Friday, April 29, 2011

Ancient Trackways

The Watling Street, or the London to Chester road is well known and although bypasses have been engineered over the past 50 years the line of this ancient road can still be followed. It served in Saxons times to divide the manors of Calverton and Wolverton, as well as the manors of Loughton and Shenley further south and the river crossing was instrumental in the formation of Stony Stratford.

But there are two other roads of significance that allowed travellers to cross the country from Oxford to Cambridge and to make pilgrimages to Walsingham in East Anglia. Both are ridgeways, that is they follow a line high above the valley. The northern ridgeway more-or-less follows the A422 past Buckingham and on the ridge to Old Stratford. From there, rather than ford the river, it goes to Cosgrove and Castlethorpe and along the high northern ridge down to a ford at Haversham. The southern ridgeway takes its line through Beachampton, through Calverton and crossing the Watling Street at Gib Lane, where there used to be a hanging tree (gibbet).This is at a point almost exactly 52 miles from London. This old track continued eastwards across the fields to reach Green Lane in Wolverton, which is now the only surviving part of this ancient road. Before the railway this tack was able to continue its line eastwards through Great Linford to reach Newport Pagnell.

A third road appears in medieval times and was probably a consequence of the development of a market at Stony Stratford. This one could take you from Calverton to the south of Horsefair Green and crossing the road to Old Wolverton. This part of the road has now been lost, except for a few surviving footpaths. The original line was probably closer to Vicarage Road, across the meadows to the north of Wolverton House, closer to the Mill, across Wolverton Park where the old medieval village used to be, skirting to the north east of Holy Trinity and the old castle and joining the Old Wolverton road somewhere near the present location of the Galleon. The canal, of course, was not cut until 1800. The road was known as Portfield Way, indicating that it was a market road. The word port, from the Latin meaning a gate, was commonly used to describe a market - hence Newport, which in its day was a New Market.

The presence of these roads had no small bearing upon the development of Stony Stratford and Wolverton. Road communications, rudimentary as they were up to the 18th century, were nonetheless used and brought trade and commerce to conveniently located settlements. These roads, together with the canal, were a factor in the decision to bring the railway works to Wolverton in 1838.

No comments: