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statute labour


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An Act of 1555 ordered the annual election of overseers of the highways for each township or civil parish, and obliged every householder to work under the supervision of the overseer for four days a year (or to pay for someone else to perform the work) on repairing and maintaining the local highways. An Act of 1563 increased this liability to six days a year. The better‐off inhabitants were also obliged to provide carts and draught animals. In his Description of England (1577) William Harrison wrote that this obligation was ‘much evaded’. Nevertheless, ‘statute labour’ or ‘the common days work’ system formed the basis of road maintenance for the next three centuries. The system was not replaced by turnpike roads (for statute labour was used to supplement the workforce there, and minor roads were not turnpiked).

Subjects: History.


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