The original road from Otley in West Yorkshire to Leeds was turnpiked in 1755.  From Otley it went up the steep road past the Chevin, through Carlton township, along what is now called Otley Old Road, becoming Cookridge Lane and turning back into Otley Old Road to the join the present A660 main Otley Road near the ring-road, and on through Headingley into Leeds.  Before this a pre-turnpike road had taken a slightly more westerly line out of Leeds through Burley and what is now West Park.  The 1755 road improved the line through Headingley.

Because of the steepness of the Chevin route a new line was proposed, and the present main road, the A660, was opened in 1842.  This went north out of Leeds through Adel parish, including the township of Arthington: Between Adel and Bramhope it went through Breary Marsh: this was actually part of Arthington township connected by a narrow strip to the village.  It then continued west through Bramhope and Pool into Otley.

Six milestones survive on the original route, presumably dating from the opening of the original turnpike in the middle of the 18th century.  They are all of a distinctive mounting-block style, stone with destinations carved on the front and side.  Most, however, are now badly weathered, or had their destinations erased as a precautionary measure during World War Two.

One of the new turnpike milestones (taken in 1972)

Five milestones erected by the Turnpike Trust on the new route still exist.  They can be found at 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9 miles from Leeds.  They were left in position when the West Riding County Council carried out their milestone replacement programme in the 1890s, presumably because they were relatively new, dating from no earlier than 1842.  They are similar in design to the later WRCC ones: a triangular iron plate attached to the stone.  Unusually, however, at the top where the WRCC milestones (and others in a similar style) give the road or turnpike name, these give the distance to London.  From the last surviving in the series, nine miles from Leeds and 1½ from Otley, we are told that it is 195¼ miles to London.

There is another set of mileposts along this road which are extremely interesting, and unique in the county.  They are referred to as mileposts, though more exactly they are guide-stones, listing anything up to 11 nearby (usually) locations.  The places named are rarely towns and villages, but tend to be individual buildings, especially churches.  Distances are given in miles and furlongs, but the stones do not appear to indicate directions.  W F Seals’ History of Bramhope (1976) says they were put up in 1850, which would tally with the 1849 opening of stations at Arthington and Horsforth (Carr Bridge), which are among the destinations listed.  A separate article on these is available here (to follow).

One other stone deserves a mention.  It is in Alwoodley township, so not technically on the Otley-Leeds route.  On King Lane, half-surrounded by houses is a relic of the days when this was in the middle of nowhere: a guide-stone directing travellers south to Leeds and north to Otley, presumably erected in response to the County Justices requirements at the end of the 17th century.

RWH / August 2020