The Story of the Inner Relief Road

Pam Wall

When this photograph was taken, a number of the houses had been demolished showing the Invicta leatherworks and some of Culver Street behind. | Picture by kind permission of the Salisbury Journal
When this photograph was taken, a number of the houses had been demolished showing the Invicta leatherworks and some of Culver Street behind.
Picture by kind permission of the Salisbury Journal
The demolition of 88 Milford Street
The demolition of 88 Milford Street
Demolition at the junction of Milford Street and Rampart Road | The Fieber Family
Demolition at the junction of Milford Street and Rampart Road
The Fieber Family
Phyllis Maple on Link Rd
When the construction of Churchill Way was proposed, information was either scanty or erroneous; many residents still feeling bitter about what actually happened.

Before the Relief Road

At the start of the twentieth century, the Milford Street Bridge area’s streets were made of compacted earth and trampled by the hooves of horses. By 1912 an increase in traffic had put pressure on Salisbury’s roads, so the city bought its own machine to tarmac the roads.

Even by the 1920s congestion was a major problem. A traffic census in Milford Street in 1930 revealed that nearly a thousand cars, buses, lorries and vans passed along Milford Street every day. By the 1950s, the amount of traffic travelling through the streets had become a real problem – especially as it didn’t only have to contend with human pedestrians!

Salisbury always had a tendency to get clogged up, what with the cattle and the traffic…...” (Anne Abrahams).

As Mrs M Tucker remembers:

People think it’s busy now but remember Winchester Street was two-way and all the traffic coming from London or down the A30 then, had to go right across, like by the Greencroft, past the top of Winchester Street, Milford Street and it turned right at St Anns Street so anything coming from London and going to Bournemouth went all that way down St Anns Street and then left at the bottom to get onto the Bournemouth Road, so everything came through.”

Some people of course took advantage of the congestion:

“…bank holidays… in the sixties, when people started to get cars and that, it was always solid all the way from the market, all the way up Winchester Street, all the way along London Road and some ladies along there used to make tea and take it out and sell tea ’cause that’s how long they were stuck.” (Ken Edwards).

Others had to find interesting ways to cross the road!

 “And in the winter it wasn’t quite so busy, it was during the summer it was worse because it was on the main route between London, Southampton and The Coast and great jams used to build up ‘specially in the latter years and in fact during the summer you sometimes had to climb over the bumpers of cars to get to the other side.” (Rita Jacob on Rampart Road).

The coming of the Relief Road

To relieve the traffic congestion, in 1966 a City Traffic Plan was developed, of which the Inner Relief Road was just one part. It also involved the redevelopment of the city centre to include multi-storey car parks that were linked with elevated access roads and bridges.

Stage 3 of the Inner Relief Road (Churchill Way East) from St Marks roundabout to the College roundabout, mainly follows the old route of London Road and Rampart Road. Permission for stage 3 was given after a Traffic Scheme Inquiry in October 1970.

Preparations for the route included a number of buildings being demolished: houses on Rampart Road, Beckingsale Training Home for Girls at the end of St. Martin’s Church Street, Number 88 (the mediaeval hall) and other houses on Milford Street, the Almshouses at the top of Winchester Street, and the removal of a strip of land at the Greencroft. At the Inquiry it was mentioned that it was most unfortunate that the Relief Road had to encroach on the Greencroft but the alternative was that more people would lose their homes just to save roadside trees and a strip of open land.

Click on the audio bar, above right, to listen to what Phyllis Maple (pictured) had to say about this.

For many people there was great sadness –

“Well I regret seeing a lot of them pulled down, especially the old almshouses because they never replaced ’em, and you see it took people from Rampart Road and stuck them out at Harnham, well it’s costing people money to come back into the town to… their grocers, because there was no shops at Harnham”. (Fred Humby)

Well, it was quite a shake up when they brought that road, put that road through there because they pulled the house down my wife was born in.  ‘Cause her family had to move elsewhere and, well we lost father and we lost mother and they moved to other properties, you know, old people’s homes and places like that.  And, very often we’re going along that road, the old Rampart Road, the dual carriageway now, and just look across and think to myself that’s where the house was”. (Robert Fitzgeorge)

When the road was going to go through then they took ‘alf my garden and my lovely apple tree they took, an’ all my gooseberry bushes, an’ I had twenty seven pound for that………. that was my compensation.” (Phyllis Maple of Guilder Lane)

“Well, originally, they were only go to take few houses, and our house and the next door house was supposed to remain, but then… the morning that my second son was born we had a letter to say that they needed our house as well, so where our house stood is now a rose garden”. (Doreen Gault, of St Ann St)

Rita Jacob had to move out of her childhood home on Rampart Road:

Now they started demolishing the road around us….The worst thing was it was like living in a derelict city because they practically moved people out….house by house coming up towards us….”

When Rita finally moved out:

I left Rampart Road that morning, and when…I came home I just got on the bus …up to here (in Harnham)..I didn’t like going down the road after that, in fact when I went up to ……..St Martins school, it was the first time I’ve really stood opposite where my house used to be. I’ve driven along the road but I’ve never walked along it, I’ve tried to avoid it…… …I mean it probably was the most traumatic event…. as if your childhood’s just been chopped off.”

For others, the building of the relief road seemed to happen overnight and made little difference:

Well to be quite honest the memory is a total blank. One minute it wasn’t there and then it was”. (Reg McGee) – sentiments echoed by several interviewees.

The Road to Nowhere

Salisbury’s famous “road to nowhere”, as it was commonly referred to, was an elevated section of road initially intended to provide access from Churchill Way East to the proposed linked multi-storey car park at Catherine Street.  The road to nowhere was built across Culver Street towards Gigant Street.

However, the elevated access road running at a rooftop level was found to violate both the historic street plan and the predominately domestic nature of the adjacent buildings. For these reasons Salisbury District Council decided not to continue the road across to Brown Street.

Despite being defunct, the road to nowhere stood for several years, finally being demolished in the early 1980s. In the course of being built, it caused the demolition of several properties, and together with the car stack, split Culver Street in two.

Sue Morrissey, who grew up on Milford Street says:

I don’t ever remember having any, even literature come through about it, …… I know there was some talk about having this road built and it was going to be fantastic, there was the road to go from one road to the car park in the centre.  And the road started and they knocked all these little cottages down ….. beautiful cottages, people that really spent money and done them up and they were really lovely, little gardens, you know, perfect and they knocked them down to put this road up supposedly to ease congestion in Salisbury and then it got stopped, so we had the road to nowhere stuck out there for years.  The only ones that used it were the kids on skateboards, bikes and that was the sort of start of the decline, I think, of the area.”

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