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Glossary - Document 10

An Act of Parliament for amending and widening the road from Falmouth to Marazion, Cornwall, 1760.

(Catalogue reference: C 65/739 membrane 2)

Act

A Bill (proposal) to Parliament, which has been passed. For a Bill to be passed, assent has to be given by the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the monarch. Royal assent is now merely a formality – it has not been refused since 1708.

Bill

A draft proposal to parliament for a new law or to change an existing law. If the proposal is passed, it becomes an Act of Parliament.

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Chancery hand

A set style of handwriting used in the royal chancery at Westminster for the engrossing of royal letters patent, writs and enrolments. Many government departments had their own set style of handwriting, which had evolved purely from a desire for distinctiveness, rather than concern for legibility. During the Commonwealth (1649-1660) such set hands were banned, along with the use of Latin in domestic administrative documents. Records were to be written in English and in an ordinary and legible hand. But the restoration of Charles II also restored all such set hands, which returned as idiosyncratic as ever. An Act of Parliament in 1731 (which came into force in 1733), declared that all records should be written in a common legible hand. The only exception was the enrolment of Acts of Parliament on Parliament rolls, for which Chancery hand continued to be used until 1836.

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Enrolled

Written on to a roll, to be kept as a permanent record.

Membrane

A 'skin' or page of parchment.

Roll

Rolls consist of rectangular sheets of parchments called membranes, sewn together and rolled up to form a cylinder. Chancery and Parliament rolls are made of membranes sewn end to end and rolled up. Exchequer rolls are made of membranes placed in a pile and sewn together along the top, before being rolled up.

Toll

A payment. In the case of toll or turnpike roads, a toll would be made for permission to use the road.

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Turnpike road

A road for which a charge is made to use it.By a statute of 1555 parishes were responsible for repairing roads that ran through them but the growing volume of traffic made this increasingly difficult. It was illegal for a toll to be charged on a public highway without the consent of the Crown and Parliament. Once consent was given, all road users could be stopped at gates across the road and charged a fixed amount to use the road, determined by the amount of damage each was considered to cause to the road. People on their way to church were exempt. The first turnpike road was established in 1663 and ran between Wadesmill and Royston in Hertfordshire. Between 1751 and 1772, 389 new Turnpike Acts were passed. A trust would be set up to administer the road.

Trustees

Turnpike trusts were administered by trustees or commissioners appointed by the individual Turnpike Act. The number of men appointed as trustees named in each act could vary from about 30 to over 400, with the average number in the mid 1700s standing at 200. (Size was a feature of 18th-century public bodies.) Only a few trustees would actually attend meetings. Trustees were generally local men of standing: noblemen, gentlemen, Members of Parliament, justices of the peace, influential local landowners and clergymen. Trustees could appoint surveyors, arrange for the repair and upkeep of the roads, erect gates and appoint toll collectors.

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