As you sit in the traffic on the London Road (A24) during the morning rush hour, it is perhaps difficult to imagine that the road was originally built as an expressway.
There is now little to show, apart from the Straightness, that the road was built on the line of the Roman Stane Street, which connected the now silted up port of Chichester, Sussex with London. It was part of the Roman “expressway system” which led to Ewell becoming a major town, partly due to the abundance of fresh water emanating from the many springs there.
When the Romans invaded Britain in AD43, they had the problem of subduing and policing the country’s newly conquered tribes. To do this required the rapid transit of soldiers and equipment to get wherever the problems were occurring, which could only be achieved by building a good quality network of roads, and preferably in as straight a line as possible.
This they achieved by constructing three categories of road. The ITER for foot soldiers was 5 feet wide. The ACTUS for wheeled traffic was 7 feet wide. The VIA with a 14 feet width was for two way wheeled traffic. The London road was obviously a VIA grade road.
Should you be waiting for your 293 bus at Stoneleigh, drift into a day dream, and begin to imagine galloping horses hooves and iron shod wheels, pay no heed. It is only the ghost of Brutus Ironicus driving the last chariot home from London to Chichester as the Romans retreated back their beloved Italy in AD410.
Taken from “A stroll through North Cheam’s past” by Tony Brett Young