The Restoration Project
1729 marked the date of the first Turnpike Act for the route from Shipston Gate, Stratford on Avon to Long Compton Hill.
During the period c. 1815 -1835 there were a lot of improvements made to the road and we think, but have no firm evidence, that the mileposts were erected during this era of considerable change in the locality. These changes also coincided with the height of the coaching era and the London - Shrewsbury - Holyhead and London - Birmingham routes using this turnpike route were well trafficked by stagecoaches which were tall and travelled relatively fast along improving roads. Correspondingly the mileposts are tall and there are very few other mileposts in the country erected at this time which are as tall as these.
After some 140 years of existence the Turnpike Trust was wound up in 1877, eventually becoming the responsibility of the then newly formed County Council.
Over the subsequent decades the distances boards either deteriorated and fell away or were dismantled. Road improvements over the years rendered some posts either redundant or in the way and their historic importance may not have been fully appreciated.
With the passing of time knowledge as to the posts’ form and function all but disappeared and dubious stories about their original purpose grew.
It wasn’t until the postcard of the Shipston Picture House, taken c. 1913, was rediscovered that the mystery of the purpose of the posts was solved. At last we had something to work from and together with the measurements obtained from a milepost we were able to produce a scaled drawing of a complete post. From that Leander Architectural (the restoration company) were able to produce a detailed drawing of a board and lettering.
The six posts were removed in stages and transported to Leander near Buxton, Derbyshire.
The posts were carefully stripped and assessed for damage, the quality of earlier repairs, and makers or other distinguishing marks and any consistencies with original livery.
Some of the decorative arms were in such a poor state it wasn't considered viable to repair them so the best arms were used as a mould to cast new arms. Other casting deficiencies and historic weathering and damage were repaired. No makers marks or other distinguishing feature were found other than bench marks.
New timber distance boards with metal weathering strips and applied cast letters were made based on the only evidence we have - the Shipston Picture House photo.
A consistent green livery was discovered as the original colour and this was adopted for the painting of each post.
The six posts and their boards were transported back to their sites and carefully assembled and reinstated in less than one day. They now appear as they did in the 19th century - providing locally distinctive and nationally unique features along the A3400 and adding interest, character and attractiveness to this part of South Warwickshire.
As part of the Project a touring exhibition, displaying the history of the turnpike route, features still in evidence today and the restoration story, made its debut at the Long Compton Fete on 1st July 2017 to coincide with the unveiling of the Long Compton milepost by the Fete ground.
Since then it has been exhibited at the Compton and District History Society, Shipston on Stour Museum, the Warwick Industrial Archaeology Society, the Shipston-on-Stour U3A Group, the Wellesbourne U3A Group and Halford Ladies, Halford Bridge and the ‘Exploring Your Archives’ event at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford upon Avon.
Warwickshire Milestone Society member Rodney Ousbey provided information which led to the discovery of a seventh post in the unique tall ‘gaslamp’ series to add to the six previously restored in 2017. The Kenilworth owner has very kindly donated it to the Milestone Society for restoration and return to an historically correct site along the former Stratford on Avon to Long Compton Turnpike. Rodney sadly passed away in December 2020; an obituary to him from Mike Buxton of The Milestone Society can be read by clicking here. To mark his contribution and memory it is proposed to dedicate the seventh post restoration project to him.
We are actively fundraising for the project. Do get in touch if you’d like to help!