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The Milestone Society interviews... Connie Swann

We asked member Connie Swann:


“As far as I am concerned, ‘Milestones’ is a handy one-word peg on which to hang all the interesting aspects of transport and life generally in the past.  The question of who set them up leads to turnpike trusts and roads, the increase in trade and travel that brought them into being, the frustration of those living on busy through routes having to pay for repairs to roads damaged primarily by travellers dashing past contributing nothing to the local economy.  What’s new?!!

Then there was the postal service, The quarrels about distance covered in delivery so that erection of milestones soon became obligatory on the Turnpike Trusts.

The milestones themselves are a delight from the beautifully designed to the naïve.  How sensible to spell ‘Gloucester’ as ‘Gloster’. 

As more became weathered or damaged, a slew of instructions in Turnpike Acts about 1820 insisted that milestones should be upgraded.  By that time, iron was plentiful and cheap so there were plated stones.  Sometimes the old stones were just turned round and the plates were fixed to the other side.  It is exciting to find one of those with the incised lettering still legible.

So why do I restore and replace milestones?  They are interesting, most are attractive, they recall a different, slower and in many ways more cruel and difficult way of life.

Who used the turnpike roads?  What were the vehicles like?  Why the differing tolls depending on wheel width? 

The toll-keepers were a remarkable breed almost universally hated.  Charles Dickens said that it was a calling that attracted ‘those who had had a disappointment in life’.

People tried to avoid payment or get off with paying less. I wonder if there were any toll-keepers amongst my ancestors?! “

The Night Mail

The Night Mail