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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story

 Turnpike Roads 

Neil Wright

In the middle of the 18th century Turnpike Trusts took over the maintenance and improvement of the main roads leading to the town and created a transport revolution. Before then each parish was responsible for looking after its own roads, and through routes that had heavy usage, received a little more attention than the other roads solely used by local people. To improve the quality of main through routes, Turnpike Trusts were created by act of Parliament to take over the longer stretches of road between towns and through many parishes. They were financed by charging tolls on those who used the roads.

Old Stage coach wagon and passangers outside the ram hotel

Stage coaches continued to use the turnpikes long after the companies were abolished, as shown in this picture of a coach and its passengers outside the Ram Hotel, Wide Bargate. (Neil Watson Collection)

The first road to be ’turnpiked’ in the area was from Boston through Swineshead and to Donington. This linked to other turnpiked roads thus connecting Boston to the great North Road at Norman Cross. The Donington Turnpike was authorised in 1758. A raised causeway called a Rampar was built to avoid flooding where it crossed the southern part of Holland Fen. That Rampar is still part of the main A52 road today and often referred to by many locals as the ‘Swineshead Rampar’. That trust created a side road from the Rampar to Langrick Ferry which passed a natural source of gravel at Amber Hill that could be used for road maintenance.

A turnpike marker in the pavement outside Cammack’s furniture store

A turnpike marker in the pavement outside Cammack’s furniture store.

The Donington Trust also took over London Road from Boston as far as Bicker Haven. They evidently thought the road across Bicker Haven itself too difficult to take on. In 1764 another trust took over the road from Spalding to Donington and turnpiked the road from Gosberton through Bicker Haven to completing the turn-piking of the whole main road from Boston to Spalding.

Stone milestone marker at Wortley's lane Boston

On Turnpike roads every mile was marked by a milestone like this ‘Boston 2 miles’ on the A52 at the junction with Wortley’s Lane.

Milestone half-buried in the bank
                            opposite the Pincushion on the old road to Spalding

Milestone half-buried in the bank opposite the Pincushion on the old road to Spalding.

In 1765 another trust was formed for the road between Boston and Alford. It entered Boston via Spilsby Road. Turnpike trusts did not usually cover roads in towns but this Trust’s duties extended as far as a metal marker in Wide Bargate; this marker still survives in the pavement in front of Cammack’s shop. People might try to avoid paying tolls on this road by cutting across the West Fen to get into Boston by a different route so this Trust also took over Horncastle Road alongside the Maud Foster Drain and erected a toll bar at Cowbridge. After the railways were opened to Boston in 1848 road traffic declined, Turnpike Trusts had less money and they were abolished in the 1870s.