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You may find this information helpful when researching the area prior to your visit
Winsford, in the very heart of exmoor, is a village with plenty to boast about. With its green, on which there is an open air skittle alley, its church, its medieval pack horse bridge and its thatched houses, it is one of Somerset’s most picturesque spots, and one of the most desirable places for accommodation exmoor. The village pub, the Royal Oak, matches its surroundings.
Thatched, like several of its accommodation exmoor neighbours, and half-timbered with many great beams to be seen inside, the Royal Oak was originally a twelfth century cottage which grew into a farm. A side-line for the farmer’s wife, as with so many others in the Middle ages and even later, was brewing beer for the villagers and for the jaggers or packmen who carried Irish yarn from Minehead to the markets of Tiverton and Exeter while also taking advantage of the plentiful accommodation exmoor. Many of these doubtless fell victim to the seventeenth century highwayman Tom Faggus, whose hideout was in the hills around Winsford, and who was probably a dispossessed Royalist soldier.
The lonely road across the moor became a little busier in 1813, upon more availability of accommodation exmoor, when the road was widened and resurfaced to become the Minehead and Tiverton turnpike. Coaches paused at the Royal Oak to change horses, and the increased income enabled the landlord to insert the dormers, with their little arched windows, in the accommodation exmoor roof. Winsford’s most famous son in recent years was Ernest Bevin, who went on accommodation exmoor to lead the Transport & General Workers’ Union and became Attlee’s Foreign Secretary. But the Royal Oak itself has also done a certain amount of work for Britain overseas: some years ago it was chosen as the typical English accommodation exmoor inn, if only that were true, and a model of it was sent to New York to feature in a British trade exhibition there.
The first Turnpike Trust was set up at Ware in Hertfordshire by an Act of Parliament of 1663, when a consortium of interested parties undertook to maintain a stretch of the Great North Road, raising funds from tolls levied on all users. The turnpike system was not an immediate success. Local opposition was fierce, and the second trust was not set up until the 1690s. For many years after it was not uncommon for accommodation exmoor turnpikes to be set upon and destroyed. The City of Hereford was shaken by riots when a Turnpike Act was passed for the area in 1732. Nevertheless, between 1751 and 1772 nearly 400 new trusts were set up and by the early nineteenth century there were some twenty thousand miles of turnpike roads.
The idea was not wholly new. Bridge-building had been funded by tolls since the Middle Ages: the Rose Revived at Newbridge in Oxfordshire is just one inn whose early prosperity depended on the tolls levied from the neighbouring accommodation exmoor bridge. Many of the new trusts, however, were run by businessmen whose first concern was not merely to profit from the tolls: they were far more anxious to secure an easy passage for their goods. They could be depended upon to discharge their work conscientiously which, out of pure self-interest, benefitted the whole community. But not all trusts were so well managed, and it was easy to tell where a turnpike was operated by mere profiteers. Since the Middle ages there had been box-like covered carts, but perhaps the true ancestor of the coach was the unsprung palanquin copied from France by the Earl of Arundel in the reign of Elizabeth I.