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 The A449, Clay Street

This road, linking Wolverhampton to the county town of Stafford, had various local names as it wound its way through the village: Hampton Way, Clay Street, High Street and Bucknals Bury.

As it ran from the clay fields, marl pits, ponds and stonepits in the south to the Penk in the north, drainage was always going to be a major problem. For over 200 years, 1555 to 1761, maintenance of the road was the responsibility of Penkridge Parish Vestry who appointed an unpaid Surveyor of Highways to supervise the unpaid work of parishioners (4 to 6 days a year). The increasing traffic and engineering problems meant that a change was needed on this important route.

In 1761 an Act of Parliament was passed for Turnpiking the road from Stone to Gaol Gate, Stafford to Green Gate, Stafford, to Dunston, Penkridge and Streetway (the junction with Watling Street). The act was renewed in 1782, 1796, 1824 and 1829. So some time after 1761, a professional surveyor was appointed, paid labour was contracted (working alongside the unpaid parishioners) and a process of piecemeal sufacing, draining, straightening and widening began. Fingerpost road signs made their appearance. Toll gates were established at Acton Gate and near Rodbaston.

The right to collect the tolls was sold at auction to lessees who paid an annual rent to the Turnpike Trust. By 1829 the rents were,

Penkridge Gate 518

Acton Gate 404

Whitgreave Gate 691

This was a sizeable amount of money and easily covered the amount of money spent on repairing the road, as can be seen from the Trust's expenses for the same year.

Labour 409

Team labour 9

work contracted 106

repair toll houses and gates 5

land purchases 381

stone, gravel 145

salaries clerks, engineers

surveyors 90

Unfortunately more could not be spent on improving the road as the Trust carried a huge debt. In 1829 it repaid 404 but still owed 7927. A report on the road as it passed through Penkridge shows some of the consequences of this under spending.

To within 100 yards of Boosemoor Lane, the surface of the road is very even, only rather flat in cross section; in other respects its condition is very good. In two or three places the sides are soft and want to be properly constructed with gravel; the fences are generally in a slovenly state, and the road is contracted by wide ditches, which for want of leading drains, are during the great part of the year full of water, keeping it moist and damaging the foundation: something should immediately be done to remedy this defect. Material will soon be required on various places. Descending the hill on which the turnpike gate stands the road makes a very unnecessary elbow........

From the last mentioned point (the 7th mile stone from Stafford) to 100 yards beyond Boosemoor Lane the Road is rough and rutted requiring the large stones to be picked out and broken small and the cross section reformed. At the junction of the Lane with the main road, the latter is so much contracted by the descent of the former, that there are no more than 15 feet of safe driving way. The lane ought to be sloped from the road so as to give greater breadth, and which if properly done would improve both.

Through Penkridge the pavement has been converted into broken stone...the surface is in a very creditable state. As long, however, as the street continues so narrow, it will always be an objectionable thoroughfare; indeed there is one excessively dangerous spot just beyond the principal inn, where some houses on the left hand side project into and contract the road so much that there is scarcely room for two carriages to pass; and considering the traffic, a more dangerous place is not to be found in any town in the kingdom.

At the north end of Penkridge, where the pavement ends, the channel should be covered, it crosses the road obliquely, and it is quite sufficient to break a weak spring of any vehicle.

Report to the Trustees of Stone, Stafford and Penkridge Turnpike Trust by George E. Hamilton on the Turnpike, 1826

During the 19th century the revenue from the tolls gradually declined:

1836 1789

1838 946

1839 901

1846 614

1850 434

1853 295

Spending on the roads also declined and by 1857 the Trust's debt was cleared. In 1866 the Penkridge to Stone Trust was amalgamated with other local trusts covering the roads from Stafford to Eccleshall, Churchbridge, Uttoxeter and Newport. The law changed. Henceforth the Trusts were charged with paying off their debts whilst the cost of repairing the roads was returned to local government.