|During the 16th and 17th centuries the bulk of English commerce was moved by river and sea, and was slow; subject to the weather and tides, and the silting up of rivers. So the roads were empty of trade, only being used for local movement, apart from the long distance drovers.|
|With the increase in "cottage industries" during the 1600's, more goods needed to be moved, and the waggoners appeared. Their carts caused untold damage to the surface of roads, with deep ruts in poorly drained areas which the cattle needed to negotiate. Watling Street in Buckinghamshire " is ruinous and almost impossible for about eight miles from Fornhill(Hockley) and Stoney Stratford", ; which was turn-piked in 1706.The first turnpike act was passed in 1663.
With the introduction of the toll system, the proceeds were used to great effect in the improvement of the road surfaces; resulting in the waggoners increasing their loads. The various Turnpike Acts penalized waggons with 9" wide wheels, so they increased them upto 18" in width to provide better traction, but this had a detrimental effect upon the road structure; so tolls were introduced to limit the weight. At the time of the restoration of the monarchy a horse could pull 3cwt., but a century later that had increased to 15cwt. per horse, due to the improvements in the road conditions.
Once a turnpike had been introduced, all local traders were required to use the road and pay the tolls. Failure to pay a toll would result in the seizure of goods until the payment was made. Any person attempting to evade paying a toll by using another road could be fined 20 shillings, in 1740.
"....and whereas in the summer season common carriers waggons traveling this road to London, quit the road at Stoney Stratford in order to evade this toll, contrary to the Act of Parliament".
In 1723, the Quarter Sessions for North Buckinghamshire states: "There are a great number of persons who reside and dwell within the county that are common drovers.... and make their business in buying numbers of live cattle in the market and selling them again in another market, not being authorized or licensed by this court, according to the law". This could now be established and corrected because the traders were passing through the toll-gate and their details were recorded. Stoney Stratford had on average some 400 cattle passing the toll-gate each and every day.