The statutes of Merton College Oxford, which date from the foundation of the College in 1264, require some of the Fellows to regularly inspect the estates with which it is endowed. As these were scattered across the country and extended as far as Northumberland this required a not inconsiderable amount of travel, which was reimbursed by the College. The record of these payments survive in the Merton archives and are cited in the first volume of the excellent History of the University of Oxford together with route maps of the journeys undertaken. They were also utilised for an article by G.H. Martin in The Journal of Transport History in 1976 entitled ‘Road Travel in the Middle Ages; Some Journeys by the Warden and Fellows of Merton College, Oxford, 1313-1470’ and a digest of that has now appeared online at medievalists.net which can be seen at
The details they reveal about fourteenth and fifteenth century travel are a useful insight into the minutiae of life on the road in those two centuries. If in some ways they record a very different world they also reveal aspects we can still easily relate to - calling upon relatives and friends en route, shopping for provisions along the way and coping with a broken down horse, as opposed to a car in today’s world.