The State of the Roads

  • 26 May 2023
  • Early Vehicles
  • Back

The roads in the 17th century were unbelievably bad, and for most of the 18th century they were in a worse state than had ever existed before. No new roads had been made since Roman times, and the existing roads were full of holes, sometimes four or five feet deep, and were often a sea of mud. The most important road in the county, the road from Droitwich to Worcester (the present A38), used for the transportation of salt to the barges on the Severn, was so bad that it was only possible to use it for wheeled transport for three months of the year.

Many 18th century travellers recorded the appalling state of the roads in Worcestershire. In 1749, John Wesley, travelling through this area, wrote: 'The ruts were so deep and uneven that the horse could scarcely stand, and the chase was continually in danger of overturning'. In 1775, David Garrick sent Parson Bates to report on the acting of Mrs Siddons at Worcester's King's Head Theatre. When reporting back, Bates commented that to arrive at Worcester, he had to travel 'some of the cursedest cross-roads in the kingdom. It was the same all over the country. Arthur Young in 1768, wrote of ruts 4ft. deep, and impassable sea of mud. As late as 1788, Henry Gunnings, making the journey from Worcester to Bromyard, wrote: 'After passing over the most exacrable roads l have ever witnessed, l arrived at Bromyard'.