Highways and Byways in Sussex
BY E. V. LUCAS
First Edition printed February 1904.
I have made Tunbridge Wells our last centre, because it is convenient; yet as a matter of strict topography, the town is not in Sussex at all, but in Kent.
In that it is builded upon hills, Tunbridge Wells is like Rome, and in that its fashionable promenade is under the limes, like Berlin; but in other respects it is merely a provincial English inland pleasure town with a past: rather arid, and except under the bracing conditions of cold weather, very tiring in its steepnesses. No wonder the small victoria and smaller pony carriage so flourish there.
The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells. The healthful properties of Tunbridge Wells were discovered, as I record a little later, in 1606; but it was not until Henrietta Maria brought her suite hither in 1630 that the success of the new cure was assured. Afterwards came Charles II. and his Court, and Tunbridge Wells was made; and thenceforward to fail to visit the town at the proper time each year (although one had the poorest hut to live in the while) was to write one's self down a boor. A more sympathetic patron was Anne, who[Pg 392] gave the first stone basin for the spring—hence "Queen's Well"—and whose subscription of £100 led to the purchase of the pantiles that paved the walk now bearing that name. Subsequently it was called the Parade, but to the older style everyone has very sensibly reverted.
Tunbridge Wells is still a health resort, but the waters no longer constitute a part of the hygienic routine. Their companion element, air, is the new recuperative. Not that the spring at the foot of the Pantiles is wholly deserted: on the contrary, the presiding old lady does quite a business in filling and cleaning the little glasses; but those visitors that descend her steps are impelled rather by curiosity than ritual, and many never try again. Nor is the trade in Tunbridge ware, inlaid work in coloured woods, what it was. A hundred years ago there was hardly a girl of any pretensions to good form but kept her pins in a Tunbridge box.
The Pantiles are still the resort of the idle, but of the anonymous rather than famous variety. Our men of mark and great Chams of Literature, who once flourished here in the season, go elsewhere for their recreation and renovation—abroad for choice. Tunbridge Wells now draws them no more than Bath. But in the eighteenth century a large print was popular containing the portraits of all the illustrious intellectuals as they lounged on the Pantiles, with Dr. Johnson and Mr. Samuel Richardson among the chief lions.
THE DUVIDNEY LADIES
The hill is very important ground in English history, as the following passage from Sir William Burrell's MSS. in the British Museum testifies:—"In Eridge Park are the remains of a military station of the Saxon invaders of the country, which still retains the name of Saxonbury Hill. It is on the high ground to the right, as the traveller passes from Frant to Mayfield. On the summit of this hill (from whence the cliffs of Dover may be seen) are to be traced the remains of an ancient fortification; the fosse is still plainly discernible, enclosing an area of about two acres, from whence there is but one outlet. The apex of the hill within is formed of a strong compact body of stone, brought hither from a distance, on which doubtless was erected some strong military edifice. This was probably one of the stations occupied by the Saxons under Ella, their famous chief, who, at the instance of Hengist, King of Kent, invaded England towards the close of the fifth century. It is said that they settled in Sussex, whence they issued in force to attack the important British station of Anderida or Andredceaster. Antiquaries are not agreed as to the precise situation of this military station; some imagining it to have been at Newenden, on the borders of Kent; others at Pevensey, or Hastings, in Sussex. The country, from the borders of Kent[Pg 395] to those of Hampshire, comprises what was called the Forest of Andredsweald, now commonly called the Weald, was formerly full of strong holds and fastnesses, and was consequently well calculated for the retreat of the ancient Britons from before the regular armies of the Romans, as well as for the establishment of points of attack by the succeeding invaders who coped with them on terms somewhat reversed. The attack of the Saxons on Anderida was successful, and the consequence was their permanent establishment in Sussex and Surrey, from which time they probably retained a military station on this hill.
"There is likewise within the park a place called Danes Gate. This was doubtless a part of a military way; and as it would happen that the last successful invaders would occupy the same strong posts which had been formed by their predecessors, this Danes Gate was probably the military communication between Crowborough, undoubtedly a Danish station, and Saxonbury Hill."
The view from Saxonbury extends far in each quarter, embracing both lines of Downs, North and South. The long low irregular front of Eridge Castle is two or three miles to the north-west, with its lake before it.
LORD NORTH'S DISCOVERY