Kingsclere District Highways Board
1863 - 1894

By the middle of the 19th century England's roads were in problems (this was less so in the other three countries of the UK). The railways were taking all the profitable traffic away from the turnpikes, the majority of which were now saddled with debts that they would never be able to repay.

The General Highways Act of 1835 had tried to introduce new practices in maintenance of the parish roads by trying to persuade parishes to merge together to employ professional surveyors and engineers. It didn't work for a number of
reasons. One was that the mergers were made the responsibilities of the JP's and many of them were no longer trusted on highway matters when following an act of 1815 they used their powers to close footpaths on their own land

In 1862 a new Highways Act was passed giving the JP's sitting in Quarter Sessions the power compulsorily to compel parishes to combine in new highway districts. This was highly unpopular in some areas and a substantial number of parishes exploited a loophole to continue maintaining their roads. Fortunately in the Kingsclere area people saw sense.

The Highways Board was able to employ surveyors and labourers to carry out the works which had formerly been done so inefficiently by the constituent parishes. The Vestries were now left only with the powers to levy rates as demanded by the board and with the right annually to elect their waywarden to the board.

The Kingsclere Highways Board was aligned with the Kingsclere District and therefore included fifteen parishes inside an area defined by Tadley to Earlston (now Burghclere) in the north and Ewhurst to Ashmansworth in the south. The board comprised two ex-officio JP's together with elected waywardens from each parish with Kingsclere, as the largest community, being entitled to three.

The Board met monthly, alternating its meetings between Whitway and Kingsclere, and its minute books are deposited to the Hampshire Record Office (Ref 43M66 DH-1). The first meetings were in 1863 and agreed that the quorum would be for a minimum of three waywardens to be present. In practice there were about six regular attenders with the waywardens from smaller parishes attending when their issues were being discussed.

The Board appointed a Clerk and then set about recruiting a surveyor and engineer They appointed Philip Nathaniel Pike on a salary of £120 a year. As will be seen later this was a part time appointment. Much of the work of the Board was about
financial matters, approving payments for work done and raising precepts on the constituent parishes. In between the long financial statements there are gems which show that many of our concerns on highway matters have changed very little over a century and a half.

The Surveyors main duties were to carry out works as instructed by the Board, employing staff and purchasing and transporting materials as necessary. He was also required to investigate complaints.

Many of the matters raised covered issues such as encroachments onto the highway, dumping on the highway, road widening, stopping of footpaths and the blocking of ditches. Chalk was taken from the Kingsclere Chalk Pit and gravel from several gravel pits in the area including the Headley Gravel Pit which is now a nature reserve and pits at Mill Green and Tadley. The various Lords of the Manor were required to provide timber for fencing and bridging.

In January 1865 it was minuted:

"Resolved that the Surveyor takes measures to enforce the trimming of all hedges by the sides of the roads previous to the 25th March next.
That all sidings (passing places) for passing in the narrow roads be at once cleared and made available (they were favourite dumping grounds).
That all banks which have crumbled into the Roads are forthwith cleared.
That new sidings where necessary be at once made to enable vehicles to pass easily in all narrow Roads."

Later that year, following some confusion over the accounts in respect of his assistant, who worked for him both as an employee of the highway board and in some private capacity, the surveyor was told not to employ his private staff as
highway staff.

How little things change! In December 1866 a letter was received from the Rev E Buckley of the Woodlands:

" complaining of the state of some footpaths near Ram Alley were impassable (sic). It happened that Alfred Vince of Ram Alley Farm had ploughed up these footpaths tho' it is alleged that this had been done by his servants in error without Vince's knowledge. The Clerk was instructed to communicate with Vince and endeavour to obtain an apology for same and his undertaking to restore the path to as good a state as before the ploughing otherwise proceedings must be taken against Vince."

Farmer Vince complied.

In January l869 Surveyor Pike resigned and it was resolved that a condition of the appointment of a successor should be that he resided in the centre of the District. No reason is given but at that time many Surveyors had portfolio careers working for several boards and Pike's absence about his other affairs had clearly caused problems.

Footpaths came up again in February 1871 when the Board required East Woodhay to convene a vestry to consider an application from a resident to close a footpath. These applications occur occasionally throughout the minutes and if it was agreed to progress the Board had to apply to Quarter Sessions for authority to close the path.

By 1880 the turnpikes in the district were badly deteriorating. There were three, the Aldermaston and Whitchurch which ran through Kingsclere, the Basingstoke and Aldermaston which ran west of Tadley and the Winchester District which followed the line of the old A34 to Newbury.

Competition from the railways had removed the profitable traffic from the turnpikes, especially stage coaches. They had all been built with mortgages and in general in recent years their receipts had only met running costs leaving nothing for maintenance, debt repayment and payment of interest on the debt. In 1852, the surface of the Aldermaston and Whitchurch was already being maintained by the parishes.

In 1874 a Parliamentary Committee on Turnpike Trusts was set up to scrutinise bills for the renewal of trusts. This committee almost invariably recommended against renewal.

In Nov 1880 the Clerk was required to write to Winchester District Turnpike

" complaining of the state of the road from Whitchurch to Newbury and asking if there will be funds to hand over to this Board."

The Trust replied the next month that there was none. As they sold their turnpike house in 1881 it was clear that the trust was about to be abolished and the roads taken over by the highway boards. The sale of the White Hill and Ashford Hill turnpike house sites in February 1881 also suggests that the Aldermaston and Whitchurch was about to suffer the same fate.

In February 1881 the Board had to spend £50 on clearing snow. Since this represents about fifty man weeks of work there clearly had been a very heavy fall.

Later that year in Sept we see the first mention of the building of the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway through the District running parallel to the Whitchurch - Newbury road. For the next three years there are discussions of applications to divert or temporarily stop roads to facilitate the works and to provide access to stations. In February 1883 the D,N and S Rly was asked to pay a contribution to the cost of repairing roads damaged by vehicles delivering materials for railway construction. There then ensued a long wrangle over who was responsible for maintaining the surfaces of over bridges.

In Feb. 1882 a new offence emerges and it was:

"decided not to take proceedings against David Soper for cutting 70 turves by the side of the highway leading to Whitway if he pays the value of the same to the Surveyor"

The road surfaces had all been maintained for the use of horse drawn vehicles and new construction techniques provided a very satisfactory road. The advent of the road engine (traction engine) caused surveyors new problems as the engines were much heavier than wagons and were able to haul very heavy loads. In April 1884 there was a complaint that "Pike's traction engines had damaged the roads". It was agreed that the owner should be requested to contribute to the repairs.

In February 1883 there was a complaint from Kingsclere that the roads were in a poor state due to "the drawing of material for making a new burial ground. The repairs to the road are considered as extraordinary traffic". This was the extension of the churchyard by the demolition of the Vine Inn and the cottages which lined Newbury Road.

Farmers feature regularly. Another Vince (James) was complained of having obstructing the Enborne so that the stream rose above the Knightsbridge and washed away the road surface. Macadam roads also required good drainage and were usually constructed with ditches on either side. Occasionally there are complaints of farmers filling the ditches and moving their boundaries to the edge of the road.

In 1888 County Councils were established. Each council was required to take responsibility for the main roads in their county although they had the discretion to decide what constituted a main road. Additionally they could make discretionary subsidies to secondary roads maintenance. This period is not covered by the minute books so it is unclear what happened in the Kingsclere District.

The county had taken some action in signposting roads in the District during 1896 These posts were of oak with cast iron arms bearing raised lettering and a circular finial. Some still survive.

The following information is taken from the

History of Kingsclere and Whitchurch RDC
1898 -1974

by Doctor G B G Bull

In 1898 the District became the Kingsclere Rural District Council and local roads maintenance passed to that authority. The District anticipated the change by appointing Mr Charles Garrett, who was already surveyor to the Highway Board as the Surveyor to the RDC in 1897. The same year the Board was castigated by the County Auditor for overspending its £471 budget by £21! It therefore appears that the County was now collecting the precept but Kingsclere had opted for delegated powers to maintain its roads.

Roads maintenance was improved by replacing the old knapped flints with road stone imported from South Wales. The surface was now being compacted by the use of a hired steam roller.

The RDC was a great supporter of cyclists and instructed its roadmen to sweep the roads daily after hedge trimming to ensure no thorns were left to puncture cycle tyres. They also erected Cyclist's Touring Club signs at various hazard points.

A new hazard had appeared on footpaths - barbed wire. This was banned from fields adjacent to public highways and paths. Inevitably landowners who were required to remove such wire tried unsuccessfully to make the RDC to pay the cost.

In 1921 came the argument as to the desirability of tarring the roads. Despite the opposition of the Vicar of Kingsclere, The decision to do this through Kingsclere was reached in October of that year. Apparently the main concern was that the tar would pollute the stream.

From now on there was a growth in traffic on local roads. The local bus services had started using converted chassis sold off by the Government after the First World War. Improved bicycles and low priced motor cycles and cars made people
more mobile and many people began to work in Newbury and Basingstoke.

The demand for fresh milk encouraged farmers to move from arable to dairying and the large central dairies needed good access to farms to collect milk. Even though the churns were left at the farm gate it meant that even the smallest lanes needed to be tarred.

The Kingsclere RDC came under severe pressure from residents to carry out road improvements and completely relaid the road from the Square to Knightsbridge but this put a very considerable pressure on resources; at times there was no money to pay wages.

The merger or Kingsclere and Whitchurch District Councils took place in 1932. The new authority formed two area committees, one each for Kingsclere and Whitchurch but highways matters were dealt with by the whole council. The new council opted to maintain all its roads.

In 1934 certain roads were designated as trunk roads which became the responsibility of the government. These were strategic roads designed to facilitate military movement in times of emergency. The RDC was left with the maintenance of streets and non classified roads.