The industrialisation of Staffordshire was only possible because the road system was improved to meet the needs of the potters, miners and iron makers. There had been Roman roads in existence before this. The medieval Carlisle road passed through Lichfield, Stone and Newcastle. Dr. Plot considered that roads in the county were "universally good" excepting in the Moorlands and about Wednesbury Sedgley and Dudley. Other travellers were not as charitable. Admiral Leveson-Gower commented that he "would rather be in the Bay of Biscay in a storm than on one of Dilhorne roads in a carriage." In the first quarter of the eighteenth century county justices set about rectifying the situation. They began by replacing old packhorse bridges with stone ones which were wide enough for carts.
Road surfaces had to be improved too. You will recall from your history lessons in the Tudor and Stuart era vagabonds or "study rogues" or villagers were forced to spend time working on road surfaces. For the majority of the year it was found that roads were a mass of mud and impassable even for the hardiest traveller. Turnpike trusts were set up to introduce a better road network. Initially the system was only used for long distances across and through the county, reminiscent of the motorway network today. The earliest trust to be authorised, in 1714, was for the section of the Carlisle road from Tittensor northwards through Newcastle to the county boundary. In 1729 the system extended to the whole of the Chester road via Lichfield and Stone. The Sandon to Hug Bridge turnpike appeared on the 1836-42 Ordnance Survey map. The turnpike started in Sandon, passed through Hilderstone and then formed two branches; one went on in the direction of Meir and the other towards Draycott-in-the-Moors where it joined the Cheadle (Five Districts) turnpike.
The turnpike trusts carried out improvements throughout the county. Sometimes they needed Acts of Parliament in order for them to be built. The Earl of Harrowby was instrumental in getting an act passed which would help his estate's business with the workers of the Potteries who needed provisions to be brought from the countryside.
As more and more Acts of Parliament were passed so the number of turnpike trusts multiplied. This carried on to such an extent that by 1838 there was forty-seven separate trusts for the county. Some trusts were more profitable than were others, the Birmingham to Wednesbury trust had a total income of £5,478 of which £4,751 was derived from tolls. The least productive was the Uttoxeter and Callingwood Plain trust, which raised only £76 from tolls.
The second half of the nineteenth century meant that turnpike trusts were no longer as successful as they had been at their inception. A sign that there had been a turnpike was a tollhouse. This was where travellers had to pay for the privilege of using the road. There is an old tollhouse in Milwich opposite "The Green Man" public house. Tollhouses were purpose built and they had to have sufficient windows for the toll keeper to see any approaching traffic.
Mileposts are another indication of the existence of a turnpike. There are a number in the locality including along the Sandon-Hilderstone road and the Hilderstone-Cresswell road. Their purpose was to act as indicators of the distance between towns on the turnpike. They were originally made of cast iron but some of those now in existence are constructed from concrete or stone.