Old Routes From South Benfleet to Wickford

Rushbottom Lane via North Benfleet

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The Rushbottom Lane route north has long been replaced by the  updated A130 route to Chelmsford and Wickford’s cattle market is no more, remaining only a street name.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)

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Ordnance Survey map 1805 - 1896
Ordnance Survey
1902 - 1906 Bartholomew's Half Inch Maps England and Wales
Rushbottom Lane in 1920, There is a curve in the road in this picture, it might be near to the site of Woodham Ley Primary school, there are also quite a few old oak trees outside the school in 2015.
Rushbottom Lane 2015 outside Woodham Ley School, with a similar curve in the road.
Street sign that leads to unmade section.
The underpass for the newly widened A130 and Rushbottom Lane goes underneath.
Margaret March
Recent work on the A130 widening has changed the entrance to this byway with water storage areas and drainage for the road on both sides.
Disused North Benfleet Church across the fields that can be reached by a footpath off the unmade section of Rushbottom Lane.
Margaret March
Horses still use this route, in the background is North Benfleet church and farm.
Margaret March
Horses on the footpath to North Benfleet Church, a footpath off to the right of Rushbottom Lane.
Margaret March
Footbridge and footpath over the stream towards the east and Rayleigh.
Margaret March
North end of the unmade section of Rushbottom Lane
Margaret March
On the other side of the A127 is the road that heads towards Wickford and Raweth also cut by the busy traffic.
Margaret March
Path cut by the A127 traffic, there is tarmac under all the vegetation and the stream here has rusty railings. A bollard is the only mark to show that the road ran north towards Wickford and Rawreth.
Margaret March
Stream beside unmade section of Rushbottom Lane.
Margaret March
The path is firm and connected the market town of Wickford to North and South Benfleet.
Margaret March
The path is lined with oak trees.
Margaret March
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