The first map clearly shows the route taken more than 120 years ago by the unmade section of Rushbottom Lane, up through North Benfleet running parallel to Pound Lane and beyond. Most of the roads shown on this map have been surpassed by massive modern major routes to cater for 21st century traffic.
Before the modern major roads were built these footpaths and bridleways would have been the routes used to travel between villages, joining up the isolated farms, churches and most importantly the cattle markets at Wickford and Chelmsford. Farm workers travelling by foot, farmers and the richer men travelling on horseback or horse and cart.
” Smuggling was very rife in Benfleet….Many footpaths through the woods and pack tracks by which these articles were conveyed to the neighbouring towns still exist and owe their origin to this traffic.” (p 39) The Urban District of Benfleet Official Guide – 1936
Today the unmade section of Rushbottom Lane extends away from the smooth tarmac and continues under the newly widened A130 into a tree lined firm path beside a flowing waterway. Later the track becomes byway 150 before it turns in to an overgrown path which is cut by the roaring traffic of the A127. However it does extend the other side of the A127 towards the market town of Wickford, following its original route.
History of the A127
In 1920, Prime Minister Lloyd George announced a plan for new roads around London to create jobs for ex-soldiers from the 1914 -18 war. In 1921 new plans were announced for a 21 mile extension to Southend. Work began on the first seven miles of the Southend Arterial Road on December 8, 1921.
It was officially opened on 25 March 1925 by Prince Henry, later the Duke of Gloucester. Far from being a British autobahn, the Southend Arterial Road was a two-way straight, fast and lethal country lane. It soon became notorious for accidents. By summer 1935, the single-lane Southend Arterial Road was so congested that motorists avoided it.
In 1936, funds were granted for “duplication”, and the dual carriageway was only completed in 1940. It had taken 19 years to build the Southend Arterial Road. By the 1960s the rapid expansion of car ownership changed the road system for ever.
The Rushbottom Lane route north has long been replaced by the updated A130 route to Chelmsford and Wickford’s cattle market is no more, remaining only a street name. The farms on the Benfleet marshes have been sold and the RSPB have a reserve there, very few cattle graze there any more. ‘The drovers pond that existed for centuries on ground behind The Anchor Public house also is no more.’ (UD of Benfleet guide 1936 (p39)