Supplement to the Oxford to Cambridge Project.
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.