Historic milestone comes home

Published: Tuesday 30th April 19

A rare and historic milestone and mounting block thought to date from 1654 has been restored and put back in its original location in Roehampton Vale.

The mounting block back in its original location on the side of the main London to Portsmouth road.

A mounting block is a block of stone used by riders to mount a horse and the Roehampton block is combined with an inscription reading ‘From London Towne to Portsedown they say tis myls three score.’

For the past four years the council has been working with the Putney Society, Wandsworth Historical Society, Transport for London and Roehampton University on a project to relocate the mounting block permanently to a site as close as possible to its original location. 

Funding for the scheme has come through the Wandsworth Local Fund, which is a charge levied by the council on local developers. The block has been carefully restored and is now located close to the entrance of Putney Vale Cemetery opposite an existing 19th century 9-mile milestone which has also been restored.

The grade II listed cemetery gates have also been repaired and restored as part of the project.

The block was first erected after legislation in 1654 decreed that every parish must have a local surveyor of roads to ensure they were kept in good repair. The Roehampton surveyor, Thomas Nuthall, marked his appointment by commissioning a combined mounting block and milestone which was sited on the Kingston Road, Roehampton on the main route from London to Portsmouth.

Since then the block has had a chequered history. It was lost in the 19th century when it was probably moved due to road improvements, and rediscovered by chance in 1921 during the demolition of a barn in Wandsworth. It was identified and purchased by local historian Ernest Dixon, who displayed it in his nurseries, and later garage, in West Hill. 

The council worked with the Putney Society, Wandsworth Historical Society, Transport for London and Roehampton University on the restoration project

In a letter to the Wandsworth Borough News in 1954, he wrote that had ‘bought the stone and erected it at the garage where the public may see what is a rare specimen of an ancient mounting block and milestone, one of Putney’s few authentic antiquities.’

It remained there for some 60 years, before being moved to the garden of a house in Southfields, then to Roehampton Library, Wandsworth Museum in Garratt Lane, West Hill and eventually to the grounds of Whitelands College, University of Roehampton.

Local historian Philip Evison has been one of the driving forces behind the restoration. He said: “The mounting block is the second-oldest surviving dated milestone in the UK and an extremely significant local artefact. I’m delighted that years of hard worked to save it have paid off.”

The renovated cemetery gates

The council’s arts and heritage spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “It has been a real pleasure to work with the local community to restore an important part of Roehampton’s history and put it back where it belongs. Wandsworth borough has such a rich heritage, and it’s crucial that as well as looking to the future, we celebrate our past.”

The borough’s history will also be celebrated at the 2019 Wandsworth Heritage Festival the theme of ‘Entertaining Wandsworth’.  From music halls and cinemas to bowling and velodromes, a programme of walks, talks and workshops will highlight the role entertainment has played in the lives of Wandsworth residents past and present. Programmes will be available in local libraries and other public buildings from early May.

Local schools can also encourage students to understand the history of their local communities by entering the Wandsworth Council/GLL Heritage Awards for Schools. The deadline to apply is June 7. To find out more email libraries.administration@gll.org or visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/schoolsheritageawards.