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Few people travelled for pleasure in Elizabethan England, but people did travel, mainly on foot or horseback, following a vast network of footpaths and bridleways. Occasionally, travellers used one of the major highways such as the London to Bristol road, later known as the Bath Road. Many roads were little more than narrow green tracks across the countryside offering the traveller a wide choice of routes. During the 19th century, some were upgraded, turnpiked and eventually macadamised, but others remained as footpaths or bridleways. Parliamentary Enclosure also affected the road network, by providing access to the new fields and defining the road as a 'fixed route'.
In researching the roads and tracks of Elizabethan Hungerford, we have made use of the first maps available, those of the late 18th century (e.g. John Rocque). Although these are not as accurate as the later Ordnance Survey, they do provide some idea of the early road network. Map 3 indicates our interpretation of 16th century Hungerford's roads and green lanes.
The most important route was that taken by travellers from London to Bristol, which later became known as the Bath Road. There were two alternative routes. The first, and perhaps less popular because it was liable to floods and very steep at Savemake, was the route of the present A4. This passed along Chamham Street. A well used alternative route was via Upper Denford and along Gipsy Lane and then through Leverton, Chilton Foliat and Ramsbury, following the Kennet Valley to Marlborough.
The other main through route was the north-south route from Oxford to Salisbury. This descended Wantage Hill, and wound through Eddington village to emerge at the foot of the Kennet Bridge. From Charnham Street it veered south along a line directly in front of the house now called Riverside, forded the river Dun where the two arms join by the present War Memorial, and then headed south up the High Street. According to 18th century maps, there were two southerly routes out of Hungerford, not one as at present. One ran due south from the Church, along the modern Church Way and so following roughly the line of Salisbury Road. The second road veered left at the top of the High Street along the old "Moon Lane' and Priory Road as far as De Montfort Grove. Then it continued due south, following the present public footpath, and emerged at Sanham Green Farm, to link up with the Inkpen road. It then continued to the south west until it joined up with the main road to Salisbury.
Odd though it may seem today, the 18th century map-makers seem to stress the importance of the Sanham Green route as the main exit to the south. To present day travellers, the link between the two routes at the top of the High Street seems obvious. The answer presumably lies in the overwhelming predominance of local traffic over longer-distance travel.
There also appear to have been changes in the road network across Port Down to Kintbury and Inkpen. The Hungerford/Kintbury route seems to have run between the common fields of the Breach and Everlong, along the present line of Park Street. The boundary of Everlong, still in evidence today, led directly to the Kintbury Gate and the road followed it here and there in the dense thicket that now covers the route down to the Denford crossroads. Traces of a boundary bank and ditch can still be seen here. No doubt this was a very well used pedestrian route in the 16th century.
What might have diverted this path, and also the main route through to Inkpen, from taking a direct course to their respective gates on the Common were the activities of Mr Henry Sadler in Hungerford Park. In the Special Commission of 1587, Mr Sadler was said to have made a new gate for his carriages towards Everleigh and Helmes Heath. As Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster, he had frequent business in Hungerford, but his main residence was at Everleigh, near Collingbourne Ducis. The present disused gateway and drive to the west side of the Park was his most direct route and, presumably, the gate referred to. There may well also have been another road from Denford, along the western boundary of the Park and along the now vanished TDeadmaris Lane'. The 18th century maps, and the Enclosure Maps, show this road clearly.
The modern traveller can get some idea of the scale of a 16th century village street by following the old road through Hungerford Newtown village where it diverts today in front of the inn and loops round to rejoin the main road a few hundred yards on. This street was too narrow for the stage coaches to pass through and the village was later bypassed by the Wantage turnpike.
Hungerford's outlying manors were also well served by a number of footpaths. One of the most easily identifiable links, no doubt in constant use by the residents of Standen Hussey, was the footpath running from Smitham Bridge leading to Standen Manor today. Not quite as obvious is the path leading off the Inkpen (Sanham Green) road to
Elm Copse, the site of Helmes Farm, which may have been the manor house of Helmes Manor. In keeping these footpaths in constant use today, we are helping to preserve a small, but significant, piece of history.
(From Elizabethan Hungerford, Julie Shuttleworth et al, 1995)
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