Picture Stories from Earth: It’s nice, but is it Basingstoke?

Over on Vintage Everyday, there’s a very nice shot of a couple driving along a rural road in England, circa 1910. The make of motor car is not specified (it should be easy to identify: short, curved bonnet with no logo, headlamps and side lamps, horizontal grille). The location is identified as Tunworth Road, Basingstoke, but there’s a problem. That overpass.

Is it really Tunworth Road?

Is it really Tunworth Road?

Tunworth Road is even now a narrow, sometimes twisty, but always picturesque lane-and-a-half that runs from just north of Mapledurwell, past Tunworth, to the vicinity of Upton Grey, in the semi-developed countryside southeast of Basingstoke.

Some parts aren't this wide

Some parts aren’t this wide

The homes are old and expensive, or new — and expensive. One chart says “manor homes” are running at about three times the UK average, almost £900,000.

To the manor born

To the manor born

The problem is, I have “driven” along it, via Google Maps, and there’s no sign of that overpass in the background. Given the date and the construction material, it’s probably a railroad overpass.

Google Maps today shows no major roads or railroads crossing Tunworth

Google Maps today shows no major roads or railroads crossing Tunworth

But what about the past, you ask? The photo was taken in the past, so maybe there’s some pastness going on here. Sorry,

Ordnance Survey map of 1893 shows no railroad

Ordnance Survey map of 1895 shows no railroad

Even 120 years ago, there was nothing like a railroad in the region southeast of Basingstoke. And the railroads that do show on the map, north of the northern end of Tunworth Road, are all dual track, with thick overpasses. The one in the picture is a narrow structure. There is, at the north end of the road, just beyond Maplederwell and just before it dead-ends into the modern M3 motorway, a trace of a waterway, but all the roads shown cross over the waterway, not under.

Finally, examination of the latest imagery shows no ground trace of a railroad in the vicinity.

No sign of it in overhead, either.

No sign of it in overhead, either.

Conclusion? Maybe the maps don’t show all of Tunworth Road. Maybe it makes a break at the north or south end, and picks up again later on. But the north end of the road dead-ended against the London road long before the M3 arrived, and the south end of the road would more likely be called the Upton Grey Road at that point, or maybe Lee Hill Road. On the other hand, maybe the location of the photo is wrong (except there’s an old postcard that shows what might be the same overpass and is hand annotated Tunworth Road).

I guess I’ll have to schedule a trip to England next summer, and investigate the situation on the ground.


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