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Turnpike* explorer

Thursday, 24 September 2020 at 18:03

Cowbit on Dr John Dunn. 20th September 2020

The leaning tower of Cowbit. The church is sinking due to land drainage and peat shrinkage. The building is even lower than the rest of the church grounds and the tower is leaning over at an angle; it appears to be tearing itself away from the nave.

I motorcycled to Lincolnshire to explore a few of the old turnpikes around Spalding and Boston.

At Crowland I joined the Spalding and Cowbit Bank Turnpike (1793). This later became part of the A1073, which once ran from Eye near Peterborough, passing through the centre of Crowland, to Spalding.

Today the route through Cowbit to Spalding has been completely by-passed by the A16.

At Spalding I sought out the old Spalding and Donington Turnpike (1764), which carried me northwards as far as Gosberton, before turning north eastward to Boston, passing through Sutterton and Kirton on the way. This old turnpike later became the A16, but again has been completely by-passed by the modern A16, which has been built on the dead straight line of a disused railway between Spalding and Boston.

The new bridges and inner ring road were completed in Boston in May 1979 after first being mooted in the early 1950s. Until that happened, traffic must have left the old turnpike to funnel down the impossibly narrow High Street, over the Town Bridge (1913), across the wide open Market Square, before leaving via the Spilsby Turnpike (1765), later theA16 - and so it remains.

*Turnpike trusts were established by acts of Parliament, with authority to collect tolls for maintaining the principal roads of Great Britin from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The turnpike trust system was adopted tomanage roads across the British Empire (Ireland, Canada, Australia, NewZealand, India, and South Africa) and in the United States. Turnpikes declined with the coming of the railways, but left a legacy of main roads that is still largely in tact.

© John Dunn.

Seneca - Mark

Monday, 21 September 2020 at 21:33

John Dunn places such a might and noble Roman upon the website of Dr John Dunn. The CLC nomination has met with some opposition from those offended by my Seneca - Mark theory (See Chapter 6 of Renaissance: Counter-Renaissance).

My suggestion that a lost play by Seneca might have been the starting point for Marks’s Gospel and, by default Matthew and Luke, has offended many, but I still contend there may be some truth in this.

As to the divinity of Jesus, by my third book in the trilogy, Child of Encounter, I deliberately never referred to Jesus as Christ. He was happy with ‘son of man’, but that he left others to believe otherwise strikes to the heart of what a tragedy written by Seneca might have been. The confrontation with the Jews and the Passion that ensued was no less universal in its implications for having one Jesus of Nazareth, son of man, in the central role. Divine? Yes, for the Passion was founded on love, and God is Love.

© John Dunn.

Rideout along the turnpike to the fens

Friday, 18 September 2020 at 21:55

Bury bridge on Dr John Dunn. Bridge over the High Lode brook in Bury. The former ancient stone bridge of one arch which crossed it was replaced in 1925 by the present somewhat wider bridge.

27th August, 2020.

I motorcycled over to Biggleswade, which was the starting point for my pursuit of the Shelton Lane, Bury and Stratton Turnpike, established in 1755.

The turnpike started from a district of Biggleswade on the Great North Road known as Stratton.

The junction from the Great North Road was at the Spread Eagle (now closed), now Eagle Farm Road.

The turnpike formed part of an important route from London through to Wisbech and King's Lynn. Coaching inns in Potton, Gamlingay, Eltisley, St Ives and elsewhere along the route benefited from the passing trade.

The integrity of the old turnpike has been retained by the road classification for its entire length as the B1040.

The turnpike trust milestones that still exist along the route can be seen at!/q=Shelton+Lane%2C+Bury+and+Stratton+Turnpike


I rode into Potton where the sharp bends in the road as it passes through the town reflect the fact that nothing much has changed here, as far as the winding nature of the old turnpike road is concerned.

The Coach House, Potton, coaching inn on the turnpike

Ceased to be a public house in 1958, an old coaching inn at Gamlingay

The next village along the road was Waresley, where today’s sharp bend in the road attests to the fact that the old turnpike had to skirt the edge of Waresley Park rather than take the more direct route straight through. Indeed, whilst the turnpike trust was actively maintaining the road, Humphrey Repton was busy advising on landscaping improvements to the park, then the Seat of William Needham Esq.

I followed the turnpike into the centre of Eltisley, which meant turning right off the current B1040 to follow the lane described as Potton End. The stretch of the B1040 from the junction of Potton End to the A428 was created in 1972 when Eltisley was by-passed.

The turnpike route continued along Potton End, along the east side of the large village green, and would have continued northwards, just after The Eltisley public house, (this way is now closed off), across the St Neots to Cambridge Turnpike (1772), now the A428, to pick up the course of the current B1040.

I had to rejoin the B1040 via the link road to the A428, created when the village was by-passed in 1972. Up until the by-pass, the crossroads of the two turnpike routes was slap bang in the middle of the village green.

I crossed over Ermine Street just north of Papworth Everard and followed the turnpike through the village of Hilton to St Ives.

The famous old bridge with chapel in the centre of St Ives served as the primary southern entrance to the town and the only road bridge across the River Great Ouse until the Harrison Way by-pass was added down-river to the east in 1980. The former now being a footbridge only, I had to deviate from the turnpike route by following the Harrison Way by-pass around the town. That was not the last of the deviations I had to follow.

Before 1939, the turnpike left St Ives from the north-east of the town via Ramsey Road to Old Hurst and Warboys. After World War II, the route was severed by the Wyton Airfield runway and the B1040 was rerouted via Pidley to Warboys, where the old turnpike route is resumed.

After Warboys I followed the B1040 to Bury and the end of the old turnpike - or did I?

The turnpike was called the Shelton Lane, Bury and Stratton Turnpike. I had ridden the full length from Stratton in Biggleswade to Bury, but the whereabouts of Shelton Lane remains a mystery to me. I cannot find a map reference to it anywhere and so it must, for now, remain an unsolved mystery.

© John Dunn.

A Seraph is a lover

Friday, 18 September 2020 at 21:15

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola on Dr John Dunn. In his Oration on the Dignity of Man, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote that: ‘in the court beyond the world, closest to the most exalted Godhead’… the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones occupy ‘the first places’.

He argued there is no reason why we cannot aspire to be like the first amongst these angelic orders i.e., the Seraphim, which ‘burns with the fire of charity’.

Attainment of the status of Seraph is all about love.

‘If we burn with love for the Creator only’, wrote Pico, ‘His consuming fire will quickly transform us into the flaming likeness of the Seraphim’.

Then comes the transfigurative leap. Pico wrote:

Whoever is a Seraph, that is a lover, is in God and God is in him; even, it may be said, God and he are one.

This is the love and dialectical relationship to God from 1John:

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

This is God and man in a dialectically sustaining relationship, one needing the other.

© John Dunn.

Motorcycle rideout to the Suffolk coast, 20th-21st August 2020

Wednesday, 26 August 2020 at 21:04

Old Bourne Bridge Wherstead on Dr John Dunn.

Old Bourne Bridge, near my Wherstead accomodation

After passing through Baldock I chose to avoid the A505 dual carriageway (which incidentally follows the line of the ancient Icknield Way) and ride instead over the chalk hills through Wallington, where I passed close to an old timber-framed farmhouse with overhanging upper storey. I rode along narrow country lanes to Sandon and then to Buckland where I crossed over Ermine Street (A10), to arrive at London Road (B1368) in Barkway. Both this section of Ermine Street and London Road were once maintained by the Wadesmill Turnpike Trust (1733).

This is the last stone in a set of 16 milestones from Cambridge to Barkway put there by William Warren, using money from a charitable fund set up in 1586. Warren started setting up these milestones in 1725. They are said to be the oldest set of milestone surviving today. This milestone was first placed on 29 May 1728. The two crests are arms of Robert Hare (whose money along with Dr William Mowse, a Master of Trinity Hall set up the charity) and the arms of Trinity Hall. The iron plaque was added later (early 19th century) by the Wadesmill Turnpike Trust and covers the original inscription. The stone originally stood by the village inn but now stands by "Milestone House” ( )

I rode on from Barkway, along the old turnpike to Barley, where I turned right to pass under the famous old Fox and Hounds inn sign on the B1039 to Great Chishill, passing by the historic windmill, rebuilt in 1819 from the material of an earlier mill.
Famous pub sign

Great Chishill Windmill

Continuing along this lovely winding road I reached Wendens Ambo where a sharp bend in the road is accentuated by an adverse camber. Here the old turnpike coaching route runs parallel to the railway that led to the former’s demise. This was the Hockerill Turnpike (1744), now the B1383, with which I briefly flirted before turning off along the B1052 to Saffron Walden. The deep chalk cuttings and embankments along this road might well have been made to facilitate a more horse-friendly connection between Saffron Walden and the Hockerill Highway in the coaching era.

I passed through the busy town centre, famed for its colourful 14th and 15th century timber-framed buildings, to leave by the B1053 Radwinter Road.

I had intended to ride through Radwinter to Steeple Bumpstead, but roadworks intervened at Hempstead, diverting me along delightful country lanes through Great Sampford and Cornish Hall End before I reached Steeple Bumpstead via the B1057, where I was immediately met by the striking Guildhall.

Guildhall, Steeple Bumpstead

From Steeple Bumpstead it was but a few short miles along the B1054 to Wixoe, where I joined briefly the Redcross Turnpike (1766), now the A1077, before I crossed the River Stour into Suffolk at Baythorne End to join a branch of the Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds Turnpike (1762), now the A1092.

I followed the turnpike route through Stoke by Clare, Clare, Cavendish and Long Melford, all quintessential coaching towns with their roadside inns and houses, many contemporary with the turnpike and earlier.