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6th Jul, 2022

Droitwich to Worcester Turnpike tercentenary event

Droitwich Editorial 30th May, 2014 Updated: 17th Oct, 2016

A HOST of activities will take place in the Spa between 2pm and 4pm on Sunday (June 1) to mark the tercentenary of the Droitwich to Worcester Turnpike.

A Turnpike is a toll road where users are charged to pay for the upkeep of the highway.

The Romans built an excellent road network, but in Elizabethan times, as trade and travel increased across Worcestershire, they were no longer fit for purpose.

Landowners or parishes were fined if the roads were not in good condition, but it was felt that was an unfair burden on them and that is when the concept of making road-users pay was developed.

The process of setting up a Turnpike Trust saw a case being made before Parliament for the introduction of one and then, if agreed by the powers that be, an Act of Parliament was passed and permission was granted.

The first Turnpike Trust was set up in 1706, with Droitwich getting its first – and the first in the county – on June 1, 1714.

It was deemed important enough because the Spa’s salt industry meant there was a lot of heavy loads of fuel coming in and heavy loads of salt going out.

The act applied to the six miles from Droitwich to Worcester and more than 40 trustees were appointed.

The list was headed by Sir John Packington and all of them would invest money into the trust and receive six per cent interest on the cash they loaned.

Originally it was 1s for a coach or wagon, 6d for a cartload of hay, 1d for a horse, mule or ass and 10d per score for pigs and sheep. There were exemptions for loads going to market, passage of farming implements and harvest, loads of road-marking material and soldiers on the move. Those eligible to pay were fined for failing to do so.

By the time roads were de-turnpiked in 1877, Droitwich had had ten Turnpike Acts passed – in 1714, 1725, 1749, 1755, 1767, 1793, 1803, 1824, 1859 and 1877 itself.

By the end, after extensions to Bromsgrove, the Droitwich Turnpike was responsible for 37 miles of road.

And the tollhouse in Hanbury Road, between Droitwich and Alcester, is the last remaining one in the town.

Sunday’s day of events is to mark the 300th anniversary of the historic moment when the county’s first ever Turnpike was set up.

Among the activities will be historical entertainment in Victoria Square at 2pm, an official welcome at 2.15pm and a procession at 3pm.

That will be followed by the official unveiling of a commemorative plaque by Lt Col Patrick Holcroft LVO OBE, the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire. There will also be historical enactment, story-telling, refreshments and information about the history of the Turnpike Trust.

Everyone is welcome to the afternoon of events, which have been organised by the Droitwich History and Archaeology Society, the Droitwich Spa Civic Society and The Milestone Society. They have also been supported by several other organisations, including Droitwich Town Council, Ringway Worcestershire and the St Andrew’s Town Hotel. Assisting with the entertainments are Droitwich Parish Centre, The Norbury Theatre and Youth Theatre and Droitwich Community Choir.

The co-ordinator of the event, Chris Bowers, said he was delighted that, after a suggestion to do something to mark the moment was made in April 2012, an afternoon of activities had come to fruition.

“The event would not have been possible without the tremendous support given by Ringway Worcestershire.

“It is very appropriate that an organisation responsible for maintaining our county’s highways should with to promote an event which celebrates the beginning of planned maintenance of important highways.

“For their support, we are indeed indebted.”


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