Turnpikes, Tollhouses & Coaches: On-line Resources for a Cheshire Researcher

By Keith Lawrence

While most of the on-line resources referred to in this article are free, some require a subscription, although Ancestry.co.uk is usually freely available in public libraries. The time period covered finishes in the late 1870 when the Turnpike Trusts gradually fade away and long-distance coaching has died but some short-stage coaches remain.

The resources will be considered under five heading:-

1. Maps
2. Directories
3. Genealogy
4. Historic Newspapers
5. Useful Websites


Cheshire has a particularly wide range of on-line resources for anyone interested in the historical mapping of roads. E-mapping Victorian Cheshire (http://maps.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps/) hosted by the Cheshire archives has placed nearly 500 Tithe Maps on line with the details of land ownership and occupation. The opening screen of the site shows a ‘Search Tithe Maps’ panel. The easiest way to follow a road through the county is by searching by ‘specific townships’. The route of the A34 southwards from Manchester can be followed by choosing the following Townships along the route: Cheadle, Handford, Bollin Fee, Pownall Fee, Nether Alderley, Birtles, Capesthorne, Siddington, Marton, Eaton, Congleton, Newbold Astbury, Moreton cum Alcumlow, Odd Rode and Church Lawton. The search will then bring up a double screen with the Tithe Map on the left and a potential range of maps on the right – it will usually open with the modern road map.

As an example if we search for Newbold Astbury the twin maps will show Astbury under ‘Modern Map’ – the tithe map on the left has no usable detail. Centre the modern map on the A34 adjacent to Astbury and enlarge the map by three divisions and follow the modern A34 (Newcastle Road) northwards until a road junction with words Cross (in archaic script) and Sinks (blue coloured script) can be seen. The Tithe Map will be showing a junction between maps; a cream coloured map below and a grey version above. On the right hand map click the tab ‘Plot Details’ – a cursor will appear in the left screen and the ownership and occupation details of the site in the right window. Move the Tithe Map so the cursor lies above the lowest apex of the triangle of buildings, at the road junction, on the grey map. This is the Astbury Marsh Tollgate just south of Congleton owned by the Trustees of the Lawton and Wilmslow Turnpike Road, showing the occupant as Charles Goodwin (the toll collector). On the left hand map click on the tab – Large Map and more detail is revealed that can be printed with all associated information, including the Ordnance Survey Grid Reference. The twin map views can also be printed providing the same information and the modern map but at a reduced size.

There are few surprises in the modern routing, outside the major towns, as there appears to have been little realignment during the turnpike era. One major re-alignment is evident near Little Morton Hall (Township – Odd Rode). The road on the Tithe Map is shown due east of the modern road. It runs from just south of Dairybrook Bridge in the north passing east of three lakes shown on the modern OS map, along two field boundaries, a track to a wood and a further field boundary before disappearing in the field immediately north of Little Moreton Hall (SJ 839 608 to SJ 832 589).

This site provides a relatively easy to use and very detailed mapping system to characterise the mid-Nineteenth Century route of the A34.
The Cheshire Local History Society has digitised a series of historic Cheshire maps from Saxton to Bryant (http://www.cheshirehistory.org.uk/archive//index.php?id=12). Useful road information on the A34 can only really be extracted from the 1777 Burdett, 1819 Greenwood & 1831 Bryant maps.
The site opens with the 1577 Christopher Saxton map on screen. Click on the down arrow to reveal the other available maps – click on the chosen map and then on the view button, when the map appears use the ‘Click here to view large image’. This then takes you into the ‘Zoomify’ view which allows dynamic enlargement of the map. Three clicks and the townships of Cheadle and Wilmslow can soon be found on the northern border of Cheshire. If we view the 1777 Burdett Map first. The distance between Wilmslow and Cheadle is shown with mile markers labelled 1-5, but not elsewhere on the route, except for a 1 that appear above Talk o’ th’ Hill on the Sandbach Road. While there are concerns on the accuracy of the map it remains Cheshire’s only large scale Eighteenth Century map with road cover.

The 1819 Christopher Greenwood Map appears far superior and shows more detail in the roads. There is a consistent presentation of mileages between towns and the introduction of T.B. for Toll Bar. For example on the road south from Cheadle it passes through Bradshaw Brow, passes a Smithy, skirts Griffin and adjacent to Hulbert Green are the initials T.B. , another much larger set of initials can be seen just north of Congleton as well as a T.H. (Toll House) just south of Eaton Hall. Even though most of the route of the A34 had been turnpiked by this date these appear to be the only three toll gates identified.

The 1831 map by A. Bryant is coloured and it is far easier to follow the major red-coloured roads. The mileages between towns are consistent and accurate. Bryant also used T.B.to indicate Toll Bars and he shows his first site in Cheadle, then Hurlbate Green, Chorley, north of Marton near Siddington Gorse, Eaton, three in the immediate area of Congleton, Hall Green just south of Odd Rode, the Red Bull Inn Crossroads and just over the border into Staffordshire – the Talk o’ th’ Hill gate near the White Lion Inn. While not a complete listing of the tollgates, especially round Congleton, it probably represents a very high percentage of those operating during the period of mapping. This is a high quality map approaching the standards that would be achieved by the Ordnance Survey.

There is a string of other Cheshire Maps available from the Map House of London (http://www.themaphouse.com/). On the opening page click on English Counties – All Maps of CHESHIRE. The first useful map for tracing the A34 is the 1793 John Cary – click on the button ‘More Details’ and then on ‘Zoom map’. The map is coloured and shows the route of the A34 clearly but there are no mileages on this particular road as it is not a major Direct or Cross Road as would be followed in Cary’s Road Books. The 1808 Richard Phillips, 1840 Archibald Fullerton, 1848 Samuel Lewis, 1863 Edward Weller and 1870 J&C Walker add little extra to our knowledge of the route of the A34. They do, however, begin to show the development of the railway network in Cheshire.

The National Library of Scotland has provided what is perhaps the most interesting on-line map resource for Cheshire – the Ordnance Survey 6” to the mile maps (http://maps.nls.uk/os/6inch-england-and-wales/index.html). The easiest route to the maps is to click on ‘As individual sheets using a zoomable map of England and Wales’. In the left hand ‘County’ box choose Cheshire. The initial County screen reached is zoomable and a few clicks will bring you to Congleton. Click on the red coloured square nearest your target and a series of maps are offered on the right hand side of the screen – choose for example Cheshire Sheet LI (inset LII); Surveyed 1873 and Published 1882. Zoom in and just south of Congleton at The Marsh, adjacent to the Parish Reading Room we can see T.P representing the same Tollgate as shown in the Tithe Maps. In addition continue south and the re-aligned turnpike road near Morteton and Old (Little) Moreton Hall is evident following the line observed on modern maps. With patience the whole route of the A34 is available as a series of very detailed maps contemporary with the turnpike trusts.

There is one final image of interest and that is a diagram of the ‘Turnpike Roads of Lancashire & Cheshire’ from a paper by William Harrison in the Transactions of the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society (1886. Volume 4. Pages 237-247). (http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/project/teaching/civil/historic_construction/sources/maptpike_p1.php) or (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genmaps/genfiles/COU_files/ENG/LAN/maptpike_p1d.htm). The future A34 is clearly marked and the date of the turnpike roads are listed. As Harrison used different colours for particular periods of road turnpiking it is possible to see the development of the network over time. First the important London roads, secondly the major towns and finally the filling in of minor gaps in the network.


Directories provide a description of a city or town at a particular point in time. There a listings for individuals, occupations and transport services (both coaches and carriers). All of which can contribute to a history for what is now designated the A34. From the name of coaching inns, the proprietors, coaching and carrier operations and an indication of the manufacturing specialities of the towns and villages we can build a history.

The combined services of Cheshire West & Chester and Cheshire East Councils have provided access to a small number of useful Directories covering the turnpike and coaching era (http://cheshiredirectories.manuscripteye.com/). The towns and villages along the route of the A34 can be found in the following Directories:-

1789 Cowdroy’s Directory of Cheshire
1822-23 Pigot’s Directory of Cheshire
1857 Post Office Directory of Cheshire
1864 Morris & Co’s Directory of Cheshire
1878 Post Office Directory of Cheshire

For use they need downloading either as a single Directory or in parts, with the largest files being around 20 MB.

Leicester University (Special Collections OnLine) has a small number of useful Directories on line (http://leicester.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16445coll4/hd/):

1828-29 Pigot’s Directory of Cheshire
1850 Samuel Bagshaw’s History, Gazeteer & Directory of Cheshire
1874 Morris & Co’s directory of Cheshire.

These Directories can be downloaded either as a whole or more usefully individual pages. The easiest way to find information on this site is to use the top tab ‘Browse by Location’ and to click on to Cheshire from the list on the right of the screen. As an example click on Pigot & Co’s Directory of Cheshire, Cumberland …, 1828-1829. When the new screen opens click on ‘Text Search’ tab on the left of the screen – enter Congleton and 28 references are found. There are 8 references on Page 21 – the beginning of the Congleton section, however it is Page 24 that shows the Coaches and Carriers passing through the town. With the coaches showing the times of departure it is possible to follow the Liverpool to London Royal Mail along its route and construct a timetable. To avoid frustration note that the page image is a .pdf and you will need to hover the mouse in the bottom right hand corner to trigger the menu to allow you to fit the image of the page to the screen.

Directories are also available on most of the Genealogy websites but I will just use Ancestry.co.uk as an example. Mainly because the Ancestry Library Edition is available free in Cheshire public libraries. On the Home page select Search – Schools, Directories and Church Histories (Screen 1). In the right hand box ‘Narrow by Category’ select ‘City and Area Directories’ (Screen 2) and on the next screen (Screen 3) under ‘Featured data collections’ select UK, City and County Directories 1600-1900s. On Screen 4 under the ‘Browse this collection’ select Country England and County Cheshire, which appears alone and along with Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland, Staffordshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire in a variety of combinations. Choose Cheshire alone and the following Directories are listed:-

1828-29 Pigot’s Directory
1834 Pigot’s Directory
1850 Bagshaw’s Directory
1855 Slater’s Directory
1860 White’s Directory
1865 Post Office Directory

The Directories on Ancestry are examined page by page so for instance in the 1834 Pigot’s Directory the Index of Towns starts on page 7 of 149 with Congleton listed as starting on Page 26 in the book which translates to 28 of 149 on screen – the Coaches and Carriers are on Page 31 of 149.

This is the only practical way to move around these Directories to find out about the transport services and occupations as genealogy sites are primarily for finding people not things.


FreeCen (http://www.freecen.org.uk/cgi/search.pl) is a site to keep a close eye on for the future as volunteers transcribe more of the national censuses on to this site. While at the moment Cheshire is poorly represented examination of the Devon censuses shows what can be achieved. The main benefit of this site is that you can search on Occupation in the 1841-1891 censuses. Choose the year 1861 and the County Devon and search under Occupation for Toll and there are over 200 listings of toll collectors many with addresses for the toll houses.

This type of search is not possible with the subscription sites because of the way the information was collected. It is certainly not impossible to find tollhouses and toll collectors on Ancestry (http://home.ancestry.co.uk/) using the ‘Browse’ function – as an example open the 1861 UK Census Collection and from the submenu at the bottom of the page the 1861 England Census. The familiar ‘Browse this collection’ is presented in the top right. Choose Cheshire and Civil Parish – Newbold Astbury (Enumeration District 19). There are 33 pages and no indication in the description of the enumeration district that the Astbury Marsh Toll Gate was included – however persist and on Page 31 of 33 we find Jeremiah Painter, Ag Lab & Toll Gate Keeper, Marsh Toll Gate. His wife Mariah and 3 children are shown on the next page – Reference RG9/2612/19 Pages 30-31. Using the same process for Eaton (Enumeration District 8), on Page 3 of 9, a William Slack (Shoe Maker & Toll Collector) can be found at the Eaton Toll Gate along with his wife Elizabeth and 3 children – Reference RG9/2586/65 Page 2. In a description of the Enumeration District 8 the Macclesfield to Congleton and the Congleton and Wilmslow Turnpike roads are mentioned but not the tollhouse.

There is a database of over 4,000 toll collectors in England & Wales derived from the censuses available at http://turnpikes.org.uk/KL%20Toll%20Collectors%20for%20Turnpikes.org.uk.htm, however there are not many Cheshire entries.

Historic Newspapers

The British Newspaper Archive (http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/) is an example of a subscription site, although it appears to be included within the databases of some of the Genealogy websites e.g. ‘Find My Past’. Cheshire is represented on the sites by three newspapers:-

Cheshire Chronicle
Cheshire Courant
Cheshire Observer

All the titles cover the period of the turnpike trusts and coaching and the history of trusts can be built up by the advertisements announcing the general meeting, unusual meetings for discussing issues like new tollgates and the yearly auctions for tolls where the gates under offer and the previous year’s results are listed.

An advertisement in the Chester Chronicle (Friday 19th October 1810 – No 1841 Page 1) for the auction of tolls for the Wilmslow to Church Lawton Trust lists the tollgates and the previous year’s rent.
The two Chorley Gates £236
Siddington and Road-lane Gates £474
West-lane Gate £197
Marsh Gate £117
Hall Green Gate £279

This list gives a good foundation to compare with the sites shown on the 1831 Bryant map, the Tithe maps and the Ordnance Survey 6 ins. to the mile maps.

The advertisements by coaching inns carry details of the names, destination and often the timing of the coaches. The actual route of the coach is not always present but can be reconstructed for a named coach.

Useful Web-sites

With the proliferation of information on the web we have had an explosion in local history of towns and villages. Much of this information is accurate but it really does need to be checked if it going to be used in any sort of serious study. There is one outstanding web site covering coaching in Cheshire and that is Carl’s Cam (http://www.carlscam.com/coach.htm). The site covers the A34 showing coaches moving through Wilmslow and Congleton from Manchester. The extensive list has been built up from Directories and Newspapers and is presented as town lists or individual timetables for the coaches; including the distance travelled, time taken and average speed. This website allows us to view a picture of the Cheshire coach traffic at its peak before the railways effectively killed long-distance coaching from the mid-1830s onwards.

Finally do not neglect ‘Google Books’ as a source of downloadable books of antiquarian interest. Access to the book is shown by the presence of the word ‘Read’ in the third line of the description. The search term Paterson’s Roads brings up editions from 1808, 1822, 1824 and 1831 – why should we be interested in this book? This book was designed to be carried by coach travellers and it contains details of the routes from London (Direct Roads) and between major towns (Cross Roads). Incidental information accompanying the lists includes mileages, location of some tollgates but prominently the homes of the local gentry seen from the road. Likewise the search term Cary’s Roads brings up the 1784, 1786, 1791, 1793, 1802, 1817 and 1828 editions of the other major road book. The use of Ogilvy Itinerary will bring up the 1804 edition of yet a third book competing for the custom of the coach traveller and Owen’s Roads the 1784 and 1808 of yet another of this type of book. An atlas of Eighteenth Century maps can be found using Cary’s Atlas as a search term with the 1793 edition of County maps being available for download or searchable within the website.

Another class of book easily found on Google Books are the gazetteers contemporary with the turnpikes such as the James Bell Gazetteer of England and Wales. A more in depth knowledge of the law associated with turnpike roads can be found using the search terms Bateman Turnpike; Woolrych Highways; Foote Turnpike; Colwell Turnpike or Wellbeloved Highways.

Simple searches using the name of the town can show titles that can be downloaded or searched within the site for example – Congleton History will bring up Samuel Yates book entitled “An history of the ancient town and borough of Congleton” using the search box on the left adjacent to the Go button insert the search term Turnpike and you will be rewarded by the fact that …
“On the 4th February, 1803, the sum of £200, was ordered by the corporation towards altering the turnpike road, or principal thoroughfare through Mill-Street. This liberal grant was, doubtless, made to facilitate the general advantages attainable by the improved state of the turnpike road from London to Manchester and Liverpool, which passes through West-Street and Mill-Street.”

More advanced searches can uncover some detailed Governmental Reports such as “Turnpike Trusts. An Abstract of the General Statements of the Income and Expenditure”. The 1838 report lists the individual Cheshire Trusts, including those covering the current route of the A34.


It is now possible to undertake some serious desk based studies of Cheshire roads using freely available web-sites and undertaking the occasional visit to the County Records Office or public library. Even the archives can be searched from the comfort of your home and a specific hit list of materials drawn up before your visit. It should be easier than ever to undertake serious historical research except for one thing. This article is only about sources and how to use them it has not provided the questions for which these facts may provide an answer. I will leave you to conjure up the insightful questions and I can only hope that this list of resources may make a small contribution to your success in finding the answers.

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