Plus parts of the South Hams and West Devon

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 03, 2019
Webpage updated: February 03, 2019




The main road from Plymouth to Tavistock is thought to have left the original settlement of Sutton by passing up what became known as North Street, across the headland, down the valley at Mutley and back up the other side to Manadon, Knackersnowle, Jump, and on to Tavistock.  The first-named we recognise today but Knackersnowle is now Crownhill and Jump is where Roborough village is today.  From that road was a branch to Stoke Damerel.

These two routes, which were naturally described as being narrow, ruinous, and dangerous for travellers, were made the responsibility of the Tavistock Turnpike Trust in 1761.  To pay for the improvement work, the Trust was authorised by Act of Parliament to collect tolls at three toll gates, or turnpikes, at Knackersnowle, Horrabridge and at the Abbey Gate Bridge in Tavistock.

Two further Acts made slight changes to the siting of the toll gates, the first in 1771 removing the one at Horrabridge and the second, in 1783, adding one at Mutley (it was not yet known as Mutley Plain) and another on the road from Plymouth Dock, where it crossed the Plymouth to Saltash road.  Because this latter spot was near the one mile stones from Plymouth and from Dock, it acquired the name of Mile House.

The road to Dock originally followed a route roughly along what is today the allotment gardens opposite Morrison's Superstore, Langstone Road, Montpelier Road and Lyndhurst Road.  By 1784 a new straight and more gentle line had been cut across the fields from Torr Lane to Milehouse.

In 1804, during the 44th year of the reign of King George III, the Trustees obtained another Act 'for the better amending and repairing of the Roads leading from the Lower Market Houses in Tavistock, to Old Town Gate, in the Borough of Plymouth, and from Manadon Gate to the Old Pound near Plymouth Dock.'  This Act required the road to be self-financing.

Another Act in 1813, during the 53rd year of the reign of King George III, provided for the Trustees to collect two sets of tolls, one at Knackersnowle and another at an as yet unspecified location.

During 1812/13 the crest of North Hill was lowered and used to infill the Mutley valley to make the route more level for the Mail coaches, and in 1828 a similar project was undertaken at Manadon Hill.

The toll house at Mutley was known as Lewis Jones's Gate, presumably after the first toll collector or the original occupant of the cottage.   It presumably originated after the improvements of 1813 because it was situated on the level Mutley Plain.  This toll house was put on the market in 1849.  The local Commissioners acquired it for 180 in order to remove it top enable some improvements to the alignment of the road to be undertaken.

By 1842 there was also a to house where the branch road crossed Ford Hill and what is now Molesworth Road, at the entrance to Stoke Village.  The toll house was on the corner of Molesworth Road, the land opposite being gardens.

It was a long haul up Tavistock Road from the Old Town Gate and a steep descent into the valley at Mutley, so in 1850 there was a proposal to lower North Hill and raise Mutley Plain even more.  Although the additional land required for widening the road was purchased, the Commissioners' surveyor, Mr A H Bampton,   recommended that they "continue the filling in Mutley Plain but to postpone cutting down the hill for the present as I think the parties will be satisfied with the improvement when filling is complete.'

The work proceeded so slowly that in September 1850 the Commissioners instructed the surveyor to immediately complete the filling and levelling 'and to mettle the Road at once'.

Knackersnowle changed its name when, in 1860, the road at the brow of the hill there had to be moved eastwards to enable the fort to be built.   Two properties that stood in the way of the road, and which were known as Crown Hill, were demolished to make way for the realignment and gave their name both to the fort and the community.

The Tavistock Turnpike Trust folded in 1877 and responsibility for the repair and maintenance fell to the parishes through which the highway passed.