Online Encyclopedia

THE WEALD

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 437 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THE WEALD, a district in the south-east of England. It includes the portions of Sussex, Kent and Surrey which are enclosed between the North and South Downs—a district of Lower Cretaceous rocks encircled by Upper Cretaceous hills. It extends from Frensham and Petersfield on the Hampshire borders to the English Channel between Folkestone and East-bourne. With the exception of the easternmost part, it drains by rivers running northward and southward through gaps in the Downs, the origin of which is considered under that heading. The Weald was formerly covered by the forest of Andredesleah or Andredsweald (" the wood or forest without habitations "), which was 120 M. in length and about 30 in greatest .breadth. About 166o the total area under forest was estimated at over 200,000 acres. The chief remains of the ancient forests are Ashdown, St Leonards and Tilgate, and the nomenclature often indicates the former extent of woodland, as in the case of Hurstpierpoint (hurst meaning wood), Midhurst, Fernhurst, Billingshurst, Ashurst and many others. The forests were interspersed with lagoons; and the rainfall being very great caused marshes, but it abated in consequence of the cutting down of the Wealden forests for fuel in the extensive ironworks that formerly existed in the district. The locality best preserving the ancient character of the Weald is the hilly district in the centre, forming a picturesque broken range running east and west under the name of the Forest Ridges. This forms the main water-parting of the Weald, dividing the Vale of Sussex from the Vale of Kent; and was also the seat of the iron industry which was prosecuted by the Romans and probably earlier, reached its highest importance in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was maintained even till the early years of the loth century. The Andredesleah had an early historical interest as forming a physical barrier which kept the South Saxons isolated from other Saxon kingdoms. Descending from over sea upon the coastal district of Sussex, to which they gave name, towards the close of the 5th century, they populated it thickly, and maintained independence, in face of the accretions of the West Saxon kingdom, for upwards of a hundred years.
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