The Georgian Era

Turnpikes and Tolls

Do you go shopping at Morrisons or Aldi, or do you go down to Sainsbury's at Castle Vale? Perhaps you have been to town past the Fox & Goose?

250 years ago you would have to pay to travel along these roads - unless you chose to walk.

 

Local people were forced to mend the roads.
Local people were forced to mend the roads.

Up until the 18th century roads were supposed to be looked after by people in the local parishes. This worked well when it was only local people using the roads to get from one farm to another or to go to the nearest market. 

 

But local people thought it was unfair to have to mend the roads for people who just passing through their village on long journeys. 

 

The long distance roads were badly maintained which made it very difficult for manufacturers to take their goods to market.

 

Toll Roads

Many roads in winter were almost impassable.
Many roads in winter were almost impassable.

in the 18th century Parliament began to pass laws to allow companies to set up toll roads. The deal was that the company would charge people to travel along the road, but the company had to make the road better.

 

The toll roads, which were known as turnpikes, were the first new roads to be built in Britain since the Romans left in 410 AD.

 

By 1750 most of the major roads in England had been turnpiked: the Chester Road was turnpiked in 1759 and the Coleshill Road in 1760.

 

Stagecoaches

This picture shows the London-Chester mail coach which came through Castle Bromwich.
This picture shows the London-Chester mail coach which came through Castle Bromwich.

Companies began to run stagecoach services along the turnpike roads. They set up stages on the journey where new horses would be put on the coach and the old ones given time to rest. With better roads, travellers knew when they were going to arrive at their destination. 

 

The first stagecoach route in the Midlands was from London to Chester which ran via Castle Bromwich from 1657.

 

It took four days to travel the 190 miles and the cost was £1:15 shillings.  This was before the road was turnpiked and improved. This stagecoach line ran continuously until the 1830s when rail travel put it out of business. There was just one year's gap when no coaches ran and that was in 1665, the year of the Great Plague. 

 

Coaching Inns

Wagons were slow, but they could move much more quickly and steadily on turnpike roads.
Wagons were slow, but they could move much more quickly and steadily on turnpike roads.

Travel on the turnpikes was much faster than on the old roads, but it still took two days to get from Birmingham to London and the coaches had to stop every ten miles or so to change horses. On long journeys passengers had to stay overnight in an inn. 

 

Not only were there coaches but goods were also carried in a variety of different carts and wagons to be sold across the country and even abroad. There were ten times as many wagons as stagecoaches.

 

This made the roads through Castle Bromwich very busy. however, it was good for business and gave jobs to local people. Travellers needed to buy food and drink; they needed to pay for a bed for the night; the horses might need new shoes.

 

In in Castle Bromwich there were three inns used by travellers: The Bridgeman Arms near Castle Bromwich Hall, the Coach & Horses on the Green and the Bradford Arms further along the Chester Road. 

 

The Bridgeman Arms; it had its own blacksmith's forge at the back of the inn.

 

The Coach & Horses in the 19th century. The pub has been rebuilt since then.

The Bradford Arms has changed little in 250 years.


"Your money or your life!"

The highwayman's cry: "Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!"
The highwayman's cry: "Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!"

 

There was always the danger of highwaymen. There were often robberies on the Chester Road at Sutton Coldfield. The famous Dick Turpin worked with Tom King, a highwayman from Sutton robbing coaches across the country. Dick

 

Turpin was hanged at York in 1739, while King is said to have been caught and burned to death in Sutton Park. (So the story goes!)

 

To deter highwaymen gibbets or gallows stood in prominent places on main roads. One gibbet stood at Washwood Heath near Aston Church Road; there was another on the Chester Road at New Oscott. The dead bodies of highwaymen were left hanging on the gibbet for everyone to see. 

 

Better roads, but at a cost

A toll gate: the notice on the side of the toll keeper's cottage is a list of charges.
A toll gate: the notice on the side of the toll keeper's cottage is a list of charges.

There were two toll roads (turnpikes) through Castle Bromwich:

one road ran from Birmingham to Coleshill,

the other from London to Chester.

 

The Castle Bromwich Turnpike or Coleshill Turnpike was set up in 1760.

 

If you catch the bus from town to Castle Bromwich and then to Coleshill, you are following the 18th-century turnpike road. 

 

In 1760 you would stop at the toll gate by Nechells library (It wasn't there then) and again at Saltley and then again at Castle Bromwich Green. From Birmingham you would travel through the countryside all the way.

 

The Birmingham historian, William Hutton complained in 1781 that, although you had to pay to travel, the roads had not been improved and that you still had to cross the rivers through fords because no bridges had been built: 

 

‘At Saltley, in the way to Coleshill, which is ten miles, for want of a causeway with an arch or two, every flood annoys the passenger.'

 

The tollgate sign at Stonnall listing charges to Castle Bromwich. A similar sign would have been displayed at Castle Bromwich gate.
The tollgate sign at Stonnall listing charges to Castle Bromwich. A similar sign would have been displayed at Castle Bromwich gate.

 

The Chester Road from London to Chester was an important national route. Set up in 1759, it was made up of a number of different turnpikes. Travellers on this road paid at the tollgate on the Green. The toll gates were taken away in 1877.

 

If you want to know about the early history of the Chester Road through Castle Bromwich, you'll find more information on the Middle Ages page.

Find the article on the Welsh Road.

 

If you want to follow a trail along the Chester Road, click on

Castle Bromwich Village Trail.

 

 

Find out about the Lords of Castle Bromwich over the past thousand years.

Click the Bromwich coat of arms >

Weblinks

'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.

We’ve been ringing here for 500 years and are keen to involve local people in our ancient art. Contact us via our Castle Bromwich Bell Ringers website if you want learn to ring or visit the tower or have one of us talk to your group about the history of Castle Bromwich, our church or bellringing.  Material on this site may be reused only for non-commercial purposes providing appropriate attribution is given (Creative Commons Licence Attribution NonCommercial 4.0) - details on the Contact page.