South Lincolnshire’s markers to early transport history

Have your say

From 1822, people travelling by coach between Spalding and Bourne would have been forced to pay a fee.

The toll was made at a turnpike – named after the spiked barrier used to prevent people passing – or toll bar, and these were sometimes accompanied by a toll cottage.

The Bourne toll bar.

The Bourne toll bar.

Travellers may have grumbled about the toll, but the alternative was sunken lanes that became quagmires in wet weather.

Turnpike Trusts were set up, by Acts of Parliament, from 1706 to the 1840s so that groups of local landowners would repair and build stretches of road. The Great North Road was one of five major turnpikes radiating from London, with smaller turnpikes as offshoots, such as from Stamford to Deeping and Bourne to Stamford.

Landowners would then charge users tolls to pay for the road, the fees accurately calculated thanks to milestones, which were found along 20,000 miles of roads as well as canals at the height of the turnpike era.

It’s something that doesn’t seem terribly important in our age of generally good, well sign-posted roads, but turnpikes and milestones are an important part of our transport and highway history, believes Thurlby resident Joyce Stevenson.

The old toll bar cottage at Folkingham.

The old toll bar cottage at Folkingham.

That milestones are important is recognised in the fact that they are all Grade II listed assets.

That the vast majority of us don’t recognise their importance is reflected in the fact that many are in a poor state of repair and are frequently hidden in overgrown strips of land beside roads.

However, Joyce has had a fascination with milestones and posts since 2000 and since that time she has surveyed many of the local ones.

She has also researched the history of milestones and posts, built up a photographic archive of them, and followed the fortunes of buildings with associations to the turnpike roads.

Joyce says: “Milestones are a really important part of our transport and our highway history. Every village has got its own milestone or milepost so it is part of everybody’s life, but we tend to pass them by without noticing them. Generally speaking they are not looked after.”