Forest of Galtres Society

Turnpike Roads

The emergence of routes from place to place is a complicated process.  Sometimes they follow the direction of a previous Roman Road passing through the countryside.  There are rumours of a lost Roman Road west of Easingwold.  Roads need to have usable surfaces.  The turnpike roads were set up as a result of various Acts of Parliament.  The wearing surface needed to be good for use by carriages and those on horseback and on foot.  Trusts were responsible for these roads, and to pay for the upkeep, those who used the route were charged by the mile depending upon what the vehicle was and how much produce was being carried.  There are old records of the charges incurred by this traffic and they are fascinating to read.  It was much easier to keep a tally book with written entries and then financial matters could be settled up periodically.

The outward sign of turnpike roads these days, where the ravages of damage, destruction or loss have not affected them, is the mileposts which, as their name implies, are – or were – every mile along the turnpike road.  The mileposts hereabouts in the Vale of York are made from cast iron. They are prism shape with a hollow back. The mileage to London is on on the top face, or the initials NRYCC (North Riding of Yorkshire Council).  The mileage to York or Thirsk or Stillington or Easingwold, and the destination, is on the appropriate, vertical face of the milepost. The traveller viewed the mileage to the next place as he came towards the milepost.

We have photographed nearly all of them near to Easingwold and these images are in the Gallery.  It is a real concern how neglected many of these mileposts are.  Many lack any vestige of paint or stand drunkenly. They are all Grade II listed structures, and as such, are the responsibility of the owner ie North Yorkshire Council Highways Department.  We can report that one milepost, dislodged by a vehicle in 2009, and left upended in a dry ditch, is now repainted and standing safely upright once more.  That was good news. The sad news is that it was hit again by a road traffic accident, and the broken pieces have all since vanished.

Another milepost which was smashed in a road traffic accident was spotted in several large pieces under a hedge at the bottom of a steep bank. The pieces were assembled and the milepost was recreated using the rescued parts and new material. Cleveland Corrosion made a wonderful job of that work and the milestone now sits back in a position where it is hoped it will be safe from other traffic traumas.

The particular milepost  illustrated at the top of this text is clearly well cared-for and its particular significance for Easingwold is self-evident. This milepost is in Thirsk town, and it is the only milepost in the series with images on the lower faces.  It is benfitting from a standard of care which all mileposts and listed historic structures should enjoy.

We have looked at the question of repainting mileposts as a Society project, but the speed and density of traffic on the A19 and the road’s close physical proximity to the position of many mileposts makes this something which we cannot undertake.  Proper and safe screening for personnel, and traffic management, would be essential.

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