The Turnpike-road that wound between Leicester and Welford followed the contours of the land closely. About mid-way it bypassed the village of Shearsby and headed south, passing the intersecting lanes between Saddington and Bruntingthorpe, and rising to 533 ft. at the top of the John Ball Hill. That would be a rise of 142 ft. from the point where the road crossed the brook between Shearsby and Arnesby: a long, steep climb for the horse-drawn carts of the day. It was a stretch of road with a poor reputation. The wooded fox coverts either side near the top were named after alleged highway robbers John and Jane Ball and there had been an incident of attempted robbery as recently as 1822.
The road was a commercial operation, charging its travelers for its use at toll booths along the way. Investing in the upkeep of the road was a part of the role of the Trustees. In June 1830 they put out a call to tender for anyone wanting to take on the proposed work to alter the height of the hill. Would-be civil engineers did not get long to decide as any proposals to engage in the work needed to be considered at the Trustees Meeting to be held at the Three Crowns Hotel on the 21st of June. The surveying work had, however, already been completed and the plans could have been viewed at the offices of Mr. Parsons, a Leicester surveyor.
It is unclear today whether any such work was undertaken. In 2017 concerns about traffic and the steepness on the hill remain, though they now focus on the speed and inattention of the drivers. There is an online petition on the website of the current operators of the Turnpike road, now the A5199 and run by the Leicestershire County Council. The petition calls for the council to ‘urgently improve traffic management and road safety on the A5199, on the roads approaching Shearsby and the nearby crossroads of Saddington Road / Bruntingthorpe Road’. If you share the Shearsby villagers’ concerns about safety along this stretch of road, please do add your name to the petition.
The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, June 12, 1830