A racy stretch of road for stagecoaches

I’ve been much involved of late in preparing a short talk, along with my chum Reg Davis, about our work on renovating milestones in the borough.

It’s quite taken over my life, causing me to make errors in blog posts. Normally, it’s not a problem for me to prepare a talk. This talk is, however, to my peer group of wise and learned old gents of the Camberley and District Probus Club, and that’s pressure.

My part of our joint talk is more about the history of milestones and such. To lighten my talk I found this story of stagecoach travel along the A30 from Bagshot to Hartford Bridge. Here’s a view of the A30 in early 1900’s near where Blackbushe Airfield is now, and a print of two stagecoaches passing one another on this stretch of road. [Click on images to expand.] The print of the stagecoaches is important to note in the story.

Taken from ‘The Exeter Road’ by Charles Harper, 1899, and in The Camberley News 23rd November, 1990

An old passenger travelling from London to Exeter, having had an uncomfortable coach ride, quits the coach at Bagshot, congratulating himself on being safe and sound.

Approaching a waiter he says, “Pray sir, have you any slow coach down this way today.” A slow coach covers 8 miles in an hour. The waiter replied, “Why, yes sir, we have The Regulator down in an hour.”

He has breakfast, and at the appointed time the coach arrives.  The waiter announces that The Regulator is full inside and in front.  “But, sir”, he says, “You’ll have the hind dickey all to yourself, and your luggage in the hind boot.”

The old gentleman passenger again congratulates himself, prematurely, for they about to enter Hartford Bridge Flats, having the reputation of the best the best five miles for a coach in all of England. The Coachman ‘springs’ his horses, and they break into a gallop which does those five miles in 23 minutes.

The coach being heavily laden forward, rolled in a manner which it is quite impossible to find a simile, and the passenger utterly gives himself up for gone.

In the midst of its best gallops, halfway across the Flats, The Regulator meets the coachman of The Comet coming the other way, whose coachman has a full view of passenger in the hind dickey and describes his situation thus, “He was seated with his back to the horses, his arms extended to each extremity of the guard rails, his teeth set as grim as death – his eyes cast down toward the ground, thinking the less he saw of his danger the better.”

In this state the old gentleman arrived at Hartford Bridge, where he exclaimed he’ll walk to Devonshire.

Traffic warning signs on Red Road demolished again

Regular readers may recall my endeavours to get demolished road signs replaced on the ‘S’ bends on Red Road in Lightwater. That was all back in 2011.

Since then while there have been accidents of one sort and another on Red Road, the traffic warning signs have, to my knowledge, remained intact.

In passing through the ‘S’ bends the other day, I noticed that some have been demolished. Yours truly had to go and see the damage. I think a 50 mph speed warning sign, and a directional arrow sign have been demolished.

I wonder if it’s time for me to remind County Highways to repair the damage. There’s Surrey Heath Local Committee meeting in Bisley on Thursday 12th April.

Oops… thanks Ruth, have corrected the date – Thursday April 12th.

Woodlands Lane bridge in Windlesham now open

Windlesham has a super new bridge in Woodlands Lane over the M3. It should, hopefully, reduce the traffic through the centre of Windlesham.

I used the bridge today to travel to Sunningdale and was impressed by the shiny newness of the bridge. Sad chap that I am, I stopped to take these three photos of the bridge.

 

Milestone Miscellany Day No.4: Heritage Lottery funded Milepost restoration project

Last Saturday I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Milestone Society.

The meeting was held in the village hall in Long Compton on the A3400 road, not far from Chipping Norton. The location was chosen as the hall is on the former Stratford-upon-Avon to Long Compton Turnpike. It’s on this road the Milestone Society’s National Lottery funded project restored the remaining six mileposts to their functioning state.

The project is called Finding the Way, described in the leaflet below, and a dedicated website HERE. My photo of the village hall and one of the restored mileposts, click on photo to expand.

Click on upward pointing arrow in bottom right-hand corner of image below to expand.

Milestone Miscellany Day No.3: The Mayor thanks us

On Monday this week, Reg Davis and I were invited to be at the milestone on the A30 adjacent to Martins VW car showroom, where the Mayor of the Borough, Cllr Valerie White, gave a short speech thanking us for our work restoring the milestones in Surrey Heath. Gillian Riding, of Surrey Heath Museum, gave the mayor a small present to hand to each of us.

I should report that Reg and I were surprised to receive thanks and, even more so, the little pressie. We were pleased to have completed our project and weren’t expecting a thank you ceremony. Here’s a photo of Reg Davis, the Mayor, and Matthew Thorne – Manager of Martins, who was helpful to us both. [Click on image to expand]

 

Milestone Miscellany Day No.2: We complete our milestone restoration project

In Surrey Heath Borough, the Exeter Road [A30] has seven milestones, and the Portsmouth Road [A325] has three. Apart from one recently replaced with a replica, all were in need of refurbishment; some more in need than others. At the instigation of Surrey Heath Museum, museum volunteer Reg Davis and I spent two weeks cleaning and repainting the milestones.

Sixteen Portland stone milestones on the A30, six feet high and one and a half feet wide, were ordered by the Bedfont and Bagshot Turnpike Trust in 1743 from Chertsey mason Stephen, at a cost of £2 10s 0d each.

We tackled the task by firstly cutting back encroaching vegetation, followed by scrubbing them all with a mild detergent. We applied weed killer to their bases, adding a geotextile membrane, and then covering with Portland stone chippings after we painted them. We used white masonry paint, following up by picking out all the letters in black masonry paint.

In our hi-viz wear many people stopped to talk to us and cheer us on. We received a visit from a Police patrol car, with the officer approaching us saying, “We’ve had reports of people stealing a milestone.” Oh, how we laughed [Click on image to enlarge].

It shouldn’t be ignored that, apart from an odd dissenting voice, our work is widely admired, adding to the sense of community civic pride. Volunteers both, Reg and I, were happy to do the restoration, though our aging knees [well, mine actually] didn’t take kindly to kneeling to carefully paint the letters.

Milestone Miscellany Day No.1: About milestones

Lots to report about milestones this week. You’ll have read here that myself and chum Reg Davis having been refurbishing nine milestones in Surrey Heath.

Thought I’d begin with a bit of history, naturally taken from a Milestone Society document. Yours truly is a member of the society.

Here goes, in a little over 300 words, plus one photo from the A30 adjacent to Martins VW Showroom – this before our cleaning [click on image to expand].

The Romans laid good metalled roads to move soldiers and supplies quickly across their Empire: they measured distance to aid timing and efficiency, marking every thousandth double-step with a large cylindrical stone. 117 still survive in the UK. After Roman times roads developed to meet local community needs and by the middle of the c16th local parishes were made responsible for their upkeep.

At this time travel by road was slow and difficult. The sunken lanes became quagmires in wet weather and occasionally both horses and riders were drowned. It took 16 days to cover 400 miles from London to Edinburgh. So Turnpike Trusts were set up, by Acts of Parliament from 1706 to the 1840’s. Groups of local worthies raised money to build stretches of road and then charged the users tolls to pay for it. The name ‘turnpike’ comes from the spiked barrier at the Toll Gate or Booth. The poor bitterly resented having to pay to use the roads and there were anti-turnpike riots.

From the 1840s, rail travel overtook road for longer journeys and many turnpike trusts were wound up. In 1888, the new County Councils were given responsibility for main roads and rural district councils for minor routes. As faster motorised transport developed so the importance of the milestones waned.

‘Milestone’ is a generic term, including mileposts made of cast iron. Such waymarkers are fast disappearing; around 9000 are thought to survive in the UK. Most were removed or defaced in World War II to baffle potential German invaders and not all were replaced afterwards. Many have been demolished as roads have been widened, or have been victims of collision damage, or have been smashed by hedge-cutters or flails. Nowadays, roadside milestones generally fall within the remit of the local Highways Authority or the Highways Agency and their contractors.