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Turnpike and Statute Labour Roads in 1859

Introduction - The 1859 Inquiry into Public Roads in Scotland
Ayrshire section of 1859 report
Statute Labour Roads
Bridge Money
Minutes of Evidence

Details of roads by District
Summaries of Minutes of Evidence

Sections of the original report relating to Ayrshire can be accessed here


In 1858 the Government appointed a Royal Commission to review the state of roads in Scotland. Their report, entitled Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Public Roads in Scotland was published in 1859. It provides a comprehensive picture of roads in each county in Scotland, detailing the extent of the roads and the different types of road, how they were financed and administered, and proposed radical changes in their financing and administration.

The inquiry was held because of the growing dissatisfaction with both the turnpike and statute labour systems. Turnpike trusts were badly in debt and with little prospect of repaying their creditors. Tolls were generally resented and often applied unfairly which could lead to significant costs for quite short journeys. The process of obtaining parliamentary approval for a turnpike act and then having to renew it 20 or 30 years later was cumbersome and expensive. In addition, there could easily be a dozen or more different trusts in a county, each of which had its own administration and staff, that led to considerable duplication of effort. In the background, the growing railway network continued to divert traffic from the turnpikes.

There was also dissatisfaction with the statute labour system. Although the early inefficiencies of the system had generally been overcome by commutation, i.e. allowing a monetary payment to be made in place of having to work on the roads which was then used to employ competent road builders, there were still difficulties. Each parish or district administered its own roads, leading to duplication of effort and there were a great many different ways of assessing the commutation money which led to widespread unfairness with some individuals and some parishes paying more than others. In some places, it was difficult to collect the finances.

The Inquiry had two aims: 1) To see if there was a fairer and more economical way of funding the roads other than by tolls or statute labour; 2) To gain an overview of how roads were managed in each county and see if improvements could be made.

In carrying out their inquiry, the Commissioners obtained detailed returns from all the authorities concerned with roads, whether turnpike or parish roads, and these are presented in the report. The returns give details of financing, administration, and the lengths of roads of all types in each county.

They also took evidence from various individuals in each county, both as to their involvement in the administration or use of the roads, and their views on the two aims of the inquiry, viz. improving the way the roads were funded and the way they were managed.

In its final report, the Commission proposed:
- removing the turnpike road debt
- financing turnpikes by a uniform rate on lands and property - any shortfall could be made up by strictly   regulated tolls
- half the costs of new roads had to be met by the proposers - this would avoid misuse of powers
- the roads were to be managed by Trustees, Commissioners of Supply, County Road Board and County   Surveyor
- merging all turnpike trusts in a county into one trust
- merging the statute labour roads in a county with the turnpikes under the above management, with   appropriate local arrangements
- funding statute labour roads by a uniform rate of assessment.

This meant that all the roads in a county would be under the management of the county and paid for by the county. There would still be turnpikes but under the one trust, with tolls allowed only if needed to make up shortfalls and under stricter controls. The statute labour roads would also be managed by the trust, with appropriate local arrangements and would be funded by the county.

The Inquiry was very influential in determining the course of legislation. In particular, the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878 adopted many of its recommendations resulting in the end of the turnpikes and the statute labour system. All roads came under the County Road Boards and were no longer classed as turnpike or statute labour. A few years later responsibility for the roads passed to the newly formed County Councils.

The Report contains much useful information about roads in Ayrshire in the mid-1800’s both from the detailed returns and the evidence given by various individuals about Ayrshire roads.

At that time turnpikes in Ayrshire were administered by 10 trusts, responsible for 714 miles of road. They were regulated by an 1847 Act.
Names of Trusts Length of Roads No. of Tolls
Ayr District 145.0.0 31 ½
Kilmarnock District 120.0.0 81
Mauchline District 105.4.0 25 ½
Maybole District 144.0.0 28 ½
Girvan District 69.5.0 15 ½
Stewarton District 21.4.0 4
Irvine District 52.3.0 12 ½
Lochlibo District 15.0.0 5 ½
Beith District 23.4.0 12
Largs District 18.0.0 6
Total 714.4.0 172

Each district had its own secretary and treasurer and separate accounts were kept for each district, and in fact, for each road.

Statute Labour Roads
There were 640 miles of statute labour road in the county. The Trustees were the same as for the turnpike roads and in some areas the roads were managed by the District Trustees whereas in others the roads were managed within the parish.

The Act stipulated that money raised in a parish had to be used for that parish only, which required separate accounts to be kept. A rate of up to 20 shillings per £100 of real value could be levied on lands, teinds, fishings, mills, mines, factories - a long list is given. However, railways were not assessed as heavily as other establishments. Some 20 of the 46 parishes in the county paid the maximum rate; the lowest was 6s.8d.

Bridge Money
A separate levy was applied to all bridges; half of the £1400 raised each year was used for maintenance and half for new bridges.

Four miles of turnpike in Ayr, and the bridge, were maintained by the Trustees at a cost of £260 per annum. The burgh spent a similar amount on streets every year, receiving one third of the statute labour money raised in the parish. There was also a causeway and fair custom levied in the burgh which raised £120 per annum.

Responsibility for the 5 ½ miles of road in Irvine was shared by the Trustees for the turnpikes, the bridge, the statute labour roads and the harbour, as well as the burgh.

In Kilmarnock, 9000 yards of roads were turnpikes; the remaining roads were paid for by proprietors or from the statute labour funds.

Minutes of Evidence
Thirty four witnesses were examined for their views on the turnpike and statute labour systems as they were operated and funded at that time, and how they might be improved. Many of the witnesses held official positions, such as clerk or treasurer to a trust, or a surveyor. The burghs were also represented, as well as farmers and two persons with manufacturing interests.

The responses were very close to those given in other counties: a widespread dissatisfaction with tolls, the need to raise funds in a fairer way, the need to reform the management and operation of the roads, both turnpike and statute labour. There were some differences between the witnesses in how these aims could be achieved although some general threads are apparent: there were too many separate trusts, statute labour roads should be brought together with the turnpikes, funds should be raised by an assessment and the huge debts should be valued.

For the first aim of the Inquiry - to see if there was a fairer and more economical way of funding the roads other than by tolls or statute labour, one or two felt tolls did have advantages particularly when dealing with mineral traffic from mines and quarries that caused so much damage to the roads. An assessment on the land would bring in much less money. The others, however, opted for an assessment though opinion differed as to whether this should be from heritors and tenants or horses. Some said it would be difficult to get the money if it was on horses, especially from carters, although one person did point out that they would pass the rate on to their customers who would suffer as a result.

In fact, there is a sense of special pleading from all the parties and little is said of the impact of tolls and statute labour money on ordinary people.

Little was objected to in the statute labour system, perhaps because they were funded by the desired option for the turnpikes, i.e. assessment. It was however felt that it would be sensible to amalgamate these with the turnpikes under the same management or at least remove the restriction that money levied in a parish should be restricted to that parish.

The remarks on debt are interesting. Several said these should be valued at their present worth and one recommended ignoring the debt due to those whose land had risen in value because of a road they had financed. It is quite clear from the financial returns that huge sums were owed; interest was often paid on these loans but there was little prospect of the capital being repaid except in one or two cases, perhaps where a road was particularly profitable.

The three burghs of Irvine, Kilmarnock and Ayr were a separate case with special arrangements in place to cover the burgh‘s own streets, the statute labour roads and any turnpike that entered the burgh. The causeway custom levied in Ayr was an especial irritant to farmers and others coming into Ayr.

The second aim of the Inquiry was to gain an overview of how roads were managed in each county and see if improvements could be made. There was wide agreement that the 1847 Act was deficient in several respects. With a Trust for each turnpike, there were far too many tolls, a constant complaint. As the money could only be used on that road, the less profitable suffered and there was considerable duplication of effort with each Trust needing its own set of accounts. There was general agreement for a consolidation of Trusts, for freeing up the funds for each road, and having the one management for a district.

A number felt that statute labour roads could sensibly be amalgamated with the turnpikes under the one management.

One or two other points are of interest. One was the high cost of raising the 1847 Act. It had cost £4300 which is over £3 million in today’s prices. Colonel Hamilton of Cairnhill gave considerable details of the opposition in the county to Lord Elcho’s proposed Roads Bill which would replace tolls and statute labour by an assessment. Another was the remarks of Elias Cathcart of Auchendrain, a landed proprietor who was involved in the Maybole roads, which imply that not all Trustees were diligent in attending to their duties. Several witnesses referred to the impact of the railways which seems to have been variable depending on the location. The mention of sidings going directly to an ironworks is interesting.

Overall, with the same picture appearing all over Scotland, and with much the same opinions being expressed in each county, it must have been reasonably clear to the Commissioners what course of action had to be taken.

Despite there still being some strong opposition, as evidenced for example by Colonel Hamilton’s account of the reaction from landed interests in the county, the reform movement did not lessen and eventually many of the Commission’s recommendations were incorporated in the 1878 Act. Effectively this was the end of the turnpike and the statute labour systems, to be replaced by a system that still operates today. This will be examined in the next section.



Details are given below of the various turnpike trusts by district, and summaries of statements by the various witnesses.

Trusts by District

Ayr District
This covered 19 roads (some of which were shared with other trusts). The roads were:

Names of Road Length Tolls Revenue 1857-58 (£) Expenditure 1857-58 (£)
Ayr to Whitletts 2 }      
Whitletts to Galston 121320 } 4 ½ 699 359
Do. To Carngillan 4880}      
Ayr to Cumnock 24 4 ½ 613 428
Do. To Low Bridge of Doon 2 1 206 75
Do. To Maybole (by Monkwood) 6 } 1 ½ 500 229
Do. To Maybole (by Alloway) }      
Dalrymple Bridge Road 5 2 81 33
Monkton to Coylton 1 1 ½ 71 47
Belston to Wallston 2 0 ½ 55 5
Wallston to Sandyford 2 1 20 7
Ayr, by Dalmellington, to confines of county 19 4 297 157
New Cumnock to Dalmellington 10 2 ½ 161 106
Irvine 8 1 ½ 210 102
Prestwick 4 1 241 180
Monkton to Tarbolton 5 1 14 27
Littlemill to Dalmellington 8 1 89 47
Moat Toll to Marchburn 18 3 ½ 124 108
Cumnock Road to county march, by Craigdulart 4 0 ½ 47 37
Total Miles 145 Tolls 81½ Revenue £3365 Expenditure £1956

The total debt for Ayr District was £22,723. There was one surveyor for all roads, turnpike and statute labour. His salary for the turnpike roads was £175 p.a. The clerk had £60 on top of the £60 he was paid as general clerk and the treasurer was paid £75.

The above is given in some detail for illustrative purposes, though the original is more detailed still with its account to the exact yard and to the nearest shilling and penny. One or two interesting facts can be gleaned from this. The Littlemill to Dalmellington road is shown as existing at that time, when there had been some doubt as to it having been built. The distance that could be travelled on paying a toll varied from 8 miles for this road to just 2 miles on the Wallston to Sandyford road. In these cases it would depend on the toll levied although there is enough evidence in the report to show some roads were much more expensive to travel on than others.

The income generated per mile varies enormously from the very profitable Ayr to Low Bridge of Doon at £103 per mile to less than £3 per mile for the Monkton to Tarbolton road. Nine of the roads raised less than £20 per mile, four between £20 and £50, and three between £50 and £100. In most cases expenditure was less than income. For the two years given in the report (only one is shown above) the Bellston to Wallston road only spent about £5 each year against an income of over £50 per year, although the Wallston to Sandyford road had spent £17 the previous year. However, it is probably best not to read too much into these figures as debts had to be paid off first before money could be spent on the roads.

Kilmarnock District
This had 16 roads (or parts of roads).

Names of Road Length Tolls
Kilmarnock and Flockside 15 2
Kilmarnock to Monkton 10 2
Kilmarnock to Irvine 7 2
Kilmarnock to Lochgate 13 4 ½
Kilmarnock to Dundonald 5 2
Kilmarnock to Stewarton 9 3 ½
Irvine to Littlemill 10 2 ½
Dundonald to Troon 4 1
Braehead to Grassyards 8 2
Fenwick to Kilmaurs 4 0 2/3
Galston to Kingswells 6 2
Kilmaurs to Gatehead 3 2
Thornton Gate to Bowbridge Hill 8 3
Kilmarnock to Craigie 4 1
Riccarton to Treeswoodhead 6 1
Fairlies Dam Dyke to Plelland 2 0 ½
Total 120 31

The total debt was £4,197.

There was one surveyor with a salary of £120 p.a. The clerk had £40 and the treasurer £75.

Mauchline District
This had 11 roads.
Names of Road Length Tolls
Ayr to Muirkirk 32 5 ½
Kilmarnock to Cumnock 15 4
Irvine to Littlemill 9 2 ½
Ochiltree to Auchinleck 3 2
Coylton to Lawers Bridge 12 3 ½
Dalmore to Bellstone 4 1 ½
Catrine to Barglachan 6 1
Gachallan to Lawers Bridge 3 1
Galston to Auchinleck 10 1 ½
Mauchline to Shaw 6 2
Viewfield to Sorn Castle 4 1
Total 105 ½ 25 ½

The total debt was £17,214.

There was one surveyor with a salary of £66.13.4 p.a and a travel allowance of £33.6.8. The clerk was paid £25 and the treasurer £55.

Maybole District
This had 15 roads.
Names of Road Length Tolls
Crosshill 15 1
Ayr by Low Bridge of Doon 11 2 ½
Ayr to Maybole by Alloway Bridge 5 1 ½
Monkwood 7 1 ½
Kirkoswald 13 3
South Water of Girvan, or Poundland Road 18 2 ½
Culzean 8 2
St Murray 2 1

North Water of Girvan

14 3
Maybole to Straiton 10 2 ½
Maybole to Dalrymple 8 1 ½
Rountree 18 3
Patna 5 1
Barr 5 1 ½
Delamford 6 1
Total 144 28 ½

The total debt was £29,611.

The surveyor was paid £80 p.a., the clerk £25 out of fees from the toll keepers, and the treasurer £55.

Girvan District
This had 5 roads.
Names of Road Length Tolls
Girvan to Glenapp 37 8
Daljarrock towards Newton Stewart 10 2 ½
Barrhill through Corwar 9 1 ½
Old Dailly by Penkiln 6 1 ½
Tig Road 7 2
Total 69 15 ½

The total debt was £24,633.

The surveyor was paid £70 and bother the treasurer and clerk about £32 each.

Stewarton District
This had 2 roads (or parts of roads).
Names of Road Length Tolls
Stewarton, by Dunlop Village, to Whitehouse 7 ¾ 1 ½
Auchenharvey and Kingston 13 ¾ 2 ½
Total 21 ½ 4

There was no debt in this district.

The surveyor had a salary of £22, the clerk £10 and the treasurer 5% of the toll rents.

Irvine District
This had 4 roads (or parts of roads).
Names of Road Length Tolls
Kelly Bridge 32 8
Girdle 1 0 7/20
Stewarton 11 3 5/20
Fergushill 7 1
Total 52 12 12/20

The total debt was £3266.

The surveyors salary was £57.17.0 and the clerk and treasurer each received 5% on the revenue

Lochlibo District
This had 2 roads (or parts of roads).
Names of Road Length Tolls
Lochlibo 10 3
Monkridden 4 2
Total 15 15 5

The total debt for these two roads was £20,890.

The surveyor was the same person as for Irvine and was paid £22.3.0. The clerk and treasuruer were paid at 5% of the revenue.

Beith District
This had 3 roads (or parts of roads).
Names of Road Length Tolls
Clerksbridge, by Beith, to Kilwinning, and Branch to Marchbridge 15 8
Kersebridge, by Beith, to Coldstream Bridge 4 ½ 2
Beith to Oldhall Bridge 4 2
Total 23 ½ 12

There was no debt, and the first road had a surplus of £914.

The surveyor was paid £40 and the clerk was allowed 3% on the revenue and the treasurer 2%.

Largs District
This had 2 roads (or parts of roads).
Names of Road Length Tolls
Largs to Dalry by Howrat, with branch to Kilbirnie 11 3
West Kilbridge to Dalry 7 3
Total 18 6

The total debt was £12, 207. The second road had no debt.

The surveyor was paid £20 and the clerk and treasurer each had an allowance of 5% on the revenue.

Minutes of Evidence

John McMurtrie, clerk to the General Meetings of Road Trustees was examined. He referred to the 1847 Act, the 10 districts, and having separate accounts for each district and for each road. He submitted a return for the roads in the Ayr district, including details of the conversion money raised in each parish.

Although he felt the toll system was fair to all road users, he thought that it would be a benefit if toll bars could be redistributed and if some consolidation of trusts could be made but there were no powers in the Act to do this. He spoke at some length about the road debt and the heavy cost that would arise if this was to be cleared.

Referring to possible ways of funding the roads, he thought that a system that included a graduated tax on horses would meet with opposition from hill farmers who would feel they used the roads less than farmers in the lowland areas. He thought it would be difficult to recover the assessment from carters. As carriage of minerals generally caused a great deal of wear and tear on the roads, any system should allow for a greater rate to be levied from mines and quarries.

He noted that the cost of obtaining the Road Act had been £4300. The income tenants (presumably those who rented the tolls) received was about 6 per cent of the revenue raised by the tolls. Of the 713 miles of turnpike, 427 miles were charged at the full rate allowed by the Act, 240 miles at half rate, and 46 miles at a third rate.

John Tennant, a farmer of Creoch, Ochiltree, had strong objections to toll-bars as inconvenient and expensive, an opinion he said, that was held by many farmers. They would prefer an assessment on their farms in place of tolls.

He noted that owing to much of the traffic being diverted to the railways, the turnpikes were now in much the same position as the statute labour roads.

He thought the roads officials were very good but referred to the £4000 it had cost to get an Act through Parliament. Another complaint was having to pay causeway custom in Ayr when townspeople did not and when country people spent a lot of money in the town. The assessment should be raised on the occupiers. He thought it would be an advantage if some of the farmers joined the Trustees.

James Wilson, Treasurer to the Kilmarnock District of Turnpike Roads gave details of all the roads administered by the Trust, and explained his duties as Treasurer. He thought it would be better if all the roads in the District were brought under the one Trust, with one management and one set of accounts. Redistributing the tolls would be advantageous.

He could not envisage a cheaper method of collecting money for the roads than tolls, noting that those using the roads most paid the most through tolls. In the case of collieries and ironworks, where great damage had been done to the roads, there was no other way of getting money from them other than by tolls.

Alexander Hamilton, clerk to the Statute Labour Trustees in the parishes of Kilmarnock, Fenwick, Kilmaurs and Riccarton gave details of how the system worked in these parishes. Kilmarnock came under a separate act for statute labour.

He thought that although a re-arrangement of toll bars would be beneficial, the toll system did ensure that those who used the roads most, paid the most. It would be a benefit if all roads in a district were under the one management.

He noted that parish roads were mostly used by people in each parish, and thought that the statute labour roads had not been much affected by the railways. He felt that if tolls were to be replaced by an assessment, Kilmarnock would be unwilling to be assessed for roads in the county.

David Brown and Thomas Rennie, the Clerk and Treasurer for Maybole District, provided details of the roads in the district. Among the debts, two were owing to Lord Ailsa for the Culzean Road and the St Murray Road. They also owed him money for the construction of a bridge on the Maybole to Dalrymple Road. For a couple of the roads they refer to the debt owed to proprietors through whose land a road passed. If they had borrowed the money from banks, this still had to be paid by them even if they received nothing from the Trust. With regard to the North Water of Girvan Road, much expense had been incurred in opposing the Maybole and Girvan Railway.

They felt that there would be advantages in consolidating all the roads in the district. Although there were cases where the number of tolls was oppressive (an example is given of three tolls having to be paid within one mile in Maybole) it was hard to see how the number of tolls could be reduced if evasion was to be avoided. With the bars being placed near to Maybole it was possible for farmers to cart coal for many miles without payment.

They also acted as clerk and treasurer for the statute labour roads, of which there were 100 miles in the district. The rate varied from parish to parish. Money raised was spent within the parish.

William Murdoch and James Wilson, Clerk and Treasurer for the Mauchline District (and also for the statute labour roads) gave details of each road. On the Kilmarnock to Cumnock Road they had made a new entrance from this road into Kilmarnock and were intending to improve the road at Purrock Bridge with money provided by the railway.

Walter Andrews and William Brown, Clerk and Treasurer for Girvan District, gave details of the returns they had submitted. In Girvan, the main street was a turnpike, with tolls at each end of town. Other roads were maintained by the statute labour funds.

There were 44 miles of statute labour roads in the parishes of Girvan, Ballantrae and Colmonell. The 29 separate roads were under the one surveyor. Funds raised in a parish were applied in the parish.

James Snodgrass, Clerk and Treasurer of Stewarton District, gave details of the two roads in the district. He said that people in Stewarton disliked the tolls and farmers would travel 2 or 3 miles to avoid one. They would not like tolls to be replaced by an assessment on tenants or land when so many other use the roads. They would prefer most of the funding to come from the public purse.

William Love, Clerk to the Beith District, gave details of the three roads in the district. The surveyor also covered the statute labour roads in Beith, Kilbirnie and Dalry parishes. The railways had not affected revenue although some traffic may have changed the roads used.

Prior to the Act of 1827, these roads were one Trust; some of the Trustees wished to return to this situation.

He also dealt with Largs where there were two roads. He noted that it would be necessary to call upon three guarantors of a bond for £2000 in order to help in repaying the debt.

John Smith, Clerk and Treasurer for the Irvine District gave details of the four trusts in the district. He referred to £100 of damage that had been done by the sea on the Kelly Bridge Road, north of Largs.He also spoke about the two trusts in the Lochlibo District.

He was also clerk to the statute labour roads in Irvine, Kilwinning, Dreghorn, Ardrossan and Stevenston parishes. The surveyor for the turnpike roads deals with these, except in Stevenston where two of the trustees carried out these duties. One third of the statute labour money in Irvine parish was paid to the burgh. Rates varied in parishes from 12s 6d to 20s. per £100 of real rent. The average cost of maintaining the turnpikes was £25.14.0 per annum per mile and £11.11.11 for the statute labour roads - the higher cost for turnpikes was probably due to the amount of traffic on them.

James Campbell, Surveyor for the turnpike and statute labour roads in Ayr and Mauchline Districts noted the high cost of maintaining roads in towns due to heavy traffic, pavements, and obtaining road materials.

He thought it was more economical to have management of both types of road and that it would be beneficial if revenues could be diverted from particular parishes and particular turnpike roads so that they could be used where most needed.

He noted the dissatisfaction with the toll system and felt this could be alleviated if trusts were consolidated and tolls re-sited so that payment only had to be made every 5 or 6 miles. Having to keep separate accounts for each trust led to a great deal of unnecessary work.

He thought that having an assessment in place of tolls would be more unfair than tolls, and that it would be difficult to collect a horse assessment.

John Douglas Boswell, a landed proprietor and collector of bridge money and county rates explained how the bridge money was levied by assessment. The money was for bridges on both turnpikes and statute labour roads, with half going on new bridges and half on maintenance. He thought that the assessment on railways was less than it should have been.

If the roads funding from tolls, statute labour and bridge money was replaced by an assessment it could be a burden on farmers who were not near the towns and did not use the markets, as well as dairy farmers distant from the towns.

A rate on horses would be preferable although it would be difficult to collect the money from carters. With the general feeling that there were too many Trusts and too many tolls bars, it would be better if Trusts were consolidated and some toll bars re-sited, and placed at least four miles apart. The causeway custom levied in Ayr, which was not paid by those living there, should be abolished.

William Bone, Treasurer for Ayr District, of both turnpike and statute labour roads, said that there were 19 turnpikes and gave details of each. On three of the roads, income from tolls had been affected by the railways. The statute labour money was raised from occupiers and from houses, and varied between parishes.

William Brown of Greenockmains, a Road Trustee, thought that the present system of funding was as good as any, although it would be better if the trusts were consolidated, perhaps into the three divisions of the county, viz. Kyle, Carrick and Cunninghame. If they had a common fund, and the one management, things would be much simpler. The existing Act prevented this from happening and the current debt was also an obstacle to this. Consolidation would also allow the toll points to be re-sited thus removing a source of grievance.

In talking about how money could be raised if tolls were abolished, he felt that a tax on horses could be oppressive, giving an example from Muirkirk.

Patrick Boyle of Shewalton, proprietor and acting Trustee in Kilmarnock and Irvine Districts, said that he generally agreed with the previous speaker. He was in favour of consolidation of trusts and reduction of the number of tolls, and of having both turnpikes and statute labour roads under one management. It would be better if statute labour roads were combined into districts.

Patrick Macredie of Perceton, proprietor and acting Trustee in Kilmarnock and Irvine Districts, would opt for an assessment as well as a rate on horses. This should be classified so as to allow for less use of the roads by a farm horse than by a cart horse. Although it could be difficult to raise the money from carters there could be ways of doing this, perhaps by it being paid by the employer or contractor. He, as a proprietor of mineral works and collieries, used this system successfully.

He would favour a consolidation of the smaller trusts and would amalgamate the turnpike and statute labour roads. If the road debts were valued, this would greatly reduce the amount of the overall debt.

Elias Cathcart, Auchendrain, a landed proprietor with an involvement in the Maybole roads was in favour of abolishing tolls and replacing them with a graduated assessment on horses. This would be much cheaper especially if the turnpikes and statute labour roads were brought under one system. He gave an example of oppressive tolls which could be avoided if the roads were amalgamated.

He thought it would be beneficial if those paying the assessment could be represented on the management - at present their influence was limited to noting if their landlord attended the meeting of the Trustees. The general budy of Trustees should have powers to “see that the District Trustees did their duty.“

He thought the debt should be revalued.

James Campbell of Craigie, a proprietor, referred to his interest in roads matters and said that he had prepared the last Ayrshire Roads Act and had been in charge of its progress through Parliament. Prior to the Act there had been Districts but it was thought better that the different roads should be kept separate, the idea being that money raised on a road should be spent on that road and not another. The Act had no four or five mile clause, hence tolls could be found at lesser distances.

A difficulty in placing statute labour roads along with turnpikes was that turnpikes could contract a debt whereas statute labour roads could not. Many of these roads were now as good as turnpikes. The present funding of the statute labour roads was an improvement on what went before when, for example, the rate on houses was uniform, despite differences in their value.

He believed tolls were a fair system. If replaced by an assessment it would be essential to assess minerals at a higher rate than property because of the damage caused by such traffic.

He distinguished two kinds of debt: one owed to parties with no interest in the lands a road passed through; the other to landed proprietors whose estates had benefited from the road they had subsidised. As their estates had increased in value because of the road he would not be concerned if they only received interest on the debt and not on the original sum.

He thought the £55,526 owed as interest should be written off as hopeless, provided it was owing only to the landed proprietors who had already benefited from the roads.

Colonel J F Hamilton, Cairnhill, vice lieutenant and convenor of the county, said he agreed generally with the preceding witness although he would not go quite as far on debts owing to landowners who had benefited by a nearby road. The way forward would be to have the debts valued.

He could see the difficulties in finding a fair method to pay off debts, although he did note that the present Act, by keeping roads separate, did not help when feeder roads into major turnpikes could have helped each other.

He was of the opinion that all roads in the county were economically managed.

He handed in copies of resolutions passed at two meetings of the county (Commissioners of Supply) on the subject of tolls and, in particular, on Lord Elcho’s proposals for a Roads Bill which was intended to “provide for the abolition of tolls, and of statute labour services or conversion money, as far as regards public roads or highways in Scotland.”

The first meeting (January 1858) completely disagreed with the proposed Bill saying that the case had not been made that it would reduce the supposed excessive cost of containing the funding from tolls and ignored the fact that tolls allow the people who use the roads to pay for them. The roads in the county were kept in excellent order in an economical way and with good prospects of reducing the roads debt. They “deprecate the change proposed, and will resist the same by every means in their power.” This resolution was to be forwarded to every county in Scotland.

The next meeting, in June, reinforced their objections. A workable, efficient and economical system would be replaced by one that was experimental and that would remove the burden from those who ought to bear it, those who used the roads most. They deprecated the proposed imposition on heritable property and tenants “in accordance with the usual convenient and summary method so frequent in recent legislation” saying that mining and trading interests who used and damaged the roads most would thereby escape paying what they should.

They argued that, as the bill was permissive, there would be difficulties in moving into a county where tolls were still levied and were unhappy that burghs were to be excluded. Other objections were a cumbersome machinery and its treatment of the road debt.

The Committee then instructed the Convenor to contact the member of parliament for Ayr with a view to submitting their objections to the Commons.

Thomas Gemmell of Ayr thought the present system "cumbrous, vexatious and needlessly expensive to the public, as well as unfair." There were too many tolls close to each other because of the number of small Trusts. It would be better if the roads were managed by the County Trustees under a general board for Scotland along with some government inspectors who would inspect the roads and the accounts. He would raise half the money on horses, and the other half on lands and heritages, including minerals. He noted the considerable profits made by some tollmen. He thought that burghs could be a problem as they would wish to retain the management of their roads, and their causeway customs. Regarding debt, he thought that those whose estates had benefited from a nearby road should still be paid what was owed them, although all debts should be assessed at their present day value.

Archibald Finnie, Provost of Kilmarnock, said that there were tolls on all the turnpikes entering the town. None ran completely through the town, although they entered it for some considerable distance. The statute labour money went first of all to highways specified in the Police Act and thereafter to side streets. The Police Commissioners could call upon proprietors to make up shortfalls on the side streets, and for pavements on the main roads. Statute labour money was levied at the maximum and was the only source of income for the roads as no customs were levied. He suggested there would be benefits if tolls could be replaced by an equitable assessment and a way found of allowing the burgh to deal with all roads within the parliamentary boundary.

Alexander Telfer, farmer near Ayr, said that he had compounded his tolls for carting produce to Ayr at £5 per annum. He sometimes used the shore otherwise it would have been over £10.

Farmers near Ayr would prefer an assessment to tolls, although opinions differed on how best this could be done.

David Patrick, surveyor for the Beith, Irvine and Largs district of turnpikes, as well as statute labour roads in Beith District and some parishes in Irvine District, said that statute labour roads would need more funding to make them as good as the turnpikes. Mineral traffic caused much wear and tear on the roads and required considerable outlay to keep a road in good condition.

It would be better if both classes of road were worked together and if a common trust was formed for the roads in a district; it would be more efficient and economical and tolls could be re-sited in a fairer way. There could be a case for larger districts, e.g. Cunninghame.

Using a worked example he argued that tolls were the best way of gaining revenue from mineral works and carriers. He noted that an assessment on horses that applied before the 1847 Act proved very difficult to collect, as did the 3 shillings on householders.

Finally, he thought it would be useful if Trustees could convert some parish roads into turnpikes.

John Gray, town clerk of Ayr burgh, said that they received one-third of the statute labour money raised in the parish which was paid into the common funds. There was no assessment for the streets which were paid for out of the common good. A causeway and fair custom was still levied and paid into the common good. The funds available were not quite sufficient for maintaining the streets.

If tolls were replaced by an assessment, he thought it better to keep the burgh separate from the rest of the county. If they had to look after all their streets under a heavy assessment they would prefer that the toll system remained.

Alexander Ralston, a farmer, gave details of his costs in using the roads. He thought that any assessment had to take into account the nature of the farm as the benefit each farm (tillage farms and grazing farms) gained from the roads varied widely; he recognised that this would be difficult and suggested basing it on the amount under crop. It would be useful if some of the tenants could become members of the Road Trusts.

James Drennan, farmer near Patna, said many were unhappy with tolls, although the difficulty was to find a good substitute. He pointed out that an assessment whether on rental and/or horses would apply unequally on different types of farm.

He gave local examples of how the tolls were unequally distributed and the costs that could arise on some journeys because of this.

In his opinion the best system would be to consolidate Trusts which would allow re-siting of tolls, placing turnpikes and statute labour roads under the one management, and allowing some tenant farmers to join the trust.

Andrew Mitchell, farmer in Straiton, gave examples of how much he paid for the use of the roads. It cost 2s.1/2d to go to Ayr and 1s.5d. for a cart. He paid £4 p.a. for the statute labour roads. When sending his sheep to Falkirk, the cost on average was 6s. per score, or £90 p.a.

He said that opinion was divided among tenant farmers on how to replace tolls. The two common proposals were an assessment on land and/or horses.

Robert Guthrie, farmer in Dundonald, detailed his expenditure for use of the roads. Most of the farmers in his area would rather have an assessment; he personally would prefer it on horses.

If it were on horses he conceded that this would not cover the use of roads by sheep and cattle, although he did not think it should rest solely with lands and heritages. Carters should have to pay three or four times more than farmers.

Another problem with assessment on rental was how to gain a sum equivalent to the tolls paid by the two freestone quarries which took the stone to Troon from where it went to Glasgow by rail.

He would include some tenant farmers in the management of the roads as they could provide information about roads on which Trustees might never travel. Turnpike and statute labour roads should be amalgamated.

John Guthrie of Holmes in Kilmarnock, a farmer, gave details of his use of the roads and what he paid on them. It was widely felt that tolls should be replaced, being too many and inconvenient to pass through although he could see the difficulties in any assessment on lands and/or horses. In his locality the roads were not much affected by mineral workings as these were carried by railways.

He would amalgamate the turnpikes with the statute labour roads, in districts, with one surveyor, and would include some tenant farmers and some elected members in the management of the roads.

Thomas Campbell, Provost of Irvine, said that the burgh received one-third of the statute labour money of the parish which was applied to these roads in the burgh. The rest of the streets were paid out of the burgh funds. Some of the turnpikes came within the burgh boundaries and the Turnpike Trusts maintained the bridge and its approaches, towards which the burgh gave them a sum of £300. The presence of a toll at the north end of town had had an effect on its expansion in that direction, although generally there were few complaints about the tolls.

He thought it would be best if the burgh roads were managed along with the county roads and that any system, perhaps consolidation of Trusts to reduce the number of tolls, would be preferable to the present arrangements.

James Baird, a proprietor with ironworks in Dalry, Kilwinning, Auchinleck, Muirkirk and Ardrossan said that his works had rail sidings so had little effect on the roads and paid little tolls. If they were replaced by an assessment on lands and heritages they would not be affected greatly. Removing the tolls would be a relief for householders who had to have coal delivered by cart up to 12 times a year.

He was in favour of replacing tolls with an assessment on lands and heritages - owners and occupants each to pay half. A rate on horses would have its difficulties: with carters the cost would be added to the carriage with the result that ordinary people would end up paying more. Tolls, generally were an inconvenience and often not well placed.

He thought the roads were not well-managed, especially the parish roads; and that there were too many tolls - every parish road seemed to have a toll when it joined a turnpike. He gave an example of a 25 mile route on which there were 7 tolls.

With the heavy traffic taken off the roads by the railways, some of the Trusts seemed to have more money than they needed - in places they had used it for widening the road when this was no longer needed.

Parish roads should be amalgamated with the turnpikes with one management for the county. Even if tolls continued there would still be benefits to consolidating the Trusts, and applying the six-mile clause.

Finally he thought that too many were employed in having to collect tolls whereas the Valuation Roll system could be adapted for assessments. Debts should be valued to see what they were worth at present.


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