Category Archives: Roman

A30 Tales – Tower Hill

getfileattachment2.jpg
The old and new ways of travel – Milestone on The A30, and The M3 beyond © Nigel Smith

This article could have been called ‘A Tale of 2 Junctions, and a half’ as it’s really a companion piece to my earlier blog on the M3.

When the first stage of the M3 Motorway was built, Junctions 7 and 8 arrived, changing the function and access to the existing routes The A30 and the A33. I looked at Dummer, North Waltham and Popham, villages effected along the A30.

Dummer, in Hampshire, U.K. has several roads serving it, most going under or over the motorway now. There is one road that now comes to an abrupt halt at the M3 motorway.
When the motorway arrived a new road was built, close The Sun Inn, which went underneath the motorway.

dum-2
Up to date A30 © Ordnance Survey

What the new map doesn’t show so clearly is the lane carrying on across the A30. It took a couple of passing glances to realise this was an original route to Dummer, which the old maps confirmed.

dum1
Pre motorway, the old lane to Dummer in the 1960’s © Ordnance Survey

So I undertook this photo essay to try to follow the route where I could. Starting from the crossroads at The A30, the lane comes from North Waltham and was called ‘Maidenthorne Lane’.

GetFileAttachment-2
Junction for North Waltham © Nigel Smith
GetFileAttachment-1
Not to be confused with the lesser known landmark in London… © Nigel Smith

At the juction is the Tower Hill  Guest house, (which looks quite spacious and set back). Looking at the maps, the name relates to Tower Hill Farm over in Dummer.

GetFileAttachment-7
© Nigel Smith

There are a couple more properties on the left hand side, and though the original course comes to end, a new track winds round to the side.

GetFileAttachment-10
© Nigel Smith

After this point I couldn’t see any more properties marked on old maps, until Dummer. This may have been a deciding factor in it being decided to close it off, and a new road built to navigate the motorway. The M3 was opened in 1971.

GetFileAttachment-5
A quick glance back  down the lane to the A30…© Nigel Smith

The missing route to Dummer

We need to go a visit the other end of the lane to see where it came out into Dummer…

terrain
© Google Maps showing the new road to Dummer
route
The bit in pink shows the surviving part of the lane

On Google Maps, through a field now farmed, there looks like maybe faint markings  where the original lane travelled. It’s been less than 50 years since a road was here!

GetFileAttachment-1
© Nigel Smith

Above You can see the lane snaking from North Waltham in the distance. The junction by the guest house is in the dip, and the motorway is obscured from view. I think where I’m standing would have been on it’s course.

GetFileAttachment-7
The point where the lane joined? © Nigel Smith

As I’m at Dummer, it’ll be rude no to visit. On the left there is a newish sign for ‘Tower Hill’. I guess these cottages use this in their address (and not ‘Up Lane’ which the new road is called). This in my mind helps joins up the two ends of the lane nicely, but I can’t confirm it yet.

tower
Tower Hill is still on the sign post…

If anyone from Dummer or has connections has any information, I’d love to hear more. What did the missing lane look like? If anyone has evidence of the lost part from memory or even a photo where the lane is now lost, that would be great to see!

GetFileAttachment-2
Tower Hill Farmhouse in Dummer on the right © Nigel Smith

I also would like to know more why the Farm was called ‘Tower Hill’ if anyone can shed some light the local history?

GetFileAttachment-9
The back of Tower Hill Farm, a listed barn © Nigel Smith
Advertisements

The House Baring All

port3

Recently, I’ve been pre-occupied with starting the new job, that I’ve not had the opportunity to think about new subjects for the blog. My new commute takes me by a place I had heard of before, that had witnessed a dramatic change to its appearance. I just had to make some time to do this, with Christmas approaching fast.

Stratton Park, sits pretty much mid-way between Basingstoke & Winchester, off the A33. The M3 now cuts along its western edge, but there some have also been some dramatic changes to the house. Despite seeing photos, (and its impossible not to have an opinion on it when you see them),  it was still an eye-opener to witness in it’s ‘current’ form…

statton map1900

As the above map shows, The Silchester – Winchester roman road runs on the Western edge and sadly much of this stretch is under under the M3 Motorway. The village of East Stratton at its southern boundary, like many villages close to an estate, has found its fortunes effected by the landowner’s decision on more than one occasion.

The Walk

I finally arranged a time to go and explore. Saturday December 9th started off quite cold and by lunchtime the bright sun of the morning had turned watery. Still wrapped up well, the frost had mostly cleared except for a few pockets. Parking at the village hall and turning right to the small village of East Stratton, I passed the church on my left.
I was surprised by the quiteness considering we were so close to the Motorway, but the stretch nearby is just 2 lanes and maybe a factor, The village is shielded by woodland.

strat_newchurch
East Stratton’s ‘new’ Church© Nigel Smith

The first junction I came to, by the war memorial I turned left.  The road was unamed, but it was a right of way. I thought I knew the purpose of my walk, but here I had my first surprise with the varied types of cottages of different era’s around me. Feeling seasonal with decorations displayed on doors, but it was a real architectural surprise. The cold dampness of the day added to their rustic charm. As thatch cottages, maybe it is only now we desire them for the quaintness, but in the past they may have not been seen as so desirable to the nearby gentry.

Stratton-Village
© Nigel Smith
strat-vill
© Nigel Smith

DSCN4335

This is emphasised by the last house on left, which was quite large – and not thatched.
I assume connected to the estate in some way, and quite separate in style having a ‘grander’ presence than other properties. The road became more unmade and It was here I got my first glimpse of my destination – the ‘new’ Stratton Park.

path
First glimpse of the house…© Nigel Smith

But before we look at the house, The second surprise of the walk. Marked as a cross on the O.S. Landranger Map, the more detailed maps tells us this was actually the site of East Stratton’s first Church.

What I didn’t appreciate at the time of the walk, but from looking at some old maps since, was to find the village was bigger in the past. Though probably not as acurate as newer maps, we can see dwellings clearly marked on lanes (I have indicated in yellow). It seems also like the ‘centre’ of the village with a broad clearing, (almost acting as a village square?), and more importantly the site of the old church makes some sense. On later maps, a school was still shown to be in use, and now as one of the houses that has managed to survive. I would think this helps link the relationship between the Villages of  ‘East’ and ‘West’ Stratton in a way which is not so obvious now. They were always seperated by the main Winchester to London Road, but today they seem distinctly apart as access has been changed.

new-idea
East Stratton on the 1810 O.S. map shows more lanes and dwellings in the village…
lost-roads
Where the lanes would have been on todays landscape

We are fortuntate to have reference to the old Church in J.P. Neale’s engraving of the house. From this angle, it does look ‘close’ to the property, but that sounds like I’m justifying its removal! I don’t know what sort of man Francis Baring, the Earl of Northbrook was, but he didn’t want the church, or villagers too close to his estate…

Strattonetch
Stratton Park 1818 by J.P. Neale
cross
Site of the original All Saints Church © Nigel Smith

The decision to remove The medieval church of ‘All Saints’ from the Stratton Park, (like at nearby Laverstoke), demonstrated an ‘absolute power’ landowners could wield in pretty much being able to do what they wanted on their land, and few could stop them.  What ever would the villagers of East Stratton felt, having their place of worship for hundreds of years moved as well as their dwellings? The site of the old church was duly marked with this cross – seen as ‘sacred’ land. However the landlord, The 4th Baron Ashburton,  went about it, The village was provided a new church, which was dedicated in 1888, and was the one I passed earlier as I started he walk. To the casual eye, this church looks like it has been there longer than 130 years…

DSCN4330
Storm damaged plaque from 1989, at the foot of the cross

My main reason for this walk has be to see the house. Surprise number 3. As I said, It’s impossible not to have a reaction to Stratton Park and yet I’m not as shocked by it as I thought I might be… True, the 60’s structure hasn’t aged well, if we are talking purely about the materials. It looks quite tired. At a distance it reminds me of some examples of post war architecture with the idea to juxtapose old with new architcture. (I’m thinking of examples I have seen at St. Lukes quad in Exeter, or The Guildhall in the City of London).

In The 60’s, The 7th (and current) Lord Baring set about pulling down the house and replacing it with modernist build by Stephen Gardiner and Christopher Knight between 1963 – 65. The only feature of the main house to survive was the Portico.

John Baring had a reputation of being ruthless dispensing with the old, such as remodelling the Family’s banking Headquarters in London, (and later at their ‘other’ Hampshire estate, The Grange, some 5 miles from Stratton park), where Baring also wanted to be ‘experimental’ in doing away with much of the original house, but was discouraged by the Government.

As we have seen ‘Basher Baring’ is a term which manages to hold some historic context to this site, as well as being a catchy dig by those horrifed by his approach. Yet he had his supporters at the time. ‘Country Life’ Magazine run an article in 1967, praising the bold statement.  Some commenators such as Pesvner were intrigued, if not fully committal. Even in more recent times, the house has been critiqued in the national press , and I must say seeing the images of its interior looking out, creates quite a different response – maybe closer the architect’s original ambition.

stratton-house-now
© Nigel Smith

At the time, I think I probably would have seen the architecutral merits in helping re-inventing the house. You could argue the house had always been in a state of modification. Yet now, 50 years on the house feels sad in it’s current form, losing some of its lustre. ‘New’ can be seen as cutting edge, but not always right in hindsight. Our attitides to country houses and their upkeep has changed in the last 50 years. We are probably more conservative toward conserving buildings than we were in the 1960’s.

DSCN4312
Parkland © Nigel Smith

Carrying on across the parkland, the footpath through the grounds diverts to the left. The ‘new build’ becomes obscured by the trees and to see around behind the portico shows how seperate this feature really is, standing proud. The brick gates to the house, I assume are original, and you can get quite a good glimpse of them. The path runs along the edge (and the motorway). This would have also been the course of the Roman Road.

 

DSCN4313
All that is left… The Portico © Nigel Smith
DSCN4321
The gates © Nigel Smith

The footpath contends with the noise of the motorway as you walk alongside it. Walking around the edge of the grounds, the house feels privately tucked away behind trees again. The footpath joins a drive and a bridge crosses over the Motorway before you meet the A33 road. Its marked as right of way, but you would feel ‘discouraged’ from starting from this end with the signage from the road stating its a private road.

DSCN4320
Looking back towards East Stratton © Nigel Smith

So I come back through the park, feeling I have taken enough in, and want to glance at Stratton park once more. There is a right away which would make the walk more circular, back to the Village hall, but I have enjoyed the terrain, and I will save that part for another time!

The History bit…

There is a a lot of reference to Stratton park online an in books on Hampshire.

Strattonetch
Stratton Park 1818 by J.P. Neale

The park and ownership, can be traced back to a monastic grange in the possession of Hyde Abbey, in Winchester c.900 A.D. For more information on Hyde Abbey read here.

With the disolution of the monastries, The land was seized in 1544 A.D. and the Manor of East Stratton came into the possession of an Edmund Clerke. It was soon to be purchased by the Earl of Southampton, Sir Thomas Wriothsley. There looks to be some conflict from sources I have seen, over exact dates  but the development from a manor into a country house and estate saw many alterations. Over time, from the Earls of Southampton, the house passed to The Duke of Bedford’s through marriage, and In the late 18th Century, the house and gardens were extended by Lord Russel – Fifth Duke of Bedford, (1765 -1802). In a later incarnation, much of the house, seen in the prints and early photography was designed by George Dance. The gardens were developed by Gertrude Jekyll).

For more on the history of the house, see here

The Baring Family are known for their London Banking history.  In 1798, the bank’s joint founder, Francis Baring purchased Stratton House. Hampshire has historically benefited by being close to London, but an easy retreat to get to and entertain. The house stayed in the family intil 1929 when on the death of the Lord Northbrook, when it was sold on to a Miss James, who converted it into a girls school.  What may be less known is that the house was re-purchased by the Baring Family after WW2.

Screen-strat
Stratton Park by R. Ackermann, 1828
StrattonPark2
A Photo of the Stratton Park from the 1930’s © Lost Heritage

 Then and Now…

stratton-then-and-now

The estate is well hidden from the motorway, but if you are driving by you can get a hint. From the M3,  southbound a couple of miles after junction 7 & before the Winchester Services, there is a little glimpse of an lodge that was part of the estate. On the western edge of the park there are 3 lodge houses that were at one time connected to the estate.The old O.S.maps refer to it as ‘London Lodge’.

Stratton-London-M3
‘London Lodge’ from the M3 © Nigel Smith
London-lodge
London Lodge, now a listed buiding © Nigel Smith

The Lodge along the A33 on the middle edge of the park is called, er Middle Lodge. Its not easy to stop along here as the dual carraigeway starts again, but its style is worth appreciating.

 

mid-lodge
Middle Lodge © Nigel Smith

The Southernmost Lodge is ‘Winchester Lodge’, in the direction of… I’m sure there is more to be said on these another day, but not in this blog…

IMG_8310
Winchester Lodge – The South end of the Estate © Nigel Smith

 

Walking a Roman Road

DSCN4012
Edge of the Roman Road towards Hannington © Nigel Smith

A early summer walk following part of a Roman Road through North Hampshire.

This is another one of those instances where driving through the area on my commute to Newbury, I look up something of interest and I want to further investigate on foot when I get the chance… The early June day I picked was perfect weather for walking.
On the map the roman road is marked as ‘Port Way’. The part I’ll be walking is defined by a line of tree planting and I also see the term ‘Ceasar’s Belt’ on maps which I think is related to forestry and not the Emperor’s clothes…

‘Port Way’ is the name given to the road between the Roman settlements of silchester in Hampshire and Old Saram in Wiltshire, near Salisbury, (and part of the longer network between Dorchester and London). With the trees lining the route its hard to a tell how much of the original structure of the road remains, but there are some well defined ditches and undulations. The percieved knowlege of the historians through excavations carried out on Port Way suggest what we have today is ‘pretty well preserved example’ for an almost 2000 year old road. Not all roman roads were built up and depending on their importance, but this one used the engineering techniques of the day.

The Walk

  1. There is a layby near the start of the walk. There are some cottages called ‘Clapgate’ beside the old A34, (which must be a reference to a stopping post?) heres my map to show the route.
map of clapgare
© Nigel Smith

We are starting on the roman road. Its a slight rise and initially earthworks are visable. There are enclosures close and its not long before I see some Dear and other wildlife.

DSCN4010
Route of the roman road is to the right © Nigel Smith

The path then seems to be directed to run alongside and trees continue to mark the route. Its not long before the view opens up into rolling countryside.

Farm access means there is a track alongside. Its tempting to see a piece of rock and think you are looking at an original surface but as this is part of a farm, there are tracks so its probably infall!

DSCN4011
I so much want these fragments to be the original roman surface…

2). The walk is rising gradually and then over the crest we come down to a road. There’s a fallen tree so its a good place to sit and open the flask.

DSCN4014
First place to stop after crossing the road © Nigel Smith

After the next bit it is a steeper climb, but the views are rewarding. To the left there looks to be old black hut, but directly ahead is White Hill and the distinctive Hannington mast.

DSCN4015
We leave the course of the roman road here… © Nigel Smith

3). The path dips here and it is at this point our walk takes a left on an ajoining footpath. It is signposted, but over a stlye on the right hand side. The path rises again and picks a cross wind up, so I imagine some days this is quite an exposed part. I walk by the ‘hut’ I saw earlier and it turns out to be some derelict farm sheds…

There is quite a steep descent by a plantation and where we are going to cross the road again is visable. A really nice part of the walk!

DSCN4020
Flintshire or Hampshire?? © Nigel Smith

4). Crossing the road, at ‘Owls Lodge’ the amount of flint underfoot really shows up on this stretch. The O.S. map refers to ‘field systems’ being evident, which I guess dates from The Medieval period.  (I can see other references littered along Great Litchfield Down).

Back in the present day there are several lanes I cross for Down Farm. The track is gravel and stone, which is loose but well defined as it slowly rises.

DSCN4021
Beacon Hill in distance © Nigel Smith

5). I’ve got my spot for lunch. The view opens up again towards Beacon Hill. Wonderfully you can’t see the A34 running beneath it. On Beacon Hill, there is a grave for the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who’s ancestral home Highclere castle, (and setting for ‘Downton Abbey’), is behind the hill in the valley on the left. After lunch, back on to the the footpath, it is a tarmac road, so watch out for estate traffic.

DSCN4023
Looking back up the lane I’ve just walked down from luch spot

Down one side is a fine avenue of trees. There is a small row of estate workers houses, before we enter the village of Litchfield itself. Its a quiet place that also used to have its own railway station, (and I think I’ll come back to Litchfield in another blog sometime in more detail), but the old A34 used to run through the village, before the Dual Carraigeway was built.

6). Turn right by some converted stables then take the next left, by the rectory on the right. (The white building in the photo below).

DSCN4031
Converted Farm buildings in Litchfield across the old A34 © Nigel Smith

Opposite the rectory are the remains of a path up to the dissused station.

DSCN4043
Old railway gate, Litchfield © Nigel Smith

Ahead of us is the underpass of the A34 which we have to go through. This is suddenly the noisiest part of the whole walk. The road takes traffic from Winchester and The South Coast, up to Oxford and the M40!

DSCN4046
Not the prettiest picture I’ll take!

7). After the underpass, follow the path round to the right. I found My O.S. map wasn’t totally clear in signposting where the path would be, but I kept on following on and I eventually saw the signpost directed me left up a bank along a track. Looking back down I appeared to be back tracking, but then thankfully it veers to right through a gap and away from the noise on a small path.

DSCN4047
Not very well signposted, take the path to the right, and not carrying on the track…

The path follows some power lines up a hill. I still wanted some clarification I was heading on the right path, but it soon becomes very evident its the path!

DSCN4048
Towards Dunley © Nigel Smith

8). As you approach Dunley, the path has on the right what looks like converted farm buildings.  The path joins a lane which splits, take the left fork and at the juction of the road, cross it and follow the road signposted ‘Egbury’. There is a long avenue of trees and a gradual rise for a mile. It feels like part of an old estate.

DSCN4049
© Nigel Smith

9). You approach some gates to Dunley Park. Bear to the left around and carry on a short way through a gentle bend, where the road forks. Take the left route which is initially a made up track. You are entering Bradley Wood. We’re staying on this path through the wood. At the farm the track stops, but the path is defined around to the right of the property.

DSCN4050
Bradley Wood Farm © Nigel Smith

10). A feature on the map really intrigued me, and the main reason I wanted to explore. We’re picking up the ‘Portway’ roman road again as it runs through the wood. Clearly marked are some earthworks and what looks like ditches which the footpath will cross. The sun was shining again which added charm to the mixed woodland.

DSCN4052
© Nigel Smith

The wood feels old, but the trees have been planted over any archeology there was. Pollarding of trees would have been done many times in this woodland. I was hoping to see more defined features to be honest. Also, the features are on private land off the path so its hard to get close. Even where the path crosses the Roman Road its hard to make out any features, which is a real pity.
(A later walk I did in Dorset on a roman road, Ackling Dyke, was a better preserved example. read more here).

DSCN4057
The Roman Road… honest!

11). I carry on through the wood and there is another underpass beneath the A34.  A short gap brings me back almost full circle. Take care – the last part is along the roadside back to my car. Despite the last part not adding anything visual to the Roman experience, of the Portway, Its been a varied walk with some great views and woodland.

DSCN4060
I think I can see the car!

 

Details
Length: approx 7 miles
Terrian: some gradual climbs, mostly defined footpaths and tracks. Some Styles and partly along roadside.

Winklebury, The oldest settlement in Basingstoke?

newring

Its not easy to imagine how one of the post-war development areas of Basingstoke is actually one of the oldest settlements, but the signs are there with the remains of an Iron Age fort and a Roman Road.

Our first house we brought was on a housing estate in Winklebury, on the North western edge of Basingstoke. The imaginatively titled ‘Roman Road’ marked a distinctive boundary to the town, with fields beyond, and when looking for a place to live, we liked the proximety to open countryside. I could also see on the maps an earthwork feature which gave its name to the area.

fortclose up
1897 Ordanance Survey Map of Winklebury

Approaching Basingstoke from the A339, the fort still rises above the housing around it. In the past it would have been noticable on the gentle slope and a good strategic point.
The hillfort dates from the Iron Age. Excavations that were carried out in the 1970’s indicate it being established around the 6th Century BC, and possibly earlier. Hillforts weren’t always used as a ‘fort’ as we think of them, but certainly as a means of defending supplies and livestock. The evidence suggests that the defences were strengthened again
in the 3rd Century BC.

The roman road from Silchester to Winchester ran close to the fort and they may have utilized the enclosure. There are several roman sites in the area and a stone coffin was found on ‘Winklebury Hill’ with a skeleton. “Fred” can now be visited in The Willis Museum in Basingstoke, where he will tell you a little bit about his life!

After the Romans left, the site continued through the years to be used for various farming needs. From the medieval period through to the post war development, we can see the evolution of the name. It was always an area ‘away’ from the town, maybe a happily neglegted cluster of small holdings which didn’t rouse the attention of the authorities. ‘Bury’ meaning fort and was also a name of a farm, till the housing arrived in the 60’s.

webring6
An early photo of the scrubland nature of Winklebury in 1902

Below  is an aerial photograph of Winklebury before World War 2, with the old A339 Newbury Road, east to west (Now Wellington Terrace), and ‘Roman Road’ running north to South.

Wink then

Thankfully much of the original boundaries to the earthwork have survived, although eroded. The Fort Hill School being built within the ring has also protected the boundaries to a degree. The ring is now a Scheduled  Ancient Monument.

ringside

This southern section of the ramparts is a scramble up from ‘Corfe Walk’, Winklebury.
You get some sense of the elevation, which is lost on the northern edge.

You wonder how many of the locals really know about their bit of heritage. Thankfully there are dedicated group of residents who have set up a project group The raise awareness and maintain the structure with the help of English Heritage, The School and The Councils. Thankfully, there can’t be any more building around the ring, but it’s an important landmark to keep preserving.