Milestone Maps

Milestones were a common feature of old roads.  They showed basic distances to the next town, in both directions, and the distance to London.  The old maps featuring Pembury show milestones and the distance markers if a stone was not present. Pembury has at least one milestone, and there are a few more outside the village.  The scope of this piece ranges from Tonbridge to Kippings Cross.   Some maps show markers at every mile, and the reference point is London.  For the roads running into London from the south east the reference point is London Bridge.  Some large scale maps will also show quarter mile markings.  On a map they are shown as single dots, with a double dot indicating a full mile.  Railway mileposts still use a similar system of one, two or three dots to indicate quarter mile markings, so next time you catch a train and you see a track side marker showing   you will be 25 and three quarter miles from the London terminus.

Back to the roads.  The first printed maps showing roads and milestones were published in 1676 by John Ogilby with Pembury featuring on the London to Rye map.  See section below.   One frightful piece of news is that in those days miles were not standardised.  There were many variations on the length of a mile.   Robert Morden’s maps of 1699 to 1722 show 3 scales for long, standard and short miles.  The gory details of this subject are dealt with in the Old Maps section of this web site.  Luckily for us Ogilby’s survey was conducted with 1760 yards to the mile – the standard mile.  Most road maps for the next 100 years  or so were copied from Ogilby with minor additions and local corrections.

The following collection of maps and text unfold a journey of discovery during the preparation of this page.


Please note the orientation of the first few maps below –   South is at the top    –     North is at the bottom.


The map above shows the original map section to the left and an edited version, removing some of the visual clutter for greater clarity.  Note that each of the full milestones is numbered  33 near Tonbridge to 36 at Kippings Cross.  A few of the side roads have been extended and annotated to clarify the picture.  On this map the road to Bayhall is marked as ‘to the Wells’.  The road to Bayhall starts at Chalkett Lane on today’s maps.  It is possible that in those days the road did extend to Tunbridge Wells.


The map above is from 1796  and has a little more clarity of the surrounding counrtyside, but lacks the quarter mile markers.  Again, a modified version has been produced to aid with today’s navigation.



The map above is a section from Edward Hasted’s survey and dates from around 1780.  It shows the road running north from Woodsgate Corner to milestone 32.  Various markers have been placed on the map to help identify geographic locations.

.           A     The road from Woodsgate Corner to Tunbridge Wells  – Today’s A264
.           B     The location of the entrance to Notcutts Garden Centre.  The large pond still exists and is visible on aerial images.
.           C     The location of the hospital. The stream to the right identifies the deep gorge in the landscape.
.           D     Road to Tunbridge Wells.  Either Blackhurst Lane or the route of North Farm Road.
.                    Both are on bends in the road.  Blackhurst Lane suits the scale of the map and the proximity to the hospital.
.                    The North Farm Road path fits with the placing of the milestone by the Milestone Society and Listed Buildings. See further down.
.           E     Possibly  ‘Pembury Walks’ or neighbouring footpath.   These routes were unpaved tracks through the woods.
.           F     Possibly  ‘Dislingbury Road’ or neighbouring footpath.   These routes were unpaved tracks through the woods.
.                             These two paths appear at the bend in the road to the north-west.
.           G     Half Way House.   If this location is correct the venue has now gone.
.                                                     If incorrect it may be the Vauxhall Inn – correctly located to the north of milestone 32.



The map above is from Edward Hasted’s survey and is the digital blending of 3 maps that unfortunately split in the centre of Pembury.
It shows where milestones 34, 35 and 36 were located in c1780. It also shows us where milestone 35  is located today.  It is assumed to be milestone 35 but it has no inscription and is located halfway between 34 and 35.
It is recorded by the Milestone Society as       National ID:   KE_LR35         GridRef:  SZ 4862 7721
This milestone appears on the 1868 OS map ( and later maps) at the ‘bus stop’  location inscribed  Tonbridge 5,  Hastings 26.




The map above is the result of some severe headbanging to resolve the positions of these milestones.  By placing all the known data onto one map it is clear that at some time there was a major difference in surveying & mapping or an exercise in relocating the milestones.   Further investigations involved The Milestone Society and specialist collectors of OS maps.

From Alan Rosevear of The Milestone Society –

Regarding interpretation of milestone positions – I have always been nervous about using 17th/18th cent county and Itinerary maps to identify milestones. Milestones were rare before 1750 (a crop on main roads in the 1740s) and I have taken the numbers that appear on the early maps to indicate distance (normally from London) rather than the presence of a milestone (though some may have coincided with a  milestone). If you take this approach then the discrepancy between the maps (17/18 vs 19) may be accounted for by use of a different “Standard” in London (ie the point zero – there were 10 or more commonly used in London – none of them plumb in the centre – except perhaps Cornhill. The 19th century ones to south of the River were commonly from the bridge used to cross the Thames. For the Hastings road it was London Bridge. The OS markings I believe are real milestone positions (though the text we know was generally an abbreviated version of the mileages and they omitted secondary road stones). Milestones with plates (like these) are generally 1830/30 ish – sometimes plates attached to older eroded stones – some custom made to take the plate – looking at the survivors I would say these were early 19th cent – I have not seen any archaic/gothic scripts and Roman numerals that might indicate 18th cent.

Almost all milestones and fingerposts in England were either defaced, buried or removed in 1940 following a Parliamentary directive aimed at confusing any invading army.  Many were returned (or dug up) in 1944 onwards but were not always put back in exactly the same spot – and many that had been defaced were left in the original position without pates or with chiselled out legends. I do not think the details were recorded – it was all a bit of a panic and I heard a lot was done on weekends as extra jobs (and some plates were melted for scrap).
However, I suspect the missing plates in Surrey/Kent are the result of post-war theft (ongoing) by souvenir hunters, scrap men and opportunists looking for antiques to sell.

From Aiden de la Mare on early OS maps –

The map used by your friend Tony to identify the position of the Milestones is the 1 : 25,000 Provisional Edition, Sheet TQ 64 Paddock Wood published in 1948, with a reprint in 1957.  But it was derived from the Six Inch map revised 1907 – 38. Because of this, in spite of its date, it is a good source of information on milestones, and other obsolete features such as benchmarks, which have disappeared from later maps.
A rummage through my collection seems to indicate that the Ordnance Survey was satisfied with the later position of the milestones and has kept them unchanged on all their maps since the Old Series in the early 19th Century.

The evidence so far points to a change in surveying between the early independent map makers and the start of the Ordnance Survey era. In the 17th century there appear to be few roadside marker stones. In the early 18th century they were beginning to appear as the turnpike roads were being introduced and a whole array of different Turnpike Acts were being established.  In 1766 the General Turnpike Act made it compulsory for all turnpike roads to have milestones and fingerposts (place indicators at junctions & crossroads). It is logical to assume that on main roads such as those from London to Rye and Hastings the planting of milestones would have taken place between 1750 – 1780.
We therefore deduce that the miles marked on Ogilby (1767), Owen & Bowen (1720), etc were just measured miles without roadside stones. We also assume that some maps such as the Paterson / Carver / Bowles maps of c1796 were just copies of the earlier maps.  Without sight of the Parliamentary Acts it is difficult to know if the London point of origin was determined by the Turnpike Act or by the surveyor implementing the milestone project.

013-Ogilby-Start-2The map above shows the start of the roads from London to Rye, Dover and Hythe for the Ogilby maps of 1676.  All the Kent and East Sussex roads start at Cornhill, a common London origin in those days.  The mile is shown subdivided into 8 furlongs, and the south side of London Bridge is about 4 furlongs (half a mile) from Cornhill.


This leaves us with Edward Hasted who claimed to have surveyed Kent for his masterpiece ‘History of Kent’ in 1778. Biographies reveal that Hasted probably wrote this book prior to 1770, then his lifestyle declined as his debts increased and he fled to France. The work was finished and edited by the publishers and there were several editions around 1778, 1797, 1801.   Details of the survey, and who crafted the maps is unclear. The next assumption is that by this time the systematic planting of milestones was underway (or complete) to comply with the General Turnpikes Act.  The mapmakers were probably aware of this, but conveniently took the postitions from the old maps. The Hasted maps do show the mile locations with small milestone graphics – a nod to their physical presence.  It is not safe to assume that his maps published in the 1790s reflect the position of the milestones planted in the previous few decades.

In the 1790s the first detailed survey of Kent was conducted by the newly established Ordnance Survey and the first OS maps of Kent were issued in 1801.  These large scale maps (not the 1 inch series) showed the true location of the roadside markers.

In 1814 Edward Mogg produced an atlas of road maps for England & Wales and based his maps either on a fresh survey or from the newly published Ordnance Survey maps.  There are 4 maps dealing with the London to Hastings Road and all state “Measured from London Bridge”.



The locations of milestones in the Mogg maps matches all the maps produced in the 20th century.  Comparison of the old and new maps suggests that the different origins of Cornhill and London Bridge accounts for the half a mile difference in mile marker locations.




One further piece of information gathered in this exercise  –
In 1952 the Ministry of Transport declared that Charing Cross was to be the Official London reference for all mileage distances, with no longer any reference to the existing locations:
.  Hyde Park Corner,
.  Whitechapel Church,
.  the south side of London Bridge,
.  the south side of Westminster Bridge,
.  Shoreditch Church,
.  Tyburn Turnpike    (Marble Arch),
.  Holborn Bars,
.  St Giles’s Pound,
.  Hick’s Hall   (St John St EC1),
.  the Standard in Cornhill,
.  Stones’ End in The Borough




The very brief list below shows the locations of existing, lost or listed milestones between numbers 32 and 36.

34 ..     High St Pembury.  Behind the electrical cabinet next to the bus stop near Woodhill Park.
.                   blank sandstone – metal plate is missing.     National ID:   KE_LR35       GridRef:  SZ 4862 7721
.                    Picture 1               Picture 2               Picture 3

32      Possibly 32 .   Top of sliproad A2014 leading to the A21 from Rembury Road, Tonbridge.
.              There is a tarmac rest / parking area.  In the hedgerow is a fallen milestone – no metal plate.
.              National ID:  KE_LR32       GridRef:  SZ 486 882
.                     Picture 1             Picture 2              Picture 3

34      This link comes from the Listed Buildings web site.     National ID:  KE_LR34       GridRef:  TQ 612 622


.            5/429 Milestone at TQ 612 422
.            II
 .           Milestone. Probably late C19. Limestone tablet-shaped slab standing approx
.            750mm high with an iron plaque fixed to the front. It has a segmental arch
.           top and records the mileages to London (34) and Tonbridge (4). Both towns are
.           in capital letters in a curve over the distance.

.          The link shows a map of the A21 roundabout at Longfield Road / Tonbridge Road.
.          The location of the milestone is placed on the shoulder of the road, heading south, just south of the roundabout.
.          The location may relate to its original site on the old Tonbridge to Hastings road prior to the dual carriageway.  Map Link
.          The Milestone Society database lists this milestone as ‘may be lost’.   It may be there, but hidden from view.
.          It is assumed that the road shown close to milestone 34 on the 1796 map is today’s North Farm Road, leading south-west toward
.          Tunbridge Wells.

33      This data comes from the Milestone Society database of lost milestones.     National ID:  KE_LR33      GridRef:  TQ 612 437
.            ‘Lost since the 1960s’    ‘Castle Hill, opp entrance to Castle Farm’      ‘A21  location by the road’



Please advise of any updates or corrections.



Related Links –

.           The Milestone Society –  
.           Wikipedia                           




Tony Nicholls   2014