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Turnpike Trusts

Copy of the toll board from Northchapel

The upkeep of medieval roads was the responsibility of landowners, until Tudor legislation gave the task to the parish, every householder having to contribute six days' work each year. In 1663 a new method was introduced, when a Turnpike Trust was formed to improve the road between Wadesmill (Hertfordshire) and Stilton (Huntingdonshire). Money for repairs was raised by collecting tolls from the users of the road. Many more such trusts were set up during the 18th and early 19th centuries - an Act of Parliament being needed for each one - until eventually there were over 1,100 trusts administering some 23,000 miles of road. The system was unpopular and inefficient. In the 19th century the trusts were unable to cope with competition from the railways and the demands of heavier road traffic. Their maladministration and insufficient funds caused Parliament to withdraw their powers, so that during the 1860s and 1870s most trusts were wound up by law.