Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 27, 2017
Webpage updated: May 27, 2021

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In 1762, during the second year of the reign of King George III, an Act of Parliament was obtained by Sir John Saint Aubyn, Sir John Glannvil, Sir William Molesworth, Sir John Rogers, Sir Harry Trelawney and Sir Christopher Treife, to improve the roads leading to and from the Borough of Saltash.  In addition to improving the road from Trerulefoot to the Saltash Ferry, the road 'from a certain place called Saltash Passage within the said parish of Saint Stephens next Ash in the County of Cornwall to Weston Mills within the parish of Saint Budeaux by Swilly in the parish of Stoke Damerell to the corner of the meadow at the east end of the bridge by the Lower Grist mills within the Borough of Plymouth in the County of Devon' was also to be turnpiked.

It should be mentioned that until 1894 the Saltash Passage on the Plymouth side of the river was in the Parish of Saint Stephen by Saltash within the County of Cornwall.

As the result of this Act, toll houses were to be erected at Saltash and, on the Plymouth side, at Weston Mill, where the Trust built a bridge to replace the ford at this point.  The old road climbed from the Passage to King's Tamerton before falling to Weston Mill, where it passed from the Parish of Saint Budeaux to the Parish of Stoke Damerel.  From there it climbed up the Old Saltash Road, which is today North Prospect Road.  This ran to the bottom of what became Milehouse Hill, at the top of which it crossed the road from Manadon Gate to Plymouth Dock, which was responsibility of the Tavistock Turnpike Trust.   It ran along the line of the present Alma Road, down into the valley of Pennycomequick, up the very steep hill upon which North Road Plymouth Station was later constructed, and along Cobourg Street to the Lower Grist Mill at the corner of Pound Street and Tavistock Road. 

Although the Act was to last for twenty-one years, it was renewed in 1777, 1802 (42nd year of King George III) and 1823, in the 4th year of the reign of King George IV.

In the 2nd and 3rd year of the reign of King William IV, 1832, the Saltash Floating Bridge Act was passed.

The modernization of the Saltash Ferry prompted a new route for the road from Saltash Passage to Plymouth.  The Act of Parliament received the Royal Assent on March 29th 1833.   The roads were to be no more than 45 feet in width.

This climbed smoothly up to near Barn, and then ran to Weston Mill Creek.  A timber bridge was constructed across the muddy Creek and the road continued the other side with only a light rising gradient to the bottom of Milehouse Hill, where it rejoined the old Turnpike through North Prospect.  This new route knocked about a half a mile off the original one.  The turnpike ended at May's Cross, which was where the Saltash Road crossed what later became North Road.

In addition, a totally new road was to be laid in from the Plymouth side of Weston Mill Creek, around what was then the shoreline to the entrance to Keyham Creek, which was bridged by means of a culvert.  This was rather grandly named Keyham Bridge and was where the present Saint Levan Dockyard Gate is.  It then ran on towards the Torpoint Ferry at New Passage Hill, and so to the end of Union Terrace, Morice Town, Devonport.  This saved two miles on the original route via North Prospect, Milehouse and Stoke.  No money was to be spent on this "branch" road in excess of the amount collected in tolls.

Naturally, all this construction was financed by the collection of tolls.  A public meeting was called by the Clerk to the Trustees, Mr W R Berryman, to consult about the proposed locations of the toll gates.  The meeting was held on Tuesday April 24th 1835 at the Green Dragon Hotel, Saltash, Cornwall.  The sites that were proposed were:

  • at or near to the entrance to the slate quarry at Saltash Passage;
  • near to the southern shore of Weston Mill Creek, where the branch turnpike from Union Terrace at Morice Town joins the main road;
  • on the branch road at or near the above-mentioned junction;
  • at the point where the main road crosses the lane to Ford;
  • at the point where the main road intersects with Bladder or Bladderly Lane to Pennycross;
  • at or near the place called Pennycomequick; and
  • on the branch road to Morice Town at or near the northern shore of Keyham Creek, near Keyham House.

It will be noted at the name of Pennycomequick was in use before the gate was erected, and in fact went back at least another 200 years, thus destroying the local legend that the name was derived from 'the pennies come quick'.

The old Pennycomequick Toll House in use as Pennycomequick Post Office.
Note the weighing machine and that part of the postbox wasn't painted in a dark colour.
From a postcard.

The new road was probably opened for traffic on Monday July 11th 1836.  The Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal published on Thursday July 14th 1836 reported that it had 'just been open to the public' but there was no ceremony.  The roadway was 'rather rough' but the newspaper was 'fully confident that inconvenience will soon be removed'.  They were extremely impressed by the new wooden bridge across Weston Mill Creek and was pleased that, unusually, 'it is without a toll gate'.  The branch road to Devonport was expected to be completed within four to six weeks.

Tolls were levied on anyone moving for 100 yards on the road, with non-payment subject to a fine of 5.  They were charged per day, not per journey.  The tolls ranged from   coaches, landau, phaetons, caravans or hearses drawn by six or more horses or other beasts of draught at one shilling and sixpence; the same drawn by four horses, at one shilling; drawn by two horses, sixpence; or by only one horse, threepence.  A horse without a carriage was twopence.

One interesting rule was that if the rims of the wheels were greater than nine inches, the tolls were halved.  This was because the larger wheels did less damage to the road than the smaller ones.

However, one wonders at the level of income when the exemptions were taken into account:

vehicles engaged in repairing the road;

vehicles engaged in farming activities;

vehicles engaged in carrying fuel;

vehicles going to places of worship or attending funerals;

vehicles carrying Royal Mail;

soldiers on the march;

those engaged in the wool trade;

vehicles taking corn to mills;

vehicles going to and from elections, on the day itself and the days before and after;

and vehicles carrying hay, straw or wood that had not been sold and was to be used for laying in houses, outhouses, yards or 'backsides'.

Travellers by-passing the toll houses by using adjacent land were discouraged by making it an offence for the landowner to allow their land to be used as such.

There was only major alteration to the roads during the lifetime of the Turnpike Trust when it was realigned at Saint Budeaux during the construction of the Cornwall Railway in the 1850s.  The new railway line was planned to run along the line of the roadway, which had to be shifted sideways and an s-bend put in at Saint Budeaux Square.  It turned out to be a convenient place to site Saint Budeaux Platform when the Great Western Railway started their railmotor service to Saltash in 1904.

Mr Frederick W P Cleverton was the Clerk to the Trustees on July 18th 1853, when the tolls arising at the toll gates were advertised for auction at the Green Dragon Hotel in Saltash.  The auction was to take place on Friday August 26th 1853 at 12 Noon.  The gates were divided into three lots, with the rents at which they were let the previous year: viz.

Tiddeford, Mora and Heskyn Hill Gates, let previously at 60 per annum;

Pennycomequick Gates, let at 200 per annum;

Almshouses, Borraton Lane End and South Pill (all in Cornwall), and Union, Saltash Passage, Little Ash, Bladderley Lane and Keyham Bridge Gates, all let at 770 per annum.

Payment was to be made one month in advance.

Another Notice that Mr Cleverton issued that day was of a meeting, also at the Green Dragon Hotel on the same day, but an hour earlier, at 11am, 'to take into consideration the propriety of lessening and reducing -- and, if it shall be thought proper, then to order the lessening and reducing -- all or any of the Tolls granted by the said Act, during such times as the Trustees shall think proper....'.

The Saltash Turnpike Trust folded in 1881 and responsibility for the continuing repair and maintenance of the road in Devon fell to the parishes of Saint Budeaux and Stoke Damerel.

In around 1890 what for over fifty years had been referred to as the "New Road" acquired the name Wolseley Road.  The route to Devonport became Saltash Road and Keyham Road.

Devonport Corporation made one major improvement in 1903, when they constructed an embankment across Weston Mill Creek to replace the timber bridge, which by this time had sunk in to the mud at several points, resembling a switch-back.