Since the end of the Roman period roads in Britain were in general poorly maintained, by the reign of Queen Anne this had been recognised in holding back trade, as transporting goods was slow. At each stage in the development of transport networks this has been a major consideration.
In 1709 a petition was presented to Parliament on behalf of woollen manufacturers (this might well have included the Aldbourne Fustian manufacturers) that the Kennet should be made navigable from Reading to Newbury. In 1714 an act of Parliament was passed authorising it, and work started in 1718 under the control of engineer & surveryor John Hore of Newbury. This work was completed in 1723, and necessitated the creation of 11 miles of canal. In 1794 an act was passed for it’s extension to Bath, which was completed in 1798.
The maintenance of roads was the duty of each Parish, and it’s not surprising that there was quite a bit of variation in road quality. Turnpikes were toll roads, named after the barrier that would be swung away to allow progress once a toll had been paid.
In July of 1811 a meeting was held at the Crown Inn to discuss constructing a turnpike from Swindon to Hungerford, which would apparently lead to a saving of seven miles. (Seven miles may not seem much to us, but records suggest that a stage-wagon drawn by eight to ten horses could expect to travel about ten miles in a day, and it is reasonable to presume that with fewer horses a shaller distance might be travelled). It was agreed that subscriptions should be taken to cover the costs of creating a plan for the route which would be presented to Parliament when an act was requested. It is this the which plan can be seen in the centre.
The full transcription of the newpaper artiucle reads:
Turnpike Road from Swindon to Hungerford
At a Meeting of Gentemen, Land Owners, and others interested, held at the Crown Inn, at Aldbourn, in the county of Wilts, on Wednesday the 17th day of July 1811, for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of an Application to Parliament, for an Act for making a Trunpike Road from the town of Swindon, in the County of Wilts, to join the London and Bath Road at or near the Town of Hungerford, in the Country of Berks; and also a collateral Branch from Liddington, through Medbourn, Badbury, and Chisledon, to or near Burderop Turnpike Gate; pursuant to public Advertisement,
WILLIAM HARDING, Esq. in the Chair;
It appearing to this Meeting, that by means of the proposed Road there will be a saving of nearly seven Miles in the distance between the Towns of Swindon and Hungerford,
Resolved, That the making a Turnpike Road from the Town of Swindon, in the Country of Wilts, to join the London and Bath Road at or near the Town of Hungerford, in the County of Berks; and also a collateral Branch from Liddington, through Medbourn, Badbury, and Chisledon, to or near Burderop Turnpike Gate, would be highliy beneficial, and of great public utility; and Subscription were then entered into for the purpose of defraying the expenses of making the Survey and Plan of the said intended Roads.
Resolved, That this Meeting be adjourned to Wednesday the 7th day of August next, to be held at the Crown Inn, at Aldbourn aforesaid, at eleven o’clock in the forenoonof the same day, for the purpose of taking this subject into further consideration; and that public Notice be given of such adjournment, by advertisement in the Reading Mercury and Salisbury and Winchester Journal.
Resolved, That the thanks of this meeting be given to William Harding, Esq. the Chairman, for the very active part he has taken on this occasion, and for his able conduct in the Chair.
By Order of the Meeting,
NATH. WELLS, Solicitor.
Swindon, July 18, 1811.
The act was passed on 18th May 1814, it laid down the route – from Swindon to Knighton (the sharp bend near Ramsbury). It also laid down who would be charged, and who not. Here is the full act (more text below it).HL_PO_PB_1_1814_54G3n119.Local and Personal Act, 54 George III, c l
The Trustees could rent out the Toll to operators who would be responsible for collecting the tolls. Money raised would return a dividend to the Trustees and the remainder went to the upkeep of the road. The Aldbourne section was between a gate near Liddington to the gate at Preston just to the east of Aldbourne. Tolls at Preston were set at: beasts of burden inc. horses 2d; cattle 1s 8d per score i.e. a penny per animal; sheep 10d per score; 6d for horse-drawn coaches. There were exemptions for the miltary, the Vicar and persons on their way to church, manure carts and carts carrying vagrants.
September 1820, the Reading Mercury newspaper advertised that the Tolls and the penalties for evading the tolls for the Preston Gate would be Let via an auction to be held at The Crown, Aldbourne on 29 September for the Term of one year. The tolls for the previous year yielded £210 at the Preston Gate. The successful bidder would be required to give sureties to the satisfaction of the Trustees for the payment of the rent.
This map shows part of the route of a railway that was proposed in 1845. The was in the period of the first railway boom (known as Railway Mania) when various schemes were being proposed, not all came to fruition. At the time there were many railway companies, who were competing for territory and dominance. There are parallels in the .COM boom of the early 21st Century.
Despite it’s name it would not have involved building new a new railway all the way from Manchester to Southampton, rather, the idea was to build some new railway track to link into existing networks, to then enable traffic between those two cities.
This plan was supported by the London and Birmingham Railway and the Midland Railway, it was in competition with another scheme supported by the Grand Junction Railway and the Great Western Railway. The schemes were put before Parliament, engineers from both sides presenting contradictory evidence.
The full text of an article in a newspaper about it reads:
PROSPECTUS of the SOUTHAMPTON MANCHESTER, and OXFORD JUNCTION RAILWAY.
Capital £200,000, divided into 30,000 Shares of £25 each.
Deposit £2 12s. 6d. per Share
(In compliance with recent Parliamentary Orders).
The Right Hon Lord Rossmore, The Dell, Windsor.
Lieut. General Sir Lewis Grant K.C.H., 31, Harley Street
Colonel Right Hon. G. L. Dawson Damer. M.P., 6, Tilney-street, Park-lane.
The Hon Robert Gore, M.P., 21 Wilton-crescent
George Frederick Munts, Esq., M.P., Birmingham.
Richard Spooner, Esq., M.P., Birmingham.
Ambrose Goddard, Esq., Swindon.
George Willes, Esq., Hungerford Park.
William Chance, Esq., Spring Grove, Birmingham, Deputy Chairman of the Leicester and Birmingham Railway Company.
Jeremiah Pilcher, Esq., 40, Russell-square
Benjamin Oliveira, Esq., F.R.S., 8 Upper Hyde Park-street, Director of the Manchester, Liverpool, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne Railway
George Ashton, Esq., Liverpool.
Peyton Blakiston, Esq., M.D., F.R.S., Birmingham.
James Macmillan, Esq., Southampton.
Richard Heaviside, Esq., Brighton, Director of the Brighton Railway.
Richard Edward Arden, Esq., 4, Bedford-square, Director of the West of England and Argus Insurance Companies.
Lewis Pocock, Esq., F.S.A., Montague-street, Russell-square.
James Reade, Esq., 13, Berkeley-street, Portman-square
John Brearly Payn, Esq., Edgbaston }
George Turner, Esq., Hunten-hill, near Birmingham} Directors of the South Staffordshire Railway.
Tomas Godfrey Sambrooke, Esq., Arundel Wharf.
Lieut. Colonel Elrington, Scots Fusilier Guards, Wyndham-place.
Major Croft, Director of the Direct Chester and Manchester Railway Company, 15, Regent-street
John Jennings, Esq., Elm-grove, Hammersmith.
B. B. Williams, Esq., Wyndham-place, Bryanston-square.
Rev. Robert Fowler, 7, Manchester-square,
Henry Hopratio Harrison, Esq., Sunbury, Director of the Leicester and Tamworth Railway.
Charles William Spicer, Esq., 28, Portman-square.
Charles R. Bigge, Esq., 19, Bryanston-square.
Matthew Wyatt, Esq., 1, Upper Hyde Park-street.
Captain E. Ommanney, R.N., 2, Suffolk-place, Pall.mall.
Captain Parsons, R.N., Exmouth.
William Brooks, Esq., Marchant, Glasgow, Director of the Glasgow and Ayr Railway.
James Gernon, Esq., 12, Conduit-street, Bond-street.
Charles Fitzgerald, Esq., Charles-street, St. James’s.
Edward Bates, Esq., 3 Union-place, Regent’s Park.
James Clift, Esq., 30 Bloomsbury-square.
Major Morse Cooper, Wargrave, Berks.
William Huntries, Esq., Halifax.
John Hodgson, Esq., Sunderland House, Halifax.
James Inglis, Esq., M.D. Grafton Manor House, Broomsgrove, Director of the Leicester and Tamworth Railway.
Calixto Haurle, Esq., 41, St James’s-street.
C. H. Coape, Esq., Union Club.
Daniel Allen, Esq., Mayor of Hungerford.
William Ayscough Wilkinson, Esq., Woodberry Down, Director of the Waveney Valley and Great Yarmouth Railway.
William Evans, 3,Chesham-street, Belgrave-square, Director of the Great Luxemburg Railway.
Francis Parker, Esq., Northampton, Director of the Cambridge, Northampton, and South Midland Railway.
Elias Gibbs, Esq., Glasgow.
Richard Kelly, Esq., 6, Cleveland-row, St. James’s. Director of the York and Lancester Railway.
William Seymour, Esq., 19 Montague-place, Russell-square.
James Vickers, Esq., 24 Mark-lane.
George Frederick Muntz, Esq., M.P. Chairman.
Richard Edward Arden Esq.
Charles R Bigge, Esq.
William Chance, Esq.
Rev. R. Fowler.
James Macmillan, Esq.
Benjamin Oliveira, Esq.
Jeremiah Pilcher, Esq.
Richard Spooner, Esq., M.P.
Benjamin B. Williams, Esq.
Messrs Spooner, Attwood, and Co., London.
Messrs Attwood, Spooner, and Co., Birmingham.
London and Westminster Bank and it’s branches.
Solicitor- Wm. Parsons, Esq., 34 Half-moon street, Piccadilly.
The national object of this railway is to give the entire northern part of England, North Wales, and Scotland the advantage of a direct communication with Portsmouth, the great naval and military depot, and Southampton, the central southernmost port of the kingdom, the steam-packet station of Government and the Oriental and Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, and the chief entrepôt for the West Indian, China, South American, Mediterranean, and Channel Island trade. The local object is to afford increased facilities of transit to the rich and thickly populated district of North Wilts, Hants, and Berks, hitherto very imperfectly supplied with railway accommodation. The accomplishment of this comprehensive scheme will require less than 60 miles of railway to be constructed.
The line will commence at or near the Andover-road station of the South-Wester Railway, being the point at which that line commences its directly southern course, and passing (near Whitchurch) in a northerly direction slightly inclining to the north-west for about 13 miles, will diverge into two branches at or near Highclere, about 10 miles south of Hungerford and about 5 miles south of Newbury. One branch will take its direct course by Hungerford, near Ramsbury, by Aldbourne to Swindon, where it will terminate at the Swindon station of the Great Western Railway, falling in there with the existing railway to Gloucester, Cheltenham, Birmingham, Manchester, and thence to Liverpool, and with the projected railways through Wales. The other branch will take a different course by Newbury and Ilsley to the Didcot station of the Great Western Railway; at which place it will join the Oxford and Rugby Railway, which is in direct communication with all the northern lines, and thus two great arterial lines of railway in the northwest and north, running north and south, communicating with the innumerable ramifications in the Potteries, the manufacturing and coal districts, and Scotland, will be led to and unite in one common trunk-line leading direct to Portsmouth and Southampton.
The scheme will also afford to a rich agricultural district a direct local communication from Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Cirencester, Swindon, Aldbourne, Ramsbury, and Hungerford, and from Oxford, Abingdon, Ilsley, and Newbury, to the Isle of Wight, Whitchurch, Overton, Winchester, Bishopstoke, Gosport, Portsea, Portsmouth, and Southampton, and thence by the two eastern and western coast lines to the numerous wealthy and thickly populated towns along the whole souther coast, and this commanding, irrespective of the great foreign and commercial goods and passenger traffic, an amount of local traffic alone insufficient to ensure a very remunerative return of profit.
The project, comprehensive and integral in itself, interferes with no existing vested interests, but on the contrary, while it receives, will give support to the Great Western and South-western lines and their branches, directly uniting four stations of the Great Western – namely, Swindon and Didcot on the main trunk, and Hungerford and Newbury on the southern branch, now in the course of construction, and all the above stations with the Andover-road station on the South-Western line. The scheme, when the projected line of railway from Oxford to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Ireland, and Wales, Leeds, York, and all the northern parts of the kingdom and Scotland than any other line yet projected. All troops and naval military stores going to and from Portsmouth and the above districts must necessarily pass along this line it must therefore receive the favourable consideration and support of government. In addition to combining in one scheme all the advantages offered by the two other projects now before the public, of accomplishing the same object by two distinct lines of railway, it will afford to North Hants, Wilts, and Berks, a complete and perfect system of interlocal railway communication, and give to their trade and commerce access to two additional ports – viz, Gloucester and Bristol, and above all will require for its accomplishment less than one-half of the capital required for completing the other two lines, thereby saving 1,100,000l.
The country is very favourable for railway operations.
Distance from the Andover-road station to the Swindon station ………………38 miles
to the Didcot station 34
Deduct of common trunk-line ……………………………………………………………….13
Leaves to be constructed ………………………………………………………………………59
Applications from parties having a local interest will be preferred in the allotment of shares.
Prospectuses with a map, may be had of William Parsons, Esq., solicitor, 34 Half-moon-street, Piccadilly, and the following stockbrokers:- Messrs. Peppercorn and Co., 20, Old Broad-street; Chas. Bennett, jun., 12 Copthall-court, Throgmorton-street, London; Nathaniel Lea, Birmingham; Messrs. Caniwell and Sons, Charles O’Neil and Co., Manchester; J. Hervey, Halifax; J. Jamison, Leeds; Messrs. Munro and Co., Edinburgh; J. Jardine, Glasgow; A. Montgomery, Liverpool; F. Stamp, Hull; Thomas Evans, Melsom-street, Bath; J. Clark, Southampton; and A. M’Neil, 20 Ely-place, Dublin; to whom also respectively applications for shares may be made, addressed to the Provisional Committee, according to the annexed form.
Form of Application for Shares
To the Provisional Directors of the Southampton, Manchester, and Oxford Junction Railway.
Gentlemen, — I request you to allot me shares in this undertaking; and I agree to accept the same, or any portion thereof, subject to the provisions of the subscribers’ agreement; and I further agree to execute the same and any other agreement or deeds, and to pay the deposit, when required.
The plan was voted down in the House of Lords by a small majority, the GWR having committed to lay smaller guage rails on its line between Oxford and Basingstoke, facilitating north-south connections by that route. Over the following years a similar network did emerge, although not coming as close to Aldbourne as the 1845 proposal. The L&BR and GJR went on the merge and become the London and North West Railway.
The plan shown here was kindly made available to us by the Parliamentary Archives. At the left end the railway comes in past North Farm allong the Lottage valley, then cuts across thr North side of the village crossing part way up what is now Oxford Street, but was Baydon Hill at the time. Then it followed the course of South Street, on the northern side. and would then have continued down through Preston. There are no indications of whether they would have had a station here.
All the affected properties are shown on the plan, with numbers which then are used in a document which tells us all the name of the landowners, and who the occupants were. The plan also shows the Pound (number 68) where drunks were incarcerated overnight, this was demolished some time in the late 19th Century. So far this is the only map showing it’s location.
The map was obviously prepared to a high level of detail, and across the whole route of the new section of railway must have required a significant effort and expenditure.
In 1862, day excursions to London were advertised by coach from the Crown, Aldbourne at 6am to Hungerford rail station to catch the 7am train to Paddington. The return journey started from Paddington at 7.30pm arriving back in Aldbourne about 11pm. Return cost 3shillings 6 pence in Covered Carriages; 6s 6d First Class; plus 2s for the coach Aldbourne /Hungerford return.
In 1883 a new proposal was put forward – The Swindon and Hungerford Railway. As can be gathered from the name this was a much more modest proposal – just linking Hungerford to Swindon with a direct rail link. The route was described as “Hungerford to Swindon, via Aldbourne” and “would give railway facilities to the important villages of Ramsbury, Aldbourne, Liddington, and Wanborough”; from this we can deduce the like was probably similar in general terms to that proposed in 1845.
The press article describing it says a private meeting of landowners was held in Aldbourne. Even at this stage there was doubt there would be sufficient support, not only would landowners need to agree to the use of their land, but also there was doubt as to whether sufficient funds could be raised locally to fund the scheme. Also it was recognised that there would also be an element of duplication with the Lambourn Valley Railway which was at that time already under development.
Unlike the 1845 proposal, the 1883 was never put before parliament, let alone actually built.
In 1919 the idea of linking Hungerford and Swindon by rail was again raised, along a very similar route – Chilton, Ramsbury, Aldbourne and Foxhill. Again this came to nothing.
Carriers & Coaches
In 1792, Trade Directory listed a stage wagon which left London on a Tuesday and passed through Aldbourne on a Friday.
In 1837/38 a stagecoach left Swindon at 9am passing through Aldbourne and Ramsbury to connect to the Great Western Railway at Maidenhead and thence into London by 5pm. A return coach left London most days at 8am travelling by train to Maidenhead and thence through to Swindon.
Stage wagons and stagecoaches are known to have stopped at both The Crown and at West Street House. The Crown was probably built in the 1720s to meet the needs of passengers on the stagecoaches for refreshment and accommodation etc.
The 19th and early 20th century equivalent of 21st century logistics firms and couriers were Carriers. They tended to have a set schedule of departures to destinations. In 1830 there we two operating from the village, William Blagrave travelled to London every Tuesday, and Samuel Fowler, to Marlborough every Wednesday and Saturday. In a 1911 directory the following services are listed:
Hungerford – Martin, daily
Marlborough – Stacey, Saturdays
Newbury – Stacey, Thursdays
Swindon – Henry Charles Waite, Mondays, Thursdays & Saturdays
In 1924 a D. Reeves of Aldbourne was advertising as a Coal Merchant and Haulier, he also offered a motor cycle and sidecar for hire.
In the 1890s James Martin and Edward Liddiard began operating as a carrier, to Hungerford (daily) and Newbury (Thursdays). From about 1905 the business was operated solely by Mr Martin. While driving to Hungerford he would blow a whistle, and residents would appear to place orders for items to be collected from Hungerford. A young Thomas Dixon Barnes would help him sometimes, he also helped another carrier, Charlie Waite. Mr Waite owned an orchard that abutted Mr Martins property on The Square, which would in time become Barnes Yard. It was quite common for carriers to use village lads as runners delivering items upon their return, this then gave them an entry into the carrier trade. In 1920 Jimmy Martin decided to retire and become a farmer, his only son was in Australia, so he offered the business to Tommy Barnes, who had been doing most of the work since about 1916. He also bought Martins property on the Square (on the right hand side of the entry to Barnes Yard). At this point he had two carts and six horses.
Tommy Barnes business included the collection of a ton of coal in 20 bags from Hungerford station goods yard.
In 1924 Tommy Barnes bought his first motor vehicle – a new 50cwt closed Ford T van. It would be used for delivering coal in the morning and then cleaned and used for passengers in the afternoon, Fred Jerram having made removable seats. It was used until 1933. People riding to Newbury were charged 10d per round trip. In 1927 a second van and two 14-seat carrier buses were purchased, the business continued to grow purchasing more vehicles over time. In 1935 he won the contract to carry eggs from the packing station on Marlborough Road. In the early days they were taken to the Danish Bacon Company in Reading for onward transportation to hotels and retailers.
After World War Two with the increase in personally owned cars, Tommy (whose sons and son-in-law were also now working for the company) started the change of the business into a coach hire one.
In the early 1960s they finally stopped to house to house carrier service, but did developer a parcel delivery service. As late as c. 1970 part of the Barnes Yard in Aldbourne was still being used as a coal yard, the coal delivery business was sold to Cawoods of Swindon in 1983.
In 1898 complaints about the flint covered state of the road through Aldbourne was raised, mainly because of the popular past-time of cycling, and evoked comment by the local M.P.
Bicycles made faster transport at a low budget with low maintenance costs available to a large proportion of the population. Supply and maintenance was available in the village, in 1920 H.W. Couch was advertising as an agent for “the All Steel Raleigh Cycle” (see advert). In 1923 he was again advertising, but was now also an agent for Enfield and New Hudson bicycles.
In 1925 there were complaints to the District Council that very little tar-spraying was being done in Aldbourne. Apparently, a shortage of Council money was a factor. In January 1926 there were complaints about the state of Lottage Road. Over the previous two years stones had been deposited there but the promised rollering had not taken place. Again, lack of money was cited.
A 1941 advert by T.A. Lunn of The Garage, Aldbourne declared they had been the Aldbourne agent for Raleigh and Enfield since 1918.
In summer 1939, Wilts County Council proposed re-aligning the main Swindon to Hungerford Road where it passed through Aldbourne to ‘cut out’ the section through The Square. Three possible new routes were to be considered. The first new route would leave the existing ‘West Street’ near Manor farm, cut up and over The Butts to re-join the main road near Ford Farm. The second route would take the road to the north of The Square, cutting through The Green ! The third option, and most feasible, took the road from West Street straight on through the grounds of The Old Rectory (but avoiding the house – just) and re-joining the existing road near Ford Farm. This straighter and wider (and faster?) road would ‘split’ the village in two. Objections were raised. Although the proposal was unlikely to be implemented in the near future, it failed to progress because of the outbreak of WW2 just two weeks later.
With the increase in car ownership garages came to the village