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Men at work.

Throughout England, turnpike roads were an important part of life from around 1690 to 1840 - some 150 years or so.

Road users had to contribute to the upkeep of the roads. Toll bars and turnpikes were set up at key points to ensure that no one using the turnpike road evaded payment of the toll.

Before 1756, the old road from Leeds to London crossed the River Calder via Wakefield Bridge (often called Chantry Bridge), along Manygates Lane (then called Cock and Bottle Lane), and Castle Lane to the Three Houses and then along Chevet Lane to Royston, eventually joining the Great North Road. See map.

Sandal Magna's elected Surveyor of Highways was responsible for the upkeep of highways of the township, and getting householders to fulfil their obligations was not always easy.

A similar situation prevailed throughout the country and, in an attempt to meet the growing need for better roads, turnpike roads were introduced. Tolls were levied at the bars or turnpike gates, and these were used to pay for road maintenance.

Barnsley Turnpike Road was first opened in 1756. Bars were erected at various points to prevent people using the side roads and so avoid paying tolls. Later, the stage coaches provided much of the income from the turnpikes. In 1777 it took 2.5 days to travel from Leeds to London on the turnpikes.

In 1836 the fastest stage coach to London took 23 hours to complete the journey. That would have been a gruelling journey on the Great North Road (now the A1 more or less) at an average speed of 8 miles an hour (13 km/h).

The turnpike at Sandal Bar closed in 1876 - well into the era of the railways. For a while, stage coaches, canals and railways all co-existed. The Royal Mail coach through Sandal ceased in 1840 when the business was transferred to the railway. The Royal Mail stage coach travelled at an average speed of 10 mph (16 km/h).


Highwaymen were a constant threat. By 1782, a stage coach from Leeds to London (taking a mere 2 days) was advising passengers that it did not travel during the night near London as that was a high risk area for attacks by highwaymen. Often glamourised, the highwaymen were, in reality, just common thugs and murderers. Their lives were brutish, they were generally ungallant, and their lives often short.

One of Sandal Magna's last Highway robberies happened in 1780, when the coachman kept his life only because the highwayman's pistol misfired. Leeds Intelligencer 18/07/1780.

Read more about William Nevison, an infamous highwayman captured in Sandal Magna. He was credited with the epic ride from London (actually Gadshill in Kent on the London to Dover road) to York, some three hundred or so kilometres (around two hundred miles) in 15 hours (at one time Dick Turpin was credited with this ride, but that is now accepted as a work of fiction).

Warwick the Kingmaker

Captain James Hind robbing Col. Harrison in Maidenhead Thicket.
For this crime, Hind was drawn, hanged and quartered at Worcester Gaol on
Friday 24th September 1652, aged 34 years.
(from A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen,
Footpads, Shoplifts & Cheats of Both Sexes
by Captain Alexander Smith, 1933 reprint of the 5th edition published in 1719.)


"Hind made our wealth one common store,
he robb'd the rich to feed the poor,-
What did immortal Caesar more

No doubt the good captain shared the spoils from his acts of thuggery.
A somewhat romantic view of a criminal from
"To the Memory of Captain Hind", by a Poet of His Own Time.
Contained in
Lives and Exploits of English Highwaymen, Pirates & Robbers,
by Capt. Charles Johnson,
London, Henry G. Bohn, York St., Covent Garden

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