Road, Rail & Water: past and present
 
Roman Roads
Much of central England is contained within a great equilateral triangle of Roman roads, with vertices at St Albans, Cirencester and High Cross (Leics).  Its sides are Watling Street (now the A2 and A5), running north-west from Dover to Wroxeter (near Shrewsbury); the Fosse Way, running north-east from Exeter to Lincoln; and Akeman Street, running west from St Albans to Cirencester.  One reference to our Roman road calls it Stratton Road, though Strat can refer to any Roman street.  It runs from Dorchester-on-Thames to Towcester, crossing Akeman Street just south of Bicester at a substantial Roman settlement called Alchester (note that Bicester itself, despite its name, is not a Roman settlement - see its local history website).  Stratton Road runs along the line of the A4421 Bicester to Finmere road and passes the door of Finmere's pub, The Red Lionbefore petering out in fields as it makes its way to us.  Its line crosses the river well to the north-west of the present road bridge and joins the modern road near Town Farm.  From there it sticks fairly closely to (but slightly east of) the line of the road through the village and on through Stowe Park, eventually meeting Watling Street at Towcester.
  
While the line of Stratton Road is clearly visible in many places, there is less evidence for another Roman road - from Water Stratford to Stony Stratford, an undoubted Roman settlement twelve miles away where Watling Street forded the Great Ouse.  The Vicar of Buckingham from 1854 to 1862, Revd Henry Dawson Roundell, was an antiquarian who is quoted by Sheahan in 1862 as stating, 'There is very little doubt of the existence of a Roman road from Stony Stratford to Water Stratford.  The course is marked by the Roman remains at Foxcot (now called Foscote), at Castlefield two miles from Foxcot and in the parish of Buckingham (now called Castle Fields and lying on the north west edge of Buckingham), and again by remains found at Radclive and Tingewick.'  If this claim is valid then much of the route would be on the line of the present A422 from Buckingham to Stony Stratford.  It is not clear what relevance Roundell saw in Roman remains at Tingewick, as a line from Water Stratford to Castle Fields passes well north of Tingewick and even Radclive.  There is also potential for confusion between Foscote near Buckingham and Foscote near Towcester, which also claims Roman remains.  As Stony Stratford and Towcester are only about seven miles apart, one wonders why the Romans should need two routes from Water Stratford to Watling Street.  However, our village's earlier name of West Stratford would make good sense if it were at the western end of a road to Stony Stratford.  Perhaps the two routes flourished at different periods of the Roman occupation.

The white railings
The railings on the eastern side of the road at the south end of the village were originally, we believe, to allow sheep and cattle to be driven along the road without them fouling or blocking the pavement.  A single breach was made in them around 1980 in order to create a driveway into three new houses but they have stayed unchanged since.  Periodically they have been repainted, usually by village teenagers in search of extra pocket money! 

Welsh Lane: a drovers' road
The Welsh Road was the most important of the old drovers’ roads from Wales to London.  These routes were probably ancient tracks but from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century were the way drovers took cattle to fattening pastures and markets.  With the advent of the railways they gradually became obsolete.  The Welsh Lane drovers drove their Welsh Black cattle from Anglesey, through Wrexham, Birmingham and Southam, to Buckingham, Aylesbury and London.  The journey took about three weeks and tended to avoid villages and towns on the way.  The route enters the West Buckingham benefice around Biddlesden, passes north of Shalstone through the hamlet of Wood Green (where there were remains of an ale house until the 1970s) and enters our parish, where most of it is still known as Welsh Lane.  It joins the A422 at a surviving public house, The Robin Hood, in the hamlet of Bufflers Holt and then goes on to Buckingham.

Water supply
For a long time the village was supplied with water from a spring in a field at the northern end of Town Farm.  The water came through an iron pipe, buried about 18” deep, via gravity to an underground tank in land behind Corner Cottage.  This tank (still there) was connected to another underground pipe along the line of the street, terminating outside the church gate.  Villagers collected their water by filling buckets from any one of three attractive old cast iron hydrants which were supplied from the latter pipe.  The first (still apparently complete, but half-buried) was in the verge outside what is now Meadow View, the second (still apparently complete) was near the blue brick arch adjacent to Rose Cottage and the third (now incomplete) near the church notice-board.  Water would gush out when a heavy spherical lever was lifted (the remaining levers are now seized up).  Mains water was connected to the village at some time between the Wars.  The blue brick arch housed a stand pipe which was fed from another spring at the top of the field called Jackson’s (formerly Jackman's) Close to the north of the Rectory garden.  Frank Lucas, who lived in Rose Cottage, used this to water the prize dahlias he grew in the Old School garden.
   
Railway
A single track railway line was opened in 1850 from Buckingham to Banbury and crossed the
road through the village on a girder bridge just south of the church.  In 1956 the branch was selected for experimental use of new lightweight single unit diesel railcars, and two additional halts were built at Radclive and Water Stratford. The guards issued tickets from these halts and the service was extremely popular, especially on Saturdays.  The service is described in more detail on this website devoted to disused stations, from which both photographs are copied, with thanks (permission to use them was sought, but no reply was received).
Railcar at Radclive Halt in August 1956, photo by W A Camwell

At Water Stratford there was a single timber platform just to the east of the bridge, built from old railway sleepers.  It was very low, necessitating the use of portable steps for less agile passengers. A simple painted wooden name-board and some old oil lamps mounted on timber posts were the only furnishings.  The picture on the right gives a good idea of what it was like, though it is actually of Radclive, the next station towards Buckingham.  Water Stratford Halt survived until January 1961 when, as part of the vandalism that is commonly attributed to Dr Beeching, this section of the line was closed to passengers, the rails taken up and the platform demolished.  All that remains to be seen of the railway today are the bridge supports flanking the road and the arches of the viaduct where it crossed the River Great Ouse.                                                                                                                                                                            Radclive Halt, photo by John Smith

In Records of Buckinghamshire 1893 there is an article by John Myres entitled History and Antiquities of Water Stratford, Bucks, in which he mentions archaeology uncovered during the construction of the railway in 1847-48.  Extensive remains of buildings were found during the of excavation for the piers of the viaduct which spans the river near the old ford, and in the cutting made to allow the road to go under the bridge.  An eye-witness described these buildings as Roman, as were earthenware vessels and quern-stones found in the buildings.