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Supplement to the Oxford to Cambridge Project

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 at 21:53

Thame on Dr John Dunn. Reading the Toll Roads of Buckinghamshire by P. Gulland, I came across this succinct background to the development of the two principle routes between Oxford and Cambridge. Failure of the Newport Pagnell to Bedford Turnpike crops up frequently, causing innovative thinking amongst the map and itinerary makers.

In the late middle Ages a pair of parallel routes linked Oxford with Bedford, where they joined and continued as one to Cambridge. Today’s 418 route, passing through Thame, Aylesbury, and Leighton Buzzard, was part of the southern arm of that pair. It seems to have become so subordinate to the northern route via Bicester, Buckingham and Newport Pagnell that by the late seventeenth century it was not recognised by map makers as a cross-country route.

However,during the turnpike era the importance of the southern route grew, possibly because worsening road conditions between Newport Pagnell and Bedford deflected traffic to it from the northern arm.

These north and south options were only supplemented by the Icknield Way route in the major itineraries of the turnpike era.

Pictured: Thame High Street, an important turnpike route

© John Dunn.

Alternative route to Arcadia

Tuesday, 21 September 2021 at 21:19

Bridge over the Thames on Dr John Dunn. Alternative route to Arcadia

A huge hold-up on the Oxford by-pass today forced me to consider an alternative route. The bonus to come from this necessary change to my itinerary was that I passed through some delightful Oxfordshire villages. One to which I will return for a more extended stay is Clifton Hampden. Of this place Joanna Cannan wrote in her Oxfordshire:

The Arcadian village of Clifton Hampden, standing, or rather nestling, among elms, and nowhere does “sweet Thames” flow more softly, nowhere are roses redder, ducks whiter, hollyhocks taller, grass greener, buttercups a shinier gold.

The church stands on a little cliff, and no doubt this location is related to the original naming of the village, which in Anglo Saxon times was known as "tun on a cliff.” Transition and Decorated, it was neatly, if deplorably, restored in 1844by Sir Gilbert Scott for Lord Aldenham, the banker, in memory of his father, George Henry Gibbs.

From the churchyard, there is supposed to be a fantastic view of Clifton Hampden bridge designed in Gothic style by the same Sir George Gilbert Scott. In days long gone, a ferry operated across the river before being replaced by the toll bridge which remained as such until 1946, when the County Councils of Berkshire and Oxfordshire joined to buy the bridge from its private owners, the Gibbs estate. On 4 October 1946 the bridge was made free, the first vehicle to cross being a fairground caravan.

The picturesque and adjacent village inn, the Barley Mow, well known to readers of Jerome K. Jerome, used to be in Berkshire before the county reorganisations in 1974 allotted both sides of the river to Oxfordshire. Jerome wrote: "if you stay the night on land at Clifton you cannot do better than put up at the Barley Mow."

© John Dunn.


Monday, 20 September 2021 at 22:17

Cogges village on Dr John Dunn. Cogges

Continuing my preparation for shorter day trips on my Royal Enfield, now that Winter is approaching, I pulled out another gem from Joanna Cannan’s Oxfordshire.

The village of Cogges is almost part of Witney; its church, manor house and vicarage beside the river are a joy to behold. The manor once belonged to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and passed to a Baron de Arsic, who gave the church to the monks of Fécamp. Confiscated in the fifteenth century, it was presented to Eton. The church, originally late Norman, is very picturesque,; the fourteenth-century tower has a square base, but above is octagonal with an exterior flight of stairs. Within is a fine fourteenth-century altar tomb with effigy of a woman, thought to be a Grey of Rotherfield, three seventeenth-century busts of the Blakes by Byrd of Oxford, and an eighteenth-century ledger stone by Haynes of Witney.

Villages like this hold more than enough history, and that’s apart from their picturesqueness, to interest anyone with an enquiring mind.

Pictured: Farmstead with history in the heart of the beautiful Cotswolds, Cogges

© John Dunn.

Day rides precious

Sunday, 19 September 2021 at 22:20

Hampton Poyle Bridge on Dr John Dunn. Bridge to Kidlington at Hampton Poyle

Day rides precious

New places for day rides on my Royal Enfield will soon become a precious commodity later this year. As the nights close in, touring with stopovers begins to lose its appeal and shorter one day trips become the norm until Spring. The Hamptons Gay and Poyle somehow appeal to my inquisitive nature, especially as described in in Joanna Cannan's Oxfordshire.

Hampton Poyle has a more interesting church, containing, amongst other treasures, fifteenth-century carved bench-ends and fourteenth- and fifteenth-century tombs and brasses belonging to the Poyle family. Across the river, almost opposite the church of Hampton Gay, is the church of Shipton-on-Cherwell, rebuilt in 1831. Shipton looks supremely innocent, but makes cement and busily dispatches it up and down the canal. “Turner of Oxford,” the water-colour painter, came to live here when his uncle, who brought him up, purchased the manor house in 1804, and he was married and buries here.

© John Dunn.

Gay and Poyle are the Hamptons

Saturday, 18 September 2021 at 22:04

Hampton Gay Manor on Dr John Dunn. Hampton Gay's 16th century manor house

Gay and Poyle are the Hamptons

Always on the lookout for new places for excursions on my Royal Enfield, I came across the following paragraph in Joanna Cannan's Oxfordshire. The two Hamptons are now on my list for a visit. First of the Hamptons described is Gay.

Hampton Gay and Hampton Poyle are Cherwell villages: Cherwell here is turning east to beat the bounds of Otmoor. At Hampton Gay, amongst kingcups, there is a church rebuilt in 1767 but still containing an interesting monument to Lady Katherine Fenner, a mural sculpture to Vincent Barry and a very ancient bell; there are the ruins of a burned-out jacobean manor house and of a burned-out paper mill. Despite its charming name and flowery surroundings, Hampton Gay seems to be a place of tragedy, for a horrible railway accident took place here in 1874. (To be continued.)

© John Dunn.

Seen on Ogilby's road

Friday, 17 September 2021 at 21:47

Road through the village on Dr John Dunn. I will be following John Ogilby’s 1675 route from Oxford to Cambridge on my Royal Enfield and will capture as much as possible of the journey on video. Publication of this video on YouTube will be announced on this website. The section for which I am building a commentary here covers the village of Stratton Audley.

Seen on Ogilby's road

John Ogilby’s Oxford to Cambridge route entered Stratton Audley by Bicester Road.

The village used to kennel the Bicester Hunt on this same road; and a castle built by the Audleys stood just to the south-east of the church, where there is now a meadow in which, amongst buttercups and daisies, may be discerned the outlines of foundations and moats. The stones from the castle will be found in many a building of this stone-built village. The Borlase family later held the manor, and there is a substantial seventeenth-century monument to Sir John Borlase in the large chiefly perpendicular church.

The next landmark on Ogilby’s itinerary after Stratton Audley is a mill. Appropriately enough, we follow Ogilby out of the village via Mill Road.

© John Dunn.

Pictured: road through the village.

Lost soft tissue

Thursday, 16 September 2021 at 21:05

Battson's book on Dr John Dunn. Lost soft tissue

I will return to the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum. That was my thought as I left the uniquely friendly and fulfilling experience of that vast motorcycle collection at Bashly Manor.

The range of marques, many of which I had never heard of, was vast; the permutations on the theme of engine design was mind boggling; the sheer scale of the collection, filling even now the recently added extension to the museum, simply has to be wondered at and genuinely admired. These are the reasons that I will be back.

Yet, as I walked around the row after row of motorcycles, I could not help but be prompted to think - who owned them,why did they buy them, where did they go on them?

To a certain extent that does not apply to the racing machines; the story behind them is often in the record books, I mean the famous names, the noble endeavour, the glory, the tragedy, the race for victory that spurred on the brilliance of engineers to design machines that extracted the maximum possible from explosions in a piston.

But the ordinary motorcycles for the road - who rode those, and what are the very ordinary stories behind them?

In the museum we have the bones, so to speak, but what we have lost is the soft tissue, that which decays; and the soft tissue is the rider, the human beings with the experiences associated with the machines.

The recorded memories of rider experiences that are rather thin on the ground, making them as rare as any engine design oddity to be found in a museum. This is what makes the diaries, the memoirs and autobiographies of riders especially valuable. I cite two books that qualify as treasures of motorcycling experience. Firstly, Motorcycling Through the 30s, by Jack Gray and, secondly, Roy K. Battson, The Land Beyond the Ridge. Both of these books hold the treasured experiences of their motorcycling authors, often whilst riding very ordinary motorcycles to ordinary places.

© John Dunn.

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