Before the advent of turnpike trusts the condition of country roads varied from inadequate to abysmal. Parishes were responsible for the roads that passed through their area, with each person expected to work on the roads for six days each year. These labourers were unskilled in road construction and unenthusiastic. Most roads between towns and villages were not regularly repaired and were consequently not much better than cart tracks. Coaches and carts often got stuck in ditches and had to be hauled out.
In 1663 the first turnpike road was permitted by an Act of Parliament. Under this system money was raised from subscribers to make the road good, the money being repaid by charging a toll for using the road. Turnpikes were a success in other parts of the country, but it was not until 1753 that the first turnpike trust was formed near Southampton. Early turnpikes in the area were:
1) The first turnpike road in the area, established in 1753, ran from a few miles north of Salisbury to Eling via Totton.
2) The Southampton-Romsey-Whiteparish trust was formed in 1756.
3) The Winchester to Southampton road via Stockbridge and Bishop’s Waltham began in 1758. This trust also, by an Act of 1802, controlled the old road from Bellevue via Rockstone Lane to the bridge over the Itchen at Swaythling, as well as Commercial Road, Four Posts and part of the road leading to Northam Bridge.
4) The Romsey-Swaythling-Botley branch began in 1765, utilising Burgess Road.
5) The New Road to Northam Bridge and Botley route began in 1796.
Most turnpike roads had four or five gates at regular intervals at which the road users paid their tolls. Users paid only once, at the first gate they came to. There were also bars or side gates at junctions with side roads. Gates in Southampton included the Red Lodge gate on the Avenue and Burgess Road gate at Swaythling.
Georgian and Victorian Southampton, by A. J. Brown, p30-34. (HS/h)
‘Notes on the Salisbury to Southampton Turnpike Road’, by Jack Sturgess, in Hampshire Field Club Newsletter (New Series), No. 27, Spring 2002, pXIV. (HS/h)
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