Thame Local History
Milton Common

Most of the villages around Thame date back to Anglo Saxon times, or before. Milton Common, however, dates back no further than the eighteenth century.

Despite being a relatively new community, Milton Common is in many ways a historic place. The reason it is historic is that it marks the intersection of two turnpike roads that were built in the eighteenth century, at a time when the national economy was being dramatically expanded by increased trade and mobility.

The M40 Motorway now passes close to Milton Common. The turnpike roads were the motorways of their day and Milton Common was born as a community when the Aylesbury to Shillingford turnpike road was constructed in 1770.

The point where this turnpike crossed the London to Oxford turnpike route was close to the common land belonging to nearby Great and Little Milton, hence the name Milton Common.

The intersection of two major turnpike routes, and the increased volume of traffic, created commercial opportunities and the settlement at Milton Common developed in response to these opportunities. It is today, and always has been, home to a number of businesses associated with transport and travel.

The Three Pigeons at Milton Common was built at the new crossroads, shortly after a pub called the Three Pigeons closed down in Thame.

The English countryside has very many small villages that are today off the beaten track, and in some ways seem to be frozen in time.

In most cases, these villages were part of an ancient road network that was bypassed in the eighteenth century when the turnpike roads cut a swathe through the landscape, opting for long and relatively straight routes instead of the dog legged ancient trackways that skirted the boundaries of square fields and went through the heart of local villages.

Moreton is an example of an ancient village that fell off the beaten track when the turnpikes were built, and the new community at Milton Common came into existence. Latchford and Great Haseley are also examples, bypassed by the new London to Oxford turnpike, now more or less the A40, which also cut a new track through Milton Common.

Milton Common represents eighteenth century progress and a national road infrastructure superimposed on the ancient patchwork quilt landscape of Oxfordshire, itself rooted in Anglo Saxon times.

With increased trade and travel, highway robbery became rife. A gibbet was erected near the cross roads at Milton Common, from which the bodies of hanged highwaymen would be left suspended, in order to reassure travellers and deter any would-be offenders.

During the Second World War, an area of land close by to Milton Common was made into a prisoner of war camp for Italian soldiers. This is now known as the Camp Industrial Esate.

Do you live in a village near Thame?

Old maps of Thame and the villages

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  Thame, Oxfordshire, England