TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 23rd November 1998 (p.9), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.


From the reign of Queen Mary, every able-bodied Englishman could be called upon to take a regular turn at maintaining the highways of the parish. In 1663 came the introduction of tolls to raise revenue from the roadusers themselves, and road building really grew apace when the establishment of turnpike trusts in 1706 put it on a true business footing.

Tolls for using sections of turnpike roads were collected at tollgates, or tollbars, their keepers generally housed in small rent-free cottages. A table of fees was supposed to be displayed there by law and payment was usually handed over at a projecting window or roadside door.

Coach passenger fares included a few pence per mile to cover toll fees. Goods wagons - which in the Peak transported wool, malt, minerals, chert and millstones - were charged according to the breadth of their wheels and the number of horses drawing them. Mail coaches were exempt from tolls from 1784, in fact their guards sounded the coach horn on approaching a tollgate so that its keeper could let the mail through without delay.

The turnpike system continued until local government took over responsibility for highways in 1888. Those redundant toll cottages which did not become derelict often survived as distinctive country cottages, recognisable by their proximity to the road. They frequently have a bay window or traces, at least, of a door close to the passing traffic.


Wensley's first toll house was improved as early as 1760, when it was provided with an oven and a two seat 'Necessary House' - an earth closet. In common with most of the others, that at Wensley is proud to maintain its historic connection by virtue of its house name. The gable of a house at Rowdale near Bakewell displays models of a bell and gate as a pictorial pun on its former role; here were levied charges to use the Edensor link of the Buxton/Ashbourne turnpike.

An attractive old toll house on the outskirts of Little Rowsley now guards only a quiet by-road, once the Chesterfield turnpike which climbed up and over Beeley Moor. Another obvious example stands sideways-on to the A6 opposite Caudwell's Mill at Rowsley, its multipaned windows close to passing traffic but the original door moved in the interests of peace and privacy. Perhaps the Peak's most conspicuous toll cottage is the single-storey octagonal building which juts into Stoney Middleton's main village street. This one too has had its doorway rebuilt to one side.

On a road now busy with quarry traffic between Middleton by Wirksworth and the B5036 stands a modernised tollbar house which, together with another at Godfreyhole to the southwest, served the Ashbourne turnpike; this skirted Wirksworth in order to keep to level ground.

Two enlarged toll houses survive from the Sheffield/Buxton turnpike; with its doorway repositioned the first still has a bay hugging the road at Grindleford Bridge, while in the direction of Calver the second stands alone at the corner of the road which drops down to Froggatt Bridge.

Crowdicote and Leek Edge each retain a tollhouse built on the Newcastle Under Lyme to Hassop turnpike, the route for wagons taking peak chert into North Staffordshire and bringing crates of pottery out.

The rural positions of most of the tollbar cottages seem to have aided their survival. None can be positively identified in Matlock, for instance, although several turnpikes met here and trade must have been brisk. There are clear traces of an archway - a possible collection point - however, in the roadside wall of a stone house at the bottom of the 1 in 7 road named Steep Turnpike. In 1760 this road was turnpiked as the route to Chesterfield, closely following Hereward Street, whose Roman builders may have been familiar with taxes but knew neither road taxes nor tolls.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 23rd November 1998.

Photograph of The Toll Bar Cottage, Grindleford (elsewhere online)

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page: https://texts.wishful-thinking.org.uk/TakeaLook/TollBars.html
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library