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The Parish Surveyor of the Highways

From The Barwicker No. 63
Sept. 2001
Throughout the medieval period the major users of the highways were pack animals, horses, herds of cattle and some heavy ill-designed carts and waggons. The upkeep of the public highways was generally the responsibility of the manor, a duty usually passed to the tenants, resulting in a fragmented and mainly inefficient system.

The increase of wheeled traffic and a lack of adequate maintenance created wretched conditions for any traveller, as illustrated by the following account. An extract from the Leeds Quarter Session for July 1675 reads:

"and a certyne highway leading between the market towns of Leeds and Selbye . . . . . in a certyne place called owle lane . . . . . within the township of West Garforth presented to bee, in much ruyne and decay . . . . . inhabitants of the said town ought to repair it." 

Ten pounds was ordered by the court to be paid for the 'speedy repair' of what was the forerunner of the Leeds to Selby turnpike.

The much travelled Arthur Young on a tour of the north commented that;

"I know not, in the whole range of language, terms sufficiently expressive to describe this infernal road (in Lancashire over the border from the West Riding of Yorkshre)," 
"Let me persuade all travellers to avoid this terrible country, which either dislocates their bones with broken paving, or bury them in muddy sand." ;

To address these conditions, an Act of 1555, which formed for nearly 300 years the basis of a new organisation of road maintenance, sought to place the obligation for the upkeep of public highways on the parish as a whole. A subsequent act of 1691 required each parish to appoint a Surveyor of Highways (or Waywarden) under the jurisdiction of the Justices and the County Quarter Sessions. The person nominated would be served with a warrant by the Parish Constable confirming his appointment as Surveyor of the Highways for the ensuing year, acceptance of this duty being compulsory. The Barwick Vestry Parish Constable's accounts for 1751 records;

"Warrent for the Surveyor of the Highways: 0.3s.0d."

His first task was to take over any balance of money from his predecessor and become acquainted with on-going works. Three times a year, at least, "he had to view all the roads, byways, water courses and pavements within his precinct and make presentation upon oath in what condition he finds same, to the next Justices".

"Much ruyne and decay" on Rakehill Road April 2001

He required owners of land adjacent to the highway to clear their ways of any timber, stones or other obstructions and cleanse and scour the adjoining gutters and drains. Overhanging growth and hedges had to be cleared in order that "from one end of the parish to the other there might be a clear passage for travellers and carriages" and "that the sun may shine onto the ways to dry same".

At all times he had to look out for "and waylay any waggons, wains or carts etc. that are not drawn by the statutary number of oxen or horses". The very next Sunday after discovering any default or annoyance, he was required to stand up in the parish church, after the sermon, and proclaim any offender in order that they may be prosecuted.

There was the organising of six days of the year when parishioners were 'recruited' to provide Statute Labour, with horses, carts and all necessary tools, to undertake highway repair. Statute Labour Duty is defined as the amount of labour or works of public utility formerly required by Statute to be perfomed by residents of the district. In addition there was the disagreeable duty of reporting any defaulter to the justices.

If all this was not enough, the person nominated as Surveyor, who could be fined for refusing to accept office, might himself be penalised a sum of forty shillings for any default or neglect of his duty.

Another unwelcome duty was the collection of any cash payment that was due from 'poor cottagers and niggardly farmers', often the cause of invidious relations with fellow parishioners.

Some parishes failed to appoint Surveyors of the Highways and in many places it is recorded that Surveyors were unable to enforce Statute Labour from farmers "who beat them if they approached their houses with obnoxious demand". No accounts of these incidents have been discovered in the Barwick parish vestry minutes. The Act of 1691 also decreed that "the Surveyor make every cartway leading to any market town eight foot wide at least, and as near as may be even and level" and that "no horse causey shall be less in breadth than three feet".

The following extracts from the Barwick Vestry Minutes indicate the changes made, over a period of time, in highway administration, both in the number of surveyors annually appointed, and their operational territories.

In 1750 Matthew Watson was elected Overseer of the Highways

September 1831 - the following Surveyors were appointed:  Barwick   James Lumb 
  Potterton  Edward Wilkinson 
  Barnbow   John Thompson 
  Scholes  John Bodger (farmer) 
  Morwick  James Hobson 

March 1875  George Parker Barton 
  Daniel Robinson 
  Richard Helm (publican and farmer) 

March 1876  John Lupton Wainwright 
  William Wetherall 
  Richard Helm 

March 1892  Barwick Town  Richard Helm 
  Kiddal Lane, Whinmoor  John Brook 
  Scholes and Crossgates John Locke 

Local history records suggest that farmers and innkeepers regularly held this office. Richard Helm at the Gascoigne Arms was Surveyor of the Highways for several years between 1875 and the 1890s and before him, William Knapton, also of the Gascoigne Arms held the office.

The undermentioned are typical items of highways expenditure in the Barwick Vestry Minutes.

The Accounts of Matthew Watson, Overseer of the Highway for 1750.
Repairing causeys in Kiddal Lane (paid to William Johnson, the succeeding Surveyor) for scouring ditches in Kiddal Lane and Potterton Lane       
To Joseph Bullock for 739 yards of paving  
To Joseph Bullock for repairing causeys in Kiddal Lane 
For causey stoups on Town and Potterton Lanes  10 
Causey stoups and setting in Kiddal Lane 

Stoups, or stoops (probably posts and pillars) were placed "at crossways upon large moors or commons where intelligence is difficult to be had". The derivation of the place name 'Morgan Cross' at the junction of Kiddal Lane and Potterton Lane has so far remained obscure.

It is interesting that the Parish Constable was involved in bridge repairs; for instance the Accounts of James Parkin, Constable of the year 1751, includes the following:

To John Tate for mending Ox Close Bridge 
A new plank for Barnbow Bridge and mending the bridge at Rake Beck 

and William Norton's Account as Constable for the year 1759

Potterton Bridge repairs 
Iron work at Pinfold and Potterton Bridge 

Narrow-wheeled vehicles caused the greatest damage to road surfaces and various statutes attempted to enforce the use of broad wheel rims, without much success. Higher tolls were charged on most turnpike roads where cart wheels were less than four inches wide.

The early methods of road repairs were very basic, loads of rough stone being placed in the more deeply rutted sections doing little for the riding comfort of any traveller. By the end of the 18th.century, advances were being made in methods of pavement construction.

The remarkable John Metcalf of Knaresborough (1717-1810), although blind, became a successful builder of roads, including a five mile stretch between Harrogate and Knaresborough, and one and half miles of road from Chapeltown to Leeds. His 'viameter' (or measuring wheel) is on display at Knaresborough Castle Museum.

John L Macadam (1756-1836), whose name became part of road technology, devised the laying of graded stones in layers, each watered and thoroughly compacted, to produce a firm even surface. The addition of tar, as a binder, provides 'tarmacadam'. He was also effective in improving highway administration, advocating fully competent labourers paid at market rates and the employment of 'mile men', each responsible for a mile of road, later to be known as 'length men'.

Road stone was readily available from local sources within the parish and the Ordnance Survey maps identify the sites of many old quarries. A hollow in a field just north of Rakehill Lane and near Rake Beck, has the map description 'Galliard', a fine-grained sandstone.

A Barwick Vestry Meeting in April 1839 agreed to the gettting of 1400 cubic yards of stone at the Ash Bank Quarry by contract at 8d. per solid yard. Other sites included Doles, Bog Lane and Bloeffet Quarries.

An alternative material - dross, a much harder stone - was obtained from the York Road Iron Company Foundry and charged by weight. In May 1879, a meeting at the house of Mr Helm at the Gascoigne Arms, dealt with the leading of dross from this foundry into various highways of the township. John Dixon was to supply 15 tons from the Turnpike to Skeltons Lane at 2s.3d per ton.

An event which dramatically re-shaped the local landscape and defined the alignment and widths of many highways and byways was the Barwick Enclosure Award of 1804. The Commissioners were required to set out "such proper and convenient Public and Private Roads and ways", and to appoint an (independent) Surveyor within three months of the Act to form and put in good and sufficient repair the Public Carriage Roads. The new or altered roads eventually became the responsibility of the Parish Surveyor. Examples of Private Carriageways and Bridleways include:

Low Field Road  20ft. 
Winn Moor Nook Road  30ft. 
Rake Hill Road  40ft. 

Reference is made in the Enclosure Award, under allotments, to:

Gravel, Sand, etc. for repairing roads - Scholes Townend Field   1a.  0r.  10p. 

Indictments were several times served on the parish for the alleged non-repair of certain roads. In June 1832, a Vestry Meeting considered an indictment for the non-repair of Red Hall Road, when it was resolved that "subject to the indictment being withdrawn, 100 loads of stone be laid to repair the said road as a Bridleway."

A public meeting in October dealt with the application to the Surveyor of the Highways regarding the maintenance of a road leading from Austhorpe to Crossgates. There was also a problem of encroachment from Skelton Farm House to the Township boundary at Harewood Road. It was resolved that the Surveyor of the Highways put the said road in repair and thereafter to maintain same, and advice was to be sought on the alleged highway encroachment.

During 1893 several vestry meetings considered the defence against a Bill of Indictment for the non-repair of Church Lane, Manston, between Austhorpe Road and Barwick Turnpike Road. John Crosland proposed that the Surveyor of the Highways defend the indictment, but it was finally resolved that the Surveyor undertake the maintenance of Church Lane and keep it in repair.

The system of Statute Labour, or acquiring income from commutations and fines, was inadequate to allow any advancement in road maintenance standards, and several attempts were made to raise money by levying a general parish rate. Eventually in 1835 Statute Labour was abolished, being replaced by a levy on the parish and the duties of the Surveyor became remunerated.

A Barwick parish meeting in November 1831 considered the laying of an assessment for the Surveyor of the highways, in the several divisions of the Township, when it was resolved that a composition be laid of one shilling and three pence in the pound.

In 1836, the Vestry meeting resolved that the Surveyor's salary be advanced from 30 to 40 per year. Between 1889 and 1891, consideration was given to allowing the Surveyor to appoint a collector of highway rates and the amount of the collector's salary. The appointment of a collector of highway rates was eventually approved, with six pence in the pound being allowed to the Surveyor.

In the 18th. and 19th. centuries the introducton of Turnpike Poads empowered trustees to borrow money and charge tolls to finance the construction and maintenance of main highways. Two Turnpike Roads within the parish (which were initially supervised by an independent Surveyor) were:

In 1840 the Trustees of the latter Turnpike decreed that an application be made to the Surveyor of the Highways of the several townships through which the road passes for respective sums towards the repair of the road. This was presumably to make up the deficit between the estimated expenses of 1998.7s.3p and income of 1605.0s.0p.

The townships referred to were Potterton, Aberford, Seacroft, Hazlewood, Barwick-in-Elmet and Tadcaster. The Turnpike Roads eventually became the responsibility of the Parish Surveyor.

The end of the 19th. century proved to be a watershed in local government organisation with the establishment in 1894 of both the Tadcaster Rural District Council and Barwick Parish Council. In 1899 the recently formed County Council became responsible for main public highways. The first meeting of the Barwick Parish Council decided to form a small committee for each of the three wards of Barwick, Scholes and Cross Gates. (The Cross Gates area of the parish was taken into Leeds District in 1912.)

Thus the office of the amateur Surveyor of the Highways, with its onerous and demanding duties, passed into local history; the latter-day 'Waywarden' being replaced by a new and different style of 'warden'.

  The Barwick Parish Vestry Minutes. 
  The Story of the King's Highway Vol. 5 by Sidney and Beatrice Webb 

Tony Cox

Causey or causeway usually refers to a paved track raised above ground level and used either as a footway or for pack animals.(
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