Building of the Broughton Bypass is in its final few months. Local historian Keith Johnson looks back on the long journey to get the relief road
At long last the debate regarding the bypassing of Broughton, an apparent problem since the arrival of the motor car, will be resolved.
Indeed, the 21-mile stretch of the A6 highway from Preston to Lancaster still carries heavy traffic, despite the construction of the M6 motorway which was opened in late 1958, and the junction at the Broughton crossroads remains notorious for traffic hold-ups.
It seems folk have always had the aim of bypassing Broughton, giving the impression that it is a place to avoid.
However, early in the 20th century, the historian Anthony Hewitson, who travelled along the A6 on horseback compiling the notes for his book ‘Northward’, described the highway as the most interesting road in the Kingdom.
He observed that Broughton Village was made up of a few cottages, a shop or two, some joinery and blacksmith places and a couple of public houses. Hardly the kind of place to avoid, or is it?
Mind you, when Hewitson travelled along this highway things had improved somewhat on the reflections of a traveller of 1770 who remarked that it was an infernal road, which he cautioned travellers to avoid as they would the devil.
In those pack horse days, he remarked, there were ruts four feet deep, floating with mud. The highway generally had a span of some six feet, bordered with high hedges and paved with round pebbles and was in fact listed as a turnpike road by the Government in 1760.
The Broughton section of this toll paying road extended for almost two miles and toll collectors were busy gathering the money. In fact by 1826 it would have cost you sixpence for a horse drawing a carriage and ten pence to drive a score of sheep along its length.
The profit from the toll collecting that year was £1,990 after deduction of expenses with local residents, funerals and royalty allowed to pass by for free.
The Toll Bar cottage still remains just before the junction, encroaching as it does on to the present day pavement.
In 1828, when more highway improvement work was planned for the A6, surveyor William Thornborrow
arrived from Wales where he had been working for the great civil engineer Thomas Telford.
In charge of the improvements, Thornborrow rented Bridge Cottage facing Broughton Church so he was on hand day and night. In fact, he got so attached to the place that he ended up buying it and living there for 40 years until his death. In the middle of the 19th century Broughton had a population of no more than 600 and indeed growth was slow despite the great increase in the number of people in the cotton town of Preston.
Population growth in both the urban and rural parts of Broughton was slow even between the two world wars, when houses were only built at a rate of 50 per year. Modern developments in the area have seen the village population soar to more than 1,700, yet it still retains its rural splendour.
Of course, it was the coming of the combustion engine in the early 20th century which would herald the start of the traffic problems at the four lane ends. Even the local constable was soon mechanised, with an early Norton motorcycle used by him for patrol duty.
Also patrolling the highway was a mechanic from the Royal Automobile Club. For almost 30 years after the First World War, Mr Barfoot rode his bicycle up and down the highway, happy to help the stranded motorists.
Down the years many a traveller has seen their progress halted as they reached the Broughton traffic lights and the junction has become one familiar to many. Having two public houses on diagonally opposite corners probably helped to keep the memory alive. These being the Golden Ball, that later became the Bay Tree Inn, then the Gate of Bengal and nowadays is the Touch Of Spice, and the present day Broughton Inn, originally the Shuttleworth’s Arms and was later known as Trader Jacks and then Burlington’s.
The name Shuttleworth being a reminder of the days when James Shuttleworth was the lord of the manor.
This inn has played a significant part in village life, being used for inquests, meetings and social gatherings and in 1933 it was the place where the local Masonic lodge was formed.
In the summer of 1956 they went some way to solving the problems of the notorious Broughton crossroads and its traffic jams by installing traffic lights. Operated by a policeman they proved a big success over the Whitsuntide weekend as the large amount of holiday traffic was kept flowing. For the first time the Lancashire County Police had the use of a helicopter to identify any traffic hold-ups with the A6 from Preston to Lancaster being monitored all weekend.
In those days before the M6 motorway the traffic to and from Scotland would grind to a halt at the junction, as holidaymakers from East Lancashire heading for the Fylde coast would cut across its path.
In December 1958, a significant milestone was reached in travel when the first stretch of the M6 motorway was opened from Bamber Bridge to Broughton, but it did little to ease the traffic heading for the Broughton crossroads.
Until the motorway was eventually extended to Lancaster there were increased problems with the traffic from the new Broughton Roundabout heading north or wanting to head to the seaside.
Likewise, the building of the M55 through to Blackpool with its M6/M55 interchange at Broughton was eventually essential to accommodate the ever-increasing volume of traffic. This motorway opening in July 1975.
Yet still, the Broughton junction is one to be avoided as the volume of traffic on the roads increases year-on-year. Tailbacks from the traffic lights delay many an outing in summer, and the journey home is often delayed.
Whenever new developments are planned in the area thought is given to the problems likely to be caused at the heart of Broughton village. Plans to redevelop the former Whittingham Hospital site on the edge of Goosnargh village raised concerns about the increase in the volume of traffic caused by the new residents.
While one of the reasons behind the bid to refuse permission for three coarse fishing lakes near Goosnargh was the fear that more traffic would increase the burden on those Broughton crossroads.