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Inns on the Great North Road, Eaton Socon

Monday, 1 November 2021 at 18:03

Inns on the Great North Road, Eaton Socon

What follows is a draft commentary to a projected YouTube production covering a motorcycle ride through Eaton Socon on the Great North Road.

The Victoria County History, London, 1912. describes Eaton Socon:

The village itself is situated in the east of the parish on both sides of the main road to York, through which at one time thirty-six coaches ran daily to and from London. It is of some importance, and presents rather the appearance of a small county town, with good shops and modern residences, though a few thatched cottages are still to be seen. It is provided with numerous inns, as is indeed the whole of this parish, probably owing to its position as a thoroughfare in coaching days.

“Numerous Inns” is the operative terminology to describe this place.

I started off at The Crown, on the Great North Road, now well and truly by-passed.

This was once Biggleswade to Alconbury Turnpike of 1725 until the 1880s, one of the earliest. turnpikes.

The Bell once stood where this new development on the left now stands.

Timber framed building was a Tea House in some 1939 film footage I’ve seen. It’s now an Indian Restaurant.

Ye Olde White Horse Inn on the left is celebrated with this blue plaque.

Opposite Ye Olde White Horse Inn is Hobbit Cottage, which was used by the North Road Cycling Club in the late 1800s as a stop-off point on rides between London and York.

Here is a wonderful photograph taken around 1900, looking back on the route I have just followed. Ye Olde White Horse on the right and Hobbit Cottage on the left are prominent.

The White Horse promotion to cyclists and motorists captures the era in which the roads were beginning to recover from the doldrums after steam railways had killed off the old coaching trade. Note the Shell and Pratt’s petrol for sale. The condition of the road should be noted, before the tarmac era.It offers a representation of what a good, well-maintained, turnpike road would have looked like, shortly after the closing of the turnpike trusts.

On the left, just before church on the right, is the former Wheatsheaf public house, now a residential property.

The Old Sun follows on the left, the Waggon and Horses on the right.

Soon after those, the George and Dragon on the left, immediately followed by a bridge over the Duloe Brook, a tributary of the River Great Ouse.

I leave the Great North Road, turning left to St Neots.

© John Dunn.

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