Winchester Bypass emails

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The following email conversation took place in June 2009 between Ritchie Swann and Keith Spencer, a road enthusiast outside of SABRE. Some information on the SABRE wiki article came directly from these emails.

From Spencer, Keith A
To SABRE President
Date 18 June 2009

I noticed your post yesterday regarding the above. (I did register with SABRE early last year but owing to other problems, have been unable to post anything as of yet.)

I have an interest in Road Development between 1918-1950 and hold much information on this and many other schemes of this era. It was my intenetion to post opening dates together with other details of construction that i have on the "Atlas Dating" section but i am still trying to put these in order first (In addition to hundreds of archive newspaper articles dating from the 1920'2 to 1950's, i hold copies of all the annual "Ministry of Transport Administration of the Road Fund" reports from 1921-1956 together with the "Roads in England and Wales " Reports from 1956-1976 which succeeded these (and their Scottish equivalents) and also many periodicals/journals from the same era such as "The Surveyor and Municipal Engineer" which contain many reports and articles on roads amongst other subjects. I have also researched many Local Authority Archives recently and these contain much of interest!

Anyway, back to the Winchester By-pass. I was going to make the "1940's" my first post in the "Atlas Dating" section with (hopefully) a detailed list of all the schemes that were under construction at 1st January 1940 with opening dates where i have been able to obtain these from the archives. I had also intended to comment on the variety of dates given for this one in particular (I really don't see why there is a problem!)

Dealing first with the opening, i have the following information:

1. The construction of the By-pass originally began in 1931 but was halted very quickly owing to the financial crisis of that year. Very little work was completed at that time. 2. The plans were revised in 1934 and work resumed in November 1935 to a new specification which now included dual-carriageways. Cost was estimated at £360,000 with the government supplying a 75% grant. 3. The Road Fund Report for 1937-1938 stated that a small part (0.33 miles) of the "link road from the A31 to A272" was now opened to traffic. 4. The Road Fund Report for 1938-39 stated that the by-pass was nearing completion. A brief article in "The Surveyor" from early 1939 stated that it was expected to be open in July 1939. 5. A further brief article in the edition of 11th August 1939 stated that the by-pass would be opened by the Transport Minister on 3rd November 1939 (similar plans existed to open the Coventry By-pass the week earlier but neither took place owing to the war) 6. Articles in "The Times" on 6th December 1939 and "The Surveyor" on 15th December 1939 stated that the by-pass would be opened by the end of December 1939. 7. The "Surveyor" article also stated that one carriageway had been open since "early in the war" for the use of military traffic only. 8. An article in "The Times" on 31st January 1940 announced that the road would be opened the next day and that the total cost of the road was now nearly £450,000. 9. A further brief article in "The Times" on 2nd February 1940 states:

Winchester By-Pass Opened: "The new winchester by-pass road was opened yesterday, an improvement which should greatly expedite the flow of traffic between London, Bournemouth and the West Country"

Hopefully, that should sort that question out!

As regards the photographs on SABRE with the caption "Winchester By-pass 1933", these were almost certainly taken in 1938 (definitely not 1933!) and indeed, some similar photographs appeared in "The Times" edition of 28th January 1938 under the heading "By-passing Winchester- progress of the new road".

Hope this is of some help!



From Ritchie Swann
To Spencer, Keith A
Date 18 June 2009
Hi Keith,

Thank you very much for your email and the confirmation of dates for the Winchester bypass. Since you first looked at SABRE last year, we now have a rapidly expanding wiki (documents archive) in addition to our forums, which is an ideal place to add historical accounts and data. If it's okay with you, I'd like to use the information supplied as a source for our relevant wiki article at

My interests in road development and history have a similar overlap to yours; I have a specific interest in the Winchester Bypass because I travelled along it several times a year as a small child to my grandparents, and so little of it remains intact today. With regards the conflicting dates, several of which I quoted, we believe this may have been due to wartime censorship, since at the time of official opening, as you say, it had been active for military use.

A number of our members have made trips to local archives around the country, with particular reference to the National Archives in Kew, and the Hampshire Archives in Winchester, and we have discovered many important and interesting files from the Ministry of Transport. Most of the articles on sites such as CBRD ( and Pathetic Motorways ( are based on research stemming from this, or from contemporary newspaper articles. I personally have difficulty getting access to archives myself due to having a family of young children, which takes up most of my spare time on weekends, so my research tends to be limited to online services or other data sources such as Hansard. There is still however, a minefield of information out there just waiting to be discovered, and I think most of our regular contributors would be fascinated by the selection of articles you have, particularly any that give plans and maps (national and local archives tend to be restrictive about camera copies of documents).

One specific item we are still searching for, and have been for some years, is a copy of the Ministry of Transport's original list of Class I ('A') and Class II ('B') roads with basic route information (eg: A1 - 'London' - 'Doncaster' - 'Newcastle' - 'Edinburgh') which was published commercially in 1922, but sold poorly and was never reprinted or reissued. The Department of Transport have not been able to locate a copy themselves for us, and indeed can supply little knowledge into the original list of numbers.

Regarding the photos, I've discussed this with the Jon Winkler, who supplied them, a few weeks ago. The photographs came from a National Archives file which he believed to be dated 1933, but on further investigation we could not find conclusive evidence of this. The date has since been changed to "c. 1939" awaiting further information.

Finally, if you need any help with accessing the forums, wiki, or remembering your account details, please send an email to and they'll be happy to help.

-- Ritchie Swann SABRE President

From Spencer, Keith A
To Ritchie Swann
Date 19 June 2009
Hi Ritchie,

Thanks for your reply and for the additional information you gave. Please feel free to use the information for the article!

I note that your interest in the Winchester By-pass began whilst travelling along it to see grandparents. I live in Lincoln and we also used to travel along it to see Grandparents in Gosport at least twice a year in the 60's and 70's! (I can even remember travelling along the newly-opened "Kingsworthy Link" extension when it opened in Summer 1969.)

With regard to wartime censorship, i have found that betwen September 1939 and May 1940, the opening of new roads was generally reported, albeit more patchily, and they tended to be tucked away off the front page so to speak. The opening of the Chichester By-pass in May 1940 was certainly reported and the articles i have on this also comment on the fact that the bank holiday traffic using it was not much reduced from pre-war years! After the fall of France, however and the threat of invasion, it appears that there were no further specific reports permitted until later in the war although, oddly, the opening of the A2030 Eastern Road extension across the creek from Portsmouth-Farlington in 1942 (surely a strategically important route if ever there was one) was reported in the local paper!

On a similar theme, there does seem to be some confusion amongst people as to when/why newly-opened roads were closed to traffic during the war. This generally happened only from 1943 onwards when they were used as Military Vehicle Reception Depots in the run-up to and following D-Day and for storage of surplus vehicles from the end of the war. I understand that this was the case with the Winchester By-pass. Some of these were not re-opened until well into 1946 although i think in the case of Winchester that this was re-opened in August 1945. This is another little-recorded historical phenomenon that i am researching as it appears that this happened all over the country and not just near the south coast. Just from information that i have found so far, the new by-passes at Hailsham, Crawley, Uttoxeter, Coleshill, Rainford, Church Stretton, Gringley-on-the-Hill and the newly-dualled stretches of the A46 between Six Hills-Thrussington and the A64 between Tadcaster-York were all used for this purpose. (Several mentions exist in Hansard for 1945-46 regarding demands for re-opening)

Unfortunately, though I do hold quite a few of the original MOT sectional road maps from the early 1920's and a full set of the Daily Mail Motor Road Maps from 1926-39, i do not have a copy of the MOT-issued List that you are looking for.

The Wiki Documents Archive is an interesting development which i will now have a look at as i had always intended to supply more than just a set of opening dates. Thanks for the update on this. I will hopefully be upgrading my home computer shortly and will then be able to get some info through. Though i do not have any children, when my partner goes shopping at Nottingham, or when i am working away from the office, i have fortunately been able to visit the Council Archives and Libraries occasionally!