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In Upper and Lower Canada, concession roads were laid out by the colonial government through undeveloped Crown land to provide access to rows of newly surveyed lots intended for farming by new settlers. The land that comprised a row of lots that spanned the entire length of a new township was "conceded" by the Crown for this purpose (hence, a "concession of land"). Title to an unoccupied lot was awarded to an applicant in exchange for raising a house, performing roadwork and land clearance, and monetary payment. Concession roads and cross-cutting sidelines or side roads were laid out in an orthogonal (rectangular or square) grid plan, often aligned so that concession roads ran (approximately) parallel to the north shore of Lake Ontario, or to the southern boundary line of a county. In a common square grid layout known as a 1,000 Acre Sectional System, adjacent parallel roads were 100 chains or 1.25 miles (2.0 km) apart, and arranged as 10 100-acre lots each 20 chains by 50 chains so that two consecutive concession roads and two consecutive side roads enclosed a square of 1,000 acres (4 km2). Other plans used during colonial surveying used different layouts and lot sizes of 100, 150, 160, 200 or 320 acres.
Concession roads were typically numbered consecutively. The first concession road in a township, though, was often called the baseline (from the surveying term), and roads so named remain in many municipalities, including Ottawa, Clarington and London; the first concession road was also frequently called the front, or broken front if it was on a lake shore. In some areas it's referred to as a townline, particularly if it is a boundary line between two townships, e.g., Adjala-Tecumseth Townline.
In some townships, such as those in Bruce County, each side of each successive concession road comprised a separate numbered concession. Thus, the south side of a road might be Concession 2 and the north side Concession 3. In this system, for the purposes of road signing only even (or, sometimes, odd) numbers were used, so that concession roads were successively numbered, e.g., 2, 4, 6, etc. This simplified the address numbering of farm lots, especially along township boundary roads where opposite sides of the same road were in different townships. Where even numbers were used, the numbers of odd-numbered concessions would appear only in property records (e.g., Lot 18, Concession 11, Brant Township, which would be on the north side of Concession Road 10).
In some townships, the baseline passed through the middle, with concessions numbered on each side. For example, in Warwick Township in Lambton County, the Egremont Road was the baseline, with successive concessions numbered either "North of the Egremont Road" ("NER") or "South of the Egremont Road" ("SER").
Many of the "sideline" roads still preserve "Line" in their names. Guelph Line, 12th Line, and Brown's Line are important thoroughfares in and west of Toronto. The "side road" name survives on several roads in Ontario as well.
Side road or sideline numbering varies depending on the township. Sideline roads in many townships in Bruce County, for example, are numbered in multiples of 5, i.e., starting with the town line (road on township boundary), then numbered 5th, 10th, 15th, and so on, with five lots between each pair of successive sidelines in the original township survey. In some townships, the "line road" name was applied to the roads that elsewhere were called "concession roads", i.e., roads that ran between two adjacent concessions.
Many concession roads retain their original names. Less developed areas are often referred to as "back concessions".
In most of Upper Canada this layout of roads preceded urban development, so that most Ontario municipalities now have grid patterns of streets. In cities, many concession roads have become major streets.
- McIlwraith, Thomas R. "Concession line". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Filey, Mike (2003). "Imposing Grid on Toronto the Good". Toronto Sketches 7: "The Way We Were". Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 153. ISBN 9781550024487. OCLC 51736516. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- Weaver, W.F. Crown Surveys in Ontario (PDF). Government of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources https://web.archive.org/web/20140411013829/http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@osg/documents/document/stdu_130769.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 11, 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2014. Missing or empty