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North Turnpike

Those who have joined one of my walks from Barmston may have been intrigued that a humble farm road north of Ulrome glories in the name "North Turnpike".                                            
The land in this part of the East Riding is under constant threat from the sea, with the coast receding every year.

An Ordnance Survey map of 1860 shows the main road from Beverley to Bridlington running along the coast from Barmston, but by 1897, it had been surrendered to the sea and the route was moved inland.

On the face of it, the name of the farm road implies, at the very least, that the old sea-side road at some time ran that way, but old maps offer no evidence of this. The farm road went north-east, but then degenerated into an ill-defined bridle road.

Tom Rhodes and I mused over this, and Tom volunteered to make inquiries at Bridlington Library.

The tale he unearthed is a fascinating one.

In 1767, Beverley Corporation was keen to improve communications with other large communities.

It promoted two roads schemes, one of which was to turnpike the route from White Cross (now the site of a roundabout on the A1035 south of Leven) to Bridlington.

Until the 18th Century, most roads in Britain were maintained (often very badly) by the parishes through which they passed. 

With stagecoach lines promoting travel over longer distances for the wealthy, and a growing demand for better road communications to serve commerce, the country's potholed roads had become inconvenient and dangerous.

Parliament tackled the problem by allowing the formation of turnpike trusts, which were empowered to repair and improve roads, and collect tolls.  These survived for up to150 years, until county councils were given responsibility for highway maintenance in 1888.

Former turnpike roads can often be identified by surviving roadside mile markers - several are seen on the approach to Scarborough on the A170 from Snainton. (The main road to and from York left the current line of the A64 at West Knapton and went through Yedingham to Snainton. This is why the Providence Inn at Yedingham and Snainton's Coachman Inn - tucked away from the modern A170 - seem to be very large, in proportion to their locations.)

Tom consulted a book, 1Roads And Turnpike Trusts in Eastern Yorkshire, which states: "How far improvements ...were actually impossible to say".

In view of the apparently excellent construction of "North Turnpike", I would speculate that preparatory work could have been carried out at the location in anticipation of the new highway.

Rights under the Act expired and the trust made no attempt to revive them, so the name "North Turnpike" was retained as nothing more than a local token of wishful thinking.

There is, at the very least, a hint of skulduggery. Two men called 2Geldard and Chaffer ran a Hull-Bridlington-Scarborough coach service via Beverley and Driffield at the time, and they campaigned vociferously against the scheme, claiming that the coastal route (which would be available to a possible competitor) was dangerous.

Then, as so often now, vested interests held sway. 

The public might have been forced to continue suffering a bumpy ride to Bridlington, but at least the farmer gained a splendid new road to his fields.

1Roads And Turnpike Trusts in Eastern Yorkshire, KA McMahon, East Yorks Local History Society, 1964.
Geldard Coaches ran services in Yorkshire until 2015, when the firm went into administration after a fire.