Bridges

Water Mistake

Thornborough Medieval bridgeThornborough bridge from the downstream side. The bridge is not quite eleven feet wide and there are plenty of scrape marks on the parapets, from the days the bridge was on the main road. The bridge was bypassed in 1974.
This is where the Roman ford isn’t. The ford is quite a few yards downstream, on the right and way out of shot.

I confidently took the photo above, thinking this was the site of the Roman ford, right next to Thornborough’s 14th Century Medieval bridge.

The shallow slope on each bank looked like a ford, the brook is shallow and wide, I was on the correct side of the bridge; what could possibly go wrong? I made assumptions and didn’t check first, that’s what; the ford is actually a bit further downstream.

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A Good Plain Road.

Tollhouse  Newport Pagnell

Being taxed for using the roads isn’t new; this tollhouse was built in 1810 for a road toll (tax) collector to live in.

It’s on the Kettering and Newport Pagnell turnpike, which had opened in 1754, 56 years earlier. I suppose it replaced an earlier building.

The tollhouse is on the bridge over the Great Ouse at Newport Pagnell. It was built here because there is no easy way to avoid crossing the bridge to dodge payment.

There would have been a gate across the road here, the turnpike, which the toll collector would only open once he had your money.

The tollhouse is designed so that travellers can be seen approaching from either direction or when they are at the gate; the collector could keep watch from indoors in bad weather or see what’s happening at night.

The turnpike was only about 25½ miles long, but there were four more toll gates, which all seem to be where the Kettering and Newport Pagnell intersected other turnpikes.

The nearest one was a little way South of a crossroads that used to be just North of Warrington, where the Northampton and Cold Brayfield turnpike crossed the Kettering and Newport Pagnell. The crossroads is gone, replaced by a roundabout where the A509 and A428 intersect.

But this one at Newport Pagnell is the only one listed as having a weighbridge. I don’t know why, but the turnpike trust wouldn’t have had one if they couldn’t make money from it.

There are several similar words and phrases used to describe these toll roads, so here’s an explanation.

Turnpike
A pike is a weapon, a long wooden shaft (sometimes called a pikestaff) with a metal point. It’s like a spear, but as it’s not designed to be thrown, it can be much bigger.

A turnpike was originally a defensive framework of these pikes that could be turned aside to allow the passage of horses; perhaps just a temporary measure. The word then came to mean a gate blocking a toll road. These roads also came to be called turnpikes, or just pikes; a term still in use in the USA.

Turnpike Trusts
These were formed by acts of parliament and the trustees charged with keeping the road in good condition. This needed money, so the trusts were given powers to collect tolls from travellers.
The bill for the Kettering and Newport Pagnell turnpike was spoken on in Parliament on the 21st of February 1754, when Lord Willoughby of Parham reported to the house:

"An Act for repairing and widening the Road leading from the Toll Gate in the Parish of Kettering, through the Town of Wellingborough, in the County of Northampton, and through Olney, over Sherrington Bridge, to Newport Pagnell, in the County of Bucks; and for repairing and widening, or re-building, the said Sherrington Bridge,"

Sherrington (now Sherington) bridge is not in Newport Pagnell, but you’ll cross it if you take the turning to Chicheley and Sherington at the edge of the town.

The original parapets were removed in 1972 and the bridge widened with a concrete deck. The original 18th Century bridge can still be seen from the Great Ouse below it. From there the turnpike ran through Sherington towards Olney.

This should all be clear to you now; as plain as a pikestaff!

I used a Sony A6000 and zoom lens just like this one for the photo in this post.

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Bridge Out

Old railway bridge with farm trackThe brickwork looks to be in good condition, though the retaining wall on the approach needs attention. Beyond the bridge will be the cutting for the HS2 line.

There are quite a few nice old railway bridges in North Bucks, but it looks like the Highways Agency want to demolish this one, though it was in quite good condition when I visited it this week.

This bridge is nearly 125 years old, a part of our railway heritage and a local landmark on a footpath near Twyford Mill.

When HS2 is completed it will be about 120 feet from the edge of the cutting. The existing farm track will be carried over the cutting on a new bridge.

              

From the Government’s plans and what a local dog walker told me, this original bridge will be demolished; instead there will just be a ramp up to the new one. I believe there's enough room to keep this bridge and make it part of the ramp to the new one.

I see there’s another bridge that will be lost, too, about a quarter of a mile to the South East. But I didn’t realise until I came home again.

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Old Snow Coach

Turnpike bridge in the snow

The Monday Photo

There’s a good chance at least one of the Christmas cards you’ve had this year had a mail coach on it.

The coaches are almost always red, there’s a chap on the back blowing a horn, and the snow lays round about, deep and crisp and even.

These coaches relied on the turnpike roads to reach their destinations, because they knew they’d be maintained with the money turnpikes took from tolls. The bridge took the 1722 Wendover and Buckingham Turnpike across Shipton Brook, just down the hill from the hamlet of the same name, next to Winslow.

Here’s another view of Shipton Bridge in slightly warmer weather, and here’s one more, of the 18th Century arched bridge from the middle of the brook in mid summer.

I can just imagine four horses pulling a red coach over this bridge in the depths of winter. The horn is blowing. Everyone on the top of the coach has bundled up against the intense cold. The snow is at least a foot deep and there are no other wheel tracks.

This will be the last Monday Photo of 2021; I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off over Christmas and the first week of the new year, returning on Monday 10th January. But there’s one more Thursday post to go this year, on the 23rd of December. See you then.

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A Low Point for the Canal

_IMG2824The towpath hangs out over the edge of the aqueduct.

The Iron Trunk, the aqueduct that carries the Grand Union Canal 40 feet above the Great Ouse, is the third one to be built here.

The first one collapsed, the second one was temporary, and the one we have now is 210 years old. The canal company changed the course of the river and the shape of Buckinghamshire to build it.

Here’s the timeline.

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Iron and Water

Cosgrove aqueductThe Iron Trunk aqueduct.

Canals take a wriggly path, following the contours of the land as much as possible.

But sometimes that’s not practical, as the engineers of the Grand Junction Canal realised when they came to the Ouse Valley.

A one mile embankment carries the canal across the valley, with a cast iron aqueduct over the Great Ouse. The aqueduct is known locally as the Iron Trunk.

The Aqueduct is a great piece of engineering. It’s about half a mile from the road and the nearest parking spot, but well worth a visit. It’s a nice walk, too.

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