Hobson’s Choice – you pays to your left, and you pays to your right……

Camberley postcard 9

The history of the Camberley area is often described as one of the development of the modern British Army – better training led to the RMA and the Staff College and this led to the growth of a settlement serving them.

But you could see the area’s growth as reflecting changes in transport.  The photo above shows the junction of the Portsmouth and London Roads in about 1900.  Both routes were what we would now call ‘trunk routes’ and led from London to Exeter and Portsmouth.

Until the 1870s these roads were maintained by Tollpike Trusts – that is, private companies who charged a ‘toll’ to use the route.  The money provided enough profit to maintain the surface of the road, pay toll collectors and make a surplus for the investors.  Before their introduction in the early 1700s, the local population had to pay for the upkeep of the roads in their area which was unpopular, unfair and, crucially, not at all effective!  However, by 1870, the Trusts were being phased out and by 1880, Surrey County Council took over the care of routes in their area.

As you can imagine, while the tolls were in place, the general public, unless travelling on a coach, used the byways and tracks across the moorland, to travel around the area, and even, presumably, from town to town.  I would hazard that this must have been something of a brake on the development of the area?

By 1880, not only was there free use of a good straight road, but also the railway had arrived, and Camberley took a leap forward.  A similar leap took place when the M3 finally arrived in the early 1970s.  More on both of these stories will be coming………


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