Road and Rail

Coultershaw developed because of the River Rother and its good transport links. The Petworth to Chichester turnpike was diverted to cross the River Rother at Coultershaw in 1800, and the railway from Horsham arrived at Coultershaw for Petworth in 1859.

Roads and Turnpikes

Until the end of the 18th century, travelling and carrying goods by road was very difficult. Roads consisted of wide rough tracks which were poorly maintained. Many roads were impossible to use in wet weather or the winter months. Where possible, heavy loads went by water; around the coast and along rivers or canals.

When Emperor Charles VI visited England in 1703, his 50 mile journey from London to Petworth took three days, during which the Imperial Coach overturned 12 times. To complete the journey, Sussex labourers were hired to walk alongside the coach to keep it upright and force it through quagmires.

To try and improve the main roads, turnpike trusts were set up by individual Acts of Parliament in the eighteenth century. They had powers to collect tolls from road users for pay for maintenance. Road users had to keep to the left and not cause damage to the road surface.  Trusts had to erect milestones indicating the distance between the main towns on the road- there is a replica milestone on the road at the entrance to this site.

The turnpike trusts were inefficient and unpopular. Competition from the railways and heavier road traffic caused their decline. The Local Government Act of 1888 gave responsibility for maintaining main roads to county councils and county borough councils. This turnpike ceased to be a toll road in 1877, when it was taken over by the County Council.

The Petworth Trust was set up in 1757 to maintain a branch turnpike to Petworth from the main London to Portsmouth road at Milford. The Trust also continued the road south of Petworth to Duncton for Chichester. Until 1800 this turnpike road passed through Robertsbridge, 1½  miles upstream from Coultershaw. The Petworth Turnpike trustees suspected that William Warren, the miller at Coultershaw, was allowing people to avoid the turnpike toll by using the mill bridge.  So, in 1800, a new turnpike Act was passed allowing the turnpike road to be diverted to cross the River Rother at Coultershaw.

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The Railway

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In 1841 the main London to Brighton line opened, with the route from Brighton to Portsmouth being completed six years later. With Horsham being connected to the main line by 1848, promoters looked to develop railways in West Sussex.

The Mid Sussex Railway was formed to build a line from Pulborough to Petworth, with another company, the Mid Sussex and Midhurst planning to build the section to Midhurst.

The line opened to Petworth on 15th October 1859, providing connections to the main London to Brighton line through Horsham.

The single track line began at a loop line at Pulborough, and went through Fittleworth before reaching Petworth Station just south of Coultershaw. The final six miles to Midhurst was opened on 15th October 1866. This involved a diversion of the Turnpike at Coultershaw to cross the railway and River Rother on identical bridges.

As with many branch lines in 1950s, passengers reduced as car ownership increased and faster rural bus services started to run.  Sunday trains, which had few passengers, stopped in 1951, with the end all passenger services on 5th February1951. Goods services on continued to Petworth and Midhurst until May 1966, when the line closed

The mill at Coultershaw used the railway freight services. In the 1960s, a new silo at Petworth goods yard was used to store imported Canadian wheat for milling.