Roads were improved everywhere during the 1700s, partly because of greater efforts by the parishes responsible but mainly because of the formation of “Turnpike Trusts”. These were authorised by Acts of Parliament and could charge tolls for the building and upkeep of roads in their care. Tollhouses, small cottages with substantial tollgates across the main road, were strategically placed at intervals along the main road; old tollhouses can still often be recognised by their strategic position looking out in both directions, with a blank window space where the list of charges was displayed (see the old picture of the toll house at King’s Bridge, at the south end of Moreton).
In 1772 the Moretonhampstead Turnpike Trust was responsible for 13 miles of new road between Cherrybrook on Dartmoor and Reedy Gate at Dunsford, where it joined the Exeter Turnpike. This road became known as Carter’s Road after the contractor who built it. The building of this road was violently opposed by Okehampton and Launceston, who feared a loss of trade. There were tollhouses at both ends of the town, at Bughead Cross for travellers from Tavistock and at Toll House Cottage, just east of Steps Bridge for those from Exeter. All that remains of the Bughead tollhouse now is a surprisingly large gateway and substantial stone in the hedge. The first line of this road is shown in Greenwood’s map of 1827 (which doesn’t show the improvements which were made in 1814).
The Moreton to Dunsford section was improved in 1814. Originally passing through Bridford Wood and over several steep hills, it was re-opened in 1815. Moreton diarist, Silvester Treleaven, reports: “a delightful alteration, the high hills are completely avoided and scenes at once new and romantic present themselves for the contemplation of the admiring traveller” (March 1st, 1815). The original road, now Shute Lane, gradually dwindled.
In 1826 the “Newton Bushell Turnpike Trust” planned a new line of road from Whiddon Down to Newton. Whereas the old road to Newton (see Greenwood’s map) previously passed by Folly Toll house through Folly Lane, the “new road” followed the route of the present day Station Road. Much of the route to Whiddon Down lay along the present road (though it went through Drewston). There was provision in this Act for a tollgate at King’s Bridge, with the proviso that there should be no charge for travel between King’s Bridge and the White Hart. Although the Act was passed in 1826 (consolidating all the previous acts concerning turnpikes from Newton), the improvements promised were slow in coming, and in 1834 Moreton took the Trustees to court for charging tolls on a road they had failed to complete in 8 years.
The “Jonathan May map” produced for the trial of the supposed murderers of Jonathan May shows accurately the first part of the Moreton to Exeter road in 1835, and also shows the tunpike gates on the Exeter road (by Folly Cottage) and on the Newton Abbot road, and the short-lived one on the Whiddon Down road; it also show a new road which is now Station Road, with the “two furlong post” which is still standing, and marks 12 miles from Newton.
In 1772 the charges for turnpikes were as follows:
- Coach: 6 horses 1s. 0d, 4 horses 9d, 2 horses 6d, 1 horse 3d
- Waggon: 5 horses 2s. 0d, 4 horses 1s. 6d, 3 horses 9d, 2 horses 6d, 1 horse 3d
- Horse: 1d.
- Oxen, cows per 20: 10d
- Calves, sheep per 20 5d
For further news items from the newspapers relating to the turnpikes, see the entry in the Online Archive.