Little light is cast on the quaint English village of Loxwood in West Sussex, nor many villages similar to Loxwood across the country, even worldwide. Despite seemingly unassuming at first, Loxwood boasts of a vast history as a spectator to the evolution of man’s transportation over 1000 years.


Originally, Loxwood began as a settlement next to a prominent drove road, which ran North to South, from London to the coast. But what is a drove road and how has such a thing shaped Loxwood’s history? Guy Allen, a Loxwood resident, interested greatly in local history, provided an in-depth look at the past, at Loxwood’s history and the significance of drove roads despite being centuries old.


Drove - or drover’s - roads, originated from mostly Roman times, as a way to travel, or transport livestock. Yet this was limited at the time to often only as far as the neighbouring village for worship, or transporting livestock from pasture to market, or winter pasture to summer pasture.

Over time, however, these drove roads expanded as towns and cities grew, becoming more interconnected and more frequently used. An example of this, as Mr Allen mentioned, can be seen in Loxwood, a village orientated North to South, alongside a driven road. 


But as towns and cities grew, drove roads became slightly ineffective due to their small scale. As such, Britain saw the introduction of canals, many of which follow the same arterial routes of drove roads across the country. For example, Mr Allen highlighted the Wey and Arun Canal which cuts through Loxwood and connects the River Wey in Shalford, Surrey, to the River Arun at Pallingham, West Sussex. Yet, canals such as this still follow and mirror the lines drawn in the country by drove roads, all those centuries ago.


The Wey and Arun Canal in particular was significant, as it was used to ferry munitions from London to the coast during the Napoleonic Wars.


Surrounding villages are also interesting to examine such as Kirdford, which was prominently used as a forge to make pig iron. Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey are among the most densely wooded areas in Britain and as such, they produced vast amounts of charcoal for use in things such as smelting iron ore for pig iron. 


As a result, Mr Allen states that if you see a cannon in the Caribbean, “chances are it was made in Sussex” due to the vast production of pig iron and related products, which were then able to be shipped down to the coast.


Even today, the roots of navigation lie in the drove roads. Half-penny greens or meadows today would have been where weary livestock grazed overnight, as that was the price of a stay. Places near you called Coldharbour may reference the unmanned shelters where drovers could shelter from harsh weather. More prominently, various pubs may be called the Drover’s Arms. Even, as Mr Allen asserted, the roots of many lanes or ways can be traced back to drove roads.