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The Agricultural Revolution Index

Introduction to the Agricultural Revolution

The Industrial Revolution Index

Introduction to the First Industrial Revolution

The Development of Roads and Railways Index

Roads and Railways : Introduction
The Development of the Railway
The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
Richard Trevithick

The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
John Blenkinsop

The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
George Stephenson

Building the Railways : Introduction
Building the Railways : Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Railway Mania
The Social and Economic Effects of the Railway

History Chapters Main Index

 

Chronology of the Development of Road Transport 1730 - 1908

1730

Turnpike roads are constructed

1730's

1760

Cugnot invented a steam propelled vehicle

1769's

1780

Murdock developed a road steam vehicle

1786's

1800

Trevithick's passenger steam vehicle

1801's

1810

Macadam developed a new type of road construction

1810's

First horse-drawn bus system operated

1812's

Telford's London to Holyhead road constructed

1815's

1820

Dr. Gurney's steam coach operated

1827's

1860

Lenoir's gas engine used in road vehicles

1860's

Véloe's péde bicycle introduced

1861's

1870

Penny farthing bicycles introduced

1870's

Otto's four stroke engine developed

1876's

1880

Benz's petrol-driven motorwagen developed

1885's

1890

Rubber tyres used on bicycles

1890's

Michelin Brothers used air-filled tyres on cars

1895's

Motorised omnibuses used in Britain

1898's

Gear boxes used in Benz's cars

1899's

1900

Model T Ford started production

1908's

 

TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLTIONARY CHANGE

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The Industrial Revolution

The Development of Roads

Roads in Britain had existed since Roman times. However, since the end of the Roman period no roads had been maintained on a regular basis. By the 18th century, most of Britain's roads were in very bad repair. When asked by a committee of enquiry about the state of the roads in his area, a Member of Parliament replied, "We travel in ditches, Sir!". In fact, at the turn of the century many roads were no better than ditches.

From the 1730's onwards old roads became better maintained and new, turnpike roads were constructed. This was in parallel with the development of canals and resulted from an increasing need to transport goods produced during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Turnpike trusts were set up by local businessmen, traders and other investors. Under the Turnpike Act they could build new roads or assume responsibility for existing roads. To finance their projects, a trust was allowed to collect a fee from every traveller using one of its roads. The fee, or toll, was collected at each end of each section of the road. In these places a gate and a toll-keeper's cottage were positioned.

 

A Punch cartoon entitled "Rebecca and her Daughters"

A Punch cartoon entitled "Rebecca and her Daughters"

 

The toll roads were very unpopular in some areas. In Wales, for example, many farmers had to pass through a large number of toll gates on their way to the market at Camarthen. In this area, a group of men, disguised themselves in women's clothes to avoid being recognised and broke down the gates of the toll roads. They called themselves "The Hosts of Rebecca" after a Bible story. It is for this reason that their protests became known as the Rebecca Riots.

New road construction techniques were developed by John MacAdam, Thomas Telford and John Metcalfe. Each of them put forward the idea of building raised, cambered roads which allowed water to drain off them as fast as possible. MacAdam's technique, which used tar mixed with roadstone and was called tarmacadam, became widely used and, eventually developed into the modern method of road building.

 

Telford's Roads

Telford's Roads © Shirley Burchill

 

MacAdam's Roads

MacAdam's Roads © Shirley Burchill

 

The new roads made stage coach travel much faster, more comfortable and easier than before. The increased demand for travel meant that many new stage coach companies were formed. Stage coach travel reached a peak between 1815 and 1840, when over 30000 people were employed and there were regular Royal Mail coaches, carrying both passengers and mail, between all the towns and cities in Britain. From around 1840, stage coach travel began to decline as it entered into competition with a new and much faster form of transport, the railways.

 

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