Maresfield was once an established port

I WRITE in reference to Mr Cosstick’s letter of last week “Is Maresfield all at Sea”.

While not apparent from a visit these days, Maresfield was in fact an established port in use in the early 18th century and probably earlier.

A 1724 map shows ships navigating to Maresfield Forge, and a lock where the tributary joins the Ouse.

(A copy can be seen in Lewes records office is in Ernest Straker, Wealden Iron – G. Bell & Sons Ltd, 1931).

This provides clear evidence that the Ouse was used in navigation at least as far as Maresfield lock before passing of the 1790 Act of parliament during the reign of George III for “Improving, Continuing and Extending Navigation on the River Ouse” upstream from Lewes to Cuckfield (and by later amendment to Slaugham – though Balcombe viaduct is as improvements allowed vessels to reach).

Thus Maresfield was clearly a port reachable from the sea, and therefore flags may be flown (and indeed termed “Jacks”) as appropriate to its indisputable maritime credentials.

It is also important to note these records tend to suggest public rights of navigation on the Ouse above the tidal reach – a point of contention with the publican of the Anchor in Barcombe, and his claim to own exclusive navigation rights on the stretch where he hires out boats.

Dominic Buckwell

(Member, Sussex Ouse

Restortation Trust)