Oxford Mileways Act 1771

The scope of this important Act, which changed the face of central Oxford and the suburb of St Clement's, and created the Covered Market and toll roads that are still used today, is summed up thus at the beginning:

An Act for amending certain of the Mile-ways leading to Oxford; for making a commodious Entrance through the Parish of Saint Clement; for rebuilding or repairing Magdalen Bridge; for making commodious Roads from the said Bridge, through the University and City, and the Avenues leading thereto; for cleansing and lighting the Street, Lanes, and Places, within the said University and City, and the Suburbs thereof, and the said Parish of Saint Clement; for removing Nuisances and Annoyances therefrom, and preventing the like for the future; for impowering Colleges and Corporations to alienate their Estates there; for removing, holding, and regulating Markets within the said City; and for other Purposes.

The Act was enormous (nearly 30,000 words), and all transcriptions here have been made from the original 1771 version.

The process began at the meeting of Oxford City Council on 21 November 1770, when it was agreed that the City Seal should be fixed to a petition to Parliament for:

the more effectual repairing and amending such of the roads as belong to Oxford and which are not taken into and made a Part of any Turnpike road for the Making of a more Commodious Entrance into the Said University and City thro' the Parish of Bridgsett commonly called Saint Clements for the widening repairing or rebuilding the Bridge called Magdalen Bridge and for making a more safe and commodious road from the said Bridge thro' the University and City aforesaid to join the Great Roads leading to Worcester, Gloucester, Bath, Abingdon, Newbury and Southampton and for other purposes therein mentioned and now openly read without being read again in the house.

The Act came into force in 1771, and in 1780 there was a further Act giving additional powers.

The Mileways Act was printed in 1801 by Oxford University Press, and that edition can be viewed online here as a Google Book

Introduction to Mileways Act

Transcription of selected parts:



Right: The start of the Mileways Act as published in 1771. It is in a Gothic typeface, with a plainer typeface used for emphasis.

Chronological Table of the Statutes Part I: Covering the Acts of the Parliaments of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom from 1235 to the end of 1968 gives the subsequent history of the Act thus (abbreviations have been expanded):

1771 (11 Geo 3)
Chapter 19: Oxford improvement*

repealed in part – (savings) Oxford Improvement, 1835, chapter lxix, section 37; 1848 chapter xxxvii, section 1;
Local Government, Supplemental (No 5), 1865 chapter 108 schedule, Oxford Order, sections 4, 10
Local Government Board's Provisional Orders Confirmation, 1889 chapter xv, schedule City of Oxford Order article 24 (1);
Oxford Improvement, 1835, chapter lxix, section 1

saved – River Thames (Bercot to Oxford) Navigation, 1843 chapter vi, section 7
amended – Local Government Supplemental (No 5), 1865 chapter 108, schedule, Oxford Order, sections 5,6
section 70 repealed – Oxford Improvement, 1812 chapter lxxii, section 23

* This was an Act of Limited Application. If such Acts were believed to be still in force, their titles were printed in bold type – as this one is.

On 7 March 1772 the following advertisement inviting tenders for the maintenance of Oxford's roads was placed in Jackson's Oxford Journal by order of the Commissioners (James Morrell and John Walker):

Any Person or Persons willing to undertake by the Year the Repair of the Pitching of the Street or Way leading from Magdalen Bridge to East Gate, called Bridge Street; of the Street or Way, called the High-Street, leading from thence to Carfax; of the Street or Way leading from Carfax to the new Turnpike Road to Witney, called the Butcher-Row; of the Street or way leading from the High-Street near All Souls College to Broad-Street; of the Street or Way called Broad-Street, and the Street or Way leading from thence to the North Side or End of Baliol [sic] College; and of the several Streets or Ways leading from the Roads on both Sides of St. Giles's Church to Folly-Bridge, and which are called St. Giles's, the Corn-Market, Fish-Street, and St. Toll's, is and are hereby desired to send in Proposals, sealed up, to one of the Clerks forthwith....
N.B. The Person or Persons contracting to do the Repairs of the Pitching shall be allowed the Liberty of taking Gravel from the Waste Grounds allotted by the Commissioners.

Stephanie Jenkins