Black Dog Turnpike
few miles inside Somerset, it looks as though the A361 is coming to an end. We've reached a roundabout, shared with the A36. According to the rules of the Ministry of Transport road numbering scheme, the A36 should be its final destination.
The roundabout offers the choice of travelling North to Bath, or South to Warminster. But on the green direction sign, the Warminster branch offers "Frome (A361)". So, all we've got to do is whiz down this fast dual carriageway for half a mile or so, and we can get back on our road to Camelot at the Beckington roundabout.
But, before we do, let's take a moment to look at this A36.
Once upon a time, this was the Black Dog Turnpike - a toll road between Bath and Warminster, linking into a number of other turnpikes. For instance, the bit of road we've just left was the Trowbridge Turnpike. These turnpikes were run as commercial enterprises by competing trusts. The Black Dog Turnpike Trust took its name from the pub where the entrepreneurs and engineers involved met. The Black Dog was just a few miles South of here, within Black Dog Woods.
The leading light of the Black Dog T.T. was William McAdam, son of John McAdam - the "Colossus of Roads".
McAdam père had made his enormous reputation in the first three decades of the nineteenth century - chiefly by devising a practical, cheap method for building and maintaining roads. By 1827, he was Surveyor-General for Metropolitan Roads for the whole of Britain, as well as acting as a trustee to a number of major West Country trusts.
William had followed in his father's footsteps, and was an able engineer in his own right. He was appointed to the Black Dog Trust in 1832. But there were problems. William has been described, possibly euphemistically, as a "difficult" man. Considering that the entire McAdam family had a reputation for "strong" personality, William must have been a proper pain in the arse.
Things can't have been helped by the fact that the Black Dog would put one of the Bath Trust's roads out of business. Not only was William's father a trustee of the Bath Trust - his son (William Junior) was too.
There must have been some tense evenings over the dinner table.
Somehow or other, the family managed to get through this bad patch. But William Senior continued to be "difficult". Eventually, the other Black Dog trustees pushed him out, and appointed William Junior in his stead. Junior remained in charge of the Trust until his death in 1861.
The road lived on.