Stoke, Derbyshire - The Turnpike Era

An account by Rosemary Lockie © Copyright 2018-19, &c.

The Turnpike Era in Stoke, 1758-1879

The research detailed in this article was prompted by an account by Ann Hall of the history of the Toll House in the ancient parish of Stoke. What Toll House, you might ask? Other places where Tolls were collected during the 18th and 19th centuries will be better known, retaining their suffix of “-Bar” on Maps, and may even have a “following” - as for instance, Owler Bar, and Hunters Bar. Indeed, for those of you who may wonder what a “Bar” across the road at regular intervals might have looked like, the Hunters Bar barrier has been preserved, and is in fact a Grade II Listed Building! [1]

In comparison, the “Bar” at Stoke is but a distant memory; but nevertheless, its location, at the junction of the B6001 with “Stoke Lane” from Froggatt, was, in my lifetime, often referred to as “Stoke Bar”.

The erection of toll houses, and the barriers they maintained, was just the beginning of major change, which the Turnpike system set in motion. Collecting tolls to pay for the upkeep of a thoroughfare seems self-evident to us now, but at the start of the 18th century, it was a new concept, and unlike today, where toll booths are staffed by a shift system, or even automated, a Toll House keeper was expected to be on call 24/7...

Ann's account of Stoke Toll House (link to a PDF file, 5,321K), is available separately. For more about its setting, read on...

The Boundaries...
Today, “Stoke” as a separate entity does not officially exist, as in 1911 it became part of Grindleford. Its boundaries were delimited by Goatscliffe Brook in the north, the River Derwent in the east, and Stoney Middleton Brook [2] in the south. Its western boundary is less easily defined, being delineated by moorland and fields bounding Magclough Farm land. Today, obviously, we have a different concept of our bounds to those which governed our ancestors' lives. Likewise their regular routes and trackways would in some cases have differed significantly from those we are familiar with now. It has been said that the Turnpike era marked the beginnings of the network of roads that serves us in the present day, but I can imagine their advent might have been greeted with the same mixed feelings as did the construction, and opening of the M1, in 1959! At a local level, whilst Stoke's residents might have welcomed the improvements in transport which ensued, the peace of this rural settlement may well have been as rudely disturbed as it might be today, for towns and villages when a new Motorway passes nearby! More noisy carriages passing through, and suddenly having to pay for the privilege of going to Bakewell market!

And of course there were no Neighbourhood Action Groups...

The First Turnpikes...
The first Act of Parliament to enable the collection of money for repair of roads was passed as long ago as 1663, for part of the Great North Road (A1) between Wadesmill in Hertfordshire and Stilton in Huntingdonshire, [3] but it wasn't until the next century that the so-called ‘Turnpike Era’ took off. Acts of Parliament enabled the creation individual Turnpike Trusts, under which those invested as its Trustees - possibly a mix of philanthropists, local dignitaries and businessmen - were empowered to set up tollgates and collect tolls from those using that particular stretch of turnpike to facilitate its upkeep. The last of these Acts was passed in 1836, by which time 942 Acts for new Trusts had been passed. Numerous other Acts were also involved, some to close legal loop-holes, others to facilitate commerce, and yet others to sanction the repair of existing turnpikes. The amount of toll levied varied, but there were very few exceptions. One such example was an Act of Parliament of 1785, whereby mail-coaches were exempted.

Also I suspect that unlike the tollgate on the ‘Rock Island Line’, [4] where a load of pigs could go through free of charge, and a load of pig-iron could not, livestock would not have travelled free! On the other hand, there were reported instances of travellers avoiding a tollgate by taking a circuitous route, with greater or lesser success...

The Chesterfield to Hernstone Lane Head Turnpike...
The first roads to be turnpiked were the major ones - the Great North Road (today's A1), the road from London to Chester (the A5), and the road from London to Carlisle, today's A6. Several Acts involving the A6 were passed in 1737, and an Act for the Chesterfield to Worksop (A619) the following year. But roads through the Peak District weren't long in following. The first Act for the Turnpike known by the description of Chesterfield & Hernstone Lane Head, of which the Turnpike passing through Stoke was part, was passed in 1758. [5] The description - “Chesterfield to Hernstone Lane Head” (near Peak Forest - on today's A623) may appear to be confusing at first for a road through Stoke, but it appears that was the designated name of the Turnpike, including its branches. Thus one of the first announcements we see in the Derby Mercury to mention Stoke refers to it in that capacity. [6]

Notice is hereby given,
THAT a MEETING will be held on Saturday the Ninth Day of December next, at the House of Mr. JOSHUA FIDLER, known by the Sign of the Falcon in Chesterfield, by Ten of the Clock in the Forenoon of the same Day, to consider further of an Application to Parliament at the next ensuing Session, for a Turnpike-Road from Chesterfield to the Turnpike-Road at Hernstone-Lane-Head, leading to Chappel-en-le-Frith; and for a Branch out of the same, from about the Middle of the East-Moor, near Clod-Hall, thro' Baslow, Hassop, and Bakewell, to the Turnpike-Road near Newhaven House, which leads from Ashbourne to Buxton, and for another Branch from Hassop, thro' Calver, and by Stoke to the Turnpike-Road at Grindleford Bridge, which leads from Sheffield to Buxton: And likewise to consider of raising Money for those Purposes.

One of the problems early coach travellers on this, and other turnpike routes were the gradients, since initially at least turnpike routes followed the old packhorse ways, which went ‘up hill and down dale’, to avoid river valleys which were prone to flooding. So, for instance the Turnpike from Sheffield to Buxton, which passed through the other (north) end of Grindleford village to Stoke, after crossing Grindleford Bridge from the Sheffield direction, would have turned right up Sir William Hill, past the School, and over the top of Sir William to Great Hucklow. Apparently it was not uncommon for passengers to be asked to get out and walk in such circumstances, so the horses could pull the coach to the top of the hill safely. Poor horses...

What to do about Knouchley Hill...
Meanwhile back at the Stoke end of Grindleford, approaching the Toll Bar from Calver, coaches were faced with a formidable climb up Knouchley Hill, which is mentioned by Farey as having a gradient of 1 in 6 and as not having been improved when he was writing in 1817. [7]

This is interesting, as in Farey's time the road up Knouchley Hill evidently took a “line of sight” route. He was a very accomplished Mineral Surveyor, and it would seem that he took to heart the subtext of his publication General View of the Agriculture of Derbyshire, with observations on the means of its improvement, drawn up for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture. He drew attention to the fact that too frequently turnpikes had been laid out to follow existing trackways, and were crossing valleys at right angles, a description which could aptly describe the original route, whereas the more oblique and easy descents which might in most instances be had could equally describe the “S” bend of today's B6001! [8]

Unfortunately, more than 50 years were to elapse before the changes he suggested were implemented at Knouchley. The Map illustration on the right of this page shows an outline (in red) superimposed on a modern Map, of the route as it may have been in Farey's day. This is based on a Surveyor's Plan of 1866, of the proposed new route. [9] However, present day evidence suggests the old roadway which was to be replaced may not have been so clearly delineated. There may have been several regularly-trod trackways, depending on the state of the terrain, whether it was winter or summer, and whether travelling by coach, cart, or on horseback. [10] Two possible routes from the present road north, in the direction of Knouchley Farm are suggested by Google Satellite View (shown opposite). Ann tells me there is a hollow in the bank where the more westerly of these two routes leaves the present day road side (also illustrated, opposite), and enters the field. Less easily seen are opposing routes south, to meet the A625 so these might need a little more imagination!

The route I've shown also takes into account the position of a surviving example of one of the obligatory guideposts, which an Act of 1702 required every parish to erect where highways met, providing directions to nearby market towns. In this case the stone has the lettering “To Sheffield” on its most visible side. Less easily seen, on its north west side, are the letters ‘Bake’ - evidently indicating the direction of Bakewell. Below is an initial letter 'A', followed by two more letters, less easy to decipher. Perhaps it says “Ashbourne”, with the ‘S’ reversed, and indeed the road would reach Ashbourne eventually (the Turnpike-Road near Newhaven House which leads from Ashbourne to Buxton, above), but conversely that might be ‘Wishful Thinking’ on my part! The position of the guidepost is marked with a ‘star’ on the Map, and can be seen on the right of the present day public footpath from (the west of) the main road past Knouchley Farm. [11]

Farming out Collection of Tolls...
The next stage, after the turnpikes were laid, the barriers were installed, and properties available, was to arrange for toll collectors to collect the tolls. The following notice from the Derby Mercury gives a flavour of the processes involved:

Turnpike from Chesterfield to Hernstone-Lane-Head.
Notice is hereby given,
That the acting Trustees of this Road, at their last Meeting, resolved to let the Tolls at the Gates of Ashgate, Calver, Stoke, Wardlow-Mires, Baslow, and Conksbury.
All Persons who are willing to farm the said several Gates, are desired to deliver their Proposals in Writing, for the farming each Gate separately, to the acting Trustees, at their next Meeting, at the Angel in Chesterfield, on Thursday, the 7th Day of November next.
By Order of the Trustees,    John MANDER, Clerk. [12]

Thereafter advertisements were appearing regularly in the Mercury for Auctions to let the collection of Tolls “for the Term of One Year or more” to the highest bidder, but with the proviso that for the Tolls to be let, there must be at least two Bidders. The advertisement below is a typical example:

That the TOLLS, arising at the several Toll Gates or Bars erected upon the Turnpike Road leading from Chesterfield, in the County of Derby, to the Turnpike Road at Hernstone Lane-Head, and also the Road branching from the said Road, upon the East Moor, through Baslow and Wardlow, to the joining of the said Roads again near Wardlow Mires - and also the Road leading between the said Road and Branch from Calver Bridge to Baslow Bridge - and also the Road from the Turnpike Road, near Newhaven House, to the Turnpike Road near Grindleford-Bridge, in the said County of Derby, called or known by the several Names of Ashgate Bar, Basslow Bar, Calver Bar, Wardlow Bar, Conksbury Bar, Stoke and Calver Engine Bar, will be LET by AUCTION, for the Term of One Year or more, as the Trustees of the said Turnpike Road may then determine (commencing on the 17th Day of June next) to the best Bidders, at the Sign of the White Horse Inn, [13] in Bakewell, in the said County of Derby, on Thursday the Eleventh Day of June next ensuing, between the Hours of 12 and 4 in the Afternoon, in the Manner directed by a certain Act of Parliament passed in the 13th Year of the Reign of his present Majesty King George the Third, “for regulating Turnpike Roads” which said Bars of Calver, Wardlow, Conksbury, Stoke and Calver Engine, were let the preceding Year for the several Sums under-mentioned, and will be put up at the same; and the Bars at Ashgate and Basslow produced the preceding Year, above the Expences of collecting them, the Sums under-mentioned, and will also be put up at the same, viz.
Ashgate Bar521148
Basslow Bar27564
Calver Bar40500
Wardlow Bar36000
Conksbury Bar8150
Stoke and Calver Engine Bar, which ticket to one another4900

Such Persons who shall happen to be the best Bidders must at the same Time give Security, with sufficient Sureties to the Satisfaction of the Trustees of the said Road, for the Payment of the Rents agreed for in such Proportions and at such Times as they shall direct. - No Letting unless two Bidders, nor will any Person be permitted to bid whose Sureties will not attend at the Meeting.
By Order of the said Trustees
JAs. MANDER, Clerk,   Bakewell, 12th May, 1789. [14]

There remains one question to address, raised by the above notice. What is the significance of “Calver Engine Bar”? This was, I assume, what became known as a “weighing engine”. An Act of Parliament of 1741 ‘gave trustees of roads authority to have built, at any or every toll-gate, weighing engines for weighing all carriages and goods passing through the toll-gate, and to take, in addition to the regular toll, a further duty of twenty shillings per hundredweight for all above sixty hundredweight, which extra payment was also to be applied for mending the roads”. [15]

Evidently this had been intended originally to discourage the carriage of heavy loads, as much as to provide extra revenue; but as one might imagine, weighing engines were not popular; indeed,

“immediately after the law was passed, men with heavy loads... would unload part of their goods before driving on to the weighing engine, and then reload after they had passed. In other cases... men would sometimes go out of their way, through narrow lanes and side roads, till they had passed such a place... In reality, comparatively few of these engines had been erected, for it was merely optional with the road trustees whether they established them or not”. [15]

In such circumstances one might imagine the “Calver Engine” was a mixed blessing! And one can't help wondering whether was Calver, or Stoke, ever a scene of “Turnpike Riots ”? Perhaps I'll leave that question for another day!

Meanwhile, here is another link to Ann's account of Stoke Toll House (link to a PDF file, 5,321K)

Toll Bar Cottage, Stoke (c) Ann Hall 2018

Toll Bar Cottage, Stoke
© Ann Hall 2018.

Holloway over Knouchley, Stoke (c) Ann Hall 2018

Hollow where an old route may have left the course of the B6001
© Ann Hall 2018.

Google Satellite View, showing what may be evidence of old trackways, centred on 53.276708, -1.641798
Map data © Google

Map of Knouchley Hill, Stoke

© OpenStreetMap contributors. [16] Red overlay by Rosemary Lockie, shows the route that may have existed before 1866.
The position of the guidepost (below) is shown by a green star.

Guidepost at Knouchley, Stoke (c) Julie Bunting 2008

Guidepost at Knouchley, Stoke
© Julie Bunting 2008.

Guidepost at Knouchley (Engraving on NW Side), Stoke (c) Ann Hall 2018

Engraving on NW Side of Guidepost at Knouchley, Stoke
© Ann Hall 2018.

Derby Mercury, May 21, 1789

Derby Mercury, May 21, 1789.

[1] “Toll gate. c1810, resited early C20. 2 tapered round ashlar piers with rounded tops. Renewed single bar gate. Ecclesall Road was laid out as a toll road in 1810.” List Entry #1270820. Historic England.
[3] Labelled on Maps as [Stoney] Middleton Brook, becoming Stoke Brook by the time it reaches the River Derwent.
[3] Transport and communication on the UK Parliament - Living Heritage webpages.
[4] Wikipedia article on the folk-song Rock Island Line, as performed by Lonnie Donegan, who according to the article, misunderstood the concept of ‘free’ passage, but nevertheless...
[5] A superb online guide to Turnpike Roads in England & Wales.
[6] The Derby Mercury, Friday November 24, to Friday December 1, 1758, p.4. [Price Two-pence Half-penny!]
[7] Dodd, AE & EM - Peakland Roads and Trackways, 1990, p.162.
[8] Farey, John - General View of the Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire, Vol III - John Farey, 1817, pp.224-225.
[9] TNA Reference: MFC 1/140/5 [1866] Quoting from TNA Catalogue description:
Derbyshire: Totley. 'Plan of Knouchley Hill': apparently a draft map of alternative routes for the turnpike road from Sheffield, lying to the west of Totley... One of thirteen plans of places and roads in Derbyshire. All bear the stamp of Gladwin C Cave, and were deposited by the defendant, 23 December 1886, in the Chancery cause Leslie v Cave.
[10] See the Photograph of a Guidepost at Knouchley, Stoke elsewhere on this website.
[11] Of the multiplicity of routes, John Farey wrote, of Derbyshire's first Turnpike (Cavendish Bridge, Derby to Brassington, 1737):
I have been thus particular in describing this early Turnpike Road, in order to account for the vast number of lines of Turnpike Roads that are seen in the Map, often running by the side of, and intersecting each other, without apparent meaning; which has, in a considerable degree, arisen, from the very injudicious and hilly lines, which were chosen for the first Turnpike Roads, which have successively been succeeded by others, constructed somewhat on better principles, yet all of which Roads, except a very few among the latest, are still defective, and many of them will continue to be replaced in whole or in parts, by better chosen and more level lines of Road: but still debts remain, on all these old lines of Road, for the paying of some Interest on which, from the local traffic, or for preventing evasions of the Tolls on the new lines, the Toll-bars are in most instances kept up, on these very neglected and bad lines of Road, and which circumstance is daily increasing into a dreadful nuisance to the occasional Traveller on these old Roads, but more especially to many persons locally situated, who are obliged to use and pay heavy Tolls, on Roads, whose state of neglect is a disgrace to the County.
[12] The Derby Mercury, Friday August 30, 1771. [Ready Money with Advertisements (not sure what that means - pay up front?)
[13] Now the Rutland Arms, in Bakewell.
[14] The Derby Mercury, Thursday May 21, to Thursday May 28, 1789, p.3. [Price Three-Pence.]
[15] Jackman, William T. - The Development of Transportation in Modern England, Cambridge University Press, 1916, Vol 1, p.73. There is a footnote to the above quote which explains that “this extra toll was not to apply to carts, waggons, or other carriages employed only about husbandry, nor to private covered carriages of noblemen and gentlemen, nor waggons employed in the King's service”.
[16] © OpenStreetMap contributors, data is available under the Open Database Licence.

Prepared by Rosemary Lockie in November 2018.

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