All About Milestones and Waymarkers

The Mattison mileposts of the North Riding

William Mattison of Richmond started a foundry in 1851 on railway company land at Leeming Bar (on the Great North Road in Bedale Parish).  They made almost anything that could be cast in iron, from mill machinery to oven doors. And mileposts.  They made at least three designs of post, of which about 100 survive in North Yorkshire.

The earliest were the triangular posts produced for some local Highways Boards, including Richmond and Hang East (the latter taking its name from the wapentake).  (Highway Districts had been set up to maintain major roads in groups of parishes in rural areas.  They became increasingly common after 1862, and also took over any turnpike trusts which became insolvent.)

These have raised pointing hands at the top of each face, though on many posts the hands pointed the wrong way – possibly through mis-information, the founders being confused working with a mirror image mould, or the milepost being erected on the wrong side of the road.  Consequently, new hands were made and fixed over the offending ones; or sometimes the hands were repainted pointing in the opposite direction.  Examples of both can still be seen.  The words F Mattison & Co / Bedale appear inside.

With the establishment of County Councils in 1888 the functions of the Highway Boards were taken over, and there are two designs of posts made for the North Riding County Council.   The more elaborate of these has a round top with a Yorkshire rose surrounded by the words North Riding of Yorkshire; below this, on the bevel, is the name of the RDC (rather than the parish) or UDC.  The direction is indicated by elegant flighted arrows.  The word MILES appears if only one place is named; if more than one, MILES is omitted.  These have the same maker’s name as the Highway District type.

The other, probably later, NRYCC type is much simpler (and cheaper).  Similar to the HD type, but wider (22” compared with 14”), it simply has NRYCC on the bevel, and no hands or arrows.  It has Yorks added to the maker’s name. 

By 1913, perhaps when the County Council had completed their mileposts programme, the company was advertising cast iron boundary posts, and claiming to have made “many hundreds“ of boundary posts.

They were taken over in 1937 by John H Gill & Sons Ltd, agricultural engineers, still trading at Leeming Bar.

Main source: Article by Christine Minto in the Milestone Society Newsletter, no 22, Jan 2012, pp34-5.  RWH / February 2012.