ON April 8, 1960, Alderman E Guy Bigwood, a big wig on Worcestershire County Council and chairman of its highways and bridges committee, took a brand new spade and in his suit and shiny shoes, dug a lump out of a farm field at Whittington on the outskirts of Worcester and so began work on the M5.

Ald Bigwood’s physical contribution did not last long, but in very short order his first sod was followed by a small army of men and machines as what was then known as the Birmingham to Bristol motorway cut a swathe through the county. While the obvious advantage of keeping the ever increasing number of cars and lorries away from towns and cities could be appreciated, the impact of the massive civil engineering project was to have consequences.

At Warndon, near Worcester, an elderly farmer watched in dismay as surveyors pegged out the line of the new road straight through his favourite oak wood. When they had gone, he took himself into the wood with his dog and a gun. He first shot his dog and then himself. He knew life would never be the same again.

The outline of a new national road network had first been announced in the late 1930s, but plans for a major new highway, initially to link the Black Country to South Wales, had to wait until Hitler had been seen off. In August 1946, the Worcester Evening News and Times carried a report of a Worcestershire County Council meeting at which details of the new road were given. It was to extend from Lydiate Ash down to Strensham, where another length called the Ross Spur would head off towards Wales.

The report added: “Access to the new road will be severely limited to intervals of between five and ten miles, with existing roads acting as feeder points.” However enthusiasm for the project was tempered by a query about whether councillors would get extra expenses for the increased meetings it involved!

READ MORE: "The Official Guide To Worcester" – as it was then

Ten years later, in August, 1956 the County Council and Worcester City Council submitted a joint plea urging to the Ministry of Transport to get on with it. Worcester was described as having “the worst traffic bottleneck outside London” and that if something was not done soon “Worcester will have a complete breakdown within the next year or two”.

Authority was given to invite motorway tenders in November, 1959 and 12 months later 10 had been received. Eventually A Monk & Co of Warrington and London was given job for £7,714,102. Then Ald Bigwood got to work with his spade. The Birmingham-Bristol Motorway (M5) was officially opened by Lord Chesham, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transport, on July 20, 1962, because his boss Ernest Marples couldn’t make it.