Leicestershire’s first turnpike road was a section of the main road between London and West Scotland which is now the A6. The road was built in 1726 and ran through Loughborough, Leicester, Kibworth Harcourt and Market Harborough.
The Turnpike Acts authorised Trusts to levy tolls on those using the road and to use that income to repair and improve the road. Trusts could also purchase property to widen or divert existing roads. The trusts were not-for-profit and maximum tolls were set. In 1726 the first Turnpike Trusts, in Leicestershire were the Market Harborough to Leicester and the Loughborough to Leicester Trusts
The Kibworth Harcourt section ran along the current A6 Leicester Road from Leicester turning left into Main Street then following the dogleg of Main Street back onto the Leicester Road at the Rose and Crown Coaching Inn. At first the turnpike road was surfaced with gravel and small stones, but towards the end of the 18th century granite chippings from Mountsorrel began to be used.
In 1766, a fast public stagecoach service commenced from Leicester to London. Coaching Inns were built along the road examples being the Rose and Crown Inn and the Coach and Horses Inn in Kibworth Harcourt.
Travelers were often fearful of being robbed by highwaymen and the Leicester Journal for 12 December 1775 reported that: ‘On Sunday night last the coach bound for London was stopped by a single highwayman near to the second milestone on the Harboro’ Road. He took from the passengers about £14; told them that necessity obliged him to do that or go to goal’.
The first mail coaches passed through Kibworth Harcourt in 1785 and were apparently quite a spectacle. The carriages had emblazoned arms, the coachmen and guards in scarlet and gold. A blunderbuss slung over the guards’ shoulders, with pistols in their belts.
Examples of Royal Mail Coaches
A report by the Turnpike Trust on the route along the dogleg section of Main Street concluded that; ‘The man who could gallop a four in hand through such lanes must have been hard to find’. This report followed a number of accidents and at least one resulted in a fatality, when a coach overturned and several outside passengers were pitched through the windows of nearby houses. The report resulted in a new turnpike route bypassing Main Street which followed the line of the current A6 Leicester Road between the Main Street junctions. This bypass was opened in 1810 and built at a cost of £1,500.00. Such improvements were funded by the payment of tolls by the road users, Examples of the annual income from tolls for the Market Harborough to Loughborough Trusts are: 1834 £5592: 1835 £6798: 1838 £5911.
In 1822 the whole road was surfaced in tarmac. The volume of traffic began to increase until the railway between Leicester and London opened in 1875 when turnpike traffic dwindled and the Turnpike Trust was wound up in 1878.
Writteb by David Adams
The Leicester Journal
Who Were The Beaker People?
The Bell-Beaker culture, sometimes shortened to Beaker culture, Beaker people, or Beaker folk, c. 2900 – 1800 BC is the term for a widely scattered archaeological culture' of prehistoric western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic and running into the early Bronze Age. They were called Beaker because of the shape of their pottery vessels.
The Beaker People were farmers and archers were also the first metalsmiths in Britain, working first in copper and gold, and later in bronze, given its name to the Bronze Age.
The Burial Ground.
A burial ground of Beaker People was found in 1975 situated to the south west of Smeeton Westerby on Smeeton Hill The hill is 500 feet high and on the west side of the hill lies the Beaker Burial Ground. No trace of a burial mound is visible on the ground but the situation would be ideal for one.
The site was discovered during drainage excavations work when at one point the contractor had to excavate a hole by hand to replace a broken section of pipe. It was during this work that the burial site was discovered and human bones and pottery were unearthed. The drainage work carried on and the burial site continued to be disturbed and some artefacts were removed although the majority were subsequently recovered.
Leicestershire Museums were notified and on 3rd September 1975 a team from the museum attended the site. They enlarged the hole and discovered a crouched burial. A crouched burial was a new form of burial rite, called the Beaker burial which began to appear around 4700 years ago, the burial is crouched inhumation where the body is interred, usually on its side with the hip and knee joints bent through an angle of more than 90 degrees, accompanied by a particular pottery known as a beaker. The burial was removed to Leicester Museum;
Beaker Close in Smeeton Westerby is a reminder of this important archaeological find.
Written by David Adams
R A Rutland, ‘A Beaker Burial at Smeeton Westerby, Leicestershire 1875’
This brief note is about Smeeton Westerby resident Captain Thomas Smithies Taylor (born 5 July 1863), who founded a company that was to dominate lens manufacturing in the inter-war period. Through his camera lenses, the world quite literally saw the twentieth century.