Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Hartfield, East Sussex Beggars Bush 1565

Beggars Bush appears three times as boundary marker for Costley Warde, South Warde and Comedeane Walk parcel of Costley Ward in a Survey of The Forest of Ashdown taken by Edmund Twynyho, surveyor, in June 1565, for the Duchy of Lancaster (transcript of PRO DL 42/112 by Anne Drewery, also extracted in part as Appendix II to Teesdale).

There is also a mention of Beggars Bush in the survey of 1579, which exists only in the form af an 18th-century copy, which has a Beggars Bush on the boundary of the Maresfield borough of the hundred of Rushmonden – “…along the highway on the left hand unto Sweet Brook and from thence by a ghyll unto a ditch leading up to Huglets Pit within Ashdown and from thence to Woodhorne and from thence to a ghyll between Owls Oak and Old Lodge and along the same ghyll to Beggars Bush and from thence to Crown Brook and down by the same brook to the upper end of Reedom Mead now Henry Hodes and so from thence to the forenamed style” (ESRO ASH 1171A).

A Parliamentary Survey of 1649-53 for the Manor of Duddleswell, which propose enclosure and improvement recorded;

“There is one high way wch passeth through that Pcell of open and Comon wast ground aforesaid lyeing win the Parish of Maresfeild aforesaid adioyneing to Duddleswell Lodge as aforesaid leading by Lampo Gate Northward by the said Lodge towards Beggres bush conteyning foure pches in breadth.”The modern footnote to this reads “”Beggars’ Bush” is a name applied to many spots in Sussex, and probably in other counties, to indicate that they were the favourite squatting places of tramps and gipsies”. (Daniel-Tyssen, J.R., The Parliamentary Surveys of the County of Sussex Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol.24 1848, p.194).

The same article contains other references to the place name in other suverys;

Fletching “. . .the nether end of Stony brooke Thence turning towards the East from Dowle to dowle in a right line to a cross Dowle by Strickedridge Ditch thence turning towards the Northwest after the said ditch the space of thirty nyne pches to another cross dowle on the East side the said ditch thence turneing Eastward from Dowle to dowle in a right lyne to a dowle att the parteing wayes about thirty pches North of Boyletts boyes. Thence turning towards the South South East on the west side of the way that leads towards beggers bush about the space of one hundred fourly six pches unto a cross dowle by the way side there, thence turning towards the west and by South allong after the North side of the way which lends over Batters hill on the North side of the old Lodge to the three wards aforesaid thence up allong after the middle of the ward brooke to Nuttly lane where this boundary began.” (p.204)

Maresfield “ . . . thence turning towards the East and by North after the highway allong Batters hill unto the high way that leadeth from Boyletts boyes to beggers bush thence turning southwards after the said way that leadeth towards beggers bush unto a cross dowle by the high way side neere the said busb. thence turning towards the South west to a dowle att the cross ways at Duddleswell aforesaid where this boundary began.” (p.207)

Christopher Whittick says that the name is now applied to a patch of undergrowth half a mile south of the junction, just east of where a gill rises at TQ 468293, and points out that EPNS Sussex (p.369) is wrong in linking this with Beggars Barn at Shaw. (‘Beggars Bush in Hartfield’ Locus Focus Vol.1 No.2 (Spring 1997) p.13) . Whittick also notes that a Roman Road runs just to the east (I.D. Margery Roman Ways in the Weald, 1948, p.144, Sx. N & Q VIII, 2 (May 1940), p.36).

The location was a terminus of the Bromley to Farnborough Beggars Bush Turnpike. (ref. HL/PO/PU/1/1767/7G3n108) for which there were two Acts of Parliament – 7 George III, c. 86 (1767) An Act for repairing, widening and keeping in Repair, the Road leading from the High Road between Bromley and Farnborough, in the County of Kent, to Beggars Bush, in the Turnpike Road leading from Tunbridge Wells to Maresfield, in the County of Sussex and 1 William IV, c.xlv (1830) An Act for repairing and maintaining the Road leading from the High Road between Bromley and Farnborough in the County of Kent to Beggars Bush in the Turnpike Road leading from Tonbridge Wells to Maresfield in the County of Sussex. Centre for Kentish Studies: Streatfeild Manuscripts (U908/T251 – U908/T468) records two mortgages by the Trustees of the Bromley and Farnborough to Beggars Bush Road dated 1769 and 1770 (ref. HL/PO/PB/1/1830/1W4n71). There is also a Beggars Bush in Bromley.

Daniel Paterson’s A new and accurate description of all the direct and principal cross roads in England and Wales (1808) p.382 also lists Beggars Bush on Ashdown Forest between Hartfield and Maresfield.

There is evidence that travellers used the site at a much later date; ‘At Fairwarp and Horney Common the families of the Smiths and the Vincents were well known in the neighbourhood as gypsies. At Beggars Bush, Duddleswell we find in 1871 the Winson family, basketmakers, living in a tent, the Clarks in a ‘house cart’ and the Smiths, hawkers. William Brazil (20), his companion Sarah Ann (20) and their children (aged 2 and 6 months) were ‘tramps’ and living in tents and carts’.(Brian Short (ed.), ‘The Ashdown Forest Dispute 1876-1882’ Environmental Politics and Custom, Vol 80 (1994) p.37). This seems to be a reference to 1871 Census, RG10-1054-56-33 Buxted, Sussex, but I have seen two references against “Baggers Bush, Dudleswell” for a family of Hawkers called Brazil with five children all born in Sussex, camping in tents with four couples named Brazil, Smith, Clark and Winson.

The locations of the Beggars Bush at Hartfield are not all consistent, and suggests more than one site or that the name migrated. It was applied here to a place where travellers stayed but it that does not seem to be the original place name location.

There are also several references to a Baggers Bush in Buxted which may all be the same location.


John Pile, Christopher Whittick, Janet Pennington

Posted: March 19th, 2011 | Filed under: Places | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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