Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Toll gates

Despite the advance in railways and rail speeds, road traffic continued to trundle along at the same pace as it had in the 18th century. The difference they would have noticed is that road surfaces had improved greatly. Many roads in the 18th century and earlier were impassable at certain times of the year and the cost of upkeep was borne entirely by the parish. And since they did not see this as fair as they often got little profit from it, the work was easy to neglect.

This changed with the Turnpike Acts, starting in 1706. In fact the Turnpike Trust for the road from Fonthill to Stony Stratford along the Watling Street was the first Tutnpike Act in the country. I have discussed this turnpike here.

Lesser roads, such as the road from Stony Stratford to Newport Pagnell had to wait another century for improvement. The Turnpike Trust for the Stratford to Newport road did not come until 1833, a few years only before the arrival of the railway at Wolverton. The Trusts were responsible for the upkeep of the road and were permitted to charge road users - thus building a up a fund to keep the road in good repair.

There appear to have been two toll gates in our district. One was on the Wolverton Road near to the Wolverton Mill turn-off and the other was at Stantonbury, at the foot of the hill going up to Old Bradwell. At each place a cottage was built for the toll collector and his family.

The first record of a toll collector was in 1841. I don't imagine the job was well paid and the gate had to be manned at all hours. It appears that husband and wife teams were able to manage the work between them. The Wolverton toll gate  shows Samuel and Rebecca Bull, both 30, with four small children in 1841. A decade later  Joseph and Elizabeth Marlow, both in their late 50s, were operating the toll gate between them. In 1861 George Goodman was the toll collector. He lived there with his wife Mary and three children. By 1871 tolls were no longer collected and the house was occupied by William and Hannah Reynolds and their two small children. There is no reference to any habitable building there in 1881 and it may have been pulled down.

There is a similar pattern of occupancy at Bradwell. Nobody held the job for over a decade. The next toll was at Newport pagnell.

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