Draft version of

A booklet on the Turnpike Roads around Reading

By Alan Rosevear – written in 2004

The Turnpikes of Reading and East Berkshire

Part A; Foundations............................................................................................................................................................3

1. Introduction...............................................................................................................................................................3

2. The First Roads through East Berkshire....................................................................................................................3

2.1 Roman Roads............................................................................................................................................................................3

2.2 Saxon Tracks.............................................................................................................................................................................5

2.3 Medieval Highways & Bridges.........................................................................................................................................6

2.4 Tudor & Stuart Highways.................................................................................................................................................7

2.5 Speculation on the road pattern around Reading...............................................................................................................9

3. Administration of the Highways..............................................................................................................................11

3.1 The Parish Road System..........................................................................................................................................................11

3.2 Bridges....................................................................................................................................................................................12

3.3 General Highways Acts...........................................................................................................................................................12

Part B: Turnpike Trusts........................................................................................................................................13

4. General Features......................................................................................................................................................13

4.1 Creation of Turnpikes Trusts...................................................................................................................................................13

4.2 Structure of Turnpike Acts......................................................................................................................................................14

4.3 Turnpikes around Reading..............................................................................................................................................15

5. The Bath Road.........................................................................................................................................................16

5.1 The nature of the route....................................................................................................................................................16

5.2 Reading to Newbury Road......................................................................................................................................................18

5.3 Maidenhead Road....................................................................................................................................................................23

5.4 The Road from Maidenhead to Cranford and the Kensington Road...............................................................................28

6. The Salisbury Road..................................................................................................................................................34

6.1 The Nature of the Route..........................................................................................................................................................34

6.2 Powder Mills on Hounslow Heath to Basingstone..................................................................................................................35

6.3 Bagshot to Basingstoke and Farnham.....................................................................................................................................38

7 Roads Through Windsor Forest...............................................................................................................................41

7.1 The Nature of the Route..........................................................................................................................................................41

7.2 The Windsor Forest Trust........................................................................................................................................................41

7.3 The Forest Road......................................................................................................................................................................42

7.4 Windsor Roads........................................................................................................................................................................43

8 Roads from Reading into Oxon & Bucks................................................................................................................43

8.1 Reading to Shillingford...........................................................................................................................................................44

8.2 Reading to St Albans...............................................................................................................................................................47

8.3 Great Marlow to the Oxford Road..................................................................................................................................49

9 Roads from Reading into Hampshire............................................................................................................................50

9.1 Reading to Basingstoke...........................................................................................................................................................50

9.2 Roads from Aldermaston Great Bridge...................................................................................................................................51

10 Improvements in Reading............................................................................................................................................54

10.1 The Streets.............................................................................................................................................................................54

10.2 The Kennet Bridges........................................................................................................................................................56

10.3 Caversham Bridge.................................................................................................................................................................56

Part C: Operation of Turnpikes............................................................................................................................57

11 The Men who ran the Turnpikes.................................................................................................................................57

11.1 Trustees.................................................................................................................................................................................57

11.2 Officers..................................................................................................................................................................................58

11.3 Toll Collectors.......................................................................................................................................................................60

12 Turnpike Finance.........................................................................................................................................................63

12.1 Tolls.......................................................................................................................................................................................63

12.2 Toll Income...........................................................................................................................................................................63

12.3 Loans & Capital.....................................................................................................................................................................65

12.4 Expenditure...........................................................................................................................................................................66

13 Structures along the Road............................................................................................................................................66

13.1 Milestones.............................................................................................................................................................................66

13.2 Toll Houses...........................................................................................................................................................................68

13.3 Weighing Engines.................................................................................................................................................................69

13.4 The Roadway.........................................................................................................................................................................69

13.5 Lighting.................................................................................................................................................................................71

13.6 Watering the Road & Pumps.................................................................................................................................................71

14 Management of the Road.............................................................................................................................................72

15 Traffic on Turnpikes West of London.....................................................................................................................73

15.1 Carriers..................................................................................................................................................................................73

15.2 Coaches.................................................................................................................................................................................73

Part D: Decline and Fall.......................................................................................................................................75

16 Competition with Other forms of Transport............................................................................................................75

16.1 The Competitors....................................................................................................................................................................75

16.1 The Canals & Rivers.............................................................................................................................................................75

16.2 Railways................................................................................................................................................................................76

17 The end of the Turnpikes and Modern Developments................................................................................................77

17.1 Decline..................................................................................................................................................................................77

17.2 Closure of Turnpikes.............................................................................................................................................................78

17.3 The Legacy......................................................................................................................................................................79

Part A; Foundations

1. Introduction

Most of our modern trunk roads are built upon the turnpike roads of the 19th century. Although this earlier road network appears to be a coherent investment in national infrastructure, turnpiking was in general the result of many, uncoordinated, local initiatives. Furthermore, turnpikes were but one phase in an evolving system for repairing and improving English highways to carry wheeled vehicles. Each generation has adapted the administrative and physical structures that it inherited. The Romans adopted ancient tracks and augmented them with new paved roads. In the Medieval period wealthy benefactors built bridges and causeways to improve travel between the new communities along the large river valleys. In the Elizabethan period, with the loss of ecclesiastical management, new institutions and Statutes provided a civil administration for the highways and bridges. Parishes were given responsibility for the upkeep of their roads and this parochial system continued to operate well into the 19th century for local roads. However, it proved ineffectual for maintaining major highways that ran through several parishes and were used by travellers who had no responsibility within the Parish. The turnpike trust was a legal device that evolved during the early 18th century to deal with the inadequacies of the Elizabethan Statute Labour system and ensured adequate finance for the maintenance and improvement of main roads.

Although important turnpikes in East Berkshire ran through Reading, the town had not become a major transport hub until the medieval period. The Roman road network had been focused on the provincial centre near Silchester, a little to the south. The early medieval highways running west from London crossed the Thames to the east of Reading and then diverged to the northwest and southwest. Nevertheless, this Saxon town grew as a market for local goods and as an entrepot for goods carried by vessels along the Thames and the Kennet. The creation of the Abbey increased the status of Reading and by the late medieval period the town was firmly established as a place to rest on the road between London and the western parts of the Kingdom. This evolving status has left its mark on the layout of the road network in the Middle Thames Valley and the adjoining region.

2. The First Roads through East Berkshire

2.1 Roman Roads

The Romans were the first administrators of Britain to build roads; paved routes for wheeled vehicles. Prior to the Roman invasion travellers and traders followed natural features of the landscape when making long distance journeys. Land travel was easiest over relatively dry, clear ground and most difficult in the wet alluvial soils through which many of the rivers ran. Boats provided a better means of transporting bulky goods between those fortunate towns located by the larger rivers. Through a heavily wooded region such as Berkshire, the ridgeways between river valleys were important natural highways (Fig 2.1a). The Great Ridgeway along the chalk of the Berkshire Downs and Chilterns was part of a long distance pathway running northeastwards from Salisbury Plain towards East Anglia. Another arm of the chalk downland forms the southern edge of the Thames basin. Along this ridge runs a natural trackway, commonly called the Harrow Way, from Salisbury Plain, through the Hampshire Downs and North Downs to Kent (Timperley & Brill 1983). Lesser ridgeways above the Kennet and Lambourn valleys would have brought some traffic down from the high Downs towards the Thames.

Away from the ridgeways other natural features were used repeatedly by generations of travellers who beat out ancient pathways. Modern place names may betray some of the ancient fords where a firm riverbed permitted travellers to cross the wide, slow flowing river. Moulsford is conveniently located as a crossing for travellers on the Great Ridgeway. Wallingford could be used by travellers following the high ground towards the Corallian Ridge near Faringdon. Open heath land in Surrey and Middlesex would have facilitated travel either side of the middle Thames and the river gravel terraces may have provided short distance paths. However, heavy London Clay covers the valley east of Maidenhead and floodwater prevented the creation of any permanent network of tracks. In contrast, the rivers, particularly the Thames and its main tributaries such as the Kennet, Thame and Cherwell, provided navigable routes between the coastal trading centres and the productive lands of Southern England. In pre-Roman Berkshire the principal route for traffic through the Thames Valley was probably the River. Any land traffic would have found it easier to use the heaths and downland along the watershed to the south.

Roads were important in the military strategy used by the Romans to subdue and contain the native Celtic tribes after the invasion. Straight paved roads were built by military engineers to facilitate rapid communication and easy transfer of forces around this new Province. These roads took little account of topological features and were cut with military precision between the principal garrisons and towns. The Romans chose to build a local administration centre at Calleva, now Silchester (Fulford 1995). This had been the tribal centre of the Atrebantes (hence the full name Calleva Atrebatum) and in pre-Roman times would have been served by tracks over the dry ground above the upper reaches of the rivers Blackwater and Loddon. Roman Calleva apparently grew to be the main transport hub west of Londinium (Fig 2.1b). Paved roads radiated from the gatehouses in the stone walls that eventually surrounded the large Roman town (Fulford 1995). The main road west from Londinium ran to Calleva via Pontes, presumed to be at an important bridge over the Thames. This entered Calleva by the fortified East Gate. There were gatehouses at three other points of the compass suggesting these were portals for main roads radiating from the town. It is commonly assumed that the road through the West Gate was the Ermine Way, which ran towards Corinium (Cirencester). A road from the North Gate led to Alchester (near Bicester), supposedly crossing the Thames near Dorchester (Oxon.). Three roads are believed to have run southwards from Calleva; the main road was that to Venta (Winchester) but another important road ran to Sorviodunum (Sarum) and a less important road towards Noviomagus (Chichester). These latter two roads may have branched from the Venta road outside the town or may have used the minor gates in the southwest and southeast walls.

After the Roman Province settled into peaceful prosperity, some civil trade routes were also paved. These were probably less well founded and made more concessions to topographic features. One of these route, may have branched from the Ermine Way at Spinis (presumed to be Speen near Newbury) and ran westwards to Cunetio (Mildenhall near Marlborough). This corridor would in later times be the line of the London to Bristol highway but evidence for this Roman road is sparse. In particular the crossing of the Kennet is a tantalising enigma because it has a bearing on where the later medieval road might have run. Determining the line of Roman roads is often little more than informed speculation. South East England has very little good quality building stone and so paving stones and milestones from these roads close to Roman Londinium were robbed out fairly quickly. The aggers or banks on which the roads were built would have remained as visible features along which tracks might run or boundaries be defined. This is clearly the case on the road that approaches Calleva from the east but there is little material evidence of the roads to the north and west. The Ordnance Survey suggests that the road from the west gate of Calleva headed northwestwards, implying a crossing on the lower Kennet and a road westwards along the river valley, close to the line of the present A4 near Thatcham. Earlier historians had proposed that the road ran due west, past the monumental Imp Stone (an old Imperial Roman milestone?) and across the high ground. This perhaps crossed the Kennet to west of its confluence with the Lambourn. The present author believes that during the Roman period roads probably followed both these routes; the arguments for this are given in Appendix R. The line of road north from Silchester is also uncertain but its precise position is of less importance to the later development of the main road network.

There is speculation that a Roman road crossed the Thames near Henley, presumably heading from Pontes to settlements on the north bank of the river in the Cotswolds. The name, Exlade Street, suggests that a stone road passed due west from Henley towards Moulsford. Alternatively Exlade Street could have been on a secondary route between Calleva and Dorchester, crossing the Thames in the Pangbourn area. Speculation on these routes is also contained in Appendix R. Another road may have run northeast from Calleva along the banks of the southern banks of the Thames towards Cookham. Here an ancient crossing of the Thames gave access to the lower slopes of the Chilterns and St Albans.

With the exception of London, the main Roman towns of southern Britain were well away from the large river valleys. However, it seems likely that boats and barges would have used the Thames and the Kennet, perhaps berthing near the site of Reading. This may even have been the point at which goods were unloaded for Silchester, However, it seems unlikely that the Romans had any large urban development close to the rivers of the Middle Thames and any small hythes or wharves will have disappeared under later development of the riverbank.

2.2 Saxon Tracks

The Saxons build several of their market towns and defended burghs beside the rivers. Wallingford and later Oxford grew to be substantial urban communities defending crossing points of the Thames. The main overland trade routes from Mercia to the Channel ports of Wessex ran through Oxford. The new Saxon settlements provided a fresh focus, away from the old Roman centres. Oxford replaced Roman Dorchester and Alchester, Saxon Marlborough replaced Cunetio and Reading appears to have usurped the local role previously fulfilled by Calleva. Like Abingdon and Dorchester, and to some extent Oxford, Reading owed its initial importance to the crossing of a tributary to the Thames rather than a crossing of the great river itself. Any traffic following the southern, relatively flat, bank of the Thames was inevitably led through Reading, located as it is at the southern-most sweep of the river.

The routes between these Saxon communities were not paved roads. Travellers would have been on foot or horseback and most goods carried on the backs of men or pack animal. Beaten paths were adequate to carry this traffic for much of the year. The constant pressure of feet and hooves maintained a clear track through the vegetation without seriously eroding the surface. Traffic carrying agricultural goods to load onto river vessel probably formed the initial highways around Reading. The combination of a thriving market, a good crossing of the Kennet and a convenient route for road traffic further up the Thames valley attracted a growing number of long distance travellers through the town. Reading became more significant as the old crossing of the Thames at Staines deteriorated to merely a ford. Traffic from London began to travel from the heathland west of London onto the river gravel terraces rather than attempting to cross to the south bank at Staines. Consequently, the hub at which the roads to southwest England diverged from those to the Midlands moved eastwards from Calleva to Hounslow Heath (Fig 2.2a).

Nevertheless travellers to the South Midlands must still cross to the south bank if they were to avoid a steep climb over the Chilterns. Hence crossings further upstream became more significant. From a river crossing at Windsor, all traffic on the south bank was led naturally towards Reading. Crossing at Marlow or Cookham, further north, were of limited value for traffic going west from London. Claims that Cookham was an important crossing for the Great Western Highway seem implausible and it is more likely to have been a simple north/south crossing carrying traffic from the Chilterns to the South coast (effectively the function it performed in Roman times). Traffic for the southwest would continue to favour any crossing at Staines since this gave access to the Surrey heathland and the Hampshire Downs. Hence, although Reading was relatively near to Calleva it only inherited a part of the role of regional road hub, previously fulfilled by the Roman town.

The area south of the Thames was in Wessex and presumably highways connected the main Saxon towns of the region. Where it was convenient these would have used the old Roman roads but these paved roads did not connect new settlements such as Wantage, Wallingford, Thatcham and Reading nor the Mercian border town of Oxford. Several, less than perfect routes could probably be followed between these settlements. For instance from Reading to the west, the road on the north bank of the Kennet was over very wet ground but connected with settlements such as Thatcham. The road on the south bank of the Kennet could take advantage of the high heathland above the Enborne but ran through less populated areas. The only evidence of highways in Saxon Charters west of Reading is for the parish of Brimpton where reference is made to Weal a Brucge (the bridge of the Britons or foreigners) (BPRA 1999). It is not clear whether this is over the Kennet or the Enborne but since latter maps only show bridges over the Enborne it must be assumed that this is an early reference to the crossing at Shalford. Most parish boundaries along the Kennet run perpendicular to the river with no evidence of a Roman road providing any landmarks. This castes further doubt on the survival of a principal Roman road alongside the Kennet itself.

2.3 Medieval Highways & Bridges

2.3.1 Royal Highways

Reading, like Abingdon further up the valley, is positioned at the confluence of a major tributary with the Thames, and both were favoured with a large Medieval Abbey. Whether the Abbeys were placed at economically significant places or whether they created that economic power is difficult to judge. Nevertheless, both Reading and Abingdon grew in importance and surpassed in status the defended Thames crossing at Wallingford. They both eventually had bridges across the Thames but, whereas at Abingdon this was an important component in the Great Road to Gloucester, for Reading the Caversham Bridge served a more local function.

Henry I founded Reading Abbey in 1121 and was buried there in 1123. An analysis of the journeys made by subsequent Plantagenet Kings of England (RUTV 9) illustrates how important Reading became as a stopover for Royal travellers. The most frequent itinerary for monarchs from King Henry II to Edward III (a period from 1154 to 1333) was to travel on four or five consecutive days from London to Windsor, Reading, Wallingford and Oxford or Woodstock. Except for Reading, all these resting-places on the road to the royal hunting lodge at Woodstock, were royal castles. The king presumably travelled through Windsor Forest to reach Reading and there cross the Kennet. To reach Oxford the party had to reach the north bank of the Thames and it is proposed that they would use Wallingford Bridge, the strategic crossing used by William the Conqueror in 1066. Wallingford Bridge lay in the shadow of the large royal castle and it may be assumed that travellers from Reading could still use part of the old Roman road remained through Streatley. Nevertheless a single record of a stop in Basildon (and no record of stopovers on the north bank) is the only direct evidence for this being the preferred route towards Woodstock.

From Reading the Plantagenet kings frequently travelled westwards to the royal castle at Marlborough (RUTV9). They may have followed the road along the Kennet valley through Aldermaston and Newbury but there is more direct evidence for them travelling over the high ground through Crookham and Hampstead Marshall. Reading was at the junction of these major routes north and west, making it the most important transport node west of London for royal travellers between the 12th and 14th centuries.

The royal party may have used boats to travel between London and Windsor or could have travelled by road to cross the Thames at Staines or Windsor. Any remnants of the Roman Bridge at Staines had disappeared and the Barons used the ford on their journey to meet King John at Runnymede in 1215 (Phillips 1981). However, a clause in the Magna Charta transferred the responsibility for upkeep of bridges from individuals to districts, facilitating the construction of new crossings. A new wooden bridge was erected at Staines in 1222, assisted by the gift of an oak from the Royal Forest at Windsor. The king donated wood to repair bridges at Windsor and Marlow in the early 13th century but there is no evidence of the royal progress using the north bank of the middle Thames before the Edward the first’s reign (after 1272). By 1223 there was a new bridge at Henley and this created a better highway for Gloucester traffic, avoiding the southern sweep through Reading. A new bridge close to the river hythe at Maidenhead, aligned with the Henley bridge, was in place by the early 13th century and Edward I used this road as much as the Reading road. Nevertheless, Gough’s map, reputed to be from 1360, still shows the two routes to Oxford being through Reading or over the Chilterns through Wycombe. However, the road through Maidenhead was well placed to become the principal crossing of the Thames for all traffic heading along highways to the West and South Midlands. This trend reduced Reading to merely an intermediate stop on the highway to the west.

2.3.2 Maintaining the Highway

The maintenance of particular medieval highways depended on charity and sponsorship by the powerful interests of church or nobility. Wealthy dignitaries often left bequests to pay for work on specific highways or bridges. The King sometimes granted pavage or pontage to local lords so that users of the road or bridge could be levied for a specified period of time to pay for the repair or maintenance work (e.g. see below for Pontage on Staines bridge and Pavage on Basingstoke Road). Longer-term arrangements could involve the installation of a hermit who would collect alms from travellers. The hermit might occupy a small chapel or chantry (see Maidenhead Bridge below) and hopefully collected more than enough to sustain their humble life and to pay for the upkeep of the structure.

Pavage was granted for the road from Hartford Bridge to Basingstoke in 1406 (HRO). The petition stated that this highway was so deep and mirey that various losses and dangers have resulted before this time to things being sent by that road and will result with greater probability in consequence, unless for the amendment of the same, repair and improvement are quickly arranged. Richard Spencer of Salisbury and William the parson of Newenham were empowered to supervise the taking of tolls from things for sale coming by the said road, with the exception of wool, skins and woolfells. The toll was set at a farthing for each horse loaded with skins (fresh salted or tanned) or for each pig. A halfpenny was to be charged on each horse carrying corn for sale, or cloth, or seafish, or other merchandise for each casks of herring (worth more than 5 shillings) and for each head of cattle or horse. Six sheep were to be charged at a penny, each cask of woad or load of cloth or merchandise by cart, four pence. The taking of tolls had to cease after three years. This arrangement seems remarkable similar to that of the turnpike trust that was to administer this road over 300 years later; financing the upkeep of a main highway by local parishes levying long distance travellers who were carrying goods for sale. However, in this medieval case the local landowner and the church rather than a trust drawn from the wider community supervised the activity. More importantly pavage was only granted for a relatively short period and for a few sections of road with particular problems. The petition implies that the majority of goods were carried by packhorse with only woollen manufactured goods going in a wheeled vehicle, and that only by cart (a rigid vehicle with poor manoeuvrability and limited capacity). The exceptions for raw wool and skins (as opposed to treated hides) suggest that local agricultural producers were being protected from the toll.

2.4 Tudor & Stuart Highways

In the Tudor period, Henley was effectively the head of navigation for the large Thames barges. This must have reduced the importance of river-borne trade at Reading but would have increased the importance of the Thames crossing at Caversham. The bridge and a highway along the northern bank allowed products to be carried by road and loaded on the London bound barges at Henley.

Saxton’s map of 1574 does not show roads but does identify important bridges. Bridges were not only costly to build but required a long-term, local commitment to maintain the structure. Hence the presence of a medieval bridge implies either a very important trade route or proximity to a very wealthy institution. Saxton’s Tudor map shows Thames crossings at Windsor, Maidenhead, Marlow, Henley, Sonning, Caversham and Wallingford. There are bridges over the main tributaries at Twyford, Reading and Aldermaston (Fig 2.4a). Higher up the tributaries there are bridges on the Loddon at Loddon Bridge and two bridges at Swallowfield. On the Enborne there are bridges at Shalford and Knightsbridge. The latter was probably on the highway along which English wool was carried from the Cotswolds for export to the Continent through ports such as Southampton. The latter corresponds to the line of the Newbury to Basingstoke road described by Ogilby but may incorporate an old the old Roman Road to Silchester, the western end of the Devil’s Highway.

By the late 16th century the pattern of the main highways radiating westwards from London had been established. William Smith’s A particular Description of England of 1588 shows the Salisbury road through Staines, the road west through Maidenhead and Reading, with the Gloucester Road branching off at Maidenhead and the Road to the South Midlands through Wycombe. This same pattern is repeated in Ogilby’s more comprehensive description of the main highways of England in his strip maps of 1675.

In his commentary on the Road from London to Bristol Ogilby’s wrote that the Post Office made this one of their six Principal Roads of England. He describes the route from the Middlesex/Buckinghamshire border as follows:

Enter Longford, a village of 4 Furlongs; where passing 4 separate branches of the Coln, at 18’5. Cross the Coln itself.

Here at once you enter Buckinghamshire and Colnbrook (the Pontes in Antonine [not now thought correct] a very good Thoroughfare, with a Market on Wednesdays, about 4 furlongs long, at the end of which, branches out the direct way to Windsor; with at Slow 3’4 beyond this place, appears pleasantly at right angles on the Left, at 2 miles distance. From Slow a level Road brings you to Maidenhead, first crossing the Thames at 27 Miles, and entering Barkshire, and 3 furlongs farther the Town, extending half a Mile on the Road, of Great reception for Travellers, has a well frequented Market on Wednesdays, and a Key to which Barges come from London.

A quarter of a Mile beyond the Town the Great Road to Gloucester branches out on the Right, whence through the Commons and Woods called Maidenhead Thicket, you pass Harehatch, and at 35’1. Enter Twiford, a village of 4 Furlongs, and good Entertainment, whence a pleasant way brings you at 39’7. To Reading, so call’d from the Confluence of the Rivers as seated on the Navigable Kennet, near its influx into the Thames, and here crossed by 7 Bridges; the fairest and largest Town of the County, with 3 Parish Churches; is a Corporation electing Parliament Men, Govern’d by a Maior 12 aldermen, &c. Eminent for Clothing and Malting, and once beautified with a rich Monastery and strong Castle.

You pass the main Town on the right, which leaving at 40’4. a pleasant Lane conveys you to Theal, vulgo Dheal, q.d. the Vale, a discontinuous Village with 2 or 3 good Inns, Extending to 44’7. thence passing Inglesfield, the pleasant Seat of the Marquess of Winchester’s near a Mile on the Right, a good way through broad Lanes and open Arable, brings you at 50’3. To Woolhampton, vulgo Woollington, small but of good reception; whence a pleasant way and Prospect conveys you at 53’4. To Thatsham, vulgo Thacham, 3 Furlongs long and a reasonable Thorough-fare, whence having touch’d upon the Kennet, at 56’5. Enter that part of Newbury, called Spinhamland, the relicts of the ancient Spinae, whose ruins gave Rise to the present New Town.

At 57’4. You pass by Spein on the Left, and Donnington Castle on the Right; whence between Craven Park and Wickham Heath, at 62’2. You come to the parting of the Roads, the Left being the Post-way by Hungerford, but the Right the more usual being both the Coach and Plow-way by Ramsbury;….

[clearly west of Newbury the Bristol traffic normally used the more northerly sweep route through Ramsbury road rather than the present Bristol, Road through Hungerford. This junction of the two roads is now lost but was close to the present Barton Court. From here the old road ran along the side of the spur over the top of Eddington Hill and down Gypsy Lane to Leverton and Chilton.]

Unlike the description of some other roads, the adjectives pleasant and broad are generously applied, suggesting that this was a relatively good road for the time. The accommodation is generally praised, even though this was well before the growth of mass travel to Bath. Notes on other Roads indicate the quantity of traffic using roads leading to the riverside; e.g., Henley…having a great Market on Thursdays, where oftentimes above 300 Cart Loads of Corn are sold in a Day. Basingstoke on the road to Lands End is similarly described as having a great Market on Wednesdays for Corn &c.

Morden’s map of 1695 is the first to show a detailed road network in this area. Morden is thought to have consulted local gentry to confirm the veracity of his information and so the roads should reflect the main routes in use in the Stuart period. On his Berkshire map Morden shows road converging on the Thames crossings at Maidenhead, Henley, Caversham and Wallingford. Roads head for crossings of the Loddon at Twyford and at the Kennet crossing at Reading. Reading, rivalling Oxford as a road hub, has two roads approaching Caversham Bridge from the north and six roads radiating from Reading along the south bank of the Thames towards Twyford, Loddon Bridge, Arborfield, Shinfield, Theale and Pangbourn. It suggests that Oxford was reached from Reading by crossing Caversham Bridge, and in fact Leland (1530-40) used this route on one of his journey between London and Oxford (Toulmin Smith 1964). Wallingford Bridge had been in decline since the medieval period and two centre arches had been destroyed by the Royalists in the Civil War; the bridge was not restored permanently until the 18th century. Hence, it is not surprising that this 17th century map does not show a through route along the south bank of the Thames. East Ilsley, where a large sheep market was held, is the most prominent hub for roads north west of Reading, with a track running through Pangbourn and another to Woolhampton to connect with the Bath Road.

Morden portrays the roads south of Reading towards Basingstoke truncated near Spencers Wood and the Forest Road is only shown as far as Wokingham. The only through route into this region is across the southern edge of the Forest to join the Exeter road at Blackwater. The absence of roads using crossings at Shalford or Padworth, west of Reading or at Swallowfield to the south, suggests that the old Roman road network centred on Silchester had declined to insignificance since the medieval period.

This pattern of routes is repeated on maps of the 1750s (e.g. Kitchen and Bowen –RUTV13), although this is probably a reflection of plagiarism by later mapmakers rather than the absence of any changed emphasis in transport priorities. It must be remembered that maps were made principally for the educated classes who used coaches and not for the common carrier that transported heavy goods and merchandise. It is clear from the discussion of turnpikes below that by the middle of the 18th century, roads converging on the Thames from Hants, Oxon and Berks, though not illustrated on the maps, were gaining in importance for the carriage of agricultural products to the Thames side wharves.

2.5 Speculation on the road pattern around Reading

2.5.1 The Initial Foundation

The position of Reading has affected the road pattern in East Berkshire, but the historic pattern of the main highways has itself influenced the network of streets in the town. The Roman roads close to the Thames did not meet the needs of later generations and were abandoned in the region north of Silchester. Reading seems to have developed initially on a north/south axis focussed at a crossing of the Kennet (Fig 2.5a). The main road south of the crossing leads to Hampshire and the Channel coast (Southampton) and to the north roads head along the southern bank of the Upper Thames; Caversham rather than Reading is crossing point of the Thames. A short distance before reaching the banks of the Kennet, the road from the south forks at Whitley. One branch is aligned with the old market centre the other with the gate to the abbey. The more westerly crossing is called seven bridges on Speed’s map of 1610 (Fig 2.5b) and crosses the Kennet where it splits into a series of small rivulets and islands. High bridge, leading to the abbey, is a single span approached along Silver Street, now London Street. Since the town pre-dates the abbey, seven bridges must be the older of the two crossings. This is approached along what is now called Southampton Street, though not much weight can be attached to this apparent link with the Channel port since it was called Horn Street well into the 19th century.

The origins of this north/south route must lie in the early Saxon history of the town. An important Saxon highway from Mercia to Wessex, the Northampton to Southampton road, crossed the Thames at Oxford. Two of the great Benedictine Abbeys founded in Saxon times, at Oxford and Abingdon lie on this road. This highway crossed the Kennet at Newbury, well to the west of Reading. A road that crossed to the north bank of the Kennet at Reading would probably have crossed the Thames at Wallingford; indeed all the evidence is that the Plantagenet kings used Wallingford Bridge as one of their principal crossing points on the middle Thames. Although Wallingford was later to be regarded as an east/west river crossing, its earliest function appears to have been on this north/south axis. It replaced the supposed Roman crossing near Dorchester but still gave access to the old Roman road from Alchester to Silchester and on south to Winchester. This begs the question of where the Romans crossed the Kennet and whether later a substantial detour from this was needed to pass through Reading. There are no obvious hints in the place names, in fact the lower Kennet, unlike other rivers such as the Lambourn, is devoid of settlements with names indicating a ford (Fig 2.5c). The heavy soil does not make it an easy crossing in this area (Fig 2.5d), but a crossing at Padworth, where a bridge was shown in Saxton’s map, aligns reasonably well with a road heading generally northwards from Silchester. A diversion from the old road at Pangbourn would have brought travellers to the protected crossing of the river at Reading. Roads feeding the estates to the south of Reading then carried traffic to the old network of roads at Silchester and highways to the south coast.

2.5.2 The Great Western Road

The east/west roads, that were to become so important to the later development of Reading, were secondary features in determining the street pattern of the town. The London Road joins Silver Street and Horn Street at a right angle, just south of the Kennet bridges (Fig 2.5b). This line of the old London road as it approaches Reading suggests that it came into use after the north/south road across the Kennet was well established.

The origin of this road from the east is also ambiguous and it could have served the river crossing at Cookham/Maidenhead or the Windsor Forest road. Before 1200 the Forest Road would have been the more convenient and direct road for travellers from London. Even the 1610 map refers to the London Road as Ort Lane, the same term applied later to the Wokingham Road through the Forest. However, it is likely that such a route across the Kennett would only serve those heading northwestwards. The Devils Highway through Silchester and routes over the Surrey heaths and Hampshire Downs to Wiltshire were almost certainly an easier natural highway from London to areas south of the Middle Thames, including Marlborough and the road to Bristol. The old crossings of the Loddon at Stanford, south of Swallowfield, lie on the line of the Devil’s Highway and were still evident in Tudor maps. To the west of Silchester the old road is less well defined but Shalford Bridge (Fig 2.5d) may provide a clue to the line of a main road in the Saxon period. However, any London to Bristol road on this old line through Silchester would have declined in importance as the status of Reading and its Abbey grew.

The change in status of the Silchester road would also have been influenced by development of bridges further upstream from the Staines and Windsor crossings. An old crossing at Cookham may only have served as a north/south bridge between Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. However, the building of new bridges at Maidenhead and Henley in the early 13th century created not only alternative north/south crossings but opened up a more straightforward road for traffic from London to the South Midlands. A good river crossing at Maidenhead was also preferable to the old route through Windsor or Staines for medieval traffic from London to Reading. This eventually drew all travellers away from the old roads that had run through the sparsely populated area on the Berkshire/Hampshire border or through Windsor Forest. Once the Roman pavement of the Devil’s Highway was lost, the better draining soils beside the Middle Thames would have made the road through Twyford the more attractive route westwards. The meant that the principal London Road approached Reading from a northeasterly direction and roads from the Forest such as Ort Lane and Red Lane then became tributaries to this highway.

These developments to the east of Reading explain the line of the London Road across the Loddon but the reason for the current line of the Bath Road west of Reading is less obvious. In the absence of any influence from Reading, it is difficult to understand why travellers going westwards from London should choose to make any crossing of the Lower Kennet. All the towns higher up the river, notably Newbury and Hungerford are on the south bank and the modern Bath Road itself runs on the south bank west of Hungerford. It is more logical that the early medieval traveller to head across Burghfield Common. From here they might find the remains of the old Roman road running west from Silchester and the natural ridgeway over Greenham Common towards Newbury. Although his area was heavily wooded the soil drains well and there are few natural barriers. It might be speculated that they used the Bridge of the Britons mentioned in the 10th century Brimpton Charter (BPRA 1999). The bridge at Shalford, is on Saxton’s 16th century map (Fig 2.5d), providing evidence for an important highway lying along this line in the medieval period. It is significant that on their journeys from Reading to Marlborough the Plantagenet kings stayed at several manors on the southern bank of the Kennet (Crookham, Hampstead Marshall as well as Newbury and Hungerford) but parishes on the northern bank are rarely mentioned (RUTV 9). Although the market town of Thatcham is on the north bank it was not particularly successful and declined in favour of Newbury on the other bank of the Kennet. Evidence for the medieval road being south of the river is particularly strong between Newbury and Hungerford. Pihlens (1983) notes old records that state the old and great market road from Hungerford to Newbury ran through Kintbury. The site of Hungerford church suggests that the old settlement was to the west of the current main street and that the Hunger ford was over the River Dun, not the Kennet (which is crossed at Eddington). As late as the Civil War, the Parliamentary forces returning from Gloucester to London chose to march from Hungerford to Newbury through Kintbury and Enborne. It was at Wash Common on the south bank that the army encountered the Royalists blocking the road to the capitol.

Despite the natural advantages of the southern route the increasing economic and political importance of Reading Abbey in medieval times would have shifted the main flow of traffic to the north bank of the Kennet. Wheeled traffic may also have favoured the north bank since the gravel terraces are wider and there are fewer climbs on and off the ridgeways. Certainly by the time of the earliest maps, the Bristol to London road follows a dogs-leg over the river at Reading and heads west up Castle Street on the northern bank through Theale and Thatcham. Ogilby’s roads of 1675 (Fig 2.5e) illustrate that there were arms of the Bristol road on both the north and south banks of the Kennet between Hungerford and Marlborough. Morden’s map of 1695 shows roads to the west on both sides of the river between Newbury and Hungerford, with the road through Kintbury having the same status as the road on the north bank through Speen. However, any road on the south bank between Reading and Newbury had declined to insignificance by this period.

2.5.3 Routes along the Kennet

As at Reading, Newbury and Hungerford grew up along routes running north/south but in both of these the urban centre was on the south bank of the Kennet. Early maps show roads radiating southwards from Newbury. These would have been important routes for the transport of wool for export from the Channel ports such as Southampton. On the evidence of the Tudor maps, the road over Greenham Common and Knightsbridge to Kingsclere was particularly important, and the current route through Whitchurch was not the dominant road southwards. Hungerford lay on the road between the ecclesiastical centres of Oxford and Sarum. In the absence of other factors one might expect the roads connecting these towns to run on the south side of the river. The fact that the Bristol Road grew up on the northern bank illustrates that the position of Reading strongly influenced the route post-medieval travellers took along the Kennet Valley.

In summary, it is proposed that until the late medieval period the preferred road from Windsor to Marlborough and the west, by-passed the town of Reading and ran for much of their length along an old Roman Road at least as far as Newbury (Fig 2.5f). Here the route split to go towards Gloucester through the Roman station at Spinis (Speen) or continued along the southern bank to Hungerford and Ramsbury to Marlborough. The growing influence of the Abbey, pulling more visitors into the town of Reading eventually led to the development of a road westwards on the northern bank. Unfortunately this brought the highway onto soils that were wetter than the ridges on the southern bank (Fig 2.5c) and led to the difficulties that were eventually only solved by turnpiking. At this point in history we move from mere speculation to a period when surviving records can help plot changes to the road network.

3. Administration of the Highways

3.1 The Parish Road System

The weight of traffic using English roads increased in the post-Reformation period as trade grew. Charity and ad hoc arrangements were insufficient to maintain local roads or main highways and active intervention was necessary to keep the roads adequately repaired. In 1555, by Act of Parliament, parishes were made responsible for the upkeep of roads and highways within their boundaries. The Statute for Mending of Highways obliged every had to work four days a year on maintaining the parish roads and persons having arable land or a plough landowners to provide teams of horses or oxen to carry material. A parish surveyor, who was elected each year, supervised this Statute Labour. If roads were inadequately maintained, a parish could be indicted by the Justices and fined. The fine would be given to the surveyor to assist in rectifying the problem. The system became perpetual in 1564 when the amount of Statute Labour was increased to six days per man per year (Jackman 1966).

This system was sufficient to maintain the local roads in many rural parishes but for those parishes through which major highways passed it proved inadequate. On these highways, the vehicles that damaged the roads were from other parishes, yet the locals had to make repairs with no benefit to themselves. The highway had virtually no paving and was regarded as a rights of way rather than a fixed structure. When a particular section of highway became impassable, travellers could use adjoining land to circumvent the problem. As a result some major highways spread to become great quagmires with only narrow sections passable in winter. The problem was particularly acute on the main approach roads to London.

3.2 Bridges

Bridges over large rivers require substantial investment and tend to have higher maintenance costs than roads. In the medieval period they had been built by rich benefactors and were often then maintained by ecclesiastical institutions, who generally installed a hermit to collect alms for its upkeep. After the Reformation these responsibilities were transferred to lay administrations. Some important bridges were maintained by a bridge trust, financed by a combination of tolls on traffic above and under the bridge. The remainder was in the care of the County, in which case the Justices levied rates for their upkeep.

3.3 General Highways Acts

Wheeled vehicles caused much more damage to the surface of the highway than feet or hooves. Carts had been used to carry moderately heavy or bulky items since medieval times. Two-wheel carts with wheels as tall as a man could carry quite large loads but the advent of the freestanding four-wheel wagon greatly increased the weight of what could be carried. The wheels cut the road surface, water lay in the tracks and the next vehicle caused even more damage. Particularly on clay soils, the road was no longer self-healing and more and more horses were needed to drag, rather than pull, vehicles through the deep mire.

Parliamentary legislation attempted to limit damage by restricting the number of horses used to pull wagons and coaches. It was believed that limiting carriers to only five horses in line would make it impossible for them to drag very heavy wagons. However, this legislation not only failed to achieve its aim but also created opportunities for extortion by unscrupulous surveyors.

One notorious case provoked a petition to Parliament from The Carriers and Waggoners of the Western and Northern Roads in 1695 (JHC). The Petitioners cited two surveyors, Richard Feilder and John Littlehale. Feilder had been owed money by the Crown who had failed to pay for corn and other provisions supplied to the army on Hounslow Heath and at Windsor. As recompense he was made Deputy Surveyor of His Majesties Roads with a responsibility to travel round, indicting parishes for failing to repair their highways. In addition he should have reported wagoners who drew with more than five horses in line. However, instead of indicting the offenders he took a regular payment from them, turned a blind-eye and let them use as many horses as they pleased. Initially he only took a few pounds per quarter from the wagoners using the Western Road over Hounslow Heath. However, he became greedier and increased the charges. When the carriers refused to pay, he kept them in line by indicting and seizing the horses of several carriers. Another surveyor, John Littlehale, was operating a similar racket on the Great North Road. He was even greedier and was soon taking several pounds per quarter from some wagoners and even demanding more than four quarterly payments per year! Under examination, Feilder admitted that wagoners could not operate profitably with only five horses and also recognised the damage the heavy loads did to the parish roads. However, it took changes in legislation to stop this predation on the wagoners and extortion that was levying over £20 per year to the costs of carriage through Eastern Berkshire.

General Highways legislation to control vehicles on the highway continued into the 19th century. However, the turnpike Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries were the prelude to a significant change in the approach to road transport. The financial independence of the turnpike trusts eventually allowed them to improve the roads to carry the vehicles rather than restricting the design and size of the vehicle to protect badly laid roads.

Part B: Turnpike Trusts

4. General Features

4.1 Creation of Turnpikes Trusts

During the late 17th century, parishes along the Great North road in particular were being regularly indicted for the state of the roads. In 1663 the Justices of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire obtained an Act of Parliament that allowed them to levy tolls on user of the Great North Road and to use the sums raised to augment the Statute Labour. This concept alleviated the pressure on the most vulnerable parishes and over the later part of the century Acts to cover other sections of road were bought before Parliament. Although there were clear benefits in improved maintenance of the roads, increasing the powers of the Justices to control roads across the county was not acceptable. An alternative method of administration was to grant powers to groups of local trustees who would be responsible for specific sections of road through a particular group of parishes.

Despite early opposition to the monopoly that this arrangement created, the turnpike system became accepted as a suitable method of alleviating the problems of parishes on principal highways into London. Although the intention was initially to augment Statute Labour, the amount of revenue generated by tolls grew to exceed the resource provide by the parishes. Gradually, turnpike trusts using toll income became the main means of financing improvements and repair of all main roads in England & Wales. Most of the major highways radiating from London were under the powers of turnpike trusts by the 1730s. This success on the great highways of the kingdom led to a fresh, much larger surge of turnpiking of the provincial main roads. From the 1750s to the 1770s almost all the major cross roads were brought under turnpike trusts creating a network of interconnecting roads, financed by toll charges. A final phase of turnpiking in the early 19th century filled in the few gaps where economic changes in an area had altered the flow of traffic.

Obtaining a turnpike Act involved significant cost for the local community and so the net benefit was not always apparent to the various stakeholder groups. The aristocracy and gentry saw road improvement through turnpiking as general public good, but they could also expect increased rents from their land as the market for agricultural goods expanded. Local tradesmen would expect a growth in business as the cost of transport of manufactured goods was reduced and the additional trade from travellers using local inns and services rose. In areas where the damage to roads from long distance traffic had been greatest, there was a significant reduction in the burden on local parishioners. After the building of turnpikes, agricultural improvers such as John Middleton (1798) were able to observe that bad roads require a greater number of horses to draw any given weight over them, thereby increasing the price of articles to the consumer; better roads meant a wider market for all goods.

However, some of the wagoners and coach masters who were getting by with the present state of the roads only saw additional costs and were unhappy. The carriers of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire and their clients petitioned strongly against tolls on several sections of the Bath Road. In areas where the ground was firmer and drained well, the damage was less apparent and yeoman farmers who might have to travel intermediate distances to market were a vociferous opposition. For instance, in 1753 when a petition to turnpike the road from the Hill near Bagshot, commonly called Golden Farmers Hill, through Farnham, Alton and New Alresford to Winchester, opposition came from gentlemen, yeoman and farmers living on or near the said road. They were clearly of the opinion that there is no necessity for erecting turnpikes thereon, for that the same is naturally very sound and good, the bottom thereof being a firm bed of gravel and stone and chalk, quite from Farnham to Winchester, and may be easily repaired and kept in a safe and commodious condition (JHC). Not only did they see immediate costs but thought it would be very burdensome and detrimental to their posterity. It should be noted that the section of road from Bagshot was over poor ground but the majority of the road ran over the chalk downs.

Rather than incurring the cost of turnpiking some communities preferred to put pressure on the parishes to fulfil the duties to maintain the highway. A notice in the Reading Mercury in December 1769 declared: If the roads from the turnpike road at Goose Mill in the parish of Basildon, through Hook End Lane, Ashamsted Common, Yattendon, Hamstead Norris Common, Long Lane, Shaw Field and the turnpike road at Newbury are not put in suitable repair and direction post properly placed before the 10th March next, the surveyors of the highway of each parish will be taught their duty from the Crown Office. Even when there was support for a turnpike it may be qualified and the power of some trusts was clearly curtailed by powerful local interest. Several Acts stated that tolls could not be taken on certain sections of the highway. This applied particularly close to major markets or facilities such as mills. For instance the turnpikes east of Reading could not collect tolls between the town and Loddon Bridge where the main cattle market was held.

Hence the story of the turnpiking of roads in East Berkshire is not one of unopposed acceptance of the perfect means of improving the main roads. Vested interests objected to almost every step in the creation of the turnpike network that the Victorians were to bequeath to the 20th century; plus ca change.

4.2 Structure of Turnpike Acts

The powers granted to a turnpike trust were viewed with suspicion. In effect the trustees were given powers to charge for use of an existing resource, the highway. Unlike the later canals and railway builders they were not creating a new facility and so their rights were restricted. Powers were only granted for a specific length of time and the trusts were not expected to make a profit, merely raise and employ sufficient money to improve and maintain the road. Each trust was empowered through an individual Act of Parliament that closely specified what was the trustees were permitted to undertake to achieve their objectives.

Turnpike Acts had a similar overall structure.

The initial pages defined the road and the trust structure; Fig 4.2a is the opening page of a typical Act.

• The opening paragraph of an Act specified the road in very general terms, usually the highway between A and B via C.

• Early Acts frequently gave some justification for the turnpiking, e.g. that the road as so poor that it was impassable in the winter season and could not be repaired by the present laws.

• Previous legislation relating to this road was recited.

• The trustees were named and the place of their first meeting specified.

• Arrangements for electing replacements trustees were laid down.

The next sections dealt with the raising of tolls (Fig 4.2b).

• It was stated that tollhouses could be erected, although it generally left the number and position of the tollgates to the discretion of the trustees who had local knowledge. Trusts did move their gates to intercept the maximum number of travellers at minimum cost to the trust.

• The amount of the tolls was recited, usually distinguishing tolls on passenger vehicles (coaches) and freight vehicles (wagons) and drove animals.

• The penalties for evading these tolls and payments to be made to informants against evaders were specified.

Most Acts contained a long list of those exempt from tolls (Fig 4.2c). Exemptions fell into a number of categories; local farmers going about their husbandry tasks, officials and the military on county or national business, religious observance, voting, those involved in road maintenance and then groups who had negotiated concessions to permit the particular Act to pass. Some Acts made special provisions for parishioners taking corn to a specified local mill (e.g. at Swallowfield and Aldermaston). Others protected local manufacturers as in the Reading renewal of 1746 when carts and horses carrying cloth, druggets, surge or other woollen manufacture to or from a fulling mill were exempt.

The Reading to Basingstoke Act of 1821 is typical in its list of those who did not have to pay tolls;

The Royal family


Wagons carrying material for repairing the roads, tollhouses, bridges, drains and fences on the highway

Seed for use in the parish

Hay, grass, straw, corn, pulses in straw, turnip, potatoes, milk, furze, wood for the use of the owner in the parish and not for sale

Beasts involved in ploughing, harrowing etc

Beasts involved in conveyance of mould, dung, soil, manure or compost (except chalk) used to improve land,

Horses returning from being shoed or farried

Parishioners returning from church or chapel or funerals

Ministers visiting the sick

Those riding to their own fields

Army officers on duty

Wagons carrying baggage of soldiers or sick & wounded or carrying ordinance

Volunteers dressed in uniform

Coaches and horses going to elections of the Knights of the Shires at election time.

Subsequent Paragraphs provided for upkeep and management of the road.

• The rights of the trust to take road-making materials from the Parishes were stated along with the compensation terms for damage.

• Obstructions could be removed and nuisances suppressed, overhanging trees removed and road improvements made.

• The trust were empowered, where necessary, to make new roads and sell the land of any old roads

• The requirement to place milestones was made and the punishment for defacing stones stated.

• Provisions were made on how Statute Duty Labour and Teams were to be provided by the Parishes (e.g. by the justices on application by the trustees).

• The arrangements for contributions by the parishes are laid out; i.e. either statute labour of Composition Money in lieu of this.

Finally there were clauses relating to long-term provisions.

• By the 19th century, Acts specified how money was to be borrowed and the wording of mortgages.

• Finally the term of the Act then makes clear what earlier Acts may have been superseded and limited the period over which the new powers were granted.


These were normally Local Acts of Parliament and so records are not as complete as for the main Statutes. Full sets of published Acts are rare before the 19th century but there are occasional records from the earlier period in the House of Lords Library. Complementing the information from the published Acts are summary reports of the deliberations of the Parliamentary Committees that examined the petitions for turnpikes. The records from the mid-18th century are generally more informative than later records that merely note the Act was granted. The Journal of the House of Commons (JHC) records these deliberations of Parliamentary Committees and any references from these are italicised in the text below.

In some cases the last clerk to a trust in the late 19th century may have saved some papers and eventually these might be lodged in a County Record Office. However, the vast majority of individual records have been lost. There are some centralised records such as total income from tolls and investigations of particular issues such as the impact of the railways on the trust’s finances. These records are in Parliamentary Papers (referred to as PP below).

4.3 Turnpikes around Reading

Acts covering the roads between London and Reading were granted during the initial phase of turnpiking in the early 18th century. The Bath Road was the second of the major radials out of London to be turnpiked, the section from Reading to Puntfield being covered under an Act of 1714. Acts covering the other main roads in the region followed soon afterwards with parts of both the Salisbury Road through Staines and the Oxford Road through Wycombe under the control of turnpike trusts by 1718. The road from Reading to Basingstoke was also turnpiked in 1718, remarkably early for a road that was not a London radial. The Henley Road was turnpiked towards the end of the initial phase, in 1736. The crossroads in East Berkshire were swept up in the turnpike mania of the late 18th century, leaving only roads around Windsor to be taken under the care of a turnpike trust in the early 19th century and the road from Aylesbury to Marlow turnpiked as late as 1822 (Appendix 1). Fig 4.3a illustrates the final turnpike network that developed around Reading and East Berkshire.

The Information available on individual turnpike trusts varies enormously.

The discussion below deals with groups of trusts;

• The Bath Road from Kensington to Newbury (Chapter 5);

• The main radial to the south of Reading; the Salisbury Road. (Chapter 6) (Note that the Henley Road to the north of Reading is dealt with elsewhere in RUTV7);

• The Windsor Forest Roads (Chapter 7);

• The Other Turnpikes north of the Thames in East Berkshire (Chapter 8);

• The Other Turnpikes south of the Thames in East Berkshire (Chapter 9);

5. The Bath Road

5.1 The nature of the route

5.1.1 The ground

Until the late 17th century the western road out of London was referred to as the Great Road to Bristol, the nation’s most important Atlantic port. However, this emphasis changed after Queen Anne began to patronise Bath as a restorative spa. Through the genius of Beau Nash this inland town to the south east of Bristol, grew to be the premier recreational destination for the wealthy and famous during the 18th century. The only practical way to Bath from London was by road and large numbers of private vehicles and public coaches began to travel along what became known as the Bath Road.

The Bath Road through Berkshire (Fig 5.1a) follows essentially the same route described by Ogilby in 1675 (Fig 2.5e). The route west from London, through Kensington, Brentford, Hounslow and Slough was over relatively low-lying ground, underlain by London Clay. Although the route did take advantage of stretches of heathland on old river gravels, most of the ground was wet heavy clay (Fig 2.5c) that was cut into deep, water filled ruts in winter and baked to a hard uneven surface in the summer. Along this northern bank of the Thames, minor tributaries such as the Brent and the Coln presented no great barrier to travel. Between Colnbrook and Maidenhead the ground was not so bad and in 1688 Pepys travelling in his private carriage was even able to comment that the way mighty good. The road was carried over the Thames at Maidenhead where a succession of bridges has stood since medieval times. From Maidenhead an exposed area of the Chiltern chalk underlies the southern bank of the Thames provides relatively firm ground for a highway. The roads to Henley and Reading branch along low chalk ridges, avoiding Ashley Hill. The Bath Road takes an easy crossing of the Loddon where it is divided into several branches at Twyford (the twin fords). It then picks a path between the river and the high ground at Woodley to reach the major crossing of the Kennet at Reading. Much of the route is over low-lying gravel terraces close to the rivers except for the section west of Maidenhead. Instead of the route taken later by Brunel’s railway, the Bath Road climbs onto the high ground to go over Knowl Hill. Whether this is a reflection of the route being pulled north along the line of the Oxford Road or was to avoid the deeper parts of the Royal Forest of Bray is not clear.

West of Reading the route follows the low ground of the Kennet river terraces rather than the firmer soils on the high chalk downs to the north. It is not until the road leaves Speenhamland, west of Newbury that it finally reaches the drier chalk downlands that then stretch forward through Wiltshire and the west. Even then it descends back to the terrace gravels at Benham and at Barton Court foregoes the opportunity of the old route over the chalkland to Ramsbury in favour of the flatter, wetter ground through Hungerford. In 1691, Celia Fiennes travelling from London to Hampshire observed that From Redding to Veale (Theale) 5 miles sad clay deep way, this is Barkshire; thence to Newbury 8 miles all clay and mirey ground. On another journey she noted Hungerford to Newbury in Barkshire 7 miles all very deep way, 15 miles thence to Reading in Barkshire flatt way, but the vale is heavy sand for 3 or 4 miles; Reading is the shire town its pretty large, accommodated for travellers being a great Road to Gloucester and the west Country but it is very dear (Morris 1947). This evidence illustrates how the combination of wet ground and heavy vehicles had created problems with which individual parish surveyors were unable to deal. In frustration some travellers used alternative tracks through the hills north of the river valley. For instance papers relating to the Frankum family of Woolhampton (Trigg 2002) suggest that before the Bath Road was turnpiked travellers went through Beenham and Kift Green to avoid Woolhampton.

Both coaches and wagons used the Great West Road through Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. The road through Reading carried a substantial number of clothiers’ wagons bringing cloth up to London from Wiltshire towns such as Trowbridge and Bradford. Thomas Deloney stated that large convoys of clothiers’ wains from Gloucester and Worcester blocked the London road through Reading and Colnbrook in the 16th century (Burke 1942). Whenever there was a threat of conflict with the Continental Powers, West Country merchants preferred to use road transport rather than coastal shipping and so the volume of commercial carrier traffic varied. Coaches carrying wealthy patrons to the spa at Bath depended on the Western Road and made passenger traffic an important factor on this route. Regular coach services between London and Bath began in 1657 and by the early 18th century large numbers of stagecoach services and private postchaises were travelling between London and Bath. Whereas the petitions to turnpike the Great North Road were based on the damage done by wagons, the case for turnpiking the Bath Road was concerned with the problems of coach travellers. One might speculate that wealthy passengers were more able and prepared to pay for improvements and this may explain why the Bath Road, although not on the worst soils in England, was turnpiked relatively early.

Acts to take tolls for maintenance of the western sections of the Bath Road, around Bath and Calne, had been passed in 1706. Like the improvements on the Great North Road these first turnpikes were administered by local Justices (Philips 1981). However, all the turnpikes created subsequently in this area were administered by trustees drawn from the local communities.

5.1.2 The administration

The first turnpike on the Bath Road through the Thames Valley was over the wet ground beside the Kennet from Reading to Theale. This turnpike, initially to Puntfield in 1714 and later on to Speenhamland (Newbury), is dealt with in Section 5.2. The Bath Road west of Speenhamland towards Marlborough is briefly covered in this section. The busy roads between Kensington over Hounslow Heath to Twyford were turnpiked over the following three years and the remaining sections were under turnpike trusts by 1728. The Bath Road to the east of Reading, under the Maidenhead Turnpike Trust, is dealt with in Section 5.3 and the trusts closer to London in Section 5.4.

Although Turnpike Acts were private initiatives by groups of local individuals, there could be significant impact on adjoining sections of road and the actions of one group often stimulated similar moves in adjoining parishes. There seemed to be informal co-ordinated action and co-operation along major routes such as the Bath Road. The wealthier landowners who had property along the road and acted on several trusts would have facilitated the speed with which the sections of road were assigned to the different trusts.

These turnpike trusts on the Bath Road extended their powers over important feeder roads in the middle of the 18th century. These trusts did not make major alterations to the old route through Berkshire, although the road improvements were made at Woolhampton and the side road through Englefield was re-routed. The road was relatively easy to control and most trusts had only one main tollhouse, placed strategically on the main highway through Buckinghamshire and Berkshire at Colnbrook, Maidenhead, Twyford, Castle Street Reading, Thatcham and Hoe Benham. Great gentleman had their estates along its route and as trustees these men influenced the style of turnpike architecture. Along this prestigious route there were elegant milestones and extravagant tollhouses while the inns flourished on the trade from rich travellers. The towns on the road grew more prosperous during the 18th century, Reading for instance illustrating its status when in 1785 the Corporation was granted an Act to improve the lighting and paving the town (see Chapter 10). A survey by Archibald Robertson in 1792 captures the feeling of a well-maintained road, over gentle countryside and pleasant towns (Appendix A). Nonetheless other observers were less complementary about the state of the turnpikes along this route. Middleton (1798) recorded that the road from Hyde Park Corner through Brentford and Hounslow is especially deep and filthy. Notwithstanding His Majesty travels this road several times every week there are not any exertions made towards keeping it clean in winter. The town of Brentford is particularly offensive. Priest (1810) complained about the poor state of the road between Colnbrook and Maidenhead saying that in winter some parts are a perfect slough and in the summer months extremely dusty. However, much of the road was over relatively free draining gravels and so once good surveyors were appointed in the 1820s there were few major engineering problems. With a reliable flow of rich travellers the turnpike trusts on the Bath Road managed to maintain the road in a good condition in the 1830s and keep their expenditure in balance with income. As a result, when the turnpike era ended these trusts were wound up, they bequeathed to the local Highways Boards a good road with no financial liabilities.

5.2 Reading to Newbury Road

5.2.1 Reading to Speenhamland

The Act of 1714 for repairing the Highways between the Bear Inn in Reading and a certain place called Puntfield was the earliest turnpike Act in this area. The road was only about six miles in length but this was presumably the most heavily used section approaching Reading along the Kennet from the west. A later Act of 1827 describes more precisely the extent of this road from the southeast corner of Castle Street, being the place where the Bear Inn late stood. This is clearly the Golden Bear at the bottom of Castle Street, not the Black Bear coaching inn. Puntfield was close to the Jack’s Boot (the Three Kings) in Sulhamstead at the very western edge of Theale Parish.

The first Act was to run for 15 years but after only thirteen years the trustees returned requesting further powers to include feeder roads running south of the Bath Road towards the Kennet. They wished to extend their responsibility to cover repair of the road leading from Puntfield to a place called the Seven-Mile Stone, and from thence to a place called Aldermaston Bridge, and also a Road leading out of the present Highways to Burghfield Hatch. The Seven Mile Stone (7 miles from Reading) was in Upton Field, a little over a mile beyond Puntfield and so represented only a short extension connecting to the branch down to Aldermaston Bridge. Based on the estimates of the length of the branch roads (two totalling 7 miles in 1820), the branch to Burghfield must have run as far as Burghfield Green.

In examination during 1729, Mr William Gandy, and Mr John Abery, treasurer, said that the trust had borrowed heavily to finance the initial repairs to the road from Reading. The tolls had brought in about £520 per annum, but since the River Kennet hath been made navigable, the toll hath been abated near £200 per annum. The cost of fetching materials to repair the road had been higher than expected and the current accounts showed a net income of £204-10s per annum. John Symonds and Mr Gandy said that the additional road was about 4 miles in length, are very much frequented, and that the same are very much out of repair. The branch to Aldermaston Bridge was particularly significant since the Kennet Navigation had been completed in 1723 and the road down to the wharf at Aldermaston would have been much more heavily used as a result of the increased traffic carrying goods to and from the barges. At the same time the Kennet Navigation as a whole provided an alternative to the turnpike as a means of transporting heavy goods along the river valley.

While the Reading Act was being considered a group of gentlemen from Newbury petitioned Parliament to extend the powers of the present trustees much further long the main Bath Road, not just to the feeder roads west of Reading. Adding new sections of road to an existing trust presumably reduced the cost of procuring the Act for the newcomers. In support of the Newbury petition, Mr William Jones and Mr Charles Hall told the Committee that the road leading from Seven-Mile Stone to Speenhamland was part of the Great Road from London to Bath and Bristol. They claimed that it had become very ruinous as a result of the heavy carriages that frequently passed along it. John Williams added that although the parishes have duly performed the Statute Work, it was insufficient, for repairing the road without the aid of Parliament. The Bailiff, Burgesses, Gentlemen and Inhabitants of the Borough of Chippenham were unhappy with the additional tolls they would face and asked for special consideration. However, the bill was passed, giving a single group of turnpike trustees authority to raise tolls to maintain the whole of the road between Reading and Speenhamland, upwards of 20 miles in length. There were a number of serious faults to repair on this route. Not only was this the clayey and mirey ground complained of by Celia Fiennes but houses were built close to the road so that in 1720 Defoe had commented on the narrowness of the road through Woolhampton where two coaches could not pass each other (Trigg 2002).

The second Act was due to expire on June 1st 1750 but in 1746 the trust petitioned for a new Act. Although the toll income was £700 per year, John Beale the Trust’s treasurer declared in evidence that the £1800 they had borrowed to repair the road could not be paid off before this date. In this third Act of 1746 the principal powers of the earlier Acts were renewed but administration of the trust was re-organised since, the petitioners by experience find great inconveniences have happened in executing the powers given them jointly, which they apprehend may be avoided by appointing separate trustees for those parts of the roads which lead from the Bear Inn in Reading to 7 Mile Stone, and to Burghfield Hatch and Aldermaston Bridge; and separate trustees for that part of the road which leads from 7 Mile Stone to Speenhamland. These two groups of trustees were to hold separate meetings, set for the first Monday in May 1747 at the Mitre Tavern in Reading to cover the eastern section and on the third Monday in May at the Globe Inn in Newbury for the Western section. The tolls raised on the roads on either side of Seven-Mile stone were only to be applied to repair that section of road. This Act also gave the trustees the power to erect a weighing engine at one of the tollgates for weighing of carts, wagons or other carriages. This was to deter the use of very heavy wagons that could be fined for being over-weight. Besides the normal exemptions from tolls for parish traffic, soldiers and wagons carrying road-making materials, this Act specifically exempted the owners of a certain house called Coley, situate in the Parish of Saint Mary in Reading. This property lay down Coley Lane (beside where the Berks Record Office now stands) at the top of Castle Hill. It was immediately opposite the turnpike gate and presumably the landowner had negotiated a concession to allow the trust to occupy such a strategic position for its gate while allowing him free access to property beyond the gate.

When the Powers of the trust were renewed again by an Act of 1771 the debt had fallen to £1350. Attention may have been drawn to this because the trustees also sought to take on more responsibility and bring into their care more of the side roads;

the highway between a house in Speenhamland, in occupation of Edward Sheppard, and the west end of the highway to be repaired (only 40 poles in length); and

the highway leading off the Bath Road between Little King’s Arms and Robin Hood near Speenhamland, through Shaw , over Shaw Field to the North End of Long Lane in Chieveley;


the Highway from Bostock Lane to Pangbourn and

the Highway leading from the Great Bath Road at the direction post to Aldermaston near a public house called the Rising Sun, to a Brick Arch at the end of Froude’s Lane on the Turnpike Road leading from Puntfield to Aldermaston.

Mr Thomas Randal, presumably the surveyor, confirmed to the Parliamentary Committee that the said highways were ruinous. It is not clear which short section of road in Speenhamland was involved but it may just have connected the highway with the Speenhamland to Marlborough Turnpike. The Road from The Robin Hood corresponds with the current B4009 from the traffic island at Shaw to Long Lane and so would have acted as a feeder onto the Bath Road. It runs parallel with the Chilton Pond to Newbury (Newtown River) turnpike (Sect 5.2.6) that had been created in 1766 and may have been attracting traffic trying to avoid the Donnington Tollgate. Both the Rising Sun and Froudes Lane still survive on the Aldermaston side of present road, west of the main turn to Aldermaston.

The turnpiking of Bostock Lane involved construction of a totally new section of road. The trust negotiated with a local landowner to change the line of this old lane that ran through Englefield to Pangbourne. The trust was to replace the southern end of Bostock Lane with a new straight road east of Englefield village; this created the line of the current A340, south of the modern motorway bridge (Fig 5.2a). The trust proposed (JHC) that the highway is turned through Englefield Common Field to or near a house in Englefield Street known by sign of The Daggers and thence along Englefield Street into the Highway leading out of Englefield Street through Tidmarsh by and through a place called Hog Moore and thence to the SE corner of the yard or backside belonging the Castle and Elephant Inn in Pangbourn. The greatest part of the land in Englefield Common over which the said new highway is intended to be carried being the property of Powlett Wrighte who is consenting, provided that a highway leading out of the SW side of Englefield Street on NW side of Blacksmith Shop and from thence to NW side of Cranmore Pond to a gate leading into common field shall be shut up. The owner of Englefield Park, who was also a turnpike trustee, no doubt welcomed the opportunity to move the public road further away from his house and block up the old road across Englefield Park.

The Act noted that Powlett Wright would allow the surveyors to take materials from his land without charge to build the new road. However, he had extracted a condition that no toll gate would be erected between the southern end of Bostock Lane and the Chalk Pit Farm, north of Englefield. Upgrading the road to Pangbourne was part of a general improvement of the routes around Aldermaston. New turnpikes were created southwards from Aldermaston, to Whitchurch in 1770 and to Basingstoke in 1772 (Section 9.2). When the latter was opened it was advertised (RM) as an ideal route from Hampshire to the Midlands via Oxford (i.e. along the Shillingford Turnpike through Pangbourne). Nevertheless it remained less popular than the historic highway from Southampton to Oxford through Newbury (The Newtown River to Chilton Pond Turnpike) as the preferred north/south route in the region.

As traffic grew the Trust made minor improvements to the road; several are recorded after the trust relinquished responsibility to the Theale District in 1826 (see below). In 1827 they widened the London Road at Speenhamland by demolishing properties opposite the George and Pelican, the main inn used by the Bath Road coaches. The site was layed into the turnpike and the residual property was sold to George Goddard and others for £250 (BRO). The Trust spent about £800 to improve the road at Woolhampton between 1828-31. This new highway, presumably the modern line to the south of the village, would have been planned and built under the direction of Mr McAdam, the general surveyor. Here again, the trust purchased several messuages that were demolished to allow for road widening. Residual land was then resold by the trust; in 1831 the Earl of Falmouth bought land north of the turnpike, to the east of the lane to Upper Woolhampton (BRO). There is no clear evidence from maps that the route was substantially altered but widening and straightening the carriageway may have been the principle reason for the work.

The division of the trust covering the eastern section to the seven-mile stone was administered from Reading. They fell to using the George Inn for most of their meetings, including the auctions for tolls, and their clerk was a leading Reading solicitors (e.g. William Gandy, Richard Simeon and John Blandy at various times). The main turnpike gate must have been constructed on Castle Street immediately after the first Act in 1714 and there was a gate here for over a century (see Section 5.2.4 for more details on the toll gates). The western Division of the trust had a gate at Thatcham, well east of Newbury. A gate must have been built on this site soon after the 1747 Act extended the jurisdiction of the trust to Speenhamland. This western section was traditionally administered from Newbury with meetings at the Globe and it had the same clerk as other turnpikes passing through the town (see Section 5.2.5).

The trust did not initially build toll gates on the side roads that it administered. In 1799 a gate was built across the road to Shaw and it was not until the early 19th century that a permanent toll gate was built across the Pangbourn Road at Tidmarsh. The leases on these gates raised only a fraction of that for gates on the main road.

5.2.2 Speenhamland to Marlborough

This section of the Bath Road from West Berkshire into Wiltshire was turnpiked in 1726, just before the Reading to Puntfield Road was extended to Speenhamland. The Act covered The greatest part of the Highway and Roads leading from Speenhamland in the Parish of Speen, near or adjoining to the Borough of Newbury, through or near Charnham Street in the Parish of Hungerford, as also by or through Froxfield, and from thence through the Forest of Savernake to the Borough of Marlborough (Fig 5.2b). The justification for turnpiking was a combination of heavy loads, passenger coaches and drovers traffic on a narrow road making the road impassable from the autumn through to the Spring. The worst part of the road was probably the notoriously bad Marlborough Hill. “Ned Ward” in 1700 was told by a local that the damage that hill occasions, brings considerable trade to our wheelwrights, farriers and chyrugions; also creates no small business to those of my functions and maintains three or more families to support the coaches and assist at other accidents (Searle 1930).

The first meeting of the trust was at the Bear in Charnham Street (Hungerford) on 25th April 1726 and many of the early meetings were held here. Subsequently the trust operated as two Divisions, with the eastern Division through Berkshire administered from Newbury and the western Division, from Froxfield to Marlborough, administered from Marlborough. The Berkshire Division of this trust, the western Division of the Reading Road, and the north/south turnpike between Andover and Chilton Pond through Newbury were run by the same group of individual based in Newbury. Their meetings were generally at the Globe Inn and the clerk was a Newbury solicitor (e.g. William Jones, and members of the Townsend or the Bunny families).

The first Act empowered the trust to set up two or more Turnpikes in or cross the said Highways. Unusually, it specified the location of one of these turnpike gates as lying at a convenient place between a Tenement and Shop called or known by the Name of The Smith’s Shop, now in the Possession of Gabriel Flower as Tenant to Sir Jemmett Raymond, Knight (who was a trustee), and lying in the Parish of Kintbury, and the nearest Lane to the said Shop that leads out of the Road aforesaid to Ramsbury. An 18th century map of the turnpike (BRO) shows the gate beyond Dial Hill, just to the west of Barton. This is roughly where the Ogilby’s preferred route to Marlborough branched off the turnpiked route through Hungerford, close to the 62nd milestone. Presumably a significant amount of traffic was still using the old road from Ramsbury through Leverton and the gate was well paced to levy these vehicles. Harpur (1899) recalls the tale of the old coachman from Marlborough who stubbornly used the old waggon road through Ramsbury that his grandfather and father had driven, well after the new road had been made by the trust. By the 19th century this Kintbury Gate had been moved further east to a prominent position in Welford, on the north side of the highway, opposite the Marquis of Granby. It was referred to as Hoe Benham Gate but was frequently called Halfway House Gate (Fig 5.2d), after the existing property a short distance east of the gate and 5 miles distant from both Hungerford and Newbury. Illustrations (Fig 5.2e) show that the final building on this site was a fine castellated tollhouse that proclaimed the prestige of the Bath Road and the financial health of the trust. The building appeared to be of stone but was actually a plastered artifice that survived into the 20th century as a notable building beside the road.

Initially there were no gates on the Wiltshire section of the road. The 18th century map (BRO) shows that the road was simply gated where it entered and left Savernake Forest to prevent animals straying. The initial Act had specifically prevented the Trust erecting a toll gate within two miles of Marlborough but the Wiltshire Division erected a single gate to the west of Froxfield, east of Knowl Hill. By the mid-19th century there was an additional tollgate at the edge of the Forest at the top of the hill above Marlborough (Fig 5.2f).

In common with the adjoining turnpikes, this trust made no major changes to the line of the road but presumably widened and straightened particular sections. The highway on Gravel Hill near Marsh Benham was rather tortuous in the 18th century but had been straightened by early 19th century. The carriageway at that point had been 16ft wide whereas at Denford it was only 12ft wide and narrowed to only 10ft in Charnham Street, Hungerford. In Oct 1770 the trust met (RM) to consider altering the road at Denford, presumably improving the narrow section noted on the earlier map. Between 1826-31 the trust spent a substantial amount of money on Hungerford Bridge. It borrowed £800 to defray some of the exceptional costs and in 1831 alone the sum of £222 was expended on this project (BRO).

5.2.3 Restructuring of the Trusts around Reading

In the early 19th century there was a major rearrangement of responsibilities for the sections of the Bath Road through Berkshire. All the primary trusts, Maidenhead, Reading to Speenhamland and Speenhamland to Marlborough were being administered as smaller sub-units, or Divisions, run by committees based in the main urban centres of Maidenhead, Henley, Reading and Newbury. Meetings of the whole trust became rare and these semi-autonomous district committees shared members with the districts of adjoining trusts. In 1815 there was a formal division of the Reading to Speenhamland Road to create the Theale District running from Reading to Theale and a western district responsible for the rest of the Reading to Speenhamland road. Trustees in the western district met in Newbury, as did the Berkshire District of trust covering the next section of road from Speenhamland to Marlborough. The eastern district of the Reading to Speenhamland Trust met in Reading, as did the western Division of the Maidenhead Trust that covering the road between Reading and Twyford.

5.2.4 Twyford & Theale Trust

An Act of 1826 formalised the realignment of the responsibilities on this section of the Bath Road, better reflecting the reality of the organisation centred on Reading. The Twyford & Theale Road was formed from the adjoining Divisions of the Maidenhead Trust and Reading to Speenhamland Trust and was described as running from the 33 Milestone in the Parish of Ruscombe to the southeast corner of Castle Street (The Bear) and then to the seven Mile Stone in the Parish of Beenham and the Road from the southern end of Bostock Lane leading to Pangbourn. By this time Reading Corporation was fully responsible for maintaining the streets of the town, including part of Castle Street, Bridge Street, Horn Street and part of the London Road to Red Lane. The new trust met at the George Inn, Reading on the third Monday after the Act was passed and continued to use the George as a venue. John Blandy acted as clerk and William Blandy as treasurer.

This Trust paid for rebuilding a bridge over the Mill Stream at Twyford in 1831. The old bridge of three arches was replaced by a new structure with two 18-foot arches and a carriageway that was 28 feet wide. The builder was paid £752 to include the cost of the temporary bridge and allowing £40 for the material recovered from the old bridge (BRO). The trustees continued to borrow extra money against the tolls with £300 being mortgaged between 1832-35. This was presumably to finance further engineering improvement under the guidance of the General Surveyor, Mr McAdam.

The Twyford and Theale Trust took over tollgates from the two predecessor divisions. To the east of Reading there was a gate at Twyford. Robertson’s map of 1792 (Fig 5.2g) shows the gate on the western bank of the Loddon in Charvil, between White Bridge and the lane to Sandleford Mill. It is still portrayed here on the OS map of 1878 at the close of the turnpike era. This position on lowest crossing of the Loddon was ideal for intercepting all traffic passing up the Thames Valley. The main stream is now further east so the significance of this position is no longer so clear.

To the west of Reading there were two principal gates on the roads of the Theale District. Rocque’s map of 1760 and Charles Tomkins’ map of around 1800 shows the main tollgate west of Reading near the top of Castle Street Hill close to the cross roads at Coley Lane (Fig 2.5h). This intercepted all traffic using the Bath Road but did not interfere with traffic within the town (or even access to the Kings Arms). The Castle Hill Side Gate was attached to the main gate in 1825 in order to collect tolls from local traffic going down towards Tilehurst. However, in August 1827 (RM) the trustees met to decide on the removal of the Castle Street Gate and placing the same elsewhere upon and across the road, in such a position as the trustees appear most fit. Clearly, as the urban edge of Reading crept further westwards, the trust was under pressure to move the gate further down the Bath Road. By April 1828, the new gate and tollhouse had been built near the 40th milestone on the High Road to Bath (RM). The trustees proposed to use gas lighting rather than the traditional oil lamp to illuminate the outside of the tollhouse. A month later (RM) the trustees considered moving the side gate from Castle Hill to a place called the Lodge at the southeast corner of Mrs. Liebenroods Park across Pegs Green Lane. Like the old side gate this controlled traffic entering the Bath Road from villages to the north of the highway. The gate was in place by November 1828 and the old site handed over to the parish that in 1840 were responsible for the site of the old turnpike gate at the end of Castle Street (RM). This new turnpike was still referred to as the Castle Street Gate and was close to the site of the later Gatehouse Hotel. A sale plan for the site in 1872 (BRO) shows that it had an octagonal gatehouse on each side of the road, separated by a 60 ft carriageway and paths (Fig 5.2i). There had been two gates across the road and pedestrian gates across the footpaths. In line with normal procedures for closing turnpike trusts, the land on which the southern gatehouse and garden had stood was offered to the adjoining landowner John Bligh Monck of Coley Park who in this instance appears to have accepted the land at the valuation.

The Eastern District of the trust also had a gate on Bostock Lane at Tidmarsh (Fig 5.2j). Although the 1771Act gave the trust powers to erect One Toll-gate and One Toll-house between the south end of Bostock Lane and Pangborne, the earliest record of the Tidmarsh Gate is in 1815, immediately after the powers of the trust had been further extended by a new Act. The style of the elegant, octagonal tollhouse that survives here is consistent with it being built in the early 19th century (Fig 5.2k). However, this gate only raised a fraction of the tolls taken at Castle Street. The annual income was around £100, similar to that on the roads south from Aldermaston, suggesting that most of the traffic was using the north/south route.

5.2.5 Reading to Speenhamland Trust

The rump of the old Reading to Speenhamland Trust, the western Division, continued to operate independently, based in Newbury. It was responsible for the Thatcham Gate that was built at a fork in the road between Thatcham and Newbury where traffic from the Berkshire Downs would join the Bath Road (Fig 5.2d). This gate is in the same place in the earliest map (1760) and the latest maps (1880s) covering the turnpike era and presumably was selected as an ideal site at an early date. The gate that survived into the 20th century (Fig 5.2l) would have replaced an earlier, less grand structure from the early 19th century.

A side gate mentioned in 1840. This may have been across the road to Shaw since in 1799 Richard Townsend advertised the auction of tolls from the gate lately erected on the turnpike branch across Shaw Field to Chieveley. The auction price for tolls was set low (only £67/10/4) and presumably it was soon taken on with the nearby Thatcham Gate.

5.2.6 Newtown River to Chilton Pond Trust.

Although not part of the Bath Road, this turnpike ran on a north/south line through Newbury and crossed the main road at Speenhamland. It was an ancient trade route between the Midlands and the South Coast and continued to be an important road for carriers. The Newtown River to Chilton Pond Road was the northern division of a long cross-country turnpike from Hursley in Hampshire, through Andover, Newtown (south of Newbury) to Chilton Pond (between East Ilsley & Abingdon), created in 1766. The Berkshire Division had tollgates at Newtown, south of Newbury, and Donnington, north of Speenhamland. The Donnington Gate was another of the crenulated structures beloved of the trusts on the Bath Road. In 1781 the trust announced that it would also erect a temporary bar across Speenhamland for the purpose of raising a sum of money to pave the road passing through the same. This may have been the Sunday Toll Gate mentioned in May 1790 (RM) and the tollhouse could have been the building recorded as such on the corner of the Oxford Road in Speenhamland (Fig 5.2m). This was a three-storey house with gothic windows and an ornate gable, in keeping with the flamboyant style of the Bath Road junction but the toll returns make no specific reference to it and a tollgate is not marked on any surviving maps. The individuals running the Berkshire Division of the trust, e.g. the clerk Richard Townsend, were also prominent in the Bath Road trusts and there was clearly some coordination of the activities of these roads.

5.3 Maidenhead Road

5.3.1 Maidenhead to Twyford and Henley The Complete Road

The Bath Road east of Reading as far as the Bridge at Maidenhead was turnpiked four years after the road west to Puntfield. The road for Henley and the south Midlands branched from the Bath Road at Maidenhead Thicket and so the Maidenhead Turnpike Trust also had responsibility for this section of the Gloucester Road far as the bridge over the Thames at Henley. The trust operated as three districts in the 18th century but during the 19th century these three districts ran independently.

In December 1717 (JHC) a petition to Parliament was made by the High Sheriff, Justices of the Peace, Freeholders and inhabitants of the County of Berkshire and several Coachmen and Waggoners and other Persons using and travelling the Roads between Maidenhead and the towns of Reading and Henley. They said that the roads leading from Maidenhead to Twyford and Henley are become so ruinous and deep that in the winter-season they are almost impassable and are dangerous to all Persons, Coaches, Horses and Cattle travelling through the same; that the several Parishioners have used their endeavours in the summer season to repair and amend the said Roads but for want of sufficient Gravel and other Conveniences lying near thereto are not able of themselves to effect the same in respect of the great charge required to fetch such Gravel and Conveniences and the quantities necessary and pray that leave may be given to bring in a Bill for better repairing and amending the said Road.

Before the Committee it was stated that many heavy carriages pass and repass through the said roads many parts of which are low lying and that the mischief caused by the poor state of the roads had led to the parishes being indicted. However, the Justices found that the parishes had done more than the required Statute work i.e. this was a classic case of the Elizabethan Law being insufficient to deal with the damage done to parish roads by the heavy long distance traffic of the 18th century.

The resulting Act gave the trust powers over 16 miles of road from Maidenhead Bridge, to Sunning Lane End (next to Twyford) in the Road to Reading and from the said Bridge to Henley Bridge.

Although the original Act was for 21 years, ten years later, in February 1727, the trustees were back to Parliament with a request for new powers. They claimed to have made great progress in repairing the roads. However, since materials lay at great Distances from the road they could not continue to finance the repairs unless the term of the Act was extended. Under examination, Humphrey Ambler Esq., probably the treasurer, said that at the time of the said Act the Highways were so very bad that the Trustees were obliged to lay out a considerable Sum of Money, in order to make them passable. He confirmed that the Parishioners had constantly done the Statute-work in the Parishes through which the said Highways passed. The trust accounts showed that there was a loan of £850 outstanding and that net income per year, after allowing for interest and running costs was no more than £401-10s. Other witnesses, John Ray and Richard Rose confirmed that several parts of the road continue bad, especially in the Winter Season.

Having been granted this extension the Trustees made new proposals in 1735. Their plan was to take into care the remaining road between Sonning and Reading without increasing the tolls. Under examination, William Willis, Surveyor of the Highways for the Parish of St Giles in Reading and Thomas Corbett, the Surveyor for Sunning, said that the Roads between Sunning Lane End and the Bear Inn in Reading are extremely bad and ruinous. They confirmed that the Statute Work has been duly performed, a fourpenny rate had been raised upon the inhabitants of St Giles. Elias Corker, the Treasurer, said that the tolls had been mortgaged against a current debt of £700. The tolls produced about £585 a year, and that the Interest of Money borrowed, Salaries and other necessary Expenses, amount to £255, so that the Trustees had about £330 a year to expend in repairing the road. Thomas Marsham gave his opinion that the current turnpike road was now in a good condition and that only a third of the current income would be required to maintain the 16 miles covered by the present Act. The additional 3 to 4 miles of road from Sunning Lane End to the Bear Inn in Reading could easily be repaired by the tolls and duties granted by the Act without further increase.

The trustees had some additional conditions. They wanted to pay the costs of procuring the Act out of the monies arising from the tolls and proposed that the quarterly meetings of the trustees would in the future be alternatively at Maidenhead, Reading and Henley. More importantly they objected to a proposed restriction preventing them from placing the turnpike gate at Sunning Lane End so near to Reading, as to include a Lane called Ort Lane which enters from the Forest side of the Country into the High road. They said that the present Turnpike Roads, by the last severe Winter are very much damaged and will require a great expense to put them into repair. They claimed that more than 3 miles of the road lay in the Parish of Sunning, and that the inhabitants of Sonning would not be contributing towards the repair of their own public roads unless tolls were levied at Ort Lane. They believed that in Summer time, many thousands of sheep and cattle went through Ort Lane, avoiding the payment of tolls. Reading Town Ort lay beside the London Road on the map of 1802. This shows Ort or Wokingham Lane running northwards from the junction with Red Lane. The Lane of concern to the trustees clearly ran into the Forest and so was probably the lane to Wokingham leading from the Old Gallows in Sonning. This ran down to Loddon Bridge where Reading Cattle Market was held. When the lane was turnpiked later in 1759 under the Windsor Forest Trust it was decreed that no tollgates could be built between Reading and Loddon Bridge. It seems likely that these were strong landed and farming lobby with links to the cattle market and these succeeded in keeping the roads toll-free for several miles east of Reading. There were no similar lobbies on the other roads into Reading and the turnpike trusts erected their gates close to the western and southern edges of Reading’s urban fringe.

The trustees used the income from the tolls to make further improvements to the main road. In 1752 they met to consider about raising and amending the road between Twyford Turnpike Gate and Twyford Town (RM), presumably this low ground west of the bridge was very muddy and susceptible to floods. However, when the Trustees sought renewal of their powers in 1763, Mr Richard Simeon, clerk and treasurer said that the trustees had prosecuted said Act, that there is now owing upon credit of Act £1450. Mr Thomas Newell confirmed that several parts of the Road are still in a ruinous condition. Clearly the original estimates had yet again been too optimistic and the dept had doubled over the 27 years since the section of road into Reading had come under the care of the trust. Improvements in Maidenhead

The trustees sought legal powers in 1779 to improve the secondary roads leading to Maidenhead market in the first district of the road. To comply with Parliamentary Standing Orders they affixing a notice to the Sessions House at Michaelmas Quarter Sessions and gave notice in local newspapers that they proposed to widen and straighten a lane called Pitts or Sheppards Lane leading from Cookham and to change the course of the road leading from Ray Mills and Cookham. In evidence James Payne and Mr Wenman said the Lane called Pitts or Sheppards Lane leading from the turnpike near the market place in Maidenhead and is 63 yards long and very narrow and unsafe for passengers and that many accidents have happened and several persons have lost their lives within these few years, from meeting carriages therein as there is not sufficient room to avoid them and that in order to widen the same and render the passage thereof safe it is necessary to purchase certain cottages, tenements or herediments all of which are of very small value (and take some of them down). Owners of these premises had been applied to and had given consent to sell, except Ann Hall who is owner of a kitchen garden, a very small part of which will be necessary to be purchased to carry said road in a straight line and gave no reason why she refused her consent. In addition, Mr Wenman and Mr Dean said that the road from Maidenhead Bridge along side of the river Thames to Ray Mills and Cookham, being 500 yards in length is very low an frequently overflowed and passengers cannot distinguish the road from the river and that if the course of the road was changed and a new road made in direct line from a stone or landmark in Foulton Mead in the Parish of Cookham (through Barn Close and a small garden) to join the turnpike road near Maidenhead turnpike gate on the east side thereof, it would be a great benefit and security to all persons having occasion to make use of the said road.

The Parliamentary Committee consented that the road should be made over land in a straight line as proposed. The trustees expected the improvement to be self financing since they stated that this great benefit and convenience to the public …will tend to increase the tolls upon the present turnpike road and they proposed not to collect tolls from any person for passing along the said lane or intended road. In this Act the trust was divided into three distinct Districts. The First District was defined as being from Maidenhead Bridge to the late Falcon Inn, then called the Fleece Inn or Folly to the 33 Milestone towards Reading and from the Folly to the 29 Milestone towards Henley.

The detailed improvements to the side streets of Maidenhead, incorporated into the 1779 Act illustrates how this First Division was taking on many of the characteristics of a town improvement trust. In a call for contractors to deal with the main turnpike highway in 1818 (RM) the Maidenhead Trust includes in the specification scraping and cleansing of the paved part of the High Street, Maidenhead: in Reading scavenging and cleansing were covered by the Corporation under the Town Improvement Act. In 1826 the first Division, by then simply the Maidenhead Trust, was empowered from time to time to cause Lamp Irons or Lamp Posts to be put up or fixed upon such parts of the road as lie between Maidenhead Bridge and Moor Bridge since the road is liable to flood and therefore is dangerous to passengers and carriages passing along the said road. A report to Parliament in 1830 stated that the trust had responsibility for paving and lighting Maidenhead further evidence that the turnpike trust was a catch–all organisation for all aspects of municipal life (and finance) including road, streets and bridge. This ambiguity between the functions of the turnpike trust, the bridge trust and Maidenhead Corporation continued into the early 20th century. Nevertheless the trustees did commission some improvements along the full length of the road. The highway from the Folly along the Henley Road was reported to be very narrow and incommodious and in 1806 the First District undertook work to alter the course of the road.

The principal gate for the first district of the trust was at Maidenhead Bridge, but this was also the only toll point for the bridge. Prior to the creation of the turnpike and after the closure of the turnpike this Maidenhead Bridge Gate has an unambiguous function in collecting tolls from users of the bridge. Since no other gates are shown on 18th or 19th century maps (Fig 5.3a) it must be assumed that the toll income was split between the bridge and the turnpike trust. The Bridge Gatehouse at the town end of the present bridge was an elegant though rather small structure (Fig 5.3b) and presumably dated from 1777 when the current bridge was finished. A gatehouse must have existed on the earlier bridge and this would have been contemporary with the creation of the turnpike but would have been demolished when the new bridge was completed. An illustration of another Maidenhead gate has survived. This rather ramshackle, wooden, hovel is described as Maidenhead Thicket Gate (Fig 5.3c). It was probably built at low cost in the 19th century when there was far less long distance traffic travelling the Bath Road and more local traffic going to the station at Maidenhead. The property was sold in 1877 for a mere £15 and described as at Castle Hill on the south side of the road. The Tollgate cul-de-sac, just east of the present Maidenhead Thicket Roundabout, is the presumed location of this gate.

The trust had been operating as three divisions, perhaps reinforcing the tendency of the Maidenhead District to take on responsibilities for town improvement. In 1783 when the trustees sought enlargement of all their powers the case was put in terms of the three districts. James Payne, Richard Simeon and Thomas Cooper, treasurers gave evidence that the trust still had outstanding debts in all three of the districts. The tolls for the Hurley Gate, the third District, were leased separately as early as 1787 (RM). In the Act of 1801 the second District, the Twyford Road, is defined as running from the 33 Milestone to the southeast corner of Castle Street. This had a gate at Twyford and was dealt with in Section 5.2.4.

5.3.2 Restructuring to form Hurley Trust

The responsibilities of the original Maidenhead trust were reallocated in a cluster of Bath Road Acts in 1826 (Fig 5.3d) (see above 5.2.3). The western section of the road, the second division, was transferred to become half of the Twyford & Theale Trust, and the branch of the road from the 30 mile stone to Henley Bridge operated independently as the Hurley Trust. This left the rump of the trust to administer the eastern section between Maidenhead Bridge and Maidenhead Thicket and the initial section of the Bath Road branch as far as the 33 Milestone. The Hurley Trust had two difficult hills under its jurisdiction. Remenham Hill opposite Henley was the most problematic. It had been improved just before Robertson published his guide in 1792 when he said it the new road cut through the chalky hill contributed to the advantage of the country and to the pleasure and safety of the travellers. This earlier work was clearly unsatisfactory as in 1833 the trust spent £956 (equivalent to a whole year toll income) on altering Henley Hill, although the Henley Bridge Commissioners contributed £300 to the work on the approaches to the Bridge. Presumably the confidence to undertake this major engineering task had come from the close involvement of their General Surveyor, Mr McAdam.

This Third District had been semi-autonomous for several decades and so the restructuring in 1826 caused few changes. The tolls for the Hurley Gate had been auctioned separately since at least 1775 (Fig 5.3e) and a group of trustees based in Henley had taken independent action through their own clerk. The Third Division and later the Hurley Trust held its meetings at the Town hall and using the local solicitor as their clerk; Thomas Cooper was particularly prominent. Maps of the 1790s (Fig 5.3e) show a turnpike gate on the eastern edge of Hurley village and a substantial two-storey brick tollhouse survived on this spot into the 20th century (Fig 5.3g). This structure must have replaced an earlier 19th century building. In 1840 the trustees met to consider erecting a side gate near Culham Pitch across the road to Upper Culham and Cockpole just east of Remenham. This gate may have been developed further because the 1878 OS map (Fig 5.3h) shows a gate here though by this date it was presumably insubstantial. One suspects that this was a response to changes resulting from the opening of the railway, when long distance traffic decreased and local traffic going into Henley became more significant.

5.3.3 Maidenhead Bridge

Like other important river crossings on the main turnpike roads, the bridge at Maidenhead had been administered under an old charter for many years. The relationship between the bridge trust and the turnpike trust is not clear but they appear to have acted together during the lifetime of the turnpike trust.

The earliest river crossing of this section of the Thames is said to have been the old ford at Babham End, Cookham; this may have lain on an ancient route adopted by the Romans connecting the Celtic tribal centres at Calleva (Silchester) and Verulanium (St Albans). In the early 13th century a new timber bridge was built in the hamlet of South Ayllington, probably across the island close to the present Boulter’s Lock (Reeve 1981). It was clearly established by 1255 when Henry III ordered that the highway from the bridge to Henley be widened (Over 1990), presumably because this was now the main road to the South Midlands. This highway would have run more directly to Henley through what is now North Town. A new wharf, Maidenhythe, was built beside the bridge to handle the barges loading large oaks taken from Windsor Forest. The Bailiffs and Goodmen of Maidenhythe, the name given to the adjoining settlement, administered the bridge until the early 15th century (Phillips 1981) and a resident hermit collected tolls and solicited alms for the upkeep of the bridge from a small hermitage on the west end of the bridge (Over 1990).

In 1451 this arrangement was formalised by the creation of the Fraternity of St Andrew who maintained a chantry on the bridge and appointed two of their members to serve as bridge wardens each year. This may have coincided with the construction of a new bridge, downstream of the initial structure and slightly north of the present bridge. It was this bridge that established Maidenhead as the preferred route for traffic to the South Midlands and to the west through Reading. The importance of the latter may have influenced the more southerly location of the bridge and the diversion of what was to become the Bath Road through the centre of Maidenhead Thicket. Tolls or alms from traffic passing both over and under the bridge would have created sufficient resources to maintain the structure. Like many other chantrys this was suppressed in 1547 and no doubt there was a difficult period until 1582 when Elizabeth granted a charter that made Wardens, Bridge-masters, Burgesses and Commonality of the town of Maidenhuth responsible for the upkeep of the bridge. This corporation had the rights to levy bridge tolls, hold weekly markets, have fairs and was allowed to take three oaks a year from the Royal Forest of Bray. The bridge was badly damaged in the civil war in 1644 and although some repairs were made during the Commonwealth, in 1688 it was broken again under threat of William of Orange’s advance on London (though his army was able to cross eventually).

The Bath Road traffic using the bridge would have increased after 1700 and the creation of turnpikes on either side of the bridge (Maidenhead in 1718 and Colnbrook in 1727) drew more vehicles over the structure. This old bridge was clearly inadequate for the purpose and in 1750 a ferry replaced the bridge for a short period while it underwent great works. The bridge fell into an irredeemably poor state so in 1771 the Corporation obtained an Act to construct a completely new bridge. They opted for a structure in Portland stone rather than timber but to keep down costs asked that the side arches were of brick. The new bridge, just to the south of the old bridge, was opened in August 1777 (Over 1990) at a final cost of £19,000. Robertson (1792) mentions that the approach to the new bridge was spacious and grand, produced by a noble curve outwards towards each end. This elegant bell shape has been obscured by the need to effectively collect tolls. Tolls levied over the next 130 years with an estimated income to the corporation of over £120,000, more than sufficient to repay the initial loan. However, the corporation had misused these funds and there was considerable controversy leading up to the freeing of the bridge from tolls in 1903 (Phillips 1981).

5.4 The Road from Maidenhead to Cranford and the Kensington Road

East of Maidenhead, the Bath Road became the responsibility first of the Cranford Bridge to Maidenhead Bridge Trust and then the Kensington Road Trust. The road to Salisbury branched from the Bath Road at Hounslow and the Kensington Trust was responsible both for the Bath Road and a section of the Salisbury road over Hounslow Heath to Staines. These roads on the western outskirts of the Metropolis were eventually caught up in complex changes to the capitol’s roads and only the initial years of the trust will be dealt with here.

5.4.1 Colnbrook Trust The Initial Act

A turnpike trust covering the road from Cranford Bridge to the end of Maidenhead Bridge was created in 1727. It was clearly centred on the town of Colnbrook and so quickly became known as the Colnbrook Trust. Despite the road being potentially much busier than the sections around Reading, the Colnbrook Trust was created 13 years after the Reading to Puntfield Trust. The ground on this north bank of the Thames is relatively flat and runs over gravel terraces so the residents of Colnbrook may have delayed incuring the costs of a turnpike Act. However, once committed to the project the new trustees took to their work with dedication.

A surviving page of the Minute books (GLA) shows that the first meeting of the trustees, chaired by Hon. James Bertie, took place on June 1st 1727 when 32 trustees met at the George Inn, Colnbrook. They were most concerned to ensure that the financial aspects of their responsibility was settled quickly and appointed a treasurer (Joseph Besouth Snr), a ticketer to number, stamp and deliver toll tickets to the collectors and from them to received the money collected (Matthias Goodwin). Goodwin and Robert Mitchell were appointed as surveyors for the Middlesex and Buckingham sections of the road respectively. They were to immediately erect a gate or turnpike cross the road at the west end of Colnbrook, from or near the Bird in Hand to or near the smith’s shop opposite thereto. Eight trustees were charged with ensuring that this took place quickly.

Subsequently meetings of the trust were held at the Angel in Colnbrook, the Crown in Slough and the Windmill in Salthill but the George in Colnbrook was the normal venue for meetings of the trust during its first decade. By the 1740s Slough had become the preferred venue, presumably reflecting the concerns with the side roads. However, from the 1750s onwards almost all meetings were held in the pleasant surroundings of Salthill, alternating between the Windmill and the Castle Inns. Robert Cole one of the clerks was a solicitor in Salthill though later clerks such as William Long were solicitors in Windsor.

Much of the business was concerned with instructing the surveyors on which sections of road to improve and how to use the Statute Labour and Teams available to them. The Magistrates had decreed that the parishioners of Harmondsworth and Harlington do three days Statute Labour a year, Cranford two and Bedfont and Hanwell one day. The full Statute Duty for a parish was 6 days a year so the turnpike was taking a significant part of the local resources. Persuading parishes to provide sufficient labour was obviously not easy as in 1729 the surveyor was instructed to indict the inhabitants of Cranford for not performing their allotted Statute Duty. The surveyor had the power to take roadmaking materials where he could and gravel was taken from within the adjoining parishes, such as Longford Moor. The minutes regularly list the stretches of road to be repaired with “screened gravel” won and carried by the labour and teams from the parishes. More substantial tasks included improving the causeway from Little Lane End to the end of the ditch at Watery Lane, erecting posts and rails. The latter were rather vulnerable and in 1763 the trustees offered a 2 guinea reward for information on who had wilfully broken down posts and rails beside the highway. Some tasks were undertaken by paid craftsmen such as William Winitozer who was paid 5 guineas for repainting the gates in a workmanlike manner in 1737.

Local landowners were required to repairs anything that prejudiced the highway. For instance John Baron and Mr Hampton were told to repair the river bank on their property after the Coln overflowed and damaged the road between Madbridge and Colnbrook in the winter of 1728. The old Colnbrook Bridge was clearly inadequate for the traffic now passing along the Bath Road and in 1729 the trust warned Mr Doe the Warden of the Bridge that the trust would make the necessary repairs and levy the Warden if he did not undertake repairs to the eastern end of the bridge. The Minutes of the Trust note that Colnbrook Bridge had been maintained from the profits and tolls arising from local fairs and markets but these now had no value. In the light of this the trustees commissioned building of a new structure in 1732. The trust purchased the bricks for £32 and paid the mason, Thomas Woodruff, 2s-10d per foot to build the wall of the bridge to a height of 4 feet. The parish provided the transport.

In 1756 the surveyor provided 50 tons of pebbles for amending the pavement (ie the roadway) in the town of Colnbrook. A further 20 tons of stone was assigned to repair the pavement of the road in Colnbrook in 1760 and another 20 tons of pebbles in 1766. This responsibility for “town improvement” did not continue and in the 1827 Act the trust was specifically forbidden from repairing or otherwise interfering with the footpaths of Colnbrook. The roads to Eton and Datchet

The trust had renewed its powers in 1744 with only minor changes but by the 1760s, some of the roads feeding traffic onto the Bath Road were clearly in need of systematic improvement. In October 1766 the trust met to make final decisions on a new Act of Parliament that included extended powers over side roads leading southwards towards bridges over the Thames. The Act when passed specified responsibility for amending the Road from Slough to a certain place in Eton and from Langley Broom to Datchet Bridge. Both these roads are shown on Morden’s map of 1695, connecting the London Road to the river crossings. Datchet Bridge was free and so when possible travellers preferred this route to reach the London Road (Kennish 1999). The Minutes note that the road from Slough to the house of Roger Cutler in Eton excluded the bridges called Land Bridge and Barnes Pool Bridge. (The existing toll bridge between Eton and Windsor was administered by a separate bridge trust.) The new responsibilities required expenditure and work to improve the branch roads began in the following Spring when the surveyor got gravel from Arbor Hill.

The road to Datchet was improved in March 1768 when the surveyor widened the highway from Ditton Green through Ashley Lane to Ashley Bridge at a cost of £147. At the same time the approach to Datchet was eased with the help of the Honorable Mrs Needham at Datchet House. The old wall of her garden was taken down, laid into the road and a pole of land provided to widen the road. The ditch on the other side of the road was filled in, a new wall built beside the garden and posts and rails erected opposite for the safety of passengers and carriages. Presumably having Lord Kilmorey and Thomas Needham new trustees facilitated this generous gesture. Later the road near the church was widened by demolition of two cottages and a barn owned by Mrs Needham (Kennish 1999). Meanwhile on the main road improvements continued and in 1767 Longford Bridge was rebuilt. The trust had contributed a third of the cost, the remainder being paid by the Duke of Northumberland. It was enlarged by 2 feet to 22 feet and the Duke completed the facing and coping of the bridge at his own expense. Mad Bridge, where the Coln formed the county boundary, was rebuilt in brick during 1777 (Harpur 1899) but this was presumably organised by the County Magistrates. New milestones were erected on the road to Datchet Bridge in 1768 and the existing stones on the main road were refaced. The letters were fresh cut and painted black. In addition a hand post was put up at Billingswell Lane next to Langley Broom directing the way to Windsor down past Ditton Park.

The trust gained notoriety in 1773 when five of the eight trustees meeting at the Castle Inn at Colnbrook died as a result of accidental poisoning. The turtle soup had been left standing in a copper pan overnight and the acidic flavourings had dissolved sufficient copper salts to kill the diners. It is apparent from the names that several of these were magistrates who had been conducting some of their other responsibilities while at the inn. Surprisingly, no mention of this disaster is made in the Minutes of the trust; the story is recorded on the gravestone of the victims in Wexham churchyard (Phillips 1981). Nevertheless, the minutes do record that in June 1773 the trust advertised for a new treasurer and surveyor in the room of the late Joseph Benwell deceased and late William Burcombe deceased. The following month they took action to appointed new trustees as well.

Considering that this was a large well-funded turnpike the Colnbrook Trustees did not always apply the best available engineering techniques. For instance as late as 1813 an agricultural survey of Buckinghamshire stated that what renders this road censurable is its form, being very broad and very flat, so that in the winter months it is in some parts a perfect slough and in the summer months extremely dusty. Such faults require only to be known to be corrected. Even in 1817 the road was in such a state that on one occasion the Queen had to go via Windsor on her trip from London to Bath (Hunter 1983). It was not until the 1820s that McAdam was employed as General Surveyor when these deficiencies would have been fully rectified. Engineering improvements may have come at a high price and in 1827 when the trust sought to renew its powers the preamble to the Act stated that whereas the trustees appointed by the five previous Acts have made a great progress in amending, widening and improving the several roads… and a considerable sum of money hath been borrowed on the credit of the tolls.. this cannot be continued or the debt paid unless the tolls are increased.

In 1841 a new Act covered widening of the Stoke Road branch from the Cranford Road to the Great Western Railway. This was presumably in response to the changing pattern of traffic after the building of the railway stations at Slough and Stoke Poges. This Act was to run for 31 years but in 1856 the trustees sought a Parliamentary bill to make minor changes to the road (PP). In 1849, the old Datchet Bridge had been pulled down by the Commissioners of Woods (who controlled the Forest lands around Windsor) and two new bridges (Fig 5.4b), the Albert and the Victoria Bridges had been built. The old road around the Park on the southern bank was closed and a new road had been laid on the northern bank. The parishes were to be responsible for this road between Datchet and the new bridges. However, the parishioners complained that there was considerable traffic over the Victoria Bridge and that a greater portion comes from distant places that do not contribute to the Datchet Highway Rate (the old complaint that justified the earliest turnpikes, though in this case it may have been tourists rather than carriers who where the target). Traffic from Horton and Wraysbury could leave the turnpike 35 yards before the Datchet tollgate and travel across open ground over on old, filled-in watercourse to a point called Newmans Corner on the New Road. The trust turnpiked a new carriageway to replace the narrow road from Newmans Corner to the level crossing. The road is described as commencing out of the new highway made by the Commissioners of HM Woods, Forests, Land, Revenues, Works & Buildings from Datchet to the Victoria Bridge (i.e. Newmans Corner) to a point at which the Windsor branch of the London & SW Railway crosses on the level crossing in Datchet and then across the railway and open ground to the toll gate of trustees. Although they were empowered to move the tollgate, they were not allowed to erect a gate between Datchet and the two new bridges.

Most trusts would consider specially negotiated rates for large or regular users of the road. This Composition of the toll was usually applied to large organisations or parish traffic. An unusual example was in 1851 when the organisers of the Windsor Royal Agricultural Show negotiated a single payment of £30 for the trust to throw open the toll gates to allow visitors unimpeded access to the show. Toll gathering

The Colnbrook Gate was the main turnpike of the trust on the Bath Road. Its original position was at the west end of Colnbrook but in 1739 the trust decided that this Western Gate was inconvenient and collects insufficient funds and it appears to have been abandoned. An Eastern Gate was referred to in 1732 and in 1736 the surveyor was instructed to widen the way between Colnbrook and the Eastern Gate. In 1773 the contract for laying gravel places the eastern gate between the 16 mile and 18 mile stones. Rocque's map of 1760 shows the Turnpike Gate on the eastern approach to Colnbrook, near Poyle (Fig 5.4c), and this remained the main gate on the Bath Road throughout the remaining history of the trust. Following the turnpiking of the side road to Datchet Bridge, the Datchet Toll Gate was built at the east end of High Street beside the Royal Stag. An advertisement for the auction of tolls here in 1827 (RM) noted that this gate was free of tolls for inhabitants of Datchet. A new gate was built on the side road from Slough following the extension of the trust in 1766. This gate stood just south of the Ragstone Road junction (Hunter 1983). A subsidiary gate was erected at Harlington, some time before 1856, but this could be little more than a hovel since it sold for only £8.

In the 18th century, when it had to man only the Colnbrook Gate, the trust employed two toll gatherers plus a supernumerary gatekeeper who stood in if the others were ill. He also helped on occasional tasks such as lighting lamps. By Dec 1773 the trust had installed a weighing engine to fine over-weight wagons. The supernumerary gatekeeper was to attend the gate to assist the toll gatherers in weighing wagons three days and two nights each week. Like other trusts, the Colnbrook Trust leased its gates to professional toll farmers and based on adverts, the income from lease of tolls was the highest of any of the trusts on the Bath Road, reaching over £4000 in the 1830s. Most of this sum was raised at the Colnbrook Gate on the main Bath Road (Appendix 2).

5.4.2 Kensington Road The initial Act

The Parishes close to London were most affected by the heavy traffic into the capitol. A petition of the Deputy Lieutenant and Justices of the Peace of the County of Middlesex and other gentlemen and inhabitants of the County living in or near the several towns and Parishes lying in the highway leading from the Town of Kensington towards Colnbrook and Staines also of several Grasiers, Farmers, Gardeners, Stagecoachmen, Carriers, Wagoners, Higlers and others who frequent and pass the said highways, was presented to the Parliament in March 1717 (JHC). They said that this Highways between Counter Bridge in the Parish of Kensington and Powder Mills in the Road to Staines and Cranford Bridge in the Parish of Heston in the Road to Colnbrook; contain the greatest part of the Road which leads to His Majesty’s several Royal Palaces and being the Great Western Road to and from London, they are by reason of many heavy carriages, become very ruinous and in many parts thereof so bad that in the Winter-season the same are dangerous to His Majesty and the Royal Family and such who are obliged to travel through the said Highways and the Inhabitants of the said Towns and Parishes in which said lie have from time to time been at great Expense in repairing said Highways, yet they are so very bad they cannot by the Laws now in force be kept in good repair. This trust was clearly making the most of the Royal patronage of the roads in Middlesex.

A committee of the House examined several Justices of the Peace, Gentlemen and Surveyors from the Parishes affected, including Justice Box, Mr Moor, Mr Hinton and Mr Kent of Hammersmith, Mr Tickner of Chiswick, Justice Venner, Mr Mun and Mr Munday of Ealing, Old and New Brentford, Justice Gumly, Mr Hawley and Capt. Gardner of Isleworth and Messrs Jackson and Dean of Heston. They said that many parts thereof have several Holes therein and are very dangerous to Passengers…..That many Waggons and Coaches have been stuck and several overturned in the said Roads and several Passengers on Horseback thrown off their Horses by the badness of the Roads by which great Mischiefs have been done. They complained that since the turnpiking of the Uxbridge Road several of the Parishes were obliged to perform half their Statute-work in that road. The Tyburn to Uxbridge road (the Great Road to Worcester), had been turnpiked two years earlier in 1715 (Fig 5.4d). Since the erecting of a Turnpike on the Uxbridge Road, many Cattle and Wagons and other Carriages, heavy loaden have come into the Kensington Road making the Road through Hammersmith much worse than formally. Several drains that should carry off the water had been stopped up and lost when houses were built on land beside the road, thus exacerbating the maintenance problems. It was claimed that some parishes were obliged to send four miles for stones and gravel to amend the highways, at great expense and that despite the parishes doing the required Statute work, they could not maintain the road under present arrangements. The local Justices told the Committee that they had looked into the accounts of the several surveyors of highways very narrowly and had found that they had done their legal duty and that the Rate had been equally laid and duly collected except for some poor People who by reason of their Poverty were not able to pay their Rates.

Although some road-users clearly supported the petition for turnpiking, others were opposed and blamed poor management by the parishes for the state of the road. Grasiers, drovers, farmers, stagecoachmen, carriers, wagoners and other inhabitants of Somerset claimed that several Parishes have for some years past not repaired the said Highways according to the Laws now in force but suffered them to become ruinous with a design to exempt themselves and lay the burden and charges upon the Petitioners and others who travel the said Road. There was a similar claim by masters or owners of coaches and owners of wagons, carriers, drovers and clothiers of Chippenham and Calne in the County of Wiltshire.

The Act was scheduled to run for 11 years but within 6 years the trustees applied for a new Bill. In Feb 1723 the Parliamentary Committee examined Reginald Marryott, John Offley Esqs, and Mr Albert Nisbett from the trust. They said that the highways were in so bad and ruinous a condition before the commencement of the first Act, that in order to make the road passable the next winter, the trustees had borrowed heavily against the credit of future toll income. Further borrowing had now increased the debt to £6,400 (note that in this period the debt on the western sections of the Bath Road was under a thousand pounds). This had been applied to immediate improvement of the road and that £2,500 had been paid for gravel. They stated that the present arrangements would not allow these debts to be repaid and that the work already done would be wasted if new provisions were not made.

The trustees returned to Parliament a third time in Feb 1737. They pointed out that these highways, being part of the Great Roads leading to the Western Parts of the Kingdom were in a very ruinous condition partly as a result of meal and corn wagons carrying excessive weights. The annual income from tolls and duties was insufficient to keep them in repair. According to evidence from Mr James Tyton, clerk to the trustees, their debt now stood at £7000 principal money. Mr Clitherow further said that the Money now due and owing cannot be paid, with interest unless they had a Bill to enlarge their term and powers. In the previous Act the inhabitants of each house in Brentford were obliged to pay 9s per annum to the trust in lieu of Statute work, towards repairing the pavement of the town. This sum was regarded as too expensive and burdensome to the inhabitants. However, the Brentford trust was one of the most progressive in the area being credited with the erection of the first milestones on the Bath Road around 1740 and installation of an efficient method of watering the road using dedicated reservoirs in 1767 (RM).

The financial position of the trust improved during the middle years of the century as the volume of traffic grew. Searle (1930) reported that in 1750 the trust raised £3,231 in tolls to be applied to the 15 miles of turnpike and the debt had fallen to £3300. The significance of this income can be appreciated when it is recalled that at a similar time the main Trust on the Bath Road in Berkshire, the Reading to Speenhamland Trust, raised £700 in tolls each year. Nevertheless, the fortunes of this road declined in the following decades. Extension to Isleworth

When renewing the powers of the trust for a fourth time, in 1767, John James said that the Trustees had borrowed considerable sums and that the Debt owing was £6600 and that apparently this Debt was not being reduced since over past 7 years annual Receipts were £2283 and Disembursments £2232. The new Act made provisions to improve the management of the road, build a new bridge at Cranford and to take into the care of the trust the branch road to Isleworth (Fig 5.4e).

Clearly they needed more powers if the list of new responsibilities was to be fulfilled. Vincent Hobby said that the lighting the said Roads would tend to the safety and security of all persons travelling said Road, and that watering the said Road in summer would be a great convenience to all passengers and tend to the preservation of said Roads. The petitioners said that the road, at a place commonly called Cranford Bridge, is frequently overflowed and in times of Flood dangerous to travellers and that a new bridge was needed. Vincent Hobby said that at Cranford Bridge there was currently a Manor Bridge, and belongs to the Earl of Berkley but the same is fit only for horses and is not open for passengers at all times; that the erecting a good and substantial bridge at the said place to be open at all times for carriages and the making causeway leading thereto would be of general service to all persons travelling the Road but could not be done unless some provision made by Parliament. The trust also wished to repair the Road leading from the said great western Road at or near a public house, known by the sign of the Coach & Horses, through Sion Lane, and the town and parish of Isleworth, to the farther end of the bridge, built over the stream called Mother Jov’s Water, in the parish of Twickenham and also the Road or way called Pound Lane or Lower Wood Lane leading out of the Great Western Road near Smallberry Green Turnpike, to public house known by the sign of the George, in the town of Isleworth. William Baker confirmed that this was in ruinous condition.

When the trustees sought powers to improve the footpaths in the area in 1791 James Clitherow said that the trust had a debt of £9,200 on the old district and £2000 on the new district. Despite having one of the busiest stretches of road in the country, this trust now seemed to be caught in a spiral of increasing maintenance costs that outstripped income. John James and Charles Greentree, surveyor, gave evidence to a Parliamentary Committee in 1794, alleging that they were in financial difficulties because of;

the decrease in tolls arising from carriages employed in conveying mails being exempt from payment and the great decrease and the number of post chaises since establishing of the mail (Palmer’s new Royal mail coaches began in 1784),

the increased price of materials for amending the road owing to the gravel pits near the same being exhausted and thereby the carriage of materials greatly lengthened and the necessary laying on a greater quantity than formally and the gravel that is now to be got being of worse quality,

the increased price of labour and hire of teams and other articles and the high rate of interest paid for money borrowed and

the increase in debts owing to a succession of wet winters.

In 1823 the Kensington Trust attracted the displeasure of radical William Cobbett (Searle 1930) who vehemently opposed all turnpikes. Cobbett challenged the routine claims that the trust could not repay its existing debts and therefore needed an extension to its powers. He illustrated that the Trust actually had a positive balance of £4000. A report in the times of 26th Nov 1823 illustrated the intensity of feelings over the tolls.

A very numerous meeting of the trustees took place at the Pack Horse & Talbot, on Turnham Green on Saturday Last; they were convened for the purpose of letting the tolls on the High-Western-Road from Hammersmith to Smallberry-Green; and in consequence of the late decision of the magistrates against the present Lessee, Mr Levy, arising out of the recent controversy between the Israelite and Mr Cobbett, an unusually full meeting of the Trustees was the natural consequence.

The tolls were let, 3 years ago, at a rental of £9,505. As a diminution of the profits has been sustained by the late decision, amounting to at least £500 a year, it was expected the rent would be thus much reduced. At 2 o’clock precisely the auction commenced to a very full auditory. The trustees put up the gates at £9,000. Mr Levy bid £5. At this moment it was clearly perceivable that a severe contest would take place. The bidding proceeded rapidly to £9,500. There was then a discussion between the chairman and Levy during which the latter was assured that the Trust had every confidence in him He was finally declared the lessee, at a rent of £9,901…. This is probably the largest rent that is produced from any one trust in England; the increased rent was attributed, by the Trustees, to the circumstances of His Majesty having determined to spend so much time at Windsor (clearly the King did not pay tolls but the Court did)

Although Cobbett had not, as threatened, turned up to bid against Mr Levy, his petition was partially successful as in 1825 there was a substantial reduction in tolls on the Kensington Road so that multiple users paid only half the amount they had previously. In 1826 the Roads in the Metropolitan Area North of The Thames were put under the control of a single commission who managed the systematic removal of the tolls in the capital over the subsequent 46 years.

Robertson’s map of 1792 shows a turnpike by the 8 Mile stone close to Sion Park in Brentford, though this may have been an old survey. Cary’s map of 1790 shows turnpike gates, westwards from Kensington at Hammersmith (east of the village) and Smallbury Green. The Hammersmith gate was a square, two storey brick building with a sentry box cover for the collector; it gate was removed in July 1864. The Smallbury Green Gate was later replaced by a gate was later built at Hounslow where the Exeter and Bath Roads diverged. The toll booth was a small stone effect office with a sentry box in front for the collector, constructed in front of the Bell Inn. Gates on either side of the toll-booth controlled the branches of the two highways that diverged to the west over Hounslow Heath (see Section 17.2 for its closure).

5.4.3 Hyde Park Trust

East of the Kensington Road Trust the remainder of the Bath Road as far as Hyde Park Corner was controlled by the Hyde Park Trust. Tolls had been levied on roads through the Royal Park since at least 1653 when John Evelyn reported a coach paid a shilling toll (Searle 1930). A turnpike gate had been erected near Hay-Hill east of the Park in 1725 but was moved to west of Hyde Park Gate in 1741. Hyde Park Corner Gate was said to be the busiest toll gate in London, being let for 7000 guineas in the late 19th century (Searle 1930). The trustees were renowned for the entertainment at their monthly meeting in the Feathers, Exeter Street. In 1792 a beautiful new gate house was built with a weighing engine platform immediately in front of the gate. It comprised square Neo-classical gate houses on either side of the highway with an ornate lamp standard in the centre of the road and two gates across the carriageways (Fig 5.4f). This gate was closed in 1825 and the two tollhouses and gates auctioned for building material. A new gate constructed further west at Knightsbridge, near the Cannon Brewery close to Sloane Street. This was to have been a single tollhouse in the centre of the road, leaving the carriages to pass on the right and left but a later report mentions two tollhouses in the fashionable pie-crust architecture (Searle 1830). Kensington Bar only collecting Sunday Tolls. The main Kensington Gate, perhaps as befits last gate before the countryside, was a single storey wooden cottage, situated outside the old military barracks (Fig 5.4g).

6. The Salisbury Road

6.1 The Nature of the Route

Like the Bath Road, the Salisbury Road at its eastern end passes over areas of deep London Clay, interspersed with drier gravels (Fig 2.5c). The crossing at Staines had been bridged by the Romans and as far as Bagshot, much of the turnpike road was on the line of an old Roman road. Once it crosses the Thames, the road climbs onto the sandier soils of the Surrey Heaths that provide a 20-mile causeway to the firmer chalk downlands of Hampshire. On a journey from Plymouth to London before turnpiking, Sir Edward Conway noted that the section from Hartford Bridge to Staines was the fastest leg of the journey, his coach averaging 5 mph (Hughes 1890).

As far as Basingstoke the Salisbury road is that described by Ogilby in 1675 as The Road from London to Lands End;

…through Knightsbridge, Kensington, Hammersmith, Turnham Green, Brantford and Hounslow as in LONDON to BRISTOL and Succeeding places: where at the end of Hounslow you keep the forward way over Hounslow=Heath, omitting the acute way on the right to Colebrook and at 14’1. Cross Baber Bridge over a Brook where you have the Powder Mills on your right and Sword Mills on your left; then you cross the New River or Cut that runs through the Park belonging to Hampton Court at 15’1. And pass through Bedfont at 16 Miles a Village of some Accommodation.

At 18’6. You enter Stanes A.S. Stana i.e. lapides of 3 furlongs extent, a well-built Town seated on the Thames, Enjoying a Market on Fridays and a Fair on the 8th September, hath several good Inns as the George, Lyon, &c….. at the end of the town you cross the Thames over a Wooden-bridg which is maintain’d by a certain Toll on Waggons, Cattel, &c. that pass over it, and Barges, &c. that pass under it, and at 20’2. Come to Egham a large discontinued Village of good Accommodation, at 22’6. An easie descent by the New England Inn on the Left and Windsor Park on the Right conveys you over Bagshot Heath or Windsor Forest, whence by Winsham Church on the Left, and a House of the Kings on the Right, you come to Bough-Wough and Bagshot at 29 Miles, a place with several good Inns of Accommodation.

Leaving Bagshot you pass over 2 small ascents, where you omit the acute way on the Left to Frimley and Southampton, your way from hence being generally open and Heathy, whence 2 repeated descents brings you at 33 Miles to Blackwater a small place with an Inn or two in it, where you cross the River Loddon, thence little occurs but ascending a small Hill at 34 Miles, and descending at 37’5. till at 38 Mile you pass through Hartley=Row a place of some Entertainment; and cross Hartford Bridg over a Brook, then several dispersed Houses and Hartley Church on the Left and through Merrard=Green a small Village, come at 41’1. to Holsum Bridg over the small River Ditsford, proceeding through Hook at 42 Miles, and Newnham at 43’3. Both small Villages, descending 6 Furlongs at 46’4. Come to Basingstoke at 47’7. Extending 6 Furl. On the road, a place affording good Accommodation, seated on a Brook in which are good store of Trout… and a Fair yearly on Michaelmas Day.

This was the main route from London to the southwest of England, and led through Salisbury and Exeter to the important naval ports Plymouth, with a branch road to Southampton. Ogilby’s description is remarkably complementary in terms of accommodation at inns and absence of adverse comments on the quality of the ground over which the highway ran. The road was often referred to as the Western Road, the same term used for the road to Bristol or Bath Road. The road carried commercial traffic from the agricultural areas of Hampshire and cloth making areas of South Wiltshire and parts of Somerset (some of the latter clothiers used the Bath Road). There would also have been some traffic carrying passengers who wished to avoid the, often slow, sea-passage through the English Channel to the Thames.

The Kensington Road Trust had jurisdiction over the main highways crossing Hounslow Heath (see section 5.4.2). The two Trusts covered the road from Hounslow, though Bagshot to Basingstoke and dealt with below;

• from Powder Mills on Hounslow Heath to Basingstone (section 6.2)

• Bagshot though Hartford Bridge Hill to Basingstoke & Odiham (Section 6.3).

6.2 Powder Mills on Hounslow Heath to Basingstone

6.2.1 Hounslow to Windlesham The first Acts

In Feb 1726, nine years after the petition to turnpike the road as far as Powder Mills, a Bill referred to as the Hounslow Heath Road was considered by Parliament (JHC). The Petition was from several Gentlemen and others, living in near, and travelling through the Road leading from the Powder Mills, on Hounslow Heath, in County of Middlesex, to a Place called The Golden Farmer, on Bagshot Heath, in the County of Surrey. This latter point was subsequently referred to as Basingstone, in the Parish of Windlesham; this remains an important road junction to this day.

They said that the road was bad because of the many heavy Carriages passing through it and that Passengers cannot pass and repass in the Winter-season, without very great Danger. In evidence Charles Wither Esq., Surveyor General of His Majesty’s Woods, said that the Road from Belfound to Staines is very bad, and that there are Quicksands in it, and that the Road from Egham to Bagshot is likewise in a very ruinous condition. Mr Robert Piper, who had travelled the road for upwards of 30 years, confirmed this and added that although the Parishioners should do double the Work they are obliged to do by Law it would not be sufficient to amend the Roads without some further provision be made by Parliament, for that purpose.

Hughes (1890) suggests that the Powder Mills themselves were a major factor in the proposal to turnpike this road. He states that We owe our first good road very much to the great Government powder mills and factories on Hounslow Heath, and which we hear of as in full work during the Commonwealth manufacturing arms under foreign experts. For these works a large supply of timber was necessary, and to facilitate its transit, an Act was passed in 1727, for repairing the road … Ogilby noted above that there were Powder Mills and Sword Mills at Baber Bridge on Hounslow Heath.

The Act commenced the 1st day of May 1728 for a term of 21 years. This period was only half-expired in Feb 1738 when the trustees of the Hounslow to Basingstone Road returned to petition Parliament. The trust had borrowed £2500 on the credit of the tolls but was finding it impossible to maintain the road without some enlargement of their powers. Timothy Harris, treasurer, said that the annual income was £650/a, £289 of which was expended in collecting tolls and paying the interest of the loan. The remainder was used to repair the road but Mr Henry Bromley Surveyor, stated that in many places the road continued to be bad.

In April 1738 Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Parishes of Egham, Thorpe and Chertsey, in the County of Surrey, presented another petition. This concerned one of the secondary roads approaching Staines Bridge from the south (Fig 6.2a). They said that the turnpike had become a very commodious Road for all travellers and in taking their goods to Market, the Parishioners had contributed considerably to the tolls on this turnpike. However, they drew attention to a piece of Way, about a quarter of a mile in length, or thereabouts, leading from Egham Hith to a place called Saviours Ware in the Parish of Thorpe which is parallel to the main Western Road. They claimed that many passengers, carts and carriages must necessarily pass, which bring provisions for London and other parts within the Bills of Mortality. If this lane was kept in better repair by being included in the turnpike, the inhabitants of Egham, Thorpe and Chertsey and other adjacent parishes would be better able to bring their Commodities to the markets of Staines, Hounslow, Brentford and London in a much cheaper manner than they can now do; whereby the Estates of several Persons living in such Parish will be much improved, and the said Markets better supplied. They claimed that the expense of repairing this Road would not amount to near so much money as the Petitioners had already paid in tolls.

Charles Channer stated that, because of the bad state of the lane, the inhabitant of Thorpe are obliged to go by Chertsey, which is 2 miles about, to go to the London Markets. Gilbert Douglass, said this is one of the worst parts of the roads thereabouts and he believes that the expense thereof will not amount to above £200, and that the Increase in Revenue to the present Turnpike will, in a few years, defray the Expense. The Parish had been indicted for not amending the lane and the parishioners go divers ways about to avoid this Road, whereby they avoid going through the present Turnpike. There is no mention of this branch in the subsequent Act of 1738 and so it must be assumed that this lane remained a parish responsibility. The only significant change in powers for the trust was that they could have two tollgates but no gate should be within a mile of Staines. Division of the road at Egham

When the Hounslow Road Trustees petitioned to renew their powers in 1763 they had further proposals relating to expensive engineering work on bridges. Mr Richard Bowden, surveyor of the Roads, said that such part of the Road that lies between Egham Hill and the Golden Farmer on Bagshot Heath is in a very ruinous condition, and that it is absolutely necessary to erect 9 or 10 Arches or Bridges upon that part of the Road, all which will require a very considerable sum of money which cannot be raised without an increase of Tolls. The trust had already borrowed to finance early improvements and Mr James Turner, clerk to trustees produced accounts showing £2700 owed on credit of the Act. Under this new Act the trust was divided; the Eastern District was responsible for the road from Powder Mills on Hounslow Heath to 20 mile stone at Great Bakeham Lane in Egham (later referred to as Bedfont to Egham Hill), the Western District for the road from 20 mile stone at Great Bakeham Lane in Egham to Basingstone (the Golden Farmer); This latter carried the liability for repair of the bridges mentioned by Mr Bowen.

The two Districts continued to use the same clerk and the tolls were auctioned at the same time at Red Lion, Egham in 1787. However, in other aspects the two Districts acted independently with separate Minute Books and local officials. The minutes of the Western District have survived (GLA) and show that it met for the first time on May 20th 1763 at the Red Lion in Bagshot and set to work at once. After appointing the officers they ordered a new, temporary gate to be set up at the eastern end of Bagshot from Mr Vickes garden wall to the house of Mr Rapley, butcher. John Smith, carpenter, of Bagshot was charged with erecting the gate by the following day and it was ordered that toll collection was to start immediately. They arranged to get 50,000 tickets to be printed by Mr Brook of London at a cost of 1/9 per thousand. Two toll collectors were appointed; Daniel Bond of Thorpe, Edward Greenham of Windlesham, with William Jackson of Egham as a supernumerary collector.

A new loan of £1,000 was raised at 4% from Lord Albemarle, Sir John Elwill, Richard Wyatt and Dr Cawley. With this financial backing the surveyor was told to report on the best way the road could be amended and was to order two dozen new wheelbarrows.

There was a major change in the responsibilities of the trust in 1791 when it petitioned to take over the maintenance of Staines Bridge. It petitioned that Staines Bridge and Egham causeway are intermingled with the said road recited in the Act and it is apprehended that repairs thereof could more conveniently be carried out if the same was added to the eastern District of the said road. They further alleged that the road through the town of Staines is obstructed by various buildings and is incommodious and dangerous and if the petitioners had powers to pull down and remove certain houses and buildings to open the approach to Staines Bridge on the Middlesex side it would be a great utility and advantage. The trust clearly thought it was in a good position to take on this new burden since Henry Horne said that the debt of the Western District of the road (close to the river) was £1600 but that nothing was owed on the Eastern District (over the Heath). However, this arrangement seems to have lapsed and in 1809 the turnpike trust was divided into two, the eastern section became the Bedfont to Staines Trust. The western section became the Egham to Bagshot Trust and Randolph Horne of Staines continued as clerk for this Bagshot Trust after the split.

Cary’s map of 1790 (Fig 6.2b) shows the Bedfont Gate just past the Horse & Groom between the 15-mile and 16-mile stones; this actually made it nearer Staines than Bedfont. The Bedfont Trust also had a side gate at Stanmore Though technically only a bar on a side road it must have been well built since when new in 1838 it was described as one of the handsomest near London, the top formed into a large lantern; when illuminated it is an important mark to drivers in dark knights (Searle 1830). The only gate on the Western Division was the existing tollgate and weighing engine at Bagshot. This was located just east of the town, close to the 26-mile stone beside Bagshot Park.

6.2.2 Staines Bridge

Although passage along this road was absolutely dependent on a safe crossing of the Thames at Staines, the turnpike trust initially had no direct responsibility or control of the bridge. Staines Bridge and the causeway towards Egham were the responsibility of a small group of Bridge Masters, appointed under an Act of Parliament. This was separate from the turnpike trust, although it may be assumed that, like with other similar bridges, these Bridge Master were local worthies who would also have been on the turnpike trusts.

It is thought that the Romans had built a bridge close to this point but it had disappeared during the Dark Ages. A new wooden bridge was built at Staines in 1222 and was maintained by Bridge Wardens who were able to solicit alms for the upkeep of the bridge and received oaks from the Royal Forest for repair of the structure (Phillips 1981). A causeway was later constructed from the western end of the bridge to Egham, apparently some distance off the line of the old Roman Road. Repair of the bridge and causeway was covered by an Act of Parliament, made in the 1st Year of the Reign of Henry VIII authorised 2, 3 or 4 persons of the town and Parish of Staines to take and receive Toll and custom used, for time immemorial, to be paid, as well for carts and horses laden with merchandise, and other stuff carried over and upon the bridge of the town, as of barges underneath the same Bridge. However, the amount of traffic rose and after the road approaching the bridge was turnpiked in 1728 the number of vehicles crossing the old structure increased further. The old tolls were insufficient to cover the rising cost of repairing this timber bridge and in Jan 1739 a petition to increase the tolls on Staines Bridge was made by Gentleman and others, inhabitants residing in those parts of the Counties of Middlesex and Surrey which adjoin or lie near to Staines Bridge. The petitioners stated that the tolls and duties had never been sufficient to maintain the said bridge and causeway in good order and repair. The Bridge had frequently become unsafe and during the repairs the Bridge Masters had provided Ferry boats for the conveyance of persons, cattle coaches and other carriages cross the river between Staines and Egham. The Bridge was now so weak that it might either be thrown down and demolished or become so ruinous as to want building anew as a result of the present rigours of the season, and the violent effects that may naturally be expected from any sudden alteration in the Weather.

Mr Daniel Atwick stated that the present income from tolls & duties payable over and going under the Bridge was farmed at £63/a. Phillip Stone, Bridgemaster, reported that part of the Bridge was repaired last year during which time a ferry was set up and about £15/week was taken from passengers passing over the said Ferry. Francis Brown, carpenter, said that the great Arch of the Bridge was so much decayed that it was not safe for Carriages to go over the same and that the part of the said Bridge on that side the great Arch which stands next Middlesex, is also much decayed and will want rebuilding in the next 6-7 years. He estimated the expense of repairing the large arch at £356-14s-8d. Repairing the rest from the Middlesex side including ferryage and all charges would be £380.

Mr Timothy Harris (noted earlier as treasurer of the Hounslow Road Trust), Mr John Hart, Mr Henry Brumbridge, Mr John Carter and Mr James Love said the causeway on the Egham side was in such a bad condition that there was a great danger of it being broke through by the Thames and several thousand acres will be overflowed in the Parishes of Egham, Thorpe and Chertsey and render some of the parts of the Great Western Road impassable. Timothy Harris further said that he had several times been obliged to employ all his servants and horses to carry dung and planks to support and keep up the causeway.

As the number and size of vehicles travelled the turnpike roads increased the old bridge became increasingly inadequate. In 1791 the Staines Commissioners joined with the turnpike trustees to obtain an Act of Parliament empowering them to finance and build a new stone bridge. It was said that the Bridge Commissioner had a debt of £750 and that the old bridge was narrow and incommodious and so greatly decayed that in the opinion of them and experienced workmen the same ought to be taken down and a new bridge built near the present bridge, but tolls are insufficient. With their new powers the trustees commissioned a new bridge but unfortunately the piers were inadequate and the bridge began to crack. It was closed in 1798 and traffic returned to the old bridge (Phillips 1981). Another bridge with iron arches was commissioned in 1801 but it too quickly failed. A third bridge of timber and iron was completed in 1807 at a cost of just under £6,000 and the old bridge removed. The tolls of one penny for an unladen horse and twopence for each horse drawing a cart were initially let for £1,820/a and in 1810 were again let for £1800. Nevertheless maintenance costs were high and in 1828 a new Act was obtained by the Bridge Commissioners to finance and build yet another bridge, but this time it was to be constructed of stone, a little further upstream. The Act covered making the approaches to the new bridge and maintenance of the present bridge until the intended bridge was completed. The whole project cost over £40,000 and the tolls were increased to six pence for each horse drawing a vehicle. This bridge, designed by John Rennie, has stood the test of time. It was freed of tolls in 1871 when the Egham Road Turnpike Trust was wound up.

6.3 Bagshot to Basingstoke and Farnham

The main Salisbury road from the edge of Surrey out into North Hampshire was a long stretch of road over relatively easy ground to Basingstoke on the road through Andover to Exeter (Covered in Section 6.3.1). At the Golden Farmer an important branch led down to Farnham on the main road to Southampton, through East and Central Hampshire (Covered in Section 6.3.2).

6.3.1 Golden Farmer to Basingstoke and Odiham The main road

The western section of this road from Hertford Bridge to Basingstoke and the branch of the road to Odiham were turnpiked relatively early in 1737. It was said that the road from Hertford Bridge Hill to Basingstoke is part of the Great Western Road leading from London to Lands End and that from Hertford Bridge Hill to Odiham opens a free and easy communication from that town eastwards towards London. The eastern section from the Golden Farmer Hill at Basingstone to Hertford Bridge was not turnpiked until 1757, two decades after the two adjoining sections of the Salisbury road. Hertford Flats had the reputation for being the fastest stretch of coach road in the country (Harpur 1900) and this late turnpiking suggests that the ground made it easy to maintain an adequate road surface without imposing crippling costs on the parishes. For instance, even on the 1880s Ordinance Survey map the road across Hertford Flats was a straight, unfenced track over open heath.

The trust appears to have had considerable trouble ensuring that the parishes performed Statute Labour and an advert in 1752 (RM) said that the road was in a poor state and was represented to be unsafe and very inconvenient to travellers. The problems were exacerbated by the want of a proper number of gentlemen of property who are trustees meeting to make decisions on the road. A correspondent in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1752 complained that the trust was disgracefully mismanaged. The last treasurer had absconded with £90 of the trust money and 27 tradesmen had been brought in to pack a vote for re-erecting a gate that had been opposed by trustees who were the local gentry. The gate subsequently proved useless, proving the assertion by the writer that none but gentlemen of fortune should be made Commissioners of Turnpikes (Searle 1930). The appeals must have been successful because the trust continued to grow. In 1781 the trustees took responsibility for lanes running southwards from the Salisbury Road to Odiham. This road to Hook was, westwards between Odiham and the great road leading from the west end of the town, through North Warnborough Lane, over certain wastes called Hook Common, Bartley Heath and Butterwood in the Parish of Odiham, Grewell and Nattely Skewers , containing in length 2.25 miles. John Windover said that this new section, leading from a certain new erected bridge at Buttenwood and extending to South End of North Warnborough Lane near Odiham was very ruinous and if amended it would be very convenient.

This suggests that the extension was linked to the development of the Basingstoke Canal through Odiham and the associated increase in traffic. The branches near Odiham

In Sept 1798 the trustees of the Basingstoke to Hartford Bridge & Blackwater Turnpike met at the White Hart, Hook to carry into effect the (new) Act for improving the road from Odiham to Heckfield Heath to communicate with the Reading turnpike at a certain place near the Bull Inn, Swallowfield. These fresh powers made the trust responsible for a branch road northwards from Hook, through Heckfield to meet the Reading to Basingstoke Road. This short section provided an alternative route from the agricultural areas of North Hampshire to the markets and Thames wharves at Reading. In Dec 1798 the trustees of the newly named Basingstoke, Hartford Bridge, Blackwater and Heckfield Turnpike met at the White Hart to receive a report of the committee appointed to inspect the new line of the road to Heckfield.

In 1813 the trust specified the roads under its responsibility in an advertisement for a contractors to undertake repairs (Fig 6.3a). The Districts were, on the main road:

1) Golden Farmer to Blackwater Bridge

2) Blackwater Bridge to Hartford Bridge

3) Hartford Bridge to the Crooked Billet in Newnham

4) Crooked Billet in Newnham to 43rd Mile stone in Parish of Mappledurwell

5) 43rd Mile stone to extremity of the road at Basingstoke

On the branch roads

6) Hand-Post at Hartley-Row to the Angel Inn at East End of Odiham

7) Angel Inn to Hand-Post or junction of the two roads on Bartley Heath

8) Commencement of the road leading towards Reading, near Gravel Pit in North Wanborough Common to entrance of Mattingley Green

9) Mattingley Green to termination of the road at or near the Bell Inn, Swallowfield.

Odiham became an important hub for roads in North Hampshire. In 1778 an application had been made for a separate trust to turnpike the road from Bartley Green on the Basingstoke turnpike road through Nateley Skewer, Odiham, Crondall and Farnham to the NW end of Castle Street in Farnham; this became the Odiham to Farnham Trust. In 1810 the Basingstoke to Odiham Trust met in Odiham to consider the renewal of the Odiham to Farnham Trust and presumably whether it would be beneficial to merge. Although this idea seems to have failed a second trust which administered the road from Odiham to Alton was merged into the larger Basingstoke, Hartfordbridge & Blackwater Trust in 1838 to create the Basingstoke, Odiham and Alton Trust. The larger trust being a Mail Coach Road was almost free of debt whereas the Odiham to Alton Trust had a debt of £1500 but only produced an income of £201/a (PP). The Odiham to Farnham Trust was eventually absorbed into the larger trust in 1869 to facilitate the freeing of all this group of roads from tolls without any burden of debt.

There were three tollgates on the main stretch of road. Mogg’s map of 1814 (Fig 6.3b) shows the Blackwater turnpike gate between the 30-mile stone and the crossing of the River Blackwater. However in 1845 the trustees met to determine as to the erection of a new Toll-house at Blackwater (RM) so the final position may have changed. The Hartley Row Gate was just past the 37 Milestone, west of the village. The third main gate was between the 44 and 45 Milestones to the east of Basingstoke Wood. In April 1799 the trustees met to decide on a new gate at Newrams Spring near the present gate at Basing; presumably the Basing Gate was then closed and auctions only mention the Newrams Gate. However, a temporary was maintained east of Basingstoke and in1825 the trust built a permanent tollhouse at the Bottom of Shiplands Hill (RM). In 1844 the trustees considered whether to erect a new toll house at Blackwater but it is not clear whether this was the side gate on the Wokingham road or a principal gate on the main Salisbury Road. The date would suggest the latter since after the building of the railways, local traffic rather than long distance traffic became a more important source of toll income. A painting in Sandhurst College shows the tollhouse just inside the Wokingham Road, before the College Laundry; this is shown on the 1880s OS map. The gate on the main road was about 200 yds to the south and is no longer there in the 1880s. After the Act of 1798, tollgates were erected on the branch road from Odiham to Swallowfield. The toll receipts include gates at both Rotherwick and Heckfield, at each end of the branch road. However, the OS map only shows the gate at Rotherwick Wood remaining at the end of the turnpike era.

The trust was administered from Odiham where local solicitors such as Richard Raggett and John Cole were clerks to the Basingstoke Road Trust as well as the smaller Odiham to Farnham Trust. Although inns in Odiham were sometimes used for meetings, with such a long road the trustees clearly thought it politic to use other locations such as the Wellesley Arms at Murrells Green for some meetings and auctions of tolls.

6.3.2 Basingstone to Farnham & Winchester

The branch road south from Bagshot Heath towards Farnham was turnpiked in 1753. It ran through Frimley to Farnham and on through Bentley, Hollyborn, Alton, Chawton, Ripley, Bishops Sutton, New Alresford and Mattingley to Winchester. It was subject to strenuous opposition from local farming interests because the southern section in particular was on good ground and it was felt the cost involved with turnpiking was not warranted (see Sec 3.4).

In 1773 the administration was split into an Upper and Lower District with separate Committees that corresponded to the County boundaries of Surrey and Hants. In 1795 James Trimer said the Upper District had debts of £2300; the Lower district, on the better soils of Hampshire, £1800. The trust asked for an increase in tolls but there was a petition to Parliament against extending the powers of the trust (JHC). Occupiers of land and estates and several farms and others attending at the market at Farnham claimed that a canal from Basingstoke to the river Wey hath been lately completed and great quantities of timber, bark, hops , corn and other articles, the produce of Surrey and Southampton and with great facility conveyed to London and Westminster and in return coal, fir, timber grocery and a variety of goods wares merchandise articles and commodities have been brought up the said canal. The canal company had made commodious landing places and wharves and have built warehouses and accommodation for the public, contiguous and adjoining the turnpike road from Farnham to Frimley. These petitioners objected to the turnpike trust erecting a turnpike gate between Farnham and the canal merely as the petitioners apprehend for purposes of taking tolls for all wagons and carts and such like carriages passing to and from the said landing places, wharves and warehouses. The tolls increased the cost of goods carried to Farnham and they wanted provision to exempt all wagons carts and wains and other carriages and all horses, beasts and cattle employed in carrying and conveying coal timber, corn grain, malt flour and other goods from the canal. It appears that the petition was successful and the trust was denied this lucrative windfall from the success of the canal.

Nevertheless, the trustees continued to promote the highway and in Feb 1806 advertised (RM) that This road, which is now put into a good state of repair for carriages etc, extends from the town of Bagshot to the town of Alton, a distance of 11 miles only and is the nearest road from Bagshot to Alton and the principal towns in Sussex. Mogg’s map of 1814 shows a turnpike gates beyond Frimley on the Hants/Surrey border at the crossing of the Blackwater and at the county border crossing between Farnham and Bentley. The trust was administered by solicitors such as William Green and Richard Raggett, who also acted for the Odiham trusts.

7 Roads Through Windsor Forest

7.1 The Nature of the Route

Roads though Windsor Forest connects the two great highways that radiate westwards from Hounslow (Fig 7.1a) and provide an alternative route to London from Reading, over the high, often sandy ground. Although the Forest is a poor, sparsely populated area, it is relatively easy to maintain tracks across this ground. In the period before there was a bridge at Maidenhead and while the Roman crossing at Staines was intact, this would probably have been the preferred route for travellers going west from London. A charter of Broomhall Nunnery refers to a Royal road from old Bracknell to Reading (Hughes 1890), presumably giving access to the Royal forest from Reading Abbey. Morden’s map of 1695 does not show a continuous road through the forest; the main road finishes a little to the east of Ockingham. For long distance stagecoaches and stage wagons in the 18th century a road through the forest was less attractive economically than the Bath Road that passed through prosperous towns with their well-served inns. Nevertheless, this as the shortest route between Reading and London and so a well-made road attracted a significant amount of traffic.

There are two established roads through the Forest and a branch road leads up to Windsor. Both initially ran over Early Common to Loddon Bridge. From there, the southern route through the towns of Wokingham and Bracknell was turnpiked by an Act of Parliament and was the responsibility of the Windsor Forest Turnpike Trust. A second route, called simply The Forest Road, is slightly to the north of the turnpike road appears to have been improved by public subscription rather through a turnpike Act. A third highway connects the Forest Road to Windsor and this is marked prominently on early 19th century maps (Fig 7.1b). The Commissioners of the Royal Forest probably undertook improvements to this road rather than turnpike trusts.

These routes may not have had the status of the Bath Road but won the approval of one of the early 19th centuries fiercest critics of turnpiking. In 1822 William Cobbett rode along both he Forest Roads and declared the roads are such as might have been made by Solomon. They are beautiful indeed.

7.2 The Windsor Forest Trust

In Feb 1759 there was a Petition to Parliament (JHC) from several of the gents, clergy and other freeholders and inhabitants of Counties of Berks, Wilts & Surrey setting forth that the road from a place called Old Gallows, in the Parish of Sunning, in the County of Berks, to the Town of Wokingham and from thence through Sunning Hill in County of Berks, to a stream of water or rivulet called Virginia Water in the Parish of Egham in County of Surrey, is in a very ruinous condition, narrow in many places and dangerous to travellers and cannot effectively be repaired and widened by the present methods prescribed by the law

In evidence, Mr John Brown and Mr Thomas Round said that they had surveyed the Road, which is 17 miles in length and is in a very ruinous condition, narrow in many places and dangerous to passengers and carriages. This was valuable testimony but the accounts show that it was not until 1766 that the trust paid Mr Round £115-19s for soliciting the turnpike Act, plus interest!

The trustees of the new turnpike were to hold their first meeting at the house of John Chaplin, known by the sign of the Rose in Wokingham, suggesting that this was very much an initiative from within the Forest area rather than Reading. The road started at the Gallows Inn; now Reading Cemetery Junction (Heelas 1938). This is the old parish boundary and presumably in times past criminals were executed at this isolated junction of the London Road and the Forest Road. One requirement of the Act was that no tollgate be erected nearer the Old Gallows, than the south side of the river Loddon. Furthermore, if a gate were erected in Mill Lane or Sindlesham Lane the tenants and heirs of John Spencer or occupiers of the fishing at Sindlesham would not have to pay tolls. Presumably this condition had been granted to win support from a vital landowner. The trust set about improving the road and in 1759 the surveyor was paid around £315-11s-5d on account of making the new road over Priestwood Common in full. A similar substantial sum was paid to the surveyor in 1762, presumably for improving another stretch of road. These exceptional investments were covered by the loans taken out by the trust and were well in excess of the toll income, which at that time yielded substantially less than £100 per year after other expenses. The accounts of these early days of the trust have survived, in part as a result of the payment of £1-3s to Francis Collins in 1762 for making a wainscote to keep the Account Book.

There had been an ancient crossing at Loddon Bridge since at least Tudor times but a new bridge had been built five years before the road as turnpiked. In recompense for this and the greater traffic that would now cross the bridge, Daniel Rich was granted an annual payment of £7 towards the support and repair of the bridge (BRO). Loddon Bridge provided an excellent point at which to levy tolls and was one of the three principal gates on the road. The Loddon Bridge Tollhouse was on the north side of the road and had a small garden (total area was 1 rood 4p). The next gate was at Coppid Beach (Buckhurst Hill, Wokingham) where the tollhouse was again on the north side of the road but the pikeman’s garden was on the opposite side. The main gate at the eastern end of the road was at Blacknest near Virginia Water. Loddon Bridge, closest to Reading generated the greatest income; for instance in 1759 Loddon Bridge took £82 in tolls, Blacknest £51 and Coppid Beech Lane, the middle gate only £42. Side gates were built at Sandford Mill (Hurst) and Sindlesham. In 1845 the trustees modified the position of the side gate at Sindlesham Mill (RM), presumably to prevent evasion of tolls. In 1823 the trust consulted on erecting a tollgate near a pace called Bedford Lane in Sunninghill across a highway leading to the western Roads; presumably this was a side gate. Again in 1833 the trustees met to consult about erecting a tollgate on the side of the road near the 23rd Milestone in Sunninghill (RM). This seems quite close to Lilly Hill on the edge of Ascot Heath and may record the creation of the gate east of Bracknell where a building called The Old Toll Gate Cottage survives today.

The trust was administered from Wokingham through solicitors such as John Horn and John Roberts as clerks. Meetings and the auction of tolls were generally held at the Rose in Wokingham.

7.3 The Forest Road

The Forest Road parallel to the Windsor Forest Turnpike, branching from the turnpike near Loddon Bridge passing through Windsor Great Park and running down Tite Hill onto the Salisbury Road at Egham. Smith’s map of 1808 notes that this route between Reading and London is 2 miles shorter in distance than the turnpike roads through Maidenhead or Wokingham. There are milestones along the road and it is given the same status as the turnpike on the map of Pride & Luckombe in 1790 and in addition Cary includes it in his maps of post roads. However, advertisements for stagecoaches using this road (RM) mention that they pass through the Duke’s Park with permission and there are no Parliamentary records of a turnpike Act to cover the road or evidence of any turnpike gate along its length. The milestones differ slightly in design to those on the main turnpike road and there are no stones on the road within the park. Users would clearly have to pass Loddon Gate on the Windsor Forest Turnpike but there is no indication that income from this road was spent elsewhere.

An oval stone monument on the road between Binfield and Winnersh gives a clue to the origins of this road. It had been erected by subscribers to the building of Forest Road in 1770 and stood in the grounds of Marchfield, home of the Countess of Leicester (Shorland 1967). The stone was moved and re-erected at Bill Hill in 1930 (per. com. Eugene Burden). The Countess headed the list of five ladies and five gentlemen with subscriptions ranged from £50 to £100 (Favrar 1984). The amounts mentioned are relatively small for such a long stretch of road and there is no record of improvements to the main turnpike trust in that year. Shorland (1967) mentions that Alf Basnett was the surveyor for the improvements of both the Forest Road in 1770 and the Windsor Forest Turnpike in 1759.

The facts suggest that the Forest Road was a private initiative by the local nobility, rather like construction of some bridges. Appeals for subscriptions to finance particular road improvement projects were not uncommon (e.g. Marlow Bridge and the causeways at Burcot and Botley RUTV 6 & 8). A one-off improvement of this road across the forest may have been sufficient to allow Parish Statute Duty to keep the road in a satisfactory state without tolls. The need to run through the Royal Park may have been a barrier to full turnpiking of this route.

The Forest Road makes a detour to the north of the village of Winkfield Row although there is a route through the centre that was not improved. The Duke of Cumberland did not like coaches passing too close to his lodge and around 1810 the road was diverted past the Copper House instead (pers. comm. Eugene Burden). It is clear that this road was less important than the Forest turnpike and even today remains a minor road, cut by the motorway intersection at one end and restrictions across Windsor Park at the other.

7.4 Windsor Roads

The roads on the northern bank of the Thames running down to Datchet and Eton have been dealt with under the Colnbrook Trust (above section 5.4.1). Maps published in the early 19th century indicate that several roads in and around Windsor and Windsor Park also had the status of turnpikes (Fig 7.4a). However, a number of the improvements were clearly undertaken by the Commissioners of Woods and Works rather than by turnpike trust. The circular road around the town was modified by the Commissioners and New Street that runs south across the Park to meet the Forest Road is assumed to fall into this category also. Turnpike Acts only cover small sections of the remaining highways and the turnpiking did not take place until the 19th century very late in the period of general road improvement.

An Act of 1801 covered making and maintenance of the road from New Windsor into the London Road at or near a bridge called High Bridge near Longford and amending and widening and keeping in repair the road leading from and out of the said road at Southley in the Parish of Datchet to the village of Datchet. This improvement coincided with replacement of the old bridge a Datchet by a new bridge over the Thames between Neville’s Bridge in New Windsor and Southley in Datchet. A new section of turnpike road was to be made to the bridge on the Windsor bank and drains were to be improved through Fleet Meadow beside the road on the Datchet side. In 1810 a petition was made to Parliament to replace the Kings Ferry at Datchet with a new bridge across the Thames. Presumably the road on the Datchet side had to be changed yet again when the Colnbrook Trust redirected their road to accommodate the two new crossings on the Albert and Victoria Bridges.

In 1832 another Act created a new trust to turnpike the road from New Windsor to Twyford in the Parish of Hurst. The road was to commence at Sheet Street in New Windsor and run to the village of Twyford, this providing a more direct communication between Windsor and Reading. Properties in White Walton and Shottesbrooke were to be purchased to allow for improvements in the road through these villages. It s not clear how much of this road was actually turnpiked and it certainly did not qualify as a main road when the County Councils took over responsibility and even today is only a minor road (B3024).

The third of the Windsor Acts was in 1858 and covered the road from Thames Street in the Parish of Clewer in New Windsor to the Oxford Road in New Windsor. The trust was told that they could build their road under the Great Western Railway line at Gashouse Lane but could not interfere with GWR property. Furthermore any animals passing only along the portion of the road between Thames Street and houses in Bier Lane or Red Lion Court or within 60 yards westwards of Bier Lane were to be exempt from tolls. The road involved is only a few hundred yards and this Act appears more like a town improvement associated with a crossing under the railway lines near the old Gas works rather than a full turnpike trust. It would not have had a significant impact on the long distance travel network in the area.

The Bridge between Windsor and Eton was a toll bridge and although at the terminus of the branch road from Colnbrook Turnpike was administered by a separate Bridge Trust. A new iron and stone bridge had replaced the old wooden bridge in 1822/4 at a cost of £17,000. The toll of a shilling for a coach was considered exorbitantly high and this may account for them being let at the good price; e.g. in 1842 they raised £1500 (Searle 1930). The tollgate was not removed until Dec 1st 1898.

8 Roads from Reading into Oxon & Bucks

The Thames forms a significant barrier to land travel between the Midlands and Southern England. Historically the river itself was the main route for carrying heavy goods between Reading and other large towns in the region such as Oxford, Abingdon and Henley as well as London. Road traffic north from Reading was not sufficient to justify the huge expense of maintaining prestigious bridges over the river. However, as the hinterland to Reading grew in the 19th century, new bridges over the Thames were needed. A new bridge at Shillingford was constructed by a turnpike trust, the replacement at Marlow by subscription and the large replacement of the bridge at Henley following an Act of Parliament. Caversham Bridge remained a curiosity, an old structure cobbled together from unmatched sections. The bridge was to be a poor crossing until the civic ambitions of Reading led to the incorporation of Caversham, well after the turnpike era.

8.1 Reading to Shillingford

8.1.1 Nature of the Route

This road (Fig 8.1a) lay along a section of what may have been the main Roman highway from Silchester to Dorchester. The road from Reading to Wallingford had been an important stage in the journeys of medieval kings along the Thames valley but they had favoured the river crossing below the castle at Wallingford. The road seems to have been a significant local route as late as 1493 when Debney (2001) notes that Henry Kelsall, a Reading clothier, left 40s for mending of the way between Reding and Pangbourn. However, any remains of a bridge crossing at Shillingford were destroyed in the late 15th century to improve the strategic defence of the castle (Phillips 1981). A ferry replaced the bridge and in 1692 Baskerville records that there was at Shillingford a great barge to waft over carts, coaches, horse and man. The river may theoretically have been fordable but by the mid-18th century, deepening of the channel to assist barges and the need to keep goods and passengers dry, meant that the crossing had to be made by ferry.

The road runs on the southern (or western) bank of the Thames through villages that are just above the flood plain. The only major obstacle south of Shillingford is at the Goring Gap where the road past Streatley clings to a steep hillside through the woods. Brunel’s railway chose the easier ground on the northern bank through Goring and Morden’s map of 1695 indicates that the preferred route from Oxford to Reading Road had moved onto the Oxfordshire side after the deterioration of Wallingford Bridge. This road is over hilly, sparsely populated country and depended on the rickety bridge at Caversham for its approach to Reading. Significantly, in 1751 Wallingford Bridge had been repaired and the new turnpike between Wallingford Wantage and Faringdon opened. This resurgence of the town as a commercial and transport hub presumably provided the impetus for Wallingford residents to initiate a new link to Oxford and improvement of the road to Reading a decade later.

8.1.2 Shillingford to Reading Trust Creation of the Trust

In November 1763 local gentry petitioned Parliament (JHC) Setting forth that the highway leading from the town of Shillingford in the parish of Wanborough to Shillingford Ferry and thence on opposite side of Thames to Wallingford, Moulsford, Streatley, Basildon, Pangbourn and so to Reading, is in many places very narrow, and in others very deep and ruinous, and cannot be rendered effectually sound and commodious by the ordinary course of law; and that the building of said bridge over the river, at or near the Ferry, would be a great advantage and safety to the neighbourhood for many miles around. Mr. Edward Poole, in evidence, said that Shillingford Ferry in times of floods is very dangerous.

This Trust created in 1764 was unusual in that it not only had powers to improve and maintain the existing road but also took responsibility for building a new bridge across the Thames at Shillingford. The County Justices administered most bridges, particularly those on county boundaries, and the construction of a totally new bridge on a new route was a bold project. The new trustees were to meet at the house of James Tree known by the sign of the George in Wallingford within two weeks of the passing of the Act. No records survive of their earliest meetings, but evidence from other trusts suggests that very quickly toll gates would have been commissioned and the state of the whole length of the road assessed. Loans had to be the raised against future toll income in order to make immediate improvements to the highway. A series of adverts in the Reading Mercury show that the trustees met diligently almost every month during 1765-6 to review progress on this new route. The largest cost associated with the enterprise was construction of a bridge north of Wallingford. A substantial loan of £7,700 was used to buy the rights to the Shillingford ferry (and eventually close it down) and to build the new bridge. The line of the road through Warborough suggests that the original ferry may have been slightly further upstream, opposite Brightwell, and that a new road, creating the dog’s-leg in the Wanborough Road was the result of moving the crossing downstream a little. The first Act gave the trustees power to widen, turn or alter .. the road which lies between Shillingford Ferry and the High Road from Bensington to Oxford (the existing Dorchester, Bix & Henley Turnpike) and to sell any old or unnecessary parts of the earlier road. However, Rocque’s map of 1761 shows the ferry and approach road close to where the bridge was to be, so a move eastwards seems to pre-date the turnpike Act. While the bridge was being built, the trustees collected tolls on the ferry; at four pence for a coach this toll was significant compared with the six pence toll that the trust could charge at any gate they erected along the existing road. The practice of charging separate tolls for the bridge and the road continued throughout the existence of the trust.

Stone foundations for the bridge were constructed in 1766 but the superstructure was a wooden trestle bridge (Fig 8.1b). In April 1767, it was announced (RM) that the bridge was entirely completed and travellers were able to use this new turnpike as a shorter route between Oxford and Reading (Fig 8.1c) through Pangbourne. A print by Samuel Ireland dated 1792, eight years after the trust had gained renewal of its powers, shows this trestle structure still in use. In seeking continuance of their powers in 1805, the trustees spoke of keeping the roads and bridges in good order. This serves to remind us that the trust would also have to maintain the smaller bridge over the Pang at Pangbourne. This 1805 Act more clearly defined the Reading end of the turnpike as The Fox Corner adjoining West Street. The 1826 Act specified it as to the commencement of the first street in Reading, Prospect Street from The Old Bell at Shillingford in the parish of Wanborough. Prospect Street is just east of the railway bridge on the Oxford Road in Reading. Presumably Reading Corporation was responsible for the streets leading to the centre of the town. The trust undertook minor improvements to the main highway, for example in 1823 they lowered Moulsford Hill. The developing infrastructure

The collection of tolls was crucial for the success of the trust and the first expenditure of the trust would have been construction of gates at which the tolls could be collected from travellers. The location of the three principal tollhouses did not change throughout the operation of the trust. The Shillingford Bridge gate was clearly in the best position to collect tolls on all traffic; the 1805 Act made specific provisions to prevent anyone fording or ferrying travelers across the river within half a mile of the bridge. Unlike other tollgates where pedestrians passed without charge, the turnpike on the bridge was empowered to take a penny toll from foot passengers, unless they belonged to a coach that had paid a toll. The second gate was at Winterbrook, south of the small bridge on the southern edge of Wallingford. It stood in the Parish of Cholsey opposite the old Nags Head Inn. The third main gate was in Pangbourn Lane, to the west of Battle Farm on the edge of Reading (on the southwestern edge of the present Battle Hospital site). Initially, an employee of the trust collected tolls but by the late 18th century the trust had begun to auction the lease for collection of tolls. Toll Farmers (professional toll gatherers) bid for the right to collect the tolls at a particular gate for a year (theoretically for 3 years). Their skill was to judge how much to pay the trust for the lease while still leaving a surplus to pay the gate keeper and still make their profit. The toll farmers were often local businessmen who provided mutual support by standing surety for each other (Appendix 4) and probably operated cartels to avoid over paying for a gate. These auctions were advertise in the Reading Mercury and normally took place at the Lamb Inn in Wallingford (Fig 8.1d) or the George in Reading. Income from the tolls rose steadily over the years, partly due to a slow increase in tolls but more significantly from the increase in traffic. Although the Shillingford Bridge Gate yielded the highest income in the early years, it was surpassed by income from the gates nearer Reading after 1815 (Fig 8.1e).

During the early 1820s the trustees began preparing for a major new investment. They increased the tolls at the existing gates in Nov 1824 and in 1825 the trust built a new tollhouse at Pangbourne (Fig 8.1f). This gate was built on the narrow riverbank north of the Swan Inn (Fig 8.1g) were the road backs on to the steep flank of Shooters Hill. It presumably would catch traffic that had been using the section of road between Wallingford and Reading without charge. They also sought a loan of £3,000 mortgaged against the toll income and considered further what toll to charge at this new gate.

The trustees then made public their grand plan; the construction of a new stone bridge to replace the wooden bridge at Shillingford (Fig 8.1h). At the beginning of May 1826 they announced that they would commence taking down the present wooden bridge in order to build one instead thereof. They reassured travelers that during the time the stone bridge is in building a new and most commodious Ferry Boat will be used for the purpose of conveying carriages and waggons, horses and passengers across the river and as proper men will be employed in the management of the Ferry no delay or inconvenience will be experienced. The trust installed their own gatekeeper at the bridge gate and the tolls at the other gates on the road also had to be altered to take account of the restricted access (RM). As a result the trust suffered a substantial drop of income in 1826, presumably as travelers found the claims of no delay or inconvenience was unconvincing and took alternative routes to Reading. The accounts for 1826 show they paid Mr. Richard Clark at sundry times for taking down and rebuilding Shillingford Bridge £1,300 and for maintaining a temporary road and ferry £50. The accounts for 1827 show payments of a further £2,285 to Richard Clark for the bridge, £25 for the temporary road and £534 for extras on the bridge contract. It must be assumed that Mr. Clark reused the stone foundations of the older bridge and so the cost was less than had been incurred for the first bridge. In June 1827 it was announced (Fig. 15) that The substantial stone bridge over the river Thames at Shillingford has for a long time been sufficiently complete for the passage of travellers and their carriages and it will very shortly be finished in all its ornamental parts. A new stone tollhouse was built on the northern bank to collect the tolls. The debts of the trust had risen steeply from about £4,000 to nearly £10,000 to finance the stone bridge. In June 1827 for instance they sought to borrow £1,500 in minimum units of £100, mortgaged against the future toll receipts (RM). This huge debt was an important factor in the application to Parliament for a new Act that not only renewed the powers of the trust but also allowed for a further increase in tolls. The toll income recovered in 1827 as traffic began to flow over the new bridge and income rose steadily over subsequent years, as more travellers were attracted to this route. However, the toll income was small compared with the burden imposed by the cost of a totally new bridge. In 1834 the debt was six times the annual toll income so it took many years to reduce the original debt. Although the toll income raised at each toll house was relatively high (within the top 20% nationally) this was a relatively long road and the income per mile of road was only £91; adequate but not providing scope for any further engineering projects. The bridge (Fig 8.1b) was key to this success and the elegant stone arches that still carry the road over the Thames at Shillingford have remained almost unchanged since then. The People

The trustees ran the turnpike. These men (always men in this era) were local landowners, clerics and businessmen (Appendix 3) who were nominated in the Act of Parliament to guide the creation and running of the turnpike. They had to be in possession of estates worth £50/a in the Counties of Berks or Oxford; this was a slightly lower sum than the property qualification on the Bath Road where trustees were required to have estates of at least £80/a. Among the first trustees of the Shillingford Bridge to Reading Turnpike were two local aristocrats, Lord Viscount Fane and Lord Charles Spencer, eleven knights of the adjoining shires, including Sir John Stonehouse and Sir James Dashwood, a large number of local gentry such as John Breedon and Thomas Blagrave from close by the road but also landowners from the Vale of White Horse such as William Wiseman Clark and Charles Wymondesold. Quite a number of these trustees from North Berks had also been nominated in the Wallingford, Wantage & Faringdon Turnpike Act of 1752, suggesting that they had particular interests in the Shillingford to Reading road as the link from the Vale to the County’s principal town. In addition the list of trustees included clergy from the local parishes such as Rev Walker of Whitchurch. There were about 140 trustees named in this first Act, a typical number for this period, and the trust was empowered to maintain this number by appointing new trustees as individuals moved on or died. Subsequent Acts named a smaller number of new trustees. By the 19th century a higher proportion of the nominations were local clergy although individuals such as Sir Francis Sykes of Basildon Park remained involved. In 1827, the trustees still included individuals from the Vale such as Mr. Ormond. From the start only a handful of the trustees would have been active participants in directing the work on the turnpike; just five were necessary for a quorum to make most decisions, though important events such as purchase of ferry rights required nine trustees to be present.

Members of the Toovey, Alnutt or Hedges family, solicitors in Wallingford, acted as clerk to the trust for much of its existence. Most administrative meetings were held in Wallingford, normally at the Lamb. Prosperous local businessmen such as Mr. Wells acted as treasurer. The General Surveyor probably had some basic engineering skills and employed the local surveyors to deal with short sections of the road (RM). Whereas many of the larger trusts employed one of the McAdam family as General Surveyor in the early 19th century, the Shillingford road employed a local man, William Winkworth, who also acted as surveyor on the Reading to Basingstoke road. Junior surveyors would have worked alongside the local labour and supervised the practical work on particular districts of the highway. The First District ran from Reading to the 5-mile stone near Purley Hall. The second District was from Purley to the Bull at Streatley. Presumably a third district covered the remaining 6 miles to Shillingford. Like other turnpikes, this road was surfaced with gravel and compacted stone (Fig 8.1i) but the quality of some lengths seems to have been particularly good if local anecdotes are believed (BLHS 2001). Six-inch granite sets underlie the current road through Purley, an unusual expense for a trust with no local access to stone and a ready source of gravel nearby.

8.2 Reading to St Albans

8.2.1 Nature of the Route

There seems to be no logical reason for turnpiking such a long and tortuous route through three counties. The route runs along the valley of the Colne before crossing the Chilterns to reach the Thames valley at Marlow. A short branch then crossed Marlow Bridge to reach the Oxford and Bath Roads beyond Maidenhead Thicket and a second leg ran along the northern bank of the Thames to cross the Oxford Road at Henley and approach the Bath Road again at Reading, across Caversham Bridge. It was said that amongst the main advocates of this turnpike had been the Cecils of Hatfield House who wished to improve the road from their home to Bath. The road was known colloquially as the Gout Track (Haines 2000) in recognition of the annual journey of well-nourished individuals such as Lord Salisbury from Hatfield to take the waters in Bath. The road provides a short cut from Hertfordshire to the Bath Road avoiding London and in the absence of any better suggestion the Gout Track remains a plausible explanation for this 50-mile stretch of turnpike. However, as Bath became less popular as a resort the justification for this through route was lost and it became a series of short sections linking other important radials into London.

The road was most strongly associated with Marlow and this may point to the fundamental reason for turnpiking this route, Marlow had been for centuries an important crossing point of the Thames carrying traffic between the Chilterns and Berkshire. Improvements in the radial roads west and north of London had taken trade away from this traditional cross-country route. Highlighting the benefits of an improved road to the rich patrons of Bath made good political sense but the Marlow trustees may have had a wider range of travellers in mind.

8.2.2 The Reading to Hatfield Trust

The initial Act of 1768 covered the road from Reading through Henley and Great Marlow, Chipping Wycombe, Agmondesham, Cheynes, Rickmansworth, Watford & St Albans to Hatfield and also Marlow over Great Marlow Bridge, through Bisham to the 31st Milestone on the turnpike road from Maidenhead to Reading. Thus it included two points of access to the Bath Road, one west of Maidenhead Thicket and another at Reading. In evidence (JHC), James Hollis, surveyor and Henry Alnutt alleged that the stretch from Reading to St Albans was ruinous and according to William Kentish and Thomas Benniworth the road from St Albans to Hatfield was also ruinous. The initial Act included provision to make immediate improvements. Mr Collins had added that instead of amending the road near Henley, it would be better to make road from Henley Towns End through certain land and grounds belonging to Gistingham Cooper esq. and Sambrooke Freeman esq. to a farmhouse belonging to Sambrooke Freeman in the occupation of John Dorrell.

There was a protracted struggle for the post of surveyor in the 1780s. The trust appears to have appointed separate surveyors to each district initially but later changed this policy to have a single surveyor until the highway had been brought into a good condition. However, in 1782 Mr Winch the surveyor resigned and Luke Medwin and William Lee, the surveyor for the Parish of Bray, solicited the post. Mr Lee was successful but within little over a year he had died and in early 1784 three individuals advertised in the Reading Mercury, solicited favour from the trustees for the post of surveyor. Luke Medwin of Great Marlow, who had earlier been one of the district surveyors was again a candidate. The others were John Jones a parish surveyor from Cookham and Mr Hadley who had until recently been proprietor of the Bell in Henley. Clearly this was regarded as a prestigious and potentially lucrative job.

When the trust sought to continue and enlarge its powers in 1787 (JHC), James Payne, clerk of the General Meeting of the trustees, said that great progress hath been made in amending the said road and large debts have been contracted on the credit of said Act, and that money so due and owing has been paid. The trust considered moving one of the main gates at the end of Great Marlow in 1787, presumably to improve toll income and at the same time replaced the toll gatherer at Bisham for not having performed his contract (RM).

Administering such a long road through three counties must have been problematic and to make it responsive to local needs the 1829 Act specified three Districts on the road (Fig 8.2a).

• The First District ran from the north end of Caversham Bridge, being the extremity of the Borough of Reading, to the Three Horse shoes in Henley and from Henley turnpike road near the Bell Inn unto the SW corner of a barn in the occupancy of Thomas Wethered in the western entrance of Great Marlow; and also the road from the SE end of Great Marlow Bridge to the 31 mile stone on the Maidenhead Turnpike

• The second District ran from the turnpike gate at the north end of Chapel Street in Great Marlow to the bridge at Lokes at the SE end of Chipping Wycombe and from the NE end of Crendon Lane in Chipping Wycombe to the NW corner of a garden wall in the occupation of James Bricknell to the northern entrance to Amersham (otherwise Agmondesham) and to the SE corner of a house in the occupation of Emanuel Norcott in Rickmansworth.

• The third Division ran from the NW corner of a house of Job Woodman at the north end of Rickmansworth to the west corner of the house of John Wellingham at the commencement of Holywell Hill, St Albans and from the Peacock at the end of Cock Lane, St Albans to the boundary of the Parish of Hatfield.

The trust made steady improvements to the road, particularly where it ran through towns. In 1825 houses in St Peters Street, St Albans were demolished (RM) and the 1829 Act provided for the purchase of properties in Rickmansworth so that these could be demolished to permit improvement to the line of the road.

This was not a trunk route like the Bath Road but meandered across county connecting other roads radiating from London. Consequently it required a larger number of lesser turnpike gates at which tolls could be collected from short distance travellers. On the road between Caversham and Henley there was a gate just south of Henley town and another further north of the town where the river turns east at Greenlands. A gate was sited on the main road at Great Marlow with an associated side gate at Aggelton Green whereas a gate in the village of Bisham controlled the road over Marlow Bridge towards the Maidenhead Road. On the main road through the Chilterns was Horseshoe Gate, just north of Marlow, and there were gates either side of Wycombe at Chipping Wycombe (later called Wycombe Hill) and at Crendon Lane. In 1823 there is first mention of a gate at Hazlemere and by 1829 the Terriers Gate replaced the Crendon Lane Gate. Further along the road there were gates at, Chorley Wood, Hagden Lane and finally at the Black Boy, near St Albans. An additional gate at Weilden Lane in recorded in 1829, apparently replacing Aggleton Lane and a side gate was erected at the end of Row Green Lane near the Horse-shoe Gate in 1828 (RM). Hagden Lane raised the most income (typically £400 in the 1820s) with Bisham Gates (typically £300) and Henley Gate (typically £270) being the next most productive gates. There were no dramatic changes in the relative importance of the gates in the 19th century and the total toll income rose steadily until the 1840s. Unlike the main coaching routes the income from tolls on this road did nor suffer a significant decline after 1840 and may in fact have benefited from the increased in local traffic into towns.

The trust was centred on Great Marlow and the auction of tolls was normally held at the Crown Inn. However, its longest serving clerk was James Payn of Maidenhead, whose death was recognised as a loss sustained to the trustees when he died in 1822 after almost 50 years as their clerk (RM)

8.2.3 Great Marlow Bridge

The Reading to Hatfield Trust was responsible for the highway on either side of the Thames at Marlow but did not control the bridge. The medieval bridge had received royal patronage but by the 18th century Marlow Bridge was in poor condition and in 1786 part of it collapsed (Phillips 1981). A new bridge was constructed and paid for by public subscription, though in Dec 1789 it was necessary for the Bridgewardens to appeal for funds in addition to those subscribed by the nobility and the trustees of the Turnpike (RM).

In Jan 1790 the Bridgewardens of Great Marlow sold the materials of the Old Bridge House called the Bowl and Pin, now in the occupation of George Phelps, includes fireplaces and all other effects. Purchaser to pay 5% as a deposit and remainder on taking possession and to take away all materials and the clear the ground at their own expense in a fortnight, in order to open the road to the bridge.

This new bridge was built cheaply using the old timbers and only lasted until 1828. In Sept 1828 the trust considered building a new bridge over the Thames on a new site, thereby shortening the turnpike road and making it more commodious to the public (RM). However, it was not until 1832 before William Tierney Clark built the present suspension bridge to a much higher standard and similar to his larger bridge over the Danube at Budapest.

8.3 Great Marlow to the Oxford Road

The roads radiating north from the bridge at Marlow served the Chilterns and generally ran on high ground that could cope with the relatively small amount of traffic using these routes (Fig 8.3a). Hence, these roads were not turnpiked until the very last stages of this era of road improvement.

8.3.1 Marlow to Stokenchurch

This road down one of the main valleys in the dip slope of the Chilterns was turnpiked in the 1790s. It brought traffic from Aylesbury Vale down towards the Thames crossing and the Maidenhead Road, although the demand for this must have been slight given that the highway through Uxbridge was well established. There were tollgates at Well End and Hollys but the value of the tolls was relatively low indicating that this was a local market road and not an important through route.

The road was administered from Great Marlow with solicitor John S. Wight acting as clerk and meetings held at the Crown.

8.3.2 Great Marlow to West Wycombe

The Marlow to Aylesbury Trust was created well after the peak of turnpiking in England. The southern division of this trust was given responsibility for the road leading down from the main Oxford to London Road at West Wycombe to the Marlow road and the northern division dealt with the road between Terwick and Aylesbury. The description of the road highlights that it was a route that connected areas on either side of the existing Oxford turnpike. This infilling presumably took into care roads that had seen an increase in traffic as more carriers and coaches used the main turnpikes. The original proposal in 1794 had included branch roads from Princes Risborough to Thame and Monks Risborough to Great Missenden (RM), but this plan seems to have been abandoned in the final Act of 1795. The southern division ran south from Crispin’s Chapel near the 31-mile stone on the Oxford Road. The road as far as Bottom Farm House was improved and a new road made from there, through Rowleef Wood in a line eastwards of Booker Hill and Homers Farm Houses, through a part of Chepping Wycombe Parish to a place called Handy Cross in the parish of Great Marlow. This was the junction with the existing Reading to Hatfield Turnpike, about three miles north of Marlow itself. In addition, lanes at Cressicks near Wycombe and Red Barn near Marlow were improved. The northern division of road ran north from the Oxford Road at Terwick in the parish of Ellesborough, through Stoke Mandeville via a new section of road to the Buckingham to Wendover Turnpike. Although the northern section from West Wycombe was turnpiked there is no clear evidence that the southern-most section to Marlow was constructed and the new turnpike joined the Reading to Hatfield road near to Wycombe.

The southern section of this trust was also administered from Great Marlow.

9 Roads from Reading into Hampshire

9.1 Reading to Basingstoke

9.1.1 Nature of the Route

The main road south from Reading runs over similar geology to that of the Windsor Forest road (Fig 2.5c). There are two branches to the road, one climbing to the high ground past Whiteknights Park, the other taking the lower ground towards Swallowfield. Both roads must then cross the Loddon (Fig 9.1a). Morden’s map of 1695 gives more prominence to the Shinfield Road that continues on to Arborfield and along the Blackwater Valley. However, this route was only turnpiked as far as Shinfield whereas the western branch that followed the Loddon valley towards Basingstoke became a turnpike at a surprisingly early date. The ground is not particularly fertile and there are only a few isolated villages along the route. Such poor communities would have found it particularly difficult to maintain the parish roads if they were used by heavy vehicles carrying produce towards Reading.

Early 18th century maps give no evidence of an established through-route between Reading and the Hampshire Downs. Kitchen’s map of Hants of the 1750s shows the Newbury to Kingsclere road (one of Ogilby’s Cross roads) but no road north from Basingstoke towards the Thames near Reading. It is assumed that waggons began to use this route to carry agricultural products from the regions south of the river to be loaded onto Thames barges for carriage to London. This implies that the Salisbury road was not suitable for large wagons filled with corn and that access down the Loddon Valley through Swallowfield to the wharves on the Thames at Reading was the better route for this farm produce to reach London. The cost of water transport was considerably cheaper, albeit slower, than road transport, and thus provided an incentive to improve the road to facilitate the carriage of corn to the nearest navigable river. The extension to the branch road along the Blackwater valley ran through country that was better served by the Exeter Road and so there was no incentive to turnpike this route to Reading.

9.1.2 The Basingstoke to Reading Road

In Jan 1717 (JHC) A Petition of the High Sheriff, Justices of the Peace, Freeholders and inhabitants of the County of Berkshire and several Justices of the Peace and inhabitants of the County of Southampton and also several Coachmen, Waggoners and other Persons using and travelling the Roads between the Town of Reading and Shinfield and Reading and Heckfield, was presented to the House. Mr John Curtis, Mr Simon Finch, Mr Thomas Hollier, Mr Neville Mercot said that these roads are become so ruinous and deep that in the winter-season they are almost impassable and are very dangerous to all Persons, Coaches, Horses and Cattle travelling through the same. The Committee thought that the Parishes had used their utmost endeavours in the summer season to repair and amend the said Roads but for want of sufficient Gravel, Stones and other Conveniences lying near thereto are not able of themselves to amend the same and that in respect of the great charge required to fetch such Gravel, Stones and Conveniences and the quantities necessary for the purpose. The parishes had not only done more than the Statute work required of them but had also raised a rate of six pence in the pound, yet still the road could not be kept in good repair. The Evidence was confirmed by a certificate under the hands and seal of Anthony Blagrave and Clement Kent Esquires, two of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace of the County of Berkshire, inhabiting near the town of Reading.

The trustees of the Reading to Basingstoke Road petitioned for an extension of their powers in Feb 1735. At the Reading end, the road was specified as starting from Crown Corner and running through Shinfield. Mr Joseph Howard, Surveyor of the Highways said that the Tolls hath been duly applied in repairing these Roads, and that great Progress hath been made therein; but by reason of the many heavy wagons and carriages passing through the same, they are very bad in the winter season. He said that proper materials for repairing the Road lie at a great distance from some parts thereof, and cost 2s-6d or 3s a load, and that the Roads, being of a great length, cannot be effectually amended and kept in repair unless further provision be made for that purpose. Mr Henry Simeon, treasurer, added that £700 was borrowed on the Credit of the Tolls and had been laid out in the amending of the said Roads, and that £400, part of the Sum, with the interest thereof, is now due.

The Trust sought renewal of their powers in 1757. In evidence Mr Peter Hennell produced accounts of receipts and disembursments for 6 years past, whereby it appeared that there is no more than £114-2s-4d remaining in hand towards defraying expenses and keeping the road in repair. When the trust powers were renewed in 1778, the financial position was still precarious and Martin Annesley esq. informed the committee that the trustees had debts of £1500 that could not be paid off unless the powers were continued.

In 1785 the trust’s responsibilities over the roads closest to Reading would have been modified to take account of the Reading Improvement Act. The Act of 1822 redefined the turnpike as from the bottom of a certain street called Scivier otherwise Silver Street between the premises belonging to the Blue Coats School and a house in the occupation of William Brooker in the Parish of St Giles, to the Wheelers Shop on Shinfield Green and from the bottom of the street by the Kings Head Pond in St Giles through the village called Three Mile Cross and over two bridges adjoining to Sheepsbridge Mill in Swallowfield, which are the property of Timothy Hore Altaban Earle Esq. (and for the passage over the said bridges an annual sum is paid him) to a certain spot at the bottom of Chapel Street in the town of Basingstoke which adjoins the Aldermaston Turnpike. At Swallowfield the road had a junction with the northern spur of the Blackwater to Basingstoke Road that had been turnpiked in 1798. It joined Basingstoke to Aldermaston Road just north of its junction with the same Blackwater to Basingstoke Road.

The trustees were at pains to minimise the impact of tolls on local farmers. The 1822 Act made provision to charge extra tolls either side Swallowfield Bridge, except for carriages with grain going or returning from Sheepbridge Mill. Previous Acts had exempted wagons carrying chalk for manuring the fields but the toll collectors had found it difficult to distinguish this from other loads of chalk and so a half toll was to be levied on all chalk wagons.

The most important tollgate was just south of Reading. Initially the trust erected gates on the main road at Silver Street and on the alternative route down to the Bath Road at Red Lane (Fig 9.1b). Maps of 1760 and 1790 show the Silver Street tollhouse on the junction with Horn Street (Southampton Street), on the east side of the road. It was referred to both as the Silver Street Gate and the Whitley Gate during the late 18th century. This effectively controlled the two branches of the turnpike from Shinfield Green and Basingstoke and two roads down to the Kennet crossings. The second gate was at the top of Red Lane near the Whiteknights junction. This caught traffic going between Shinfield and the London Road. In 1827 the trust announced that it would move both these gates further south (RM). The Silver Street Gate was moved to Kings Head Hill and the Red Lane Gate to Whiteknights Park. Subsequent Maps indicate that the main gate, now known as Whitely Gate, was only a little further south of the junction and the Whiteknights Gate seems to have disappeared. It is noted that the parish had taken responsibility for Red Lane by 1840. The OS map shows a gate at Sherfield on Loddon where the river provided a convenient barrier to evasion, but this may have been erected late in the 19th century. The third of the original gates, Basing Gate, controlled the approaches to Basingstoke. A reference to the Old Basing Toll house in the sale of assets of 1870 mentions that this ground had been in the possession of the trust since 1833. This suggests that the gate may have moved a small distance to deal with changes in traffic during the early 19th century.

The Whitely Gate at the Reading end consistently took more tolls than the other gates but despite this, the trust was administered from Basingstoke by solicitors such as Martin Annesley and Edward Vines. This further illustrates the significance of the road in providing an export route for produce from Hampshire.

9.2 Roads from Aldermaston Great Bridge

A spur from the Bath Road to Aldermaston Bridge had been repaired by the Reading to Speenhamland trust since 1728. There had also been a turnpike between Reading and Basingstoke since 1718. Consequently it is not immediately apparent why local inhabitants should incur the costs of two Acts to turnpike a network of lanes south of the Kennet Bridge in Aldermaston (Fig 9.2a). The most obvious driver was the flow of heavy carrier traffic heading for the River Kennet Navigation at Aldermaston. The same pressure that made the Basingstoke to Reading Turnpike one of the earliest in the area probably applied to this new route, as navigation long the middle reaches of the Kennet was improved. In the 1770s there was a national surge of turnpiking of secondary roads, connecting the main arterial routes and these roads to Aldermaston are firmly in that category. The Puntfield trust had turnpiked the road down to Pangbourne providing a link to Oxford over Shillingford Bridge. The Aldermaston roads continued this route southwards towards Southampton. The first turnpike road south from Aldermaston was the old highway to Whitchurch (Hants), turnpiked by an Act of 1770. The second initiative two years later covered a rather complex network of lanes between Aldermaston and Basingstoke.

9.2.1 Whitchurch to Aldermaston

This route brought traffic from northeast Hampshire to the wharves on the Kennet. It is a natural route from the Thames valley into central Hampshire and so would have been an historic highway that saw an increase in traffic as more grain was carried towards the markets in Reading and London. It branched from the Andover, Whitchurch to Newbury turnpike just north of Whitchurch and was specified as from the north end of Barehill Street in Whitchurch, through Kings Clere and Aldermaston to Aldermaston Great Bridge. Later Acts specified this as from the junction with the Whitchurch to Newbury Turnpike to the Butts Public House on the Reading Turnpike in Aldermaston Parish.

The initiative for this road was centred in Kingsclere and after the Act was passed in early 1770 the first meeting of trustees was at the house of William Waite, the White Swan in Kingsclere. The trustees moved quickly to take tolls and improve the highway. In May 1770 they met to consider where two tollhouses were to be erected and to approve the tender by John Adcock to build the Clerken Green Gate on the Andover Road (this latter suggests that the same trustees dealt with the Basingstoke to Andover Trust which had the gate at Clerken Green). In June they received estimates for making the road. The Act specified the maximum tolls to be charged but the trustees clearly thought that these initial charges to drovers were inappropriate since within a few months of operation they announced that the actual toll on sheep and lambs was to be reduced from five pence a score to two pence a score.

The trust was never very well-off and paid its clerk only £7 and treasurer only 2 guineas per year (BRO). It was unable to pay its solicitor for obtaining the renewal of the Act in 1834; William Holding of Kingsclere who was later the treasurer accepted a bond at 5% interest to cover his charges. The finances were not helped in 1842 when the trust reduced its tolls from four pence to three pence per horse and Richard Stroud who initially leased all the gates, defaulted on his agreement and abandoned the gates. The trust summoned him before the Justices but it took a further two years before it recovered only £20 from Stroud in the Insolvent Debtors Court. By 1849 the tolls were clearly insufficient to pay for maintenance of the road (BRO) and the Justices ordered that the Parishes paid Composition money from their Highways rate. This amounted to £118 in the first year and £85 in the next, against an annual income of only £105 from tolls.

The most southerly of the two tollgates was at White Hill above Kingsclere. The second main gate was at Ashford Hill west of Aldermaston. The trust was not permitted initially to construct a gate on the northern side of Aldermaston but in 1834 a new Aldermaston Gate was built between Aldermaston Great Bridge and Frouds Lane. William Wy the gatekeeper at White Hill was ordered to put a chain or bar across the road immediately and the trustees instructed William Goswell to construct a new gate with a turnstile in the same pattern as that at White Hill. This gate appears to have been built close to Aldermaston Bridge. Until the gate could be let, the trust paid its existing lessees Messrs Hyde and Prior to keep the gates on their behalf. In 1848 a side bar was erected at the Aldermaston Gate and allowed the gatekeeper £15 compensation if it was not enacted quickly (BRO). Other construction work on behalf of the trust was the building of a new brick bridge over the stream near Ashford Hill in 1827 (RM).

9.2.2 Aldermaston to Basingstoke

This trust administered a network of roads southwards from Aldermaston towards Basingstoke. At the southern end, between Popham Lane and Sherborne St John, it included part of the old Roman road from Silchester to Winchester, over the Downs. It is likely that this was still used as a drove road branching off from the Harrow Way and may have brought some heavy traffic over the watershed into the Kennet valley.

In 1772 a petition of the gentlemen, clergy, freeholders and inhabitants residing in towns of Aldermaston and Basingstoke was presented; Setting forth that

(a) -the Road leading from a place called Cross Lanes on the west side of Aldermaston Park through Tadley, Pamber End and Sherborne St John to Basingstoke Market House,

(b) -and from the top of Holy Ghost Hill to Rooks Down Gate in parish of Basingstoke and Sherborne St John;

(c) and from Sherborne St John by a farm rented by William Wix across Lilly Down, through Monks Sherborne wood to a pond called the Round Pond and from Tadley Hill, to a boundary mark called The Imp, or Nymph stone between the parishes of Aldermaston and Mortimer Silchester and Pamber;

(d) -and also the Road from the west end of one of the said Cross Lanes on the west side of Aldermaston Park, called Burnhams Lane, through Baughurst, and over Stony Heath, Rooks Down and Basingstoke field to join the Turnpike Road leading from thence to Andover;

(e) -and from the south side of the said Turnpike Road over Basingstoke down to join the Turnpike Road from Basingstoke to Winchester at Popham Lane;

(f) -and from the New Inn at Baughurst Lane End, to join the Turnpike Road leading from Aldermaston to Kings Clear, near a post called the Hampshire Post,

are ruinous and narrow and cannot be effectually repaired by laws now in force.

Sections (a) to (c) were referred to as the First Division, sections (d) to (f) as the Second Division.

Evidence to prove these allegations was provided by Richard Chickley Plowden and George Woodward Grove, who said Baughurst Lane to West Heath on Road from Aldermaston to Popham Lane was particularly bad. This section linking the two main branches was added to the Second Division when the Act was passed. The first meetings of both Divisions were at the Hinds Head, Aldermaston, and much of the trust’s administration seems to have been centred on Aldermaston, although the first clerk to both Divisions was Charles Best of Basingstoke. The trust was given new powers and altered tolls in 1794, when it had debts of £3255. The two Divisions operated autonomously and this proved to be quite wise since the Second Division seems to have developed serious problems that verged on the corrupt.

The First Division seems to have worked conscientiously, albeit slowly to improve their highway. In May 1775, three years after the Act, it announced that the road is near completed and opens communications by turnpike roads across the Country from Portsmouth and Southampton to Oxford and Birmingham through Wallingford (RM). The First Division administered the eastern branches of the turnpike and had turnpike gates at Pamber End north of Sherborne St John and at Holy Ghost Hill (sometimes called Chapel Hill) on the high ground just north of Basingstoke. A minor gate may have been created at Chinham in the 19th century. The trust did not raise large amounts of money from its tolls but seemed to function openly and efficiently.

The Second Division administered the western branches of the turnpike and had gates at Worting where it crossed the Basingstoke to Whitchurch road and at Baughurst south of Aldermaston. In 1775 it announced that tolls on broad wheel waggons were to be halved and at the same time met at the White Hart, Worting, to agree composition and Stature Labour in lieu of this with the parishes through which the road passed. However, from this point the trust seems to have run into problems. When central government began to enquire more closely into turnpike trusts in the early 1820s it emerged that this Division of the Aldermaston to Basingstoke Trust had been seriously mismanaged and the trustees had failed to exercise their responsibilities. The road had become the private fiefdom of two local gentlemen and all public scrutiny had ceased. Whether this was benevolent paternalism, incompetence or fraud was not clear but since the problems only became apparent when the two perpetrators were dead it is likely that their peers covered up any potential scandal. A report in 1823 (BRO) revealed that by 1775, soon after the 1770 Act, the Second Division had borrowed a large amount from Sir Robert MacKreth; no one was sure but it was at least £1600. Interest was only paid for the first 3 years and between 1784 and 1818 the trustees never met and no records were kept. It was reported that Sir Robert had been in possession of the tollhouse gate at Baughurst and never rendered an account until his death in 1818. A similar arrangement existed at the Worting Gate where Mr Thomas Limbrey Sceater Matthew received some of the tolls payable. In 1823 the new trustees were presented with an account from Henry William MacKreth, representing the late Sir Robert, claiming a balance of £2144. The representative of Mr Sceater had claimed £571 a little earlier. The issue took ten years to resolve when the trustees agreed that the principal outstanding to Mr MacKreth was £482 and to Mr Sceater was £200. However, the accumulated interest put the total debt to both men up to £1365. The chairman at the crucial meeting in 1833 was W.L Sceater, suggesting that the old guard was still in charge. When the toll income was published it was clearly raising less than the adjoining First Division Road; the Second Division raised £58 in 1830 and only £32 in 1845 (without allowing for arrears of tolls from 1844).

No milestones are recorded on any of these roads, a further indication of inept management and lack of resources. In retrospect these routes did not warrant the expense of turnpiking and would have been better left to parochial control.

10 Improvements in Reading

10.1 The Streets

10.1.1 The early arrangements

Like most market towns, maintenance of the streets in medieval Reading had been reliant on ad hoc repairs and charitable bequests. In 1550 it was said that the streets were paved with flints and rounded stones (Coates 1802). Speed’s map of 1610 shows that Tudor Reading spanned both banks of the Kennet (Fig 10.1a). On the south side St Giles Street and London Street ran down to the two main river crossings at Seven Bridges and Duke Street Bridge. On the north bank was the Abbey and Castle Street leading westwards. On the road to Caversham Bridge there was no development beyond the Priory at the end of Old Street (St Mary Butts). The town, bounded on three sides by the rivers, had inherently muddy streets despite the rivers being bridged. The Abbey must have assisted in keeping the approach to its precincts along Duke Street in good repair but after the Dissolution there was a period when the street received little care. Dr Lloyd in 1641 suggested that Bishop Laud’s charity might be used to assist in maintaining the streets. He proposed that the fines (after the first) may be expended every eighth year, upon pitching the streets with stones, and the bridge, and so successively repair these and the near highways(Coates 1802). It is not clear whether this was achieved or whether the parishes still relied solely on Statute Duty to make good the damage caused by traffic coming into the market or passing down the Great Road to Bristol.

In 1724 John Watts, a benefactor of the town and the first proprietor of the Reading Mercury, started a subscription for repairing the road from Reading to Caversham, being 2721 feet of road from Pottman Brook Bridge to Caversham Bridge (Coates 1802). This is the section of the Caversham Road leading to the bridge from Friar Street. It was claimed that the road lay lower than the Thames at low water and so at every flash from the Western Locks, which is usually twice a week, the road was filled proportionally to the greatness of the flash, in so much that sometimes it caused horses to swim and in times of flood rendered it impassable for a month or six weeks together, to the great prejudice of the market and trade of Reading.

The heavy traffic on the main through road from London to Bath did not actually pass through the Market Place but could followed the London Road, across Crown Lane or Church Lane, into Horn Street and over Severn Bridges up to Castle Street. The turnpike Acts of the early 18th century had provisions to repair these sections of the Bath Road within the parishes of Reading. However, the streets around the market and centre of the town were the responsibility of the Parishes alone. Rocque’s map of 1760 shows the town had only expanded slightly since Speed’s map with development still restricted by the Thames floodplain to the north but some new properties along Pangbourn Lane (Fig 10.1b). In 1760 the Corporation opened up some of the areas of Medieval encroachment on the Market Place by demolishing a row of houses between Sun Lane and Back Street to create King Street (Phillips 1980). This at least improved access for coaches over High Bridge to inns such as the George but it was still difficult to pass freely from here to the Bear Corner junction on the Bath Road (Fig 10.1c).

10.1.2 Reading improvement

Later in the century, in a mood of increasing municipal pride and self-reliance the Corporation obtained The Reading Paving Act. This provided a more appropriate means of dealing with paving, lighting and cleaning the urban streets. The bill had been opposed by a substantial portion of the population who saw increased costs and no apparent improvement to their traditional businesses. However, it was passed and in August 1785 the Paving Commissioners had the first stone laid ceremonially outside the home of Mayor John Dean in Castle Street (Phillips 1980). Instead of levying tolls for use of the road, residents and tradesmen paid fixed rates to have the streets maintained. The rates also covered the lighting and the work of the scavenger who kept the streets clean. This alternative means of finance was eventually to be favoured by the residents who pressed for removal of turnpike gates from the margins of the town as the urban development continued. The responsibilities of the turnpike trusts were clearly specified; the Shillingford Road ending at Prospect Street, the Basingstoke Road at the bottom of Silver Street, the Theale Road on Castle Street and the Hatfield Road at the north end of Caversham Bridge. The improvements made by the Paving Commissioners are marked by Robertson in 1792 who described the streets as spacious and well paved.

The Commissioners for Paving and Lighting the Town of Reading let out contracts to provide the routine services of lighting and collection of waste. In August 1798 (RM) they met at the Upper Ship Inn to contract with the lowest bidder for Lighting for a term of 3 years. There are 170 lamps to be lighted from 19th Sept to 29th March in each year, exclusive of the 4 days before the day of the full moon, and the day of and one day after the full moon and for keeping the said lamps in repair which lamps are required to contain one wick of 24 threads to burn for 12 hours. In December of the same year (RM) they met to appoint a scavenger who would attend with cart and bells twice each week in Duke Street, High Street, East End of Friar Street to Hog Lane, Cross Street, Fisher Row, Browns Hill, Butchers Row, Minster Street, Gun Street and once in the week in all other parts of the town.

The extent of the town lighting clearly grew so by July 1818 the contract covered 235 lights (RM). In April 1818 the Commissioners had called for tenders to relay the existing paviers, stating that the contractor should amend with new where wanted and that old stones were to be taken to Maynards wharf for coping and squaring. The responsibilities of the Scavengers contract were summarised in an advertisement for the tender in July 1833 (RM). They were to cleanse all the streets, lanes, public passages and places within the Borough (the main streets were listed including those on the turnpike such as Horn Street, Bridge Street and Castle Street that were not o the earlier tender and Oxford Road). The streets were to be swept and cleansed twice a week and the Scavenger was entitled to all the manure collected. Under the Paving Commission the Borough also contracted out watering of the streets. This was done during the 4 summer months, the Commissioners providing the water cart. By 1840 the job of watering the streets had increased in area and was now done between March and October The Corporation providing five water carts, two each for the streets in St Mary’s and St Giles and one for St Lawrence’s Parish (RM). Water standards had been installed at nine places including Russell Street near the Oxford Road, Castle Hill and Eldon Road near Swiss Cottage. The scavenger’s job had also grown to include all gutters, cleaning cesspools and receivers. Although general cleansing was still required for two days (a Saturday and one other) the contractor had to sweep daily all public crossings in the borough together with the bridges (RM).

Illustration made in the early 19th century show the roads approaching Reading were relatively wide with space to allow vehicles to pass each other on Castle Street and London Road (Fig 10.1d). The streets appear rutted suggesting that they were gravel rather than paviers and the illustration of Castle Street shows the scavenger scraping the road by hand. Red Lane appears rural (Fig 10.1e) and the London Road has a flock of sheep being driven towards the town centre (Fig 10.1f). Houses were demolished and rebuilt to improve access on the corner of King Street and Minster Street in 1828 (RM). A more radical solution was needed to relieve the bottle-neck at Crown Corner. In Nov 1828 the trust considered demolition of selected properties throughout the central area for the purpose of widening and improving the streets, lanes and public passages (RM). A letter to the Mercury referred to the demolition of property in Horn Street, near the Red Lion. This improvement of the street layout continued into the next decade. In 1834 Kings Road and Queens Road were created to provide more convenient access to the both sides of the river from the London Road (Phillips 1980) (Fig 10.1g). This may reflect the extent to which the centre of Reading itself had become the terminus for coaches and that the town was no longer just a stop on the Bath Road. Ironically by the end of this decade the coaching trade had finished and the railways made Reading a hub on their new transport network.

10.2 The Kennet Bridges

The bridges over the Kennett were crucial for the town. Seven Bridges was a much easier crossing to maintain and upkeep of the road over the bridge was the responsibility of the turnpike trust. Duke Street Bridge was of necessity a larger structure since it crossed the full width of the Kennett in a single stream. It had been the main access to the Abbey and was more important for the business of the town since it led traffic into the Market area. In 1787 an elegant stone bridge replaced the old timber bridge by which London Street crossed the Kennet. High Bridge, that still carries traffic today, cost the Corporation £3500 to build (Phillips 1980). The shift of focus from Reading as a stop on the road to being an urban centre of some importance with its own market centre decreased any need to improve Severn Bridges and the High Bridge became the principal crossing of the river.

10.3 Caversham Bridge

Although the Thames crossing was not central for the development of Reading it was an additional benefit and this crossing was crucial for any road onto the north bank of the Thames. The first bridge at Caversham and the associated chapel of St Anne on the bridge were probably built early in the 13th century (certainly before 1231; Phillips 1981). Alms collected by the chapel were used to maintain the bridge that Leland described as being of timber, resting mostly on timber and in some places stone (Toulmin Smith 1964). Ecclesiastical administration of the bridge ended at the Dissolution and what was to be a long running dispute broke out over whether Reading or Oxfordshire should maintain the structure. An Elizabethan Charter in 1559 recognised the ruinous state of the bridge and the Queen donated 50 oaks and 200 loads of stone from the Abbey ruins to its repair (Phillips 1981). The bridge was a strategic target during the Civil War and several spans were broken and a drawbridge installed in 1642. Rectifying the damage at minimum cost created the ramshackle section. A similar fate had befallen Wallingford and Abingdon Bridges and although the latter was quickly repaired at Wallingford, the repairs were not adequately completed until 1751 (RUTV5) and this hiatus contributed to the decline of the town. Reading, less dependent on trade crossing the Thames was clearly not so seriously disadvantaged by the poor crossing of the Thames. Illustrations from the 18th and 19th century show a higgledy piggledy mix of arches in brick, stone and timber with the gap where the drawbridge had stood on the Reading side (Fig 8.3a). Substantial repairs were required in 1815 and in 1846 Reading Corporation moved to construct a new bridge and abolish the tolls. However, it was not until 1869 that a new cast iron bridge was opened.

Part C: Operation of Turnpikes

11 The Men who ran the Turnpikes

Administration and functioning of turnpike trusts was organised locally. At the top of this hierarchy were the trustees who were responsible for strategic issues. The officers who undertook the detailed administration of the trust were the clerk treasurer and surveyor. The toll collectors and roadmen were local men who worked along the highway.

11.1 Trustees

Trustees were named in the Act under which the trust was created and the Act made provision to replace trustees who may retire or die. The list of trustees often had more than a hundred names, some beginning with a few aristocrats followed by several gentlemen, landed gentry, merchants, professionals and some of the more substantial tradesmen from the parishes and towns through which the road ran. The vicars and parsons of the parishes were generally included as well as particular office holders such as Justices of the Peace for the Counties, the Corporation of the town and bridge trusts. The trustees met within a couple of weeks of the Act being passed and then quarterly (or half yearly) to oversee the running of the turnpike. They were empowered under the Act to set tolls, decide the position of gates, payments for service and direct the officers of the trust such as the clerk and the surveyor. One of the trustees acted as chairman at meetings, but the job often seems to have fallen regularly to one person of some authority. Acts generally made clear that no decisions could be taken unless a minimum number of trustees were present (often this quorum was 5). The first few meetings were well attended but as time passed attendance became thinner and meetings were more likely to be adjourned because insufficient trustees were present. In the 18th century the chairman tended to be a local aristocrat and gentlemen were the most active trustees. During the 19th century, the number of active trustees was generally much smaller and there was a higher proportion of clerics.

Some trustees were professional men with legal skills and so could take a leading role in official enquiries or dealings with the legislature. For instance Thomas Eyre, a trustee, investigated the fraudulant actions of Mr Mitchell, the Colnbrook surveyor in 1728. Thomas Eyre (perhaps the son) was heavily involved in the application to Parliament for a new Colnbrook Act in 1766. His professional services and out of pocket expenses were chargeable, although it took the trust a year to settle his account of £300, albeit he was paid some interest on it.

The trustees viewed their activities as a civic duty, although in the early years there were some “perks” e.g. the Colnbrook trustees were exempt from paying tolls. Direct financial benefits may have been forbidden but individual landowners, merchants and carriers clearly benefited from the improvement in trade that good roads brought. Trustees were not to make money from their positions and certain trades were excluded; for instance the Windsor Forest Trust stated that no victualler shall hold any place of profit, nor persons retailing liquors of any kind allowed to act as trustees or hold any office or collect tolls (Heelas 1939). Notwithstanding this, a brewer was one of the main trustees. Trustees did loan money to the turnpike trusts. Many of the Wokingham trustees of the Forest Road loaned between £50 and £100 at 5%, on the credit of the tolls. The treasurer William Trunbull and Lord George Beauclerk had lent £500 and £200 respectively. Although direct support was important, it was the influence that gentlemen had on the operation of the road that was often sited as their greatest contribution. The poor decision made by the Basingstoke & Hertfordbridge Trust in the 1750s was put down to the lack of influence of men of property and the short-sightedness of tradesmen (See Section 6). Priest (1810) said that the principal cause of bad roads was the want of the residence of country gentlemen and the number of dairy farms. He argued that gentlemen insisted on good roads and the execution of road labour whereas dairy farmers did not have to use heavy corn waggons and so conspired to avoid spending on road improvement. The area beside the Bath Road certainly had plenty of gentlemen who did not want to get their coats muddy and who were keen to see road improvement.

11.2 Officers

Officers of the trust had particular responsibilities to make the turnpike road function. They were often named in public notices and official records; Appendix 3 lists the offices for the trust considered in Part B.

11.2.1 The Clerk & Treasurer

Professional expertise was required to guide the trust within its legal powers and to administer the substantial sums of cash generated directly or indirectly from the tolls and the mortgages on this income. Most trusts had at least two, part-time, salaried officials, the clerk who acted as chief administrator and a treasurer to handle the finance. In the early trusts one person acted as both the clerk and the treasurer, but concern over the lack of independence meant that by the 19th century trusts were specifically forbidden from having both functions performed by one person (e.g. Reading to Basingstoke Act of 1822).

The clerk to the trust was generally a local attorney. Several of these individuals were also active in promoting the creation of the turnpikes but if they took up paid positions on the trust, such as clerk, they could not be trustees. The clerk dealt with any legal issues, kept minutes of meetings and issued communications such as announcements in the newspaper and the posting of notices at the gates or at the courts. They were also involved in property transfers, chasing defaults on payments and formal notification to anyone who had offended against the Act by creating a nuisance or transgressing regulations. The post as clerk was only a part time task for a town solicitor and some individuals acted for several trusts. For instance in the 1770s, Richard Simeon (presumably of Reading) acted for the Reading to Puntfield and Maidenhead Trusts. In the 1780s James Payn (of Maidenhead) acted for the Maidenhead Trust and the Reading to Hatfield Trust. Some of these individual must have built up considerable experience, for instance for around 40 years from 1784, Richard Townsend of Newbury was clerk to the three important turnpike trusts that met at Speenhamland. This would have provided some informal co-ordination of actions by these trusts and certainly facilitated the restructuring of the Bath Road trusts in the 1820s.

The treasurers were individuals who were used to handling large amounts of cash. They had to deal with both the cash flow of income from the tolls and the expenditure on maintenance as well as managing the raising of capital through mortgages and loans. In the early days local innkeepers were often appointed as treasurers but in the early 19th century suspicions of corruption led to anyone selling beer being excluded from positions of authority and the role of treasurer passed to local bankers or attorneys. The treasurer had to give a bond before taking office. Three officers of the Speenhamland to Marlborough Trust, George Jones and Richard Townsend, gents, and Isaac King, wine merchant, gave bonds of £500 (BRO) and in 1773 Henry Bullock put up £1000 on taking up his post with the Colnbrook Trust at a salary of £20/a (GLA). This unusually large bond may reflect the fact that an earlier treasureer to this trust had absconded in 1752 with £900. Edmund Perchard of Windlesham gave a similar security in 1763 when he became treasurer for the Egham to Basingstone Road at a salary of only £10/a. Salaries such as these make it clear that acting as treasurer to a trust was only a part time job.

11.2.2 The Surveyor The local amateurs

The main expenditure for the trust was associated with the construction and maintenance of the roadway. All trusts appointed a surveyor who was paid to organise the labour and materials for work on the road. The surveyor had to account to the trust for the expenditure and was directed to make particular improvements by the trustees. Each of the parishes still had a responsibility to perform a portion of their Statute Labour on the turnpike and the surveyor organised this. The local Justices acted as arbiters on the amount and in 1726, for instance (GLA), decreed that, based on the length of road passing through each parish along the Bath Road each should perform between three and one day of their six days of Statute Duty on the Colnbrook Turnpike Road. The trust’s surveyor could take a more co-ordinated approach to the whole stretch of road than was the case with parish surveyors. However, in the 18th century there was little understanding of what was required for a good road structure and few surveyors had the expertise in civil engineering to make the necessary improvements. As late as 1754 a correspondent to the Gentleman’s Magazine complained that the roadmakers were no more than yeoman farmers and gentlemen’s bailiffs.

Some surveyors could not be trusted with the considerable funds involved with these large enterprises. A clear example of how the new trusts opened up to scrutiny the cosy life of the old Parish system is the case of John Mitchell, the first surveyor on the Buckinghamshire section of the Colnbrook Turnpike Road. In Dec.1728, 18 months after its formation, the Colnbrook Trust dismissed Mr John Mitchell for a combination of fraud and reckless disregard for the guidance of the trustees. The Trust’s minutes record that two trustees, Thomas Eyre and Thomas Parr, examined into the reality of Mr Mitchell’s pretended account and sought to distinguish what the said Mr Mitchell had done with and what he had done without direction. It appears that the surveyor had employed large numbers of men and teams, at great expense, contrary to the specific instructions of the trustees, and at a time when the trust finances were fragile. Worse still, he had claimed payments for the work of teams at a very unfortunate time of the year when some days were so wet as to be impossible for the work by him charged for such pretended labour to be performed. Fiddles that were tolerated under the Parish System were not so easily hidden from the gentlemen of the turnpike trust and Mitchell was not only dismissed but the account for his own teams was not paid; having teams suggests that he was at least a substantial local farmer and the fraud was not a simple oversight. The trust subsequently continued for some time with only one surveyor, Mr Goodwin the original surveyor of the Middlesex section of the road (CRO). Goodwin prospered and in 1768 was given an additional £20/a on his salary (ie doubling it) as recompense for his great honesty, skill and diligence in the reparation of the new roads, and for the saving to the Trust by his frugality in conducting the same.

The Windsor Forest Trust paid its surveyor Nathaniel Basnett a salary of £30/a in the 1760s and James Fife on the Egham Road received a similar amount in 1763. This was a little more than the toll gatherers but hardly the salary of a professional. On the busier roads the surveyor was soon recognised as an important official and the Colnbrook Trust progressively increased the salary of their surveyor from £20/a to Matthias Goodwin in 1727, £50/a to William Burcombe in 1762 and £70/a to William Glover in 1773. The post of surveyor to a trust must have been regarded as a lucrative and prestigious post for a practical person. In 1784 three men, two with existing experience as road surveyors, openly solicited through newspaper adverts (RM) for the post of general surveyor to the Reading to Hatfield Trust. Professional surveyors

By the late 18th century professional road surveyors were being appointed and they began to introduce better engineering techniques into the construction and maintenance of the roadway. Dependence on the local Statute Labour was reduced as income from tolls allowed the surveyor to place contracts for purchase of labour and materials from commercial suppliers (Fig 11.2a). This made it easier for the surveyor to require work to be performed when it was needed and to improve standards of workmanship. However, the money paid by trusts was not sufficient to attract full time engineers. In evidence to a Parliamentary Committee (PP) considering the consolidation of trusts in 1836 it was said that A surveyor appointed at £60-80/a for a trust of 8 miles cannot afford to look after that trust. He is paid merely to ride it once or twice a year and his duty given over to one of the labourers who does the best he can. There ought to be one for 100-200 miles and his whole attention devoted to it. Most trusts in this area contained 20-40 miles and so the normal surveyors were likely to be either only partly qualified or working for more than one trust to maintain their income. There is evidence that in the 1830s, William Winkworth was surveyor on both the Reading to Basingstoke and the Shillingford to Reading turnpikes, Charles Harding acted on both the Maidenhead and Hurley Trusts and James Pearson was surveyor for the two trusts either side Speenhamland.

However, the surveyor only organised the road work, the labour on the roads was done by teams of labourers. Initially these were parishioners performing Statute Duty but as the trusts prospered they were able to employ day labour and teams as needed. The practice of contracting the work grew in popularity in the late 18th and early 19th century (see adverts in Figs ). This apparently put the work in the hands of a dedicated roadmen but Mavor (1809) complained that in many places the baleful practice of letting roads by contract per mile prevails; here the contractor does as little as he can help for his money; the result was neglect of all but essential work. Mavor believed that the only effectual means of improving or keeping up a road is to have an honest and intelligent surveyor at a suitable salary, whose business is to superintend the whole line, pay the labourers, to call out Statute Duty, observe the directions of the Commissioners and to be responsible to these. He should have foremen at the increased pay of 1/6 to 2 shillings extra per week over every group of 4 or 5 men along the road, who is to labour with them to see that they should do their duty. Whether such good practice spread to all the turnpike roads in Berkshire is not clear!

The great improvements in road construction in the early 19th century were implemented through professional surveyors such as Sir James McAdam. He was chief or general surveyor on almost all the main roads radiating westwards from London. McAdam dealt with most of the Bath Road, sections of the Exeter Road through Hertford Bridge, Egham and Staines, the Gloucester and Worcester Road through Beaconsfield, Wycombe, Henley, Oxford and Abingdon and the Reading to Hatfield Road. He acted as a consultant civil engineer relying on locally appointed surveyors who he may have trained, to implement the new designs. His two sons were frequently installed temporarily as working surveyors on particular sections of road to ensure the great mans methods were properly implemented. In evidence to Parliament in 1823 (PP), William McAdam, son of James, said that he worked under contract as a servant of the trust and was not involved in financial matters. He had met his target of keeping repair costs on the Newbury Road to under £50/mile/a and used no Statute Labour. Although the poor of Speenhamland dug gravel in the winter to provide them with employment, the trust paid for this gravel.

11.3 Toll Collectors

11.3.1 Early toll gatherers

A person had to be present at the gate to collect the tolls from travellers. In the early 18th century most trusts employed the toll gatherer directly and paid him (in the early days it was normally a man) a weekly wage to collect tolls at the gate and issue tickets to travellers. During the 18th century the Colnbrook Trust and the Egham to Basingstone Trust, each appointed two toll collectors and one supernumerary to staff their single tollgate. These men would attend the gate, presumably in 12-hour shifts to cover the gate both day and night and the supernumerary was retained to cover when the full time collectors were indisposed. It is unlikely that all these men lived in a single tollhouse and presumably at this early period there was no more than a shelter or small office at the gate and the collectors lived elsewhere. The Colnbrook Trust paid its collectors 10s per week in 1727 and in 1763 the Egham Trust paid 11s per week inclusive of coal and candles. The Windsor Forest Trust also paid its gatekeepers directly: Thomas Doe, Aaron Dowle, Thomas Collins, R Staniford and Thomas Alwright at Loddon Bridge, Copped Beach, Blacknest, Sandford and Sindlesham respectively, were paid 8/- per week during the 1760s. This was taken from the toll receipts and represented a significant proportion of the gate receipts; e.g. at Loddon Bridge the average toll income was £2-8s per week. The status of mere collector may have declined over the century since in 1852, when the Shillingford Bridge Gate was temporarily taken on by the Trust, they still only paid John Potts 8s/week to collect tolls for them. However, it seems more likely that from the late 18th century more substantial tollhouses were built and these provided the toll-collector and his family with accommodation as part of the job.

Nonetheless, tollhouses were often built remote from villages or towns and such isolated positions made them attractive targets for robbers who knew significant amounts of cash might be kept there. In 1729, two highwaymen seized the keeper of the Colnbrook Turnpike while he was opening the gate. They bound him, searched the house and took upwards of 40 shillings and served most of the Turnpikes on the Henley Road the same (RM). Benjamin Harvey was given £2-18-3 by the trustees in consideration of being robbed on duty in April 1768 when his silver watch and 8/9 of his own money were taken. It is not clear whether the murder of gatekeeper Joseph Pierce at Colnbrook in 1782 occurred while he was on duty.

The toll charges were often complex, depending on the number of horses drawing, the type of vehicle, width of the wheels, time of year, whether the vehicle was for hire, whether it had a ticket clearing it from other gates or was in an exempt category. Hence a toll collector needed a reasonable level of numeracy and literacy to read documents and take money. For a poor but educated man or woman with a family the accommodation in the tollhouse was no doubt a valuable perk in addition to the wages.

A series of adverts in the Reading Mercury of Dec 1754 illustrate that toll gathering for a trust was a desirable occupation in the 18th century and that it was a trade that involved the whole family. Contenders for the post of Toll Collector at the Whitley Turnpike Gate on the southern outskirts of Reading placed adverts in the paper soliciting support from individual trustees. The trustees of the Reading to Basingstoke Turnpike Trust announced that they would meet on Monday, 30th Instant December at 4 in the afternoon at the Three Tuns Tavern in Reading, when a Collector of tolls will be appointed in the room of Henry Poole, deceased. In the same newspaper, Henry Poole’s son appealed to The Gentlemen Commissioners of the Whitley Turnpike Reading.

As there will be soon a meeting to fill up the vacancy of a gatekeeper at the Whitley Turnpike, in the room of my late father deceased, and that office having been for many years, faithfully, diligently and humbly executed by our family, to the great satisfaction of the Trustees, and as I have frequently officiated at the gate, and thereby perfectly well acquainted with the Duty, I therefore humbly beg the favour of your vote and interest in my behalf, that I may succeed to that employ, in which I am so happy, I will by a constant application to my duty endeavour every thing in my power to give satisfaction, I am gentlemen, your obedient humble servant, Henry Poole.

An opposing advert was placed by John Bell who also wished to be gatekeeper in the room of Henry Poole, deceased. I humbly intreat the favour of your votes and interest to succeed him in that office, which if you are pleased to appoint me to do, so shall be executed with faithfulness and diligence

Gentleman your obedient humble servant, John Bell.

11.3.2 Heavy responsibilities

If collectors did not live up to the expected standard they could loose their job. In 1739 the Colnbrook Trust dismissed both its collectors saying John Gallimore hath not only been very negligent in his duty as collector or receiver of tolls but is incapable thereof – Thomas Hunt is also incapable and is discharged. Significantly, the trustees issued an order to the new gatekeepers that they will not suffer any tippling or gaming at the toll house: presumably Gallimore and Hunt had fallen under bad influence and could no longer be trusted to take tolls on behalf of the trust. In 1771 they dismissed another collector, Benjamin Harvey because he suffered the turnpike gate to continue open part of several nights and whereby carriages went through and did not pay the toll.

The scale of toll charges and exemptions were complex but a mistake in taking the toll could make a collector liable to prosecution. However, a public apology sometimes sufficed to placate the public as is illustrated by an advert in the Reading Mercury in 1782. In order to avoid prosecution, Thomas Eyre, the collector at the Hurley gate issued a public acknowledgement that he had taken a greater toll than the law authorises and promised never to do this again. A similar apology appeared from the gatekeeper at Twyford in 1800 (RM) after he had taken 6d, being an improper toll for one horse chaise tied at the tail of a waggon which was also paid. The toll man at Maidenhead Bridge Gate was less fortunate following an altercation with Wyatt’s Marlow coach. The coach driver refused to pay arrears of tolls and so the keeper slammed the side gate too as the coach tried to force its way through. The coach was overturned and the unfortunate tollman was fined by the Magistrates and sent to Reading Gaol when he refused to pay for risking the safety of unoffending travellers when he had a certain safe remedy (Searle 1830).

The toll collectors had responsibilities beyond just collection of money. Where weighing engines had been installed (see section 13.3) the toll collector (or the supernumerary collector) would weigh wagons suspected of being overweight and take the fines if appropriate. However, those fined for over-weight waggons were quick to retaliate if an error was discovered. In 1831 John Withers the collector at Colnbrook was fined £5 for charging the team of Mr Burnet of Winchester for 3t-15cwt when it was proved at the next weigh bridge to be 3t-10cwt (Searle 1930).

Gatekeepers also acted against those evading tolls; for instance there are records of individuals cited by the gatekeeper on the Windsor Forest Road. Aaron Dowle stated on oath that William Lyford had forcibly passed through his gate in Dec 1762, Thomas Spratley bilked the tollgate in August 1762 and each was fined £2. Francis Collins stated under oath that John Taylor, a servant of William Pitt (probably of Binfield; Heelas 1938) had driven a wagon with five horses not having fellies of the wheels 9 inches broad in Feb 1763 and was fined £5 A few days later William the servant of William Watts was fined for a similar offence at Loddon Bridge. Clearly there was a campaign on to enforce the provisions of the General Turnpike Act covering the weight of wagons and the width of wheels. With the weight of the magistrates behind them the trust were not easily defied. When Benjamin Harvey the Colnbrook Gatekeeper made a complaint against Henry Oakley of Windsor for refusing to pay the toll in 1769, Oakley readily acknowledged his fault to the trust and voluntarily paid £2 penalty required under the Act. In 1837 the gatekeeper a Bedfont, Thomas Shepherd, gave evidence against a group of irate travellers after a short revolt by travellers returning from Ascot Heath Races. The driver of Mr John Cobb’s coach not only refused to pay the back-toll but threw open the gate and detained the toll collector for an hour. Mr Bardell, an extensive omnibus and cab proprietor took over the gate while other stage coaches passed through. Cobb was fined £10 for evasion of tolls but this was subsequently mitigated to £2 (Searle 1930); there appeared to be little sympathy for the gate keeper.

No one likes to pay out money and toll collectors were never popular people. Dickens no doubt caught the sentiment of the times when in Pickwick Papers , published in 1837, he has Tom Wheller, the old coachman say of the collectors that they’re all on ‘em men as has met with some disappointment in life, consequence of vich, they retires from the world and shuts themselves up in pikes; partly with a view of being solitary, and partly to revenge themselves on mankind, by taking tolls. This inherent tension in dealing with users of the road is illustrated in the provisions of the Act for the Reading to Basingstoke Turnpike (1821) that required toll collectors to display their names at the gate, to prove their name when asked, not to unnecessarily delay passengers and forbade them to make use of any scurrilous, abusive or blasphemous language to any passenger, on threat of prosecution.

11.3.3 Toll farmers

By the 1780s many of the larger trusts had begun to farm out the toll gathering to specialist contractors. The lease to gather the toll was auctioned and the trust received a regular payment from the lessee. The lessee organised the collection of tolls and often then hired tollgate keepers to work at the gate. Lessees may have acted as toll gatherers and lived with their family in the prestigious accommodation at some of the more important gates. However, at most gates they would employ a pikeman to collect the tolls and would allow for this cost in their bid for the lease.

By the early 19th century, the financial function had become quite separate from the work of toll collection; these professional toll farmers are dealt with in section 12. The work of the pikemen they employed is described in evidence to a Select Committee in 1836 (PP). George Dacre said that collectors on the Middlesex and Essex Trust were paid 25s/week working 12-hour shifts between 6 am and 6pm. It required 13 to 14 men to stand at 9 gates. Some men worked extra half days; so that the wage bill was estimated to be £910 per year, though some lessees make do with less than 13. In country districts they do not change; they change by the week; they have a bed room and their wife lives with them and if there is little traffic the wife will collect the tolls for 3 or 4 hours in the evening, and there is a slack time in the night, when they are not called out of bed once in 2 or 3 hours; one man can do that without having a relief. A wage of 25s and a house was considered good money but it was necessary to keep a collector honest, otherwise they take a proportion. You break a man's rest so by having him on 24 hours. McAdam told the Committee that at smaller gates men may carry on some other trade and so presumably the wage was lower. It seems likely that trusts such as Colnbrook or Twyford & Theale paid the high wages and provided accommodation, but even medium sized trusts such as Shillingford appear to have paid lower wages (though its not clear whether the collector then took his proportion)

12 Turnpike Finance

12.1 Tolls

The Acts creating turnpike trusts gave detailed lists of toll charges that could be levied (Fig 12.1a). The basis for charging differed between trusts, particularly during the early period. In the early 18th century it as common for the toll to be based on the size and type of vehicle (coach or waggon pulled by 2, 4 or 6 horses). However, by the 19th century most trusts were making the toll charge on the number of horses, though there were differences in toll based on the type of vehicle and the width of the wheels (since narrow wheels were thought to cause particular damage to the road).

Appendix 5 gives a comparison of charges for various trusts around Reading at different periods. The toll charge per mile travelled varied and presumably reflected the costs the trust incurred in maintaining that section. For instance coach and four paid 6d on the road from Reading to Speenhamland and 9d from Speenhamland to Marlborough whereas a waggon paid slightly less ?? Tolls raised on one District of a road had to be applied solely to improvement of that section of road and so some trust levied a toll at each main gate. However, where a trust had several gates, a ticket bought at one would normally clear at least the next gate (e.g. on the Reading to Shillingford Road). The toll income at a particular gate did not necessarily reflect the number of vehicles passing through the gate but the number of tickets issued. Hence gates at the end of a road, particularly the end where most journeys started, generally showed higher income. Nevertheless there were very significant differences in the amounts paid at auction for the lease of tolls at particular gates (Appendix 2 lists typical prices paid for leases on the main gates in the area).

Trusts did not necessarily make full use of all the powers they were granted. For instance in 1852 the new Act for the Shillingford to Reading road allowed up to 6d to be charged per horse but at their first meeting the trustees approved a scale that levied only 3d per horse on coaches pulled by four horses, 4d on coaches pulled by two horses and 6d only on those pulled by one horse. In 1770 the Aldermaston to Whitchurch trust had halved the toll on sheep within a few weeks of establishing the turnpike road. Presumably these adjustments down in tolls reflected the local pressures under which the trustees worked. In 1818 the Twyford & Theale Trust reduced the tolls at Reading and Tidmarsh (RM) presumably under pressure at a time of economic depression.

All pictorial evidence shows that the current tolls were displayed on a board beside each gate. However, the first mention of a toll board does not appear in the Colnbrook Minutes until 1758 when it states that a board be fixed at the tollgate with particulars of the several tolls to be taken on waggons and carts.

12.2 Toll Income

12.2.1 Cash and Statute Labour

The income of a trust comprised money raised through the tolls and any contributions from the parishes through which the road ran. The former was generally cash, the latter may be payment in kind, as parish labour or teams to haul materials, or could be in cash. The contribution of labour or teams from each parish was set either in the Act or by the local magistrates. The fraction of the total Statute Labour assigned to the turnpike would depend on what length of road passed through the parish; unlucky parishes might have labour assigned to more than one turnpike. However, parishes might pay composition money, an agreed amount of cash in lieu of Statute work. In agricultural areas manual labour and carrying equipment were more easily found than in parishes close to urban areas. Phillips (1983) noted that the trusts in rural Wiltshire were entitled to Statute Labour well after those covering the roads in East Berkshire were allowing parishes to pay Composition money. The Reading to Puntfield Act gave the option of Stature Labour or composition whereas the renewal Act for the Maidenhead Trust in 1728 only offered the option of Composition. In 1764, Tilehurst parish agreed to pay six guineas as composition with the trustees of the turnpike road from Reading to Shillingford. The following year, after the first bridge had been built at Shillingford, the parish agreed nine shillings for each £50 in the parish of Tilehurst as a composition for 3 days Statute Work liable to be demanded of the said parish for their proportion of the said work on the road. This amounted to £18-9s a year (BRO).

For most trusts the most significant component of their income came from the tolls paid by travellers at the gates. In the early 18th century, trusts collected tolls directly and there very few records of this income since the money was transferred immediately to the surveyor to cover his costs. The Colnbrook Trust regularly had £300 left in the hands of the treasurer at the end of each quarter in the 1730-50 period and by the following decade this balance had doubled.

11.2.2 Leasing tolls

By the late 18th century when trusts were leasing the rights to collect tolls to a professional collector the records of auctioning of the lease provide a rather better record of the income the trusts got from tolls. Most trusts on the Bath Road were auctioning tolls by the middle of the 18th century. There is an ambiguous entry in the Colnbrook Minutes in 1736 concerning advertising letting the profits arising by the turnpike but the trust still employed gatekeepers directly. However; later examples clearly illustrate that the trusts were farming out toll collection; at Maidenhead by 1742 (though this may have been a short experiment), Newbury to Marlborough by 1751, Twyford by 1753; Reading to Speenhamland by 1763. Further, the Reading to Puntfield Act of 1746 specifically mentions the powers to let out the tolls. Nevertheless other roads such as the Egham to Basingstone Trust were still hiring toll gatherers in the 1750s. However, later in the century letting of tolls had become the norm and by 1787 trusts such as Reading to Hatfield and Hounslow to Basingstone were advertising the auctioning to tolls.

The lease was normally auctioned, annually or tri-annually, and the lessee would pay the agreed amount to the trust and then take the risk of recovering his costs in collecting the tolls, plus profit at the gate. The process was regulated by Act of Parliament to minimise the risk of corruption; the auctions were advertised and bids were taken over the period it took for a minute sand glass to run three times. The trustees decided the price at which the lease was to be put up, usually based on the value in previous years. For instance the Shillingford Trust put up the Bridge at £99 in 1852 and the bidding went up to £110. Occasionally there was no bidder and the auction was repeated some week later. Fig 12.2a illustrates this at Hurley Gate in 1775 but failed auctions became more common in the 1840s as toll income fell and lessees were put up at lower prices (e.g. on the Marlborough to Speenhamland Trust in 1845). Occasionally the gate was let by private treaty after failing to be let at the public auction.

The successful bidder had to put up two named individuals as security and pay a deposit on the lease. The residue was then paid monthly in advance. The trustees normally bought dinner for the bidders and no doubt other business was transacted while the party was at the inn. By the 1840s it is clear from the names of the sureties that there was a well-established network of mutually supportive Farmers of Tolls. There was some turnover of lessees but gates stayed in the same hands for several years (Appendix 4). The three minor gates on the Shillingford Road were let to Berkley Hicks from at least 1851-53, Joseph Porter for a sequence of years from 1855-73 and Thomas & William Gardiner had the Shillingford Bridge gate between 1863-73. Hicks used Henry Hewling a toll farmer from Wolverhampton as surety and Gardiner used Hewling as surety in1868; Hewling took the Bridge gate himself in 1862. Porter used William Rackley and Benjamin Lay, both toll farmers, as surety: the latter took the Bridge gate in 1858. Porter lived at the Botley Road Toll house in Oxford but leased gates on the main Oxford London Road at Stokenchurch. Hicks and Gardiner both leased gates on the Henley Road. The Hicks family illustrates how a network of mutual support spanned the area. Berkley Hicks leased the Hurley Gate in 1832 and appears to have stayed there until 1852/3 when he also leased the Pangbourne Gates. John Hicks, lessee of the adjoining Whitchurch Bridge tolls, was also a grocer in Oxford and acted as surety for Henry Howell at Shillingford Bridge Gate in 1862 and for William Hicks, farmer of tolls in 1873.

Despite the regulation, it is difficult to believe that there were not cartels in operation during the bidding. Even when a lease was let for a slightly higher price the lessee had the option to be released from it well before the three years had elapsed. For instance Joseph Porter returned his lease on two occasions in 1856 and 1863, each time retaking the lease at the subsequent auction for a significantly lower rent.

In evidence to a Parliamentary Committee in 1836 (PP), George Dacre the clerk to the Middlesex & Essex & Trusts said that there was no way of checking how much the lessees took at a gate. He believed that that Lewis Levy, who farmed a large number of tolls around London never even tells his partners what he receives. When the trust had temporarily taken the toll collection back into its own control, the income had actually fallen, it as presumed because of poor supervision of the toll collectors and corruption. He estimated that the cost of collecting the £15,000 of tolls from the public was £1000 (a full complement of pikemen would have wages of £910/a). After making allowance for the interest on the two months rent paid in advance, the toll farmer might make up to £300 on an outlay of £16,000. McAdam thought that the cost of toll collection in London was 2.5% of the takings but was considerably more elsewhere. Essentially the cost of employing the pikeman was fixed, whether he collected from a large number of coaches or only a few. Overall, the risks and organisational requirements to collect tolls directly were too great for most trusts and they preferred to lease to the toll farmers and let them take the risks.

12.2.3 The level of income

The published information on income from the lease of tolls enables us to estimate the relative importance of each of the trusts and the way their income and hence the traffic changed over time. Fig a, x, y and z summarise information on the total income from tolls for trusts dealt with in Part B. Fig 12.2 x-y plot the income per mile of turnpike. The overall picture is one of a steady increase in income from the time the records begin to around 1840 when railways begin to have an impact on road traffic (see discussion in Section 16.2). This rise may in part be due to a slow escalation of tolls but this is relatively small compared with the rise in traffic, both in volume and size of vehicle.

12.3 Loans & Capital

The trusts often borrowed heavily soon after they were created. The loans or mortgages were guaranteed against future income from tolls and the capital was employed to make immediate improvements to the road. The reason for individuals making these initial loans may have been a mixture of public duty and simple investment opportunity. In the early 18th century, an income from the interest on a loan to the turnpike would have appeared relatively safe and 4% or 5% interest an acceptable return. The trusts would only take up the new loans as they needed them and in the case of the Windsor Forest trust the debt was slowly increased over a period of almost three years as the expenditure of the surveyor required it. The initial loan in 1759 was of £100 from Samuel Trash and from Samuel Still and £500 from the treasurer William Trumbell. Additional loans of £100 each were made in 1760 by Lucy Hall, Thomas & Owen Hall, Charles Wate, Joseph Huse, Thomas Wilmott and Brian Leach. In 1761 Thomas Brooks, Edward Wise, James Edward Collerton and Samuel Still made loans of between £50 and £200, again. These names suggest that it was the local gentry and professional classes who were putting up the capital. Other Trusts did have more aristocratic bankers; e.g. Lord Albemarle lent £1000 to the Egham Road in 1763.

Some of the early loans may have been repaid relatively quickly. For instance in 1738 the Colnbrook Trust paid back a substantial loan of £2500 with interest at 5% to Mr Jonathan Rogers, only ten years after taking the money. The loan seems to have been replaced by capita from Thomas Eyre, one of the most active trustees, as in 1761 it was noted that Eyre had agreed to accept an interest rate of only £4 per cent on the loan of £2500 that had previously been £5%.

Most mortgage bonds were kept for many years and should have provided a steady return on the loan and a safe investment. This made them particularly attractive for risk-averse women and clerics. For instance in 1771 the bulk of the £1350 debt of the Puntfield Trust was against loans made by Elizabeth Blagrave, spinster (£600), Anne Ackworth, widow (£200), Elizabeth Deane, widow (£150) and the Rev John Spicer (£200). These investments were passed on through the family as exemplified by the case of Charles Wate who loaned two lots of £100 to the Windsor Forest Trust in 1760 and 1761. Surviving documents (BRO) show that the interest was paid at 5% till at least 1774. These four, sixtieth parts of the original £3000 debt was passed on as an inheritance through various family wills until in 1813 they were sold to John Horne for £180. It is clear that although no longer worth their face value (if they could ever be redeemed) they were still a reasonable investment. The first share was not redeemed until 1855 (and by then shares were rarely redeemed for face value) and the remaining three shares were auctioned in 1858. Bonds from turnpike trusts may have been a reasonable investment until the early 19th century and adverts such as that in 1833 for Turnpike Security to be sold by private treaty – a mortgage for £200 granted by the Commissioners of the Harwell Turnpike, could be found in local newspapers (RM). However, they became less attractive after toll income plummeted with the arrival of the railways. It was clear that the reduced income could never be sufficient to pay off the substantial debts of some trusts. The accounts of the Shillingford Trust suggest that in the 1850s it began to reduce the large debt, incurred in building the new bridge in the 1820s. However, examination of the minutes (BRO) shows that the trust was only paying part of the capital to redeem the mortgages. Each year up to £1000 was put up to pay off the loans but the mortgagees were selected either by a bidding process or by casting lots. For instance in 1853 the trust took the best offer of composition at £84% from Richard Dean a mortgagee of £600 who took £150 to discharge £178 of this debt. Later payments selected by lot were for between 80% and 95% of the face value of the debt. The Windsor Forest Trust seems to have adopted a similar approach and in an advert in March 1845 gave notice that a meeting of the trust would determine the expediency of paying off a portion of their mortgage debt by ballot amongst the several Creditors.

Some trusts borrowed unwisely prior to the collapse of income in 1840. A measure of a trusts financial health was the factor by which it could cover the cost of its debt by toll income. Fig 12.3a illustrates the extent of this cover for several trusts. It is clear that the trusts on the Bath Road were generally in a healthy financial state whereas some of the smaller trusts or those that had undertaken large engineering projects were seriously over-stretched and condemned to be a liable on the parishes at some future date.

12.4 Expenditure

The main outgoings for a trust were the cost of road maintenance (day labour, teams, stone and gravel), new construction projects, the salary of officials and the payment of interest on loans. During the period 1765 to 1769 the Colnbrook Trust, a relatively large trust, had a toll income of around £1150/a of which 35% was paid out for labour, 40% for gravel and carriage, 15% for tradesmen and the rest on salaries and interest. The parishes would have provided labour and teams as part of Statute Duty and gave access to local materials. Since the arrangements over Statute Duty varied between trusts it is difficult to do direct comparisons of true running costs. Expenditure became more visible in the 19th century as more parishes paid Composition money in lieu of Statute labour and the surveyor began to purchase services and materials from contractors. An advertisement in 1813 placed by the Bagshot to Basingstoke Trust was typical of the tendering arrangements that larger trusts used (Fig 12.4a). In a similar way to the letting of tolls, the trust put up for auction leases for the repairing of various sections of road. The lease was for 3 years and was on the basis of the rate per mile of road

13 Structures along the Road

13.1 Milestones

13.1.1 Stone Markers

Milestones are one of the most enduring features of the turnpike system. Stone direction posts and wooden finger posts had been erected at important junctions since at least the 17th century but putting stones at regular intervals began in the early 18th century. Local sourcing seems to have been very common and accounts for the variety of designs found over a relatively small geographic area. From the late 1740s Turnpike Acts normally obliged the trustees to erect stone at one-mile intervals giving the distance to the nearest town. These stones were protected from damage by provisions in the Act, the Reading to Puntfield Act of 1747 being typical: That if any person shall wilfully break down, pull sown, deface damage, or spoil any of the stones… or shall, obliterate any of the words, letters, figures or marks engraved or inscribed thereon… persons so offending shall forfeit or pay to the trustees… the sum of forty shillings. Milestones on the main roads into London from the west were measured from the Standard at Hyde Park Corner; i.e. to the edge of London. A traveller on the Bath road in 1767 commented on the roman numerals then carved on the stones and recommended that Arabic numbers would be more easily read at speed (RM). He also recommended that the stones be set on the north side of the road so they dried out more rapidly and moss did not obscure the lettering.

The Kensington Turnpike Trust seems to have led the way by erecting milestones about 1740. In 1741 the adjoining Colnbrook Trust instructed its surveyor t investigate the cost of having stones similar to those already erected as far as Cranford Bridge. The Colnbrook surveyor commissioned stones from a local stonemason, Mr Woodruff of Windsor (GLA). The first seven stones, erected in 1741, had Roman numerals and cost £2-8s each, the lowest tender. This was a good investment since some of the stones still survive, albeit recut. The original design, used by the Bath Road trusts between London and Reading was a simple stone pillar with square cross section and a pyramidal top (a good example still stands in Eton). However, in the 1820s the trusts recarved the stones in to different patterns. The Colnbrook stones were turned 45 degrees to give an up road and down road face that could be seen easily from fast coaches. A bench was cut into the front face to display the distance to London (rather than Hyde Park Corner) and the numbers were in Arabic form. The trusts closer to Reading chose designs that created up-road and down road faces by rounding the front edges of the pillar (Fig 13.1a). On the Exeter Road stones a slightly different orientation achieved the same effect. Since the original stones were used, the older inscription can still be seen on the back of some stones. One prominent example of a recut 1741 stone stands on the A4 roundabout at Langley whereas the 33 mile stone at Knowl Hill carries the remains of inlaid metal Roman numerals on the back.

One stone on the Speenhamland to Marlborough Road on Benham still carries the date of 1746. The original stone cost only £1 each (Philips 1983) and appears to have been a simple rectangular slab. In the 1820s these stones were turned 90 degrees and the sides faceted to give up-road and down-road faces.

The original mile markers on the Reading to Hatfield road were of stone. In 1770 the trust placed an advert calling on All stonecutters and others who are willing to erect milestones upon the turnpike road… are desired to deliver to the Trustees .. at their next meeting at the Town Hall Chipping Wycombe on 25th Sept.… estimates & proposals for erecting such milestones… and for marking thereon (by letters) such inscriptions as the trustees shall direct. About 50 stones will be wanted which may be contracted for together or in parcels. It will be agreeable to have estimates of stones of different kinds and dimensions. The Capital letters are to be 3 inches high and a quarter inch deep. Small letters in proportion. – The letters on the surviving stones are 6cm high; a little under 3 inches

The engraving on stones eroded, and letters needed recutting or stones replacing eventually. The Colnbrook Trust refaced and relettered the stones on the main road in 1768, painting the letters black. At the same time it erected new stones on the recently turnpiked branch road to Datchet. The letters and numbers on all these stones were repainted again in 1783. The same stones were turned and refaced in the 1820s and the letters were probably repainted regularly into the 20th century. Although milestones were a requirement in all turnpike Acts Mavor (1809) suggests that the less conscientious trusts, particularly those who put the maintenance of the road out to contract, did not keep the stones up to standard. He states that on some there is even a deficiency of milestones or they are illegible without the same trouble as deciphering a decayed monument. Finger posts too are frequently wanting at crossroads and entrances to villages are often without their name or distance from the next stage (clearly milestones were not the only street furniture on a well run turnpike road). It appears that the turnpikes south of Aldermaston shirked their duty to erect milestones.

13.1.2 Iron markers

As the costs of manufacturing cast iron fell in the early 19th century turnpike trusts found it more economic to fix cast iron plates onto stones rather than re-cut them. Unfortunately these are relatively easy to remove and many have disappeared in recent years, leaving telltale holes on the remaining face. When new mile markers were purchased in the 19th century, particularly in areas where carvable stone was not easy to find, caste iron posts were often installed. The Theale Trust must have replaced the stones on the Bath Road west of Reading in the early 19th century and several of the cast iron mileposts they commissioned from T & J Perry of Reading have survived. Wilders & Sons of Reading cast similar iron mileposts for the Reading to Hatfield Turnpike, probably around 1820. These were used to replace the old stone milestones (mentioned above) that were now so eroded as to be of little use. The old stones were disposed of to local farmers but four were reused and used as gate posts on two private dwellings near Wycombe; the old carving can still be read on two of these. However, carved stone was still used for prestige projects and the trustees of this turnpike also erected an impressive stone obelisk in the centre of Marlow in September 1822. The road was known colloquially as the Gout Track (Haines 2000), and not surprisingly the distance to Bath is included on the obelisk.

13.1.3 Surviving stones

The styles of stone surviving beside roads through East Berkshire are illustrated in Fig 13.1b. The number of surviving stones decreases the nearer one gets to the western fringes of London or central Reading (Fig 13.1c), but in general Berkshire has one of the highest proportion of surviving stone in the South of England. The milestones on the Bath Road are the most elegant in the area and from Reading westwards there is almost a complete set of stones. The stones on the Salisbury Road are sturdy and have survived well whereas on the subsidiary turnpikes the stones are less substantial and many have been damaged. The style of the stones on the Reading to Basingstoke road change at the Berks/Hants border suggesting that these stones date from the second half of the 19th century when local highways boards were taking responsibility for the roads.

During the surge of interest in bicycling at the end of the 19th century there was pressure on councils to maintain accurate milestones but by the early 20th century the respect for these monuments had gone. For instance the stone showing 15 miles to Wallingford that once stood outside the White Hart Inn in St Mary Butts Reading was moved into the bar when it was no longer wanted. Some stones disappeared in 1940 when local authorities were obliged to either take down or deface all milestones and waymarkers. In isolated locations it was clearly convenient to bury the stone and this may explain why in 1971 workmen unearthed an old milestone at Amner’s Farm close to the M4. It was engraved 43 miles to Hyde Park Corner, 4 miles to Reading, 1742 and is now in Reading Museum store.

There are examples of other types of marker stone beside the turnpike roads. In the early 19th century turnpikes were obliged to mark the point at which a road crossed a parish boundary (presumably this helped to identify which parish was responsible for statute duty repairs). Five boundary stones dated 1828 survive near Reading, one on the Bath Road in Reading, two on the boundaries of Theale, one at Ufton and another more elegant stone at the bridge over the Loddon near Shenfield.

The trusts also erected finger posts at road junctions. The Whitchurch to Aldermaston trust put up posts near Whitchurch and Kingsclere and the Colnbrook Trust erected a handpost at Billingswell Lane next to Datchet Broom directing the way to Windsor in 1768. These were wooden structures that have not survived; modern reflective plates have now replaced even the caste iron finger posts put up by County councils in the early 20th century.

13.2 Toll Houses

One of the important powers granted to trustees was to purchase land on which to erect tollgates and build associated tollhouses. A permanent custodian could then man the gate and collect tolls. The gates are normally depicted as vernacular farm gates mounted on stout posts, painted white to make them visible. A fence normally blocked the path beside the gate but a side gate or turnstile would allow pedestrians to pass without trouble. The trust had to erect a board displaying the tolls to be taken at the turnpike; this board was often mounted above the front door and accounts for the blind window on the upper floor of many tollhouses. Tollhouses were normally in isolated locations and a large oil lamp illuminated the area around the gate. In 1844 the Aldermaston to Whitchurch trust allowed John Batten the collector £2 per year for lamp oil (BRO).

In the early period the tollhouse may have been adapted from an existing cottage or was a relatively cheap wooden hut. However, as the turnpikes became established more substantial buildings were erected. The income from tolls on the Bath Road allowed the trustees to afford some impressive tollhouses. The mock castle at Halfway House between Newbury and Hungerford was perhaps the most flamboyant example of the mock Gothic style that reflected the taste of the landed gentry who were often the trustees commissioning these buildings. The grand pair of octagonal gate houses at Basildon Park may have inspired the design of several of the tollhouses erected near Reading in the 19th century, although many London turnpike trusts also favoured an octagonal pattern (Searle 1930). The last Castle Hill Gate comprised a pair of octagonal houses on either side of the road, in a manner very similar to those at Basildon Park where the gate houses are about 12 feet across but the road is only 30 feet wide. The octagonal design gave the toll gatherer a good view in both directions along the road and the only surviving tollhouse close to Reading is the polychromatic brick 2-storey cottage at Tidmarsh which is to this design (Fig 13.2a). There were more functional but nonetheless substantial examples of two-storey tollhouse at Thatcham and Hurley (Fig 5.3g). The classic single storey tollhouse with its angular front bay window was a product of the early 19th century and there are no surviving examples of this type of tollhouse close to Reading. However, the tollhouse from West Wycombe has been preserved and rebuilt at the Chiltern Open Air Museum. The tollhouses on Maidenhead Bridge appeared to be of this generation of buildings but it too has now disappeared (Fig 5.3b). Most of the tollhouses on the minor turnpikes would have been simple structures, close to the highway; the illustration of the wooden shack that formed the Maidenhead Thicket turnpike (Fig 5.3c) and at Kensington (Fig 5.4g) are probably typical. Very few of these buildings even surviving the demise of the trust for which they were constructed since they often protruded into the roadway and were demolished to remove the restriction of the highway.

13.3 Weighing Engines

Over-laden heavy waggons were generally regarded as a significant cause of damage to the road. The trusts were given powers to erect weighing engines to check for overweight wagons that might cause severe damage to the roadway. These devices were normally built next to the tollhouse so that the toll gatherer could use them. In the renewal Act of 1728 the Maidenhead Trust was given powers to fine carriers 20 shillings for loads over 40 cwt. The 1746 Act gave the Reading to Newbury Trust powers to erect weighing engines. The Colnbrook Trust clearly had an engine by 1765 when it paid for repairs. The announcement (RM) that a new weighing engine had been erected at Bagshot Gate in Sept 1800 proclaimed that all waggons, carts and carriages passing through the said gate and carrying greater weight than are allowed by Act of Parliament will be subject to the additional tolls of which persons interested are desired to take notice. These were substantial pieces of equipment and would as a minimum have required a pit for the balance mechanism. An illustration of the weighing engine at Hyde Park Corner show a platform in front of the gate; the other end of the balance was presumably one of the small buildings beside the gate (Fig 13.3a).

Charges for overweight waggons were probably even less welcome that the toll. For instance in 1841 the carter employed by Thomas Liberty of the Black Boy Sawmill in Weybridge was delayed a the Colnbrook Gate for an hour and a half while he found the £3/4/6 charge for being overweight by a ton (Searle 1930). The toll collector had taken one of the horses from the team to prevent the waggon moving until the charge was paid

Once heavy waggon traffic moved onto the railways they became redundant. The machines were demolished when the tollgates were closed and the pits associated with the old weighing engine were filled in.

13.4 The Roadway

Turnpike roads were designed to carry wheeled traffic and so maintaining a good hard surface was important. Travellers on foot or on horseback might find these stone or gravely surfaces less attractive. The trusts inherited roads that had been maintained by local surveyors using whatever materials were available in the parish. The trustees and their surveyor were able to apply the best available methods across the whole road. Nevertheless there was still huge variation in quality between those roads on free-draining soils where gravel and stone could be had easily, and those roads on clay and silt, away from convenient sources of durable materials. Each turnpike Act gave the surveyors rights to obtain materials locally and a pit in one parish might supply the rest of the road. Gravel pits were used for instance at Kensington, Langley and Speenhamland and flint was collected on the Chilterns and Downs. In 1738/9 the minutes of the Colnbrook Trust record many instances of the surveyor getting screened gravel to repair sections of the road. Statute Labour Teams from the Parish were employed to fill and carry this gravel. However, badly applied materials could still result in large puddles, miry sloughs and uneven surfaces that damaged wheels and increased the burden on the horses pulling large vehicles. Overhanging trees, deep holloways and steep valleys meant that some road surfaces never dried and running water along the road causing severe erosion of the road surface.

A letter to the Gentlemen’s Magazine in 1754 claimed that the Bath Road errs and blunders in all the forms; its strata of materials were never worth a straw; its surface was never made cycloidal; it hath neither good side ditches, nor foot paths for walkers; no outlets were made for water that stagnates in the body of the road; it was never sufficiently widened; nor were the hedges ever cleared. Of course 'tis the worst public road in Europe, considering what vast sums have been collected from it (Hunter 1995). This comment is particularly damning since the turnpike trusts had been responsible for the roads for more than a generation by this time.

However, by 1767 in a letter to the Reading Mercury J Smith described a road in much better condition during his journey by postchaise, made in late March between London and Marlborough. The road from London to Reading is very good, and the Commissioners cannot be sufficiently praised, as they have widened it most judiciously in many places. He wished they would lay sufficient quantity of gravel to raise the road above the floods just beyond Twyford and make it broad enough for three carriages to pass one another with ease. He had been fearful that the water at Cranford Bridge would come over the chaise and observed that in some places the gravel was loose and sandy and wanted chalk, or some other cement to bind it. The road from Reading to Newbury was also in general very good and he speculated that the Commissioners had lately widened it in many places, and at considerable expense. He mentioned several places where the road was still narrow and proposed that two little cottages at the further end of Theale should be demolished so the road could be widened. Near Woolhampton on the east side of a stone barn trees could be cut down and land taken from a field. His greatest complaint was beyond Ham-Mills within a mile of Newbury were he proposed the ditch on the north side be filled in and 12 or 13 feet be added to the width of the road. In contrast the road from Newbury to Marlborough was very narrow in a great many places. He claimed that it is dangerous in many places to meet another carriage, but especially a broad wheeled waggon, many of which are continually travelling the road. He believed that the hill above Marlborough should be dealt with in the same way as that near Henley where ground from the top of the hill was laid at the bottom to render it less steep.

In an attempt to make the road shed rainwater he felt that the road was rather too much upon the round to be quite safe and thought there was a risk of his chaise overturning. Finally he recommended that that loose gravel be laid up in a causeway under the hedge of the north side of the road (so it would stay drier), wherever there is no footpath along the fields. This he thought would be kind and humane, and of great advantage to all such honest sailors and other passengers as are obliged to travel this road on foot. He recognised that this causeway would need little cuts in it to allow water to run off but a flat stone could cover these cuts. Many of his proposals were implemented but his last thought that when they met coaches should take the right hand of the road was too revolutionary to be adopted.

Maintaining the road could generally be achieved using Statute Labour but major projects normally had to be contracted out to specialists so the trust had to raise the money to pay for these. In 1776 the Colnbrook Trust paid £525 for the relaying of the carriage and footway in Colnbrook Town. This work was done by John Hill and Charles Hammerton of London, paviers. Hill & Hammerton were to find and procure 20 ton of new stone or pebble stones for the road and Purbeck square stones for the two-foot wide footpath. They were paid in four quarterly parts after completion of the work.

By the end of the 18th century, contractors were being used by some of the larger trusts to maintain the road. For instance on the Bath Road the Speenhamland to Reading Trust sought tenders for road maintenance on May 1800 and the Maidenhead Trust invited tenders in March 1806 (RM). These more professional road builders brought in materials from outside the region where possible (e.g. stone along the canals and rivers). For instance the St Clements trust in Oxford took boat loads of flints from Benson and Goring and hand picked stones and quarried stone from the Corallian ridge and Cotswolds. However, improved materials only gave full benefit when laid in the best manner and a survey of the Colnbrook Road in 1813 still found it too flat and wide so that it retained water in the winter and was dusty in the summer. William Mavor (1809) complained that throughout Berkshire we find fine gravel, flint and calcareous stone near at hand and it is therefore the fault of the trustees if the roads are not kept in the most repair but many are not sufficiently raised in the middle, the water tables are neither regularly made nor proper outlets to the ditches and ditches not scoured or hedges cut. The design of the roadway only improved dramatically as the ideas of McAdam were disseminated in the early 19th century. His guiding principle was to create a well-drained roadbed using course stones and to finish it with a slightly concave profile with the surface sealed by compacted fine stones. This Macadamising shed rainwater to the side ditches and gave a stable running surface for coaches (Fig 13.4a).

The trusts tried to remove all obstructions from the roads, other than their tollgates, to facilitate free movement of traffic. Taking down trees or buildings that obstructed the roadway was common but other gates also posed a problem, particularly prior to enclosure of the open fields. For instance in 1769 the farmers of Horton and Datchet complained about gates being removed from Ditton Green. Cattle were getting from the pasture into the Common Field and were damaging the corn. The trustees were reluctant to reinstate the gates and inconvenience travellers but a compromised was reached to use side gates. Widening the road was frequently stated as an important improvement made by turnpike trusts. The Bath Road at the Castle Gate on the outskirts of Reading was 60 feet wide and the Windsor Forest Trust was to widen the road to 60 feet in places. Encroachment onto the roadway by adjacent landowners was a constant problem throughout the period. For example, in the 1850s the Windsor Forest Trust was in dispute with Mr Wheddle over land opposite Reading Cemetery; Wheddle tried to reduce the width of the highway to 32 feet but compromised with the trustees at 34 feet, the width it remained until 1963! (RLS press cutting)

13.5 Lighting

Street lighting was a relatively new concept, limited to improved towns. Where light was likely to fall on the road the trustees sought to maximise this and had the power to stop blacksmiths and other shops closing their shutters at night to prevent light falling on the road. The Colnbrook Trust installed lighting in the town of Colnbrook in 1770 for the greater safety of travellers. However, the trustees consulted the main mortgagee, Thomas Eyre, to confirm that he was happy for them to incur this new expense. The lights were installed by Mr Ogilby at a distance of 30 yards apart in Colnbrook and were to be lit from Michaelmas to Lady Day. The scheme was extended and in 1774 the Trust instructed its surveyor to cause eight lamps to be placed in the narrow and dark places of the town of Colnbrook and that the supernumerary gatekeepers be employed to light them. Reading had its own Improvement Act that covered lighting (Chapter 10) but the Reading to Puntfield Act of 1771 did give the turnpike trustees powers to properly light in the night-time the highway through towns & villages. The Maidenhead Trust paid £ in 1827 to a lighting contractor (BRO) for illuminating the streets of the town. Nevertheless lighting can be regarded as a benefit to urban areas only and the responsibilities were progressively transferred to Local Government Boards in the early 19th century. This was as well as the records of the St Clements trust in oxford show that the cost of as lighting for over 400 lamps in Oxford cost around £1500 per year in the 1850s, well in excess of toll income.

13.6 Watering the Road & Pumps

In dry weather the road surface became very dusty and some trusts, notably those on the Bath road, employed water carts to wet the road and minimise this nuisance. Some thought that the suppression of dust was requested by Beau Nash to satisfy the coach travellers but the minutes of the Colnbrook Trust show that it was those behind the coaches who raised the complaints. In 1763 the trustees instructed their surveyor to get a water cart made to water the town of Colnbrook, it having been represented at this Board that the dust is very troublesome to the inhabitants, so much small gravel being laid on the structure to preserve the pavement. The practice of watering the road as not universally liked and John Middleton (1798) complained about over enthusiastic watering being a financial burden on the trusts. By the folly of this practice the roads are kept many inches deep in mud whereas if they were raked and swept clean, winter and summer, there would neither be dust in such quantities as offend nor any of the present obstruction.

The trusts along the Bath Road installed pumps specifically to supply the water for the water carts (Fig 13.6a). As early as 1767 the Old Brentford Trust had erected pumps on the road west out of London. (RLS press cutting 1963). The Reading Mercury in 1767 claimed that for 4 miles outside each town, reservoirs were placed at one mile intervals to fill water carts. These carts carried 4 tons of water and had double shafts and 9 inch whets. In 1827 the Colnbrook Trust spent £759 to dig wells, install pumps and buy new carts to water the Bath Road. They purchased 14 pumps from Fowler & Co of Lambeth and eventually there was a pump every 2 miles along the Bath Road through Berkshire, with 15 between Reading and Newbury (Phillips 1983). Harper (1899) stated that pumps survived on the Bath Road west of Cranford and on sections of the Exeter Road. Several still remain on the Bath Road either side of Reading, though these have sunk so they no longer look high enough to fill a barrel mounted on a cart. A fine example, standing 2 metres high has been re-erected in Colnbrook. The turnpike trusts were empowered to raise special tolls to pay for watering. For example the renewal Act for the Colnbrook Trust in 1826 includes provision to get water, erect any engine, pump or machine in ponds and rivers etc and from March to October allowed the lessees of the tolls to collect a one penny toll on all horses over and above the toll before granted. The letting of tolls on the Twyford & Theale Road in 1826 specifically mentions that the toll income includes this watering toll (RM), although the Pangbourne branch was exempted (Fig 13.6b). An advertisement (RM) from Feb 1845 calling for proposals from Persons willing to Contract for Watering, illustrates the arrangements for watering. On the Twyford & Theale Road, the eastern District of the High Bath Road was divided into 5 sections and the Western District into seven sections. The watering season ran from March to October and the trustees provided one water barrel per section. The Contractor had to provide proper and able-bodied men to work the pumps and the road must be watered twice daily in dry weather (except Sundays).

Watering of the dusty roads continued into the early 20th century when it was replaced by tar spraying and our current concept of the road as a black strip first emerged.

14 Management of the Road

The trustees exercised their powers to minimise wear and tear on the highway and to facilitate the efficient flow of traffic along the road. Parliament passed several General Turnpike Acts to give all trustees stronger powers to regulate use of the roads. Many of these were intended to reduce the weight of vehicles and outlaw practices that would damage the fabric of roads and bridges. The number of horses pulling wagons and coaches was restricted, the width of wheels on large wagons had to be greater than 9 inches and the maximum weight of wagons was severely limited in the winter season.

The individual turnpike Acts gave very specific powers to trustees to manage particular nuisances along the specified stretch of road. The earliest Acts mentioned nuisances that affected the fundamental use of the road such as overhanging trees and encroachments. Each new Act seemed to add to the annoyances that trustees faced and by the early 19th century a long list of particular nuisances or dangerous practices often appeared in each Act. The Reading Basingstoke Act of 1822 is typical; it stated that no-one should:

Ride upon any footpath or causeway

Drag timber or stone along the road rather than on a wheeled waggon

Bleed or farry any horse

Slaughter, burn or dress an animal

Allow pigs to root up the road

Ride on the shafts of a waggon

Not hold the reins on a coach

Not keep to the left or near side

Prevent persons from passing

Make a fire or fires commonly called bonfires or set off fireworks

Play football, tennis or cricket

Fly a kite within 80 feet

Bait or run for the purposes of baiting any bear

Encamp on side of road

Leave a loose horse

Leave a carriage unattended

Leave stone blocks on the road

Take sand and scrapings off the road

Plough too close to the road

Unload dung, soil, ashes, compost or manure

Suffer water, filth, dirt or other offensive matter to flow into the road

Beasts carrying iron in bars or basket panniers to project more than 30 inches from the side of the horse

Prevent light from windows fronting road shining into road

Reading Water Company having an immediate right to lay pipes or clean drains


The Windsor Forest Trust (1827) had additional powers to prevent anyone laying hay, straw etc on the road to make into manure. The Twyford & Theale trust could prevent anyone hanging out linen or cloth on fences adjacent to the road. The Act Shillingford to Reading Act of 1826 obliged drivers to keep their carriages on the left-hand side of the roadway over the new bridge, on pain of a fine of up to £2.

15 Traffic on Turnpikes West of London

15.1 Carriers

Directories of common carriers into London appeared after the mid-17th century. The earliest records are patchy and sometime ambiguous and it is not clear how many of these services were packhorses or simple carts. Nevertheless, it is clear that by the end of the 17th century significant numbers of carriers were using wagons to carry goods along the main highways into London. Although the Great North Road attracted the most comment because of the number of heavy maltsters wagons, the number of common carriers using the roads from the west was at least as great (based on analysis of London Directories). What is not clear is how much additional wagon traffic there was from farmers and clothiers hauling their own goods from the West Country towards London.

In the early 17th century when the earliest surviving directory of carriers into London was published in the Carriers Cosmologie (Taylor 1637) there were 8 Carrier services per week through Reading and 18 joining them at Maidenhead from along the Henley Road. A further 7 passed along the Salisbury Road through Bagshot to join them at Hounslow. Over the following 200 years the number of services along these western roads increased, though not as dramatically as might be expected from the sustained increases in trade and improvements in road transport over the period. By the late 18th century there were 30 carrier services to London through Reading, with smaller increases on the other roads (Fig 15.1a). This contrasts with 113 services per week at a similar point on the Coventry Road. However, the size of the vehicles and the weight of goods carried along the western roads would have risen dramatically. Packhorses could carry only one hundredweight each and primitive carts only carried a few hundredweights. A typical wide-wheeled stage waggon from the early 1800s, as illustrated in Fig 10.1d, could carry several tons of mixed merchandise. The Turnpike Acts restricted this vehicle to carry no more than 6 tons of goods in the summer season and 4 tons in the winter. These carrier services terminated at several different market towns along the full length of the main highways. Towns like Reading benefited from these through services and there was no particular need for a large number of local wagoners in Reading to assure the traders of a regular service (see RUTV 17). In general, carriers from the remoter towns were at an advantage since they benefited from lower costs, particularly of horse provender, in the provinces (Gerhold 1998).

15.2 Coaches

Stagecoaches had only just begun to appear in England at the time of the 1637 directory, and none of the few services were on the roads west of London. However, by the late 17th century there were 55 coach services per week passing through Reading, making this the busiest coach route out of London (RUTV 17). There were fewer destinations served by coaches than by carriers on the Bath Road. Stage coaches predominantly ran long distance services from London to Bath/Bristol or medium distance services making a one-day journey to London from the Reading area. Very few of these services ran on a Sunday. A notice in the Reading Mercury of Aug 1787 the Newbury Justices announced to coachmasters, waggoners & drovers of cattle on the road between Bath & London, travelling within the District on a Sabbath will be prosecuted with the full rigour of the law.

A detailed survey of traffic along the Bath Road was conducted by Mr Dinorben Hughes in 1834, as part of the case to construct the Great Western Railway (Reeve 1981). Over the period of a fortnight there were;

Post Horses

Vans & wagons

Coaches with 4 horses

Coaches with 2 horses

Coaches with private horses


Market carts

Carts laden with timber

118 pairs

Drawn by 2230 horses





drawn by 287 horses

drawn by 21 horses



Coal carts

Hay carts

Straw carts




42 horses

drawn by 34 horses

drawn by 31 horses

drawn by 22 horses




The traffic is clearly dominated by horses pulling wheeled vehicles (6600 horses). It is assumed that the miscellaneous horses were unladen extra animals rather than pack animals. The relatively small number of cattle suggests that this crossing was not one of the main drove roads, irrespective of the time of year.

Assuming that the vans and waggons had on average 4 horses drawing (6 on stage wagons and 2 on vans) there appear to be a similar number of freight vehicles and passenger vehicles using the Bath Road at this point. These data suggest that about 800 long distance wagons/vans and 800 passenger coaches passed over Maidenhead Bridge over the fortnight; this equates to around 60 full sized coaches per day, assuming that very few coaches ran on a Sunday. Records on scheduled coach services (Bates) would suggest that x ( y %) of these were public services. Based on typical tolls, this would raise £z/a in till income; the actual tolls from Maidenhead were £c/a in 1834.

Records of the total number of vehicles using a turnpike are rare and a detailed breakdown of when the traffic used the roads is even rarer. A few records of tollgate income on a weekly basis have survived. Income from the tollgather on the Egham road in the late 18th century (GLA) shows very little variation from week to week (Fig 15.2a), except for a rise from the normal £14 to £19 in the last week in October (Halloween) and the week before Christmas. The former corresponds to the Michaelmas Fair in Basingstoke and latter was presumably the result of an increased flow of traffic to the London Markets. The income from three gates on the Windsor Forest Road in 1759 show an interesting pattern that may reflect increased vehicle traffic to attend Fairs and Markets (Fig 15.2b),. In the weeks beginning August 13th and Sept 24th the Loddon Bridge Gate nearest Reading took around £5 in toll as compared with a more normal £1-3s. The Blacknest Gate nearest the Bagshot did not show these increases but took significantly more in the week of June 18th. One of the main fairs in Reading is on Sept 21st accounts for one of the weeks when traffic was high at Loddon Bridge.

A receipt for printing toll tickets for the Aldermaston to Basingstoke Trust has survived. This trust purchased batches of 500 tickets for its Pamber End Gate in May, July, Sept and Oct 1841 at 2/6 per batch. The Baughurst gate had one batch of a 1000 tickets. This suggests that on average 1500 tickets lasted the Pamber End gate four months. At that time coach horses paid 6d and a waggon horse 4d and so assuming a minor road such as this had small vehicles, the average toll might be ten pence. In a year Pamber End Gate might then yield £187; the joint income from letting the tolls of two gates was £287 at this period, indicating that on the smaller turnpikes the lessees must have retained a significant portion of the tolls for expenses.

The turnpike traffic may have been light compared with modern traffic flow but it still had a rush hour. In 1834 there were 22 coach services along the Bath Road. An analysis of the departure times of services from London in 1828 shows that 9 left in the early morning (most at 6am), 9 left in the late afternoon (most between 4 and 5m) and 5 left at 1 p.m. The journey time to Bath was generally 15 hours so the morning coaches arrived at Bath in time for dinner at 10pm and the afternoon coaches ran through the night to arrive at 7am for Breakfast. The 1am coach departures were particularly fast 12-hour coaches. The rush hour in Reading, 5 hours from London was lunch time and late evening.

Part D: Decline and Fall

16 Competition with Other forms of Transport

16.1 The Competitors

Road was not the only means of getting goods and people between places. The turnpikes allowed existing traffic to move more freely and had attracted new traffic as trade and travel increased during the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, competition with other forms of transport put limitations on traffic growth and improvements elsewhere altered the competitive position of road transport. The competitive position between different forms of road transport also fluctuated as technical improvements were introduced. The impetus for turnpiking the Bath Road had come from those interested in carrying passengers and a steady increase in the speed, comfort and safety ensured that the turnpikes maintained a good income from stagecoaches, private carriages and postchaises on hire. The number of carrier services using the Bath Road grew much more slowly than coach services during the 18th and early 19th centuries suggesting that a substantial proportion of heavy bulk goods were being carried by barge rather than wagon. Carriers were subject to serious competition at the bulk, slow delivery end of the transport market but their business was also limited at the high value end of the trade. Coaches advertised to carry small parcels and delivered them more rapidly than the service from a lumbering wagon. Mail carrying was a licensed monopoly and until the 1780s was undertaken by postboys on horseback. However, these were often slow and vulnerable to highwaymen and it was not until 1784 when John Palmer successfully ran a coach carrying mail along the Bath Road. Subsequently the Post Office commissioned stage coach operators to run daily services along the main routes out of London.

Coach traffic must have been less important on other routes such as the Reading to Basingstoke road or the north/south roads through Newbury and Hungerford. Carriage of goods by public and private waggon would have been important sources of toll income and on some roads drovers with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep could be contributors if they could be intercepted at key crossings. Unlike some northern and western roads, packhorse trains were relatively uncommon on the turnpikes across the relatively easy ground along the Thames Valley. Until the 1750s trains of horses did travel up from the West Country but became a decreasing proportion of traffic latter in the century.

16.1 The Canals & Rivers

Throughout the period considered here, carriage by boat or barge was normally the lowest cost method of carrying bulk goods and so was the preferred method for heavy commodities. Improvements of river navigation in the early 18th century was followed by the creation of totally new cuts with the opening of the Basingstoke canal in 1794 and the Kennet and Avon in 1810. Very few passengers were prepared to tolerate the slow journey along a river or canal and so travel by road was the preferred route for almost all traveller until the mid 19th century.

Transport by water was generally less predictable and slower than road transport. Owners of large barges would wait until they had a full load before setting sail and often there was insufficient water to carry the large barges through some reaches of the river in summer. The traffic carrying goods to and from new wharves and quays beside the canals provided the turnpike trusts with new opportunities to collect tolls on wagons and carts using their roads. However, this windfall income was not always directly accessible as was illustrated at Farnham (see Sec 6.3.2). Here those using the market successfully petitioned to prevent tolls being levied on traffic carrying goods between the canal wharf to the Farnham market.

However, a proportion of all goods was always carried by water and sequential improvements in roads, rivers and canals resulted in the corresponding changes in the competitive position of each mode of transport. The trustees of the Reading to Puntfield Turnpike said in their evidence to Parliament in 1728 that soon after the Act first came into force (about 1715) their toll income was £520/a but after improvements to the Kennet navigation their income fell to £320/a. The Kennet Navigation had opened to traffic in 1723 (Phillips 1980) and allowed agricultural goods to be carried by barge from Newbury to London, and the barges to return with coal and manufactured goods. It must be assumed that the fall in toll income on the turnpike arose from a reduction in carrier traffic, not coach traffic. Given that each category might represent a half of normal traffic flow, it suggests a very substantial amount of goods carried between Newbury and Reading was transferred onto barges.

There is evidence from the letters of a Wiltshire clothier that urgent items were carried by wagon but heavy, less urgent items were brought by barge from London to Newbury and that road transport was only used for the final pull through Andover. (Mann 1963). A letter of 29th March 1773 from Henry Hindley of Mere to Mr Barnard (his agent in Newbury?) states I have an account from London of 8 fatts yarn being on board P. Smith’s barge, and that he sailed 24th inst. I think if I send up wagons from thence this day sennight that the barge will be with you by that time….. write a line to Mr Edward Hatherell at New Barn near Andover and advise him when the barge will be with you, he may send his waggon for 2 of the fatts in proper time.

Although attempts to improve the Thames navigation were made, particularly in the 1770s after improvements on the Kennet, vested interests worked against this. In evidence to the Committee considering the Great Western Railway in 1834, several merchants complained about the inadequacies of water carriage to Reading (Jackman 1966). Mr Hine of Bristol said that one delivery of sugar from London had taken 2 months to reach him, instead of the more normal 13 days. Mr Davis of Reading complained that in Jan 1834 his order of tobacco and sugar had taken a month to reach him from London and the goods had been injured by exposure to moisture. In addition, travel by water could only reach a few favoured towns, although this does include many of the most important towns such as London, Reading and Oxford. Valuable goods continued to be sent by road. In 1834 Messrs Wilkins, Marley, Morris and Venables, each gave evidence to the Parliamentary Committee that Saxony wool, bought into east coast ports, was carried to the West Country by wagon to avoid delays on the canal. The risk of damage or delay in transit meant that manufacturers in the West Country preferred to send their woollen goods to London at 5s per cwt, or even at a penny a pound by coach rather than take the 2/9 per cwt proffered by canal carriers. (Jackman 1966)

16.2 Railways

Long-distance coaches were the main source of toll income for turnpikes along the Bath Road. The combination of improved design in coaches, good management of horses and better engineered roads allowed coaches in the 1830s to maintain speeds of over 10 mph for long distances. The better roads also allowed alternative methods of propulsion to be tried. Sir Goldsworthy Guerny illustrated that steam powered vehicles could attain steady speeds of 16 mph and there appeared to be enthusiastic support for a trail services from Windsor. An attempt to demonstration of steam power on a grander scale came to a sad end through a combination of opposition from vested interests in the coaching trade and bad luck. In 1829 he was making good time along the road from London to Bath when a crowd in Melksham began shouting "Down with machinery", stoned the engine and brought it to a halt. Steam engines on rails proved a more unstoppable force.

By the mid 1830s the London to Birmingham railway was illustrating that steam trains were far more popular than horse drawn road coaches for mass transportation. When the Great Western Railway was completed from London to Bristol in 1841, the coach traffic along the whole of the road fell precipitously. Worse still for the towns along the Kennet valley, the new lines of communication ran through North Berkshire and left towns such as Newbury and Hungerford isolated. In 1842 two coach services per day still ran through Hungerford (Pihlens 1983) but the trend was clear, with adverts of feeder coach services to the Great Western line at Faringdon Road Station, 14 miles to the north, along the Besselsleigh Turnpike. Rail fares were less than coach fares but not by a significant amount. A second-class fare was still 2p/mile,whereas coach rates may be up to 3d per mile. Third class rail fares could be as little as one penny a mile but there were cheap and slow alternatives by road, although this might effectively be 4d/mile with tips. The great advantage of the train was that it was fast and relatively comfortable. The first trains managed 25 mph, more than twice the speed of the crack coaches and journey to London could be made there and back in a day from many provincial towns. Freight rates were also much lower by train. Wagon rates from Oxford to London were over £3 per ton whereas by rail they were 30s and would have been 25s had they not had to haul the goods by waggon from Steventon to Oxford along the turnpike (Jackman 1966).

The railway along the Kennet valley reached Hungerford in 1847 and the remaining long-distance coach services were extinguished. By 1862 when the line to Devises was completed, the long distance coach and waggon services along the Great West Road would have been mere memories.

Those turnpikes that had previously raised large sums from tolls on long distance traffic suffered a catastrophic loss of income around 1840 (Figs ccc ). The trusts along the Bath Road were particularly affected as the Great Western Railway took away much of the passenger, freight and drovers traffic almost over night. Lewis Levy who farmed many of the tolls around London told a Committee that on the Colnbrook Road to Windsor and the high road to Maidenhead this time 12 months, the stage coaches paid £18 per week; now they pay very little more than £4 and a few shillings. Even though there was an increase in local traffic to stations, this was in most cases insufficient to compensate for the loss of income from long distance traffic. The pattern of road use also changed as on the Henley to Maidenhead road where travellers turned off down the unturnpiked lane though Wargrave to reach Twyford station rather than go to Maidenhead station and pay the tolls at Hurley Gate (Searle 1930). On the other hand trusts that adjoined new railway stations (e.g. Shillingford to Reading) saw an increase income as the amount of local traffic rose. Those trusts that had borrowed heavily were of particular concern to the authorities who saw no prospect of them being saved without serious financial burdens on local ratepayers and parishes. The report of a Parliamentary Committee on The impact of the decline in traffic and proposals to abolish Statute Labour (PP) investigated the effect of the changes on the payment of mortgages by the turnpike trusts. This gives a convenient summary of the financial position of trust around Reading as the competition from rail travel began to bight (Appendix 6).

17 The end of the Turnpikes and Modern Developments

17.1 Decline

During the 1830s there was a growing feeling that turnpike trusts were not the best means of financing road improvement and maintenance. The philosophy of he who benefits from the improved road should pay for it directly was changing to one in which free movement and communication was more important. An article in the Illustrated London News captured the spirit of the time in 1857 when it said Money must of course, be had for the construction and repairing of highways; but is it necessary to collect it on that old system of stand and deliver, in which Claude Duval and Dick Turpin were such illustrious adepts? (Phillips 1981). A Select Committee in 1836 (PP) concluded that the toll system is vexatious and expensive to collect…..it tends to check communication. They thought that the principle of the user pays is not sensible in a civilised country where every individual benefits by facility of communication. However, witnesses could not agree on an alternative method of financing, such as rates or vehicle taxes. Nevertheless it was concluded that consolidation of the many smaller trusts was desirable. Mr Levy giving evidence to a Committee illustrated this with examples on the Bath Road. The Colnbrook Trust owed only £1000 but the Maidenhead Trust owed a great deal. Consolidation would remove two sets of clerks and trustees and the whole paraphernalia and the tolls could be lowered, though the Maidenhead creditors might get nothing (Searle 1930). The large debts that some trusts had incurred, secured against future toll income was particularly worrying since it made it difficult to see to whom the debt would fall if a trust was wound up. Since local parishes feared that ultimately they would inherit the debts the discrepancy between debts on adjoining trusts was an obstacle to some mergers that might have led to more efficiencies of scale. Through new Acts passed in 1830s, the powers of the turnpikes trusts were eroded in an attempt to check extravagance, promote economy and stop the growing evil of debt. Trusts such as the Shillingford to Reading Turnpike, which had borrowed heavily to build the bridge, were prevented from borrowing more money and stringent controls were paced on their financial arrangements. In 1833 Statute Labour had been abolished and the parish surveyors began to levy rates. When there were problems with the turnpike the trust had to get a local JP to make the parish contribute. This was seen by many as an unwanted burden and generated resentment that was added to the general dislike of paying tolls.

In 1845, as the impact of lost traffic and falling revenue began to seriously affect turnpike finance the trusts took action to tighten their belts. The Reading to Basingstoke trust met at the George in Reading to decide which of such creditors should be repaid. The Windsor Forest Trust met to agree a reduction in the interest paid to its creditors. This process of slow disengagement from debts continued through the next two decades as trustees tried to remove liabilities so that the trusts could be wound up legally. Although toll income fell after the building of the railways, as the Bedfont Trust admitted to a Parliamentary Committee, so did the wear and tear of traffic. As a result, once they had weathered the dramatic changes immediately following the opening of the Great Western Railway, the trusts settled down to a new position, carrying the smaller carriages and carts that brought goods and passengers to the local railway stations. Surveyors restricted their maintenance to part of the carriageway and some roads narrowed as grass grew where once coaches and waggons once ran.

In 1862 the Rural Highways Act empowered JPs to combine turnpike trusts into Highways Districts. By the late 1860s trusts were either not renewing their powers or were being terminated by General Acts of Parliament. This became a flood in the 1870s until most turnpikes in Berkshire were officially wound up by 1878 when legislation transferred responsibility for dis-enturnpiked roads to the new County Councils (Dates of closure are in Appendix 1).

17.2 Closure of Turnpikes

The closure of a trust not only meant the abolition of tolls on the road but also the repayment of all loans and mortgages that the trusts had acquired during almost two centuries. Although several trusts had reduced their debts to insignificant levels in the 1830s, others still carried substantial debts. These debts could only be paid by liquidating the material assets of the trust; these assets were mainly property. Tollhouses and ground beside the roads had to be offered first to owners of adjoining ground and only if an agreement could not be reached was it sold on the open market. Unfortunately the sums raised by such restricted sales were sometimes insufficient to repay all the bonds but overall the community felt liberated from the burden of a system of infrastructure finance that no longer reflected the priorities of the age.

The tollgate on the Bath Road west of Reading was removed in 1864 as the outward pressure of urban development made rates a more acceptable way of financing the maintenance of what was now a sub-urban road. The Datchet gate was cleared in 1863 (Gameson 1981) and in 1868 the Windsor Forest Trust demolished all its gates, except Lilly Hill. The sites were sold to defray the debts; the Loddon Bridge site and garden was sold to Thomas Colleton Garth of Hurst for £44 and the sites at Coppid Beech and Blacknest raised £12 and £28 respectively by sale to Edward Micklem of Reading, Richard Brooker of Binfield and Alexander Shipley, brewer, of Windsor (BRO). Closure of some trusts did require some careful negotiations. By 1869 the Basingstoke, Odiham & Alton Trust had discharged all its debts and had a considerable surplus, whereas the adjoining Odiham to Farnham Trust had debts that could never be discharged (it owed £758 but had a toll income of less than £150/a). At a joint meeting of both trusts it was agreed that a merger could be achieved without injury to the creditors, so that in 1870 the roads together could be thrown open to the public (BRO).

When it closed in 1870 the Colnbrook Trust raised £1694 by the sales of the assets. The greater part of this was the sale of strips of land adjacent to the turnpike. Smaller sums came from selling the weighing engine at Colnbrook Gate (£26-10s), the gate, post and rails (£8-10s) and the heath stone pitching (£4-10s). The Harlington Toll house raised £8, toll board £1-5s, the pumps £5 and the water cart £16-10s. These funds paid off all remaining debts and left a surplus of funds to be paid out to the parishes in proportion to the length of road. The Reading to Basingstoke Trust was wound up in the same year and the trustees decided to demolish the Old Basing Gatehouse since it was erected partly in the turnpike road. They offered the two remaining pieces of ground to the owner of the adjoining land, Lord Bolton, but failed to agree a suitable price. Lord Bolton only offered £55 against the initial proposal of £100 from the trust. Presumably the ground was then offered for open sale. Owners of adjoining property seem to have got good deals; the site on the Maidenhead Castle Hill Gate was sold to the Grenfells of Taplow for £15 (BRO).

Some sites were particularly valuable where they could be developed for other purposes. Richard Lisley of Godalming, miller, paid £100 for the tollhouse by Aldermaston Bridge in 1877. The elegant two-storey tollhouse at Thatcham Gate raised £220 when sold to George White of Henwill & Brighton in 1880. Even the site of a demolished property was of value; William Jeffery Strange, a brewer from Aldermaston, bought the site of the Donnington Gate, next to the inn for £50.

The closure of the Shillingford to Reading Turnpike are recorded in the minutes book for 1874 shows that the trustees took pains to ensure that they handed over the highway in a good condition. The trust had been scheduled for closure in one of the general Acts for termination of turnpikes of the previous year. In July 1874 the trustees surveyed the road and the infrastructure to assess what had to be done. They ordered that all the milestones be repainted, Mr Honeybourne was paid £67 to fix damaged stones on Shillingford Bridge and the Swan Inn at Pangbourn was ordered to repair damage to the riverbank. They concluded that two of the tollhouses could be sold but two others, at Pangbourn and Pangbourn Lane Reading should be demolished and the space taken into the road (presumably they protruded too far into the roadway). Fortunately the last toll-board from the Pangbourn Lane Gate was saved and is now in the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading (Fig 17.2a).

The surveyor was ordered to prepare to remove the gates at midnight on 31st October and the assets were put up for sale, initially to the adjoining landowner if they made a reasonable offer. The tools raised 10s and materials from the demolition of the Pangbourn Lane and Pangbourn gates raised £10 from Mr Adams and £13 from CJ Broadway. They were responsible for removing gateposts and clearing the ground. Winterbourne tollhouse and garden was sold to Charles Greenwood for £90 and Shillingford tollhouse to Mr Hatt for £65 (BRO). The adjoining garden was sold for £5 to John West. From these funds the trustees settled all bills and made donations of £5 to each of three long serving servants of the trust; John Lovegrove of Basildon, Geo Eckellt of Tilehurst and William Allen of Moulsford, who had each served for more than 30 years, presumably as local surveyors on the three districts along the road (see Sec 8.1.2). The residual funds (about £400) were distributed to the parishes in proportion to the length of road, having made allowance for the quantities of road making materials left in each parish. Pangbourn also got £12-4s on the dissolution of the Twyford & Theale Trust payable to the surveyor of the parish upon which will fall the repair of part of the road (BRO); this sounds rather inadequate but was at least a payment not a liability.

The day tolls were abolished was an occasion for celebration. In 1972 when the Hounslow Turnpike Gate was closed just before midnight about 100 persons were seen hurrying in the direction of the tollhouse opposite the Bell Inn where the bars cross the Staines and Bath roads. The Toll keeper, apprehending danger, absconded 5 minutes before 12, taking the last days takings which were said to be unusually large. The crowd waited patiently till the church clock gave the first strike of 12, when several of them made a rush at the Gates, lifting them from their hinges, and bore them off in triumph. They deposited one in a roadside ditch and the other at the front door of the Bell Inn. A similar demonstration was expected at Brentford but did not occur (Searle 1930).

Tolls generally remained in place on bridges for rather longer than on roads. Since Staines Bridge had been taken into the turnpike trust it was freed from tolls when the adjoining roads were dis-turnpiked in 1871 (Phillips 1981). Shillingford Bridge had been built by the turnpike trust and it too was freed from tolls in 1874 when the trust was wound up. Maidenhead Bridge was maintained by the Corporation and appears to have been a valuable cash cow, milked to finance other projects. It was not freed from tolls until 1903 and so the ceremonial throwing of the gates into the river must have been even sweeter for users of the roads that converged on this key river crossing.

17.3 The Legacy

Just as the turnpike trusts made use of the road network bequeathed to them by early generations, so the County Councils and later the Department of Transport placed new layers of paving on the ancient highway routes. Many of the old turnpikes were adopted as major Roads and were eventually given Trunk Road status when road travel again became the dominant means of surface communication in the late 20th century. Hence the road network that we use today remains the greatest legacy of the turnpike trust. A more tangible legacy are the milestones that have been re-set at the side of many of the main roads in Berkshire. Although some may be badly damaged, they do provide a visible reminder of the debt we owe to the trustees who managed the improvement of England’s roads in the 18th and 19th centuries.