Finger posts came into being in the 1740’s when turnpike trusts were encouraged to mark every mile. By 1766, this was made obligatory to aid stagecoach and mail facilities to keep time and in 1773 The General Turnpike Act was decreed, requiring signs be erected to inform travellers of the distance to the nearby town.
Whilst some elements of the finger post design were prescribed, depending of the period they were installed, local authorities had considerable scope for individuality leading to a rich historical content of finger post design.
Although many finger posts are a combination of black, white or grey other colour variants existed, particularly in Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, where some finger posts are red with white lettering.The reason behind this is not fully known but it is thought that the colour variation was used to mark out a route specifically for transporting prisoners on their way to deportation to Australia.
Aside from the colour differences, the form varies between counties with some bearing finials, discs, balls and pyramid shapes marked with county names.
With increased road use and the 1933 traffic sign system seeming outdated, a new system was put in place in 1961 resulting the 1964 Traffic Sign Regulations. Local authorities were encouraged to take away their remaining traditional finger posts, leaving only a few counties in England today keeping them, Somerset being one of them.
So today they are a very special part of the Exmoor History and heritage.
Over the years surveys of different types and scale have been completed and it is estimated that there are roughly 193 finger posts on Exmoor, however it is not clear as to the exact location, style, condition of all of them
On the 11th September a meeting took place at Winsford Village Hall to discuss a new initiative in which Parishes would survey all the finger posts with a view to restoring them. The Exmoor National Park has put aside £10,000 towards the project and it is hoped that additional funding may come from other sources.
So what is the next stage for Winsford?
So far all the signposts in the Parish of Winsford have been surveyed and the results passed on to Exmoor National Park where they will be collated.
Looking further ahead when all the results have been submitted it maybe that it will become very much a community project with volunteers being asked to help with some of the renovation work, but that is still to be decided depending on the complexity of the work.
Further information should be available early in November.
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