One of Eastington’s quieter backroads is Middle Street. This branches off the Bath Road en route towards Frocester, and wends its way up to Cress Green, where the road now ends. However, this was not always the case and in days long gone, it formed part of an important through route much used by carters and carriers moving goods between local villages and cloth mills.
Wagons regularly travelled along a now-lost ‘road’ (probably more of a trackway) that once linked Cress Green with Beards Mill in Leonard Stanley and beyond. Apparently it fed into ‘Slough Lane’ near The Grove, before making its way to Cress Green. Goods transported included wool, cloth and agricultural produce. At times, it must have been a difficult route as there are frequent stories of loaded wagons getting stuck in the mud. At times, these were sometimes hauled out by one of the local famer’s bulls.
Middle Street’s days as an important transport link have long gone, although in earlier times, it must have been quite a busy place. Originally mainly open fields, Middle Street and the area around Muddles Hole were developed mainly during the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the building of a numerous two-storey brick-built cottages. Most of these were in pairs although there were also terraces, such as Bath Terrace, that backs onto the Street. The reason behind this localised outburst in building was mainly the need to house the increasing number of workers being brought in to man the village’s cloth mills. Following this period of activity, for a long time, little changed in Middle Street – old 19th and 20th century maps confirm that this was limited largely to the odd bit of infilling.
The map shown (click it for a closer view) is a section from the 1885 OS map showing Middle Street branching off from the Bath Road. The layout of cottages etc. is largely unchanged .
This was a period when most villagers didn’t travel far and relied heavily on trades and services on their doorsteps. So, at times, a traveller making his way along Middle Street would have passed several farms, at least one of which was flanked by a large orchard that spread down to the road. If he was thirsty, he could stop off at The Royal Oak, one of the village’s many pubs – but perhaps the beer wasn’t up to scratch or the landlord was unfriendly, as it only lasted around 20 years. By the 1880s, there was a blacksmiths forge at the end of the road, and in the 1930s, a cabinet works was recorded. In the early 19th century, there was a brick yard on south side of the road. More recently, where Middle Street turns off the Bath Road, for many years, there was Mr French’s little antique shop.
Like other village roads and hamlets, it’s hard to visualise how these now-tranquil backwaters were once thronged with people making their to and from work on foot, tradesmen transporting and delivering goods, as well others meeting the needs of the local populous.
The name Muddleshole covered the area that includes what we now know as Middle Street. We do not know whether or not there was a connection between these names, or indeed any connection with ‘mud’ – but there still is a Muddleshole Cottage in Middle Street, with evidence of a stream running nearby. Ed.
An evocative reminders of an age gone by.
A gathering of local residents. Judging by their Edwardian looking dress, the photo probably dates from the early 1900’s