The poor estate of English roads in the 18th & early 19th centuries

By Michael A.G. Haykin

In an early nineteenth-century French gazetteer, there is an interesting comment on the state of the roads in London: “Les rues de Londres sont mal pavées; les grandes routes ne le sont point du tout” (Méthode abrégée et facile pour apprendre la Géographie [Lyon: Blache et Boyet, 1806], 222). Putting aside the possibility of French bias when it comes to all things English, this is a fascinating comment that, if it is borne out by other sources, would illumine the challenges of getting around eighteenth-century London.

Of course, the poor repair of roads in general in eighteenth-century England is a factor that explains the isolation of Nonconformist causes in the land. And here is a good example of how geographical knowledge can be invaluable to historians.


Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.