The new President of Stourbridge Historical Society, Michael Blamire–Brown, welcomed 71 members, 10 new members and 11 visitors to a presentation by Julian Hunt entitled Worcestershire Turnpike Roads.
Julian explained that turnpike roads came into being in the 17th century and became more common in the 18th. Their purpose was to collect tolls in order to maintain roads which were falling into disrepair. Turnpike Trusts were set up by individual Acts of Parliament and were in place for 21 years after which they had to be renewed. Local clergy, gentlemen and merchants were nominated as trustees and they in turn appointed a clerk, a treasurer and surveyor to administer and maintain the roads. Local men Thomas Brettell a solicitor, Thomas Waldron the glassmaker and ironmaster, John Hodgetts, Francis Homfrey the glass manufacturer and William Foley were such trustees named in one Act.
The trusts erected the turnpike gates but it was the Act that set the rates to be collected from the various vehicles and animals that passed through the turnpike. Much of the wording of the Acts was noticeably common to every Act.
Julian showed several photos of turnpike gates and houses; and early photograph of a turnpike gate at Fairfield and a toll house at Hayley Green and one at Penn in Wolverhampton. He explained that there is a surviving turnpike toll house at the top of Grange Hill in Halesowen. A turnpike toll house on Bromley Lane in Kingswinford was in existence until the 1960’s.
Turnpike roads realised significant sums of money. A toll house at Brettell Lane collected an astounding £378 in 1791. The money realised from the tolls was frequently well spent. An order book of 1821 to 1830 for Stourbridge Roads shows that money collected from tolls was used to improve part of the town by raising and lowering certain parts of High Street, paving the town and taking up and repairing the Ryemarket and Coventry Street.
After questions the President thanked Julian for his interesting talk.
Michael closed the meeting by announcing that the next meeting will be on Thursday 19th February when Roger Butler will talk on A Circumnavigation of the West Midlands: A Canal Journey.
Founded 1946, by Geoffrey Beard
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