The turnpike age arrived in the East Riding in 1744 with a toll-road connecting Hull and Beverley and over the next 50 years others followed, including the road from Beverley to York via Kexby Bridge in 1764.  Milestones, which had been made compulsory in 1767, can be found on almost all of them. 

What is unusual about the East Riding milestones, however, is the number that are not in the common so-called ‘tombstone’ style, but double up as horse mounting-blocks (also referred to as horsing-stones).  They usually have three steps, though a few have only two, quite steep ones.  Historic England, which has listed many of them, describes them as early 19th century, but some are possibly the original ones from the 18th century, and many are badly eroded. 

The place-names and mileages are given on a cast-iron plate attached to the top of the stone.  Some of these have been lost, and many are more modern replacements.  The original stones, however, are thought to have the mileage information carved on them: an example on the A166 near Skirpenbeck, 4 km east of Stamford Bridge has “York 11 miles” on a modern plate on the front, but with the original same details carved in an oval cartouche on the other side.  (Illustration on Geograph).

Nearly half the milestones in the East Riding recorded by the Milestone Society are of this type – 51 in all – more than twice as many as in the rest of Yorkshire.  They can be found, for example, on all but one of the six roads leading out of Beverley, and on the Hull-Hedon and Hull-South Cave turnpikes.

Illustrated here are:

  • (left) a very eroded example at Walkington, on the Beverley to Howden road.  Lacking its plate the hole by which it would have been attached is clearly visible.  The milestones on this road are of the less common two-step pattern, and the steps are rather steep;
  • (right) a plateless stone from Beverley, on the A1035 just west of the town centre;

The restoration of one, Beverley 8 / Malton 20, in 2005 has been documented by the Milestone Society (but not currently traced on website).  The verge level was by then up to the height of the first step, and it was in a dangerous position, having been hit several times; the top step had eroded, and the distance plate was in a sorry state.  The account of the subsequent removal, refurbishment and repositioning in a safer place nearby is a useful account of how it should be done.

Another project was the removal of the Beverley 21 / York 8 stone at Wilberfoss, near the terminus of the Beverley to Kexby BridgeTurnpike Trust.  The Trust was established in 1764, and the road was due to connect from Kexby, on the Riding boundary, to York via the York to Kexby Bridge Turnpike, established a year layer.  Improvements to this road, the present A1079, meant that Wilberfoss was by-passed, and in 2012 the now little-noticed milestone was moved to the new road, where it can be seen by everyone passing with an eye for interesting and historic roadside features.

On some only two steps are visible, but the majority are three-step blocks.  On some two-step blocks it is possible that a bottom step has been covered, following improvements to the carriage-way and associated verge works.  On others the steps are quite deep and so probably were originally two-stepped.  A metal plate of varying design is normally attached to the block.

RWH / Jan 2022