Broad Street Wrington History
Local time trail

In the November, 2000 issue of the Village Journal, local historian, Cmdr Michael Lawder posed this question:

"Why does no main road run through Wrington ?"

There are two references to this undoubted fact in the October Journal: on page 12 it is one of the reasons why Taywood's bid to build here was refused; and on page 4, Mrs. Thornywork mentions it as being why other villages attribute Wrington's unspoilt character to it as well.

I therefore thought it might be of interest to explain why this state of affairs came about.

While the Romans did make the roads they needed, of layers of graded stones and properly drained, their example was not followed for what lay between them.

For centuries, what passed as "maintenance" of local roads and lanes rested upon local inhabitants with no effective supervision until Tudor times.

The bulk of the traffic between towns and villages was, anyway, mainly on horseback or on foot, with only limited use of carts. As ruts and potholes developed, users merely dodged round them, thus widening the road.


At the end of the reign of Elizabeth I an Act of Parliament introduced a rate for the support of, among others, able-bodied male paupers who were required to break stones at little local quarries for filling potholes to qualify for relief.

Towards the end of the 1600s and into the 1700s the growing use of coaches and carriages made improvement essential, at least for roads between cities and larger towns.

Turnpike Trusts emerged as a result: groups of individuals banding together to obtain the necessary Act of Parliament to charge tolls over specified stretches of road in return for responsibility for keeping the surface in a reasonable condition for wheeled traffic.

One such turnpike and stretch of road in the parish of Wrington was the Bristol to Bridgwater Turnpike Trust that, after two false starts, got its Act of Parliament in 1747/49.


Some years before that a large scale map of the parish was surveyed for the Lord of the Manor in 1738/39. This quite clearly recorded in writing that the "road from Bristol to Wrington" ran from Lulsgate more or less straight across what was then unenclosed land until it reached the bridleway from Branches Cross where it turns rather sharply downhill into Goblin Coombe. Presumably the Turnpike Trust planned to follow that line too.

But the Rector of Wrington at that time, the Reverend Doctor Henry Waterland, protested strongly and, to our advantage still today in some respects, successfully, that such a turnpike could, to quote the 1861 Wrington Handbook, mean that "his parishioners would be demoralised or the quiet of the 'town' destroyed by the stress of the traffic".

The turnpike was accordingly moved to the line of the old Roman road down the east side of the parish from Lulsgate to Cowslip Green, Havyatt Green, and on to Churchill and beyond. Now, of course, it is with only a few minor adjustments the A38.

Advantage? Irritating as it must be for all those having to use them every day, when one considers that all the six ways out of the village to either the A38 or the A370 involve upwards of two miles of winding narrow lanes, this complete absence of any certainty of being able to make a rapid getaway must surely contribute one good reason why Wrington seems to suffer less imported crime than do more exposed places.

MC Lawder