North Walsham & District Community Archive


North Walsham Past and Present. Published 1975.


The 18th century has been called the "Age. of Improvement", referring mainly to farming and industry, but could equally well be applied to transport. Roads and canals were the main forms of inland transport to benefit from improvements. Roads maintained by the. local efforts of parishioners as well as navigable rivers had existed for centuries but the increased economic activity of the late 18th century strained their capacity to the extent that turnpike trusts were set up to levy tolls at tollgates, using the surplus money to keep the . roads in usable condition. Likewise navigations were improved and extended as canals.

The Trustees of the Turnpike Road from Norwich to North Walsham were local gentlemen of position and some wealth, who met to discuss turnpike matters at the King's Arms, very near the start of the turnpike, which is now the Norwich Road. They tried hard to catch people who were trying to avoid the tolls by having a watch kept on the approach road from a cottage near the toll booth. The total of tolls in 1840 was £316, or about £1 on weekdays, paid a few coppers at a time by the daily stagecoach, carts , herds of sheep and cattle and a few private carriages. At an average toll of 6d there were probably just over 40 movements a day;compare that with today: The toll keeper was requested not to bring exemptions to the notice of users.

Upkeep of the road mainly involved putting gravel into any holes that formed, smoothing the surface by raking and also unblocking ditches which tended to flood the road. Gravel was bought at 3d a load and in 1810 over 90 loads were needed. In addition the tollkeeper and roadmenders had to be paid so that this could not have been a very profitable concern, but it was a great benefit to the district.

When railways took away much of the long-distance traffic from the turnpikes, the trusts were wound up, debts paid and the roads were then kept in repair by the local authority road boards.