A34/Winchester - Oxford/history
Although most of this bit of the A34 was built as an offline upgrade, it generally takes the same route as it always has, the change being that all the towns along the route are now bypassed. Because of this, a clear “old route” can be traced in the shadow of today's A34.
On classification in 1922 the A34 only ran from Winchester to the centre of Oxford, ending on the A40 at Carfax. The road ahead was the A42 which continued north to Birmingham, although as stated below the current route of the A34 follows the ex-A43 out of Oxford.
Section 1.1: Winchester
The A34 originally started on what was the original A33 near the Baptist Church where City Road met Jewry Street, North Walls and Hythe Street. It ran along City Road, then turned right to Andover Road to head out of the city.
When the A33 Winchester Bypass opened in 1940, the A34 was extended over part of the old A33 along Jewry Street, Southgate Street and St Cross Road, ending at a grade separated junction at the southern end of the bypass near Shawford.
Because the Winchester Bypass was of no use to A34 traffic, congestion continued in the city, and so in the 1960s it was decided to close the branch line at Kings Worthy and convert it into a road, along with some new construction, to connect the northern end of the old bypass with the A34 north of the city. Construction of the Kings Worthy Link started in the early 1960s but was delayed until the branch line could be completely dismantled, which meant the road didn't open until 20 August 1969. The old A34 became an extension of the B3420 as far as the end of Andover Road, a small extension of the A3091 along City Road, an extension of the A3090 to the High Street, an extension of the A333 to its original endpoint at St Cross Road / Five Bridges Road, and unclassified from there to the A33. This route has been further downgraded following completion of the M3 over Twyford Down.
Section 1.2: Worthy Down - Chieveley
From Worthy Down, the old road is an unclassified road running alongside the modern one, it then heads through the middle of Sutton Scotney, multiplexing briefly with the A30. From here a bodged A30 takes over, and takes the old road up to the junction at Bullington Cross.
By 1971 plans were afoot to bypass Sutton Scotney, forming "a high-quality route to Newbury and The Midlands" - long before there was a motorway at either end to connect it to. The Sutton Scotney Bypass and South Wonston Diversion were officially opened on 14 October 1981.
Just north of the junction the old road headed up a hill, round two sharp bends and then back down the other side. When the A34 was upgraded, this became the northbound carriageway with the southbound side taking a smoother route through a cutting. The cutting was soon widened to take in the northbound carriageway, with the old road being removed but the alignment is still visible if you know where to look. The two carriageways still split where the northbound one moves on to the old road's alignment after the hill.
At Whitchurch the old road makes a brief appearance where the village has now been bypassed. North of here the road used to run side-by-side with the Newbury-Winchester railway. At Litchfield the road passed under the railway three times, each one resulting in an extremely sharp chicane for the A34 caused by the way the historic road had been diverted when the railway was built in 1882. The new road is largely on the line of the old railway, meaning all three arches were demolished in the 1960s.
Approaching Newbury, the Whitway Diversion was officially opened on 8 February 1989.
At Newbury the bypass is built partially upon this railway. Here, the old road is now the B4630, with the A339 taking over from its junction (the A339 would have began here in the days of the A34). It then goes through the middle of Newbury, via several roundabouts and an odd junction with the A4. The A339 then picks up as a dual carriageway and continues as the old road until it merges with the A34 before Chieveley.
Although the Newbury Bypass solved one bottleneck, it meant that traffic now flowed without interruption on to the last remaining roundabout between the M3 and M40. The Chieveley Roundabout was where the A34 crossed the M4, with a service station and works unit on the southbound side, but in 2003 the road was diverted west. The old roundabout remains pretty much untouched, leaving you with a ghost junction offering lots of signs, lanes, markings and traffic lights but no traffic! The road between the Newbury Bypass and Chieveley roundabout was widened to four lanes with a local access road, creating the only non-two lane section of this bit of the A34. The original route of the A34 can still be seen within the Hilton Hotel at the junction.
Section 1.3: Chieveley – Wendlebury
The next section northwards would have been single carriageway for a lot longer than it was if Berkshire Council of old had their way. They were deeply against improving this section as they thought that the traffic use would never be great enough. How wrong they were! This section was gradually improved in the '70s and '80s, with a vintage bypass of East Ilsley.
The Chilton Hill was the last bit between Oxford and Newbury to be improved in the late '80s, originally it was a three-lane suicide/crawler affair. At the A4185 junction, the old road would have headed west through Steventon. For a brief period the Abingdon Bypass would have started here (soon after Steventon was itself bypassed), before then the road headed through Drayton and on to Abingdon. The temporary tie-in at the end of the Abingdon bypass was left as a sliproad up to the late 1980s, and is now an unofficial lay-by.
In Abingdon the road used what's now the B4017 and the A4183, up to the Hinksey Hill Interchange. Prior to 1962 the A34 continued from the present day Hinksey Hill Interchange into Oxford itself. The original route through Oxford was Abingdon Road, St Aldate's, Cornmarket Street, Magdalen Street, St Giles and Woodstock Road out to what is now the Peartree Interchange. It then continued northbound on what is now the A44. In 1962 the conversion of the Oxford Southern Bypass to dual carriageway and the construction of the Western Bypass to Peartree Interchange were completed.
This permitted the A34 to bypass Oxford for the first time (until then the bypass was mostly S2, except through Botley). At the Peartree Interchange the A34 used to bear left onto what is now the A44, this is documented on the Oxford – Solihull page.
Today's route of the A34 from here is a bypass of what was once the A43 through Gosford. After this it continues as an online upgrade. The A43 would have dived left onto what's now the B430, with the A34 taking over what was once A421. This road is ruler-straight all the way into Bicester, although today's A34 stops at the relatively new M40 J9, leaving it up to the A41 to continue.