POTHOLES have no advantages is a widely-held view.

Holes in the road are a bad thing - threatening damage to vehicles, endangering the safety of cyclists and the comfort of pedestrians as water from a deep puddle splashes up.

But these potholes in Winchester have one benefit. They are revealing highway technology of the 19th century and earlier, before tarmac was invented.

The holes on Hyde Street have uncovered the wooden setts, the bricks that were laid to minimise wear and tear to cart wheels, horse hooves and be quieter for people living by the road.

Local city councillor Dominic Hiscock is familiar with the issue. "Hyde Street is made of wooden blocks with and overlay of tarmac. It must have been much quieter than cobblestones when horses and wagons went over them, and the residents must have appreciated them.

"I don't know how common this was in the city, but I am not aware of any other streets that had wooded blocks. I bet some of your readers will be able to tell you if there were/are.

It does a create maintenance problems though because it tends to move around and breaks up the surfaces especially during very wet periods. The county has admitted that “after a decade of financial pressure the condition of Hampshire’s Highways network is in noticeable decline.”

Cllr Rob Humby, deputy leader of Hampshire County Council and executive member for economy, transport and environment, said: “The potholes in Hyde Street have been reported to us. We have prioritised these repair works and work will start in March. Exceptional rainfall this winter has taken its toll on the road surfaces and our Highways teams work all year round to repair and protect the 5,500 miles of road across Hampshire.

"Around 200 years ago Hyde Street was the main road north out of Winchester and the potholes have revealed that it was surfaced for this heavy traffic with wooden setts. This is a fascinating glimpse of a past road surfacing more common in towns during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were protected with pitch before they were put in place which preserved them from the elements, and in this case, were buried when the road was relayed using new bitumen-based road surfaces.

"It is very interesting that this wooden road in Hyde has survived, hidden for so long.”

Meanwhile by coincidence the county council has announced the latest phases of their Operation Resilience, to extend the life of the county's roads.

Night works will take place on Otterbourne Hill from February 17 until March 16 between 8 pm and 6am. During the works, Otterbourne Hill will be closed from its junction with Winchester Road to its junction with Kiln Lane, with a signed diversion. The road will be open as usual during the day and at weekends.

Cllr Rob Humby, deputy leader and executive member for economy, transport and environment, said: “These essential works have been carefully planned and are weather dependent. I would like to reassure local residents that we will do all we can to minimise disturbance and disruption.

“Looking after Hampshire’s extensive road network is one of our top concerns. Our planned maintenance programme, Operation Resilience, is a long-term strategy designed to ensure Hampshire’s highways network is more resilient to the impact of heavy traffic and severe weather. The programme sees additional investment each year, using a variety of treatments to extend the life of highway infrastructure while at the same time getting the best value for money for Hampshire’s council taxpayers.”