History and Geology of Rogate

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History in brief

The South Saxons moved along the Rother valley naming their settlements as they went. ‘Ro-gate’ suggests ‘roe deer gate/gait’ meaning ‘way or small enclosure for roe deer’ but it could also mean ‘rough way’.

Before the Saxons began to colonise England in the sixth century A.D., the Romans from Chichester had marched northwards across the Rother Valley, and before them there were settlements of iron and bronze age people. However the primeval woodland or ‘Weald’ (‘wald’ in modern German) made the valley inhospitable.

The Normans during the twelfth century established the churches, an abbey at Durford, and large estates for the Norman rulers. From medieval times Rogate was the first and largest of the valley communities & the two fine stone bridges at Durford and Habin date from that time. In the Tudor period Rogate became a centre for the iron industry with furnaces and noisy hammers forging iron goods for general purposes but also for the new Portsmouth Naval Dockyard. The furnaces were fired with charcoal, so the woodland was gradually cleared. The industry declined with the advent of coal-fired furnaces in the north of England.


The Saxons divided their territories into north-south strips so that the various qualities of land were shared—marsh (mere or ‘moor’), sandy loams, greensand hills, and clay.  Rogate is therefore some 3 miles from north to south, with a breadth of 2½ miles, with a narrow projection at the north running for another 2 miles. The Parish is a small wedge-shaped slice cutting into the huge east-west geological formation that runs from Hampshire under the English Channel to northern France– the Weald-Artois anticline.  Harting Combe is significant as the western tip of the band of clay.

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