Even though it has been a dry summer, the roads near my house are full of pot-holes thanks to a wet winter and not much money spent on road maintenance. But how were roads and highways maintained in the Stuart Era?
|17th Century routes through the towns and forests|
of England, hunting horns denote forests
This being a success, to assist in the repair of roads, after 1663 groups of wealthy landowners were given permission by Parliament to build or improve a stretch of road and then charge tolls to get their money back, thereby allowing them to make a profit. These were called Turnpike Trusts. At first these toll roads were short and acted as short cuts, often bypassing a village and thus reducing its trade.
|18thC print of Hyde Park Turnpike Gate|
A turnpike gate was a large gate which revolved on a spike and after the individual had paid his penny to use the turnpike the gate would revolve allowing access to the newly created turnpike road. Typical charges in the 17th Century were one penny for a horse and sixpence for a coach. Exempt from the charges were mail coaches, foot passengers and people in a funeral cortege. Because it was possible for brave horsemen to leap over the gates without paying, the gate was sometimes replaced by what soon became known as a 'turnpike': a wooden bar with spikes on top.
Of course I will have to include this sort of a leap over a Turnpike in my next book!