17th century Hexham and Corbridge

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  • #29662 Reply
    Amanda Marks


    I’m an author writing a novel set in Corbridge and Hexham in both present day and 1650. My questions relate to 1650.
    I’ve been trying to research the roads and streets in both towns, and also between the two, but I’m struggling to find the specific answers I need. Perhaps I’m asking the impossible but if anyone could help, I’d be very grateful.

    1. Would the market places have been cobbled (or paved) or simply earth?
    2. Would general town streets have been paved? And kept clean (I doubt the latter).
    3. Would the road between the towns have been earth or paved?

    Many thanks for any insights.
    Best wishes
    Amanda Marks

    #29664 Reply
    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.

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