(originally published - March 2005)

Now that we have a new road surface on the road to Whatcote, it is intriguing to find, in the Oxhill Vestry Minute Book, that in 1878 ratepayers weren’t too keen on shelling out for roadmaking. The Vestry Meeting in September, 1878 declared that the Bridleway from Oxhill to Whatcote and Fulready was as good as ever it has been for the last 20 years, and that it did not need to be stoned. Moreover if the Highways Board insisted on it, the ratepayers would appeal to Quarter Sessions. (The Rector however dissented. Mr Macy always comes across as a strictly Establishment man!).

I assume that although referred to as a bridleway, it is our road – then an unfenced cart road – that is meant. Whether or not the ratepayers of Oxhill ever took their case to Quarter Sessions I do not know, but if so it must have been a losing battle, as at this period there was a comprehensive a programme of stoning the roads being undertaken. Margaret Ashby in her book on her father Joseph Ashby of Tysoe, describes how her father was employed as a road stone-breaker in the 1880s – seasonal work for autumn and early spring which fitted well with his work on his smallholding. Hartshill stone was used, a harder stone that Hornton, and difficult to work. Miss Ashby describes how the new roads would shine in February like long white ribbons, when the old brown ones would still have been ankle-deep in mud.

In our barn at Payn’s House we inherited several stone-breakers’ hammers, with small egg-shaped heads and slender, slightly flexible (though now much decayed) handles. I imagine that someone from Payn’s House – (the house was sub-divided in the late 1880s) - also took part in this seasonal work, and, like Joseph Ashby, successfully combined this with work on the land.

Ann Hale
March, 2005