The East Riding of Yorkshire is the smallest of the three Ridings and, unless you live there, a bit off the beaten track.  It is, however, packed with interest

While people had travelled from place to place since prehistoric times, and it is possible that some of their tracks became, via later travellers in mediaeval times, the roads of today, it was the Romans who built the first roads.  These were, of course, for military purposes and took no notice of the local population.  One road started in Brough (Petuaria) – a continuation of the road from London via Lincoln (Ermine Street) to the Humber crossing.  South of Market Weighton one branch of this road led via Warter to York and another through the Wolds to Malton.  Another road extended eastward from York via Stamford Bridge across the central Wolds to the North Sea coast at Bridlington.  

While the Roman roads formed the basis of Britain’s main road system (the King’s Highways) they were not necessarily the roads needed by the local population.  Local journeys made by merchants with their packhorses or farmers moving livestock relied on drove roads, some of which had existed since prehistoric times.  They were originally ‘green’ earth roads which avoided most settlements and were largely independent of other road systems.  Many still remain on the Wolds, although most now have a narrow strip of tarmac for motor vehicles.

Later, in the 18th and early 19th centuries, another type of road developed, the enclosure road.  The enclosure movement transformed farming practices and the landscape, but it also affected the road system.  New roads were created to provide access to the newly-created fields.  These roads were often straight, and built to a standard width of 30 to 40 feet, with wide grass verges and bounded by hedges.  Examples of enclosure roads can be found all over the county, including around Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Swanland and Walkington.  More information can be found on the East Riding Museums website mentioned below. The illustration below is taken from a photograph by D S Pugh on Geograph (reference cc-by-sa/2.0 – © DS Pugh – geograph.org.uk/p/3764552) showing an enclosure road leading from Warter to Huggate in SE8750.

The turnpike movement took off in the 1720s, but the first in the East Riding was the Hull to Beverley road in 1744.  Two other trusts were formed in the mid-1740s, for roads from Hull to Kirk Ella (which had become a location of choice for merchants of Hull wishing to live outside the city) and Hedon. 

A second flurry of turnpike acts took place two decades later, when Beverley was the focus of roads to Leven (1761), Kexby Bridge (1764 – and thence to York the following year), Molescroft (1766 – a very short distance) and Hessle (1769).  There was a plan to continue the Leven (White Cross) road to Bridlington in 1767 but this did not materialise. 

Much later (1825) another road linked Hull with North Ferriby.  Here (as the name implies) a ferry ran across the Humber to South Ferriby in Lincolnshire, probably from before the Norman conquest until the opening of the Humber Bridge in 1981.

Turnpikes required toll-houses, but following the demise of the turnpike system in the late 19th century sadly few have survived to the present day.  As elsewhere they have succumbed from being too close to the carriageway.  Toll-houses can still be found, however, at Cottingham, Leven (White Cross) and Woodmansey (near Beverley).

For more information see this very interesting East Riding Museums website on which much of the above is based. Other sources include W Albert: The turnpike road system in England 1663-1840 (Cambridge U P, 1972) and Wikipedia.

RWH / May 2021