History KS3 & KS4/GCSE: Why did Britain need a better road network?

In the early 1700s Britain’s road networks were simply not up to the task of moving the goods around the country which needed to be moved.

Most of the roads were ancient, potholed and too small for modern business to be carried out.

As Britain began to industrialise, this lack of transport made it very difficult to transport raw materials like coal or cotton.

It was especially difficult for a businessman like Josiah Wedgwood, who reckoned that he sometimes lost one third of his shipments of pottery on Britain’s terrible roads.

In 1706 Parliament passed the Turnpike Act which allowed private road builders to build new roads and charge tolls for using them.

It was a first, important step towards the road transport network we know in Britain today.

This short film is from the BBC series, Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here.

Teacher Notes

Using the character of Josiah Wedgwood as a focus, but including material from the whole clip, students could identify all the information required to write a letter from Wedgwood to his local MP.

Your students should put their points across clearly, stating a case for a turnpike road to built in Stoke.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching history at Key Stage 3 and GCSE, Third Level and National 4 & 5, in particular units on the Victorians and the Industrial Revolution.

More from Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here:

Josiah Wedgwood: Genius of the Industrial Revolution
The brains behind the Industrial Revolution
The growth of industry and factory towns in Britain
The importance of coal in the Industrial Revolution
The transport revolution: Britain's canal network