March 2012

The Sedbergh Turnpike Trust and its milestones

A Sedbergh Trust milestone in upper Dentdale

The Sedbergh Turnpike Trust, based in the far north-west corner of the old West Riding, was unusual in that rather than having a single road going from A to B, it comprised five roads all radiating from Sedbergh.

The Act establishing the Trust was passed in 1761/2, and covered the following roads:

  • eastwards to Askrigg in the North Riding; following roughly the line of the present A684, but at Appersett taking what is now a minor road to Hardraw and along the northern side of Wensleydale to Askrigg;
  • westwards to Kendal in Westmorland (1762): the continuation of the present A684:
  • to Kirkby Lonsdale in Westmorland (1762): leaving the Kendal road a mile west of Sedbergh at the Borrett Toll Bar, and heading south along the present A683.  (The present B6256, a couple of miles west of Sedbergh, which connects the Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale roads, was presumably also turnpiked as there is a milestone on it);
  • north-east to Kirkby Stephen in Westmorland (1765), branching off the Askrigg road at the east end of the town – the continuation of the present A683;
  • south-east to Dent (1802?): the only one of the Trust’s roads completely in the West Riding.  From Dent, mileposts continue on the road on the north side of Dentdale to Cowgill (whose bridge has an interesting plaque – click here for photo) and as far as the Hawes-Ingleton road, suggesting the Trust’s responsibilities extended beyond Dent itself. 

In 1840 the Trust is recorded as having 62 miles of road and seven main gates.

The Sedbergh Trust’s milestones are all to a standard, distinctive pattern:  a rectangular base with up to 50 cm of worked stone, plus rougher stone deeper in the ground; above this is a D-shaped column with a slightly domed top.  The whole is shaped from a single piece of stone and has a rough unworked back.  Destinations are indicated simply by their initial letters – though in Dentdale only the mileage to Sedbergh is shown – and some stones have the township name on the base. 

These milestones survive on all the Trust’s roads except the Hawes road (A684), where they were replaced by the new County Council mileposts (West and North Riding).  Those on the Dent road were presumably considered too minor for the West Riding County Council to replace them in 1894.  Similarly the WRCC did not bother to replace the milestones on the short West Riding stretches of two of the roads which led into Westmorland, to Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale.

In 1825 the road from Hawes to Kirkby Stephen was turnpiked.  The central section of this, from the lonely Moorcock Inn at Garsdale Head to Appersett, was the existing Sedbergh-Askrigg road; from Appersett the turnpike continued to Hawes and Gayle, and from the Moorcock it went down Mallerstang to Kirkby Stephen.  Its milestones are similar in design to those of the Sedbergh Trust. 

Sources: Geoffrey N Wright: Roads and trackways of the Yorkshire Dales (Moorland Publishing, 1985); Christine Minto: The Sedbergh Turnpike (Milestone Society Newsletter, Jan 2006, no 10, p 17);
RWH/April 2012

The Sedbergh Turnpike Trust and its milestones Read More »

The Huddersfield Improvement Boundary stones

The Trinity Street stone
At the beginning of the 19th century Huddersfield was a small but increasingly populous township on the north-west side of the River Colne.  Public services were fragmented and mediaeval at best, and accordingly in 1820 the Ramsden family, or some enlightened citizens (it is uncertain which), sponsored an Act of Parliament “for lighting watching and cleansing the town of Huddersfield …”

The Act covered only a part of the town, that within a 1200 yard radius of the market-place, with the River Colne (the traditional boundary between the Huddersfield and Almondbury parishes) forming the boundary on the east and south.  Even this relatively small area was contentious, for it intruded into the areas of the self-governing hamlets of Fartown and Marsh.

This was followed in 1848 by another Act, known as the Huddersfield Improvement Act, whose jurisdiction again extended to the same 1200-yard limit. 

Two boundary stones from this period definitely survive: one on the road to Halifax (A629) on the right-hand side of the road (leaving the town centre), near the brow of the hill; and on Trinity Street, the road to Outlane / New Hey (A640) on the left-hand side, outside no 163.  Both are clearly carved with the letters and date “H. I. B. 1848”.

We believe a third stone exists, on Bradford Road.  This is just after its junction with Halifax Old Road, on the left-hand side of the road leaving the town centre.  It is roughly the same size and shape as the other two stones, but has no marks on it – and the back is buried under the ground level.

Others may have existed, but will have disappeared with later development; and old maps are unhelpful.

The boundary continued as a ward boundary into the 20th century, but by the 1918 Ordnance Survey map boundaries have been rationalised, and although in places the circular line survived, most now follow streets rather than arbitrarily cutting through houses, etc.

Sources: David Griffiths: Pioneers or partisans? – governing Huddersfield 1820-1848 (Hudds Local History Soc, 2008); information from Milestone Society members.  RWH / March 2012.

The Huddersfield Improvement Boundary stones Read More »

Dial Stone at Slaithwaite Manor House

Slaithwaite’s Dial Stone: a Roman milestone

Dial Stone at Slaithwaite Manor HouseIn the 16th century a stone was found in Booth Bank Clough, between Slaithwaite and Marsden, one of the little streams that drops down into the River Colne.  It was set up, in 1587, in the grounds of Slaithwaite Manor House, and became known as the Dial or Dyall Stone.  Despite having been taken, for some unknown reason, to the Isle of Man in the 19th century, and later re-sited outside Slaithwaite Town Hall on Lewisham Road, it can still be seen at the Manor House, off Nabbs Lane in the centre of Slaithwaite.

It is cylindrical, about five feet in height, 19” in diameter and with a circumference of five feet.  There are no signs of any inscription on it.

For a long time it has been thought to be a Roman milestone, and recent excavations by the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society have shown that it almost certainly is one.  A route connecting the fort at Castleshaw in Saddleworth via Marsden to the fort at Slack, near Outlane on the outskirts of Huddersfield, has long been reported to exist (eg by mapmaker John Warburton in 1720), but its exact line had always been in doubt.  Excavations by the Society over nearly 40 years have now enabled this route to be ascertained much more clearly, and a milestone could well have been erected near the spot where the Dial Stone was found.  The absence of an inscription is not unusual: letters, etc could have been painted on it.

Although the Dial Stone had a sundial positioned on it at one point in its eventful history, it is probable that Dial is an alternative form of the word Devil, from some mediaeval superstition relating monoliths such as this to the Devil.  Roman milestones have elsewhere been referred to as “devil stones”, and one of the milestones now at Aldborough was found at a place still known as Duel Cross – Duel being one of several variant forms of the same concept.  The Devil was thought to be responsible for all sorts of geological formations or prehistoric features (causeways, dykes, ditches, etc).

It has been suggested that a stone that can be seen in a garden in nearby Golcar is also a milestone from the same road.  It is very similar in size and shape.  This is on Church Street near its junction with Manor Road.

Sources: Norman Lunn and others: The Romans came this way (HDAS, 2008);

RWH / rev October 2021

Slaithwaite’s Dial Stone: a Roman milestone Read More »

A hexagonal guide-stoop near Stocksbridge

One of the most unusual guide-stoops in the county can be found just off the A616 Stocksbridge bypass in South Yorkshire: it is, as far as we know, unique in having six sides.

In the absence of pointing fingers, a traveller was to take the road to the right while facing the destination name on the stone.  But here the road layout is far from clear: in fact there are only five routes leading from the stoop in evidence today.

Going anti-clockwise from the north the destinations read as follows:

a)  Peni / stone / Huthe / rsfield / & / Halli / fax.  This route is shown on the modern OS map only as a right of way heading north-north-west from the stone.

b)  Wood / head / & / Mottra[m].  The present Salter Hill Lane; as its name implies, this route is the old saltway from Cheshire via Longdendale to Yorkshire, preceding but following roughly the same route as the 1732-40 turnpike, now the A628; several old milestones survive on it.

c)  Under / bank / & / Brad / field.  Going roughly southwards: the present Underbank Lane.

d)  Shef / field / & / Rotter / eham.  The main continuation of the saltway into South Yorkshire: the present Tofts Lane.

e)  Barns / ley / & / Ponte / fract / 1734 / Don / caster.  There is no obvious route going in this direction from this point.

f)  Wake / field / & / Leeds.  The present Dyson Cote Lane, heading north-north-east. 

The easiest way to find the stone is from the Stocksbridge bypass (A616): take the turn-off south directing to the Steelworks (West Access), followed shortly by the next left turn, which is Underbank Lane, going under the bypass and uphill to the junction.

Sources: English Heritage; and B Elliott: Discovering South Yorkshire (1998)
RWH / March 2012

A hexagonal guide-stoop near Stocksbridge Read More »

Chapelry boundary stones

Up to the 19th century a parish was a parish, for both church and local government purposes.  In the north some parishes were very large, covering many separate settlements.  (The largest was Rochdale, whose huge area extended even into Yorkshire).  For local government purposes these large parishes were divided into townships; Bradford, for example, contained thirteen and Halifax over twenty.  Similarly, for ecclesiastical purposes, because the parish church could be so far away, chapelries were created, and chapels of ease were built in outlying districts (eg at Elland, Heptonstall, Ripponden and Sowerby in Halifax parish).

By the 19th century, however, things were changing, and the Church of England was facing a number of challenges: rapid population growth; the social upheaval caused by the industrial revolution; and the growth of non-conformism.  Its response was to build thousands of new churches, all over England and Wales.

For each one the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would present a draft order to the monarch for the creation of a new chapelry.  These orders were all published in the London Gazette – then as now the repository for all official public notices.  The full text of this is available online at, and it has a sophisticated advanced search facility.

The orders follow a standard pattern.  For example, the 1860 order for Upper Hopton St John, in the West Riding, gives firstly the reason for a new chapelry: “at certain extremities of the [parishes] of Mirfield and … Kirkheaton … which lie contiguous one to another … there is collected together a population which is situate at a distance from the several churches of [the] respective parishes”.

Then follows a detailed description (the schedule) of the line its boundary will follow.  Boundary stones are often mentioned: from its stated starting point the Upper Hopton boundary extends “northeastward, for a distance of 3,294 feet, to a point where a boundary stone inscribed ‘U. H. St. J. C. C. 1860, No. 1’ has been placed.”  It goes on to describe the locations of eight more boundary stones.

In the single issue of the London Gazette that includes the Upper Hopton chapelry (no 22440, published on 30th October, 1860) there are no fewer than 25 orders for new chapelries, of which nine have references to boundary stones.  Unlike Upper Hopton, however, most have only two or three.

Where none are mentioned the usual explanation would appear to be that the boundary line is fairly clear, following named roads, or that the boundary is the same as an existing township (or occasionally hamlet) boundary.  Interestingly they do not always follow an obvious existing boundary.

Most boundary stones were carved to a standard format, always using abbreviations.  Thus in the photograph here we have the place name (Batley), the church name (St T – the lowercase t of St has got chipped off here), the chapelry type (here DC for District Chapelry), the date (year), and finally the number as given in the schedule (including No 1 if there is only one).  Chapelries were of two kinds: a district chapelry if the new district was carved out of a single existing parish; or a consolidated chapelry (CC) if it was created out of more than one.

So far in Yorkshire we have found chapelry boundary stones for a number of churches, but many more remain to be tracked down.  This is very much work in progress, but those found so far are:

Abbeydale [Sheffield] St John CC, 1877: at least one of six survive; others not yet traced

Batley St Thomas DC, 1869: two of five stones survive

Cleckheaton St Luke District, 1878: no stones traced to date

Dewsbury St Mark CC, 1868: one stone to trace

Dewsbury St Philip CC, 1879: two stones named: to be checked

Girlington [Bradford] St Philip DC, 1860: one stone outside a car showroom on Thornton Road, opposite junction with Hockney Road

Harley Wood [Todmorden] All Saints CC, 1864: one stone – traced 

Helme [Meltham] District, 1854: two stones, both still in situ

Hunslet [Leeds] St Cuthbert CC 1885: two stones listed: to check

Lepton St John DC, 1870: three stones, all still in situ

Mirfield Eastthorpe St Paul CC, 1881: two stones, neither currently traced, though one was photographed c 1985. 

Rawmarsh [Rotherham] Park Gate Christ Church CC, 1869: four stones, to be checked 

Ryhill [near Wakefield] St James CC, 1876: two stones located so far (out of five)

Stanningley St Thomas DC, 1862: at least two of the three stones survive

Thorpe [Sowerby Bridge] St John CC, 1881: two stones, both still in situ

Upper Hopton [Mirfield] St John CC, 1860: originally nine stones, but only one found so far

Windhill [Shipley] Christ Church DC, 1870: one of the five stones has been recorded

As well as these there are others where no stones exist due to later road etc developments.  

The orders in the London Gazette also refer to plans, though these are not published in the journal.  Presumably they exist in the National Archives, and copies may be available in local archives, though their survival locally would appear to depend on the whims of local vicars.  You may find maps showing ecclesiastical parish boundaries, however, on a useful Church of England website,  This lists every church in England with a map (click on ‘Find us’), which often, but not always, shows the actual parish boundary.  Where churches have amalgamated into teams, however, only the present boundary is shown.

The New Parishes Act of 1843 made a provision that any new ecclesiastical district constituted under the Act would automatically become a new parish when the church had been consecrated.

Source: adapted from a talk to the Milestone Society by Richard Heywood at Hebden, April 2010.  RWH / last updated Jan 2022

Chapelry boundary stones Read More »