The Story of our Roads Part 2 Back to the Main Historical Society page
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The Story of our Roads

from The Barwicker No. 16
December 1989

Follows from Part 1

The turnpike era, promoting the levying of tolls to raise highway revenue, forms an important and colourful part of transport history. Tolls were initially introduced in 1663 on the southern section of the Great North Road, and in 1735 the first turnpike in Yorkshire incorporated the Blackstone Edge crossing from Rochdale to Halifax and Elland. The Turnpike Act of 1767 extended the system to cover most major trading routes in the country.

The charging, and enforcement, of tolls was never popular and there was much opposition, even of a violent nature. Riots, which erupted in Leeds in 1753, were reported in Henry Schroeber's 'Annals of Yorkshire' as follows:

'In June a remarkable riot took place in Leeds, dignified by the name of Leeds Fight. Much discontent had arisen at the passing of the Turnpike Act, and various acts of violence had been committed, in which many persons were wounded, especially in an attempt to demolish the turnpike-house at Harewood Bridge, which was defended by Edwin Lascelles, Esquire, with a number of his tenants and workmen.'

'On the following Saturday, a carter refusing to pay the toll at Beeston turnpike was seized by the soldiery but rescued by the populace, before he could be conveyed before the trustees of the turnpike, at the King's Arms Inn in Briggate.'

'The mob assembled again in the evening for the purpose of rescuing three other prisoners, apprehended the night before, and proceeded to break the windows and shutters of the King's Arms, and tear up the stones of the pavement to throw at the soldiers. Having already knocked down the sentinel, the military received orders to fire which they did first with powder, and on this producing no intimidation with ball, by which time many were killed and about fifty wounded, some of them mortally.'

The term 'turnpike' originated from the use of horizontal tapering bars of iron or wood suspended from a rigid perpendicular pillar, around the axis of which the 'pike' revolved. The device (used to control unauthorised entry> was later superseded by gates. The toll collectors were known as turnpike 'gate keepers' or 'pike- men'. The turnpikes were managed by trustees (hence turnpike trusts), the qualification of these local notables being the ownership of an estate of £4000 or the receipt of annual rents of £100 value. Much of the information in this article has been taken from the turnpike trust minute books.

Turnpike roads of local interest (see map 'The Barwicker' No.15) were:

Leeds to Selby 1740 - 1874
Tadcaster to Halton Dial1750 - 1873
Leeds and Roundhay 1807 - 1867
Seacroft and Scholes Branch Road 1840 - 1882

The term of each turnpike act was normally 21 years, after which time it was assumed that the road would be maintained, free from tolls, from general highway revenue. In practice, the duration and powers of the turnpike trusts were extended, the Tadcaster to Halton Dial Turnpike being the subject of five separate acts of parliament, until it expired in 1873.

Toll gates or houses were sited on the Tadcaster Road turnpike near the junction of Selby Road, at Halton Dial, at the. junction with Coal Road, Seacroft (the 'Penny Toll'), at Kiddal Lane End and Headley Bar. In January 1865 the trustees orderd a side bar or toll chain to be placed on Foundry Lane to counter the evasion of tolls by people using that road. The arrangement caused a rift with the Manston Coal Company, who paid an annual composition in lieu of tolls, for the use of the Tadcaster Road Turnpike by their coal wagons. The sum paid in 1840 was £50. The Manston Coal Company refused to pay the composition for 1868, or agree to any further payment, and the turnpike trustees wrote to the company explaining that the chain-bar was not intended to catch traffic to the colliery, but to prevent the evasion of tolls by persons going to and from Leeds.

The collieries of Edward Waud and Ackroyd and Co , at Manston, and R.H. Garside of Killingbeck all paid similar compositions for coal traffic using the turnpike, but not passing the toll-bars.

The full range of toll charges was very detailed, with coaches and wagons being charged for each 'horse drawing' (say 1Od.) , but the amount varied according to the width of the 'fellies' or wheel tyres. (The width of the 'fellies' was a major consideration as a narrow iron-hooped tyre cut into and damaged the road surface, thus demanding a higher toll.) From the 1740's on, the width of wheels, and amount of projecting nails, exercised the skill of wheelwrights and authorities for many years.

Oxen, cattle, swine and sheep were charged by the score and for any carriage propelled by steam or machinery or any other than animal power, the toll was 2/-. Exemptions from tolls included mails, paupers passing through the parish, persons going to church on Sunday, members of the clergy going about their 'officiating duties' and cattle being driven to pasture.

It became the practice to 'farm out', or let, the collection of tolls on a yearly basis, either by public auction or the invitation of tenders, and a class of professional speculators or toll farmers developed. The 'rent' was usually paid by the toll farmers in monthly instalments.

On 5 December 1780 the Leeds Intelligencer announced that: 'A meeting of the trustees of the Leeds-Selby and the Tadcaster-Halton Dial Turnpikes Roads is to be held, when they intend to let by Farm to Auction. Last year Selby Road was let for the sum of £557 p.a. and Tadcaster Road for £646 p.a.' The 'Appointed Day of Letting the Tolls' in 1842 was 17 November for the Tadcaster-Halton Turnpike (rent £170) and the Seacroft- Scholes Branch Road (rent £96). The tolls being let to Joshua Brown (the Younger), Enoch Blackburn of Hunslet and Benjamin Dawson, Inn Keeper of 'Kidhal Lane'. If any collector of tolls demanded greater or less than authorised, they could be fined t5 and their contract summarily ended.

The 'Penny Toll' at Seacroft has a separate and much earlier history than the turnpike tolls. It was based on the ancient custom which entitled the lord of the manor to levy a charge termed 'Chiminage' or 'Moorage', upon all strangers driving over the waste of Whinmoor. Its origins are thought to be in the need and the payment for the help and protection of a guide across the moor.

The Penny Toll, Seacroft. circa 1920
The Leeds antiquarian Ralph Thoresby in his diary for 29 May 1702 records making a journey from Leeds to Barwick - 'Returned to Scales over another part of Winmoor etc. Observed the toll- gatherers booth, where the agents of Sir Thomas Gascoigne are ready to receive the toll of the carriage, which, at a "penny a pair of wheels", amounts to a considerable sum.'

The collection of tolls at the Seacroft 'Penny Toll' was unaffected by the Enclosure Award of 1804 or the expiry of the Tadcaster-Halton Dial Turnpike in 1873. In September 1907 the Barwick Parish Council received an enquiry from the West Riding County Council 'as to any service being performed by the Lord of the Manor in return for the Tolls on Whinmoor'. The record simply states that 'the Council approved the reply given'.

Surveyors were engaged to supervise one or more turnpikes, and in May 1779, the trustees of the Leeds-Selby and the Tadcaster- Halton Dial Roads met to appoint a successor to James Scholefield (deceased), who had also been surveyor for the Leeds-Otley Turnpike. It was decreed that if only one surveyor was appointed, he should be expected to employ his whole time to both turnpikes.

John Wilks (Junior) as his assistant, and a cut in salary from £80 to £60 per year due to falling toll receipts and increased repair costs. In August 1867, the trustees advertised the appointment of surveyor to the Tadcaster-Halton Dial and the Seacroft-Scholes Branch Roads, at an annual salary of £122. From a short list of 12, selected from 29 applicants, Mr William Elston of Selby was appointed.

The surveyors submitted annual maintenance estimates to the trustees and the Tadcaster-Halton Dial turnpike expenses for 1841 totalled £1998.7.0. The tolls for that year had been let at £1555.0.0. and the compensation for the coal carts from Manston Colliery was £50. This left a deficit of £393, with debts due to mortgages and unpaid interest amounting to £3869. The trustees recommended that application be made to the surveyors of highways Of the .... several townships through which the road passed, for respective sums towards repairs of the road. The townships listed were Seacroft, Barwick-in-Elmet, Aberford, Hazlewood and Tadcaster.

About 1822, a section of the Tadcaster Road, east of Kiddal Hall was straightened by a major improvement. Prior to this the road made a pronounced deviation to the south for about 600 yards, between Kiddal Hall and Kiddal Lane End and Jonathan Teal's map of 1786 shows the earlier route, with a 'turnpike gate' near the southern point of the 'V' shaped alignment. The later toll-house was opposite the Fox and Grapes public house and presumably the property on Kiddal Lane named on some maps as Bar House Farm has some association with the earlier gate.
Bar House Farm, Kiddal Lane. (1988). The Fox and Grapes on left.

Other improvements were undertaken on the Tadcaster Road in July 1792, an advertisement was placed in the Leeds Intelligencer for letting the 'Levelling of the Hills' at Grimesdike, with details to be obtained from Mr Robert Ware, carpenter of Leeds.

Grimesdike received attention again, in March 1865, when the posts and rails were reported in a dilapidated state, and the surveyors were instructed to prepare an estimate, and proceed to build a stone wall in place of posts and rails.

The Seacroft-Scholes Turnpike Branch Road was authorised by act of parliament in 1840 and comprised a completely new highway, before which journeys from Barwick to Leeds were made via Scholes and Whinmoor. It was decreed that the new road should not exceed 60 ft, in width and John Wilks undertook the survey in 1839. On 8 July 1840, he was authorised by the trustees to stake out the alignment for their inspection.

From a junction with Tadcaster Road, opposite the old Lion and Lamb at Seacroft (then in the Parish of Whitkirk) the route ran eastwards, alongside Potter Lane, through gardens, yards, orchards and pigcotes, before crossing Potter Lane (an occupation and bridle way) at the Seacroft/Barwick township boundary. Passing by the end of Stanks Lane, the road crosses the Cock Beck at Stanks Bridge, finally joining the Barwick-Scholes Road near Bog Lane (then named Brofit Lane). 68 plots of properties were affected; the surveyed length of road being '1¾ miles and 22 yards'. The road cut through the middle of the square moat west of the Coronation Tree and severed several open fields.

In November 1840, one land-owner Mr John Atk1nson, was advised that 'having considered the diagonal form in which two of your fields are cut (I) do consider that you should not by any means receive less than £100 for your land and severances'.

The turnpike trustees (totalling at one time 105 persons) included Thomas Crosland, Surveyor of the Highways for Barw1ck, and the Rev. William Hiley Bathurst, Rector of Barwick, who contributed £500 to the cost of the new road.

The toll-house was sited at Stanks (see the front cover of 'The Barwicker' No.3) and tolls were first let in November 1841, when the charges 'for every horse drawing was 4d.' and 'every drove of oxen and meat cattle - 5d. per score'. A Mr Knowles was toll collector for a period on a salary of 13/- per week, for which he was expected to fill up any ruts or potholes.

The turnpike trust could not be indicted for letting its roads get into disrepair, the only remedy being the presentment or indictment of the parish or township. There were stiff penalties for evading or flouting the tolls, transgressors paying £5 plus and over such Damage or Punishment as he shall be liable by law'.

The accounts of the Turnpike Road 1872

Farmers were often in trouble. The Leeds Intelligencer dated 7 October 1777 reads: 'A caution to farmers. Last week Mr ***** of Beeston in the Parish was fined five pounds for drawing five horses in a narrow-wheeled waggon, upon the turnpike road, contrary to act of parliament and he actually paid it, every shilling, for the act allows no mitigation of the penalties.' And on 10 February 1775; 'On Tuesday last a farmer at Allerton Grange, near this town was convicted in the penalty of four pounds at the Rotation Office, for taking of two of his horses from the cart, in order to evade turnpike tolls'.

In February 1846, the Leeds-York Railway Company gave notice to the joint turnpike trustees of proposals for a railway line from Leeds (Crossgates) to 'Wetherby, crossing the Seacroft-Scholes Branch Road at Stanks and Tadcaster Road at 'Whinmoor, requiring a raising of the latter road by some seven feet. The Cross Gates to Wetherby railway was eventually opened to traffic on 1 May 1876 (closed 1964) and the Seacroft-Scholes Branch Road was dis- turnpiked six years later in 1882.

During the hey-day of the turnpike trusts, superior methods of road building were developed by engineers such as (Blind) Jack Metcalfe of Knaresborough (1717-1810), (Turnpike Surveyor of the Harewood-Harrogate Road), J.L.Macadam (1756-1836) whose name became part of road language and Thomas Telford (1757-1834).

A few remnants of the turnpike days still survive. Bar House - a former toll-gate - stands aside the old A1 north of Aberford, and a milestone (now somewhat battered) alongside the Tadcaster Road at Kiddal Lane End-, Some place names record former toll-gate locations - Halton Dial (Dyal - a new turnpike), Headley Bar, Deighton Bar and Peckfield Bar - a reminder of the times when the 'pike-men' as well as road conditions made cheerless demands on the traveller.


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