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Road & Rail Transport


Coach & Horses Steam locomotives at Kettering A United Council double-decker, of the type seen in the 1950s

The state of our roads has always been an issue and it seems that Elizabeth I was the first to try to do something about it when she introduced the Highways Act in 1555, which transferred the responsibility for the roads from the manor to the parishes. A man would be appointed as Surveyor of Highways annually by local Justices of the Peace and, under the Act, he had to ensure that every man worked on the roads for four days a year (later increased to six) often using  horses and carts procured by the Surveyor. Burton Latimer’s Churchwarden’s Accounts between 1619 and 1645 record the appointment during those years of John Mason, George Plowright, Walter Elliott and Stephen Branston as Supervisors of the Highways and William Dicks, Wolston Parsons and John Batman Jnr as Stone Reeves. William Vickars is also noted as being paid for stone carrying. Several instances of special payments are noted when roads became flooded and had to be repaired.

In the 18th century, turnpike trusts, made up of local landowners, began to be set up in order to levy tolls on road users to pay for their upkeep. The Act of Parliament that authorised the road that ran through Burton Latimer to be turnpiked was passed in 1753 and the trust’s powers were continued in 1780, 1801 and 1822, finally expiring in 1876. Burton Latimer was on the road from Barton Seagrave to Westwood Gate, Knotting, just over the Bedfordshire border and was the southern extension of the Market Harborough to Kettering turnpike. As far as is known, there was no toll gate in this parish but there was one at Cranford Turn, Barton Seagrave and another at Higham Ferrers.

At the time of the Burton Latimer Inclosure Act 1803/4, four ‘Public and Carriage and Drift’ roads were identified – a drift road being one along which livestock were driven or herded. Below are the basic details:

Cranford Road, 40ft. wide, ‘from near the dwelling of William Miller the elder (known more recently as Attfield’s farm on the corner of Church Street and Cranford Road) ……………… to the dwellinghouse of William Eady adjoining the windmill and from thence in a straight line to the Kettering and Thrapston turnpike road at Barton Lane.

Isham Road, 40ft. wide, from the westward side of the village in a westerly direction ……………… to the Ford near to a mill lately called the Cotton Mill ……… (Weetabix Mills)

Barton and isham Road, 30ft. wide, from the Lordship of Burton near a Gate called Barton Gate ……………. To the aforesaid Isham road ………….. (now known as Polwell Lane)

Harrowden and Finedon Road, 40ft.wide, from the turnpike road near to the southward end of the village ……………. In a southwardly direction to a mill called Garratt’s Mill (known more recently as Groome’s Mill) to the Lordship of Finedon ……

One Public Bridle Way of the breadth of 12ft. from the said Isham Road in a southwardly direction ……………….. to the Harrowden and Finedon Road (joining it between Bosworth’s Nurseries and new housing estate.)

“The Commissioners have not diverted, changed or altered, but have left the several turnpike roads leading over the lands and grounds by the said Act directed ……. to the breath of 60ft. on all parts  ……. “

In 1846, the Northampton Mercury reported that John Eady, Surveyor of the Highways in the Parish of Burton, charged Robert Abbott of Cranford, with refusing to pay a highway rate. The reason stated for the refusal was the bad condition of the roads under the care of the complainant. However, the magistrates at Kettering Petty Sessions found in favour of Eady and the rate was paid forthwith.

The relative improvement in the surface of the roads was appreciated by passengers on the coach services that were being set up throughout the country and mail coach journey times were drastically reduced. Burton Latimer was on two mail coach routes; ‘The Royal Mail’ was a passenger coach from Leeds to London via Wakefield, Barnsley, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Uppingham, Kettering, Higham Ferrers, Bedford, Shefford, Hitchin, Welwyn and Barnet. This coach left ‘The George’ at Kettering at about half past mid-day, so would reach Burton at about one o’clock. The return coach would attract less attention as it would pass through at about four in the morning. A post coach would also do the same journey at a different time. The other major service was provided by the ‘Peveril of the Peak’, which ran from Manchester to London and return via: Stockport, Buxton, Matlock, Derby, Loughborough, Leicester, Market Harborough, Kettering and then the towns mentioned above. This service left the ‘The George’ at Kettering at half past two in the morning and would pass through Burton on its return journey from London at about five o’clock in the morning.

The approach of a coach was signalled by the guard sounding the post horn, giving people waiting for it a few minutes notice of its arrival. If it was not scheduled to stop, this would allow time for the Letter Receiver to prepare to catch the bag of letters, which would be tossed out of the passing coach, and to prepare to throw a bag containing the outgoing mail to the guard. In Burton Latimer, Thomas Burnaby, innkeeper at the ‘Waggon & Horses’, Kettering Road, for at least 33 years, was described as ‘letter receiver’ in a 1849 trades directory. In 1812, there was a reference to a stop to pick up a brace of ducks from the ‘’Red Cow Inn’ by ‘The Royal Mail’ before it was robbed of sixteen letter-bags in Finedon on its way to Higham Ferrers. (The Red Cow was opposite the row of shops now occupied by Arthur Turner Ltd. and others). ‘The Red Cow’ advertised stabling and was still employing an ostler in 1901.

In 1923, the London to Carlisle trunk road, which followed the coach route of the ‘Peveril of the Peak’ a hundred years earlier, was designated the A6, and passed through Burton Latimer until the by-pass was opened in 1992.

Although many of the houses that belonged to businessmen and tradesmen had stables and coach houses (or at least somewhere to park a gig or trap) there has always been a demand for means of transport without the reliance on public services. This need was met in a variety of ways. In 1911, Fred Norton, whose bakery was on the corner of Station Road and Kettering Road, advertised “Traps & Waggonettes for hire” and since then a search through town guides and directories have shown many taxi proprietors and car hire businesses including the Giliatt Brothers, Church Street; Charlie Ward, High Street; Walter (Curley) Pearson, Station Road; Fred Smith, Church Street; W.F. Brown, Bakehouse Lane; Roger Saddington, Station Road and Regency Cars, High Street.

The town’s first motorbus service was provided by the Midland Railway Company, which provided a service from Kettering station to Burton Latimer in 1911, but it was withdrawn after less than a year. Two years later, the Wellingborough Motor Omnibus Co Ltd (forerunner of United Counties) commenced a service on 14th June 1913 between Wellingborough and Kettering via Finedon and Burton Latimer

Two bus services were provided by Burton Latimer operators. Starting just after the First World War, John Meadows, Victoria Street, ran trips to the seaside and a regular service to Kettering, the Thrapston area and Huntingdon. From 1921, Lewis Timson & Son (Harold), Finedon Street, also ran an ‘omnibus service’ but they sold out to United Counties in 1934.  John Meadows’ buses became ‘Meadows & Frost’ in 1924 and Walter Frost married into the family in 1925; the business sold out to the United Counties Bus Company in 1936 and United Counties was the main provider of the town’s daily bus service from then onwards.

The Leicester & Hitchin Railway, later to be absorbed into the Midland Railway, came to Burton Latimer in 1857 and the line was extended to St. Pancras in 1868. In 1877, a short tramway was built to connect the nearby Wallis’s Flour Mill and in 1895, a siding was constructed to serve the newly built Burton Latimer Gas Works.

The railway station was first known as ‘Isham for Burton Latimer’, but in 1923, when the Midland   became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, the name was changed to ‘Burton Latimer for Isham’. This led to speculation that the name change had taken place because Burton Latimer, previously part of Kettering Rural District, became an Urban District in its own right at the same time. The station closed to passengers in 1950 and goods traffic in 1964.

Opened in 1866, the Kettering to Huntingdon railway passed through the parish and many people will remember the notorious narrow hump-back bridge carrying the A6 over it in Kettering Road and ‘Black Bridge’ in Cranford Road. Not far from ‘Black Bridge ’, north of Windmill cottages, was a loading bay used for ironstone. The line was closed to passenger traffic in 1959 but was used for ironstone traffic for some years after that.

Bus services information courtesy of Roger M. Warwick author of ‘Bygone Buses of Northamptonshire’

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