SUCH joy! Cycling across Catterick Bridge at the weekend, out jumped a bright white milepost that we are pretty sure hasn’t been very visible for the last decade or so.

Or perhaps we just pedal around blindly.

The Northern Echo: The 1880s milepost which has recently been painted beside Catterick Bridge

Someone, probably in the last week, has cut the verge and then dug deep to find the semi-submerged miley, which they have nicely painted so its hands once again point to Catterick and “Peircebridge”.

This is now the A6055, but in its day it was the Boroughbridge-Catterick-Piercebridge Turnpike. In the middle of the 18th Century, to improve the nation’s roads, groups of private investors, known as turnpike trusts, were allowed to take over the roads and invest in improving them. In return, they could collect tolls from users.

The Boroughbridge to Piercebridge turnpike, which extended north to Spennymoor and then Durham, was created in 1742.

The trusts had to install mile markers – usually carved stones – along the road to remind travellers they were on a private road and to help them to work out their mileage.

In the 1880s, the new county councils and their highways divisions effectively took the roads back into public ownership, and to advertise the change, they replaced the milestones with metal mileposts.

Catterick, along with Bedale, Leeming and Masham, was in the Hang East Highways Division, as the top of the milepost shows.

The post itself was probably made by William Mattison’s foundry at Leeming Bar – a place that takes its name from the bar that was stretched across the road to force travellers to pay their tolls.

Mattison usually made agricultural equipment, but he seems to have cornered the market in mileposts as there are about 100 of his still scattered across North Yorkshire.

Therefore, you would think it must be Mattison’s – which was taken over by John Gill in 1937 – that was responsible for the mis-spelling of “Peircebridge”.

The Northern Echo:

The George at Piercebridge was originally called The Bridge Inn until the road from Catterick was turnpiked in the 1740s. The pub then changed its name to honour the king, and became a coaching inn

But, it is only in recent times that we have settled on “Piercebridge” as the correct spelling of this crossing over the Tees. The 1742 trust documents refer to the place as “Peirsebridge” and the first known spellings from 1,000 years ago record it as “Persebridge”. It is guessed that once this bridge was made of “pershe”, an old English word for twigs.