Records of Kendale: The main roads

Pages 1-20

Records Relating To the Barony of Kendale: Volume 3. Originally published by Titus Wilson and Son, Kendal, 1926.

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The Romans considered their roads as one complete system but with the Teutonic migration and the consequent split up of the kingdom into small sections, traffic became very local. The obligation to keep in repair the highways and bridges—now no longer considered Imperially —was thrust upon the various landowners who held their possessions subject to certain services to the State. This duty, which subsequently devolved upon the parishes and hundreds through which the roads passed, became the basis of our English Highway Law.

The advent of the feudal lord and the right to hold market and fair (fn. 1) to which merchants were attracted, also the frequent pilgrimages to the great religious houses, revived to a certain extent the idea of through traffic, but they also developed the highway robber. To check this abuse the Statute of Winchester, 1285, further placed on the landowner the liability of making good to the person robbed the loss he had sustained in his district. (fn. 2) The Act provided that highways leading from one market town to another should be so opened out that there should not be any "dike, tree or bush wherein a man might lurk to do hurt, within 200 feet on one side and 200 feet on the other side of the road, but it was not to extend to great Oaks or other trees so that they be clear underneath." That wheeled traffic was possible upon these highways is shown by a complaint of the Abbot of St. Mary's, York, in 1309, that Walter de Styrkland and others assaulted his servants, sent to carry the tithe corn and hay of his Church at Kirkby-inKendale, and took away the horses from his waggons and impounded them. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1309, p. 129.

In addition to these primary highways there were certain bridle tracks that led from one capital messuage to another, or direct to the adjacent town. And when it is considered that the knight and his retinue would issue direct from his Hall, indeed that all personal intercourse with his neighbours and all conveyance of his goods would be by a direct route, we can well understand how so many of these ways pass right through the centre of demesne lands and even parks, as at Dalton, Levens, Rydal and Wharton. Moreover, the great landowners would be the first to employ farm carts, the first to drive at a later date in their own private chaises and the most influential in obtaining the best surface possible on their personal lines of communication. Hence it is that so many of these byways by degrees became highways.

Bridges very materially assisted the revenues of the town or abbey, not only by developing the traffic and power of trade, but by the right obtained from the Crown to levy a toll for their use. Moreover, it was considered a pious act to assist in maintaining these bridges, and, to encourage the faithful, the bishops would often grant indulgences for a certain time to those who would perform such public service. Thus in 1379 the Bishop offered an indulgence to all who should adequately contribute to the building of the bridge (ponte de Strowmondgate) which spans the Kent in the parish of Kirkby Kendall in the Diocese of York. (fn. 3)

Guilds also sometimes appreciated the need and helped the transportation of their merchandise by making the necessary repairs; but when such votive offerings were not forthcoming recourse had to be made to taxes on the parish and tolls on the users, in the form of "pontage" and "pavage." The fact that the streams which these bridges spanned sometimes formed the boundary between two parishes, frequently led to great dispute as to the responsibility, or need, or manner of executing the repair. And with such contentions we can easily understand why in the Quarter Session Records, there are constant presentments for failure to repair bridges that were "ruinous, broken, dangerous and in great decay." (fn. 4)

By an Act passed in 1555 (2 and 3 Philip and Mary, c. 8) " inasmuch as the highways are become very noisom and tedious to travel in and dangerous to all passengers and carriages," it was enacted that the Constables and Churchwardens of every parish, should yearly call together a number of parishioners, upon the Tuesday or Wednesday of Easter week, and should then elect two honest persons of the parish to act as Surveyors for the succeeding year, and further that every householder should be proportionately liable to contribute labour for four days to the needful work. The office of Surveyor was no sinecure as he had to keep constant watch that no nuisances were allowed to accumulate, that all grass and saplings were removed and that the adjacent landlords trimmed their hedges so as to allow as much sun and wind as possible to dry them; also he had to view the bridges and to see that all water courses and dykes were kept scoured. On the Sunday he had to appear before the parishioners to inform against any who had used more than the legal number of draught animals in their waggons, and if any failed to satisfy the conditions of the law he had to make presentment of such persons before the Justices of the Peace. All this work had to be done without remuneration and with the daily fear of a penalty of 20 shillings if he failed to carry out the duties thus thrust upon him.

By an amending Act of 1562 (5 Eliz. c. 13) the Surveyors received greater powers and six days labour was exacted from the householders either working themselves or by sending others to work in their places. A third Act, passed in 1575 (18 Eliz. c. 10) made the Surveyors independent of the Churchwardens and responsible officers of the Parish, although no special knowledge of road construction was asked of them. Nor had such any inducement to study the subject since they knew that at the end of the year their office would be given over to another equally inefficient person.

Harrison, in his Description of Britaine, written in 1557 says, " Now to speake generallie of our common high waies you shall understand that in the claie or cledgie soile they are often verie deepe and troublesome in the winter halfe. Wherefore by authoritie of parlement an order is taken for their yearlie amendment whereby all sorts of the common people doo imploie their travell for six daies in summer upon the same. And albeit that the intent of the statute is verie profitable for the reparations of the decaied places, yet sometimes, and that very often, these daies works are not imploied upon those waies that lead from market to market, but each surveior amendeth such by-plots and lanes as seeme best for his owne commoditie, and more easie passage unto his fields and pastures." Innkeepers were frequently chosen to fill the office of Surveyor, when great temptation was offered to adjourn to his house for a carousal. Doubtless this was the reason why an Act of 1753, 26 Geo. 11, c. 30, prohibited innkeepers from being appointed.

We gain a description of our roads in 1634 by reference to a manuscript in the British Museum in which a traveller making for Carlisle, along the Picts Wall, found the ways "mountainous, rocky and dangerous." At Penrith, he speaks of the "stony ways" and journeying toward Kendal "through such wayes as wee hope wee never shall againe, being no other but clim(b)ing and stony, nothing but Bogs and Myres o'r the tops of those high hills so as wee were enforc'd to keepe these narrow, loose, stony, base wayes, though never so troublesome and dangerous. . . . On wee went for Kendall, desiring much to be releas'd of those difficult and dangerous wayes, which for the space of eight miles travelling a slow marching pace we pass'd over nothing but a most confus'd mixture of Rockes and Boggs." (fn. 5)

It must be remembered that only in fine weather was the full width of the narrow road available for wheeled traffic; at other times merely the crown rose above the quagmire, and one can realise how frequently this was blocked while recriminations were carried on by those travelling in opposite directions, as to who should make way for the other. Under such conditions riding post was the usual and fastest form of travelling, indeed it remained so even down to the first quarter of the 19th century. Private coaches could seldom manage more than thirty miles a day and the diaries of the Countess of Pembroke (1672) and of Bishop Nicholson (1702–1704) speak clearly of the difficulties that they met with, although drawn by six horses, over roads that "were no better than the roughest fell tracks on high ground and spongy, miry tracks in the vallies."

It was the Civil War and the difficulty experienced in manœuvring the contending armies that at length brought the attention of Parliament to bear upon the almost impassable state of the main roads. By the Act of 1662 Surveyors received power to raise money by assessment in order to pay the parishioners with their teams for work that could not be accomplished within the allotted six days of forced labour. No waggons were to be drawn by more than seven horses or with wheels less than four inches wide, and no weight carried greater than a ton from October 1st, to May 1st, nor 30 cwt. between May 1st and October 1st. There is also evidence that it was beginning to dawn upon Parliament that it was obviously unjust and beyond the power of a thinly scattered rural population to be called upon to pay for and maintain a road that was almost solely used for through traffic.

Before 1675 John Ogilby had completed, with the authority of Parliament, his wonderful survey of the fifty-eight principal roads in England. By turning to his plates we find that he delineates the main north road as coming up from Over Kellet to the Longlands Inn and so by what is now a grassy lane to the Buckstone. This huge granite block still stands in the hedgerow where for centuries it stood as a landmark to guide the passer by. A short way beyond, the road is now lost in fields, but we find a trace of it again in Dalton Park, where, a few yards within its present boundary wall, a rude milestone can be seen bearing the figure 10 upon it. Ten miles from Lancaster. Just beyond the park there are a few cottages known as Heron Syke and beside them can be seen another trace of the road while opposite to them there is a brass plate marking the ancient boundary between Lancashire and Westmorland; distant 243 miles 5 furlongs from London according to Ogilby. The road then passes through Burton, along the western boundary of "Holmes Park," "Frandon," over the Peasy Beck near "Preston Chappell," over "Sallat Brow," to the west of "Grove Chappell" i.e. the old Crosscrake Chapel, through "Notclaf" and over "Neither Bridg" to Kendal at 256 miles from London. At Otter Bank the route climbed straight northward over "Betome Hill," past Whitwell and Selside Halls and so to the Plough Inn and Forest Hall, the end of the first stage out from Kendal. Now the route is only dotted as if it were a mere track past Wolfhowe, to the west of Hollowgate farm, crossing the "Burrow flu" at the old High Borrow bridge and following the west bank of Crookdale beck to Hawse Foot. After climbing 1240 feet above Kendal the road now descends and a quarter of a mile beyond the summit it can be seen returning and crossing the modern turnpike diagonally towards and over Wasdale Old Bridge. From here it passed by Bleabeck bridge and through the present Granite Works, west of Shap Thorn and "the Stone Heaps" to the old Greyhound Inn at "Shop," where the track becomes a double lined road again.

A second plate delineates the cross road from Kendal to Cockermouth and shows it passing through "Barnside," over a stone bridge at "Staulay," "Caston" (? Reston), a stone bridge at "Chapel on the Inges," past "Broadyate a village" and thence over a high hill and moor to Troutbeck stone bridge. Thence to Ambleside, through the centre of "Ridale Park," and over a stone bridge at "Gresmere," from which point the route becomes a dotted track to a stone bridge over Raise Beck and so enters Cumberland at 19 miles 6 furlongs from Kendal. (fn. 6)

In 1703 we have an Order of Quarter Sessions that the surveyors of highways within the "Barandry of Kendall" do sufficiently repair the highways and enlarge the same where necessary and cut the bushes or boughs of trees or hedges that hang into and are troublesome to passengers, so as to make them good and sufficient for the passage of coaches, carts and carriages before the 11th of October next. (K. Order Book, 1696–1724). Again on 16th January 1712/13 "Whereas it appears to the Court that several travellers have mistaken their way from market town to market town in the Barony for want of guides or posts to direct them," warrants were issued to the Petty Constables to cause the Surveyors of Highways to erect posts of wood or stone at every cross highway and every cross lane in the said ways with an inscription thereon. (Ibid.).

Among the MSS. left by Benjamin Browne, the High Constable, there is a Survey of the Bridges in Kendal Ward, dated 1712, also a Survey of the highways in Kendal Ward, dated 1730. These MSS. numbered 221 and 220 respectively are bound in the First Volume of the late George Browne's manuscripts.

William Pearson quotes from a diary written by a volunteer who served in the Duke of Cumberland's army, as follows:— "The Deputy Lieutenants of Westmorland, on the 14 December, 1745, in obedience to the command of the Duke, raised a party of the County to demolish Wastel (old) Bridge, and also break up the road down to Grayrigg Hawse in order to make the road from Kendal to Shap impassable for artillery and wheel carriages." (fn. 7) Another contemporary writer recounts what trouble the Prince's soldiers had. "On the 16th (December, 1745) the Main Body of the Army marched for Shap, but the Rear-guard were obliged to stop at a farm (Forest Hall) four miles from Kendal, by Reason that a great many of the carriages and particularly the four-wheeled waggons, in which was Part of the Ammunition, could not be forwarded because of the steepness of the Hill, and Badness of the Road. But small carriages being got next Day, and the Ammunition being shifted from the broken waggons, they came that night to Shap, being the 17th; the main Body having gone to Penrith that day." (fn. 8) At Levens Hall are preserved a number of grenades which were discovered when a pond was drained at the farm, showing that it was easier for the soldiers to cast aside some of their weight than attempt to convey it over the fell.

And further it is highly likely that it was this invasion, and the difficulties that the Hanoverians met with in coming into touch with the Stuarts, that again brought home to the Government the vital necessity for better roads throughout the country. Certain it is that from this date Turnpike Acts became very numerous. Those interested in any particular road were expected to apply for their own Act of Parliament, and with the Act, companies were formed and shares taken out; gate-houses were erected and let to the highest bidder who made what he could out of the tolls; Trustee meetings were held, and after paying a dividend the remainder of the half-year's profit was expended upon maintenance. As it was expected that the system would last only for so long as it was necessary to put the road into a proper condition, Parliament inserted a time limit into each Act, usually twenty-one years, but at the end of each term it was generally found necessary or advantageous to apply for a renewal of the Act, and so the system attained a certain permanency.

It is difficult to say whether the roads or the companies derived the greater benefit from the change. Arthur Young's six months tour through the North of England, in 1771, clearly shows that, in some districts at least, the roads were then in as bad a state as ever. Parliament however, was passing Act after Act for their improvement. For instance in 1753 an Act was passed, 26 Geo. ii, c. 30, enacting that the wheels of heavy waggons and carts must be nine inches broad, under the penalty of £5 or the forfeiture of one of the horses, and to further encourage the use of such wide wheels an amending Act, 28 Geo. ii, c. 17, exempted all such vehicles from toll for three years, while waggons with six-inch wheels were to pay a reduced rate; if the Trustees found this decrease of toll insufficient for their need, they were authorised to raise the rate on all narrower wheeled vehicles by one-fourth. Again in 1765, 5 Geo. III, c. 38, waggons and carts were ordered to have their fore and hind axle-trees of different lengths, so that the two wheels on each side of the waggon should not run in the same track, but should roll a surface of at least sixteen inches in width.

But what Parliament needed most was an engineer, a man who could bring scientific principles to bear upon road construction, and this need continued until the days of the blind John Metcalfe (1717–1792), Thomas Telford (1757–1834), and John Loudon Macadam (1756–1836). Each of these insisted upon a thorough drainage, but while the two former put all their faith upon securing a firm foundation, Macadam totally disregarded it, contending that a well drained subsoil and an impervious covering was all that was needed. Again, Telford covered his rough stone with one-and-a-half inches of gravel to act as a binding material, whereas Macadam preferred to break up the stone and leave it to work in under the traffic and unite by its own angles. Macadam also fought for a better administrative system, declaring that a living wage would attract men of skilful training to the care of the roads and was unsparing in his hostility to the six days Statute and pauper labour.

Although in the south of England stage waggons, or carriers' carts, began "to gall the roads" by carrying merchandise, they were not seen for a long time much north of York or further west than Exeter. In these distant parts all goods were carried by long trains of pack-horses, whose narrow tracks appear to have gone straight from point to point, regardless of all hills which might have been avoided to the relief of both man and beast. Nicolson and Burn (vol. I, p. 66) say that some 354 pack horses weekly plied to and from Kendal with their "hotts" or panniers laden with local manufactures and necessities. Generally four gangs were on the London road, two travelling through Lancashire and two through Yorkshire. One set was every week in London, one in Kendal, and the other two on their road. The same horses went through the whole journey which they accomplished in ten days. Besides conveying packs some of them occasionally carried passengers, reckoning a young lady as equivalent to half a pack. As can be well imagined, the cost of this form of transportation was almost prohibitive. Coal in particular was seldom seen far away from such points on the coast as where it could be conveyed by sea; indeed, at this time it was commonly known as "sea-cole" or "sea-borne-cole."

However, with the introduction of Turnpike roads, the strong wicker hampers of the pack-horses gave way to ill contrived and springless carts with revolving axles; post-chaises were introduced to Kendal in 1754, and the first stage waggon on the road between London and Kendal was established in 1757. When room permitted these carrier waggons were used by such persons as could not afford to travel on horseback. Stage-coaches for the public conveyance of passengers began to ply the country roads long after their general use in London, and the first to arrive in Westmorland was in 1763, when the "Flying Machine," drawn by six horses, made the inconceivably jolty and uncomfortable journey at the rate of six miles an hour. William Pearson says, "There was a long coach, shaped like a boat, which would hold about a dozen persons inside, while, perhaps, a like number might get up upon the roof. This heavy, lumbering vehicle set out from Kendal early in the morning (by two or three o'clock) and did not reach the metropolis till the afternoon of the third day !—two nights and nearly three days on the road. I speak from woful experience." (fn. 9) A greater degree of perfection was reached in 1786, when the Mail Coach began to run regularly between Manchester and Glasgow, stopping at Kendal to rest before plunging into the wild country beyond.

From this date vehicles of various types and sizes multiplied to such an extent that by the year 1823 no fewer than twelve stage coaches left the town of Kendal daily.

In 1862 an Act (25 and 26 Vict. c. 61) was passed that formed parishes into districts for the management and repair of district roads and created highway boards for the control of the highways. By the Highways and Locomotives Act, 1878, Parliament abolished the principle of Turnpikes and as the Trusts fell due handed the roads over to Quarter Sessions, with power to levy rates on the whole county for their maintenance, and supplementing them by a grant out of the Exchequer. When County Councils were set up (1889) the management of the main roads was transferred from Quarter Sessions.

Heron Syke, Kendal, Eamont Bridge.

It would appear that almost immediately after the 1745, Rising a scheme was set on foot for endeavouring to obtain a Turnpike Act for this road, but that it met with sufficient opposition to delay it for a time. A correspondent to the Agreeable Miscellany, writing on 23rd December, 1749, refers to this early meeting as follows:—"It is an Observation confirmed by the Experience of wise Men in all Ages, that nothing is so detrimental and abnoxious to the Prosperity and Wellbeing of a Government, as the particular Jealousies and Quarrels of its Subjects. . . . . . . A melancholy Instance of this manifestly appears from the vigorous Opposition, that the Scheme for a Turnpike thro' the County of Westmorland has met with since it was first proposed. A Scheme calculated solely to preserve and increase the Trade and Prosperity of the County, as well as for the Ease and Advantage of every Individual. At the first Meeting, about this Time two Years, all the Company except two or three seemed desirous of promoting so useful and necessary a Work. The Persons who then opposed it, did not concern themselves for the Bulk of the People, or in the least consider the true Interest of the County, but stuck wholly to their own Emolument. . . . . . . The wrong and absurd Scheme which they urged in Opposition proved how improper they were to be consulted in Undertakings of that Kind. . . . . . . It gives me great Pleasure to hear that the Spirit which shone forth at the Beginning of this Affair, and was so long unfortunately suppressed and obscured has again blazed out with superior Strength and Lustre. The subscription opened by the Gentlemen of Kendal and signed by many others from different Parts is an Example worthy of the highest Commendation. The particular Necessity there is for the Roads being mended in Westmorland wants no Demonstration to those that ever travelled a few Miles in any Part of the County. . . . I believe it is universally allowed by all Parties that the Roads are excessively bad, and even in some places dangerous to be passed."

Lancashire settled the question first and obtained an Act, 24 Geo. 11, 1751, for repairing and widening the road from Preston to Lancaster and from thence through Carnforth, Over Kellet, Borwick, Priest Hutton and Dalton Park to Heron Syke. Two years later Westmorland obtained its own first Turnpike Act, 26 Geo. 11, 1753, for widening and repairing the continuation of this road northward, that is from Heron Syke to Kirkby-in-Kendale, and from thence through the Town of Shap to Eamont Bridge. The preamble states that "Whereas the road is very ruinous, and some parts thereof almost impassable and could not, by the ordinary course appointed by the Laws then in being for repairing the highways, be amended and kept in good repair unless some further provision was made. . . . May it therefore please Your Majesty etc. etc. The names of the Commissioners are set forth, their powers and duties are stated, the tolls authorised to be taken, the penalties for omission and evasion and so forth, but as these do not differ materially from the provisions usual to all Highway Acts, it is not necessary to notice them.

After the space of twenty-five years a second Act was obtained, 19 Geo. III, 1779, for enlarging the terms and powers. The third Act, 40 Geo. III, 1800, continued the term for another twenty-one years, but after fifteen of these years had passed it was found necessary to apply for the fourth Act, 55 Geo. III, 1815, for making a new road through the Aynam, at a place called the Lound, to communicate with the intended Canal, and to rejoin the said road at or near a place called Far Cross Bank.

A very interesting meeting of the Trustees took place on the 23rd December, 1817, when the chairman took a comprehensive view of the funds of the road. The annual income he stated to be £2068 and the actual expenditure £1200, leaving a clear available surplus of £868. Of this sum £800 belonged to the portion of the road from Heron Syke to Kendal and only £68 to the northern section from Kendal to Eamont Bridge. It would appear that it was the usual custom to assist the northern out of the earnings of the southern section, but at this meeting Mr. C. Wilson contended that . . . . as it appeared reasonable that the southern section might suffer shortly a material depression from the effects of the Lancaster Canal being completed to Kendal, and also from the effect of a proposed new Turnpike road from Carnforth to Milnthorpe, and then to Kendal . . . . it would become advisable to erect a new toll bar on the northern section, at or near to Shap, which he calculated would produce £382, rather than divert the southern surplus any longer. This was agreed to. With regard to the proposed new and shorter road through Milnthorpe, the Rev. Henry Sill of Burton thought that it might reduce their tolls to £240 a year, and moved that a Committee be appointed to oppose the scheme and that the expenses of such opposition be defrayed from the surplus funds. A resolution that was carried by a majority of six in opposition to the chairman's wish.

The local newspapers for July 10th, 1819, tell of the widening of the bridges at Farleton and Crooklands; tenders are invited the following week for making the road beginning near the 7th milestone from Kendal to Shap and ending on the summit of Hollowgate Brow; on May 6th, 1820, for the building of a new bridge over the Bannisdale Beck, and on October 21st, 1820, for making the diversion to avoid Otter Bank. So great were these improvements that they drew forth two letters of appreciation which appeared in the Westmorland Advertiser for November 10th, 1821. "The alterations upon the road betwixt Kendal and Penrith are of such a magnitude and extent as will very soon avoid the steepest and worst parts . . . . . the first alteration of the road takes place about 4 miles north of Kendal, avoids the narrow lane (Otter Bank) through the village of Gateside, passes the ravine of Bannisdale beck by an embankment and an immensely high bridge, of a single arch, and joins the old road again near Forest Hall. The new line of road will be opened to the public in the spring of 1822. A second deviation has amazingly improved the ascent from Hollowgate and the descent to High Burrow-bridge. . . . Soon after passing the summit a third alteration, deviating to the right, and crossing Wasdale beck by a new bridge misses the Dennings and Wasdale-bridge Mills, and, it is hoped that this deviation will be continued so as to avoid the Blea beck bridge and Wickerslack hills, and afterwards rejoin the old road near the new toll-bar."

On July 15th, 1850, the Royal Assent was given to the 6th Act (13 and 14 Victoria) to amend the previous Acts and to continue the term.

A Table for a few odd years showing the net revenue produced at the five Toll Gates, above the cost of collecting and excluding the revenue from Stage Coaches.

Year. Burton. Nether Bridge. Bannisdale. Shap. Clifton.
1812 £330 £377 £191 £241 5 0
1815 400 460 250 315
1816 601 725 402 395
1819 604 700 477 £482 562
1822 491 626 491 422 481
1823 158 358 200 288 309
1836 148 480
1841 191 500 219 222 317
1844 The revenue recieved from all the gates was £1412 11 9
" " Stage Coaches £701 11 0
£2114 2 9

After the opening of the railways the revenue fell considerably.

1852 £70 £342 £39 £54 £124
1858 77 494 23 66 139
1860 70 431 25 71 141
1865 72 416 £15 10 0 69 119
1870 72 425 16 66 113
1875 54 361 10 38 121
1880 58 445 14 67 116

Kendal to Keighley via Kirkby Lonsdale.

The promoters of this Turnpike met with the usual opposition before they obtained their Act of Parliament. There are some interesting MSS. preserved in the British Museum (fn. 10) for and against the scheme, in which we learn from the opposition that the length of the road is 53¼ miles, the Westmorland Section being 12½ miles, and that there were 2058 men and 917 carts available for statute labour, which together with an assessment of 6d. in the pound would raise a yearly income of £1005 15s. 6d., a sum amply sufficient for the road's repair without any Trust.

Towns. Length of Section. Men. Carts. Labour and assessment.
M. F. Ch.
Keighley to Casterton 40 6 4 1648 744 £793 12 3
to K. Lonsdale 3 1 0 100 20 53 11 4
Mansergh 6 7 30 20 8 10 3
Lupton 1 5 0 33 13 26 0 0
Preston 1 5 0 5 4 6 10 0
Old Hutton 2 7 8 52 26 45 6 8
New Hutton 2 8 20 14 3 15 0
Hutton Ley-Hey 3 9 20 14 26 6 8
Natland 5 2 50 30 17 3 4
to Kendal 6 8 100 32 25 0 0
53 2 6 2058 917 £1005 15 6

The Act was obtained in 26 Geo. 11, 1752; a second Act for continuing the term and altering and enlarging the powers in 1778, and a third Act, 40 Geo. III, 1800, was obtained for the Westmorland and Lancashire sections only.

In 1818 a Notice is given in the local papers of an intention to apply for another Act to authorize the consolidation into one Act of the powers of this Trust with the K. Lonsdale to Milnthorpe Turnpike Trust.

Kendal via Milnthorpe to Dixies

and from Milnthorpe via Hang Bridge to Clawthorpe.

This Turnpike Act was obtained 32 Geo. 11, 1759, "for repairing, amending and widening the roads from the southwest end of Nether Bridge, Kendal, by Sizergh fellside to Levens Bridge and from thence through the town of Milnthorpe to Dixies, and from the town of Milnthorpe to Hang Bridge and from thence to join the Heron Syke Turnpike Road at the guide-post near Clawthorpe Hall." The second Act was obtained 20 Geo. 111, 1779, with additional powers, and the third Act about the year 1801.

At the south corner of Levens Park there is an old road branching off via Deepthwaite and Wath Sudden to Kirkby Lonsdale. A mile stone at the junction is inscribed To Kirkby with a hand pointing to the left and the date 1757. On the side To Milnth with a hand pointing to the right and To Kendal with a hand pointing to the left.

The Kendal papers for December 31st, 1819, report that "the Trustees are going to make immediately a very considerable improvement by deviating from the old road, for a length of 180 roods, commencing at the smith's shop on the north side of Sizergh Fell (i.e. where the Strickland Arms now stands), to the gate at Heaves Lodge and thereby avoiding the hill at Sizergh Fell which is an elevation of 81 feet and at a rise of three inches in the yard. The deviation will be shorter than the old road and will probably cost £1000." The level curve of the modern road round by Brettagh Holt Lodge is very noticeable. The old highway at Leasgill was by what is now known as the "Low Road" but instead of widening this, the Trustees took the Turnpike over the top of Leasgill Brow.

The fourth Act was obtained 3 George IV (1822).

The papers for March 13th, 1823, advertise for the making of a deviation at Heversham, extending for 155 roods, commencing "at the corner of the School House Barn and extending southwards to a field belonging to Henry Smithies, at Bull Copy Brow, near Milnthorpe." The present Heversham School now stands upon the site of the old road which can be easily traced in the field beyond. Again the Kendal papers for March 27th and April 10th, 1824, report that "the workmen have at last cut through the hill between Heversham and Milnthorpe, and that the new road is expected to be opened to the public before Whitsuntide."

The fifth Act was obtained 13 and 14 Victoria, 1850, continuing the term.

The net revenue produced at the Toll gates, excluding the Stage Coaches:

Helsington, produced in 1813 £129
1816 £130
1817 and 1818 £178
1819 £201
1820 £215
1822 and 1823 £297 11 6
Leasgill Gate, produced in 1822 and 1823 £108 7 3
In 1844 the revenue from Tolls on both gates = £492
do. State Coaches and not let £74 15 0
In 1850 both gates were let for £305
1855 357
1860 327
1865 350
1870 435
1874 311

Appleby via Orton and Grayrigg to Kendal; Orton to Shap; Tebay via Kirkby Stephen to Brough.

The Orton to Shap Turnpike road has taken the place of the old track that came up from Grayrigg, not crossing to the east of the Lune at Tebay, but which went straight northward via Roundthwaite, Birkbeck and Shales to Shap Thorn and the Stone Heaps. The Tebay to Kirkby Stephen Turnpike road has taken the place of the old packhorse track that forded the Lune between Dillicar and Low Carlingill and thence passed up Tebay Gill where a bridal road still exists, past Cooper's Land to the west of Gaisgill station. Here it was necessary to traverse some low lying ground and again ford the Lune before reaching the firmer ground past Raisgill Hall and above Kelleth to the Rigg End, where and Inn and extensive stabling refreshed both man and beast. After passing north of Brownber and over Scandale Beck by the ancient county bridge, the track climbed along to Waitby, passing near the modern school and so through Kaber to Stainmore and Barnard Castle.

A combined Turnpike Act was obtained for these three roads in 1 George III, 1760, being an Act for the repair and widening of the road from the Borough of Appleby through the Township of Orton to Kirkeby in Kendale; and from Orton to the Turnpike road near Shap; and from Highgate near Tebay, in a part of the Highway between Appleby and Kirkby in Kendal, through the town of Kirkby Stephen to the town of Market Brough.

The second Act was obtained in 22 George III; the third Act in 44 George III, 1804; the fourth Act in 5 George IV, 1825, and the fifth in 13 and 14 Victoria, 1850; each continuing the term and altering or enlarging the powers.

Ambleside to Kendal, and Plumgarth via Crook to Windermere.

A combined Turnpike Act was obtained in 2 George III, 1761, for widening, repairing and amending the road from Hesket by Yewe's Bridge to Cockermouth, and from thence by I. orton over Whinlatter to Keswick; and from Keswick by Dunmail Raise and Ambleside to K. Kendal; and from Plumgarth's Cross to the Lake called Windermere. The second Act was obtained in 23 George III, and the third in 44 George III, 1804.

The fourth Act, passed 5 George IV, 1824, only concerned so much of the above roads as lay within the county of Westmorland. The preamble states, "whereas certain parts of the roads situate in the townships of Grasmere and Rydal and Strickland Kettle are very dangerous and incommodious to travellers by reason of the steepness and narrowness thereof and it would be of great advantage of the lines were altered or diverted, may it be enacted etc. that so far as the former Acts relate to Westmorland they may be repealed and that instead thereof this Act shall from henceforth take effect.

At the first meeting of the new Trustees held on 13th April, 1824, it was resolved that Mr. Russell do stake out the line of deviation commencing near the slate quarry at Rydal and proceeding from thence to Grasmere. On 16th October following, power was given to let the deviation of road at Gilpin Bridge. From this time forward considerable widenings and straightening out of bends took place as can be seen by reference to the Ambleside Turnpike Road Book of Proceedings preserved in the county muniment room.

On 11th January, 1875, a Notice was received from the Local Government Board that the Trust was to expire on 1st November next and requesting the Trustees to make all necessary arrangements for winding up the accounts and pulling down the several Toll Gates. On 23rd December following it was shown that a balance of £832 remained to the credit of the Trust, which sum was divided between the various townships through which the road passed in proportion to the mileage in each.

The net revenue produced at the Toll Gates excluding the revenue from Stage Coaches:

Plumgarth and Staveley. Waterhead. Grasmere.
1812 £300 10 0 £87 4 6 £63 5 0
1821 416 0 0 117 15 0 81 10 0
1825 401 0 0 300 0 0 194 0 0
1830 410 0 0 257 0 0 144 0 0
1835 For the four gates £757 0 0
Plumgarth, Staveley and Bonning Gate chain. Waterhead and Grasmere.
1840 £505 0 0 £417 0 0
1846 372 0 0 396 0 0
Including the revenue from Stage Coaches.
1850 £300 0 0 £579 0 0
1855 402 0 3 688 0 0
1860 328 0 0 752 0 0
1865 For the five gates £1176 0 0
1870 " 1086 0 0
1874 " 1100 0 0

Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh, Casterton to Greeta Bridge; Brackenbar Gate via Garsdale and Sedbergh to Kendal; Marthwaite via Firbank to Grayrigg Hawse.

This was a combined Act obtained in 2 George III, 1761. It was renewed in 1784, 1805 and 1826 but in the following year it was repealed in favour of 7 George IV for deviating, extending and altering some of the said roads. The new Act was renewed in 1851.

At the four road ends in Marthwaite there are two milestones. On one is inscribed To Covuan Bridge seven miles and on the reverse a hand pointing to the right To Borrow Bridge six miles. On the second stone below a hand pointing to the right To Sedbergh two miles, and on the reverse below a hand To Millthropp eight miles Beware of the (wat)er.

Kendal to Kirkby Ireleth via Newby Bridge to Bouth and Penny Bridge.

William Pearson1 says that the old road Kendal to Ulverston by way of Underbarrow and Cartmel-fell, was in its ancient state, "a mere track, from five to six feet wide, as may yet be seen in many places, particularly below the Underbarrow toll-gate. . . . Improved as the road was, it still followed the old track first marked out by the pack horses; passing over two mountains, where there were long and steep declivities—Underbarrow Scaur, and Staveley Brow, near to Fell-foot. . . . . The old and most direct road, thro' Crosthwaite, is now almost deserted; in fact, grass grows upon it on the summit of Cartmel-fell." Again the Rev. F. R. C. Hutton says2 "The old pack-horse track from Ulverston to Kendal ran right past Witherslack Church . . . you may track it from Towtop to Whitbarrow. . . Subsequently to the Pack-horse time came the mail coaches, which also came past the Church and up Towtop, the farmer at Kay Moss making quite a living by keeping horses to drag the coaches up the hill. The house just below, with its large stables, was a halting place. It was called the Spa Inn."

The Act for the new road was obtained in 3 George III, and continued in the 24th and 39th George III and again in 1 George IV, 1820.

The net revenue produced at the Toll gates, excluding the Stage Coaches:

Underbarrow Scar Foot. Penny Bridge. Lowfield and Holmes Green.
1813 £80 1 6 £175 0 0 £85 1 0
1816 88 5 0 175 0 0 100 0 0
1819 79 15 0 116 0 0
1846 71 0 0 190 0 0 300 15 0

Milnthorpe to Kirkby Lonsdale.

An Act for repairing, widening and improving the Public Highway leading from Milnthorpe to Kirkby Lonsdale, was obtained in 37 George III, 1796. An amendment of this Act was obtained in 59 George III, 1819, "for more effectually repairing the road from the Toll House Beck in the Township of Ireby, co. Lancaster, to Kirkby Lonsdale, in the co. of Westmorland, and through Kirkby Lonsdale to Millthrop." That is to say that the Keighley to Kendal Trust and the Kirkby Lonsdale to Milnthorp Trust are now amalgamated.

Carnforth to Milnthorpe and Levens to Greenodd.

Bishop Nicolson in his dairy for October 16th, 1704, writes:—"In company w[ith] a deal of Kendale friends, to Levens. . . After ye rocky way to Warton I took leave of ye Vicar and other friends fro Kendale." His route would be via Beetham, Slack Head and the Yealands to Warton; but if he had wished to turn aside into Furness he would have had to go round by the village of Beathwaite Green, the Long Causey, Old Sampool bridge and then mount up behind Whitbarrow Lodge, then called High Fell End, and so either by a mountainous road to Newton and Newby Bridge, or down by Turner Hill to Witherslack Town End and so across the mosses via Highstock and Ulpha Bridges to Pool House Bridge, now known as Wilson House Bridge, and so to Lindale and Cartmel.

In the Kendal papers for August 2nd, 1817, there is a notice of a meeting, held at Newby Bridge on the 25th of July, to consider the propriety of applying to Parliament for an Act to establish this Turnpike so as to avoid the Lancaster Sands and saying that "the present mountainous track of road by land beggars description." Mr. William Miller, a Surveyor of Preston and one of the Commissioners under the Witherslack Inclosure Act, produced a sketch plan, whereupon he was asked to make an accurate survey with an estimate of the supposed expense. His plan is interesting as it shows what lanes were then existing, what portions of them it was intended to widen and straighten out and what new lengths of roadway would be needed. For instance it shows a new road almost entirely from Carnforth to Homer Hall, when it enters an old track for 1¾ miles and then becomes new again to the Inn at Hale. By straightening out twists opposite to Beetham Hall it makes for Beetham but instead of passing direct to the church and turning by a right angle to the old bridge it now takes a new curve and crosses the Bela by a new bridge into the old track to Milnthorpe. The road from Levens Bridge to Beathwaite Green formerly ran, for the distance of one furlong, alongside the north bank of the river and then took a sharp right angle bend direct to Beathwaite Green. That portion beside the river became discused and a new road is made, cutting across the old road, direct to a new Sampool Bridge, situated about one furlong below the old bridge. Instead of mounting up behind Whitbarrow Lodge a new length of road is made along the flat all the way to Meathop Bridge. Here the old track is kept to until half way up Lindale Brow, when instead of turning round to the church, the Brow is continued up by a new curve until it meets again the old track from Grange to Newton. Instead of turning down to Ayside a short length of new road is shown passing straight onward, and again, within a mile of Newby Bridge instead of going round by Canny Hill a straight road is proposed to meet the Kendal to Ulverston road near the Bridge. But this last named Turnpike went round by Bouth and Penny Bridge and so we find a new and much shorter road now proposed through Backbarrow and Haverthwaite direct to Greenodd. By the 12th September, 1817, the Committee were able to report that the subscriptions had already amounted to £7500.

The Act, however, was not passed until May in the following year (1818) for "Making and maintaining a Turnpike Road from and out of the Turnpike Road leading from Ulverstone to Kendal at or near Green Odd, into the Turnpike Road leading from Millthorp to Kendal at or near Levens Bridge, and a continuation of the said Road from and out of the said last mentioned Turnpike Road at or near Millthorp, to join the (Burton) Turnpike Road leading from Lancaster to Kendal, at or near Carnforth."

The Act provides that the road through Warton Meadows is to be raised so as effectually to prevent it being flooded and that it should be covered to a width of 21 feet with broken stone, 17 inches thick at the crown and 11 inches at the sides. It also provides that in the event of the Trustees of the Lancaster to Heron Syke road diverting their road so as to go direct from Tewitfield to Carnforth, instead of round by Kellet, according to their late Act of 43 George III (1803), and by so doing making it unnecessary for the Trustees of this Milnthorp to Carnforth road going beyond Low Hyning and so saving at least two miles, then the Trustees are to hand over to the Trustees of the Lancaster to Heron Syke road the sum of £1000 towards enabling them to make such alteration.

The Kendal newspapers for May 30th, 1818, congratulate the public on the passing of the Act and mention that it received "the Royal assent on Saturday last." By February 20th, 1819, advertisements appear for the building of a new bridge over the Bela at Beetham, upon the line of the intended turnpike; and by October 9th, 1819, for the building of a Toll House and Gate to be erected near Wilson House and another Toll House to be erected at Beetham.

An Act to amend and continue the original Act was passed in 13 Victoria, Session 1850.

It is interesting to note that during the construction of the road over the mosses, the surveyor had Juniper cut from off Whitbarrow Fell, made up into bundles and rolled down the hill, to be laid on the raw moss top for the metal of the Turnpike to lie upon.

New revenue of the Toll gates.

Beetham. Beathwaite Green. Wilson House. Underfield.
1822 £201 £187 £99 10 0 £211
1823 160 160 111 10 0 258
1846 137 383 (with Wilson House) 470

For considerable information concerning those roads that were constituted Main Roads and placed in Schedule A. at the Easter Session of 1883, see the Quarter Sessions Minute Book for 1886–89.


  • 1. Kendal received the right to hold a weekly market in 1189 and an annual fair in 1268; Kirkby Lonsdale in 1227; Beetham in 1310 and Heversham in 1334.
  • 2. William de Stirkland and Robert L' Engleys were commanded in 1287 to enforce the Statute for the preservation of the peace in Westmorland. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1287, p. 264.
  • 3. Hist. MSS. Com; 9th Rept. Pt. I, app., 195b.
  • 4. By the Statute of Bridges (22 Henry VIII, c. 5) the liability for repairing main bridges was placed upon the county.
  • 5. Being a Relation of a Short Survey of 26 Counties, briefly describing the Citties and their Scytuations, and the Corporate Towns and Castles Herein. Observed in a Seven Weeks Journey begun at the City of Norwich, By a Captaine, a Lieutennt. and an Ancient, All three of the Military Company at Norwich. Additional MSS. 34754, pp. 19–20. Macaulay quoting from Pepys and Thoresby gives a vivid description of the bad state of the roads during the latter half of the 17th Century. See his Hist. of England 1. c. 3.
  • 6. For a full description of these plates see Curwen, Printed Maps of Cumberland and Westmorland. C. and W. Antiq. Socy. Trans. N.S. XVIII.
  • 7. Papers, Letters and Journals of William Pearson, vol. 11, 73.
  • 8. The Agreeable Miscellany, a fortnightly magazine published in Kendal, vol. i, p. 389.
  • 9. Letters and Papers, p. 75.
  • 10. Pamphlets and Tracts, 213, i, 2 (60–62).