SNQ XV - Towing Paths
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The Court of King's Bench decided in 17891 that there was no inherent right to tow vessels from the banks of a navigable river but that such right must arise (like rights of way) from custom or prescription (i.e., long open use) or express grant or by Act of Parliament. When inland waterways were much more in use it was fairly easy to establish a custom "perhaps small evidence of usage before a jury would establish a right by custom on the ground of public convenience "2 and an instance of this occurred in the River Wissey (Norfolk) in 1801.3 But by far the most usual way in which a tow-path arose was under Acts of Parliament; and they were similarly closed by Acts which put an end to the navigation.

It is possible for the non-navigating public to acquire rights of way over a tow-path in the same way as they can over any other track, viz., by open uninterrupted use for the prescribed period. 4 But the use must be in no way connected with navigation, and must be open and notorious-not casual or furtive. In this way parts of the tow-paths on the River Thames and River Lee have become public paths.

But the right to tow from a bank was frequently acquired by the Navigation Authority by purchasing not the soil but a mere easement on payment of a small yearly rent. This method was freely resorted to on the Arun and rendered the acquisition of a public right of way more difficult to prove against the owner of the soil.



There is no towing-path on any of the Channels: but the Act of 15845 enabling the Corporation of Chichester to make a canal from their suburbs to between Dell Quay and Fishbourne provided that " All the Queens Majestys people may with ease frelie pass " on Foote or Horseback upon the Bank or Walls." This canal was however never made.


This was authorised in 18176 and ran from the Arun at Ford to Chichester Harbour with a branch to Chichester. This branch is still open having been taken over by the Corporation of Chichester in 18927, and it has a tow-path from Chichester to Salterns Lock 33 (where it joins the Harbour). The rest (which had a tow-path on the south bank from Ford) was abandoned about 1853 and after the Company wound up in 18888 the greater part of the site was sold, including the towing-path, except in a few parts where this had become a public right of way and even some of these have been closed by Government Orders. 34



The towing-path from Littlehampton to Arundel was constructed under the Act of 17939 which authorised a convenient Haling or Towing Track from the entrance to the Harbour to the west end of the Tanner's Slip-- in Arundel (this is at the south end of Tarrant Street. It was never made nearer the mouth than Littlehampton Ferry (immediately below where the Bridge now stands). In 1936 the Port Commissioners contemplated continuing it down to the entrance pier, but on the advice of their Engineer (Rendel)10 they refrained on the ground that the embanking would narrow the Harbour and cause silting.

The Railway were bound by their Act of 1860" to construct and maintain the path at Ford Railway Bridge, and when the Bridge became a fixed bridge in 1937 the Act 12 required them to raise the level of the tow-path under it so as to render it reasonably practical for pedestrians at all states of the tide, and they might then discontinue the former path which ran on piles to the line and then crossed it on the level.

The path was on the right bank all the way and seems to have become public (I frequently walked along it as a boy all the way to Arundel), but in 1914 it was badly damaged by high tides and gaps in the bank appeared and passage (there being no actual towing) greatly impeded.

The Harbour Board in 1927 13 were expressly relieved of any liability to maintain the tow-path, but as the provisions of the 1793

Act as to the tow-path were excepted from repeal. the right to tow remains so far as it is possible to do so.

Between Tanners Slipe in Arundel and Burpham there was never any tow-path (though there are paths more or less private along to the banks).

From Burpham the Navigation Company made under the Act of 182114 " a towing-path or road on the east side of the Arun " from Houghton Bridge round a certain part thereof called the Horse Shoe to the road at the foot of Burpham chalk-pit, such towing-path to be of a width of eight feet at the top." (The Horse Shoe " is the square piece of the River at North Stoke which was short-circuited by the Stoke Cut made near South Stoke Church by the Commissioners of Sewers in 1840). The old path is still in existence in places on the left bank along the centre reach and in 1925 old tow-path gates still survived in places, in particular either side of the Suspension Bridge.

The Navigation Company ceased to function in 1887 and was later wound up and their lands all sold.

A much earlier riverside path is alluded to in the will's dated the 6th February, 1540/1, of John Palyngton, Vicar of North Stoke, who left a legacy of 6s. 8d. " to make a weye upon both sydes ye ryver betwene North Stoke and Southe Stoke yf both parysshes wyll suffer."

Above Houghton Bridge the Navigation Company had made a tow-path on the right bank under their Act of 178516. In 1807 Quarter Sessions" paid £14 17s. 6d. for making a new tow-path on the north and south sides of the New Causeway at Houghton Bridge (presumably because their alterations to the road and bridge had rendered the older path unserviceable).

The path above Houghton Bridge only followed the Arun as far as the entry of the Canal a little above Timberley Railway Bridge and there was never any towing-path between this point and Stopham Bridge along the natural river Arun. Instead it ran up the west bank of the Canal to Hardham Tunnel (this part is still passable) but ceased at the Tunnel (where they were " legged " through) and horses had to go via Hardham Lock on the Rother and over the Arun by Hardham Bridge (then a wooden one probably built for this purpose but replaced about 1916 by the present red iron one) and then apparently along the road to Stopham Bridge. I can find no trade of any towing-path below that bridge. (The bridge built over the railway at Hardham in 1860 to allow the horses to follow this route still remains).

From Stopham Bridge the towing-path went up the left bank of the Arun to Pallingham Lock. As late as 1908 an old tow-path gate remained at the east extremity of the bend at Pythingdean.

From Pallingham Lock the towing-path went up the west bank of the Canal.

Most of the towing-paths were not purchased by the Company, who merely acquired an easement or right of way on payment of a yearly rent. The Company, in its decline, made efforts to give up the paths to the landowners or to abandon them, but these came to nothing and eventually in their winding-up the Rural District Council took over the path from Houghton Bridge to Bury and it was one of the terms made with objectors to the winding-up Order 18 that the rights in the towing-paths should cease and the site be given up to the landowners, the Company being freed from any liability to repair banks, bridges, etc.



The Act of 179119 gave Lord Egremont the usual powers to make tow-paths for drawing boats with men, horses or otherwise, and these powers were freely exercised. The path would seem to have been on the left bank from the Arun up to Ambersham Bridge and thence on the right bank to South Pond, but when the Naviga≠tion ceased to be used. (c. 1887), the tow-path ceased to be kept up and can now only be traced in parts. Lods Bridge has under it on the left side the old masonry platform used as a tow-path and made to obviate having to cast off the horses when going under, and the tow-path bridges at Lodsbridge Lock (just above) and at Shopham Lock remain. The old path down the left bank from Lods Bridge used to cross the Tributary River Lud just below by a wooden bridge still passable in 1931, but now (probably since the official closing of the Navigation in 1936)20 the decking has been removed and it is impassable. The Navigation left the Rother below Midhurst in order to reach its terminus at South Pond and the bridge over the mouth of the (Tributary) Cocking stream also has a masonry tow-path platform under it, in this case on the right side.

In 1929 Fittleworth Parish Council claimed that there was a public path from Fittleworth Bridge past the entrance to the Mill and along the left bank to Shopham Bridge. At a County Council enquiry 21 it appeared that this was the tow-path, but there was insufficient evidence of its use by the public to establish a public right of way. In 193620 the owners of the Navigation were authorised to abandon it and the right to tow consequently ceased.



The Navigation Trustees (whose jurisdiction extended up to Bines Bridge and Mock Bridge) had under their Act of 180722 power to set out and maintain towing-paths but not below Beeding Chalk Pit and (except where then used or with the consent of the Com≠missioners of Sewers) not Horse Towing-paths.

No formal towing-path seems to have been provided along the Adur below Bines Bridge and in 1904 " there is no towing-path,          navigation being only conducted on the ebb and flow of the tide." 33

The Navigation was extended from Bines Bridge to Bay Bridge in 1825 by the Baybridge Canal Company, whose Act 23 gave them general powers to make towing-paths; but all rights along them were extinguished by the Abandonment Act of 1875.24



A towing-path between Lewes and Southease may have been in use from an early date. Jessop's Report of 1788 recommended raising, straightening and making a horse towing-path from Lewes to Piddinghoe at a cost of £400 and the Harbour Trustees were in 180025 directed to make (within three years) a good horse towing≠path from Southerham Corner to Stock Ferry; and when in 184726 the Lower Navigation Trustees were formed, they were directed to keep the towing-path in order within their jurisdiction.

The path below Lewes starts from the Lewes Portland Cement Works and leaves the main Eastbourne road at Southerham Railway Bridge under which it is 27 directed to be maintained by the Railway Authority to a width of five feet guarded with piles and fenced within the south-east opening of the bridge. It continues along the left bank to a mile below Southease Bridge (where it has 28 to be five feet wide) as far as the lower end of Southease Cut where the official path ends. Below that there are paths to Newhaven Harbour, much altered by the Railway Authority under Acts of 1892 and 1914.29

In 1904 " a portion of the old towing-path is still in existence from about one mile below Southease Bridge to the entrance of Lewes Town but is seldom used." 33

The question of public rights along the banks of the Ouse below Lewes is now under consideration, but it is probable that they will be established.

The Navigation Company's Act of 179030 authorised a towing≠path for horses and men along the river except (1) on the right between Lewes Bridge and a Tanyard in St. John-sub-castro (2) on the left thence to Land Port and (3) on the left between Fletching Mill and Sheffield Bridge. The Pinkerton Contract of 179035 for making the Upper Navigation, as well as including making the towing-path in general terms along the Navigation, included an item for raising the towing-path from 242 yards below the Deanery Bridge (Malling) as far as Mighell's New Cut (Hamsey), viz., 1,772 yards, to two feet below the top of the Ashlar course of the south-east ring of Lewes Bridge (£47 4s.); and an item of £120 15s. for 115 double gates of the towing-path with cast iron track and pinion at a guinea each.

The towing-path above Lewes began at the Phoenix Cement Works (just below The Pells on the right bank) and continued on the right bank as far as Barcombe Mill. As far as Bushey Brook (Hamsey) this is still passable and controlled by the Rivers Board as successors to the Lower Navigation Trustees. Above Barcombe Mill it is derelict owing to the Navigation Company having disappeared, though small parts are still passable. In 1909 there was a ruined wooden tow-path bridge (for horses) just below the road bridge at Barcombe Mill over the left stream (used by the barges) and a path up the left bank which crossed side stream by obvious tow-path bridges, but this crossed the Ouse to the right bank by an old red brick bridge at the Oil Mill (next above Barcombe) and then ceased to be passable.



A witness 31 in 1823 said " We navigate by lines, some with horses and some with a line and two men towing."

The Act of 183332 allowed owners of boats and " all other persons whatsoever " to make use of the walls and banks on either side of the river for a tow-path from the mouth as far as the three sluices in Rye. Above these there would seem no official tow-path, though the banks are occasionally used.


I can find no records of any tow-paths along the Cuckmere or the numerous Pevensey Bay streams.



1 Ball v. Herbert 3 T.R. 253 (Norfolk Ouse)

2 per Kenyon, C. J., in Ball v. Herbert, p. 261

3 Simpson v. Scales 2 Bos. and P. 496

4 Grand Junction Canal v. Petty 21 Q.B.D. 273

5 27 Eliz. I, c. 22

6 57 Geo. III cap lxiii

7 55 and 56 Vic. cap cxxxviii

8 London Gazette 3 July 1888 and 2 October 1888

9 33 Geo. III, c. 100. The deposited plan (by T. White dated July 1792) shows the path from the West Pier to the Tanners Slipe. Now in Chichester Record Office.

10 Prichard's Treaties on Harbours, p. 68

11 23 and 24 Vict. cap clxxi, s. 17

12 1 Edw. VIII cap. xxxii, s. 37

13 17 and 18 Geo. V cap. lxvii, s. 54

14 I and 2 Geo. IV cap. lxii

15 S.R.S. x1v 172

16 25 Geo. III c 100

17 Quarter Sessions Order Book (Bridges Book-Chichester Record Office)

18 The Company's Minute Book (Chichester Record Office)

19 31 Geo. III c 66

20 London Gazette 15 May, 1936

21 West Sussex Gazette, 17 October 1929

22 47 Geo. III sess 2 cap. cxvii 23 6 Geo IV cap clxiv

24 39 and 40 Vie. cap lxviii

25 39 and 40 Geo. III cap liv, s. 5

26 10 and I1 Vic. cap ix, s. 49

21 23 and 24 Vic. cap clxxi, s. 31

28 23 and 24 Vic. clxxi repeating 7 and 8 Vic. cap. xci

29 55 and 56 Vic. cap. cxxii, ss. 15 and 16, 4 and 5 Geo. V cap cii, ss. 22 and 23

30 30 Geo. III c 52

31 Henry Campeney in Clark v. Curteis (Report in Society's Library)

32 3 and 4 Will. IV cap lxvii

33 Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers (de Salis) 1904

34 Yapton Canal Footpath (Extinguishment) Order 1951. (120 yards in Yapton)

35 The Society's Deeds L.M. 174


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(See Sussex Churches No. 10, p. 14).

During repairs in August, 1957, the Victorian tiles were removed from the flooring on the north side of the nave and below was found a flat gravestone over what had once been a vault but which had been filled with earth. The stone is now replaced in front of the pulpit. It is divided into two parts by a vertical line in the centre, that on the left reads:≠

In Memory of / ANN LAKER / Who died the 1st of April / 1791 / Aged 98 years.

That on the right reads:≠

In Memory of / SARAH Wife of / BENJAMIN FLINT / Who died the 8th of June / 1801 / Aged 57 years.

In a half-moon space at the foot of the dividing line is:- Page / Horsham.

presumably the monumental mason.



Ann Laker, the daughter of Edward Laker by Ann nee Oram, was baptised at Billingshurst, 17th January, 1704/5, and buried at Wisborough Green, 5th April, 1791, aged 98, according to the Register, so unless her baptism was delayed this is not actually her true age.

Sarah Flint, the daughter of Henry Napper by Mary Hayne, was baptised at Cranleigh, Surrey in 1741 and so was aged about 60 at her death.


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(S.A.C. ii 63 and lxxxvi 102; S.N.Q. xiv 239).

Although samples of the timber were sent to various places for identification, it has not been possible to date the wood. The excavations have now been filled in.



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Duncton Church has but one bell, but it is a remarkable one. It has the distinction of being the second oldest dated church bell in Great Britain. The inscription, in primitive lettering, as recorded by Dr. Tyssen in 1864. runs≠


Recent rubbings show that the H in FLOTHE is very indistinct, and there seems to be an N before LA. LA HAGUE is quite clear.

It has generally been assumed that the bell is of Dutch origin, and Dr. Tyssen regarded De Flothe as the name of the founder. During 1955-6 I made enquiries on the Con≠tinent, the result of which indicate almost conclusively that the bell is Norman in origin. The authorities of the Rijks≠museum, Amsterdam, say that they can find no trace of a bellfounder of the name of De Flothe, and, further, that Flothe is not a Dutch name. They add that the Dutch Hague at so early a date as 1369 was only a very small village. So one turned to France, which has its Hagues and Hogues. Monsieur de Bouard, Dean of the Faculty of Letters at Caen University, points out that there is in the la Hague peninsula a small village called Flottemanville-hague. So the inscription may refer to a place and not to a founder. A rubbing was sent to M. Bouard, who asserts quite definitely that the inscription is Norman, This is also the judgment of the Conservateur des Objets d'Art of the Department of La Manche, Monsieur l'Abbe Lelegard.

Documentary evidence on the original location of the bell will probably never be forthcoming. Perhaps it formed part of the booty brought back from one of the numerous commando raids between France and England, and vice versa, in the 14th century.

The Duncton bell has no religious symbol on it---a very unusual occurrence for those days. A rather rash suggestion, perhaps, would be that it may have been a bell attached to a buoy off the Norman coast. Flotte ancree is French for buoy. Farfetched?


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