Comment: The history of tranport in Milton Keynes

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I have a cunning plan. In fact it’s a plan so cunning it’s probably more cunning than the most cunningly planned plan ever planned.

Yes, with petrol prices as they are I’m going to fill up with £10.04 worth of juice, proffer a £20 note in payment, and hope that faced with a busy queue the attendant will hand a £10 note in return, instead of scrabbling around for change. It may only be four pence of freebie fuel but nowadays every little helps.

And, of course, cars are today more a necessity than a luxury. Yet modern motoring comes with many joys, not the least of which is playing dodge the pothole and of course exchanging pleasantries with the infestation of post nappy rash boy racers, who in the rear view mirror are often to be seen cosying up within a few inches from one’s rear bumper.

Oh, what pleasant waves we’ve oft exchanged, and even on occasion verbal salutations, of such ilk as ‘Be gone you churlish knave,’ or words to that effect. It was during medieval times that Fenny Stratford became increasingly busy with ‘traffic’ passing along Watling Street, usually riders on horseback or travellers in wagons.

Then the first stagecoach appeared on the Watling Street around 1658 and with regular services organised an improvement in the roads became a priority. Thus by the Statute Labour Act of 1669 farmers and others with their horse and carts were required to provide six days’ labour a year for road repair. However, with this infrequently done summonses were often issued and in 1706 an Act of Parliament established a ‘turnpike trust’ to deal with the repair of the highway between Fornhill, in Bedfordshire, and Stony Stratford. This lapsed after a few years but a new Act was passed in 1739. With tolls charged for the traffic using the roads, this revenue was expended on road repairs.

The turnpikes of the Watling Street were finally abolished in 1868 and their responsibilities were again vested in the local parish until the creation of county councils in 1888. These then assumed the burden and with this being coincidental with the beginnings of the motor era, Bletchley’s first motorist was probably Harry Matthews. He was a mechanic whose relative, Mr. Goodman, had a garage business in Bletchley Road (later run by Cowley and Wilson). In 1909 Fenny Stratford UDC asked the county council for a definite limit of 5mph. each way from the Aylesbury Street, High Street, crossroads but although they agreed, this would only be for a length of 50 yards. Then in 1954 experiments were carried out by Bucks police using a radar beam to check the speed of vehicles on a stretch of the A5 near Staple Hall Road. But in 1955 it was announced that radar speed traps would be unlikely in this county or any other. This was because after a conference by the chief constables of Bucks, Herts and Cambs, the Transport Minister received a joint report giving the reasons why it would not be effective.

Namely the range was insufficient, three operators were needed, and the licence plate of the vehicle had to be noted, which was difficult after dusk. Yet as another motoring bane, in November 1956 Bletchley’s first woman traffic warden, Mrs M Field, took up duties at the junction of Tattenhoe Lane and St Andrew’s Road with Buckingham Road. More pleasingly, in September 1952 a Watling Street garage introduced girls in white overalls as pump attendants. This was the idea of the owner, Mr RCurrie, who believed his was the first garage in the country to do so. And as another accolade the Fenny Service Station in the High Street had the only car wash in the Midlands. In fact in more liberated times this reminds of ‘Scrubbers,’ a local car wash venture of which the intention was to apparently employ topless female operatives. However, although the venture was seemingly short lived it did have a few outstanding points, and no doubt more especially so in cold weather.