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Moved milestone  Winslow  Bucks

The Monday Photo

At Winslow recently to photograph the New Track Construction Machine laying a new railway line as far as the town’s new station, an elderly lady pointed out this milestone.

As I grew up in Winslow I’d known about this stone for years, but as she said, it’s unusual for the distance to anywhere to be “0” miles.

That’s how far this stone says it is to Winslow. It seems obvious that you’ve reached the town now, but when this probably 18th Century milestone was erected Winslow was a quarter of a mile away, out of sight on the other side of the hill. 18th Century milestones were erected on turnpikes; main roads that travellers had to pay to use.

The new Wendover & Buckingham turnpike through Winslow, now part of the A413, opened in 1721. But I think this example is later, no earlier than the opening of the Buckingham, Brackley and Banbury turnpike in 1791.

It was then 23 miles to Banbury from this point, as far as I can make out; the roads have changed a lot since the 18th Century.

With eight turnpikes leading from the town Banbury was a major connection on the turnpike network, probably why it’s on a milestone by a turnpike that doesn’t actually go there. Of course London was, and still is, a major destination; that’s why it’s on this marker too.

 Moved Again?
This milestone has been moved a couple of yards; it used to be at one end of the bridge parapet until recently. Being of suspicious mind, I wondered if had also been moved when the railway came through the town, so that it wasn’t in the middle of the bridge.

I can’t say for sure, but the pre-railway, Ordnance Survey Old Series maps seem to show it more to the South, probably within the 200’ width of the cutting.

This milestone is in the design known as Aylesbury Square, as are most or all of the milestones between Aylesbury and Buckingham. But starting with this one and heading towards Buckingham, Banbury starts to be mentioned.

The milestone at Shipton, the next one towards Aylesbury, has on it Buckingham 7, London 50, and Aylesbury 10, but no mention of Banbury. There’s also no mention of Winslow, though the milestone is still in the parish. Perhaps it’s part of an earlier batch.

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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.

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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Getting Out of the Gutter

Milestone  Swanbourne

The Monday Photo

Here’s a milestone, on the A413 just over a mile from Winslow. From here it’s 49 miles to London, and nine miles to Aylesbury.

In the distance, you can see a white van signalling to turn right off the main road to go down the side road to Granborough, but until 1824 the first stretch of the Granborough road was part of the main road South; the next mile or so of what we call the A413 didn’t exist.

If you followed the white van you would find yourself going downhill and past two houses together in one building on the left. A little further on the modern road goes sharp right. But this was once a T junction, and the old turnpike went straight on, through Holcombe Gutter.

This name’s a clue to why the road was altered. Travellers found that the turnpike through the gutter became extremely muddy and difficult to traverse during the winter, so the route had to be moved to drier ground. The new stretch of road ran along the ridge above the gutter.

The two houses we’ve just passed were once a pub, described as the Small Beer Hall. By the time the new stretch of road was built it was known as The Neptune. It might have had other names.

With the new section of road finished the pub lost most of its passing trade, and a new pub, also called The Neptune, would be built opposite the modern turn to Swanbourne, but not until 1833. It’s now a farm house.

From the sharp right hand bend on the road to Granborough a farm track follows the old turnpike straight on and up out of the gutter. Not far along, it was joined from the left by Ave Lane, a green lane from Swanbourne that might have been a drover’s road.

From there, still going quite straight, it’s possible to follow the turnpike up the hill though it’s covered in trees. Where it once curved left across a field to join the modern main road there is little sign of it, but it comes out next to where the new Neptune pub was later built, opposite the modern Swanbourne turn.

From there, you could have either carried straight on to Swanbourne, or turned right to go to Whitchurch or Aylesbury along the turnpike.

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An old Swan Made New

East Claydon timber frame

The Monday Photo

I’ve been waiting to take this photo for over a year. Back in February 2019, I took another photo of this house. It had scaffolding all around it that rose even higher than the chimneys, and had a roof and sides to keep out the weather.

I guessed that the roof was to be stripped back and rebuilt, but much more was planned.  The timber framed first floor and attic we can see today was concealed behind rendering, and these windows are new. I expect that more work was carried out on the interior.

The work wasn’t quite finished when I took this photo; I think the lockdown has held up the final touches. Still, they’ve made a nice job of it, and I’m not surprised it took so long.

This early 17th Century house was once a coaching inn, called The Swan.

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How to Spot a Turnpike

The Kings Head  AylesburyThe King’s Head in Aylesbury dates from 1455. Coaches would go through this arch when they arrived at this inn.

How do you recognise the old 18th Century turnpikes; the first decent roads to be built in Britain since the Romans left?

It’s quite easy, and there are a few ways to do it.

The first clue is the presence of milestones. If you see a milestone, you are almost certainly on a turnpike. Anciently, a turnpike was a horizontal wooden boom that turned on a vertical pivot, placed across the road until the toll keeper got your money. It came to mean the whole road.

Milepost  Little WoolstoneThis mile post is in Little Woolstone, in the middle of Milton Keynes.

Continue reading "How to Spot a Turnpike" »

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Happy Birthday to the Wanderer!

Last week the North Bucks Wanderer had its first birthday, so in celebration of this milestone, I’ve selected some of the highlights from the last twelve months. There’s a link to each post in the heading. The photos here are from the posts, but might not be the first one you'll see. Enjoy!

Ludgershall Bike Night


On the first Monday in July last year, just about every sort of bike you can imagine was parked up alongside the High Street, in the ancient village of Ludgershall. There was over a quarter mile of motorcycles, plus a huge variety of bikes parked on The Green.

There were also a few, er, non motorcycle vehicles, but they were still quite interesting. Lots of photos at the link.

This year’s bike night hasn’t been widely advertised, but as far as I can see, it will be on Monday 1st July, from 5pm to 10pm. It’s a charity event, and proceeds will be to the local Air Ambulance. Ludgershall is near Brill, not far of the A41. Just turn up.

Life on Mars in Aylesbury

Detail  Earthly Messenger statue 01

Why is there a sculpture of David Bowie in Aylesbury, under the archway of the old Corn Exchange at the bottom corner of the Market Square? you’ll want to go and see it after you’ve read this post.

Continue reading "Happy Birthday to the Wanderer!" »

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