The Turnpiking of Hockenhull Platts?

Had a  local newspaper in 1744 headlined


there would have been both consternation and relief in equal measure. Certain sadness as to the fate of the bridges and Platts Lane, and relief for it signaled the maintenance of the routeway was no longer a local issue.

A small, impoverished parish of some thirty people and the manorial lord never, as far as we know,  managed to meet the challenge of repairing either the  bridges or roadway. But now there were investors with  a local connection to the parish taking the burden off the poor parishioners shoulders.

The invention of turnpikes in the 17th century  grew rapidly in the 18th century as  more turnpike trusts were set up by act of Parliament. Trusts were created to repair and maintain existing roads though new roads were constructed as well.  Interestingly, trusts used  Ogilby’s  Britannia Roadbook (1675) to determine the main roads to be turnpiked.; one of his maps  showed, for the first time, Hockenhull’s  three sandstone bridges.

A turnpike was basically a hinged gate set across the road. A toll had to be paid to pass through with some roads having a number of toll-gates.  The  charges would be displayed on a board fixed to a toll-house at the roadside. Here, the toll-keeper would live with his family. Pedestrians did not pay but all forms of transport were chargeable, as were livestock , including packhorse trains.

The coming of a turnpike was judged, by the investors at any rate, to be a sound, profitable business.; generally, it was not. The Hockenhull Platts route was an extremely busy one with all manner of travellers on foot, horseback, wheeled vehicles (debatable), and the regular passage of packhorses. It was an obvious place for a turnpike, or was it?

Supposedly, Hockenhull Platts was turnpiked in 1744, but the Act does not include it.

Had there been a turnpike the result would be evident to this day. The bridges greatly altered, if not replaced, the causeway much wider and Platts Lane, particularly on the Tarvin side, a featureless roadway without verges and doubtless, devoid of its former charm and atmosphere.

Its fascinating history would have been set aside. The packhorse bridges only a memory and the jagger’s refrain just an echo of a national feeling of discontent.

Jack’s roads are fine, his roads are wide

and coaches will sustain

But not for me the turnpike road,

for a jagger with his train.

The toll-board at the bar-house

spells it out loud and clear.

It’s thruppence for each pony!

We think it very dear.

(Part of Jagger’s Refrain)

The discontent felt by the jagger was widespread across Britain. The poor facing higher land rents, poor harvests, the loss of common lands and the payment of tithes to the Church, were just a few of the inequalities facing rural communities. Turnpikes were an unfair burden to be suffered without any form of discretion, everyone paid, rich and poor alike. In rural Wales, the Rebecca Riots of the 1830’s and 1840’s  showed the desperation and anger felt by the poor in many parts of Britain.

By the 1870’s the days of turnpikes were over. They had created a network of well-maintained roads, allowing much faster, safer and more comfortable journeys.  Now a new transport revolution was dawning . Canals and railways were the new order and across Britain turnpikes were being dismantled .

In Wales, the last  turnpike in the country, at Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, on the London-Holyhead road, was dismantled with enthusiasm

This road  passed through Hockenhull Platts but not as a turnpike, instead the route went via Stamford Bridge, leaving the Platts a quiet bridleway as befits its ancient history.