Chapter 4.

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“Susannah Hannokes an elderly woman of Wingrave Bucks was accused of being a witch, and the proof offered was that she had bewitched her neighbour’s spinning wheel, so that she could not make it go round either one way or the other.  The alleged witch was publicly weighed against the Church Bible.  A great concourse of people flocked to the parish Church of Wingrave to witness the ceremony.  Being stript of nearly all her clothing the woman was put into one scale and the bible in the other.  To the astonishment and mortification of her accuser, the alleged witch actually out-weighed the Holy Book.  The result was that she was honourably acquitted of the charge.”

From the Tring Vestry Minutes for 1759.

It is incredible to learn that such an absurdity should still occur in an age when Britains trunk road system as we  know it today was taking shape, but such was the case.

The Tring to Bourn Bridge turnpike.

This chapter deals mainly with the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust, which for over a century administered the highway connecting Bushey Heath and Aylesbury, via Watford, Kings Langley, Two Waters, Berkhamsted, Tring and Aston Clinton.  Most local readers will have heard of it.  What is less known is that for a short period towards the end of the 18th century a second turnpike road extended from Tring to Bourn Bridge in Cambridgeshire.  The Bourn Bridge turnpike, or at least the Tring to Royston section of it, appears to have been short-lived, but the reason for its early demise is a matter of conjecture.

In 1769, two turnpike trusts — the Stevenage and Biggleswade in conjunction with the Hitchin and Bedford — sought to take over a large section of the Icknield Way.  However, in that year a separate turnpike trust was established to administer the road in two districts, from Tring to Baldock and from there to Bourn Bridge near Pampisford in Cambridgeshire.  Subsequently the trustees obtained an Act:

“. . . . for repairing the Roads leading from the Turnpike Road in Tring [i.e. the Sparrows Herne], in the County of Hertford, through Dunstable, Hitchin, Baldock, and Royston, to the Turnpike Road at or near Bourn Bridge; and from the West End of Wellbury Lane to the Turnpike Road at the South End of Barton, in the Counties or Hertford, Bucks, Bedford and Cambridge.”

9 Geo. III c.86, 1769.

When the Act became due for renewal in 1790, the trustees published a curious advertisement in the press in which they informed the public that they would meet at the Sugar-Loaf Inn, Dunstable, on the 24th September 1790, to decide for which of three options they would renew their powers.  Each option referred to a different section of road; option 1, was for the entire road from Tring to Bourn Bridge, while options 2 & 3 were for the sections between Dunstable and Barton, and between Barton and Baldock respectively.

One presumes that the turnpike road as originally set up wasn’t paying its way and the principal aim of this meeting was to decide what part of it was worth keeping and making the subject of a renewed Act of Parliament.  The outcome was that the section of road from Royston to Bourn Bridge continued as a turnpike until it was discontinued in 1874, [1] but it appears that the Tring section was abandoned as a turnpike in 1790 and reverted to a parish maintained road, for there is no further mention of Tring in connection with it.


The Kilburn Bridge to Sparrows Herne turnpike.

As the 18th century progressed, the population of London grew. This led to a corresponding increase in road traffic, including a considerable weight of livestock being driven on the hoof to the London markets.  But the roads of the time were rarely up to the job of conveying the increasing volume of traffic, as is evidenced by a petition presented to the House of Commons in 1711.  This stated that the section of the London to Watford road from Great Stanmore to Kilburn was so damaged by the multitude of carriages and passengers that it was almost impassable for six months of the year.  Roads in such condition had an obvious detrimental impact on trade, and this gave impetus to the formation of the Kilburn Bridge to Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust, who obtained “An Act for repairing the Highway between a certain Place called Kilburn Bridge, in the County of Middlesex, and Sparrows Herne, in the County of Hertford” (10 Anne c.3) to administer the offending section of highway. [2]


The Sparrows Herne turnpike.

The Sparrows Herne toll-gate at Bushey Arches.

A further half century was to elapse before the turnpike road was extended towards the rapidly developing industrial town of Birmingham (which became a city in 1889).  In December, 1761, newspaper advertisements appeared soliciting the names of those willing to sign a parliamentary petition to create a turnpike trust to manage the 26-miles of road between Sparrows Herne at Bushey and Walton on the outskirts of Aylesbury, there to join the Wendover and Buckingham turnpike: [3]

“Such Gentleman, Clergy, Freeholders, Land Owners, and Inhabitants, residing in and near the Road leading from Sparrows Herne on Bushey Heath, through Bushey, Watford, and part of the parish of Abbots Langley, to Kings Langley and Two Waters, Part of the road to Hemel Hemelhemsted, and through Boxmoore, Bourne End, Berkhampsted St. Peter’s, Northchurch, and Tring in the county of Hertford, and thence through Aston Clinton, and part of the Parish of Weston Turvile, to join the Turnpike Road at Aylesbury, leading to Buckingham in the county of Bucks, and desirous to apply to Parliament for leave to erect a Turnpike to amend, repair, and widen the said Road, are desired to meet on Monday the 4th Day of January next at the King’s Arms in Berkhampsted St. Peter’s; Wednesday the 6th, at the White Hart in Watford; Thursday the 7th, at the Bell in Hemelhempsted; Friday the 8th, at the Rose and Crown in Tring; Thursday 14th, or Friday the 15th, at the George in Aylesbury, in the Forenoon, to approve and sign a Petition to the Hon. House of Commons for that Purpose.”

Ipswich Journal, 26th December 1761.

The Act being granted, the board of trustees acquired powers . . . .

“. . . . for amending, widening and altering and keeping in repair the road from the south end of Sparrows Herne on Bushey Heath, through the market towns of Watford, Berkhamsted St. Peters and Tring, by Pettipher’s Elms to the Turnpike Road at Walton, near Aylesbury.”

2 George III, c.63 1762.

. . . . in return for which they received the legal right to charge traffic on the road a toll according to a schedule set out in the Act, the revenue so raised to be spent on maintaining and improving the road, and on administration.  Cary’s road map of 1790 covers the joint routes of the Kilburn Bridge and Sparrows Herne turnpikes from Hyde Park to Tring ― see Appendix I.

The rates of toll were to be painted on notice boards displayed at each turnpike gate.  Some categories of vehicles and travellers were permitted to use the turnpike free of charge, these being corn and grain going to market; unladen carts; carts carrying manure for the parish; ploughs, harrows and instruments of husbandry; animals going to shearing, pasture or water; soldiers on the march; vehicles carrying the Royal Mail; vagrants being returned to their parish of domicile; vehicles carrying voters to elections; and those attending church or funerals (however, to encourage observance of the Sabbath, from 1803 vehicle traffic was charged double the toll on Sundays).

As the tables below illustrate, the tolls changed over the years and new classes of traffic, such as the stage coach and steam-powered vehicles, were added.






Any horse, mule, ox, ass, bullock, drawing narrow wheel carriage, coach or chariot . . . .



Any ditto drawing broad wheel . . . .



Every horse, mule, ass or other beast drawing any Coach, Berlin, Landau, Chariot, Calash, Chaise, Hearse, Waggon, Cart, Wain, or other carriage . . . .



Every horse, mule, ass or other beast not drawing.



Each score of oxen, cows or cattle . . . .



Each score of calves, swine, sheep or lambs . . . .






For every horse, mule, ox, bullock, or other beast drawing any Coach, Berlin, Landau, Chariot, Calesh, Chaise, Hearse, Waggon, Cart, Wain or other carriage the sum of . . . .


For every four wheel carriage fixed in any manner or any waggon etc. empty . . . .


For every four wheel carriage fixed in any manner or any waggon etc. empty . . . .


For every beast not drawing . . . .


Every drove of oxen, cows, neat cattle, per score . . . .


Every drove of calves, swine, sheep, or lambs, per score . . . .


For any dog, goat or any suchlike animal drawing any cart, carriage, trunk, barrow or other suchlike carriage . . . .


For every carriage propelled or drawn by steam or other power than animal power or attached to and drawn by any carriage so propelled or drawn, for each and every horses power of the engine or other power drawing or propelling such a carriage . . . .



The Sparrows Herne turnpike thus became a link in a chain of turnpike roads extending from London via Kilburn, Watford, Buckingham and Warwick to Birmingham.

The volume of traffic with the capital increased rapidly.  By the early 19th century the turnpike had become a decided success; indeed, in describing Berkhamsted, one writer felt inspired to mention it:

“There is an exceedingly good road from London through Berkhampstead, to Tring, Aylesbury, &c. and is two miles and a half nearer than the other road by Amersham. The chief trade is bowl turning, shovel and spoon making; lace is made here by women.”

The British Metropolis and its Neighbourhood, David Hughson D.D. (1809).

The turnpike attracted many new residents to its locality. In 1808, before its surfaces were macadamised (around the 1820s), Tring could be reached from London by way of the Edgware and Sparrows Herne turnpikes in 5½ hours; by the 1830s, when the stagecoach business was in its prime, the same journey took 15 minutes less:

“JOSEPH HEARN ― Respectfully announces to his Friends and the Public generally, that the above coach will leave his office, the King’s Arms Inn, Snowhill, London, at FOUR o’Clock every afternoon (Sunday excepted), arriving at Two Waters Quarter past EIGHT, Berkhamstead, Three quarters past EIGHT, Tring Quarter past NINE, and Aylesbury Quarter past TEN, proceeding throughout to Kidderminster, in SIXTEEN hours, stoppages included.”

Bucks Herald, 14th December 1833.

The turnpike trustees.

The trustees first met on the 7th July, 1762, at the King’s Arms, Berkhamsted, [4] nine being present at the initial meeting.  The relevant page of the Trust’s minute book is illegible in places, but among the names written clearly are Thomas Herbert Noyes, John Sear of Grove (now Grove Road, Tring), John Dashwood King (later baronet), and Windmills Crompton.  Those present “took and Subscribed the Oath as directed by the said Act before they took upon themselves the Trusts and Authoritys vested in them by the said Act”.  The room taken in the King’s Arms being too small to accommodate the remainder of the trustees, they then “Adjourned to the Schoolroom in Berkhampstead Saint Peter to meet immediately”.  Charles Gore M.P. of Tring Manor took the chair, and a further 115 trustees were then sworn, plus two Quakers who were affirmed. [5]  Among those present were no less than 20 members of the clergy.

Throughout its existence the Trust included a sprinkling of distinguished members, among whom were the Justices of the Peace of Hertfordshire and of Buckinghamshire; members of the nobility (such as the Duke and the Earl of Bridgwater; the Marquis of Salisbury; the earls of Essex and Clarendon; and Viscounts Lake and Grimston); and local notables, who over the years included the distinguished surgeon Sir Astley Paston Cooper, landowner Sir John Dashwood King, Thomas Toovey, owner of the Kings Langley flour mill, the paper manufacturer John Dickinson, and one Joseph Hamilton, described in the 1823 Act as a Doctor of Divinity.  Until 1773, the general turnpike law of the time did not mandate property qualifications, but trust Acts often included such provisions. [6]  In the case of the Sparrows Herne Trust, the trustees were required to fulfil certain property qualifications or possess personal assets to the value of £1,000.

The law required the trustees to meet annually, although particularly in the early years when there was more business to conduct the Sparrows Herne trustees met more often (there were also frequent meetings during the major road improvement projects that took place in the 1820s).  As the early road improvements were completed, trustee meetings became less frequent and less well attended.  In 1771, too few attended the full meeting to elect new trustees, but such declining interest among the trustees corresponds with the experience of turnpike trusts in general.

Clerk, treasurer, surveyor and gate-keepers.

The roles of a turnpike trust’s clerk, treasurer and surveyor are described in Chapter 2.

William Hayton junior, a solicitor resident at Stocks House, Aldbury, served in the dual role of clerk and treasurer from the Trust’s inception until his retirement in 1806, discharging both roles throughout on an honorary basis. [7]  Harry Grover, a solicitor from Hemel Hempstead, then served as treasurer and clerk at a salary of £50 per annum until 1822, when these roles were separated by law. [8]  Grover then relinquished the position of Treasurer, but continued in his paid employment as Clerk for a further four years.

Following Grover’s retirement, William Smith and Charles Ehret Grover, solicitors of Hemel Hempstead, served as joint clerks to the Trust until Smith resigned in 1856, having being declared bankrupt.  Grover then continued assisted by his partner, William Stocken, his practice handling the legal work until the Trust was terminated in 1873.

Following the separation of the roles in 1822, that of treasurer continued to be held on an honorary basis by, among others, the Earls of Bridgewater and of Clarendon, and the royal surgeon, Sir Astley Paston Cooper, who later became a fierce opponent of the 1832 London & Birmingham Railway Bill.

The first surveyor was Paul Jollege ― appointed at the trustees’ second meeting “according to his said proposals” ― at a salary of 100 guineas per annum from which he had to provide two foremen and equipment, which included two ploughs, sixteen wheelbarrows, forty pickaxes and forty shovels.  He received periodic cash sums from the trustees with which to pay expenses as they arose.  The role of surveyor was later held by the distinguished road engineer, James (later Sir James) McAdam.

Among the least distinguished of the Trust’s employees were the gate-keepers, although they later left the payroll when the management of the toll-gates was contracted out.  While in the Trust’s employ, gate-keepers received rent-free accommodation and a wage of 10s 6d a week for manning their gate day and night, from which they were expected to provide lamp oil to illuminate the gates during hours of darkness.  They were also required to provide the trustees with a surety for £20 against dishonest conduct.

Few gate-keepers were literate, and thus able to keep proper accounts, while the random nature of the business made the misappropriation of funds difficult to combat.  All that was possible was to carry out spot checks on toll income to see if it corresponded with daily averages for the period, and by checking receipts against the types of traffic observed to be passing along the road.


NOTICE is hereby given, That the next Meeting of the Trustees of this Turnpike-Road will be holden at the King’s Arms Inn, In Berkhamsted Saint Peter, in the County of Hertford, on Thursday the ninth Day of April, 1801, at Ten of the Clock in the Forenoon; when amongst other Business they will take into Consideration the Removal of Veeches Turnpike-Gate nearer to Aylesbury, and the Erecting of a Weighing-Engine on some part of the said Turnpike-Road between Sparrows-Herne and Walton, and will nominate and elect a Tollgate-Keeper of the New Ground Turnpike Gate, in the Room of Elizabeth Buckmaster, Widow, deceased; and will also nominate and elect new Trustees of the said Turnpike-Road in the Room of those who are dead. ― Dated this eighteenth Day of March, 1801.


                                                     Clerk to the said Trustees.

A typical agenda for a trustee meeting. Northampton Mercury, 21st March 1801.

A cross-country packhorse train.

It is interesting to note from the above advertisement, that women sometimes occupied the post of gate-keeper.  The need for day and night attendance, and to extract the appropriate toll from uncouth packhorse and livestock drovers, must at times have made the gate-keeper’s lot an arduous one.  Some examples of turnpike offences are listed in Appendix II.  Two of the Trust’s gate-keepers were murdered for their takings (Chapter 7), hence the trustees . . . .

“. . . . ordered that a Pistol with a fixed Bayonet be provided for each of the Toll Houses instead of a short gun as ordered at a former Meeting, and that Clocks or Dials be provided for the out side of the Toll Houses.”

Minute Book, 21st July 1823.

The pistols were subsequently acquired for the sum of £7.

Gate-keepers’ living conditions appear to have been primitive.  In 1816, the toll-house at New Ground, Tring, was found to be in poor condition.  The fireplace and wash house needed repair due to the walls falling down, and new bolts, window shutters and a bell were needed.  But apart from structural problems, the condition of the place reflected badly on its tenants, for their backroom was found to be very dirty and full of hens and chickens, and the interior was in need of whitewashing.  The condition of the road labourers could not have been any better:

“At this Meeting the Trustees ordered an Allowance of Four Shillings a Week should be made to William Horwood of Aston Clinton who has been employed as a Labourer on the Road for Eleven years in which Service he was wounded in the Eyes by a Flint, and has lost his sight.”

Minute Book, 15th November 1823.

The Trust’s toll-gates.


“It is ordered that the Clerk do agree with some Clock Makers in the Neighbourhood of the several Toll houses for keeping in order the Clocks belonging to the Toll houses, and for regulating the same from time to time.”

Minute Book, 22nd March 1824.

At their first meeting, the trustees had to decide where to locate their toll gates.  Following objections from Lord Hyde (who did not want a gate near his mill) and from Lady Essex, that at Hunton mill was relocated to a position between Ridge Lane and Nascott Farm house (in the Hempstead Road).  Four toll gates were eventually set up, and, with some relocation, these remained until 1860 when a fifth gate was erected at the top of Tring Hill.  These five remained in use until the Trust was terminated in 1873.  Several of the gates also had ‘side-gates’ (a.k.a. ‘side-bars’), which were fitted across roads that led off the turnpike, their purpose being to prevent traffic from avoiding the toll by using side lanes to bypass the toll-gates.  Turnpike roads were also well fenced, again to prevent traffic avoiding the toll by making a detour through adjacent fields.

From Bushey northwards, the toll-gates were located at:

Watford — at the bottom of Chalk Hill, between the River Colne bridge and the lane leading to Hamper Mill (Eastbury Road).  Side gates were later erected across the lane leading to Oxhey (Pinner Road), and, from 1857, across Villiers Road, Oxhey. In 1815-16, a weighbridge was erected opposite the tollhouse. It was removed in 1847.

Ridge Lane — originally half-a-mile south of Ridge Lane, to the north of Watford.  In 1823 this gate was relocated to the entrance of the Cassiobury estate, with a side-gate on Ridge Lane itself.  There were also side-gates further north on roads leading to Leavesden; between 1828 and 1840, across Mains Lane; and, from 1854, across Russell Farm Lane (now Russell Lane).

New Ground — south of Tring, near New Ground Farm in the parish of Wigginton.  This gate was at the junction of the turnpike and the Wiggington and Aldbury road (Hemp Lane/Newground Road), on which a side-gate was also erected.  In 1833, further side-gates were erected across the Twist and Oddy Hill lanes, which led off the turnpike between Tring Park and Pendley Beeches.

Veeches gate — was located between Veeches Farm (now Vatches Farm) and Veeches Water to the west of Aston Clinton. In 1810, the gate was relocated some two miles further west near the lane connecting Bierton and Broughton with Weston Turville, and renamed Weston gate.  Following completion of the new road into Aylesbury in 1827, the gate was relocated about half-a-mile from the town centre, with a side-gate across Mill Road, and renamed Aylesbury gate.  In 1829, a further side-gate was erected across Broughton Lane.  This was later removed, but re-established in 1841 with its own toll-house.

Beggar Bush Hill (now known as Tring Hill) — in 1860, a new gate was erected at the top of Beggar Bush Hill in the parish of Drayton Beauchamp together with a side-gate across Upper Icknield Way leading to the hamlet of Bulbourne.  This gate was probably sited at the point where the Tring to Bourn Bridge turnpike, mentioned at the start of this chapter, commenced.

The early days.

At the outset there was much work to be done.  Land for widening was bought (sometimes given), toll gates erected, and brick toll-houses for the gate-keepers were built at a cost of around £25 each.  Flints and pebbles were gathered by villagers from the fields as part of their statutory road labour obligation, which, together with gravel supplied from local pits, were spread over the road after it had been levelled, cleared of obstacles, and the ruts filled in.  Oak mile posts were erected showing distances from London measured from the beginning of the Tyburn turnpike.

Trustees call for lists of those liable to do statute duty (i.e. unpaid work on the road).
Northampton Mercury, 1st October 1808.


A request for tenders to build a new River Colne Bridge.
Northampton Mercury, 23rd July 1770.

Other improvements were teams of horses to help traffic up steep hills, the felling of trees along the line of the highway, and making the road a uniform width.  The Trust could prosecute those with land bordering the road for failing to keep their hedges and fences in good repair so that neither overhung the road.  Good fences were particularly important.  In November 1762, Isaac Dell (who held land bordering the Wigginton Road and the toll gate at New Ground) was paid 10s. a pole (5½ yards) to set quickset hedges strengthened by oak stakes and beech rails, and he was paid the same rate for maintaining them.  Good hedges prevented travellers bypassing the toll gate through adjacent fields and livestock from straying onto the road.  Luke Lewin, a builder from Abbots Langley, was employed to build a new bridge at Hunton mill.  He was paid 40s a rod (5½ yards) for the brickwork, the trustees found the materials, and the miller was paid 10s a day compensation for each day he was required to let down the water in the millpond during the work.  To help pay for these improvements, the Clerk advertised in the London Chronicle for a loan for £2,000 with interest at five per cent secured on the tolls, the first of numerous such loans raised by the Trust.

Although the bulk of the annual 6-days per man statute labour went towards maintaining the parish roads, turnpike trusts were entitled to a proportion of it, 2-days per man in the case of the Sparrows Herne.  Thus, until statue labour was abolished in 1835, the surveyors of the parishes through which a turnpike passed (not to be confused with the Trust’s surveyor) were required to provide the trustees with lists people liable to perform unpaid statute duty and to provide draught teams and wagons.  As an alternative, the parish could pay the Trust a cash sum in lieu of statute labour — after 1807, Hemel Hempstead and Watford regularly paid ‘composition’ money, Watford remitting £40 in 1809. Jollege, the turnpike surveyor, set to work using three gangs of twenty men each, the Duke of Bridgewater (the ‘Father of Canals’) supplying gravel free of charge from his pits.

By 1764, sections of the road from Hunton Bridge to Berkhamsted were in use, and use of the whole road appears to have commenced in 1765.  The road was then divided into sections, with one or two men taking care of each: for instance, two men looked after the section through King’s Langley parish up to the Bell at Two Waters, each being paid 6s a week.

In 1770, the trustees decided that a new bridge was required across the Colne at Watford, and advertised for a contractor to undertake the work.  They awarded the contract to Edward Gray of Bushey, builder, for the construction of a seven-arched brick bridge “over the water at the bottom of Watford Town”.  Member of Parliament Thomas Herbert Noyes, referred to in the bridge advertisement above, must have been a hard man to work for, in times when life was hard.  In this entry, written in Constables’ Accompts for a vestry meeting on 13th October 1767, he left instructions for curbing labourers’ perks:

“When Workmen, Carpenters, Bricklayers, &c. are employed to do parish work I see no reason for giving them Beer over & above their wages; I will allow no such charge.”

Road modernisation.

It is interesting to note the unflattering remarks made by the great Civil Engineer and road builder, Thomas Telford, on the state of the London to Birmingham road via Watford.  While his opinion was not directed solely at the Sparrows Herne Trust, it might have influenced the trustees’ thinking, for a “crooked, narrow, and ill constructed” road was unlikely to attract the lucrative stagecoach traffic between the expanding town (as it then was) of Birmingham and the Metropolis:

“Between London and Birmingham there is already a Turnpike Road, by Watford, Tring, Buckingham, and Warwick, their main points nearly in a direct line; but the present Road is so crooked, narrow, and ill constructed, that for a great thoroughfare Road the whole would have to be new made; therefore the Coventry Road, which also forms part of the communications with Chester, Liverpool, and Manchester, seems the nearest great Road now in use; and is in my opinion the most advisable to be adopted as part of the London and Holyhead Road.”

5th Report Select Committee on the Roads from Holyhead to London, Thomas Telford, 1817.


During the 1820s, the Trust undertook a major road improvement programme.  Aspects of this appear to have first been considered some years before any work commenced, for in 1816 the Clerk advertised for a contractor to reduce the gradient from Aston Clinton to the summit of Tring Hill to one foot in seven yards (1:21, or 4.8%), but nothing further was done at the time.

Sir James Nicoll McAdam (1786-1852), civil engineer.

In 1822, the trustees appointed James McAdam Surveyor to the Trust. James was the second son of the famous road engineer John Loudon McAdam, and at the time of his appointment to the Sparrows Herne had acquired a substantial reputation as a road engineer, to the extent that he had . . . .

“. . . . accumulated 40 surveyorships from Sussex to Lincolnshire, with an aggregate of 858 miles of road under his control.  His gross salary was £3,479 p.a., from which he had to pay his assistants.  Reader has calculated that at the height of his career, he was earning between £2,000 and £2,500 clear of expenses, a figure that would place him well up the table of professional salaries.  In return the turnpike trusts received the attention of a competent and tireless professional always on the move and accustomed to spending at least three nights a week away from home.”

Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers, Vol. 2, Institution of Civil Engineers.


The Trust’s first thoughts on reducing the gradient
of Tring Hill.
Northampton Mercury, 19th October 1816.

Following McAdam’s appointment, his fee was set at £100 per annum and that of his assistant, Mr. Creed, [9] at 52 guineas per annum.

The Trust then set about an extensive modernisation programme, work that was carried out under McAdam’s overall direction with Creed doing the detailed planning, sourcing the materials and supervising activities.  As the task involved realigning and extending sections of the existing road, an Act of Parliament was required to give the Trust powers for the compulsory purchase of land and the demolition of existing buildings.

However, by this time it had also become necessary to renew the Trust’s powers, last granted in 1803 for the usual period of 21-years (43 Geo. III c.39, 1803).  And so the 1823 Act (4 Geo. IV c. 64, 1823) both extended the Trust’s term and included the powers necessary to acquire private land for the realignment of the road through Nascott Farm (north of Watford), and also for its extension from Walton into Aylesbury.  Those particular sections of the Act are somewhat detailed, but an extract from its Preamble summarises the trustees’ objectives:

“And whereas it would be nearer and more commodious to the Public if the course of the said road was diverted at or near and through the Lands of Nascott Farm, in the Parish of Watford, to join and communicate with the said Road at or near a certain Lane called Ridge Lane leading out of the said Turnpike Road towards Leavesden in the County of Hertford and also at or near the turn or curve in the said Road on the Northern Side of the Dwelling House of James Senior, Esquire in the Hamlet of Walton, in the said County of Buckingham, and proceeding through certain Inclosures, Lands, Messuages, Buildings, and to join and communicate with the Oxford, Buckingham, and Cambridge Roads, near the George Inn , at Aylesbury aforesaid.”

4 Geo. IV c. 64, R.A. 23rd May, 1823.

Following the passage of the new Act, the trustees met to consider their programme of improvements:

“At this Meeting also the several projected Improvements on the Road at Nascott, Hunton Bridge, the Dunsley end of Tring, Beggar Bush Hill [Tring Hill] and Aston Clinton were taken into consideration . . . . It is resolved that it will be expedient to carry such Improvements into Execution . . . .”

Minute Book, 9th June, 1823.

At the same meeting the Clerk was instructed to ask the Exchequer Loans Committee (in effect, the Government) if the money wanting to compleat (sic.) these works can be obtained from that Committee, [10] while the Surveyor:

“. . . . do likewise cause Inquiry to be made of the different parishes in the Neighbourhood of those parts of the Road where such Improvements are proposed, or other Parishes, if they shall be willing to contract for the supplying Materials either in the whole or broken flints, and upon what terms . . . .”

Other than the improvements at Nascott and at Aylesbury, and some cottages to be taken down at Hunton Bridge, the 1823 Act does not refer to a number of other projects that were planned at this time, [11] while the only enlightenment offered by the Minute Book is that the tender submitted by James Bull of Tring was accepted for unspecified work at Dunsley . . . .

“And the Trustees ordered that the necessary arrangements be made with the Tenants of the cottages at Dunsley for their quitting, and that a convenient spot be fixed upon with the Lord of the Manor to which the Pound may be moved.”

Minute Book, 21st July, 1823.

. . . . the “Lord of the Manor” being William Kay, builder of the Tring Silk Mill, who was paid £248 15s for the land used for this particular scheme, while the tenants of the cottages referred to received compensation totalling £4 17s.

The extension of the turnpike from Walton into Aylesbury also involved tenants “quitting”, the property to be demolished including the Crown Inn, which, in the custom of many public houses at the time, brewed its own beer.  [12] This is evident from the sale notice below, for the trustees were quick to auction the resalable demolition materials to help finance the cost of the work.

Auction advertisement for the sale of materials from the properties
demolished during the construction of the Aylesbury extension.

Bucks Gazette, 25th March 1826.

Press advertisements also appeared seeking loans, first for £10,000 with interest at 4%, but when there were no takers and the loan was eventually raised at 4½%.  A further £1,500 with interest at 5% soon followed, both being secured on the toll income.

The turnpike improvement programme at Aylesbury was completed in January 1827:

“The Surveyor reported to this Meeting that the new line of road into Aylesbury is complete and the Trustees ordered that the old road from the turn near Mr Senior’s to Walton shall be stopped up And that the Surveyor do affix up notices accordingly at each point where the road is stopped And also at the entrance of the new road near the George Inn, Aylesbury and that a hand post be put up there describing it as the London road through Tring Berkhamsted and Watford and the distance and that the road be lighted and watched at the entrance by the George Inn for a fortnight.”

Minute Book, 1st Jan 1827.

The turnpike extension resulted in the demolition of old property that was choking the town centre, and the opening up of the town centre:

“Space was obtained and improvement made by the formation of the New Road [i.e. the turnpike extension] in the year 1826.  Prior to that date the present line of houses on the east side was continued towards the Bucks and Oxon Union Bank, until it formed a right angle with the houses then continuing the line from Cambridge Street; consequently the connection between Kingsbury and Cambridge Street with the Market Place was by a very narrow and inconvenient opening, scarcely wide enough for two vehicles to pass.  A further opening was made not only by the removal of the late Market House, but also by the demolition of a large block of very old shops and houses standing in the rear of it, upon the spot now occupied by the Clock Tower . . . . By the formation of the New Road, a great deal of traffic was diverted from Walton, and by this road more direct access was obtained to the centre of Aylesbury.

Buckinghamshire: A History of Aylesbury with Its Borough and Hundreds, Robert Gibbs (1885).

1834 map of Aylesbury. The Sparrows Herne turnpike is shaded green, its extension to
Aylesbury town centre in red, and the Aylesbury Arm canal in blue. ‘TG’ marks the Aylesbury toll-gate.

Press notices relating to the various changes made during this period are listed at Appendix II.

There were several alterations to toll-houses and toll-gates ― including, in 1860, a new toll-house and toll-gate at the top of Tring Hill ― but there were no further road improvements of significance after 1833.  As for James McAdam, his contribution to road administration and engineering was recognised with a knighthood.  Following his death in 1852, the trustees appointed his son, William, Surveyor in his place at a salary of £120 per annum.

Leasing out toll collection.

Other than the toll house at Bushey Arches, so far as the authors are aware no image exists of a rural Sparrows Herne toll house.  The picture above is of a toll house near Dunstable on the road to Kenworth, the design being typical and probably not unlike those that once stood along the Sparrows Herne Turnpike.

Commencing in 1802, the trustees leased out the operation of the toll-gates (a practice referred to as farming”) thereby converting an uncertain toll income into a fixed sum while transferring the management of the gate-keepers to the leaseholder (who could be a gate-keeper).  The gates were initially let for 1 year, but this was later increased to 2 or 3 years as the trustees saw fit.  By law, [13] toll-gates had to be leased at a public auction, and in their auction advertisements the trustees were required to state, for each gate, the net amount of the previous year’s proceeds.

The income from the Sparrows Herne gates show a steady increase until the opening of the London & Birmingham Railway in 1838 followed by the Aylesbury to Cheddington branch line in 1839, after which toll receipts declined:







































SOUTHERN GATES: Watford and Ridge Lane.

NORTHERN GATES: New Ground and Veeches (1806): New Ground and Western (1811 & 1821): New Ground & Aylesbury (1841-1855): New Ground, Aylesbury & Beggar Bush Hill (1865).

In August 1860, the trustees reduced tolls by one third . . . .

“TURNPIKE TOLLS. NEW ROAD GATE, AYLESBURY. On Monday last, the 13th instant, the tolls payable at this gate, as well as those payable at the New Ground and Watford gates, were reduced from 4½d. to 3d. each horse drawing any carriage, &c.  This is a boon to the inhabitants of this town [Aylesbury] and Watford, and we hear that trustees of the Sparrows Herne road hope to be able at no distant period to remove one or two of the gates altogether.  We are deeply indebted to our neighbours, Mr. Lovett and Mr. Senior, for their perseverance in obtaining this advantage.  We have heard much of the good management of this road, and shall probably refer to it again at some early opportunity.”

Bucks Herald, 18th August 1860.

This reduction in toll rates had a favourable impact on the bottom line of the Trust’s accounts:

“SPARROWS HERNE TRUST.  On Monday last a meeting of the trustees of the Sparrows Herne Turnpike-road, was held at the King’s Arms Inn, in this town [Berkhamstead] F. J. Moore, Esq., in the chair Col. Dorrien; Moses Lovett, Esq.; E. Bartlett, Esq.; W. Claridge, Esq.; and several other gentlemen being present.  The accounts of the working of the new reduced tolls were examined, and found so satisfactory that the sum of £200 was ordered to be paid off the debt, which was upwards of £15,000 a few years ago.”

Bucks Herald, 29th September 1860.

In the turnpike’s early years, the bulk of its traffic was packhorses and droves of livestock, but from the start of the 19th century the volume of wheeled traffic increased significantly.  It is rare to find any detailed account of what traffic passed through the gates — most gate-keepers were at any rate illiterate — but some figures exist for the New Ground Gate at Tring that provide an interesting insight into the nature of the traffic passing along the road in the autumn of 1830 and the summer of 1845.

The opening of the London & Birmingham Railway and of the Aylesbury to Cheddington branch line probably explain the decline in both passenger and packhorse traffic, while the increase in wagon traffic is probably attributable to local farmers transporting their produce and manure, traffic that was affected by the season rather than by railway competition.





4th-11th Oct. 1830




15th-22nd June 1845




The final toll-gate auction was advertised in April 1873.  The advertisement stated that the tolls for the southern and northern gates were to be offered for a term of 6-months from March 1873, the previous income being £650 and £300 respectively.  There were no takers.

The London & Birmingham Railway.

“We hear no more the clanging hoof,
    And the stagecoach rattling by;
For the steam king rules the travelling world,
    And the turnpike's left to die.
The grass creeps o'er the flinty path,
    And the stealthy daisies steal
Where once the stage horse, day by day,
    Lifted his iron heel.”

From 'The Old Turnpike'
by John Pierpont

Public railways were to have a serious impact on the revenues of turnpike trusts (and more so on those of canal companies).  Wherever a railway opened, competing stagecoach services quickly went to the wall, which is unsurprising.  The stagecoach journey from Tring to London, for example, took around five hours, whereas that by train took about an hour and a half.  Thus, by 1838, the Sparrows Herne Trustees were facing diminishing toll income . . . .

“Resolved, that considering the greatly diminished income of the Trust from Tolls, with the probability of further decrease, owing to the progressive completion of the London and Birmingham Railway, and considering the large debt still chargeable to the Trust (amounting to £10,410) it is incumbent on the Trustees to institute a close examination into the expenditure with a view to effect every possible reduction consistently with the maintenance of the Turnpike Road in good repair. And for this purpose a Finance Committee be appointed.”

Minute Book, 22nd January 1838.

Although the programme of road improvements had been completed by the end of 1833, economies were sorely needed in the cost of road maintenance:

“The duty, therefore, whether as respects the Public or the Creditors, of reducing the expenditure to the lowest point, compatible with fulfilling the objects of the Trust becomes imperative.”

Minute Book, 22nd January 1838.

In response to the looming risk of insolvency, the trustees appointed a finance committee of nine members “for the purpose of enquiring into the practicality of reducing expenditure of the Trust, consistently with maintaining the Turnpike Road in good repair.”  From the Committee’s deliberations emerged a number of recommendations, among which were:

“That no allowance be made in future for watering the Road [to keep down the dust in dry weather];

That money be borrowed, if possible at 4½% to pay off the 5% debt of £4,110;

That the expense of maintaining the Road on the six County Bridges, and 100 yards from the Wing Walls, on each side thereof, which has hitherto been borne by the Trust, be in future devolved upon the County, who are legally liable thereto;

The Surveyor obtain his stock of surface materials some time before they are wanted, in order not to be driven to purchase them at high prices, when he cannot do without them;

That the Surveyor endeavour to procure surface materials some way back from the immediate line of the Road, in order to produce more competition, and lower charges.

[the trustees] desire the Clerks to print, under the direction of the Surveyor, a Placard relating to the Tenders for Stones, to be distributed along the line of road, and so far back as may be thought useful”

McAdam’s salary was reduced from £135 p.a. to £100 p.a.; that of the Clerks continued at £50 p.a., but this was in future to include all expenses, except for the cost of preparing leases for letting the toll-gates.  To reduce administrative costs further, rather than have the trustees meet in response to individual invitations sent out by the Clerks, future meetings would be held (except for any special meetings that might be needed) “on the last Monday every two months for the purpose of receiving Tenders for surface materials as well as for the General business of the Trust.”

These proposals were accepted by the trustees, which, together with later reductions in tolls to promote traffic, helped maintain the Trust’s viability for the remainder of its life.

The Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust Acts.

Until the last Act expired in 1866, the activities of the Sparrows Herne Trust were authorised (as were those of most other turnpike trusts) by a succession of private Acts of Parliament, each of which ran for a period of 21-years.  At the expiration of each Act, the Trust’s powers had to be renewed by a further Act (the cost of obtaining which placed a significant burden on many trusts’ slender resources):

2 Geo. III c. 63, 1762. For repairing road from south end of Sparrows Herne on Bushey Heath, through Watford, Berkhamsted St. Peters, and Tring, by Pettiphers Elms to turnpike road at Walton near Aylesbury, for 21 years from July 1762 (to expire 1783).

23 Geo. III c. 93, 1783. Extended the Trust’s term for 21 years (to 1804).

43 Geo. III c. 39, 1803. Amended powers and extended term for 21 years (from 1803).

4 Geo. IV c. 64, 1823. Repealed preceding Acts and enabled Trust to divert the road at Nascott Farm and Hunton Bridge, and construct new a road into Aylesbury. Established term of 21 years from May 1823.

8 & 9 Vict. c. 9, 1845. Repealed the 1823 Act and enacted new provisions for 21 years from May 1845.

From 1864 onwards, Parliament began to terminate turnpike trusts. This was achieved through the Annual Turnpike Continuance Acts, each of which identified specific turnpike trusts for repeal, while continuing the remaining trusts for a period of approximately 12 months. This arrangement continued until the final annual Continuance Act in 1885, although, oddly, the final turnpike trust ― that administering the Shrewsbury to Holyhead Road ― was not repealed until 1st November 1895.

The termination of the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust.

Following the expiry of the Trust’s last Act in 1866, until its termination on the 1st November 1873 (36 & 37 Vict. c. 90, 1873) its existence in law was continued under the provisions of the Annual Turnpike Acts Continuance Acts.  Following its termination, responsibility for maintaining that part of the former turnpike road in Hertfordshire passed to the Highway Boards of the Watford and Hemel Hempstead Districts, except for those parts that lay within the areas of the Watford and Tring Local Boards of Health.  In Buckinghamshire, control passed to the several parishes and to the Aylesbury Local Board of Health.

During its existence of over a century the Trust was successful in, as the Act described it, “amending, widening, altering, and keeping in Repair”the highway between Sparrows Herne and Aylesbury; and unlike many others, the Trust remained solvent until its closure having by then repaid all its debts.

Following the sale of its assets, the net surplus was used to pay compensation for loss of employment to the surveyor (£200), the clerk (£80), the roadmen and the foreman (£20 & £10 respectively), and the balance (£380 9s. 9d.) was distributed among the parishes upon which the liability for future road maintenance would fall, in proportion to mileage.

Settlement of the Trust’s residual debts:
Bucks Herald, 22nd November 1873.

Sale of the Trust’s residual assets.
Buck Herald, 25th October 1873.



Cary’s schematic road map of the London to Tring route, July 1790.
(Edgware - Kilburn turnpike; Sparrows Herne turnpike).

Note the sharp turns in the road at Hunton Bridge, Kings Langley and Tring,
which the Trust removed during the 1820s.




Many of what today would be classed road traffic offences are recorded in the newspapers of the time. The following are a few examples of the more typical.

FORCIBLY PASSING TURNPIKE-GATE. Timothy Cunningham was charged with forcibly passing through the turnpike gate at the entrance to the town of Watford, in the Sparrows Herne Trust, with a horse and van, without paying the toll demanded of him. The CHAIRMAN said that on looking over the information, he found that it was laid under the Highway Act instead of the Turnpike Act, and this appeared to him to be a fatal mistake. The prosecutor was at liberty to take out a fresh summons, and also to proceed against him for the assault. If, however, he wished the case to be settled now, the Bench were willing to go on with it. The defendant begged that the case might be disposed of before the Court broke up, as he had come from a great distance. Ultimately, by permission of the Bench, the parties settled the matter out of doors.

Hertford Mercury, 18th October 1851.


REFUSAL TO PAY TOLL. James Worcester was summoned for evading the toll on the Watford Turnpike-gate in the Sparrows Herne Trust. Thomas Hart said on Friday, the 27th ult., the defendant passed through the chain bar at the Watford-gate, on the Pinner Road, with a horse and cart loaded with dung. In the course of an hour or more he returned with the cart empty. He passed through the Watford-gate. This was in a contrary direction to his own house. On being asked for the toll he refused to pay it, and said that he was entitled to pass through free, as he had carried dung. As he persisted in his refusal to pay, witness unbuckled the nose-bag from his horse, and took it into his house. Defendant requested to be shown the Act of Parliament, and when it was produced he said he could not read it. He subsequently went into the house, and carried away the nose bag. Fined 5s. and 13s 4d costs.

Hertford Mercury, 11th September 1852.


OBSTRUCTING THE HIGHWAY. George Bone, Rickard King, and Ephraim Hunt, travelling hawkers, were charged with obstructing the highway, by pitching their stands on the side of the Sparrows Herne turnpike road. The charge arose out of the following circumstances: Watford fair being on the 5th, the defendants did not pack up and leave on the early part of the following day. This being the case, it was presumed that they had intended to continue the fair for the second day, to which course some of the inhabitants had an objection. The defendants said they had hired the place of Mr. Wilson, who had rented the tolls of the Earl of Essex. They had always been allowed a day to put up before, and a day to take down after the fair. They were packing up about eleven o'clock, when they received notice to leave, and were doing so as fast as they could; but at one o’clock they were served with a summons, which they considered rather sharp practice. Mr. CLUTTERBUCK said the police had exceeded the orders he gave them. The charge was dismissed by the Bench. On one of the men claiming compensation for coming there at a great inconvenience and from a great distance, he was told there was no funds available for that purpose.

Hertford Mercury, 16th June 1855.


REFUSING TO PAY TOLL. Mr. William Miller, surgeon, of Kilburn, was charged under the 139th section of the Act, with refusing to pay toll at the Bushey Gate, on Wednesday, the 12th August. Police-constable Grover proved the service of the summons: and deposed that the defendant said he could not attend, and supposed he should have to pay. Edgar Allen Gotch Said he was collector at the Watford Toll Gate, on the Sparrows Herne Trust. The defendant endeavoured to pass through the railway arch to the station without paying toll. There was a chain side bar and the defendant having gone more than a hundred yards on the turn-pike road complainant asked him in a civil manner for the toll. He refused to pay and witness asked him for his card, which he gave him. The defendant than demanded the ticket, and on witness‘s declining to give it him till he had paid the toll, the defendant threatened to horsewhip him, and several times called him a vagabond and a scoundrel. This evidence having been confirmed by a gentleman named Robert Bacon, the defendant was convicted and fined £1 and £2 5s. costs.

Watford Observer, 22nd August 1863.


RIDING WITHOUT REINS. Henry Ruben Nash, was charged with driving a hay cart on the Sparrows Herne turnpike road, without holding the reins. Mrs Nash appeared for her husband. Police-constable Jennings said on the night of the 13th, between eleven and twelve, he saw the defendants hay cart going down the High street of Watford, with no one driving. He found the defendant lying on the hay asleep. He was going towards London. Fined 1s. and 11s 6d costs. The money was paid.

Watford Observer, 23rd July 1864.


FRAUDULENTLY CLAIMING EXEMPTION. Richard Mortimer: I am a toll collector at the Watford gate, on the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust. On the 21st November, the defendant came through my gate with a horse and cart. He was coming from London. I demanded the toll of threepence, and he said he had dung in his cart and claimed exemption. I then examined the contents of his cart and found it had no dung. There was only some wet straw with a fork stuck in it. He said “It is the first time I ever did it. I’ll hope you’ll forgive me, and I’ll pay the toll.” He came back again and offered me a shilling which I refused to take. There was no one with him.
Cross-examined: You had gone twenty yards beyond the gate before you would stop.
By the Bench: There was no dung in the cart.
The defendant said there was dung in the cart and called the following witness:—
William Hobbs, brother of the defendant: The defendant started with some old thatch which had been under his cart all night.
Defendant said the toll-keeper was tipsy at the time, and threatened to knock his head off.
The defendant was convicted and fine £1 and 15s. costs, or one month’s imprisonment.

Watford Observer, 16th December 1865.


ASLEEP IN CHARGE ON THE TURNPIKE. Where the driver of a cart refuses to give his name, the owner may be summoned. You [Lovegrove] are brought here because your man refused to give his name . . . .
Police-constable Dunn: Last Friday week, the 22nd June, I was going along the road and saw the defendant riding at full length in the cart. He was fast asleep. When I awoke him he refused to give his name. I took the name from the cart. He afterwards gave the name of Chesham.
Lovegrove said he knew nothing about it. He paid the man his wages and did not see what he had to do with this complaint.
John Chesham deposed: I was fast asleep in the cart when the constable woke me up. I told him my name was Chesham. I had been out two nights and was very warm and sleepy.
The defendant was fined 1s. and 15s. costs. In default of payment in a fortnight to be committed fourteen days.

Watford Observer, 7th July 1866.


FURIOUS DRIVING ON THE TURNPIKE. Police constable Hammond stated: On Friday, the 24th June, I was on duty in the High-street a little after 9 o’clock in the evening, when my attention was called to a mob of persons near the shop of Mr. Turner, confectioner. I went there, and while I was dispersing the mob, which had been gathered together by two men fighting, the defendant, in company with another young man, drove a pony and cart down the street very furiously indeed. He did not offer to pull up, but drove into the crowd, knocking down an old man named Sears and running over his thighs The defendant and his companion were nearly thrown out of the cart. The old man fortunately escaped serious injury . . . .
Mr. Turner, confectioner, said that the defendant went at a very smart rate, but he would not call it ‘furious’ driving. The rate was eight or nine miles an hour. He told the defendant that it was very imprudent to go through a mob at the rate he did.
Fined 5s., costs 18s. 6d.

Watford Observer, 9th July 1870.




During the 1820s a considerable amount of civil engineering work was carried out on the Sparrows Herne turnpike road. The following is a chronological summary of the related press notices that appeared during this time.

“The Sparrows Herne Trust are making another very excellent improvement in their line of road, by cutting through the steep chalk hill, at the London entrance of the town of Watford, so as to reduce the hill nearly one half. We are informed that it is the Earl of Bridgewater’s intention to cut an entire new line of road, so as to avoid the present dangerous entrance into the town of Tring, and also that it is in contemplation to lower Beggar Bush Hill, between Tring and Aston Clinton, which will most certainly be a great public benefit, as that hill in Its present state is dangerously steep.”

The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 13, 1820.


“The trustees of Sparrow's Herne turnpike road, have in contemplation an improvement of considerable importance to the public; that is by diverting the present road through the ground of Nascott Farm, at Watford, so as to enter the present line again at the sixteen mile stone. By these means will be avoided the dead heavy ride from Watford down by the park pales of Cashiobury.”

The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1st April 1821.


A great deal of alteration was announced to take place at the Aylesbury end of the turnpike, including new roadwork that involved the demolition of a number of buildings:

“. . . . A FURTHER APPLICATION will be made for leave to include in such Bill POWER TO ALTER or DIVERT the COURSE of the SAID ROAD, commencing at or near the Turn or Curve in the said Turnpike-Road, beyond the dwelling house of Joseph Senior, Esq. in the Hamlet of Walton and proceeding through certain Inclosures, Lands, Grounds, Messuages, Buildings, and Premises (as delineated on the Plan deposited with the Clerk of the Peace for the County of Buckinghamshire) into the High Street of the Town of Aylesbury, between the Market House and the Shire Hall, and for Powers to take down the necessary Buildings for the purposes aforesaid, which deviation is intended to pass from, through, or into several parishes or places of Walton and Aylesbury in the said County of Buckingham.”

Bucks Gazette, 18th January 1823.

. . . . a further notice informed the public that the road was to “join and communicate with the Oxford, Buckingham, and Cambridge roads near the George Inn, at Aylesbury.” Despite the demolition involved in extending the road, the plan appears to have gained favour with the public:

“We understand that the Trustees of the Sparrows Herne Turnpike, at their meeting on Monday last, decided upon applying to Parliament for powers to vary their road at the entrance of this town [Aylesbury], by making a new line through the Crown Inn and Hale Leys, and thence in a direct line over the fields, to join the present road near the residence of Jas. Senior, Esq. We cannot but congratulate our neighbours upon the very great improvement that will be made to the town of Aylesbury by this judicious plan of the Trustees, which will lay open the principal street near Kingsbury, that is now so narrow and dangerous.”

Bucks Gazette, 15th March 1823.


Meanwhile another realignment of the road was planned for the vicinity of Hunton Bridge:

“NOTICE is hereby given, that a BILL is now depending in PARLIAMENT . . . . in which Bill provision will be made for diverting the course of the said road at or near Hunton Bridge, in the Parish of Abbott’s Langley, in the said county of Hertford, such Deviation to commence at a certain place in the said road called Hunton Bridge Knapp, in the said parish of Abbott’s Langley, and proceeding in a north-west direction across the Weir Meadow, in the said parish of Abbott’s Langley, belonging to the Earl of Essex, cross the river Gade, and the Grand Junction Canal, and through certain Inclosures of the Rev. Sir John Filmer, Bart. in the parish of Abbott’s Langley aforesaid, to join and communicate with the said turnpike-road, at the hand-post, at the three cross-ways on the western side of the Grand Junction Canal Bridge, at Hunton Bridge aforesaid . . . .”

Bucks Gazette, 29th March 1823.


Realignment of the road at Dunsley, Tring:

“TO ROAD CONTRACTORS, &c. SUCH Persons as are willing to CONTRACT for excavating and forming the proposed ALTERATION of the Sparrows HERNE TURNPIKE ROAD, commencing at Dunsley, near the town of Tring, and proceeding into the town, near the pond, are desired to send tenders in writing to the Office of Messrs. GROVER and SMITH, Solicitors, at Hemel Hempstead, Herts, on or before the 20th day of July instant, to be submitted to the Trustees at a Meeting on the 21st instant. A Plan and Specification of the Works may be seen at the Rose and Crown, Tring; or at Messrs. Grover and Smith’s. July 4th. 1823.”

Bucks Gazette, 19th July 1823.

Cutting and embankment to be formed at Beggar Bush Hill (now known as Tring Hill):

“TO ROAD CONTRACTORS, &c. SUCH Persons as are willing to CONTRACT for the necessary works in CUTTING THROUGH and LOWERING BEGGAR BUSH HILL, on the Sparrow's Herne Turnpike Road, between Tring and Aston Clinton, are desired to send Tenders in Writing to the Office of Messrs. Grover and Smith, Solicitors, at Hemel Hempstead, Herts, on or before the 6th Day of December next, to be submitted to the Trustees at a MEETING on the 8th of DECEMBER. A Plan and Specification of the works may be seen at the Rose and Crown, Tring; the Bell, Aston Clinton; at the Office of Messrs. Grover and Smith; and at Mr. Creed’s, Surveyor, Hemel Hempstead.”

Bucks Gazette, 22nd November 1823.

“The Contractors, (under the direction of Mr. Creed, the Engineer to the Trust) have commenced the work of lowering Beggar Bush Hill, and we congratulate the public on the advantage they will derive from the above improvement, and most cordially join in commending the liberal spirit and judicious arrangements evinced by the Trustees of the Sparrow's Herne Turnpike throughout the whole of their recent various alterations, following up with a similar zeal the example set them by their late lamented noble Chairman [the Earl of Bridgewater], whose activity and perseverance in promoting public improvements are too well known to require comment.”

Bucks Gazette, 27th December 1823.


Realignment of the road with a new canal bridge at Hunton Bridge:

“TO ROAD CONTRACTORS, BRICKLAYERS, &c. SUCH Persons as are wiling to CONTRACT for the necessary Works in ERECTING the BRIDGE over the GRAND JUNCTION CANAL, and making the New Road at the proposed Deviation of the Turnpike Road at Hunton Bridge, between Watford and King’s Langley, Herts, are desired to send Tenders in Writing to the Office of Messrs. Grover and Smith, Solicitors, Hemel Hempstead, Herts, on or before the 12th Day of April next, to be submitted to the Trustees at a Meeting on the 13th Day of April. A Plan and Specification of the Bridge and Works may be seen at the Office of Messrs. Grover and Smith, and at Mr. Creed’s, Surveyor, Hemel Hempstead. 25th March, 1824.”

Bucks Gazette, 10th April 1824.


Meeting of Trustees to discuss new entrance at Aylesbury:

“Monday se’nnight [23rd May, 1825] was held, at the King’s Arms Inn, Berkhamsted, pursuant to adjournment, a meeting of the Trustees of the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Road, to decide on the proposed new entrance into Aylesbury. The Marquis of Chandos, the Earl of Clarendon, and between 20 and 30 Trustees attended. The result of the meeting was an unanimous resolution to adopt the measure, with a trifling deviation from the line marked out by Mr. Creed and Mr. McAdam. The undertaking, it is said, will be commenced without delay.”

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 28th May 1825.

Compulsory purchase of property at Aylesbury; £10,000 loan:

“At a meeting of the Trustees of the Sparrows Herne Turnpike road, held at the George Inn, Aylesbury, on Saturday last, all the persons having property on the intended line of road from Broughton, acceded to the offers made to them by the Trustees for purchase, with one exception. It will be seen by an advertisement that £10,000 are wanted on the security of the turnpike-tolls.”

Bucks Gazette, 18th June 1825.


£10,000 loan to pay for road works:

“MONEY ON TURNPIKE TOLLS: THE trustees of the Turnpike Road leading from Sparrows Herne, on Bushey Heath, through Watford, Berkhamsted St. Peter, and Tring, in the county of Hertford, to Walton, near Aylesbury, in the county of Buckingham, having occasion to take up at interest TEN THOUSAND POUNDS for Improvements going on projected on the said Road; any persons who may be disposed to advance money at Four per cent. on security of the Tolls, are requested to signify the same to us for the information of the Trustees, specifying the amount they will lend on the above terms, and the period at which they will advance it, the whole not being immediately required. Particulars of the revenues of the Trust may be had on application to us. By order of the Trustees. June 13th, 1825.”

Bucks Gazette, 18th June 1825.

In May the Trustees advertised for a further loan to pay for “Improvements taking place”, on this occasion seeking £1,500 with interest payable half-yearly at 5%.


“Sparrows HERNE TURNPIKE SUCH Persons as are willing to CONTRACT for the ERECTION of a TOLL-HOUSE and TOLL-GATES by the side of the New Road into Aylesbury, are required to send Tenders in writing, to the office of Messrs. Grover, Smith and Grover, solicitors, at Hemel Hemspsted, Herts, on or before the 17th day of June, to be submitted to the Trustees at a meeting on the 19th. A plan and specification of the works may be seen at the White Hart Inn, Aylesbury, or at Messrs. Creed and Griffin at Hemel Hempsted.”

Bucks Gazette, 10th June 1826.



1. Bourn Bridge Road Turnpike Act 1769 (8 & 9 Geo. III, c. 86). This Act was renewed at intervals until the road was ‘deturnpiked’ under the Annual Turnpike Acts Continuance Act 1873 (36 & 37 Vic. c. 90).
2. This turnpike (10 Anne c.3, 1711) seems to have made little difference to the state of the road, for in 1798 it was said to have four inches of mud after heavy rain in summer and nine inches all the winter. (Victoria County History, London, 1971.)
3. From Bushey northwards, the turnpike followed much of the route of the old A41 trunk road. Since re-classification, the route today approximates to the A411 from Bushey to Hunton Bridge; A4251 to Upper Dunsley; B4653 through Tring; Tring Hill (B4009); London Road; Aylesbury Road; Aston Clinton Road; Tring Road; and the A41 into Aylesbury. Ordnance Survey maps identify sections of the route in the vicinity of Tring lying over the remains of the Roman Akeman Street.
4. All subsequent meetings were held at the King’s Arms until the last, which took place on 23rd March, 1874, at the Berkhamsted Union Workhouse.
5. Far fewer attended the Trust’s meetings regularly, the number sometimes falling below the quorum of nine. Important meetings, particularly those held during the 1820s when significant changes to the road were being made, were often chaired by a titled person.
6. The General Turnpike Act 1773 introduced a mandatory property qualification, confirmation of which came within the oath that Trustees were required to swear (later Acts included a provision for Quakers to affirm):

“I ‘A.B.’ do swear, That I truly and bona fide am, in my own Right, or in the Right of my Wife, in the actual Possession and Enjoyment, or Receipt of the Rents and Profits of Lands, Tenements or Hereditaments, of the clear yearly Value of Forty Pounds; or possessed of, or intitled to a Personal Estate to the Value of Eight hundred Pounds, (as the case may be). So help me GOD.”

The General Turnpike Act 1773 (13 Geo. III., C.84).

The General Turnpike Act of 1822 (3 Geo. IV. Cap.126) changed the property qualifications:

“TRUSTEES: No person to be or act as trustee, unless he is possessed of freehold or copyhold property of the clear yearly value of £100, or be heir apparent to a person possessed of such property of the yearly value of £200, and unless he take oath accordingly. Except within 10 miles of the Royal Exchange, when £10,000 in personal property is to be a sufficient qualification.”

The General Turnpike Acts, W. K. Dehany (1823).

7. Following his appointment, Hayton was required to provide the Trust with a bond for £500 in respect of his “truly accounting”. On his retirement, he was presented with a piece of silver plate valued at 100 guineas and later became a trustee.
8. The General Turnpike Act 1822 (2 Geo 4 c.126). The role of Clerk continued to be discharged by Grover’s firm until the Trust was wound up in 1873.
9. Possibly George Creed of the partnership Creed and Griffin, surveyors and auctioneers of Hemel Hempstead.
10. The Exchequer Bill Loan Commission was set up under The Poor Employment Act 1817 to help finance public work projects that would generate employment. Commissioners included the civil engineer Thomas Telford. The trustees received a reply from the Commissioners, which was discussed at their meeting on 21st July 1823, but whatever terms were offered, the Trustees resolved it would be more expedient to borrow Money necessary for these Improvements of Individuals, and the Clerk is directed to make the necessary Inquiry for procuring the same of persons willing to advance it.”
11. Road improvements referred to in the minutes at this time (but not specified in the 1823 Act) for which no clear details are given, include realignment of the road at Hunton Bridge (including a new bridge) and at Cow Roast; work at Dunsley, presumed to be the realignment of the road around the hamlet to its present course; reducing the gradient of Beggar Bush Hill (i.e. Tring Hill); and work at Aston Clinton.
12. According to Aylesbury historian Robert Gibbs, the Crown Inn was not demolished, but . . . .

“By the formation of the New Road [i.e. the turnpike extension], in the year 1826, the Crown Inn was much reduced in extent, and was subsequently altered in its general character.  It has of late years been so modernized as scarcely to be known as ‘the old Crowne’ of former years.  It once had its intersecting gateway-entrance and other prominent features incidental to old hostelries, indicating the commercial character for which it was originally erected.  Before its alterations, made consequent upon the formation of the New Road, it had much of the character of the King’s Head, and was probably a building of about the same date, but of greater extent in its appurtenances; it had gardens, a bowling-green, extensive stabling, and out-premise cohering a large area. Its principal frontage was to the Market Place, but was intercepted by encroachments; its position resembled that of the King’s Head.

Buckinghamshire: A History of Aylesbury with Its Borough and Hundreds, Robert Gibbs (1885).

13. The General Turnpike Act 1773 (13 Geo. III c.84 art. 31).


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