ALSTONE'S ANCIENT ROADS
Roads existed long before railways - indeed many still follow the route of ancient trackways or later Roman roads. But within small communities, pathways became worn as people made their way to certain landmarks, such as the local mill; the nearest ford; the safest way to a hill-top fort and so over the years these paths became firmly defined routes.
In Alstone with its two mills the route to these mills can be seen on the 1776 map to the NW of The High Street, for Cheltenham, at that time was only one main street. Alstone began at the town's end, later to become Townsend Street.
Almost certainly Sandfield Road (now Arle Road) was one of the earliest paths to Arle Village. For at that time there was no other route. Alstone Lane remained a trackway and unpaved throughout its length till after the last war. Tewkesbury Road - an extension of the High Street did not follow the route we know today, but passed down Kingsditch Lane through Brockhampton and the original road to Gloucester, from Cheltenham ran through Hayden and Staverton.
Before Cheltenham became a borough, the upkeep of the roads was the responsibility of the Lords of the Manor through his tenants and the Manor Court Books have many entries requiring residents to repair roads or fences on pain of a fine for non-compliance.
The map of 1776 shows a road leading from the Knapp to Lower Alstone Mill. This could well have been the forerunner of Market Street, though this early track was more to the N but notice that Gloucester Road did not exist then. From rising ground on the S of the Knapp was Upper Alstone Mill and from there a road ran N between the brook (River Chelt) and Alstone, and this track would become Millbrook Street and ended opposite Sandfield Road; thus there was a close link between the two mills. From Upper Alstone Mill, then tenanted by Mr Gregory, the road ran S steeply to join another track which later became St George's Road and thus on to Bayshill.
Another ancient road shown on this map led from the Towns End (Tewkesbury Road) to Lower Alstone Mill, sometimes known as Mill Lane or the Coach Road, though it is doubtful if coaches ever went along there, but certainly pedestrians and farm wagons did. In 1782 the coach road which was owned by several people became the subject of controversy for one William Page, having some savings, had purchased it and promptly set about not only reducing the width to make himself a garden, but began to destroy the stone bridges and use the stone to make himself a house. To add insult to injury, he then locked the gate and refused passage to residents who had used that way for countless years.
As the area was part of the Jesus College Holdings, the residents appealed to the representative of the College, one Thomas Hughes, to seek justice for them. A Mr Ward, a long-term tenant of Six Chimneys Farm, claimed that he had always had fee usage of the coachway and that when one John Cook, a butcher and then owner of the soil, applied to him for leave to lock the gate to keep out trespassers, they came to an amicable agreement. This stopping up of their free passage caused them great inconvenience,
A Mr Josiah Cook also complained that he was denied passage. Whether Mr Page was brought to heel, cannot be established, as there are no further papers on the subject. One must assume however, that eventually the road was opened to all and sundry and so it remained until the late 20th C when it was partly closed off after the demolition of the Gas Works and the development of the Tesco Site.
This road linked with Six Chimneys Lane, then continued past the Mill and Farm towards the Croft -then only a trackway, which led to the heart of Alstone Village, but Alstone Lane was then referred to as Alstone Street, though it remained a trackway for many years and ran towards Tanners Lane in Arle. But it was not completely paved through its length till the mid 1960s.
Of course, since the 20th C, development in the area has led to the construction of many new roads. But of these ancient roads there was one other which, for a long time, did not necessarily lead to a particular place from Alstone Village. Rowanfield Road was unpaved and unlit till near the end of the 19th C after St Mark's Church became the local Church and the then vicar asked the council to improve the lighting along it. The road would have taken many of the local children to Red Roofs School which stood on the corner of Roman Road and Rowanfield Road and which sadly, was demolished after the building of other schools in the area.
There are still many old cottages along this road though two or three were compulsorily purchased when the Rowanfield Estate was built in the mid 1940's. But perhaps the road which drastically altered the area was Gloucester Road. This originally ran via Hayden and Staverton but when the tram road was built to carry coal to and from the coal wharfs at the Gas Works, and in Market Street, in 1809, a new Turnpike Road ran parallel with it. The tramroad ceased to operate but Gloucester Road remained much as it does today.
Of the road shown on this early map the site of Lower Alstone Mill has seen some changes and a new road from Tewkesbury Road to the end of Mill Lane now an extension of Arle Avenue), was built, giving access to Tesco's and the warehouses built on the former fell-monger's land, but not, let it be said, to continue to link up with Arle Avenue. For a time it was blocked of with mounds of stone and earth but since the industrial development to the NW of this site and to continue to give access to what remained of the former Gas Works buildings, a road continues and bends northwards but bollards prevented traffic from racing down Arle Avenue to Tewkesbury Road.
The Environmental Agency has for some years been working on the stretch of the Chelt from Arle to Upper Alstone Mill, and is currently (2005) completing its work by the Lower Mill. But vehicular traffic is still to be banned from driving down this road called Colletts Way after a former land owner and a foot-bridge is to be built to allow pedestrians access to Tesco's, and a turning point at the Mill will be made to allow cars in Arle Avenue, to turn round and retrace their route back to Arle Road
There has been, of course, with the massive development in the area, the construction of many new roads and cul-de-sacs - too many to mention here, but perhaps the most prominent one is the Honeybourne Way which now joins Gloucester Road with St George's Road and in its last stretch, more or less, follows the old track S from the original Upper Mill which, like other landmarks, has disappeared with the development of the Waitrose Site.