Radcot Road – one of the roads that made Faringdon the important five-way road junction of the past. It was once an important trade route into Oxfordshire at the old border on the River Thames at Radcot Bridge, and on to access the wool merchants of Witney as well as more routes to the north of England.
See Faringdon Streets for an indexed list of all streets in Faringdon.
Views of Radcot Road
Looking down Radcot Road from Church Street into the valley of the River Thames. The Cotswold Hills can be seen on the horizon across the valley. The statue in the grounds of Faringdon House can be seen overlooking the road in the second photo (more below). The original road used to run straight up Church Street from the Market Place through the current entrance to Faringdon House beside the church and passing close to house. In 1780, when having the house rebuilt, the then Lord of the Manor, Henry James Pye, had the road diverted by an Act of Parliament to its current position further up Church Street. There is a sharp bend at the bottom of the hill where the road veers off from the old course that went straight up through the grounds towards the house and church.
The statue in the grounds of Faringdon House that can be seen overlooking the road was purchased from the Houses of Parliament who had five of them to sell. Each one depicts one of the five continents, this one being Africa. Concealed under the statue is a World War II pillbox, which had spy-holes to observe an enemy approaching and would have been defended with Bren guns and anti-tank guns.
Down the road, turning around and looking back into Faringdon. When you arrive from travelling across the relatively flat valley of the River Thames there is quite a steep climb up the Radcot Road in order to enter the town.
The bridge over the River Thames at Radcot, built around 1200 is said to be the oldest existing bridge on the river and it is Grade II Listed. The river once marked the border between the counties of Berkshire and Oxfordshire before the changes in 1974. Back in the days of the Saxons (5-10th Century) the river formed the border between the kingdoms of Wessex in the south and Mercia to the north. This is the first bridge you come to when travelling from Faringdon. I had to be reconstructed in 1393 following its destruction during a battle fought and won against troops loyal to the young, wildly extravagant and increasingly unpopular Richard II. The bridge was again severely damaged during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) and was later rebuilt as it appears today.
Extract from a childhood memoir of the 1930s in Faringdon: “In summer the river was the big attraction, every one learnt to swim down the “shallows” To get to these you turned left at Radcot Bridge went through a small gate walk a long the tow path for a little way, then cut across country which cut off a bend in the river and that brought you to the shallows. The River Thames was only 2 1/2 miles away and we often walked there and stayed all day paddling about in what we called the ‘shallows’ where the river overflowed onto the low flat ground. The walk there was soon covered by leaping ditches and playing chase but the return journey when we were tired, hot and foot weary seemed more like six miles. My brother, who could not swim, used to jump from Radcot Bridge into the fast flowing main part of the river.” More memoires…
A second bridge was added over a short canal that was cut around 1787 to improve navigation on the river, and a toll was charged to cross it. The photo was taken from the garden of the Swan Hotel during the floods in December 1992. A closer look shows the evidence of many repairs that had been required in previous years. The problem continues even more frequently today as lorries get longer and heavier, and ignore signage of the alternative route via Lechlade.
The National Trails Thames Path crosses the river at this bridge.
A little further on past the pub is a third bridge over another canal, now disused for navigation.
Researched by Ian Lee, May 2020.