Historian Arthur R. Nicholls examines the derivation of some of Kendal's streets.

AS WE walk around our town, we pass familiar street names without giving them a thought. Many of them remind us of notable persons, events or places of interest.

Housing developers often choose names on a common theme.

On Heron Hill estate we see names concerning features in the Lake District, such as Scafell Drive (Scafell Pike, at 3,206 feet, England's highest mountain), Blea Tarn Road and Derwent Drive - two of our lovely lakes.

Elsewhere we find names of trees - Beech and Rowan Tree Closes and Oak Tree Road.

Some names are merely pointers to other places - Shap and Milnthorpe Roads.

Off Romney roundabout, at the start of Natland Road, stands a replica of the Netherfield toll house on the old turnpike road, which was once the main road out of Kendal towards Keighley in Yorkshire.

Buron Road was then a minor track.

The earliest roads were developed from trackways between settlements or villages and sufficed for many years. As trade and commerce grew, so did the roads.

Kendal produced bulky goods, such as bales of wool. Transport was needed to take them to the markets. Teams of packhorses were used for this purpose and they could cope with the rough, unmetalled, narrow roads.

Packhorses remained in use and carts had difficulty as the roads became dangerously muddy and often impassable in winter, turning into hard deep ruts by the summer.

The Highways Act of 1555 made the parishes responsible for the upkeep of roads, using what was termed statute labour.

Those with land worth £40 or more had to supply two men and tools for four days a year. Those without land had to provide the labour and standards were often low.

By the 18th century, roads were somewhat improved and the Turnpike Acts empowered parishes and towns to levy tolls on those using the roads, to pay for their upkeep and for new roads.

Gates were placed across the road and toll houses set up to house the tollkeepers.

John Loudon MacAdam was appointed advisor to the Turnpike Trust in Westmorland and set in motion a better method of road construction.

His principle was to provide good drainage with a solid foundation of firm layers of stone of standard size and traffic on the road compacted the surface.

Stonebrakers were employed, often from the workhouses, seated on the roadside preparing the stones for use.

In 1824 he used his principle and resurfaced part of Strickland at the north end of the town.

Despite the improvement, there were critics who said that he should have worked on roads in the countryside instead.

However, MacAdam's method of road construction principle remained the standard until tar was added to bind the surface and the term 'tarmac' was introduced.

People naturally objected to paying tolls to use the roads, and in 1878 they were abolished when county councils took over the roads.