Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/396

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A HISTORY OF SURREY of a road than elsewhere. The Roman road to the south-west, which crossed the Thames at Staines, ran through north-west Surrey to Sil- chester and had a branch to Winchester. The Stone Street from London to Chichester cut the old Pilgrims' Way, a British track, just north of Dorking, and the Pilgrims' Way ran along the chalk downs past Guild- ford and Farnham and thence bent south-westward to Winchester. The Stone Street itself continued through the forest of Andred to Chichester, and ways along the South Downs and the coast connected it with Clausentum on Southampton Water, and so with Winchester beyond. The first way offered them the shortest line. But the first and second were entirely inland. The third would bring them again to the sea, where they could meet their ships coming round from the Thames, and could attack Winchester from their real base, their fleet. So, according to the chronicle, they came over Thames into Surrey. Ethelwulf with his son Ethelbald had probably been guarding the south coast, and came up the Stone Street to intercept the march of the Danes. He took his stand on the northern skirts of the great forest, where he could close the narrow defile of the Roman Stone Street where it entered the forest, and where he had a cross road by which he could easily march upon the Pilgrims' Way. It is a still faintly traced Roman road, which came from somewhere on the Sussex coast, and went north- westward up the hills near Ewhurst towards Guildford or Merrow Downs, and probably onward towards Staines. Had the Danes turned off from Dorking, he might have caught them by this road at the passage of the Wey. But the invaders had no desire to avoid a battle. They perhaps occupied the ancient British camp of Anstiebury, which crowns a now wood-clad sand hill, 800 feet above the sea, four miles south-south-west of Dorking. Local tradition used to call it the Danish Camp. The ensuing battle was fought ' hard by Ockley Wood.' It still lives in the memory of the country side, and the traditional place of slaughter is Ockley village green, where ' the blood stood ankle deep.' This is the current version but is unlikely, for Ockley Green must have been a swamp and a thicket then ; it easily becomes the former still in a wet season. Rather we must look for the actual site of the battle on the higher and drier and more open slopes above Ockley towards Leith Hill. Here human remains in the last stage of decay were discovered in iSSa. 1 The Danes were defeated after a great struggle and, looking at the circumstances, were probably cut to pieces. Tradition tells of the destruction by the inhabitants near Gatton of a body of fugitive Danes escaping from some defeat. There was an old cross-country road from Ockley through Gatton. It was in the words of the chronicle ' the greatest slaughter among the heathen men which we have heard of to the present day.' Asser copies this and expands it : ' there the 1 By the late Mr. Sparkes, tenant of Etherley Farm. The writer possesses a fragment of one of two rude coffins of hollowed out oak trees which were found nearly fallen to pieces. Something like organic remains stretched in a line on each side of them across the field. In the coffins were bones very fragmentary and much decayed. 332