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From stagecoaches to the first motorway, roads around Preston

Posted on - 5th December, 2021 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Nostalgia, Preston News, Roads, South Ribble News, Transport, Walton-le-Dale
Freckleton Toll Gate 1907 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Freckleton Toll Gate 1907 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Toll roads 

The early roads around Preston were notorious for being impassable in winter. Ruts of up to four feet deep could be found on the Wigan Road. Consequently, the Great North Road was soon the recipient of gates for the payment of tolls. Magistrates authorised this in 1663.

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Turnpike trusts were set up, and over 1,000 were in existence by 1830. The money taken in tolls paid for ‘improvements’ to the roads, and the tolls were set depending on the type of vehicle and the number of horses. Good roads improved the speed of goods movement and passenger travel, considerably.

The northern route from Wigan to Lancaster was turn-piked by 1751. Skipton to Preston, and Blackburn to Walton-le-Dale were completed by 1771. The toll road from Preston to Garstang, now the A6, has some beautifully carved milestones, some of which have been restored.

Garstang road marker Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Carved milestone on the A6 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Stagecoaches and coaching inns

Preston’s central location led to it becoming a major staging post for road transport. Over 100 coaches a day plied the roads through the town. There were three main coaching inns, The Black Bull, The Red Lion and The White Horse.

The Black Bull in Penwortham Pic: Tony Worrall
The Black Bull in Penwortham Pic: Tony Worrall

Coaching inns were placed at seven to ten mile intervals, or stages, and provided a place to change the horses and rest the passengers. Often inn proprietors also owned horses and coaches.

A typical stage coach from the 19th century Pic: Historic England
A typical stage coach from the 19th century Pic: Historic England

A roads 

After World War I, the A road classification system came into use. The main route north from Preston became the A6, while the A59 was found to be far from straight. Consequently, Walmer Bridge was bypassed, as shown on the map below.

OS map of Preston from 1965 Pic: OS Maps, Oldemaps
OS map of Preston from 1965 Pic: OS Maps, Oldemaps

Blackpool Road was improved in 1924. After formerly being several different lanes, it was renamed in the late 1920s. Road speeds in those days rarely got beyond 30mph.

By 1955 traffic congestion was becoming critical. A Preston bypass had been proposed as early as 1937, but the war intervened. As a result a start on Britain’s first motorway was not undertaken until the mid 1950s.

Blackpool Road in the 1950s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Blackpool Road in the 1950s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The first motorway

By 1956, faster cars that could handle long motorway cruising were becoming available. The Preston Bypass began construction in June 1956 and opened in 1958. Before 1965 British motorways had no speed limit. This was not a problem as most family cars could barely make 70mph. However the 1960s saw the rise of faster sports cars such as the E-Type Jaguar. As a result of some speeding stunts, performed by racing drivers, the 70mph speed limit became law in 1967.

One of the powerful new Jaguar models from 1956, the E-type came along in 1961 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
One of the powerful new Jaguar models from 1956, the E-type came along in 1961 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The 8.5 mile route for the bypass was a a rather modest affair by later standards, being little more than a dual carriageway, There were, however, some spectacular new bridges. The road cost £3 million to build, and was to become part of the M6 by the mid 1960s. This part of the M6 has been widened twice, and is now ten lanes wide in places.

The original route of the fledgling M6 Pic: OS Maps
The original route of the fledgling M6 Pic: OS Maps
The Preston Bypass in 1958 Pic: Lancashire Evening Post
The Preston Bypass in 1958 Pic: Lancashire Evening Post
One of the new style concrete bridges that were to become ubiquitous on the motorway Pic: Lancashire County Council
One of the new style concrete bridges that were to become ubiquitous on the motorway Pic: Lancashire County Council



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