turnpikes

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.

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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

CB1100R

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.

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The Old Turnpike and the Roman Road

In 1722 the new turnpike from Aylesbury to Buckingham opened. We know it as the A413.

The old route ran from the centre of Aylesbury along Akeman Street until it turned North and went between Quainton and Oving. Part of it ran along a minor Roman road. I went to have a look on Sunday.

The bit of the Roman road that’s still metalled (just) is called Carter’s Lane. To get to it, go East from Quainton and turn left at the crossroads. After a quarter of a mile, take the turn on the left.

You are now on Carter’s Lane, it’s both the old turnpike and the Roman road. It’s single track and very bumpy, and perhaps not as arrow straight as you might expect.

Tractor in LaneThe tractor in Carters Lane

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