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The Iron Bridge and the Turnpike Trusts

With the increase in travel, there was a need for the relatively narrow stone-built town bridge to be replaced with one more suited to stage coaches rather than pack horses.  In addition, the three stone arches acted as a barrier, holding back the water and creating problems in time of flood. Barges going under the bridge often became stuck as the tide rose and cargoes were swamped.  It was decided that an iron bridge was required, with the emphasis being on a high arch, copying the one developed at Coalbrookdale by Andrew Darby.  The various parts were cast at Ironbridge in 1795 and from there floated down the River Severn on rafts, and up the River Parrett to Bridgwater.

Roads need to be maintained.  Historically no one bothered.  Travel was so limited that green tracks were sufficient for the foot and horse travellers. These caused little wear and tear.  The introduction of wheeled traffic changed that.  As early as 1501 we can find evidence of local merchants paying for the maintenance of the road between Bridgwater and Taunton. By the early eighteenth century, the Turnpike Act had been introduced which allowed tolls to be charged for their maintenance.  In 1730 the Bridgwater Turnpike Trust was set up, a body which was to last until 1870 when the Motor Car Act was introduced.

Text Copyright © 2008 Roger Evans

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