A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 2


Road Conditions

As you walked or rode on horseback around the villages on the outskirts of Halesworth, these monasteries would be the only large stone buildings you would see, except for the possibility of a local church or a castle in the distance. The roads themselves were appalling by modern standards, with most looking more like the muddy footpaths we see leading across fields or into woods or along hedgerows. In fact the the footpaths we have today are often the ancient ways which people used when going to work, to church or to the market.

English roads were the 'King's Highway', and land owners were supposed to maintain their surface and also to clear the land each side of the road in order to deter robbers.

Most repairs were done by noblemen who frequently had to travel from one of their residences to another, and they kept the main roads as passable as they could. It was also seen to be a pious or social duty, so in the later Middle Ages, it became common for people to leave money in their wills for the improvement of local roads.

Thomas Spring of Lavenham, in Suffolk left no less than 200 for the upkeep of the roads around that town. William Norton, who lived in the Gothic House in Halesworth in the 16th century left forty shillings (2) in his will of 1542 to mend the roads from Halesworth to Chediston, while his son Robert Norton who died in 1561, left twenty shillings (1) for repairs to the highway from Halesworth to Beccles.


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