The Hastings Road and the "Happy Springs of Tunbridge"

The Hastings Road and the "Happy Springs of Tunbridge"
Title: The Hastings Road and the "Happy Springs of Tunbridge"
Release Date: 2019-02-18
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 45
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Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variationsin hyphenation have been standardised but all other spelling andpunctuation remains unchanged.

The cover was created by the transcriber and is placed within thepublic domain.



The Portsmouth Road, and its Tributaries: To-day and inDays of Old.

The Dover Road: Annals of an Ancient Turnpike.

The Bath Road: History, Fashion, and Frivolity on an OldHighway.

The Exeter Road: The Story of the West of EnglandHighway.

The Great North Road: The Old Mail Road to Scotland.Two Vols.

The Norwich Road: An East Anglian Highway.

The Holyhead Road: The Mail-Coach Road to Dublin.Two Vols.

The Cambridge, Ely, and King’s Lynn Road: The GreatFenland Highway.

The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford, and Cromer Road:Sport and History on an East Anglian Turnpike.

The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford Haven Road: TheReady Way to South Wales. Two Vols.

The Brighton Road: Speed, Sport, and History on theClassic Highway.

Cycle Rides Round London.

A Practical Handbook of Drawing for Modern Methodsof Reproduction.

Stage-Coach and Mail in Days of Yore. Two Vols.

The Ingoldsby Country: Literary Landmarks of “TheIngoldsby Legends.”

The Hardy Country: Literary Landmarks of the WessexNovels.

The Dorset Coast.

The South Devon Coast.[In the Press.


Hastings Road


By Charles G. Harper


Knight on horseback

Chapman & Hall, Ltd.

[All rights reserved]





The Road to Hastings is hilly. Not, perhaps,altogether so hilly as the Dover Road, andcertainly never so dusty, nor so Cockneyfied; butthe cyclist who explores it finds, or thinks he finds,an amazing amount of rising gradient in proportionto downhill, no matter which way he goes.

Sevenoaks town, the matter of twenty milesdown the road, is certainly preceded by the long,swooping down-grades of Polhill; but the lengthiestdescent, by mere measurement in rods, poles, andperches, is only an incident in descending, whilethe inevitable corresponding rise is, the climbingof it, a long-drawn experience. To the motorist,who changes from high-gear to lower, and then,viiias the gradient stiffens, to lowest, and so withlabouring engine crawls uphill, like a bluebottleup a window-pane, the revulsion from chargingalong the levels at an illegal pace, raising veritablesiroccos of dust, is heart-breaking.

Sevenoaks town crests the ramparted downs,and the hilly road goes up to it in steep lengths,with other lengths as near as may be flat, leadingyou to believe you are there, when in sheer coldfact you are not there, and still have otherincredible gradients to climb. And yet, returning,you shall find the descent by no means so precipitous.River Hill by that time will havetaken pride of place.

For the other hills, let them be taken ontrust; they are surely there, as also are thoselong rises, insensible to the sight of the toilingcyclist, but patent to his feeling as he wearilypushes round his unwilling pedals. For themotor-cyclist, with disabled engine, the HastingsRoad is more tragical than anything Shakespeareever staged.

The Hastings Road is, in short, the pedestrian’sroad. You would not say so much of theBath Road or the Exeter Road between Hounslowixand Taplow, and Staines; nor even of the greatNorth Road where it runs flat through Bedfordshireand Hunts. There the way recedes everinto the infinite, and there, if anywhere, thehurtling motorist is to be excused of his illegality.Here, however, on the way to Hastings, you lingerby hillside and valley, for the road goes throughthe most beautiful parts of Sussex and of Kent,and marches through much diverting social andnational history, to the scene of the crowningtragedy of Battle. I am not of those who findthe story of the Battle of Hastings sheer dry-as-dust.It is to me a living story, though over eighthundred years old, and it will live for you whoexplore that stricken field, if so be you explore itaway from the perfunctory guides who parrot thehalf-holiday public through the grounds of BattleAbbey.

But they are not necessarily the larger happeningsthat interest me in these pages. I can findit easily possible—nay, effortless—to turn fromcatastrophic struggles, and take an absorbinginterest in some one’s back garden: that is the wayto keep boredom at arm’s length. The mediævalknight who swore by his “halidom,” and thexmodern hop-picker who says “blimy!” (andstronger things than that) are both entertainingpersons; would that Time were bridged, and theycould be introduced to one another! What theknight and the “caitiff” would severally thinkof either would be well worth the hearing.

For mere topography: let us maintain aninvincible curiosity as to whence this river comesor whither it goes; as to what lies on the otherside of yonder hill, or at the end of some alluringbyway. Let us find entertainment in the mannerin which the city, town, or village next on themap is different from those we have alreadypassed; and with interests so varied the way willbe all too short.


April, 1906.



London Bridge—
New Cross (New Cross Gate)     3¼
Loampit Hill
(Cross Ravensbourne)
Lewisham (St. Mary’s Church)
Rushey Green
South End
(Cross Ravensbourne)
Bromley 10
Mason’s Hill 10¾
Bromley Common 12½
Lock’s Bottom 13¼
Farnborough 14
Green Street Green 15¼
Pratt’s Bottom 16¾
Halstead Station 18¼
Polhill 19½
Dunton Green 21¼
(Cross River Darent)
Riverhead 22
Sevenoaks (Station: Tubb’s Hill) 23
Sevenoaks Town 24
River Hill 25¼
Hildenborough 27¾xii
Tonbridge 30
(Cross River Medway)
Pembury Green 35
Kipping’s Cross 36¼
Lamberhurst 40
Stone Crouch 43
Flimwell 44¾
Hurst Green 47¾
Silver Hill 48½
Robertsbridge 50¼
(Cross River Rother)
John’s Cross 51¾
Battle 55½
Starr’s Green 56¾
Baldslow 59
Ore 61¾
Hastings (Old Town) 63½

Into Hastings by “New London Road”
Baldslow 59
Hollington 59¾
Silverhill 60½
Hastings (Albert Memorial) 62¼


List of Illustrations
Entrance to Hastings, by Minnis Rock and the oldLondon Road Frontispiece
Lewisham 19
Entrance to the Widows’ College 27
In the First Quadrangle, Widows’ College, Bromley 31
The Road across Bromley Common 45
Knockholt Beeches 59
An old Wayside Cottage, below Polhill 67
The South Front, Knole (Photo C. Essenhigh Corke & Co.) 99
The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells 127
The Toad Rock 135
Kent 149
Lamberhurst 155
Scotney Castle 161
Weird Oast-houses, Lamberhurst 165xiv
The Moated Castle of Bodiam 183
Duke William comforts his Young Soldiers” (CentralIncident of the Battle of Hastings. From theBayeux Tapestry) 211
Battle Abbey 229
Hastings Old Town 261
Business-Card of the “Bolt-in-Tun” Coach Office 9
The Colfe Almshouses 22
The Old Toll-house, Pratt’s Bottom 56
A Phyllis of Knockholt 61
Longford 69
Riverhead 72
Sign of the “Blackboy” Inn 78
Sign of the “Bricklayers’ Arms” 79
Old Mansion, formerly the “Cats” Inn 81
Seal of Sevenoaks Grammar School 83
Knole, from the Road 89
The Gateway, Knole 92
The Stone Court, Knole 95
The “Dumb Bell” 101
The Seven Oaks 103
The “White Hart” Inn 105
River Hill and the Kentish Weald 110
Tonbridge Castle 114
The “Chequers,” Tonbridge 118
A Sporting Weather-vane 119
Church of King Charles the Martyr 124
Tunbridge Ware 133
Scene at “High Rocks” 138xv
The Marquis of Abergavenny’s “A” 139
The Neville Gate, Frant 140
The “Blue Boys” Inn 143
Bayham Abbey: Across the Water-meadows 158
Etchingham Church 172
The Ancient Vane, Etchingham 174
Brass of Sir William de Etchingham 175
The Fox preaching to the Geese 176
The Abbey Farm 179
William the Conqueror (Bayeux Tapestry) 198
Last Stand of the English (Bayeux Tapestry) 213
Flight of the English Churls (Bayeux Tapestry) 215
A Descendant of the Saxon Churls 227
Battle Church 232
A Bye-road at Battle 233
The Road past Crowhurst Park 235
Junction of Roads spoiled by Tramways, Baldslow 238
“Huz and Buz”: Entrance to Holmhurst 241
Queen Anne, at Holmhurst 245
Ruins of the Old Church, Ore 247
The Old London Road 249
All Saints’ 253
Old House, All Saints’ Street 258
Old Tackle-boxes, Hastings 265
St. Clement’s Church 279
A Slain Norman (Bayeux Tapestry) 284


The Hastings Road


The road to Hastings is measured from what, inthese times, seems the unlikely starting-point ofLondon Bridge, and is identical with the DoverRoad as far as New Cross, where it turns to theright and goes through Lewisham, the DoverRoad continuing by Deptford and Blackheath.

Few would

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