THE ROADS OF ENGLAND AND WALES;
AN ITINERARY FOR CYCLISTS, TOURISTS, & TRAVELLERS
Containing descriptions of the contour and surface with mileage of the main direct and principal cross roads in England and Wales and part of Scotland;
particularly adapted to the use of BICYCLISTS and TRICYCLISTS
(Charles Howard, 1889)
As it says in the preface:
"It cannot be denied that Cycling, ever since its introduction into this country as a means of locomotion, has been in want of a reliable Road Book specially adapted for its requirements—in short, one that will afford full information as to mileage, hills, and surface of, at least, the great trunk roads.
A strong proof of this, if any be needed, can be readily found by reference to the columns of the papers devoted to the pastime, where enquiries about roads, &c., may be seen almost every week."
The book mainly covers the main roads, and it is interesting to compare the situation 120 years ago with what we find today. Here, for example is a description of one road that I am very familiar with, from Slough to Reading, which is still recognisable as the A4:
Slough to Maidenhead is a gently undulating road, chiefly downhill, through Salt Hill; good smooth surface, but inclined to be loose and sandy occasionally, with a bad and heavy bit just before Maidenhead Bridge, where cross Thames; macadam through the town. (Maidenhead: Bear; Bell; Cleare's; Cliveden, Queen St., Hqrs.; Lewis's; Queen's Arms; Ragmead; Railway; Saracen's Head ; Thames; White Hart.) 2 or 3m. on r., Burnham Beeches, lately purchased for public recreation by the Corporation of London.
At Maidenhead Bridge, on r., Taplow Ho., and 3m. Cliefden and Dropmore Lodge. 1m. S. of Maidenhead, the village of Bray, of " The Vicar of Bray" fame.
Maidenhead to Twyford; hill to mount out of the town, then first rate level road to Stubbings Heath or Maidenhead Thicket, (where keep to L.), and the rest is rather hilly by Littlewick Green, Knowl Hil, Kiln Green, and Hare Hatch; capital smooth and hard road. Pretty scenery.
Twyford to Reading is undulating, chiefly on the rise for two-thirds of the distance, ending with a long gradual fall just before Reading ; capital smooth road, but not quite so firm a surface as the preceding stage ; macadam through the town, in which turn to L. into Minster street for the Bath road. (Reading: Black Horse; George, B.T.C.; Great Western; New Albion; Queen's; Upper Ship; Wheatsheaf.)
2m. past Twyford, on r., Holme Park.
At Reading are remains of a Benedictine Abbey, built 1121. St. Mary's, St. Lawrence, and the old Greyfriars are the most interesting churches. Here is the large biscuit manufactory of Huntley and Palmer. On r., across R. Thames, Caversham Park.
The whole book can be downloaded here