Summary of Report
Roads in Counties
The Inquiry was set up because there was widespread
dissatisfaction with the way roads were financed and
managed. Turnpikes were resented because of the tolls
and the unfair way these operated. On some roads there
might be five toll bars while on others it was possible
to travel for miles without paying. It was very expensive
to obtain an Act of Parliament and then have to renew
it 20 or 30 years later. There were numerous instances
of there being large numbers of turnpike trusts in a
county, each looking after only a short length of road
yet with the expense of having their own management
and staff. Most trusts were badly in debt with little
prospect for repayment of loans.
Statute labour roads were also resented as there were
inequalities in the way they were funded There was very
wide variation in the way they were run and financed
and it was often difficult to collect the finances.
As each parish or district had its own administration
there was considerable duplication of effort. It was
generally agreed that it was not an efficient system
for both constructing and maintaining roads.
The Inquiry had two aims:
1) To see if a means of funding other than by tolls
or statute labour could be identified that would result
in a fairer and more economical system.
2) To look at the way roads were managed and see if
any improvements could be made.
With regards to finding an alternative to tolls or
statute labour, the Commission recommended the removal
of the turnpike road debt as they saw this as necessary
if any changes were to be made. To remove the debt a
Commission should be set up to determine how much was
owed in each county. This should then be charged as
a burden on the county, i.e. the money should be raised
by an assessment on those living in the county.
They then discussed the drawbacks of the toll system
in some detail and noted how the railways had affected
They looked at various methods of assessment to see
how the finances for their maintenance could be raised
and finally opted for a uniform rate on lands and property.
Tolls could still be levied but restrictions were placed
For new roads they recommended that the proposers of
a new road should raise half the finances themselves
- this was to prevent influential persons using the
system to benefit themselves.
They recommended that the management be under the care
of the Roads Trustees under the existing Acts and the
Commissioners of Supply. A County Road Board should
be formed and a County Surveyor appointed; both would
carry out the detailed management of the roads.
With the second aim, of improving the way the roads
were managed, they recommended that all the turnpike
trusts in a county be consolidated into one trust under
Trustees, with a County Road Board and appropriate officials,
particularly a qualified Surveyor.
The statute labour roads varied widely in how they
were run and how the finances were raised. The Commission
recommended a uniform rate of assessment and that they
be consolidated with the turnpikes under the management
of the Roads Trustees, the County Road Board and the
County Surveyor but with a separate finance system.
In summary, the changes they proposed were:
- the removal of the turnpike road debt
- turnpikes would be financed under a uniform rate on
lands and property - tolls could still be charged to
make up any shortfalls but with restrictions. If new
roads were proposed, half the funding had to come from
- management to be carried out by Trustees, Commissioners
of Supply, County Road Board and County Surveyor
- all turnpike trusts in a county to be consolidated
into one trust
- statute labour roads in a county to be consolidated
with the turnpikes under the above management, with
appropriate local management in the county
- statute labour roads to be financed by a uniform rate
Effectively all the roads in a county would be under
the management of the county and paid for by that county.
There would still be turnpikes but they would be under
the one trust, with tolls allowed only if required to
make up shortfalls and under stricter controls. The
statute labour roads would also be under the management
of the trust, with appropriate local management. They
also would be funded by the county.
The Inquiry was very influential in determining the
course of legislation. The Highland Roads and Bridges
Act 1862 saw these come under the counties; and the
Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878 took on many of
its recommendations resulting in the end of the turnpikes
and the statute labour system with all roads coming
under the County Road Boards and no longer being classed
as turnpike or statute labour. A few years later responsibility
for the roads passed to the newly formed County Councils.
The Report is in two volumes.
Report (pps ix - ccxii), including details of the roads
in a county along with their management and funding
Appendices (pps 1 - 87 - these contain useful summaries
Minutes of Evidence taken from various people in each
county (pps 1 - 734)
The report is available on Google
Books where it can be downloaded as a pdf file
of the Commissioners for Inquiring Into Matters Relating
to Public Roads in Scotland ... By Great Britain.