Our presentation on renovating the Surrey Heath milestones, that’s by Reg Davis and me, to Camberley and District Probus Club, went far better than Reg and I had anticipated. Funnily, it’s the first opportunity we’ve had to talk about milestone renovation project, so we should thank the club for taking a chance on two old blokes.
I won’t put the presentation here, as it’s not really the right format for it. What I will do is share with you some parts of our presentation. I began our talk by describing the history of milestones. Here’s that history.
The Romans introduced milestones throughout their empire. Remains of them have been found in France, Spain, North Africa, Israel, and of course in Britain. The Romans laid good quality, mostly straight, metalled roads in Britain. Their key purpose was to move soldiers and supplies quickly across their Empire.
They indicated distances by erecting milestones. “A Roman unit of distance was the mille passum, which translates to ‘thousand paces.’ A pace was five Roman feet, meaning a Roman mile measured 5,000 feet. Hadrian’s Wall is 80 Roman miles long, and each mile was marked by a milecastle fort. These were used for controlling the movement of people, goods and livestock along the Wall.”¹
The first Roman milestone was erected in 20 BC in the Forum in Rome, from which all road distances were measured. It is known as the Golden Milestone – Milliarium Aureum. While no proven evidence of this pillar remains, a reference in Plutarch’s, Life of Galba, refers to an imposing gilded column. There are some supposed fragments of Milliarim Aureum in the Forum in Rome.
Here’s a photo of the fragments in the Forum, and the imagined Golden Milestone. [Click on image to expand].
Must invite my chum Reg Davis, and his wife round for a sherry and cake, for a chinwag about one of our restored milestones appearing on the front cover of the Milestone Society journal.
I’m a member of the Milestone Society, although Reg isn’t. The Society’s journal is its Milestones & Waymarkers, published annually in the autumn. Well, Volume Ten of the journal arrived in today’s post. It’s 76 pages, packed full of articles on milestone conservation and history.
A Camberley milestone, in the pavement alongside Martins VW Showroom, appears on the front cover of the journal. Our milestone repair efforts also makes it to an article about our work on page 73 of the journal, following an article on the previous page about the ceremony to unveil the replica milestone on the A30 at the entrance to Camberley Glass. Two pages on Surrey Heath, and the front cover too – success, eh.
PS. No more about milestones for a while, don’t want to bore.
Lightwater Retiree’s comment on this blog points me to the Daily Telegraph article about Nigel Ford, a retired Norfolk window cleaner, who, in seven years, has located, cleaned, and in some cases re-instated 150 milestones.
Nigel’s work is documented in Historic England’s 2017 Angel Award to Nigel as winner for Best Rescue, Recording or Interpretation of a Historic Place.
Nigel Ford is to be heartily congratulated for his dedication, and his efforts over seven years. Top bloke. [Click on image to link to Hethersett village website, from which the image is taken]
Reg and I know the effort involved, having cleaned just nine. It took us two weeks of work to do nine. I suppose we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves, as dividing 150 of the milestones Nigel restored over seven years, equals 21 a year.
Should you be a reader here, you’ll know, and perhaps be bored of, myself and my chum Reg Davis cleaning and painting nine milestones in Surrey Heath.
Motivated, both, by the loss of a milestone on the A30 in Yorktown we set about the task, which was harder work, and took longer than we’d both anticipated. Our excellent Surrey Heath Museum manager, Gillian Riding, unbeknownst to us, arranged for a press release about our accomplishment, and a small gift presented to us by the mayor. Here’s the press release, and it’s accompanying photo. Click to expand.
In the photo from the left, Reg Davis, Tim Dodds, the Mayor – Cllr Valerie White, Cllr Josephine Hawkins
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.