(details of each turnpike trust can be reached by clicking on links at bottom of this page)

Cornwall

County Topology and Wealth during turnpike era

Cornwall is an isolated county, surrounded on three sides by the sea and on the fourth side bounded by the River Tamar. It was dependent on fishing and the mining of minerals, including metal ores, slate and china clay.

 

The rivers run north / south so any traffic along the peninsular is obliged to cross several valleys; all traffic must cross the Tamar to enter by road. The height of Bodmin Moor restricted travel down the spine of the county. Due to the difficult terrain but perhaps also the relative poverty of the area, packhorses were more common than wheeled vehicles for carrying goods, well into the 18th century. Hence, the roads were particularly narrow and twisting, often running in gullies between steep banks and keeping to the hilly ground rather than the wet, tortuous river valleys.

The county town, Truro, is 256 miles from London.

Old Routes through the County

The main Post Road from London via Exeter crossed the Tamar at Cremyll Passage and ran along the southern coast through Looe and Fowey to Penzance. The main Post Road by land enters the county at Launceston and went around the northern edge of Bodmin Moor t reach Truro.

Turnpike Pattern

Like other counties that were distant from London, turnpiking came relatively late to Cornwall. The first turnpike Act covering Cornish roads was the creation of the Truro Roads in 1754. Sections of the main Post Road were turnpiked in 1760; the Launceston Trust bringing the road over from Devon, and the Haleworthy road continuing the route along the northern edge of the county through Camelford and Wadebridge. In quick succession, the main town based trusts were created; Helston, Liskeard Lostwithiel & St Austell in 1761, Creed / St Just and Saltash in 1762, Penryn 1763 and Callington in 1764. Finally the Bodmin turnpike Trust was created in 1769, providing a route through the centre of the county, over the moor.

 

Thus, by 1770 there were three turnpiked routes into the county, the road from Okehampton through Launceston, the road over Dartmoor through Tavistock to Callington and the road from Plymouth across the three ferries on the lower Tamar. These fed three principal roads to Truro; from Launceston through either Wadebridge or Bodmin and through Liskeard from either Callington or the ferries. Each of these trusts re-newed and extended their powers of the subsequent decades. In the early 19th century, new Trusts were created to better roads to meet particular mining needs; Trebarwith Sands Road in 1825 to move sand in and slate out, Hayle Causeway in 1825 to 1839 and Penzance & St Just, very late in 1863, to serve the metal ore mines. The NE of the county had no turnpike trusts but seems to have been served by a very good Highways Board centred on Stratton and on Holsworthy in Devon. Traffic levels in this area were probably insufficient to warrant the cost of turnpiking to assist the basic parish road maintenance arrangements.

 

The Cornwall trusts were affected by the arrival of the railways in the 1850s and after a period of steady decline were progressively wound up in the late 1870s onwards and the roads transferred to local Highways Boards and later the County Council in 1888.

A map of turnpike roads in Cornwall gives details of the roads for which individual trusts were responsible. (use the list of turnpikes trusts in the main table for more details of individual trusts). A list of the Turnpiked routes through Cornwall is given by Lysons in his Magna Britannica; a correlation of Lysons roads with the respective turnpike trusts is given separately here.

 

Tollhouses

Click on the highlight to reach a table showing the tollhouses that have been recorded in Cornwall. Almost 50 of the original 180 still survive in some form; this is a relatively high rate of survivals compared with other counties in the country.

 

St Breock Tollhouse, nr Wadebridge (a slate hung building)

Milestones

The majority of milemarkers erected by the Cornwall Turnpike trusts were milestones; a few metal posts are found on the road leading from Torpoint Ferry probably influenced by Plymouth Highways Board.. Unlike other counties, hard and less workable stone such as granite was often used for the milestones. Each trust adopted a different pattern of milestone, presumably because they contracted with local stonemasons who used individual designs.

 

There are more surviving milestones in Cornwall than the total turnpike mileage. The local Highways Boards and later the County Council erected milestones on roads that had not been turnpiked but were regarded as primary routes, particularly after 1890.

An old Launceston Trust Milestone on the road to Davidstow

 

Individual Turnpike Trusts in Cornwall

Documents and notes relating to individual Trusts are summarised on pages reached by clicking the links below (those highlighted in blue are on-line).

Bodmin

Bodmin and Roche

Callington

Haleworthy, Camelford, Wadebridge and St Columb

Creed and St Just

Hayle Bridge Causeway

Helston

Launceston

Liskeard

Penryn and Redruth

Penzance to St Just

Saltash

St Austell and Lostwithiel

Trebarwith Sands Road

Truro

 

The numbers of milestones and tollhouses surviving beside roads in Cornwall

(note this excludes features such as guidestones and boundary markers and non-road markers)

Turnpike Trust

Miles of Road in 1840

Milestones found

survival rate

Tollhouses in 1840

Tollhouse sites identified

Surviving tollhouses

survival rate

Bodmin

57

58

102%

23

21

3

13%

Bodmin and Roche

11

6

57%

3

2

1

33%

Callington

34

31

91%

10

10

4

40%

Camelford, Wadebridge and St Columb

36

24

68%

14

8

3

21%

Creed and St Just

18

7

39%

8

4

2

25%

Hayle Bridge Causeway

6

11

183%

6

9

2

33%

Helston

26

19

74%

9

15

5

56%

Launceston

46

27

59%

16

12

5

31%

Liskeard

42

37

88%

14

10

7

50%

Penryn and Redruth

8

3

37%

7

5

1

14%

Penzance to St Just

10

6

60%

3

3

2

67%

Saltash

20

10

50%

22

13

0

0%

St Austell and Lostwithiel

18

24

133%

8

7

4

50%

Trebarwith Sands Road

2

0

0%

2

2

2

100%

Truro

56

68

121%

32

28

13

41%

Total for Turnpikes

389

331

85%

177

149

54

31%

Non-Turnpike (excl canal and railway)

 

230

 

4

4

4

100%

 

For further reading;

Bennett F. (2007) The Roads of Devon & Cornwall, publ by author Menryn

Taylor, P. (2001) The Toll-houses of Cornwall, publ. The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies. (ISBN 0 902660-29-2)

 

 

 
This page created by Alan Rosevear 30th Dec 2008.

Last Edited 10th Jan 2009