Nostalgia: Milestones from the turnpike era

PUBLISHED: 12:18 04 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:06 06 May 2010

The milestone

The milestone

FOLLOWING the recent discovery of a local milestone, readers may be interested in the history of our turnpike roads. By the 18th century traffic was increasing on trunk roads. These were maintained by local parishes and most were in poor repair. Turnpike

The toll house

FOLLOWING the recent discovery of a local milestone, readers may be interested in the history of our turnpike roads.

By the 18th century traffic was increasing on trunk roads.

These were maintained by local parishes and most were in poor repair.

Turnpike trusts were set up to plan and maintain important roads, with maintenance costs being met by charging tolls on users.

The Great North Road from London to Edinburgh passed through Biggleswade and the first turnpike road from Stevenage to Biggleswade went as far as the Red Lion and opened in 1720.

The road from Biggleswade Bridge to Alconbury followed in 1725.

These two roads were joined through the town in 1755 but there was also a bypass route along Crab Lane and Sun Street to two important inns, The Royal Oak and The Sun.

Also in 1755 the turnpike from Biggleswade to Potton, St Ives and Ramsey opened.

This started from the original Spread Eagle (now Eagle Farm Road) and formed part of an important route from London through to Wisbech and King's Lynn. Coaching inns in Potton also benefited from passing trade.

Charges were made for horse drawn vehicles and scores (20) of cattle, sheep and pigs.

Tollgates and toll houses (booths) were set up in London Road opposite Dunton Lane, at the entrance to the common and in Potton Road by Turnpike Farm.

Milestones giving the distance from London were put in at every mile on The Great North Road.

These were at Bleak Hall (42 miles to London), Stratton Bottom (43), opposite what is now Chambers Way (44), in front of what is now The Vicarage in Shortmead Street (45), Near Tingey's Corner (46), Seddington (47), north of Beeston (48).

On what is now the B1040 from Drove Road, they were put on Potton Road just before Stratton Way (45 miles to London), Sutton (46), near John O'Gaunt Golf Club (47), Potton Town (48), north of Potton church (49) and Gamlingay (50).

An Act of 1862 set up highway boards giving local authorities responsibility for repairs.

By 1867 trusts were being abolished and toll gates taken down.

Biggleswade was bypassed in 1961, but traffic through the town is increasing year by year.

Bryant's map of the county of Bedford was surveyed in 1825 and 1826 and gave locations of all milestones and toll booths in the district.


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