to the village from barges on the canal at Newbridge Wharf.)

The name ‘Hollow Water Lane’ doesn’t make any logical sense, so perhaps the name on the 1809 bill is the original name, viz. Hollow Tree Lane, although the location of the tree in question is not known. In either case, it would make the romantic legend that it was used to fetch river water for church use rather doubtful. It illustrates how legends can develop, perhaps out of nothing. However, more research is needed to settle this beyond doubt.