Reply To: 17th century Hexham and Corbridge

Ian Hancock

I can only comment on one of these questions :
Individual townships had a duty to maintain the Kings Highway where it ran through their township. This maintenance seems to have been basically spreading and crushing stones to metal the surface, and clearing ditches. It was done by “statute labour” in which every able-bodied man was expected to do his share (or pay someone else to do it for him).So the highways were to some extent metalled and drained, but in practice it was very hit and miss – there were frequent prosecutions of townships at the Quarter Sessions courts for not maintaining the highway (you would need to look at the catalogue of QS records at Northumberland Archives (online) to see if there are specific ones for Corbridge or Hexham. However, anything less than a main highway was probably just earth – there is a painting of 1803 showing Hallstile Bank in Hexham in which the road is still simply muddy, rutted earth.
There was some street cleaning in Hexham, governed by the Manor Court, particularly around the markets – you will find quite a lot about this in Anna Rossiter’s book “Hexham in the Seventeenth Century” (Hexham Local History Society, 2010).
Hope this helps.