Time takes its toll on Lancaster to Richmond road

Historian David Kenyon looks at the toll road from Lancaster to Richmond which was first in England to have a white line

Saturday, 5th December 2020, 3:46 pm
The Old Toll House at Farleton photographed around 1925.
The Old Toll House at Farleton photographed around 1925.

his week we take a look at the village of Farleton, near Hornby, including the building of the Toll House in 1823-24 and the working of the Lancaster to Richmond turnpike road on the outskirts of the village.

Most of my information comes from the working diaries of George Smith, born in 1788 died 1856, he was the manager of the Hornby Castle Estate owned at this time by George Wright. Smith was an extremely talented man, he kept a close eye on every facet of estate life, he ran the coal mines, organised the growing and felling of timber, draining the land, the hiring and firing of estate workers and overseeing the building of house and farm buildings on the estate.

He was also in charge of the letting of the estate farms, he always seemed to be giving some poor farmer notice to quit. Smith often drew plans for new houses and farm buildings, he was also in demand for surveying land for enclosure.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Toll roads and Toll House at Farleton. This photograph taken in the late 1960s shows how much things have changed since the days of Mr Willacy in the 1920s.

He lived at Hornby in a house opposite the present Hornby Castle gates, the house was often flooded by the river Wenning often up to three or four times a year. It was just stated in a matter of fact way in the diary, at least the family had servants to help clean up the mess. Smith also took the census for Hornby, Wray, Farleton, Roeburndale and Botton. The Toll House at Farleton, near Hornby, was situated on the Lancaster to Richmond road, this road was turnpiked in 1751. During the 17th and early 18th centuries the task of maintaining the road network fell to the parish poor. It was the duty of all the inhabitants of the parish to provide their own unpaid labour for a specific number of days per year. In reality those who preferred to pay rather than work were permitted to do so. As the economy grew and England moved towards an industrial nation this common law system for road maintenance proved deeply inadequate. The labour force was unskilled and unwilling and the lack of financial investment made long term improvements difficult.

As traffic increased bridges needed strengthening and roads widening, a new system of road maintenance and construction was required. This was provided with the development of Turnpike Trusts. The idea of private organisations maintaining the roads had been experimented with as far back as 1663. However, it was during the latter part of the 18th century that this system was rapidly expanded across the country as a whole. Those travellers wishing to use turnpike roads had to pay a toll to do so and a proportion of the money raised was used to improve the road. Although this system was unpopular in that people had to pay to use the roads which had previously been free of charge, it did lead to a considerable improvement in the road network. Smith was very much involved in the day-to-day running of the Lancaster to Richmond Turnpike Trust where it ran through the Hornby Castle estate lands.

Here are extracts from his diary: “In January 1821, a meeting of commissioners of the Lancaster to Richmond roads took place at the Castle Inn at Hornby. In the evening Mr Wilson, Mr Stout and others dined at the castle. “On September 11, 1821, Anthony Clapham began getting stones in Hornby Park Quarry for milestones for the Lancaster to Richmond turnpike road.

February 8, 1823. An addition of snow last night but no wind yesterday and today the roads wholly stopped by it. No carts could pass on the high roads, not a single carrier or cart through Hornby, The road to Farleton Gate and beyond drifted level with the fences and many roads the same.”

The building of The Toll House at Farleton commenced on July 16, 1823, Smith writes, “Mr Wright and Mr Wilson went to Hawes to attend the annual meeting of the trustees of the Lancaster and Richmond turnpike road. I staked out a Toll House at Farleton. “On July 17, 1823 I made out a specification and a plan for a Toll House at Farleton which was let to build in the afternoon at the Castle Inn, to James Beaumont, Richard Smith was the only candidate besides Beaumont. On July 24, I gave to James Beaumont a copy of the specification I made yesterday. On July 26 the foundations began with Robert Jennins ridding the ground for the foundations. On Friday, August 1, 1823, George Smith went to Park Quarry near Hornby to show Mr Procter and Robert Jennings where to get stones for the long hewn stuff for lintels and door jambs for the Toll House.

“September 27. A wet day. I went to view the Toll House at Farleton. Saturday September 30, 1823. Farleton Toll House rearded today (ie the roof was put on). Friday January 16 1824. I measured the masons, slaters and plasterers work at Farleton Toll House. In May 1824 the gate posts were removed from the old position to the new Farleton Toll House, and set too much in the road. In April William Fearnside called at the castle and ordered me to get two carts of coal to Farleton Toll House.

“October 29, 1824 A meeting of the Turnpike road commissioners at the Castle Inn about diverting the road from Hole House to Brookhouse.

“May 2, 1825 Lancaster Fair. A man paid four shillings for a toll of 56 cows. There was also a cow brought and locked up in the Castlegate barn, and locked up there for tolls on 70 beasts of a man called Hudson from Huddersfield who refused to pay the toll for them. Afterwards fetched the cow and money paid.”

The above illustrates the problems the toll gate keepers had in getting toll road users to pay their tolls. On Lancaster fair days the estate would put more men on the gate to help collect the tolls.

On October 28, 1827 Mr Smith was superintending carts loading stones from the Pointer to Hornby Street. 1830. A meeting of the commissioners of the Turnpike Trust at the Castle Inn, when it was decided to erect an additional Toll House at Ingleton.

The rise of railway transport largely halted the improving schemes of the turnpike trusts. The London-Birmingham railway almost instantly halved the tolls income of the Holyhead Road. The system was never properly reformed but from the 1870s Parliament stopped renewing the acts and roads began to revert to local authorities, the last trust vanishing in 1895. However, some bridges continue to be privately owned and subject to tolls.

The Local Government Act 1888 created county councils and gave them responsibility for maintaining the major roads. The Toll House, a Grade II listed building was, in the 1920s, a garage. The owner at this time was Mr John H Willacy whose garage can be seen to the left of the house. John sold petrol day and night and kept large stocks of tyres, engine oils and carbide. Because of the large number of accidents on the bend opposite the garage, Mr Willacy decided to paint a white line in the centre of the road, this was the first white line on a road in England. After a dispute with the authorities he obtained the approval of King George V, who thought the white lines were a good idea. The petrol pumps remained outside The Old Toll House un til the early 1960s when a new filling station was built on the left of the Toll House. The photo above taken in the late 1960s shows how much things have changed since the days of Mr Willacy in the 1920s. On the left of the Toll House we can see the modern petrol station and shop, built by Bob Strickland in the early 1960s. The petrol station was purchased by the Station Garage at Caton in September 1999. After obtaining planning permission for a house the filling station was demolished. Richard Brown, who lived at Backsbottom Farm near Wray, worked in the evenings serving petrol at the Toll House filling station. On, August 8, 1967 Richard had left home at 5,20pm to work at the filling station, sadly he never returned to live at the family home because one hour later the Great Flood of Wray destroyed the farm and road. Sometime later his dad Bill and mother Alice were rescued from a bedroom by the fire service.