A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In this section
Early Roads, p. 254. Turnpike Roads, p. 256. Later Roads, p. 265. List of Turnpike Acts, p. 266.
The main lines of communication across southern England have traversed Wiltshire since prehistoric times. High ground provided natural routes radiating from Salisbury Plain to the South Downs, the North Downs and, by the Ridgeway and the Icknield Way, to East Anglia. The Jurassic Way ran just outside the north-west of the county. (fn. 1) These routes continued in use throughout the Roman period (fn. 2) and later, but soon after the Roman conquest a network of new, built roads was laid across England. London was the main focal point for these roads, but among the lesser junctions were Mildenhall [Cunetio] and Old Salisbury [Sorviodunum] in Wiltshire. Thus, the main roads passing through Wiltshire were the roads from London through Old Salisbury to Dorchester and Exeter, through Wanborough [Durocornovium?] to Cirencester and Gloucester, and through Mildenhall to Bath; the Foss Way from Cirencester to Bath; roads from Winchester to Old Salisbury and from Winchester to Mildenhall, and roads which may have led from Old Salisbury to Mildenhall and from Old Salisbury to the lead-mining district in the Mendip Hills. (fn. 3) The line of this last road is conjectural west of Pertwood Down in Brixton Deverill; (fn. 4) if it did continue to the Mendip Hills it was the only Roman road in the county with a primarily economic purpose. The course of the others, in common with that of most Roman roads in Britain, appears to have been determined by military strategy and administrative convenience. The road from Old Salisbury to Dorchester, which crossed three rivers in the first ten miles, is a good example of the Roman engineers' skill at maintaining a straight course in spite of natural obstacles. The Chute Causeway on the road from Mildenhall to Winchester is one of the few places in Britain where a Roman road deviated widely to avoid a deep combe.
It is evident from the surviving Saxon charters that both the prehistoric trackways along the watershed lines and the Roman roads continued in use after the Roman evacuation. Out of 79 Wiltshire roads mentioned in the charters studied by Grundy only 38 were almost certainly of Saxon origin, and well over half of these were purely local roads. (fn. 5) A new feature in the Saxon period was the growth of roads along the river valleys: a road from Burbage to Pewsey and Manningford Bruce probably continued south along the Avon valley to Amesbury and Old Salisbury; (fn. 6) roads also ran along the south bank of the River Wylye, (fn. 7) and the north bank of the River Nadder. (fn. 8) Saxon and medieval roads grew gradually and wound from settlement to settlement: old English law concerned roads which, in a 12th-century phrase, led 'from cities to cities, from boroughs to boroughs, by which men go to markets, or about their other affairs'. (fn. 9) For a time the concept of great through routes covering England was almost lost; the tradition of four main roads or 'Streets' on which travellers enjoyed the king's special peace had emerged, however, by the late 11th century. (fn. 10) Two of these roads affected Wiltshire: the section of the Foss Way running between Bath and Cirencester crossed the north-west of the county, and Ermine Street went right through the centre of the county. As the roads were of Roman origin, it is possible that their use had been more or less continuous for many centuries.
It is not possible to trace the growth of roads during the Middle Ages in any detail because, although references to roads abound, the date of the first surviving record of any particular road is largely fortuitous. In particular roads first mentioned in later records may have been established before the Norman Conquest. The processes of medieval administration entailed the king and his officials in considerable travel about the country; (fn. 11) the extent and frequency of these journeys suggest that the Norman and Angevin kings were able to follow fairly good roads through Wiltshire in addition to Ermine Street and the Foss Way. The road from Winchester to Old Salisbury, for example, must have been used very frequently by Henry II. (fn. 12) In the late 13th century the woollen merchants who dealt in the export of raw wool (fn. 13) must have needed a good pack-horse road between Salisbury and Southampton; and earlier than this the growth of burel manufacture on a commercial scale at Marlborough and Bedwyn would have been impossible without roads on which to bring the wool and take away the manufactured cloth.
The kings' itineraries and trade records indicate which were the most important routes through the county, but not the exact course of the roads. To a certain extent the course of the roads was determined by the existence of fords and places where it was possible to build bridges. Thus, Milford Bridge remains as tangible evidence of the course of the road from Salisbury to Clarendon. The road out of Salisbury to the south crossed the river by Harnham Bridge, rebuilt by 1244. (fn. 14) The old pack-horse bridge at Coombe Bissett probably marks the course of the main road towards Blandford. (fn. 15) There are, of course, other medieval bridges still in use which show the antiquity of the course of various roads. (fn. 16) To these may be added a number of old bridges in use when Leland travelled through Wiltshire in the middle of the 16th century, but which have since been replaced by more modern bridges. (fn. 17)
The Gough Map (fn. 18) shows that by the middle of the 14th century there was a highly developed national road system centred on London. Two of the five main roads indicated on this map crossed Wiltshire: the first ran from London through Winchester, Salisbury, and Shaftesbury to Exeter and on to Cornwall; the other one ran from London through Hungerford, Marlborough, and Chippenham to Bristol. The cloth trade doubtless explains the importance of both these roads, but particularly of the latter. (fn. 19) Indictments for infringement or neglect of this road were frequent: for example, in 1281 it was reported that the parson of Chippenham had appropriated a rood of land and blocked the road so that carts, horses, and wagons were forced to travel a furlong more. (fn. 20) The condition of the road was a matter of concern to the Bristol burgesses: in 1392 William Bakeswell left a legacy for mending the 'common way in Chippenham Lane and near Calne'; 78 years later Robert Hynde, a Bristol goldsmith, left money to the 'king's way' between Chippenham and Calne. (fn. 21) Another burgess made a bequest to a bridge between Calne and Cherhill. The reason why this part of the road needed a great deal of attention was that it ran over marshy ground and for two miles outside Chippenham was built on a causeway. The repair of this causeway is given as one of the reasons for the grant of a charter to Chippenham by Queen Mary. (fn. 22) Another causeway, that endowed by Maud Heath in 1474, was not on the main road: it ran from Wick Hill in Bremhill to Chippenham, and its main purpose seems to have been to save the local women an unpleasant struggle over marshy ground on market days. (fn. 23)
The road map published by Ogilby in 1675 showed little change in the course of the Bristol to London road. The London to Land's End road through Winchester, Salisbury, and Shaftesbury also reappears on this map. Other roads given by Ogilby were the Salisbury to Southampton road through Whiteparish; the London to Barnstaple road through Andover (Hants), Amesbury, Warminster, and Maiden Bradley; the Bristol to Oxford road through Burton, Malmesbury, and Highworth; the Salisbury to Oxford road through North Tidworth and Hungerford (Berks.); the road from Marlborough to Devizes, Trowbridge, and Norton St. Philip (Som.); the road from Salisbury to Lechlade (Glos.) through Marlborough and Highworth; and a road from London to Bath and Wells following the Bristol road to Chippenham and then passing through Bradford. (fn. 24) The road to Bath branching from the Bristol road at Beckhampton was marked as a secondary road; it was this road, however, which the early coaches followed and which later became known as the old Bath road. (fn. 25) The first advertisement for the Bath and Bristol coaches appeared in 1657. (fn. 26) By the early 18th century Bath was 'the most fashionable town in England', and coach services along the Bath road were very numerous. (fn. 27) It is not surprising, therefore, that the Bath road was one of the first Wiltshire roads to be brought under the control of turnpike trustees.
It is possible to trace the history of roads in very much greater detail during the turnpike period. The initiative for promoting an application for an Act depended on the public or private interests of individuals. Development, therefore, was uneven. Factors such as the nature of the soil and the gradients, and whether statute labour was available or not, influenced the growth of turnpike trusts as much as the interests of the landed gentry or of local manufacturers and merchants. Nevertheless three main stages stand out: first, the main through roads from east to west were included, then the roads in the industrial north-west of the county, and, almost contemporaneously with the second group, the through roads in the south of the county.
The first turnpike Act was passed in 1663, the next over 30 years later, so three Wiltshire Acts passed in the parliamentary session 1706–7 were very early: the stretches of road affected by these Acts were from Etchilhampton hill to Devizes and from Devizes to Rowde ford (1), (fn. 28) from Kingsdown hill to Bath, part of a series radiating from that city (2), and from Cherhill through Calne to Studley bridge on the Bristol road (3). In 1713 an Act was passed for that section of the old Bath road from Shepherds' Shore in Bishop's Cannings to Horsley Upright Gate in Calne Without and for a connexion between the latter place and Rowde ford (4).
All these roads were difficult sections of some of the most used roads of the time, including the slopes of Caen Hill in Rowde, Cherhill, Beacon Hill in Heddington, and Kingsdown in Box. A 'natural' road even on porous chalk and limestone can be very 'pasty' on steep slopes, and these roads also cross the gault clay and the marshy terrain watered by the streams near Rowde, and near Quemerford and Studley in Calne.
At this early period, tolls were very simple. By the Devizes Act they were 1s. for a coach or wagon, 6d. for a cart, 1d. for a ridden or led horse, 10d. a score for cattle, and 5d. a score for sheep. The Wiltshire justices were the turnpike authority for these early Acts, but later special trustees were appointed.
The session 1725–6 saw two more sections of the Bath road added to the list: from Speenhamland (Berks.) to Marlborough, that is, part of the old Bristol road (7), and from Horsley Upright Gate to Kingsdown hill (8). The latter took the great curve down Bowden hill, through Lacock and Corsham, and past Chapel Plaster and Blue Vein, both in Box, to Kingsdown. The line of roads described by O. G. S. Crawford (fn. 29) as the medieval route, from Lacock, through Gastard and Neston in Corsham and Wadswick in Box, never became a turnpike.
In the following year an Act was passed for the road from Studley bridge, through Chippenham, to the top of Tog Hill on the road to Bristol (11). When renewed in 1743–4 the Chippenham-Tog Hill section was repealed and the road from Chippenham to Pickwick in Corsham, on the old Bath road, substituted. Little or nothing had been spent during the interval on the former section. The route of this road through Chippenham was laid down in detail in the renewal Act of 1767–8: the Butts, St. Mary's Street, Cook Street, and both sides of the Shambles. Throughout the period all the Acts specifically exempted the trustees from maintaining the causeway between Chippenham and Derry Hill, which was the responsibility of the bailiffs and burgesses of the borough.
A petition by the trustees for the alteration of their powers as early as 1728, though not successful, led to the passing of a general Act (fn. 30) for 'punishing such persons as shall wilfully and maliciously pull down turnpikes'. The evidence given before the House of Commons Committee shows a foretaste of the Rebecca riots of a century later. (fn. 31)
The first Act for Wiltshire of a type common in the west of England but rare elsewhere was also passed in the session 1726–7: it provided for the formation of a trust to control all or most of the roads radiating from a central town, in this case, Warminster (12). Eleven roads, none much more than three miles long, were provided for, including some that were really town streets. A renewal Act of 1792 gave this trust the powers of street-paving commissioners, including those of maintaining footpaths and regulating a market. The first edition of the Ordnance Survey map shows five gates within or near a five-mile radius of the town centre.
Fairly long sections of the old Bath road and the Bristol road came under the control of a trust in 1742–3; they went from Marlborough to Beckhampton, and thence in two branches, to Shepherds' Shore in Bishop's Cannings and to Cherhill (13). In about 1790 this trust and the Devizes-Etchilhampton hill trust carried out the diversion which resulted in the present layout near Shepherds' Shore, and the isolation on the downs of Old Shepherds' Shore.
The period of greatest geographical extension of the system in the county, and indeed in the country in general, began in 1750 and lasted for about twelve years. In this period in the Midlands turnpike connexions were made between the producing coal-mines and the consuming towns; in north-west Wiltshire it was the roads leading to and from the cloth-working towns which became turnpike roads. The roads between Devizes and West Lavington, and Devizes and Seend (15) were turnpiked in 1750–1. In the following year a trust was formed for the roads from Frome and Warminster, and thence to Bath (16). This trust was called, from the inn near Chapmanslade where the trustees met, the Black Dog trust. In 1833 this trust constructed over virgin land a completely new route just outside the county in Somerset from Woolverton to Bathwick.
Two more radiating trusts were authorized in 1751–2, one for Trowbridge (17) and the other for Bradford-on-Avon (19). (fn. 32) There was also an Act for a separate trust for one of the roads through Trowbridge, from Tinhead Hill in Edington to Trowbridge and from Trowbridge to Limpley Stoke and Midford (Som.) (18). The part from Trowbridge northwards was taken over by the main Trowbridge trust in 1767–8. No renewal seems to exist for the Tinhead portion, and presumably it was allowed to lapse, although, strangely, it appears in the 1882 list of disturnpiked roads, (fn. 33) as though it had been disturnpiked in Victorian times with the rest. The entrance to Trowbridge by this route would have been by the long green lane from Ashton Common.
The Chippenham-Tog Hill route was also revived in the 1751–2 session; this time with the road branching from it at the Long Stone and going through Yatton Keynell to Sodbury (Glos.) (20)—a road which was eventually to carry much traffic to South Wales, as it formed an almost direct connexion, avoiding Bristol, with Aust Ferry. A road through Melksham from Seend to join the Bath road near Chapel Plaster in Box was turnpiked in 1753 (21). As shown on the map, the north-west of the county had by this date a far greater concentration of turnpike roads than was ever developed in the rest of the county.
The toll schedule for the Bradford-on-Avon trust is typical of the rather more complicated toll schedules of this period (see Table 1).
Toll Schedule of Bradford-on-Avon Trust
In 1753 south Wiltshire came into the turnpike system for the first time, with the authorizing of trusts for the roads from Whitesheet Hill in Donhead St. Andrew to Shaftesbury (22) and from Lopcombe Corner in Winterslow to Salisbury, and thence nearly to Southampton (23). This latter trust became responsible in 1772 for the upkeep of footpaths in Salisbury. Between 1754 and 1756, the two routes from Basingstoke, meeting at Lopcombe Corner (24, 26), and the Salisbury-Romsey road from Whiteparish to Romsey (25) were added to the list, as also were the Mere-Wincanton (27) and Salisbury-Blandford (29) roads. The Salisbury-Romsey road was apparently a very good one, for Arthur Young said it had 'more the appearance of an elegant gravel walk than of an high road'. (fn. 34) He attributed its condition to the good management of the trustees, that is, presumably, the trustees of both the Salisbury—Southampton road and the Salisbury-Romsey road. A group of roads centred on Poole, turnpiked in 1755–6, included a branch towards Salisbury (28), but the branch was omitted from the renewal Acts until 1818.
A new route to the west was opened up in the same session, 1755–6, with a long line of road beginning at Christian Malford and ending near Pucklechurch and Mangotsfield on the Bristol coalfield (30). Why the eastern limit of this trust should be at Christian Malford is not clear. No other trust supervised the connecting road beyond, and even after the road to Swindon and beyond (36) was turnpiked in 1757–8, the Act was allowed to lapse. It was eventually trust-controlled in 1790–1 (49). A group radiating from Malmesbury (31) was also turnpiked in 1755–6 and a group with Frome as a centre in 1756–7 (32).
Alterations to the Chippenham to Bath route took place under an Act of 1756–7 (34). Previously, the turnpike route west of Chippenham had been via Pickwick, Chapel Plaster, and Kingsdown. Now, after considerable opposition in Parliament, (fn. 35) a new route, more direct and on the whole on lower ground, was opened up, from the Cross Keys Inn in Corsham, through Hartham Park (Corsham) and Box to Batheaston bridge in Somerset. The opposition came chiefly from people who had lent money to the other trusts and feared that they would have difficulty in getting their interest regularly and, perhaps, might lose their principal. Another ground for complaint was that the road proposed to be taken over for widening was so narrow that considerable amounts of land on either side would have to be bought, leaving the owners with useless pieces cut off from their holdings. The people of Corsham maintained that they could keep their roads in repair by the existing laws. The two trusts were eventually amalgamated in 1829. A justification for the new turnpike road was the great increase in the volume of traffic going to Bath through Chippenham. Renewal Acts for the old Bath road through Heddington and Lacock were passed at intervals until 1783, by which time it seems that it was practically disused as a main route. Toll receipts showed a decline from £204 to £78 in the period 1735 to 1751. (fn. 36)
In 1757–8 was passed an Act that led, perhaps, to more difficulty than any other in Wiltshire. Its promoters seem to have had ideas covering a wider field than they were capable of managing. The original petition (fn. 37) asked for powers to turnpike roads beginning at the west end of Westbury and extending to Bottlesford in Manningford Bohun and Upavon in the east; from Bowl's Barrow in Heytesbury through Westbury nearly to Trowbridge and Melksham; and from Lavington Down to Dewey's Water in Market Lavington. Further petitions asked for extensions from Bottlesford to the London-Bath road at Froxfield and from Upavon to Weyhill (Hants). Counter petitions soon came in. The northern branch invaded the territory of other trusts who had erected sidegates across it so that tolls could be collected from traffic leaving it to enter their routes. The villages near Trowbridge already maintained by statute labour the parts of the branch that ran through their parishes. With so many miles of main road farther south, they said, the new trust would neglect the branch, which would get neither statute labour nor attention from the trust. However, with much shortened routes, the trust was formed to cover all the roads of the petition west of Market Lavington, including the northern branch (37). The Upavon-Weyhill petition resulted in the formation of a separate trust for those roads in the session 1761–2 (43).
In 1766 a strange tale of neglect was revealed in a 'petition for relief' from various local people. (fn. 38) The Westbury Act had laid it down that the roads were to be adminis tered as two districts with separate meetings but operating the one Act. The first district covered the western part of the roads and the second district the shorter eastern sections. The first receipts from each district and the first call on borrowed money were to be used, in half shares, for paying the expenses of obtaining the Act. Some trustees, whose names were on the lists for both districts, had lent money and attended second district meetings. There they had proposed to carry the Act fully into execution for that district but 'the good ends and designs of carrying the said Act into execution within and for such second district, have been hitherto frustrated and overruled by a majority of the trustees . . . as well for the erecting of turnpikes and proceeding in the repair of those roads (which are now in as bad and ruinous condition as before the passing of the said Act) as for discharging the moiety of the expenses of passing the said Act'. The petitioners were deprived of interest and repayment of principal, and 'the county are also bereaved of the great benefits' of better roads. The second district trustees met annually and adjourned from year to year 'without proceeding or intending to proceed to any further business'; one of the trustees was so frank as to declare at one meeting, 'they were determined not to put the Act into execution'. This action was described in the petition for relief as 'partial, illegal, and arbitrary, if not a contempt of the authority of the legislature'.
A committee was appointed to consider the petition, and later a further petition, from the first district trustees, was referred to it. This asked for the consolidation of the two districts. In the report of the committee we find that a witness, despite his offer to lend the second district £2,000, was told that the trustees found it impossible to raise enough money to put the Act into execution. The same witness had asked the clerk to the second district to attend at the committee, but he 'was engaged and could not come'. Leave was given to bring in a Bill, but it was dropped and three more years passed before the matter cropped up again.
The neglect of the trustees of the second district seems to have been based on dissatisfaction with the failure to obtain powers over the eastern roads petitioned for in the early days. The second district was much shorter than the trustees had expected when they signed the original petition: there was nothing east of Market Lavington. The trustees eventually did get to work on the roads over which they had powers, but the eastern extension was still their dream. In 1769 they petitioned for a renewal and an extension to Conock in Chirton. The Dewey's Water branch was to continue to Seend and there were to be two branches on Salisbury Plain towards Netheravon. Soon afterwards, the first district trustees also petitioned for a renewal, supported by the corporation of Westbury. They, too, asked for small extensions. Again there was much opposition. The Seend extension would, said the Seend-Lavington trustees, duplicate the routes between Devizes and Lavington. The inhabitants of Worton and Bulkington did not want it either. There was already a 'good horse causeway', though the road was 'miry and foundrous'. If this were made up, they would be liable to indictment for nonrepair, as it would take £1,000 a mile and, presumably, they thought the trustees would not keep it up. The question of the position of gates near Trowbridge and Melksham was still a matter for complaint. The Act was passed, however, for both districts, with several adjoining roads. It seems that a good proportion of the extensions were included. The second district had a further renewal, or rather revival, Act passed in 1803–4, and the first district in 1805. Nothing further is heard of the second district, so it appears that the Act was allowed to lapse for that area. The first district obtained a further renewal in 1826.
Between 1760 and 1762 two large groups of roads were turnpiked, based on Wilton (39) and Amesbury (40). The former extended in three prongs from the western end of Salisbury (Fisherton) to Willoughby Hedge in West Knoyle; across the Plain to meet the Devizes roads at Red Horn in Urchfont; and a branch from Wilton to meet the Warminster trust's roads in Heytesbury. The Amesbury trust began near Andover, and also went to Willoughby Hedge, via Amesbury, with small branches in the Avon and Wylye valleys.
Also at this time a trust was formed for the old Salisbury-Shaftesbury road over Hare Warren in Wilton and past Chiselbury Camp (44). The route followed the old ridgeway known as the Herepath. Petitions for the renewal of this trust in the years between 1784 and 1787 were ordered 'to lie on the table', despite the fact that one creditor alone was owed £500 loaned capital and, in addition, £400 arrears of interest. Thus the Act was allowed to expire, contemporaneously with the turnpiking of the present Salisbury to Shaftesbury road from Barford St. Martin to Whitesheet Hill in 1787–8 (47). This was a better road and has been the main road since this date.
In the north-west of the county the Holt road trust was formed in the session 1761–2 to connect Forewood Common in Holt with Holt, Melksham, and Lacock (42).
Macadam and Telford had not yet started their work, but, nevertheless, there had been a considerable advance in the technique of roadmaking by the second half of the 18th century. Roads on types of soil that in the earlier days had been considered to form good natural tracks now lagged behind those on the more difficult 'deep and foundrous' clays. As has been shown, a number of roads across Salisbury Plain and the downs had been the subjects of turnpike Acts in the seventeen-fifties and early sixties. One other, falling in this period, remains to be mentioned. This was the long north-to-south road between Swindon and Salisbury (41). This road was the subject of two petitions in 1761–2, one for Swindon to Marlborough and the other for Marlborough to Salisbury. However, even then, the section nearer Salisbury was considered good in its original state, and the Act was passed for a road stopping short at Everleigh. At the time of one of its late renewals, in 1831–2, a connexion from Collingbourne Ducis to St. Thomas's Bridge, near Salisbury, was provided for, only to be altered again in 1835, with Old Salisbury as its terminus, but with an additional branch from Old Salisbury to Amesbury.
Nearly ten years were to pass before any fresh roads in Wiltshire were turnpiked, apart from branches to already turnpiked roads. In 1770–1 an Act was passed to cover many miles of roads over the downs, from Wantage to Hungerford with a branch to Marlborough, which, however, seems never to have materialized (45). In 1772 a further Act covered the connexion of this road in Hungerford with its southern terminus at 'Leckford, otherwise Sousley Water'. This, on the Marlborough-Salisbury road, seems to have been the place now marked on the maps as Southly Bridge in Collingbourne Ducis (46).
Practically all the roads of first-class importance that ever were to become turnpikes had been included in the system by this date, and gaps in the network in the north of the county were brought under trust control in the following years. In 1790 the early Acts for the Shepherds' Shore-Horsley Upright Gate roads were repealed by an Act substituting the roads from Rowde ford to Red Hill in Pewsham, and that from Chittoe Heath to Calne (48). Two years later the latter was separated and added to the Calne roads. This Act defined the route through Calne as by both Kingsbury Green and Rotten Row, and laid down the route of a diversion from the Workhouse down Patford to the Town Bridge. In 1820 the Devizes part of the 1790 Act was repealed and a new Act amalgamated it with the other roads leading from Devizes.
In 1790–1 a group joining Calne, Swindon, Christian Malford, and Cricklade was formed (49); it included the road from Christian Malford to Swindon, as the former trust for that road had expired. The new Bath road at Bradford was laid out under an Act of 1792 and amalgamated with the Bradford group in 1797–8. The date of Lechlade Bridge (Glos.) is witnessed by the Act of 1792 for the road from Burford, via Lechlade and Highworth to the outskirts of Swindon (51), in which the bridge is described as 'now building'. In 1792–3 a branch from an already turnpiked group, radiating from Bruton in Somerset, entered Wiltshire near Maiden Bradley and extended to the Warminster roads at Norton Bavant, with further branches on and near the county boundary.
In 1809 and 1810 Wootton Bassett became the centre of a group, though the roads were administered separately. These were from Malmesbury to Coped Hill (Wootton Bassett) with branches from Somerford to Sutton Benger and Dauntsey (54); from Wootton Bassett to Rockley in Ogbourne St. Andrew, forming a connexion with Marlborough (55); and from Wootton Bassett to Cirencester (56).
A road from Swindon towards Hungerford was petitioned for in 1813–14, and although the road at the southern end was not already turnpiked, the Act stopped the route short at Knighton Farm in Ramsbury (57). In 1819 the older route between Swindon and Marlborough (41) had a competitor by the turnpiking of the road from Coate to Marlborough (58). It is probably from this date that the route from Burderop in Chisledon, up the steep Burderop Down near Barbury Castle to the 'Old Eagle' in Ogbourne St. Andrew, began to lose its position as a main road.
The toll list for the Marlborough-Coate road shows the complications that by this time affected most turnpike roads in England. Narrow wheels cut into the surfaces; broad wheels rolled the surfaces; hence the differential scale. The scale for animals and unladen horses was the same as that of the Bradford-on-Avon trust (see Table 1).
Toll Schedule of the Marlborough-Coate Trust
Further complications were included in some schedules: for example, the SwindonKnighton Farm road Act of 1820 not only authorized higher tolls for the first three items given above, namely 6d., 3d., 4½d., but also charged 6d. a horse for those drawing carts and wagons with broad wheels if they did not roll a flat surface. The charges, too, were doubled for animals without vehicles—horses, cattle, &c. The separate charge for millstones was inserted in many Acts at this time so that they should not go free, as they were often not carried on wagons but trundled along on their own rims, with an axle through the centre holes.
Apart from some trusts whose routes touched Wiltshire only for short distances on the border, or affected only detached parts, only two more trusts remain to be mentioned. One, from the outskirts of Shaftesbury, wound a tortuous route along the southern boundary into and out of Wiltshire, Dorset, and Hampshire, eventually reaching Brook in the New Forest, with a branch to Downton (61). This was turnpiked in 1831–2.
The other was one of the latest roads in England to be turnpiked, in 1840. This, too, pursued a tortuous course (62). It started at West Kennett, near Beckhampton, on the London—Bath road, crossed the downs near Knap Hill in Alton Priors, and continued to just north of Amesbury with offshoots in Netheravon, Figheldean, and Enford.
By this time, the death knell of the turnpike system had been sounded. Trains were already running on the Great Western Railway: (fn. 39) the hey-day of the 'coaching era' was past. The peak of road development had been reached by the eighteen-thirties. The work of Telford and Macadam, the former chiefly devoted to engineering and the latter to surfacing, was mainly carried out in the twenties and early thirties. Macadam's work was chiefly in the west of England, and he or one of his sons was surveyor to many Wiltshire trusts: the trusts based upon Devizes, Market Lavington, Salisbury, Warminster, Westbury, Melksham, Bath, and others all availed themselves of the services of the family.
Macadam had a local rival in the person of Benjamin Wingrove of Bath, who seems to have been at various times surveyor or adviser to several western trusts, including some that the Macadams had also advised. He was described in 1823 as surveyorgeneral to the Bath, Taunton, Chippenham, Trowbridge, and Bradford roads and inspector of others. In 1821 he published a pamphlet addressed to the Members of Parliament for Somerset and Wiltshire, criticizing Macadam's methods. (fn. 40) Apparently the Bath trustees had resolved to adopt Macadam's methods after having seen his improvements at Bristol. Wingrove, in competition with Macadam, was appointed surveyor and began to carry out his instructions. He disapproved of lifting out the old materials, but gave the Macadam method a trial. This, says Wingrove, 'entirely failed', so he adopted his own plans, which included not only 'making or adding strength to foundations' but adding more material, nearly 20,000 tons in the first year. Wingrove commended Macadam's smooth surfaces but criticized his lack of foundations. The public, he said, were bluffed by cheapness and smooth surfaces. He resigned, however, from his employment with the Bath trust in 1826 and Macadam took over.
Perhaps the best tribute to the work of the great roadmakers is that provided by the time-tables of the Royal Mail coaches. Table 3 shows the improvement in speed made during the period from 1811 to 1836. The mails left London at 8 p.m.
Time-table of Royal Mail Coaches 1811 and 1836 (fn. 41)
|Arrive a.m.||m.p.h.||Arrive a.m.||m.p.h.|
As John Palmer's first Royal Mail coach is said to have travelled at 'about 7 miles an hour' in 1784, (fn. 42) it seems that there had been little or no improvement between that date and 1811. The increase between 1811 and 1836 was about 25 per cent. Table 4 shows the royal mails using Wiltshire roads in the thirties.
Royal Mails from London using Wiltshire roads (fn. 43)
The effect of the early railways on the receipts at the gates was very uneven. In some parts of the country, the opening of a line between two towns meant a drop of, perhaps, 75 per cent. in two years on the roads between the same two points. In others, takings continued to rise for a few years, for some roads acted as feeders to the railways. Nevertheless, the turnpikes were doomed. The order in which trusts were abolished depended on financial considerations and on the newness or otherwise of the trusts' last renewal Acts. The tendency was for those with a good income and small debts to be allowed to expire early, and for year to year continuance to be allowed to those who had not paid off their loans, sometimes with stipulations as to the amounts to be spent on repairs. No turnpike trusts survived in Wiltshire after 1879; most of them were disturnpiked in the late sixties and early seventies.
What has the turnpike system left behind after its 220 years of existence? The main road map is not one of its legacies. For the most part the main roads were already in existence before turnpiking. In some places there was a change of emphasis: the valley roads became main roads in lieu of those over the downs and Salisbury Plain. Short lengths of new road were made by the trusts, for example, those round Shepherds' Shore and Cherhill, and practically the whole of the New Warminster Road from Bath was laid out by the Black Dog trust. Usually, however, new routes came into use through the improvement of existing roads.
The breakdown of the turnpike trusts was accompanied by the formation of highway districts under the Highways Act of 1862. These districts were based on the petty sessions districts. (fn. 44) In 1878 the County Council became responsible for half the cost of maintaining roads disturnpiked since 1870 and all 'main' roads. Ten years later all the main roads were vested in the county. (fn. 45) The rural districts were responsible for minor roads from the 1894 Local Government Act until that of 1929, when all roads came under the control of the County Council. In 1936, however, the first Trunk Roads Act made the Minister of Transport responsible for four of the main roads passing through Wiltshire: these were the London to Bath road, the Bath to Southampton road, the London to Exeter road, and the Hereford to Hungerford road. The County Council workmen still (1957) carry out the repairs on these roads, but the Minister bears the full cost. (fn. 46)
Despite these various changes in the authority responsible for the roads, and changes in the type of traffic using them, the course of the roads has altered very little during the last hundred years. In 1939 a by-pass was made round Liddington on the SwindonHungerford road, and another round Boscombe on the Salisbury-Hungerford road. On the Bath to Southampton road a by-pass was constructed round Whaddon in 1956–7. Sections of new road were also constructed in Salisbury, when a new bridge was built in 1931–2 to carry the traffic previously using Harnham Bridge. The engineer for the bridge was Sir E. Owen Williams, and the roadworks were designed by the County Surveyor.
The other changes in the road system have been due to the activities of the Army. (fn. 47) By far the most important is the replacement of the old turnpike road from Salisbury to Devizes (see map on p. 257) by a road through Shrewton, Tilshead, and West Lavington. The War Department purchased the training area at Larkhill (Durrington) just before the end of the 19th century; the road from the 'Bustard' near Shrewton to Redhorn Hill (south of Urchfont) was closed to the public during the daytime as the area was used as a firing range. The road through Shrewton, Tilshead, and West Lavington was previously little more than a footpath. (fn. 48)
Many tracks and paths on Salisbury Plain have also been closed to the public. The Warminster to West Lavington road through Imber was closed in 1943 when Imber was taken over as a battle-training area. Several roads have been constructed by the Army, most of which are open for non-military traffic; these include roads near Bulford Camp, the Packway going west from Stonehenge Inn for 3½ miles, the Everleigh to Fittleton road near Beach's Barn, the road from the Pheasant Inn north-west over Porton Down for 1¾ miles, a short section of the London to Exeter road on Winterbourne Down, and a short section of road at Netheravon. The County Council has also undertaken improvements mainly intended for the benefit of the Army. During the Second World War the preparations for D-Day included widening the Bath-Southampton road from Warminster southwards, and the Salisbury-Bournemouth road south of Salisbury. The bridges on these roads were also strengthened. The invasion troops were thus enabled to move swiftly to the embarkation ports; and the Wiltshire roads were permanently improved.
Appendix: list of turnpike Acts relating to roads in Wiltshire
A. Act by which a road was first authorized to be turnpiked.
C. Act by which powers of previous Act or Acts were continued for a further term, with or without alteration.
C. (S). As C but for a section of the road only.
R. Act for repealing all Acts in force and continuing powers by re-enactment.
R.(S). As R but for a section of the road only.
Am. Amending Act.
Rev. Act reviving powers of expired Act.
A.T.T.A.A. Annual Turnpike Acts Arrangements Act, for confirming Provisional Orders. These were annual from 1851 to 1872, except for the sessions, 1868–9 and 1871.
A.C.A. Annual Turnpike Acts Continuance Act, followed by date of expiry (exp.) or repeal (rep.).
1. The Devizes Roads (i)
1706–7 6 Anne c. 26. (fn. 49) A.
1724–5 11 Geo. I, c. 27. C.
1744–5 18 Geo. II, c. 14. C.
1755–6 29 Geo. II, c. 67. C.
1784 24 Geo. III, sess. 2, c. 65. C.
1790 30 Geo. III, c. 96.
1796–7 37 Geo. III, c. 154. R.
Amalgamated with No. 15 (q.v.).
2. The Bath Roads
|1706–7||6 Anne c. 42. (fn. 50) A.|
|1720–1||7 Geo. I, c. 19. C.|
|1738–9||12 Geo. II, c. 20. C.|
|1756–7||30 Geo. II, c. 67. C.|
|1758–9||32 Geo. II, c. 51. Am.|
|1760–1||1 Geo. III, c. 31. Am.|
|1792–3||33 Geo. III, c. 144. R.|
|1810||50 Geo. III, c. 153 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1829||10 Geo. IV, c. 110 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1876||39–40 Vic. c. 39. A.C.A. exp. 1 May 1878.|
3. The Calne Roads (i)
|1706–7||6 Anne c. 76. (fn. 51) A.|
|1725–6||12 Geo. I, c. 7. C.|
|1743–4||17 Geo. II, c. 23. R.|
|1772–3||13 Geo. III, c. 101. C.|
|Amalgamated with No. 48 (q.v.).|
4. The Old London to Bath Road, via Sandy Lane
|1713||13 Anne c. 17. A.|
|1728–9||2 Geo. II, c. 12. R.|
|1751–2||25 Geo. II, c. 5. C.|
|1782–3||23 Geo. III, c. 111. C.|
|1790||30 Geo. III, c. 98. R.|
|See No. 48.|
5. The London to Bath Road at Twyford (fn. 52)
6. The Reading and Basingstoke Road (fn. 53)
7. The London to Bath Road through Hungerford
8. The Lacock or Blue Vein Roads
9. The Gloucester-Southgate Roads (fn. 54)
10. The Cirencester Roads (i) (fn. 55)
11. The Chippenham Roads
12. The Warminster Roads
|1726–7||13 Geo. I, c. 16. A.|
|1742–3||16 Geo. II, c. 5. C.|
|1765||5 Geo. III, c. 62. C.|
|1792||32 Geo. III, c. 141. C.|
|1814–15||55 Geo. III, c. 87 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1840||3–4 Vic. c. 21 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1867–8||31–32 Vic. c. 99. A.C.A.|
|1868–9||32–33 Vic. c. 90. A.C.A. rep. 3 April 1871.|
13. The Beckhampton Roads
14. The Cirencester to Bath Road
|1742–3||16 Geo. II, c. 22. A.|
|1768–9||8–9 Geo. III, sess. 2, c. 58. C.|
|1782–3||23 Geo. III, c. 106. R.|
|1812||52 Geo. III, c. 27 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1873||36–37 Vic. c. 90. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1873.|
15. The Devizes Roads (ii)
|1750–1||24 Geo. II, c. 9. A.|
|1770–1||11 Geo. III, c. 81. C.|
|1796–7||37 Geo. III, c. 154. R.|
|1820||1 Geo. IV, c. 69 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|Amalgamated with No. 48 (q.v.).|
16. The Black Dog Roads
17. The Seend to Trowbridge and Beckington (Som.) Road
18. The Tinhead and Trowbridge Road
19. The Bradford-on-Avon Roads
20. The Sodbury and Marshfield Roads
21. The Melksham Roads
|1753||26 Geo. II, c. 42. A.|
|1779–80||20 Geo. III, c. 98. Rev.|
|1801–2||42 Geo. III, c. 3 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1823||4 Geo. IV, c. 29 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1873||36–37 Vic. c. 90. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1878.|
22. The Shaftesbury and Sherborne Roads
23. The Salisbury and Southampton Roads
24. The Salisbury and Basingstoke Road, via Andover
25. The Salisbury and Southampton Road, via Romsey
|1755–6||29 Geo. II, c. 45. A.|
|1781–2||22 Geo. III, c. 110. C.|
|1802–3||43 Geo. III, c. 72 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1824||5 Geo. IV, c. 83 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1876||39–40 Vic. c. 39. A.C.A. rep. 1 May 1878.|
26. The Salisbury and Basingstoke Road, via Stockbridge
|1755–6||29 Geo. II, c. 46. A.|
|1775–6||16 Geo. III, c. 67. C.(S).|
|1796–7||37 Geo. III, c. 150. C.|
|1818||58 Geo. III, c. 73 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1854–5||18–19 Vic. c. 104 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1877||40–41 Vic. c. 64. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1877.|
27. The Wincanton Roads
|1755–6||29 Geo. II, c. 49. A.|
|1776–7||17 Geo. III, c. 93. C.|
|1797–8||38 Geo. III, c. 50 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1818||58 Geo. III, c. 45 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1873||36–37 Vic. c. 90. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1874.|
28. The Poole Roads
29. The Salisbury to Blandford Road
30. The Pucklechurch and Christian Malford Road
31. The Malmesbury Roads
32. The Frome Roads
33. The Melksham to Corsham Road
|1756–7||30 Geo. II, c. 41. A.|
|1778–9||19 Geo. III, c. 111. C.|
|1798–9||39 Geo. III, c. 48 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
34. The Bricker's Barn Road
35. The Cirencester Roads (ii)
36. The Swindon and Faringdon Road
37. The Westbury Roads
38. The Windsor Forest Road (fn. 56)
|1758–9||32 Geo. II, c. 46. A.|
|1779–80||20 Geo. III, c. 99. C.|
|1800||41 Geo. III, c. 2 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1822||3 Geo. IV, c. 88 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1867–8||31–32 Vic. c. 99. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1868.|
39. The Wilton Roads
40. The Amesbury Roads
41. The Swindon, Marlborough, and Everleigh Road
42. The Holt Roads
|1761–2||2 Geo. III, c. 59. A.|
|1776–7||17 Geo. III, c. 72. C.|
|1806||46 Geo. III, c. 49 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1826||7 Geo. IV, c. 18 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1854–5||18–19 Vic. c. 102. A.T.T.A.A.|
|1872||35–36 Vic. c. 85. A.C.A. rep. 1 Jan. 1873.|
43. The Andover and Devizes Road
|1761–2||2 Geo. III, c. 60. A.|
|1781–2||22 Geo. III, c. 109. C.|
|1798–9||39 Geo. III, c. 20 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1820||1 Geo. IV, c. 24 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1872||35–36 Vic. c. 85. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1873.|
44. The Old Salisbury to Shaftesbury Road
45. The Wantage and Hungerford Road
|1770–1||11 Geo. III, c. 97. A.|
|1772||12 Geo. III, c. 104. Am.|
|1780–1||21 Geo. III, c. 101. C.|
|1813–14||54 Geo. III, c. 49 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1857–8||21–22 Vic. c. 42 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1878||41–42 Vic. c. 62. A.C.A. rep. 1 Nov. 1878.|
46. The Hungerford to Salisbury Road
|1772||12 Geo. III, c. 85. A.|
|1792–3||33 Geo. III, c. 168. C.|
|1813–14||54 Geo. III, c. 85 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1865||28–29 Vic. c. 107. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1866.|
47. The Wilton and Shaftesbury Road
|1787–8||28 Geo. III, c. 86. A.|
|1810||50 Geo. III, c. 17 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1830||11 Geo. IV, and 1 Wm. IV, c. 88 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1863||26–27 Vic. c. 94. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1864, or end of session.|
48. The Devizes Roads (iii) and the Calne Roads (ii)
49. The Swindon, Calne, and Cricklade Roads
50. The New Bath Road, Bradford
|1792||32 Geo. III, c. 137. A.|
|1797–8||38 Geo. III, c. 8 (Local and Personal Acts).|
|Amalgamated with No. 19 (q.v.).|
51. The Burford to Lechlade, & c. Road
|1792||32 Geo. III, c. 153. A.|
|1812–13||53 Geo. III, c. 42 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1852–3||16–17 Vic. c. 104 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1875||38–39 Vic. c. 194 (Local and Personal Acts). A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1875.|
52. The Bruton Roads (fn. 57)
53. The Bagshot and Basingstoke, &c. Roads (fn. 58)
|1797–8||38 Geo. III, c. 67 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|1819||59 Geo. III, c. 7 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1839||2–3 Vic. c. 45 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1871||34–35 Vic. c. 115. A.C.A. rep. 1 Nov. 1871.|
54. The Malmesbury and Wootton Bassett Road
|1809||49 Geo. III, c. 89 (Local and Personal Acts). A.|
|1830||11 Geo. IV, and 1 Wm. IV, c. 19 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1857||20–21 Vic. c. 9. A.T.T.A.A.|
|1862||25–26 Vic. c. 56. A.T.T.A.A.|
|1873||36–37 Vic. c. 90. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1876.|
55. The Wootton Bassett and Marlborough Road
|1809||49 Geo. III, c. 90 (Local and Personal Acts). A.|
|1830||11 Geo. IV, and 1 Wm. IV, c. 37 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1862||25–26 Vic. c. 56. A.T.T.A.A.|
|1875||38–39 Vic. c. 194 (Local Acts). A.C.A. exp. 1 May 1876.|
56. The Cirencester and Wootton Bassett Road
|1810||50 Geo. III, c. 174 (Local and Personal Acts). A.|
|1831||1–2 Wm. IV, c. 41 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1863||26–27 Vic. c. 94. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1864, or end of session.|
57. The Swindon and Hungerford Road
|1813–14||54 Geo. III, c. 50 (Local and Personal Acts). A.|
|1820||1 Geo. IV, c. 72 (Local and Personal Acts). C.|
|Amalgamated with No. 58.|
58. The Marlborough and Coate Road
|1819||59 Geo. III, c. 83 (Local and Personal Acts). A.|
|1874||37–38 Vic. c. 95. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1874.|
59. The Kingswood Roads (fn. 59)
|1826–7||7–8 Geo. IV, c. 100 (Local and Personal Acts). A.|
|1854||17–18 Vic. c. 21 (Local and Personal Acts). R.|
|1876||39–40 Vic. c. 39. A.C.A. exp. 1 Nov. 1876.|
60. The Windsor and Twyford Road (fn. 60)
61. The Cranborne Chase and New Forest Road
|1831–2||2–3 Wm. IV, c. 64 (Local and Personal Acts). A.|
|1865||28–29 Vic. c. 91. A.T.T.A.A.|
|1875||38–39 Vic. c. 194 (Local Acts). A.C.A. exp. 31 Dec. 1877.|
62. The Kennett and Amesbury Road