Weeke local History - Turnpikes



The term ‘turnpike’ comes from an older system where a pike formed a barrier and was turned to allow access. The Romans were extremely skilful road engineers and understood that a good road required a firm foundation, a surface of graded stones and adequate drainage. After the Romans left the responsibility for the roads lay with the Lords of the Manor, roads deteriorated and often were in a very poor state. In earlier times the maintenance of roads was the responsibility of the town or parish that road passed through. By the 18th century the traffic on roads was rapidly increasing such that the statutory labour system based on the town or parish could not cope. The answer that was developed was to form turnpike trusts which were allowed to levy tolls for the upkeep and improvement of named stretches of highway and hopefully make a profit (Hey, 1996 p454).

The first turnpike road was established by Act of Parliament in 1663 to maintain a 15 mile stretch of the Great North Road near Royston in Hertfordshire. This pioneering solution was not copied until 1696. Then the number slowly grew with four in 1690s. In 1707 an Act of Parliament allowed for a turnpike trust to be set up to maintain a road based on tolls. This was rapidly copied with 10 in the 1700s, 22 in the 1710s, and 46 in the 1720s. By 1750 most of the major routes in England had been turned into turnpike trusts (Hey, 1996 p454). The requests for each Act normally started claiming that the highway was in disrepair and could not be maintained by the ordinary laws unless tolls were levied to supplement local rates and the efforts of householders under the statutory labour system. Once an Act was passed it allowed the trustees to appoint surveyors, repair the roads with the continued assistance of statutory labour, erect gates, build toll cottages and milestones and appoint toll collectors. The Trustees were also allowed to mortgage the tolls and to elect new trustees. These powers were normally granted for 21 years, after which a Renewal Act had to be requested and this continued into the 1830’s, often with the roads covered by the trust being extended. Renewal was made automatic, if requested, after 1835. It should be remembered only the busiest and most important roads were ever run by turnpike trusts, 80% of Britain’s roads were left untouched.

In 1773 the General Turnpike Act was passed which went some way to consolidating the existing legislation, but it did nothing to remedy the weaknesses of the system. A trust may not be effective and there was no audit of the accounts of the trusts. No attempt was made to place long distance roads under the control of one group since most trusts only had control of 20 to 30 miles. Many raised excessive mortgages and the trust then became overwhelmed by the interest payments. In many cases by the early 1800’s, trusts were generating only enough tolls money to pay the interest on the outstanding mortgages and was thus unable to maintain the road.

These turnpike roads were dependent on local initiatives; the requests came from local landowners and tradesmen. They could see the economic benefits of improved communications. Most trusts had many trustees often over 40 or 50. These would include a local lawyer (as clerk), a treasurer and a surveyor, some figurehead nobles and then many tradesmen, landowners and local clergy. Due to lack of engineering knowledge the salaried Turnpike Surveyors were, initially at least, no more competent than the elected Parish Surveyors and improvements in the repair of the roads were slow to occur. In spite of this, few Acts were successfully opposed in Parliament, not the least because there was a wide range of exceptions to the tolls, in particular for local people. Foot passengers traveled free, and that included virtually all the poor, wagons in use for agriculture, carrying road materials or vagrants were exempt, as was the Army, Post Horses, attending Church on Sunday and going to vote at elections. It is now believed that Turnpike resistance and riots have been over emphasized and where destruction of toll gates did occur there was some other underlying discontent. (the Rebecca Riots which occurred in Wales, however, lead to the abolition of the Welsh turnpikes in 1844) (URL14).

Tolls were originally based on the size of a vehicle (and number of horses drawing it) or the number of animals in a drove. It soon became evident that the size of vehicle was not the only factor in causing damage to road surfaces and Acts were introduced to charge tolls based on the weight of the load and occasionally weighing machines would be built by certain gates. This allowed a ticket to be provided indicating the weight of the vehicle which could then be produced each time a vehicle passed through a gate subsequently.

At first there were no permanent tollhouses and the gates were closed at night, but once it became apparent that the turnpikes were not temporary, toll houses were built at road junctions with a clear view of the gates and roads. There were still complaints that gates were found locked because the keeper was missing or that he was drunk or asleep. The wages of 9s per week did not always encourage the right sort of staff. This changed in the 1770's when the operation of the turnpikes was "farmed" out to the highest bidder at auction (an early example of privatisation). This meant that the "farmer" paid annual rent to the trust, but kept the tolls collected. He would either run the tollgate himself or appoint a gate-keeper.

Turnpike roads are associated with the stage coach era. They became unprofitable with the coming of the railways and the decline of the long distance carriage traffic. From 1835, parishes were authorised by parliament to combine into groups called Highway Boards, to upkeep roads more efficiently. From this time the turnpike trusts were slowly replaced by these boards or committees of the new civil local authorities. During the 1850s and 1860s the condition of many turnpike roads deteriorated as trusts tried to pay off their debts. Most trusts were dissolved by the 1870s and 1880s, and in 1888 responsibility for main roads passed to the newly created county councils.

Within Weeke there were three turnpike roads. These were the Andover Road, the Stockbridge Road and the Romsey Road (called Cock Lane at the time). This latter turnpike was not actually in Weeke because of the piece of land along the modern Romsey Road that was carved out of Weeke and actually part of St Faiths parish, but has been included here.

The Stockbridge and Winchester trust also included the road from Winchester to Bishops Waltham. The Act of Parliament to establish this trust was in 1758 (HRO 4M/30/1). The first meeting of the trustees took place on Friday 23rd June 1758 at the White Hart Inn in Winchester. The original trustees included Thomas Godwin, John Gringo and John Hinxman, all of Weeke. A toll gate and cottage called the Weeke Gate was installed close to the modern junction between Stockbridge Road and Chilbolton Avenue. This trust was renewed in 1780, 1801 and 1823. By 1823 one of the trustees had become William Burnett, then a major landholder in Weeke. The trust was finally wound up in 1872 when the toll cottage at Weeke was sold. The turnpike route can be traced on the first edition Ordnance Survey map for the area which was published in 1817. The road started in Stockbridge and followed what became the A272 and is now the B3049 and is called the Stockbridge Road at the Winchester end. The road approached Winchester via Weeke parish through the Weeke Turnpike Gate. It ended at the West Gate and included the lane from Fulflood to the City Road (now part of Stockbridge Road). At the other side of the City the road left the East Gate and followed what is now Bar End Road (B3330) to a turnpike Gate called ‘Bar End’ then followed the road to Morestead, now a minor road skirting St Catherine’s Hill and Twyford Down and called ‘Morestead Road’. On passing through Morestead the road took off to the left down the road towards Bishops Waltham called ‘Belmore Lane’. The road then went to the left of Stephen’s Castle Down and on to Bishop’s Waltham (HRO Q26/1/4).

The Winchester and Andover trust was approved by Parliament in 1762 (HRO 61M85). This covered the road from Winchester over Worthy Cow Down, through to Whitchurch and on to the river at Newton, also the road through to Wherewell and on to the existing turnpike road to Andover. The map by William Godson in 1750 (HRO 3M30/4) shows a gate on the Andover road just beyond the junction with Worthy Road. This is called Swan Lane on the map. This is odd since Swan Lane is the small lane at the junction of Andover Road with Stockbridge Road, some few hundred yards from the gate. This could be explained by the gate originally being by Swan Lane to close access to the city at night or to try and control disease in the city. This may have been moved as the expansion of the city had started. The Turnpike trust would have been aware of the dangers of having a gate at the bottom of a hill (Searle, 1930 p101). The existing gate was dismantled and a toll cottage and gate called the City Arms was installed on the Andover road about halfway between the Jolly Farmer pub and the junction with Park road where the hill is far less steep. Once again the trust was renewed every 21 years 1783, 1804 and 1826. The trust was finally wound up in the 1870's when the toll cottage on Andover road was sold. The turnpike road started in Winchester at the City Arms Gate and followed the modern Andover Road to the point where the modern slip road to the A34 goes off to the right. The modern A34 roughly follows the line of the turnpike to Newtown. The original road went through the centre of Whitchurch but continues along the modern A34 line to Newtown which is on the outskirts of modern Newbury. The road ends at the river Enborne which forms the boundary between Hampshire and Berkshire. The other turnpike follows the modern A3420 along the line of the Roman road but the road leaves the line of the Roman road to head through Wherewell and follows the A3420 joining the A3057 into Andover (HRO Q26/1/4).

The Winchester and Romsey trust was established in 1759 (HRO 76M86/40). This covered the road from Oxdean Gate, Popham Lane then through Winchester on to Hursley and then Chandlers Ford. It also included from Hursley through to the Turnpike road at Romsey then through Chilworth to the River at Swaythling. Another part was from the Turnpike at Romsey through Ringwood to Longham Bridge and Wimborne Minister in Dorset. A toll gate and cottage called Cock Lane Gate was installed on the Romsey Road. The trust was renewed every 21 years and the trust was finally wound up in 1876 when the toll cottage on Romsey road was sold (HRO 136M82/80). The road started on the Basingstoke to Winchester route at Pophan Lane which lead to North Waltham near the Wheatsheaf hotel. The Gate shown on the OS map is not named near the junction with the modern A303. The road then followed the line of the modern A33 into Winchester. The route started again at West Gate along Cock Lane, the modern Romsey Road. The ‘Cock Lane’ Gate was close to the modern Hilliers Garden Centre. The road then followed the modern B3040 and A3090 through Hursley. It then took two lines, the first along the modern B3043 to Chandler’s Ford. The second line followed the line of the modern A3090 through to Romsey. Before Romsey a turning to the left follows the line of the modern A27 through Chilworth to Swaythling at the river Itchen.

The final leg ran by the Trust went from Romsey along the stretch of road formerly the A31 now the A3090 then becomes A31 through to Ringwood. At Ringwood the road crosses the river Avon which is the boundary between Hampshire and Dorset and the line then follows the modern A31 to Wimborne Minster following the road directly into the town. A spur road led from the A31 along the modern A35 towards Poole and the trust ended at the bridge over the river Stour at Longham (HRO Q26/1/4).

Release 1.0 last update 11/12/07

All content © www.weekehistory.co.uk 2007 All rights reserved.