Road pricing – eighteenth century style

The generosity of readers is fantastic. Bt by bit we're assembling a useful historic record amongst the ranting.

Following the interest by reader David Evans, top commenter and part-time whittler, I have acquired through the generous and covert use of a photocopier, a fine, nearly lost work on the toll roads and of Walsall. Sadly, this doesn’t cover the exact area of David’s interest, but it’s a useful and engaging read that details the legalities and buildings of this interesting and engaging part of local and national civil history.

The book is ‘The Story of Walsall Turnpike Roads and Tollgates’ by W. F. Blay, associated with the Walsall Historical Association, of whom the author was a former president. Published in 1932, by J.W. Griffin Limited, I have been able to scan this and upload for all to read due to the remarkable generosity of an anonymous reader who came upon it in a bookshop in south Birmingham. The scans aren’t great, but if printed at A4 size they’re quite readable. You can download this excellent book in PDF form (Adobe reader required) by clicking on the cover image above or following this link.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to repeat the following fact: Dick Turpin never jumped the toll gate at the Anchor Bridge. He didn’t pay, either; he died before it was instituted and therefore the myth would have been impossible. I hear this factoid repeated in all sorts of places, and between familiars of the Brownhills Blog it’s become somewhat of an in-joke. Like Robin Hood and other light-fingered folk heroes, we all seem to want a historical piece of the bad boy Turpin… whom I doubt was as prolific a criminal as we imagine. I’ve often mused that if a coachman got shook down by a bunch of rogues on a lonely road, who would he have been robbed by by the time he got to town? A few local yobs, or the finest highwayman in the land? Of such stuff are myths made…

The former tollgate at Anchor Bridge. To clear up confusion, there was only one Anchor pub, which was to the right, out of shot in this photograph. Lindon Road is heading off left, ant the buildings featured stand where the now-demolished maisonettes did.

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Features, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Road pricing – eighteenth century style

  1. Hi Bob

    That’s great stuff of real historical importance.

    You can even copy the text into a text file or Word doc from the PDF (well in my version of Acrobat, anyway).

    Best wishes

    Julian Ward-Davies

    Please don’t forget the change to my website’s URL – it’s
    and not

    • Hi Julian

      Thanks for that. I’m getting quite good with this Acrobat malarkey. The character recognition isn’t perfect, but considering the state of the scans it’s remarkable.

      I have you link mods scheduled for tomorrow, haven’t forgotten.

      Best wishes


  2. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    this book is fascinating !
    How things begin to link together. The Lichfield Road, Walsall Tollgate article is interesting. It mentions a Farmer Arthur Burton, of Rushall Farm. He moved to Sandhills in the late was he whose farm received one of the bombs from Adolf..years after both had been otherwise engaged in the first world war near Ypres. Adolf lost a bit more than Arthur in this previous conflict, though!
    The Brawn family farmed Home Farm, Sandhills, before the Lane family moved there. It was the then young Walter Lane, who in 1940ish felt the force of the other (“biggest bomb of the war”..a Hermann?) bomb in the same air raid .

    best wishes…and many thanks,
    David Evans, whittling postponed a while until arrival of new specs. Best, really! Knots can be terminal!

  3. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob

    I think the Farmer Burton mentioned in the book above may have been Fred Burton who married Mary Bailey. They farmed May Bank Farm, Leigh Road , Rushall Church.Their third son Arthur moved to Sandhills Farm in 1939, moved to MillGreen Farm in the 1950s, and died in 1974 at the age of 82
    I think you have shown photos of the fields near to this farm recently…….some good blackberries to be found!
    source; The Diary of Pte A.C.Burton M.M…a transcribed copy is lodged in the Cloth Hall Museum, Ypres
    details appear in one of your earlier pages..Hermann, was he alone, I think
    with best wishes
    David Evans, enjoying a real Rhubarb and Elderflower half-ender!

  4. It is interesting that you mentioned the Brawn family. They appear in the Stonnall Mysteries several times, as brick makers in Lower Stonnall and as steam millers in Quebb Lane (now Mill Lane), Lynn in the early 19th century, and as farmers in Sandhills and Lynn late in the same century.

    The family may have originated in Shelfield, because a daughter of a branch of the Brawns from that village married Rev James Downes, the first Vicar of Stonnall. (Rev Downes was instrumental in the creation of a new church and vicarage in Brownhills, but that is another story. He was also behind the creation of the National School in Stonnall.)

    Does anybody know what happened to the Brawns? Are there any members of the family still in the area?

  5. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob

    Julian Ward Davies might like to learn of the chapel in the drive at Home Farm, Sandhills…labourers used to start the day’s work with communal prayers..long time ago in the time of the Brawn farmers.
    The family names Price and James, both Stonnall families originally ,may be of interest, to him,too.

    The National that the one which stood near the church and was demlished some years ago?

    best wishes

    David Evans

    • Hi David

      Yes, the National School was located next to the church in Thornes. It was built in the early 19th century and abandoned in 1874 when the original St Peter’s C of E School was opened. The National School was demolished in the early 1960s, as was St Peter’s. I am appealing for photos of both buildings.

      Where exactly was/is Home Farm? Does it still exist and the chapel building too?

      Thornes Hall was another historically important building in Thornes. Does anybody have an image of it? It was demolished in about 1840, but I believe a part of it still exists, albeit in a different guise. When I have completed the research, Bob will be the first to hear about it.

      Best wishes

      Julian Ward-Davies

  6. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Julian may be interested to know that Home farm is midway between Shire Oak and Barracks Lane…the chapel is in the drive near the farmhouse, at the end of the long drive.

    best wishes
    David Evans

  7. Pingback: BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  8. Tim Jenkinson says:

    For your information a new book ‘The Toll-houses of Staffordshire’ by Tim Jenkinson and Patrick Taylor is set for publication in November 2104. Copies will be available from local bookshops and museums or direct from me at at £9.95 (158 pages) per copy. The book includes Walsall and Wolverhampton etc and makes reference to WF Blay.

    Best wishes
    Tim Jenkinson

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.