Stoke-upon-Trent - Local History

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Stoke-upon-Trent - Local History

Turnpike and Packhorse Roads in North Staffordshire



Road tolls are at least 2700 years old, as they had to be paid for using the Susa-Babylon highway under the regime of Ashurbanipal, who reigned in Assyria in the seventh century BC

In 14th century England, some of the most heavily used roads were repaired with money raised from tolls by pavage grants. Turnpike trusts were established in England beginning in 1706, and were ultimately responsible for the maintenance and improvement of most main roads in England and Wales, until they were gradually abolished from the 1870s. Most trusts improved existing roads, but some new ones usually only short stretches of road were also built.

Waterloo Road - Cobridge - showing the toll booth c.1870
Waterloo Road - Cobridge - showing the toll booth c.1870
Photo: late Mr. E.D.J. Warrillow

the same view in 2001
the same view in 2001
on the left is the pottery works of Simpsons (Potters) Ltd
and St. Peters Church Hall


The first turnpike trust was established by Parliament through a Turnpike Act in 1706, placing a section of the London-Coventry-Chester road in the hands of a group of trustees.

1706 Turnpike roads began to be built by Trusts, individually authorised to borrow money and levy tolls by separate private acts of Parliament.

1751 Turnpike Act contained measures to prevent damage being caused to turnpike roads.

1757 Turnpike Act amended and reduced into one act the laws in force for regulating the turnpike roads. All over the country property owners were tabling plans to upgrade stretches of public highway that crossed their estates and sought to set up tollgates and charge fees. Typical fees were one penny for a horse, three pence for a coach and four to six pence for a heavily loaded cart.

1773 General Turnpike Act consolidated and amended numerous acts referring to individual roads. Between 1760 and 1774, 452 separate private turnpike acts were passed.

1844 Turnpike Trusts numbered about 1000, and were receiving about 1.5 million in tolls per annum.

The Old Toll Bar, circa 1910
The Old Toll Bar, circa 1910

The Toll Bar stood at Talke crossroads at the junction of Congleton Road and Linley Lane near Church Lawton. By 1920 the building had been demolished.

The trustees could erect gates as they saw fit, demand statute labour or a cash equivalent, and appoint surveyors and collectors, in return they repaired the road and put up mileposts. Initially trusts were established for limited periods of often twenty one years. The expectation was that the trust would borrow the money to repair the road and repay that debt over time with the road then reverting to the parishes. In reality the initial debt was rarely paid off and the trusts were renewed as needed.

The proposal to turnpike a particular section of road was normally a local initiative and a separate Act of Parliament was required to create each trust. The Act gave the trustees responsibility for maintaining a specified part of the existing highway. It provided them with powers to achieve this; the right to collect tolls from those using the road was particularly important. Local gentlemen, clergy and merchants were nominated as trustees and they appointed a clerk, a treasurer and a surveyor to actually administer and maintain the highway. These officers were paid by the trust. Trustees were not paid, though they derived indirect benefits from the better transport, which improved access to markets and led to increases in rental income and trade.

The rise of railway transport largely halted the improving schemes of the turnpike trusts.

The abiding relic of the English toll roads is the number of houses with names like "Turnpike Cottage", the inclusion of "Bar" in place names and occasional road name: Turnpike Lane


The road from Stoke to Hanley was turnpiked and the 1832 map shows the tollgate near to Cauldon Place
The road from Stoke to Hanley was turnpiked
and the 1832 map shows the tollgate near to Cauldon Place


The toll building still exists as a newsagent and it's not all that long ago, say 50 years, when you could actually see from its shape where the tolls were taken