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.
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]
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.
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.
Open House London is on 16-17 September; surely you know about this wonderful scheme. I feel confident you do. Here’s a reminder of what it’s about,
But, have you planned your visits yet? While it’s likely to be too late to book into the popular venues, there’s still much to experience.
We’ve enjoyed visiting some fantastic places, which I’ve reported on HERE. A few of my favourites are the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Crossness Beam Engine House, and the Custom House. Last year, we managed to visit four places, sadly this year we’ve commitments over the weekend so might only manage one visit.
A couple of weeks ago we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
Within its over 320 acres there’s plenty to see and experience. We managed just a part. It’s one of 31 world heritage sites in the UK. The variety of trees and plants is amazing.
Memorable things in our visit were the Palm House, Treetops Walkway, Rock Gardens, and Kew Palace. Opening the door into the Palm House one is assailed by heat and humidity, and when climbing the steps to the elevated walkway the heat and humidity rises. From the elevated walkway lets you appreciate the structure of the building, and its age, having been built in the 1840’s.
The Treetop Walkway is a fun way to study trees from above. There’s a lift for those not wanting to climb the 108 steps. Kew Palace, also known as the Dutch House, provides an unexpected insight in building techniques and practices of the 1600 and 1700 hundreds. A visit of varied attractions, as my photo montage shows,
Cool Hand Luke, if you’re confused, is a gritty prison drama film starring Paul Newman. That’s it. Just thought it would make a nice headline.
Now to the steady hand Tim. It’s about milestones, a subject I’ve become a bit boring on over the last few few. Myself and my chum, Reg Davis, have cleaned nine milestones in the borough. We’re now painting them white, with masonry paint. The lettering needs painting in black masonry paint. This has been my job, hence the steady hand Tim.
We’ve completed the refurbishment of 4 milestones. Perhaps you’ve seen us on the A30. We’ve had some lovely conversations, involving me wittering about their history. Here are the four we’ve completed. [Click on images to expand]