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Turnpike Roads

The Turnpike Roads and Traffic up to 1830 by J M Whiteley, former Deputy County Surveyor of Lancashire

Barrowford Toll House
Tollhouse at Barrowford with charges board

Toll Table
Close-up of Barrowford Toll Charges

A Fundamental change in society that began in the early 18th Century became known as the Industrial Revolution. Improvement, to transport was a critical feature of this change. To move raw materials and the finished products from the new factories that replaced the cottage industries required more transport than provided by the Packhorse trains. The movement of population to factory towns and the total increase of population required greater movement of food. Manchester's population grew from 7,000 in 1700 to 84,000 in 1801 and Liverpool's from 5,000 to 78,000 in the same period.

The common law of the land and ancient right of passage over the Kings Highways made it illegal to charge tolls except where specifically granted in ancient charters such as pontage for bridge repairs or paving tax for some Boroughs. Landowners could, however, construct a new road as a private road and levy tolls on other users. As the new road would usually be more convenient the tolls would meet upkeep. A classic example occurs in Lancashire in that the roads from Preston to Kirkham and Freckleton were so built. The ancient King's Highway was very devious via Lea and Clifton but as early as 1648 tolls were being paid for the privilege of crossing Lea Marsh and the Savick Brook. In 1781 Thomas Clifton and Sir Henry Houghton built new roads at their own expense with toll gates at Savick Brook, hence the name Lea Gate, and at Newton and Freckleton. This road remained as a private toll road until 1902 when part was incorporated in the whole route to Blackpool built by Lancashire County Council and Fylde Rural District Council, and declared a 'Main Road'. Vestiges of the private road exist in the present network and abandoned traces can be seen on Freckleton Marsh parallel with the present A.584 west of the entrance to the waste disposal site. Although so indicated on some maps, this was never a Turnpike road.

The problem' of maintaining through routes by Statute Labour was recognised as early as 1663 by the Government of the day who passed an Act empowering the Justices of Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire to erect three gates on the Great North Road and use tolls for its repair. only two gates were actually erected and one of these was ineffective. However, it create the precedent and for a while it looked as if the County Justices might have become the Highway Authority as well as for bridges, for by the end of the 17th Century similar powers had been granted elsewhere, including Cheshire, but not in Lancashire.

The old Pack Horse Bridge at Higherford

The old Pack Horse Bridge at Higherford
viewed from the Turnpike bridge that bypassed it.

By 1706, however, there was a change of heart by Government who did not favour continuing the process of granting powers to the Justices and a transitional period followed when Turnpike Trusts were created for specified roads by individual Acts of Parliament but until 1750 there was still some control of the Trustees by the County J.P. s. After that date the Turnpike Trusts were independent and subject only to Parliamentary control. The Turnpike Acts empowered the Trustees, who generally were local people of standing, to appoint a salaried Surveyor, Clerk and Treasurer, although in some cases these offices were combined. The Trusts could erect gates and collect tolls as described in the Act for the repair of the road and to meet other expenses, particularly legal costs of the Act and its renewal, for once again the powers were temporary, usually for 21 years but inevitably renewed by Parliament. The Trust had powers to acquire land to widen or improve the road and to borrow money by issuing bonds, the tolls being used to payoff interest and capital. Surprisingly the Parishes were not relieved of their responsibilities and could still be indicted for the nod repair of a Turnpike Road, the Trusts could also require the performance of Statute Labour on the road but this was usually, by late 18th Century, met by a commuted sum.

Cabus Toll House

Cabus Toll House, B6430. Rare survival of the gateposts

However, due to lack of engineering knowledge the salaried Turnpike Surveyors were, initially at least, no more competent than the elected Parish Surveyors and improvements in the repair of the roads were slow in materialising. In spite of this, few Acts were successfully opposed in Parliament, not the least because there was a wide range of exceptions to the tolls, in particular for local people. Foot passengers travelled free, and that included virtually all the poor, wagons in use for agriculture, carrying road materials or vagrants were exempt, as was the Army, Post Horses, attending Church on Sunday and going to vote at elections! It is now believed that Turnpike resistance and riots have been over emphasised and where destruction of toll gates did occur there was some other underlying discontent.

Clayton-le-Dale Toll Cottage

Clayton-le-Dale Toll Cottage, A59.

Administration and legal costs absorbed a significant part of the monies collected and even by the end of this period perhaps 50% was actually expended on road repair. It was common practice to farm out the collection of tolls by auction.

By comparison with much of England the development of Turnpikes in Lancashire was slow. The main areas of initial national growth being not unnaturally the development of the radial roads from London and, perhaps more surprisingly, in the Bristol -Gloucester area. The first Act to affect Lancashire did not come until 1724 and was for a section of the London -Manchester Road via Buxton (A.6).

The first wholly Lancashire Act was in the following year, 1725, when Liverpool Merchants obtained an Act for repairing and enlarging the road from Liverpool to Prescot (A.57) after a wet summer affected coal prices. The petition for the Bill included the following passage:-

“.the road from Liverpool to Prescot aforesaid is very much used in the carriage of coals to the towns of Wigan, Bolton, Rochdale, Warrington and Manchester and the Counties of York, Derby and other Eastern Parts of the Kingdom, in the carriage of Wool, Cotton, Malt and all other Merchants' Goods, whereby the several Parts of the said Road are so very deep and other Parts so narrow that coaches, wagons and other wheel carriages cannot pass through the same"

This description differs somewhat from Celia Fiennes Diary of barely twenty five years earlier and yet seventy years after the road was turnpiked a traveller in 1794 described the Knowsley-Liverpool length as:-

“...the great road it self is unworthy of the name turnpike and a scandal to the town it approaches being a series of stones piled on one another so as to form the roughest pavement in the universe”

Whilst the condition of the road continued to be criticised the effect on the mines was appreciable:-

Prescot Hall Colliery raised less than 3,000 tons in 1721 but over 21,000 in 1750.

In the same year, 1725, the A.49 Wigan to Preston was turnpiked, including the alternative route via Chorley (A5106 and A6) followed by the A49 Warrington - Wigan.

milepost Duxbury

Cast Iron Milepost at Duxbury
(Wigan-Preston via Chorley)

The remainder of 'Ogilby's' north-south route from Preston to the County boundary at 'Heiring Syke' (on A6070 near Burton) was not turnpiked until 1751. Of the other important roads identified by Ogilby, the Blackstone Edge-Rochdale Road (A58) was turnpiked in 1735 but not connected through to Manchester until 1755, the Ingleton-Hornby-Lancaster Road (A683) in 1751 and Manchester-Warrington (A57) in 1753, the Liverpool-Prescot Turnpike was also extended to Warrington in that year.

Figure 1 Growth of Turnpikes
Figure 1
click here for detailed colour map.

The development of the Turnpike road network is illustrated in Fig.1 from the slow beginnings up to 1750 when only 7 Trusts had been created in Lancashire. It will be seen from the second diagram that by 1775 the isolated Trusts had been joined, Manchester's radial system was evolving and connected to Warrington, ., Wigan and Chorley (hence Preston). Preston also had two easterly roads to Clitheroe and Blackburn but there was still a large area in mid South East Lancs. without the benefit of the "improved" roads. This was rectified by 1800 as seen in the third diagram by, in particular, the system of roads converging at Edenfield. The final period in the 19th Century up to the last turnpike created in 1836, shows an increased density of network with many duplications of earlier routes. This is particularly noticeable in Manchester and its environs and up through East Lancashire, whilst by contrast, west of the A49/A6 line, only one new Trust was created after Liverpool-Preston in 1771. This, the Penwortham Bridge, Wrightington and Shevington Trust (hence the name Wrightington Bar) together with the 'Lydiate Lane End and Little Hanging Bridge Branch' of the above Trust, obtained an Act in 1826 and, whilst serving Leyland, Croston etc., may have been intended to protect the Wigan-Preston or Liverpool-Preston Trusts.

Wrigthington Bar
Wrightington Bar B5250, Wrightington and Shevington Trust

In addition to the creation of new Trusts, often on completely new alignments and only, incidentally, improvements of existing lanes, some of the older Trust roads were also improved by straightening, widenings, easing gradient etc. It is quite impossible here to describe all this work in detail but diversions can often by identified by careful comparison of the maps. For example, the Preston - Heiring Syke Road underwent several changes. Garstang Road, Preston, as far as the Black Bull Inn was new construction. A significant length of new road was built by passing a devious section through Forton and Hollins Lane and also from Galgate to south of Scotforth, the old road here being to the west of the railway.

Milepost at Forton

Milepost at Forton
note mixture of numerals used.

North of Carnforth more significant changes occurred both to the Burton Road (A6070) and to what is now the A.6 which was virtually all new construction. Changes also occurred which are not detectable on maps of 1" scale, or thereabouts, at Barton the road appears to have been moved eastwards and the 1845-6" O.S. Map describes a parallel line as remains of "ancient road". Sections of this older line are still visible as lengths with a second hedgerow parallel to the present boundary. This latter feature is not uncommon and, in some cases, represents a narrowing of the highway.

turnpike maps
Click for full size
Figure 2

The second drawing, Fig.2, illustrates in somewhat more detail the development of the substantial improvements in the Preston-Blackburn-Clitheroe area. The original ancient highways were Turnpiked in 1755, but it will be seen that this route between Preston and Clitheroe was devious and hilly. The ancient roads obviously avoided the river valleys and hence from Mellor Brook the road went via Top of Ramsgreave and York, the latter hamlet on the ridge between Blackburn and Whalley, and in 1776 a link from Blackburn to York was also Turnpiked.

Old Turnpike York

Original turnpike road approaching York as it descends towards Whalley

Although some improvements were made to this route in 1808 a new road (the present A.59) was built between Mellor Brook and Whalley via the Petre Arms, in 1819 Whalley New Road from Blackburn to Petre Arms (A666) and in 1825 Preston New Road from Samlesbury to Blackburn (A59/A677) whilst the A657/A674 via Houghton became 'Preston Old Road'. This bearing of '..Old Road' and '...New Road', is quite common, e.g. around Bolton and Bury and usually (but caution, not always!) indicates a replacement route of the Turnpike period.

The sequence of construction no doubt explains the shocking alignment at the Fielden Arms, Mellor Brook. The River Ribble was not bridged at Samlesbury until the 1825 road was built and by a wooden structure. It collapsed and a separate Act, the Blackburn and Preston New Road and Bridge Act was obtained in 1861 for the stone structure. Tolls were chargeable and unlike the Turnpike Roads pedestrians were also charged 1/2d. For years Brockholes Brow and Bridge were called Ha'penny Brow or Bridge; some Prestonians may still use these names.

Another feature of interest is that it can be seen that the ancient road was diverted at Samlesbury when the airfield was built in 1939/40 but its course is still perpetuated on current O.S. maps as the boundary between South Ribble and Ribble Valley districts.: This has been the subject of a recent decision of the Boundary Commission, that no change is to be recommended and thus is a very recent proof of the long levity of ancient highways when all physical traces have been eradicated.

An aspect which cannot be dealt with in great detail is the traffic on the Turnpikes which, if they served their purpose, were to facilitate the movement of goods by wagon load. Whilst a packhorse carried only 2 to 3 cwt. a wagon could take 3 tons given a good road. In practice several horses were needed to drag the wagon through the mire. (By comparison one horse moves 50 tons by canal boat).

Due to the lack of adequate road construction and maintenance Parliament then, as now, endeavoured to legislate to make the traffic fit the roads.

In 1662 wagons were restricted to 3 cwts. and moved only in summer, by 1741, the load was increased to 3 tons and in 1765 to 6 tons.

Turnpike Trust were empowered to erect weighbridges to check against overloading (so what's new about the D.Tp. weighbridge at The Trafalgar -except its electronics?). This led to an interesting point on the Preston-Heiring Syke Trust which had been divided at Garstang into two Divisions. In 1774 the South Division suggested they share the cost of erecting and using a weighing machine and so asked the North Division for a contribution of £20. The South then let the Contract and the final cost was £67.10s.-0d.; it looks as if highway and ancillary estimating hasn't changed much.

Incidentally, it is this split into Divisions that has resulted in the very nice mile stones between Preston and Garstang; several still survive.

milestone at Barton

Milestone at Barton

The other control open to the Trust was the level of Tolls being charged on each horse drawing a coach or wagon etc. For example, in the 18th Century this was

usually 6d. a head, by 1814 on the Burnley-Edenfield Trust:-

Coach drawn by 1 horse 9d.

2 horses 1s .-6d.

3 or 4 horses 2s.- 0d.

5 or 6 horses 3s .-0d.

However, the really complicated gem of legislation concerned the wheels. It was considered that narrow rimmed wheels cut up the road, whereas a wide wheel would roll the road flat. Possibly the theory sounded O.K. but a cart wheel is dished for strength and the spokes fit to the “fellies” (that is the components of the rim) at an angle. A broad fellied wheel, therefore, became a truncated cone and it will be realised that this must inevitably skid or drag as the inner edge circumference is greater than the outer.

There were General Turnpike Acts in addition to the individual road Acts and that of 1773 contains this masterpiece of legislation giving the permissible loads to be carried.

Summer Load Winter Load

Wagon with 16" ( wide) fellies 8 Tons 7 Tons

do. 9" fellies greater than 4'- 2" apart 6 Tons 10 cwt. 6 Tons

less than 4' -2" apart 6 Tons 5 Tons 10 cwt

Cart with 9" fellies 3 Tons 2 Tons 15 cwt

Wagon with 6" fellies rolling 11” 11 " 5 Tons 11 cwt 5 Tons

6” fellies 4 Tons 5 cwt 3 Tons 15 cwt

Cart with 6" fellies 2 Tons 12 cwt 2 Tons 7 cwt

Wagon with fellies less than 6” 3 Tons 10 cwt 3 Tons

Cart with fellies less than 6" 1 Ton 10 cwt 1 Ton 7 cwt

A scale of fines was included:-

For overload by

1 to 2 cwt

3d. per cwt

3 to 5 cwt

6d. per cwt

5 to 10 cwt

2s-6d. per cwt

11 to 15 cwt

5s-0d. per cwt

15 cwt or more

20s-0d. per cwt


Chatburn Toll Charges

Chatburn Toll Charges, former A59.

And in 1984 we are still arguing about axle loads and damage, at least the 1773 fines for detected serious overload were punitive, no wonder the Turnpike Trusts needed weighing machines. Surprisingly there are no clear indications of location or design of weighing machines but they are believed to have been cumbersome and raised the wagon bodily within a framework balanced on the steel yard principle.

As late as 1795 the Board of Agriculture Report for Lancashire stated:-

“.from the vast increase of carriage in their County and the general use of waggons, carts etc. and with excessive weights, it is becoming almost impossible by any means and at any expense to support the public roads..”

It would appear that the 1773 G.T.A. was not particularly successful but help in construction was now to hand and the heyday of the Turnpikes was approaching.

A Selection of Surviving Toll Houses

Heath CharnockToll Cottage

Former Toll House, Heath Charnock. The A6 now has moved to pass to the rear of the property.

Farleton TH

Farleton Toll House, A683. Famous for being the first use of white lines - see our White Lines section.

Brindle Bar

Brindle Bar, A675.

Old Toll Cottage

Old Toll Bar A674.

Simonstone Toll

Simonstone Toll House, A671.

Broghton Toll Cottage

Broughton Toll Cottage, A6

Bar Cottage Toll

Bar Cottage, Haslingden Old Road, Knuzden. The M65 now blocks the road behind the camera.

Newsholme Toll

Newsholme Toll Cottage, A682.

Chatburn Toll

Chatburn Toll Cottage, former A59. Now a famous icecream shop!

Clayton-le-Woods Toll

Clayton-le-Woods Toll House, A6.

Sharneyford Toll

Sharneyford Toll Cottage, A681, looking towards Bacup. A modern porch now blocks the lower bay window from where watch on the road would have taken place. The original road to Bacup went off to the right just beyond the second cottages, by the pylon - the turnpike takes a shorter more direct route.

Whalley Toll

Whalley Toll House, A680/A671.

Mellor Brook Toll House

Mellor Brook Toll House, former A59. A rare example of a toll house with the observation windows on the first floor.

Further Reference

This article first appeared in Diversion, the Lancashire County Council Surveyor's departmental magazine in July 1984.

Transactions or the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society

Vol. 9- 1891 Pre-Turnpike Roads In Lancs & Cheshire - W. Harrison

Vol. 4-1886 Development of the Turnpike System in Lancs & Cheshire - W. HarrIson

Transactions. or the Historical Society or Lancs & Cheshire.

Vol.97? -1945 "Highways from Preston to the Fylde"' – R. Sharpe-France

Transport' Economy1977

The Turnpike Roads or the18th Century - E. Pawson

Lancashire Acts or Parliament 1415 -1800

Lancashire County Council 1950 - R. Sharpe-France

Pennine Heritage Network Transport 2 1984 (Paperback Magazine)

Turnpikes & Canals 1780-1840 - N. Johnston . C. Whitehead

Leading the Way - Ed. Alan Crosby

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