Huddersfield has what we believe to be a unique series of milestones, triangular in section, at half-mile intervals on all the main roads radiating from the town centre, as well as on minor roads. On one side it gives the number of miles ‘to Huddersfield’ and on the other side the same number ‘from Huddersfield’. Hence we’ve named them the ‘To and Froms’. For some time we have wondered what purpose they served, and when they were erected, and now researches in the Council archives have found some of the answers.
About 23 milestones are found on the roads leading to the following places (clockwise from the north): Bradford (with one off this on Fartown Green Road); Leeds; Wakefield; Almondbury; Lowerhouses; Newsome; Woodhead (via Holmfirth); Meltham; Blackmoorfoot (the old Austerlands turnpike); Manchester (the new turnpike); Paddock/Longwood; New Hey (with one off this on the road to Lindley); Halifax; and Halifax Old Road. Of these the ones to the Huddersfield suburbs were never turnpiked. There were no stones at the half-mile point from the town centre, and they stopped at the boundary of the pre-1937 Huddersfield Borough. Milestones at Milnsbridge and Grimescar, originally in Linthwaite and Fixby townships (though the latter is now missing) are standard WRCC Brayshaw & Booth stones – as is one on Bradley Road in the north of the Borough.
One theory for the purpose of these stones was that they were related to cab or tram fares. Tram services in Huddersfield (the first municipally-operated system in the country) began in 1883, and it was known that later fares were based on half-mile distances. But, sadly for the tram-fare theory, there are stones on a couple of roads that trams never served.
It was still possible, however, that the same principle had applied to the earlier (horse-drawn) hackney carriage fares. Little has been written on cab services at this period, but in 1890 an Annual Inspection reviewed 48 cabs, 33 hansoms, 42 waggonettes and one omnibus.
Trawling through the Highways Committee minutes provided more evidence to confirm the cab-fares theory: in February 1875 the Moldgreen and Dalton Sub-committee resolved “that a distance post be placed at Primrose Hill for the purpose of calculating the Cab fares”. Primrose Hill is on the Newsome road, one of the non-turnpiked suburban roads. Note that a post is referred to rather than a stone.
Then in December of the same year the Almondbury & Newsome Sub-committee resolved “that a One Mile Stone and a One and a half Mile Stone be erected at Longley Lane and Lowerhouses”. We have no reason to suppose that this is necessarily one of the “to and froms”.
Further research on the Highway Committee minutes may provide further details on other stones, but we have to remember that in 1875 most of the Turnpike Trusts were still in operation, so the Corporation would not be able to erect milestones on the turnpikes.
Meanwhile the Watch Committee minutes were also providing information (it was this committee that regulated hackney carriages). In 1889-90 we find the Fartown, Deighton and Bradley Sub-Committee recommending a revision of the table of distances for cab fares, especially in Fartown, and that these should be measured from the railway station, not the Market Cross. The minutes also referred to a table of distances being published in the [Corporation] Year Book.
The Year Book having been found, it did contain a Cab Fares page, showing charges were levelled on distances for a minimum one mile and for every succeeding half mile (or by quarter hours). There is a list of distances and fares (2 wheeled or 4 wheeled) from the Market Cross.
There are specific locations for each half-mile point. On Bradford Road, for example, the 1½ mile point is “A Mark on the wall 11 yards N. of Mr Dewhirst’s entrance gates.” (This is exactly where the 1½ mile “to and from” stone was situated before being demolished recently by a passing vehicle). All the datum points mentioned are chapels, toll bars, houses, junctions and suchlike, which indicates that the “to and from” stones were not yet in situ by 1890.
We are hoping that further research will provide conclusive evidence of when these unique stones were erected.
In 2012 the only 3 1/2 mile “to and from”, which was rescued during the construction of the M62, was re-erected at Outlane near its original location. Click here for the full story.
Sources: Huddersfield Corporation archives as discussed, in West Yorkshire Archives Service at Huddersfield Library; Roy Brook: Huddersfield Corporation Tramways (1983); article by Jan Scrine in Yorkshire Milestones Newsletter. RWH / revised November 2012.