Chapter 5.

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ROADS, AND THOSE IN TRING.


HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS.


 

During the engagement of Mr. J. E. Maynard as Surveyor of the roads in this county, he has rendered great relief to different parishes employing the superfluous poor collecting and preparing materials, and introducing an advantageous plan for improving the highways.  In the Parish of Tring, Mr. Maynard in the space of nine months, expended upwards of three hundred pounds assisting the poor who otherwise must have been supported by parish relief.

From the Tring Vestry Minutes for 1822.


It was ascertained by Mr. Rogers one of the Guardians of the Poor that two of the men employed on the road in Akeman Street, Oakley and Nash’, were neglecting their work and sitting by the road side asleep.  He therefore took up their tools and discharged them.  They both said they did not care being turned off their work.

Tring Vestry Minutes, 22nd April 1828.


Ancient Roads.


The Tring Gap ― a lowering in the Chiltern Hills in which the town is sited ― has provided the traveller and his animals with a thoroughfare over the ridge since time immemorial.  Two ancient highways, the (Upper) Icknield Way and Akeman Street, crossed each other in or near the modern town, although their point of intersection is unclear.

The earliest written reference to the Icknield Way [1] is contained in Anglo-Saxon charters of AD 903, [2] but its true age remains something of a mystery.  Thought to have been one of a few long-distance trackways ― in fact a series of tracks ― that existed before the Roman occupation, it followed the grass chalk downland of the Chilterns, some historians claiming that it linked The Wash in East Anglia with Wiltshire.  However, in addition to a lack of material evidence of its age, its route would have cut across the local territories defined by regularly spaced hill forts and dykes running perpendicular to the Chiltern escarpment.  Before the arrival of any strong central authority, movements along it in ancient times would surely have involved travellers in numerous awkward local negotiations, making its use as a long-distance trade route appear doubtful.

Between Lewknor and Ivinghoe the track diverges into two parallel courses, known as the ‘Lower’ and the ‘Upper’ Icknield Way.  Here a further uncertainty enters the debate:
 

“The Upper Icknield Way has all the characteristics of a trackway, following the steep escarpment of the Chiltern range, but the Lower Way is here peculiar in following a series of true alignments on the flat land in a position unlikely for a trackway and quite typical of a Roman road . . . . There can be little doubt that this part of the Icknield Way is a true Roman road.”

Roman Roads in Britain, I. D. Margary (1955).


Modern scholarship casts doubt on a ‘Roman’ Icknield Way due to the scantiness of archaeological finds and proof of Roman road construction.  Perhaps for this reason ― and unlike nearby Akeman Street ― its course is not marked on Ordnance Survey maps (including the Ordnance Survey’s map ‘Roman Britain’).  Nevertheless, archaeologists working during the 1950s mapped what they believed to be the course of the ‘Roman’ Icknield Way.  That part of their map reproduced below shows the section of the Way (in red) near Marshcroft Lane (in yellow) in Tring; to the left of the map, the Way crosses Grove Road (in green), passes through the modern Chiltern housing estate (yet to be built in the 1950s) and along Mortimer Hill before entering the town centre to the north of the Robin Hood public house.



Thus, the age and line of this ancient road in this locality remains a matter of conjecture, while its Romanization remains a mere possibility (but more under Akeman Street below).  What is known is that by the Medieval period the Icknield Way is referred to as one of the ‘Four Highways’ of the Kingdom, although even here there is possible confusion between Icknield Way and the Roman Ryknild Street. [3]

Much more is known about Akeman Street, [4] sections of which are located and marked ‘Akeman Street, ROMAN ROAD’ on Ordnance Survey maps of the Tring locality ― the road’s name, incidentally, is not of Roman origin, but dates from the early Middle Ages.  Originally a late-Iron Age track, the Romans adopted sections of it to form a road from Verulanium (St. Albans) to their garrison towns of Alchester near Bicester and onwards to Cirencester.  Evidence for its  construction and age is based on archaeological excavations, such as that recently conducted in the parish of Quarrendon, Bucks.:
 

“Akeman Street was sectioned at Billingsfield, Quarrendon, revealing a gravel surface up to 6.6m wide, with flanking ditches.  The gravel surface had been constructed on a raised bank of three make-up deposits, with a buried soil possibly surviving beneath.  The road seems to have been constructed at an early stage in the Roman occupation, as two cremation urns of mid 1st-century date were inserted into pits cutting the edge of the outer ditch.  Pottery from the fills of the flanking ditches was 1st to 4th century in date (Cox 1997).  Related quarry pits and traces of make up layers of Akeman Street were also encountered at the Aston Clinton bypass.”

Roman Buckinghamshire, R J Zeepvat & D Radford (2007).


In 2011, Archaeologists undertaking excavations in advance of building development at nearby Berryfields, Aylesbury, also uncovered the road’s metalled surface and two pairs of flanking drainage ditches, the characteristic profile of a Roman road.
 

Roman coin found at Cow Roast.

Nearer at hand, behind the Cow Roast Inn on the London Road, lie the remains of a Roman settlement that extended to the hillside on the opposite side of the main road (A4251), beyond today’s canal marina.  Over the years this site has yielded many valuable finds.  As early as 1811, the Gentleman’s Magazine reported the discovery of coins and a gold ring, and other items such as military artefacts, pottery and jewellery have been found over the years.  Later excavations uncovered 14 well shafts, which together with other finds suggest that the site was used for the production of iron.  In addition to Roman remains, there is evidence on the site of an earlier Iron Age settlement.

More recently another Roman site was discovered to the rear of the now-demolished Old Grey Mare public house at Northchurch, but pressures for new building prevented extensive excavations.

Work under the sponsorship of Dacorum Heritage Trust is still being carried out to establish the exact line of the Roman road, while evidence of Roman construction suggests a second road crossing north to south in the Cow Roast area, presumably extending between Aldbury and Wigginton.

That Akeman Street continued westwards to Tring was established by The Viatores, a group of researchers working during the 1950s. [5] They discovered that at the lodge entrance to Pendley Manor, Akeman Street turns abruptly to west (shown on the right of the map below) and then continues straight as far as Tring cemetery.  Its course through Tring Park is marked by part of an agger, 45 feet wide by 1 foot high, [6] the excavation of which revealed flint and gravel bound with lime mortar (more sections of agger together with flint metalling were discovered in the vicinity of New Ground).



At the former Britannia Inn (now a private house at the junction of Park Road and Western Road), The Viatores conjectured that Akeman Street formed a junction with the ‘Roman’ Icknield Way, the two then following a common path to Aston Clinton.  At Tring cemetery, the road turns to the north-west (point AA above) before commencing the long alignment across the Vale of Aylesbury (below).


These maps were drawn in the 1950s, since when Tring has become more built up and the new A41 has appeared.


On the map above, the modern Icknield Way is shown above in yellow, Miswell Lane in green, and Tring High Street in blue.  The certain course of Akeman Street appears as a solid red line, while the presumed course of the ‘Roman’ Icknield Way appears as a broken red line passing through Tring town centre.

Having shared a common path down Tring Hill, The Viatores identified the junction of Stablebridge and London roads (point K above) as that at which Akeman Street and the ‘Roman’ Icknield Way diverged.  During 2014, Archaeologists from the University of Leicester excavated a site at this location prior to housing development, and found evidence of both Iron Age and Roman settlement.  Their provisional dating suggests that the site in its final form dates to the 1st or 2nd century AD, with activity in the area continuing as late as the mid-3rd century AD.

The site was also found to be bisected in a south-west to north-east direction by a wide (13m) trackway, the edges of which were defined by long, straight ditches typical of a Roman road.  Narrow ‘wheel ruts’ were identified along parts of the carriageway, some of which had been infilled with packed flint, possibly evidence of repairs, whilst other broader spreads of flint could be the remains of metalling.  When viewed on maps of the wider area, the alignment of the trackway matches the projected course of the Lower Icknield Way, which might have its origins in the Iron Age or earlier.  This evidence appears to support the route of the ‘Roman’ Icknield Way as conjectured by The Viatores during the 1950s.
 

Market Street (now the High Street).


“The street running through the centre of the Town, hitherto known as Market Street, is changed, and will be called in future High Street.  It appears by an old record dated July 3rd 1711, that the Street was then called High Street, so it is only reverting to its old name.”

From the Tring Vestry Minutes for 1833.


The original line of the approach to Tring, from both easterly and westerly directions, as well as the actual route through the town, saw many changes over the centuries.  Consequently, it is confusing and difficult to follow, especially as some traces of the old sections of road have disappeared.


Tring High Street looking towards the old Rose & Crown Hotel (on the right).  Note the condition of the
pre-tarmac road surface ― no wonder the road needed to be watered in summer to suppress the dust.


A glance at a modern-day Ordnance Survey map shows that the most direct route from Cow Roast to Tring follows the line of the age-old livestock droving road to and from London, along the present A4251, until London Lodge (the former Rothschild gatehouse) is reached.  At this point the old road continued straight through Tring Park, passing immediately to the south the Mansion to emerge in Park Street.  It then continued along Park Road to form a junction with the present Aylesbury Road at the old Britannia public house ― in Victorian times this junction was known as ‘Bottle Cross’. [8]


The ‘Bottle Cross’ junction.  The Britannia Inn is left of centre, the pub on the right is
the Bricklayers Arms (note the horse trough).  The entrance to Duckmore Lane is on the extreme right.


The road then followed its present course past Tring Cemetery and straight on towards Aylesbury and Fleet Marston (once a Roman road junction).

The year 1711 saw a change to this age-old route, one that brought increased prosperity to the town up until the end of World War II, when the tremendous growth of road transport rendered the narrowness of the High Street inconvenient and unsafe for large volumes of traffic.  In 1702, the Tring Park estate was acquired by Sir William Gore, one-time Lord Mayor of London and wealthy banker.  On his death, the estate was inherited by his eldest son, William junior, who petitioned that the main road be moved from the south to the north side of his mansion because, it is believed, he disliked traffic passing his dining room windows.  Given the influence of the gentry in those times it was probably a mere formality that his application for the change was approved:
 

“At the house of William Axtell, Rose & Crown, Tring, an inquisition was held relating to the enclosure by William Gore, esquire of Tring, of part of the highway from Berkhamsted to Aylesbury known as Pestle Ditch Way, which lies on the south part of his garden from Dunsley Lane to a place called Maidenhead. [9]  In substitution he will provide a road from Dunsley Lane across Tring Market Street and New Lane to a place in his land called Gore Gap.” [10]

Tring Vestry Minutes 11th January 1710.


The inquisition was conducted before the Sheriff for Hertford, with seven esquires, three gentlemen, and eight commoners forming the jury.  The verdict was, unsurprisingly, that there would be no damage to the Queen or to others by the diversion of the highway for a distance of 92 perches (506 yards) [11].

This new route of the main highway as it reached Tring from the Berkhamsted direction, still did not follow a line that would be recognisable today.  At London Lodge, it made its way to the south of Lower Dunsley ― which was located near the site of today’s Dunsley Place (‘Donlee’ on the map below), but then a hamlet in its own right ― where it wound its way between the houses, canvas factory and brewery to emerge opposite the Robin Hood public house.  From there on the route corresponded with the present High Street until the ‘Gore Gap’ was reached (in the map below, located at the road intersection above the ‘G’ of Tring), where the road turned south then immediately west along Park Road, eventually to join the Aylesbury Road at the Bottle Cross junction (in the map below, to the left of the ‘T’ of Tring).
 



Dury and Andrews map of Tring, c.1766.  This map is a schematic illustration rather than one drawn to scale.
Key: London Road ― red; Miswell Lane ― green; Frogmore Street/Akeman Street ― blue; Brook Street ― purple; Park Road/Street ― yellow.
The hamlet of ‘Donlee’ (map centre) ― approx. today’s Dunsley Place ― was demolished by Lord Rothschild in the 1870s.
 


Much the same area mapped by Andrew Bryant c.1822. Western Road is shown, but no direct route from the town to the site of its future railway station.
The feint double dotted lines around the hamlet of Dunsley suggests the bypass section of the turnpike is under construction, which ties in with what is known at this time.

Tring town centre today. Many new roads and houses were built in the post WWII period.


At some time during the early 1820’s, a new section of road was created between London Lodge and Dunsley, the work being undertaken for the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust by James Bull of Tring. [12]  This necessitated some road widening, the demolition of dwellings and payment of compensation.  William Kay, the Lord of the Manor, was awarded £248.15s.0d. compared with the £4.17s.0d. to the four cottagers who were obliged to quit their homes.  The main road now bypassed Dunsley.

 


Above: a very early view (c. 1870s) of Tring from the top of Station Road. The Manor Brewery at Dunsley
is on the left, its chimney shown ― presumably it tapped one of Tring’s subterranean streams for its water.
Below: the only known view of the hamlet of Dunsley.  Manor Brewery is on the right.


Near the entrance to today’s Dunsley Place there survives a Grade II listed monument of 1826, a white cast-iron milepost showing the distance to London and nearby places along the road.  The Sparrows Herne Minute Book records that the Reverend Lacy (vicar of Tring and one of the Trustees) designed the lettering and that an estimate was requested from Mr J Dell, ironfounder of Dudswell, to form and cast the plate.


Sparrows Herne cast-iron milepost c.1826.


Two original Sparrows Herne waymarkers still exist, at Bushey and at Berkhamsted, and a replica can be seen in Tring mounted against the wall of the Memorial Gardens, almost opposite the Robin Hood, where the original was sited until 1991 when it was inadvertently lost during some drainage work.


Sparrows Herne turnpike waymarker (on the right) at Tring.


From the following entries in Tring Vestry Minutes and the Bucks Herald it seems that the old road through Dunsley hamlet was not closed until 1883:
 

1883. The old road at a point on the south side of the High Street, adjoining the Manor Brewery, and the Canvas Factory, is to be closed.  This refers to Lower Dunsley.

1883, 25th August ― Notice has been issued notifying the intended closing in the usual way of the now useless road at the southern end of Tring . . . .


Subsequently, Lord Rothschild decided to incorporate the whole area into his private gardens, although it was some years before the Lower Dunsley buildings were demolished:
 

DEMOLITION OF OLD BUILDINGS. ― The Manor Brewery and houses at the bottom of High-street, on the Station-road entrance to the town, which have been unoccupied for some time past, are now pulled down. It is almost needless to say that they will not be rebuilt, as they are on the confines of Tring Park.

Bucks Herald, 11th January 1896.


Western Road.



In 1822, the turnpike trust drove a new section of road straight through the grassland between the Gore Gap and Bottle Cross:
 

“The trustees of the Sparrows Herne Turnpike are making most excellent improvement in the road at the Aylesbury entrance of the town of Tring, by cutting an entirely new line through the inclosures, to avoid the present dangerous turn of hill.”

Morning Post 7th February 1822.


At some date between 1860 and 1870 this stretch of road came to be known as ‘Western Road’, a name originally referring to the section between Akeman Street and Langdon Street, later to become the (Upper) High Street.  Before the construction of the ‘new’ Western Road, the age-old approach into the town centre from the westerly direction was as equally convoluted as that from the east.  In addition to the Park Road route, at the Bottle Cross junction a road then existed that veered north, then east, winding up Abstacle Hill, crossing Miswell Lane to join a track (now Christchurch Road) where it turned south to connect with the main road at the Gore Gap.

Following the 1822 alteration, the route of the highway through the town was complete and remains that with which we are familiar today.  However, the steepness and narrowness of the High Street continued to be far from ideal for use by Royal Mail stagecoaches and other horse-drawn traffic.

 
Beggar Bush Hill (now Tring Hill) [13]


First suggested in 1810 and again in 1816, it was not until around 1824 that alterations to the western approach to the town in the Tring Hill area were undertaken by the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust.  In order to reduce the gradient a considerable amount of excavation took place to reveal the chalk cutting seen today in the vicinity of the Crow’s Nest motel.

The following advertisement appeared on 22nd November 1823 in the Windsor & Eton Express (later the Bucks Gazette):
 

SPARROW’S HERNE TURNPIKE
To Road Contractors, etc.


Such Persons as are willing to CONTRACT for the necessary works in CUTTING THROUGH and LOWERING BEGGAR BUSH HILL, on the Sparrow’s Herne Turnpike Road, between Tring and Aston Clinton, are desired to send Tenders in Writing to the Office of Messrs. Grover and Smith, Solicitors, at Hemel Hempstead, Herts, on or before the 6th Day of December next, to be submitted to the Trustees at a MEETING on the 8th of DECEMBER.  A Plan and Specifications of the works may be seen at the Rose & Crown, Tring, the Bell, Aston Clinton, at the Office of Messrs. Grover and Smith, and at Mr Creed’s, Surveyor, Hemel Hempstead.


Various tenders were laid before the Trustees on 8th December 1823, who decided to award the construction contract to James Bull of Tring and Thomas Morris of Aston Clinton, the former being the preferred choice of the Trust’s Surveyor, the famous engineer James (later Sir James) McAdam.  Three days later, a Bond for the Performance of Covenants, and an Agreement [14] were drawn up and signed by all parties.

 

This view of Beggar Bush Hill ― now Tring Hill ― clearly shows the cutting driven through the ridge in 1824, lowering it by 36 feet, and the even gradient that resulted.
Note the condition of the pre-tarmac road surface!  The public house on the left, the New Inn, is now business premises.


In addition to the excavation work and the provision of a temporary roadway whilst the work was in progress, the contract included the necessary embanking, fencing, quicking (i.e. hedging), rails and culverts, and a payment by the contractors of £500 to be laid down as a sign of ‘good intent’.  The work was to be complete by 1st December 1824.  Pauper labour was provided by the overseers of Tring Workhouse [15] and the total cost amounted to £2,416 1s. 3d.

However good the surface was then considered, a letter [16] to the Trustees from farmer John Edmonds of Buckland Wharf written in May 1825 showed little appreciation, for he complained that the state of the hill nearly caused him an accident with a load of hay on board ― “. . . . it was a good road before the Hill was took down . . . .”  Some 40 years later the Bucks Herald was grousing:
 

1867, January. TRING. “We have many complaints made to us of the state of the turnpike road between this town and Aylesbury.  The hill at Beggar’s Bush was almost impassable before the late frost.  Surely the Trustees will see to it?”

 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin cafe with Mr. Pratt, its proprietor,
standing proudly in the doorway.

A curiosity that once stood on Tring Hill is remembered by some of the Town’s older folk.  Sometime before WWI, Mr and Mrs Dodd of Henry Street set up a stall halfway up the northern side of Tring Hill, from which they served light refreshments to passers-by.  Around 1914, Mr and Mrs Pratt obtained permission to place two disused railway carriages on the same site, one being used as a café and the other as living accommodation; a disused chalk pit on the opposite side of the road served as a pull-in for lorries and cars.  They named their pride and joy ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.

During WWII the café became a venue for dinners and wedding receptions, and due to its comparatively isolated position was also the target for a number of break-ins, reports of which appear in the local newspapers of the time.  The structure remained until sometime in the 1960s, Bill Pratt dying in 1974.  This poor reproduction photograph shows him standing in the doorway.


Station Road.


Station Road is not one of the town’s old roads.  Built in 1838, it provided a direct link between the town and its distant station using donated land and funds raised by private subscription.  Prior to its construction, the journey from Tring to Pendley and Aldbury followed a tortuous route, which local historian Arthur MacDonald described in his notes on the subject (c.1890):
 

“At the east end of the town important alterations were necessitated by the construction of the railway, and station in 1838.  The traveller by road from Tring to Aldbury before that date proceeded up the London Road to Dunsley, turned back across the 3-cornered meadow, following the hedge next the present cricket ground, to the point where The Laurels now stands, and which was then the corner of Grove Shrubbery, the latter extending right round to the fir tree near the recreation ground.  Skirting the shrubbery, as far as Grove Lane, our traveller would then turn up Cow Lane for a little distance, and strike across what is now Pendley Park, between the Rookery and a small spinney, emerging some little distance short of Pendley canal bridge, this latter part being the ‘Aldbury Road’ mentioned in the Inclosure Award.”


Following the railway’s arrival, it soon became apparent that the popularity of this new form of transport necessitated better communication between the town and its station:
 

“A meeting of the Parishioners was held to consider the proposed diversion of the highway from the Town to Pendley.  The inhabitants gave their consent to the proposed diversion.  The consent of the inhabitants was also given to the stopping of the footpath leading to Pendley across Dunsley Farm to the swing gate and also to the footpath across Pendley Park as far as the path is in the Parish of Tring.  The above consents were conditional on the part of Thos. Butcher Jr. & John Brown on the understanding that the ratepayers were to be called upon to pay £300 towards the execution of the New Road and the payments were to be distributed over 6 years.”

Tring Vestry Minutes 17th October 1837.


“The inhabitants of Tring have held a meeting at which it was agreed to form a new road from the town to the station.  Mr. Kay and Captain Harcourt having given the land for that purpose, and the needed funds raised, buildings are already in progress, and the inhabitants are making every exertion to accommodate the public that every day throng this beautiful neighbourhood, which, from the variety of hill and dale, wood and water, combined with the extensive views it commands, is likely to become a place of importance.”

The Bucks Gazette, 28th October 1837.


The new highway from Tring to Pendley, to be known as the Station Road, is completed, and in good condition.”

Tring Vestry Minutes, September 1838.


In his notes on the Town’s history, Arthur MacDonald leaves a brief mention of Station Road’s builders:
 

Bank Alley [off Tring High Street] (now occupied by Mr William Johnson, butcher) was formerly the emporium of Mr Bull, saddler, a leading man in the place and very wise in road making.  He superintended the formation of the cutting embankment at Beggar Bush Hill on the Aylesbury Road, also the making of the new Station Road in 1838, when he and Mr William Brown were Highway Surveyors.  He held the post of Parish Constable at the same time, with great effect upon unruly railway navvies.


While one might argue that Tring never became the place of importance envisaged by the Bucks Gazette, Station Road is, nevertheless, an important highway carrying a high volume of traffic during the commuting periods to and from the Town and its increasingly built-up surrounding area.


Other roads leading from the main highway.


Sunken roads.


From the earliest times until well into the 20th century, the principal pursuit in this locality was agriculture.  Originally, the land would have been covered with woods and open rough scrub that people used to graze their cattle, sheep, pigs and geese; this came to be known as common land, or simply as the ‘common’ and the right to its use was guarded jealously by the local parishioners:
 

“At a Publick Vestry it was agreed that whereas the Scrubs & Heath upon Tring Common have been unlawfully cut by persons not inhabitants of this Parish to the great detriment of the Poor and the Parish in general.  Also several persons have made a common practice to take up the sheep dung from the Common to the great damage thereof.  Now to prevent these practices and that there may not be any further incroachments We do hereby agree that John Geary shall be appointed a keeper of the Common to prevent any person not inhabitants from cutting the scrub, gathering the dung and also to impound the cattle of any person which shall unlawfully depasture the Common.”

Tring Vestry Minutes, 4th May 1773.


At the Vestry held by adjournment to consider the best method to proceed to prevent the Parishoners of Wigginton from trespassing upon the
[Tring] Common.  It is ordered that Sanuel Herbert Attorney shall as soon as possible search all the Ancient Records belonging to this Parish and enquire of and find out such ancient people as formerly belonged to this Parish and get what light may be obtained in regard to the [Tring] Common and when he has obtained the same lay it before the whole Vestry to consider what steps shall be taken.”

Tring Vestry Minutes, 2nd July 1773.


Livestock were put out each day, often supervised by the very young or infirm, and each night returned to the farm.  The farm needed to have direct and convenient access to the common, and tracks from farm to common eventually became worn and sunken through constant use, sometimes further sunken over the years by the action of torrents of rainwater sweeping down them.  Many of these tracks exist today as ‘sunken roads’, also known as ‘holloways’, particularly in areas of soft chalky ground into which tracks are easily worn.  They are characterised by high embankments on each side, sometimes topped with hedges and trees that can give the traveller the impression of passing through a tunnel.

There are a number of sunken roads in the Tring locality, although long out of use for their original purpose.  Some, such as that from Icknield Way to Drayton Beauchamp and that from Tring to Hastoe, have been given a metalled surface and made over to motor traffic.  Others, which no longer serve any socio-economic purposes, such as Leafy Lane between West Leith and Hastoe, have become footpaths/bridle ways for leisure use.  Their history goes back to Saxon times, when arable land in the vale of Aylesbury was considered too valuable to use for grazing, so during the summer months the communities in the localities of what today we know as Buckland, Drayton Beauchamp, Wilstone and Marsworth drove their animals up into the hills in the vicinities of today’s St Leonards, Cholesbury and Hawridge to graze on the scrubland.  Over time, as centralised administration became established, elongated parishes came to be established in which villages/hamlets located on the plain had a counterpart several miles away in the hills ― perhaps the most obvious example on today’s map is the village of Buckland in Aylesbury Vale, the grazing land for which, Buckland Common, is located on the ridge of the Chilterns some 5 miles to the south-east.  A number of these elongated parishes remain as historical curiosities, several miles long but often no more than a half-mile wide, together with traces of their sunken roads ― some metalled others footpaths ― that linked them with their former summer grazing.

 

Sunken roads (Holloways) near Tring.

Bottom Road (metalled) near Dancersend.

Footpath through Pavis Wood, Hastoe.


Local roads.


Other traffic by foot or by horseback was mostly within the immediate area, between farms and nearby hamlets, and to any local town, such as Tring, where the church [17] and market would have been the main destinations:


“The market is held on Fridays according to a charter of King Charles II, who decreed that straw plait should be sold in the mornings and corn after mid-day. A great deal of business used to be transacted at the markets, but practically no straw work is sold now except a little fancy plait, and the corn market has dwindled to three or four purchasers. The chief corn trade of the town is now done by auction at the fat stock market, which is held on Mondays. There was a market-house at Tring in 1650, with a court loft over it, in which was held the court baron and leet of the manor.

Victoria County History ― Hertfordshire (1908).


Direct cross-country routes would have been taken, which, over time and through customary use became a ‘way’ (footpath, lane or road).  Other reasons for a way into a town developing were the need to transport building materials (flint, bricks and tiles) by packhorse from local pits and brickyards, of which there were a number in the Saint Leonards/Cholesbury area.  There was also a need to transport grain for malting and brewing in an age when, due to unsafe water, much more beer was drunk than today.

And so, over the centuries, a network of ‘ways’ developed into the town.  By the date of the first Tring Estate map  (1719) and that of Dury and Andrews (1766), the town’s principal roads were established ― these we know today as Akeman Street, Frogmore Street, Miswell Lane, Mortimer Hill and Grove Road/Cow Lane.


Tring Grove, then a hamlet ― Dury and Andrews c.1766.
Key: Gove Road, purple; Marshcroft Lane, green; Cow Lane Blue; unnamed lane (now a footpath), red.
It seems that a windmill (vide map, top, left of centre) once stood in the vicinity of

today’s Lakeside, from which the area ― still called ‘New Mill’  ― takes its name.


The maps above and below illustrate a few instances of the changing face of Tring in the Grove Road area.  The Dury and Andrews map above (c. 1766) shows the hamlet of Tring Grove.  At that time, much of the land in that area belonged to John and Mary Sear, who inhabited Grove House.  According to a contemporary description, their estate comprised a large manor house,
large walled garden, pleasure ground and shrubberies ― the site of which Dury and Andrews mark on their map ― together with farm land.  Mary Sear died in 1807, by then a widow.  Sometime afterwards the property was let, but did not survive long.  In 1811 the house was surveyed and found to be in a very dilapidated condition, and it was recommended that it should be demolished and the materials sold.  When this happened is not clear, but Bryants map of 1822 shows what appears to be the walled garden without the house, while on the Ordnance Survey map below (1822-34), all trace of Grove House has disappeared.

Other noticeable differences between the two maps are that the road across Little Dunsley Field, shown above in red, has disappeared ― although a footpath still survives ― while the hamlet of Dunsley is bypassed by new road construction (yellow on the map below) built c.1822, which corresponds with todays alignment.



The Brook Street/Wingrave Road/Tringford Road area also experienced change during the first half of the 19th century.  This followed construction of the windmill and canal wharf at Gamnel c.1810, the Silk Mill in 1823, and the Gas Works in 1850, while later in the century a boat-building business (later to become Bushell Brothers) also opened at Gamnel.  New housing was later built along these roads, together with a school (Gamnel Road School) and public house (The Queens Arms), to serve these working in the area, much of which survives.


The Old Robin Hood, Brook End.
The vent of the pub’s maltings (see also below) is just visible behind the second chimney.


The date of this watercolour is unknown.  It shows the brook from Tring Park, after which Brook Street takes its name, running beside the Robin Hood Inn.  The brook does not appear in old photographs, but whether it was diverted or culverted is not known.  The building on the right is Wigginton Manor.  It was here that Wigginton’s legal affairs were dealt with, but the building was not a manor house.  Apparently wrongdoers from the village were brought down to Tring to be placed in the stocks, which are just visible at the bottom of the picture.


An undated photograph of Brook End.


Inclosure.


Inclosure (modern spelling ‘Enclosure’) came at the end of the 18th century.  It was the process of physically changing the landscape to benefit the development of modern farming practices as technology improved.  Initiatives to enclose came either from landowners hoping to maximise rental from their estates, or from tenant farmers anxious to improve their farms.  Originally, land enclosures took place through informal agreement, but during the 17th century the practice developed of obtaining authorisation by Act of Parliament.  Under the Inclosure Acts, open fields and common land were enclosed with fences, hedges, ditches or embankments, thereby creating legal property rights over areas that had previously been considered common land.  Inclosure was carried out on a parish-by-parish basis, in the process changing the layout and size of fields, and thus the routes of roads and other rights of way.  Prior to inclosure, villages were surrounded by large, hedgeless ‘open fields’ that were farmed in strips.

The plan below, from 1793, is a part of the set of plans for the Grand Junction Canal then being built.  It relates to the Wendover Arm, and is interesting for showing the strips of common field that then existed at Little Tring before inclosure took place.



Each plan is accompanied by a schedule that gives, for each strip, its tenant, its area (in
acres, roods and poles) and how much the canal company paid for it (although at the time this plan was drawn up the land had not yet been bought).  For instance, in the plan above, strips 25 & 27 belonged to Drummond Smith Esq.; strip 26 to James Harding; strips 1, 2 & 3 to Mrs Mary Sear (of the Grove); strip 4 to William Butcher; and so on.

Inclosure first took place in Tring in 1799 under an Act of Parliament of 1797 (37 Geo. 3, C. 35) entitled “An Act for dividing, allotting and inclosing the open and common fields, common meadows and common pastures and waste land and ground within the parish of Tring in the County of Hertford”.  A survey was made, and the enclosure was drawn up on plans.  The Act granted the enclosure commissioner the necessary powers to create new public rights of way, and new roads were included of a specified width:


“. . . . the said Commissioners, or any Two of them, shall, and they are hereby authorized and required, in the first place, to set out and appoint such Public Roads and Ways in, over, and upon the Lands and Grounds by this Act directed to be divided, allotted, and inclosed, as they shall think necessary and proper; and that all such Public Roads and Ways (except Bridle and Footways) shall be and remain Forty Feet wide at least, and shall be fenced on both Sides thereof by such Person and Persons, and in such Manner, and within such Time, as the said Commissioners, or any Two of them, shall order or direct . . . .”


Not only was the medieval field strip system abolished in favour of enclosed fields, but new roads and footpaths designed to improve communications were also established for what today would be called ‘minor roads’ and also for the more important ‘carriage roads’.  All these roads had to be fenced and at least 40 ft. wide, one clause from the Act stating that:


“. . . . after the said Roads and Ways shall have been set out as aforesaid, the said Commissioners . . . . shall . . . . appoint some proper Person or Persons to be Surveyor of the said Carriage Roads; and such Surveyor shall cause the same to be properly formed and put into good and sufficient repair . . . . And that none of the Inhabitants of the Parish of Tring shall be charged or chargeable …. towards the forming or repairing of the said Roads until the same shall be made fit for the passage of Travellers and Carriages, and shall be certified so to be by the said Surveyor”.


In Tring, these new ‘Roads and Ways’ leading from the main highway appear, more or less, to have followed the existing routes, but some of the road names have since been changed while others are now incorrect.  For more details see Appendix I.

During the mid-Victorian period, Tring experienced a building boom, and the part of the town ― now a Conservation Area known as the ‘Tring Triangle’ ― became built up.   The Local Board, comprising elected members, decided on the line of new streets, and much land changed hands.   James Honour, a prominent local builder, was requested to submit a street layout plan for the western side of Tring.   As with any committee, matters did not progress smoothly, and in 1865 one in a sequence of rows is reported, when the Clerk resigned on account of the publication of a printed circular signed by the Chairman in which his ‘professional honour’ was called in question. The Chairman again left the chair of the meeting, and the question of Mr Honour’s roads was abandoned.  Eventually, all was settled, the result being the network of small side streets, some bearing royal names, on the south side of Tring.  For more details relating to the streets in the heart of the Tring Triangle see Appendix II.


Costs and Disputes.


Disputes over matters relating to roads were nothing new.  Tring Vestry Minutes record that prior to Victorian times, laws were passed in the reigns of James I and Charles I applying to the supply and upkeep of royal carriages for use on public highways.  These demands were considered outrageous by many ordinary citizens, including those in Tring:
 

1625, January. At the Hertford Sessions, that whereas for the earlier discharge of the King’s carriages the County in general agreement in regard of the great disability of these parts adjoining Theobalds and Royston, that the burden of such carriages should be borne by contribution of the whole county, but the inhabitants of the towns of Aldbury, Tring, Berkhamsted, and the hamlets of Long Marston and Wilstone, and divers others, obstinately refuse to pay the same and also refuse to appear at the Sessions, or before any Justices.  The Court now desires certain Justices to attend the Board of Greencloth [18] to crave their assistance for the reformation of the said abuses, by calling the said comtemptious [sic] persons before them, and enforcing them to pay all such moneys as are due from them.

1669, April 1st. At Hertford Sessions, presentations by Sebastian Grace, John Dagnall, John Harding, Thomas Seabrooke and John Foster the elder, all of Tring, that they refused to assist in repairing the highway at Long Marston.


Financial problems were sometimes settled amicably and sensibly, some examples from the Tring Vestry Minutes include:
 

1767, 28th January. At a Publick Vestry it is agreed between John Seare of Tring Grove, viz. that they will so as they [presumably members of the Vestry] may, or can deliver at their own expense upon parts of the commonly called New Road, 20 loads of stones annually towards the repairing of the road and will excuse the duty John Seare upon the other bye roads of Tring Parish so as he perform his duty on the New Road without calling upon the Surveyors to allow or provide anything further towards the repairs thereof. Signed by John Seare and other names.

1822. During the engagement of Mr J H Maynard as Surveyor of the roads in this county, he has rendered great relief to different parishes; employing the superfluous poor collecting and preparing materials, and introducing any advantageous plan for improving the highways. In the parish of Tring, Mr Maynard in the space of nine months, expended upwards of £300 assisting the poor who otherwise must have been supported by parish relief.

1826. At the Hertford Sessions, the inhabitants of Tring were indicted for not repairing 2,500 yds. of road to Chesham, starting at an oak tree in Little Meadow, the property of William Kay Esq., at Hastoe Cross, and ending at a gate on Cholesbury Common which marks the boundary between the counties of Hertford and Buckingham. The Court discharged the case, upon a certificate being produced that the road had been repaired.

1826. It was ascertained by Mr Rogers, one of the Guardians of the Poor, that two of the men employed upon the road in Akeman Street (Oakley and Nash) were neglecting their work, and sitting by the roadside asleep. He therefore took up their tools and discharged them. They both said they “did not care about being turned off their work”.

1838. A letter was sent to the Hertford Sessions by the Sparrows Hearne Turnpike Trust stating that in consequence of the great reduction in the income of this road occasioned by the L & B Railroad, the trustees find that they are under the necessity of throwing upon the county the repair of all county bridges on this road, and of 300 sq.ft. of the road at each end of such bridges. They request that the County Surveyor be instructed to attend to these repairs.


Local costs were scrutinised in detail and with care, and sometimes matters had to be thoroughly investigated.  It is not recorded how these examples below from Tring Vestry Minutes arose:
 

1856, 2nd May. Tring. J Grover’s accounts as Surveyor of the Highways were brought before the Vestry who refused to pass them.  The Reverend James Williams of Tring Park said that he strongly objected, and they must be examined by the magistrates.

1856, 28th May. Tring. J Grover’s accounts were brought before the magistrates, and after some discussion they were ultimately passed.  With the exception of £4 Grover had incurred for Law expenses, which were not allowed, and Grover must pay them himself.  General satisfaction is felt in the town at the result and gratitude to the Reverend Williams for his stand in this matter.


Drains and Lighting.

 

Ten years later, concerns were being expressed about the dire state of Tring’s drains, and deputations from the Local Board travelled to large towns such as Northampton to seek advice on the matter; in 1866 a very large sum was borrowed and improvements gradually started to be implemented, as well as the on-going work entailed in providing a mains water supply.

In 1870, the Grand Junction Canal Company came into legal conflict with the Tring Local Board of Health over contamination of Tringford Reservoir and the spread of disease:
 

“Part of the drainage of this town [Tring] is carried away by a sewer which empties itself into the canal-reservoir to the north. Before this sewer was made the reservoir received only spring-water, a matter of some importance, as some neighbouring villages drew their water from the stream that flows from the reservoir.  After the turning in of the sewer, in summer, when the water in the reservoir was low, it stank abominably; and worse, diphtheria, typhoid fever, and other such diseases, were frequent in the villages.”

The Water Supply of Buckinghamshire and of Hertfordshire, W. Whitaker (1921).


The canal company sued for damages.  They complained of the pollution and of the additional expense incurred in pumping water up from Tringford reservoir that would otherwise have flowed directly into the Wendover Arm along Tring Brook and were granted an injunction against the Tring Board of Health, the Lord Chancellor ruling that “the right of enjoyment of surface water in a flowing stream must not be interfered with” ― public health issues did not appear to enter into the argument!  Standards of public health have of course improved out of all measure since 1870, and today the canal summit obtains a useful supply of cleaned water from Tring sewage works.

During the ten years preceding WWI the Council was again much preoccupied by the essential question of laying a more modern sewerage system in certain parts of the town.  This work got underway in a piecemeal fashion and major road works were again necessary as pipes had to be laid beneath road surfaces.


Laying the new sewer in Langdon Street aroused sufficient local interest for this
postcard to be made to record the event.


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APPENDIX I.

Roads created from Tring by the Inclosure Act of 1799.


Wingrave Road was a continuation of Frogmore Street. It extended from Bunstrux Hill through Little Tring and Tringford (i.e. the area adjacent to Tringford and Startop’s End reservoirs) to Long Marston. The present Wingrave Road in New Mill appears to be incorrectly named.

Winslow Road led from London Road at Pendley Beeches (i.e. the wooded area to the east of the Cow lane/A4251 junction) passing along Cow Lane and Grove Road to Wingrave Road at Tringford.

Windsor Way was the road forming the boundary between Tring and Wigginton parishes set out under the Inclosure was half the specified width at 20 ft. and this was paid for by Tring, the remaining half being left for Wigginton to undertake. In the event, the villagers found the 20 ft. sufficiently convenient without further outlay.

Aldbury Road led out of the Winslow Road about halfway up Cow Lane, it extended over what is now Pendley Park until it reached Aldbury Parish boundary. This road was rendered redundant in 1838 following the opening of Station Road.


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APPENDIX II.

Streets in the ‘Tring Triangle’.

Streets in the heart of the Tring Triangle:
[this information is obtained from various individuals – all now deceased - and may contain errors!].


Langdon Street (known from 1711 as the ‘Gore Gap’) took its name from George Langdon of Old Street, City Road, a linen manufacturer, who died in 1827.  He owned two pieces of land amounting to four acres in Gravelly Furlong Road, an area on the east side of Langdon Street.  This straight road connected Park Road with the old road, which ran from Abstacle Hill to Parsonage Bottom before Western Road was built in 1822.  A Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1842, replaced in 1870 by a larger chapel now demolished. Langdon Street was taken over as a street by the Local Board in 1866.

Charles Street was a short stretch of old road known as King Charles Place.  Extended in 1865, and set out to be 20 ft. wide, the Local Board paid for the land at £3 a pole (1 pole = 5½ yards).  In 1866 the Local Board accepted an offer of land from John Brown, owner of the Kings Arms, to extend Charles Street into King Street.

King Street was commenced at the east end by a Mr Edwin, who built a block of four houses adjoining Langdon Street; later the builder, James Honour, sold eight poles of land to widen King Street from the Kings Arms to Chapel Street.  In the late Victorian period, the Reverend Arthur Pope, Vicar of Tring, erected The Furlong for use as a clergy house and an Infants’ School, both now demolished.

Queen Street is of a more recent date and was once Gower Street.  For many years, a well-used sub-post office (now a private house) stood on the corner with King Street.

Henry Street belonged to three Henrys ― two Henry Tompkins and one Henry Adams.  In 1862, after complaints by the vicar of Tring that the street was in a dangerous state, notice was served on the owners to put it in proper order before it was taken over by the Local Board as a public highway.


The former Ebenezer Chapel after which Chapel Street is named.


Chapel Street acquired its name after Western Road was formed, and was formerly a continuation of another old road named Miswell (or Windmill) Lane which ran from Icknield Way to the Park Road portion of the coach road.  It took its name from an Ebenezer Chapel which seated 300 and was used by a congregation of General Baptists. Opposite is a small Anglican church, St Martha & St Mary, - another of Reverend Pope’s generous gifts to the town.

Albert Street named no doubt after the Prince Consort was formed in 1864-66 on land owned by brewer, John Brown; some cottages were pulled down to form the entrance from Akeman Street.  In the following year the Tring Gas Light & Coke Company laid a main.  As well as houses of different periods, the street contained several shops and a boot factory, later to become the Salvation Army Citadel.

Akeman Street. It is not known why this road was so named, for it does not form part of the route of the original Roman road. One of the oldest streets in the town, until the middle of the 20th century it was lined with shops and businesses, with small crowded courtyards surrounded by houses leading off. Many of these were demolished after the typhoid epidemic of 1899, when Lord Rothschild established a rebuilding programme.


An undated view down Akeman Street.


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FOOTNOTES.

 
1. The name ‘Icknield’ is thought to derive from the Iceni tribe of ancient Britons of Queen Boadicea fame.
 
2. Anglo-Saxon charters are documents from the early medieval period in England, which typically made a grant of land or recorded a privilege.
 
3. Long before King Harold marched his army from York to that fateful meeting with Duke William at Hastings in 1066, there were four major highways covering the length and breadth of much of England, Watling Street, Ermine Street, the Fosse Way, and the Icknield Way.  From the 10th century onward, these royal highways were maintained by order of the king whose protection was extended to travellers making use of them.  However, there is some confusion about the identity of the ‘Icknield Way’ here referred to ― see footnote 9, Chapter 1.
 
4. The name of the present-day Akeman Street in Tring has nothing to do with the route of the nearby Roman road after which it was named.
 
5. The findings of The Viatores were published in Roman Roads in South East Midlands (Gollancz, 1964).
 
6. An ‘agger’ is an ancient Roman embankment or rampart, or any artificial elevation.
 
7. Referred to in the Sparrows Herne Minute Book No.4.
 
8. ‘Bottle Cross’ ― a nickname derived from an ornamental cross of black glass bottle ends set high in the gable of one of a row of (long demolished) cottages facing Western Road.
 
9. Taking its name from ‘The Old Maidenhead’, an alehouse once located on the corner of Park Road and Akeman Street.  It was common in the Middle Ages for plague victims and others with ghastly conditions to be buried outside the city walls or in a designated area outside small towns.  It is thought that
Pestle Ditch Way most likely referred to the place in Tring where such was the case.
 
10. ‘Gore Gap’, named after William Gore junior ― located on the corner of High Street and Langdon Street.
 
11. From Hertford Quarter Sessisons Book, vol.7.
 
12. HRO, TP4/140. In the Bond, James Bull is shown as a ‘collar maker’ which refers to horses’ collars. In Trade Directories a little later he is listed as ‘saddler and harness maker’ of Market Street, Tring.
 
13. Beggar Bush – a general name referring to the hawthorn shrub, and meaning the place for those who had no alternative but to sleep under the hedge.
 
14. HRO TP4 /140 ― Correspondence, tenders, contracts and bonds relating to road improvement at Beggar Bush Hill, Buckland (Buckinghamshire). Held at the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Office.
 
15. HRO TP4 /140 ― Correspondence, tenders, contracts and bonds relating to road improvement at Beggar Bush Hill, Buckland (Buckinghamshire). Held at the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Office.
 
16. HRO TP4 /140 ― Correspondence, tenders, contracts and bonds relating to road improvement at Beggar Bush Hill, Buckland (Buckinghamshire). Held at the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Office.
 
17. Until the Marriage Act of 1836, marriages had to be overseen by the Church of England, even if the couples were not members.  The 1836 Act allowed for non-religious civil marriages to be held in register offices.  These were set up in towns and cities across England and Wales.  The act also meant nonconformists and Catholic couples could marry in their own places of worship according to their own rites.
 
18. A committee of the Royal Household taking its name from a green-coloured table at which it was the custom for the Board to sit when transacting business.


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