Horse power and highway history

Across the AONB

From : Valerie Belsey

The evolution from horse drawn to petrol driven transport has left behind many reminders of when we all moved about on foot, horseback or in vehicles pulled by horses. When talking about the capacity of a car we still refer to its horse power.

Horse-drawn transport was king in the turnpike age and it is still possible to find reminders of these days in the coaching entrances lining our towns and villages. These entrances often appear next to coaching Inns along with mounting blocks.

There are still a few hitching rings around which show where horses were tethered outside public houses or hostelries. However, drinking troughs for the horses were often placed far away from Inns by temperance societies, such as this one in Newton Ferrers.

The competition amongst stage coaches to cover distances in the shortest time was well known but outside the pub at Aveton Gifford there is a barely decipherable remnant of a race which took place between two traders on donkeys in 1769. 

They raced each other back to Aveton Gifford from Kingsbridge market but, unfortunately one of them, a Mr. Randall went straight over the wall and broke his neck!

Another piece of highway history left over from this age is found in Jubillee Road Aveton Gifford where a cast iron tyring platform is embedded in the concrete. This was where the iron hoops were fitted onto wooden waggon wheels. Carriers, ponies, carts, butts and waggons were used on the roads until tarmac came along in the 1920s.

Kicking stones which often appear at the base of a building were to protect it from the iron wheels of vehicles as they passed. They are often found at entrances to bridges too where they would have knocked dished wheels back into true before they crossed the bridge.

Researched and written by Valerie Belsey, (former Historic Highways Monument Surveyor at Devon County Council) for South Devon AONB Unit, January 2011.

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Horse power and highway history

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