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Unique toll road posts added to heritage list

From left to right: mileposts near Newbold-on-Stour, in Tredington, in Shipston-on-Stour, near Little Wolford, north of Long Compton, and by the village hall.
From left to right: mileposts near Newbold-on-Stour, in Tredington, in Shipston-on-Stour, near Little Wolford, north of Long Compton, and by the village hall.

ALL six recently-restored and nationally unique mileposts along what was the Stratford to Long Compton Turnpike have been given Grade II-Listed status by Historic England.

It comes as something of an official pat on the back for the members of the Milestone Society who have led the Lottery-funded £35,000 project.

There was also help from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Two of the 9ft high mileposts were already listed — one in Little Wolford and another in Newbold, although that one had been stored in pieces in Shipston Museum after being damaged.

The Listing on the Historic England website describes the six posts as having ‘an unusually ornate and visual design’ and being ‘testament to the wave of road improvement and the introduction of turnpikes which facilitated the transport needs of this part of Warwickshire in the 18th and 19th centuries’.

They are the only known survivors of a series installed sometime in the second quarter of the 19th century by the Trustees of the Stratford-upon-Avon to Long Compton Turnpike — a toll road — and are among just 60 historic mile markers that still exist in Warwickshire.

A quarter of are now Listed, with a third in what has been described as a “decent condition” by Rob Caldicott of the Milestone Society.

The group will now turn its attention to repairing two milestones in Brailes, one at each end of the village.

The careful restoration of the mileposts along the Stratford to Long Compton Turnpike began back in 2011 when the society found one buried in undergrowth in Little Wolford, “very nearly complete and undamaged as a casting,” said Mr Caldicott.

“We’re pleased that we’ve had the seal of approval for this project. Although that gives them a little bit more protection it is still up to local people and interested groups to maintain and restore them.”

Mr Caldicott added: “The physical restoration of the posts was only half of the project. We’ve done a lot of promotion, and have had a very nice leaflet produced of local walks which take people the length of the turnpikes and visits to other things along the way such as the Rollright Stones.”

The road from Stratford to Long Compton formed part of important route between the south coast ports, and Oxford, Stratford and Birmingham in the mid-18th century, known as ‘The Irish Road’.

In was turned into a toll road by Acts of Parliament in 1729 and 1730 and was distinguished by its nationally unique set of cast iron mileposts that resembled tall gas lamps, but with large noticeboards carrying destination names and distances, with pointing hands.

There were tollgates in Bridgetown in Stratford, Honington, Shipston, Fursehill and Long Compton Hill, although its route did change slightly in the coming years.

Turnpikes were run by local trusts, and the first meeting of the Stratford to Long Compton took place at the Bear Inn in Bridgetown on 22nd June, 1730, with subsequent meetings usually taking place at The George Hotel in Shipston. The final meeting of trustees was on 22nd November, 1877, when steam train took off.

The milestones that survive from Newbold to the end of the Turnpike at Stratford are of the conventional sort, although one other similar tall post is known locally in Ettington on what was the turnpike from Warwick to Paddle Brook, near Stretton-on-Fosse.

Mr Caldicott added: “Warwickshire is slightly unusual in that it’s only got a fairly small number of original posts. They are things that people are familiar with but there aren’t very many of them.

“A lot were deliberately damaged during the war, when people went around pushing them over and defacing them in fear that there would be an invasion from Hitler and that the German soldier would arrive without maps! Others will have been damaged during roadworks.

“We know where they all are and we are working on a website that details each and their locations.”

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