St Albans' Own East End

R & H Turnpike


Volume 1 of St Albans’ Own East End detailed the location of the mile markers along the eastern arm of the Reading and Hatfield Turnpike, from the former Old Fiddle PH to St Albans.  All of the markers, five in total, still line the road at Ellenbrook, 1 mile from the (former) Old Fiddle PH; at Popefield Farm, near Colney Heath Lane, Oaklands; at Fleetville; and near the Peacock PH. Between the Peacock and the Duke of Marlborough PH the road was maintained by the town, and so no tolls were payable. However, this is not a page about the toll points.

Although stated that the markers all remain in position. That is not strictly true, for the Fleetville marker was fixed at roughly halfway along Bycullah Terrace, between Woodstock Road south and Arthur Road. According to the 1898 OS map and the 1912 reprint (based on the 1898) the marker was still here, sited in front of one of the Bycullah shops. Surveys undertaken in 1924 and 1937 do not show the marker anywhere; however at some point after WW2 the marker was found and replaced a little further along the road on the corner of Royal Road and the recreation ground.

In spite of building development along the line of the road the Fleetville and Peacock markers have survived building operations. By contrast, only one of the markers between St Albans and Watford remains.

So, let us deal first with this solitary remaining marker, which is sited in St Stephen’s Hill, one mile from the Peacock PH. All of those east of St Albans are on the north side of the road. It is clear from the distance information that either the St Stephen’s Hill marker was originally on the west side (equivalent to north above, since the road turns through a right angle at the junction of Hatfield Road and St Peter’s Street), or at least it was intended to be installed on the west side. The earliest OS map available which shows mile posts or stones, was published in 1883, from surveys probably made one or two years previously. This would mean the survey roughly at the time the Turnpike was taken over by the Highways Board. The map shows that the marker was on the east side of the road then, as now. It must therefore be assumed that it had always been on that side of the road. But when the information is inspected, the face on the St Albans’ side announces that it is 1 mile to St Albans. The face on the Watford side states a distance of 7 miles to Watford and 44 to Reading.

If the marker had been intended for this side of the road the information on the two faces would have been reversed. Looking across to the west side it is clear that placing the marker there would have been difficult, given the cliff-like embankment on that side. As we shall see shortly, other markers between St Albans and Watford were also on the east side. Since they no longer exist we can only speculate whether they, too, had reversed details. If so, we must probably assume that the Turnpike Trust intended that all of the markers would be placed on the nearside (left) for travellers from Reading. The road was always known as the Reading and Hatfield, not the Hatfield and Reading Turnpike; the main Trust Office was in Reading and the markers were all cast in that town. While the reason for mis-location in St Stephen’s Hill is explainable, all of the others were on reasonably level ground. It is possible that a difference of opinion with the riparian land owner on the west side may have resulted in placement on the opposite side of the road in certain circumstances. But by then the markers, with their distance information, had already been cast.

All of these markers are identified in Heritage England's National List as Grade 2 structures.

At some point the trustees of the Reading & Hatfield Turnpike signposted the Hatfield & Ware Turpike from Ellenbrook (see photo top right).  The Amwell mile post is a short way up the hill north of Amwell roundabout.

Cassiobury (Park Road)  mile post position

Waterdale mile post position

Lye Lane mile post position

Tippendell mile post position

St Stephen's Hill mile post

Fleetville mile post

Oaklands mile post

Popefield mile post

Ellenbrook mile post

Callowland North Watford (Salisbury Road) mile post position

Lea Farm (Garston Fire Station) mile post position

Horseshoe Lane mile post position

We now return to the question raised at the start of this discourse: why have all the markers east of St Albans survived, yet all of those south of St Stephen’s Hill disappeared? Was it a policy of St Peter’s Parish and St Albans City council to retain their markers? St Stephen’s Hill was within the city, but beyond there was the responsibility of St Stephen’s parish, St Albans Rural, Watford Rural and Watford Town (Borough) Council. Interestingly, the three Watford markers, Lea Farm, Callowland and Cassiobury, all disappeared a lot earlier than those between the Horseshoes and Tippendell Lane.

Finally, it should be considered that most of the markers were last seen on a 1939 map. It is possible that the two rural district councils, and Watford Borough,  felt it prudent to remove the markers, along with other road signs, at the start of WW2. This was a defensive tactic in the event of invasion, and to confuse enemy agents who might enter the country by parachute. At the end of hostilities those same authorities then neglected to replace them.

So, what happened to the missing markers?  Where were they taken?  Do they still exist somewhere?

A suggestion and possible answer was provided by milestones' specialist Michael Knight, who considered that the easiest option in 1939 would have been to dig a hole next to the milestone, tip it over into the hole – and bury it!  Six years later no-one in authority would have thought to retrieve and reset the covered mile posts.  Well, that is a theory ...

When further news is discovered about the missing mile posts, it will be posted here.

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Mile after mile of toll road:

The Reading and Hatfield Turnpike

St Stephen’s Hill, east side. St Albans 1; Watford 7. Extant. For further details see above.

Near Tippendell Lane, west side. St Albans 2; Watford 6. Approximately 200 yards north of Chiswell Green Lane. Shown in position on the OS 1939 map. It must be assumed that it was removed when the adjacent homes were constructed in the 1950s. Current whereabouts unknown.

Near Lye Lane, east side. St Albans 3; Watford 5. Immediately south of the Lye Lane / Noke Lane crossroads. The OS 1898 map shows it on the east side, but the 1935 map has it on the west side. Although there is no development, there have been gradual improvements to the highway between the Noke and Waterdale, and it is possible its position was swapped for that reason. The OS 1939 map is the last one on which it appears. Current whereabouts unknown.

Waterdale, east side. St Albans 4; Watford 4. The existing road to Watford was what is now known as Old Watford Road, past the Black Boy PH, just north of where was a toll-collecting house for the Turnpike. The position of the marker was close to this road and the modern side road called The Uplands. The last map on which it appears was OS 1939. Current whereabouts unknown.

Horseshoe Lane, east side. St Albans 5; Watford 3. The marker was on the east side opposite what was a T junction with Horseshoe Lane. Today it would have been where the dual carriageway and the oblique junction, St Albans Road, leads into Garston and North Watford. The last map on which it appeared was OS 1939, but by that date the junction had been altered so that St Albans Road formed a right-angle with the new Kingsway.  On this map the milestone had been moved to the west side, approximately at the end of the plot on which is the first shop in Horseshoe Lane – the boundary with Dean Court in Kingsway.

Lea Farm, east side. St Albans 6; Watford 2. This junction once was a triangular junction (the triangle is now the large Dome roundabout) with a small road leading past Lea Farm (where Sainsbury’s is now). Shown on the 1871, 1898 and 1914 maps, by the time the 1939 map was printed Northwestern Avenue has been laid and the first roundabout constructed.  The milestone had been moved to a point on the Garston side of St Albans Road – on the grass verge (where the 30 mph sign is today).

Callowland, east side. St Albans 7; Watford 1. Located in St Albans Road, roughly where Carpet Supermarket and Mailboxes etc are today, just south of Salisbury Road, and midway between Regent Street and Victoria Road opposite. It is not show on the 1871 map, but when the 1898 map was published the west side of the road was partly developed. Certainly the roads were laid out and many of the houses had been built. The east side was still fields, though, and the marker was still in position. By the time the 1914 map was published, development on the east side was complete, but the mile stone was still there.  It was removed at some time between then and 1939, on which map it is not shown. Current whereabouts unknown.

Watford Cassiobury, south-east side. St Albans 8; Rickmansworth 3, possibly with Watford on the top plate.  Located on the south-east side about where Park Avenue is today. The marker is shown on the 1871, 1883, 1898 and 1914 maps but development seemed to have ensured the removal of this marker at some point between then and 1939.

Beyond the Hagden Lane toll house, sited on the north-west side of Rickmansworth Road, where today is the entrance to Metropolitan Approach, was the next mile post:

Watford Cassiobridge, south-east side, adjacent to the children's play park near the westerly Two Bridges roundabout with Baldwin's Lane.  Watford 1; Rickmansworth 2.  Present on all maps up to and including 1939, but was removed after that.

Peacock mile post

East of St Albans

East of St Albans

The remaining questions

St Albans' Own East End