Tollgates

April 21, 2006

Introduction
During the period 1750-1780 Dorset experienced profound changes in its road systems with the introduction of Toll Roads in many parts of the county. The Great West Road from London to Exeter passed through Shaftesbury, the important market town some five miles north of the village of Fontmell Magna. Eight miles to the south, the town of Blandford Forum became linked with Wimborne, Poole and Dorchester during 1760s, but the connection between Shaftesbury and Blandford was only established some sixty years later. By the 1860s many of the tolls were abolished, but the development of the new roads coincided with the strongest growth in population (and for a time, in prosperity) in the village.

Map of tollgates

Map of tollgates

The Act of Parliament which established the Shaftesbury-Blandford Turnpike was dated 24th May 1822, and had been preceded by the publication of a ‘Plan of the Intended Turnpike Road between Shaftesbury & Blandford’, dated September 1821. The plan proposed a northerly Cann Turnpike (just south of Butt’s Knap in Shaftesbury), and six ‘gates’ between Cann and Mill Down in Blandford. The original idea was to have two gates between Cann and Fontmell, one on the boundary between the parishes of Compton Abbas and Fontmill[sic] Magna, and a second 0.2 miles north of Fontmell Post Office. In the event, only one tollgate was created on the main road at the southern limits of the village, with a ‘side gate’ in the lane to Bedchester. The ‘new’ parts of the main toll road were to be a short stretch from the Crown crossroads to the junction with Parsonage Street, and 0.6 miles from Fontmell to Sutton Waldron. Previously, a cart or carriage travelling south from Fontmell would have had to go up Fontmell Hollow, turn west into Sutton Waldron, turn south at Church Lane and then return to the Blandford Road just north of the Sutton-Iwerne boundary. Clearly, the new road made economic sense.

The Fontmell Tollgates
The Salisbury and Winchester Journal published on Monday, 21st February, 1825 contained a ‘Notice that the Trustees of the Turnpike Roads in the Shaftesbury Division will meet at the Grosvenor Arms Inn in Shaftesbury on 28th February in order to consult about erecting a TOLLGATE on the new Turnpike Road [now the A350] and also a SIDE GATE or BAR upon the present Highway at or near Lawrence’s corner in the parish of Fontmell Magna.’ At that time the Trustees included Sir Richard Carr Glyn (1755-1838, the estate land-owner and sometime Lord Mayor of London,) and his four sons, of which his eldest, Sir Richard Plumptre Glyn was to inherit the Fontmell estate.
From the mid-16th century the parish was required by law to

The Toll House, South Street

The Toll House, South Street

appoint yearly a Surveyor and Labourers (Statute Labour) to work on the roads, unpaid, for four days (later increased to six) during the year. It was an inadequate system which was abolished by the Highways Act 1835. Before the parish roads were turnpiked, some of the roads in Bedchester (as shown on the 1774 Estate Map) were wider and could probably be referred to as ‘green lanes’. A surface of stones was provided when roads were turnpiked and some of the surplus width was enclosed and formed a garden for Meadows Hayes Cottage and a site for building a cottage at Bedchester Cross Roads which narrowed the width at the commencement of Pen Hill Road. The enclosure of surplus width is apparent when comparing the 1774 map with the larger-scale 19th century maps. The Ordnance Survey maps (1:2500 scale) still show the original road-boundary hedge on the east side of Meadow Hayes which was removed several years ago so that the garden land could form a small extension to the adjacent field.

Bedchester crossroads and chapel

Bedchester crossroads and chapel

The Tithe Map of 1839 shows quite clearly the TOLLGATE on the Sutton Turnpike Road, but does not show the SIDE GATE or BAR on the present highway which apparently refers to the side road from the main road (now A350) to Bedchester Cross Roads and formerly known as the Bedchester Turnpike Road. Tithe Maps were prepared by private surveyors who may inadvertently have omitted the gate on the Bedchester Road. Other Tithe Maps for parishes between Shaftesbury and Blandford did not show toll gates or bars although they were known to exist.
Lawrence’s Corner would appear to be at the field known as ‘Neck Close’ shown in the Tithe Map of 1839 and situated at the corner of Pen Hill footpath. The Tithe Documents record Neck Close as occupied and owned (i.e. copyhold) by John Lawrence (1786-1865) of Piper’s Mill, while Joseph Lawrence (1789-1853) occupied the adjacent Hurdle’s Mill. As both farms had been worked by branches of the Lawrence family for two generations, it is easy to understand why that part of the village was identified with their name.
According to information passed on from a family living locally in the 19th century,

The tollgate in West Street

The tollgate in West Street (now Meadow Hayes)

the side gate or bar was erected at the eastern end of the cottage now known as Meadow Hayes which was used as a TOLL HOUSE. The old iron hook on the gable wall and near to the road could have been used for hanging the Toll Keeper’s charge board. The Tithe Documents show that the Toll House was occupied by Parish Officers and owned by the Parish which was responsible for maintaining parish roads.

Cattle on the A350 passing Collyers Cottage

Cattle on the A350 passing Collyers Cottage

The level of Tolls was set nationally by the 1822 Act: four-pence
halfpenny [£1.28 today] for every horse drawing a carriage; nine pence [£2.56] for every horse or other beast of draught pulling a wagon; one and a halfpenny [£0.42] for every horse without a carriage or cart; ten pence [£2.83] per 20 cattle, but five pence [£1.42] per score for sheep or pigs. There was a substantial increase in Tolls in 1825 and similar amounts for the following years. Tolls were auctioned yearly and a notice published in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal informed the public when and where the auction would take place. A Notice dated 26th July 1830 stated that ‘The Shaftesbury Turnpike Tolls will be let by auction in lots to the best bidder at the Grosvenor Arms Inn, Shaftesbury on Tuesday 28th September next for One Year to commence 29th September.’ Fontmell Magna was included in Lot 5 which comprised ‘Stourpain[e] Gate, with the Gates or Bars at Dunn’s Lane, Everley Bottom and Fontmell Magna’. The successful bidders were sometimes known as Toll Farmers, and would acquire a group of Tolls.

In July 1831 the Gate Keeper for Fontmell Gate was Tom Spicer. During the week 27th January to 2nd February 1834 John Bone collected a total of 11s 9d at a toll gate and deducted 1s 6d for wages, leaving a balance of 10s 3d. The information was included on a weekly Return, but the location of the gate is not stated on the copy of the Return. Expenditure by the Turnpike Trust indicates that the Toll House on the Sutton Turnpike (South Street) may have been erected in the early 1850s. It replaced a small building situated on the highway verge, almost opposite Home Farm entrance and shown on the 1839 Tithe Map.

The End of the Turnpike Trusts
Shortly after the passing of the Highways Act 1862, parishes were amalgamated when the Shaftesbury Highway District was formed, but the Shaftesbury Division of the Turnpike Trust was terminated on 1st November 1865. The locomotive Act 1865 restricted traction engines to a speed of 4 mph and required a person to walk ahead carrying a red flag constantly displayed. When cars began to appear in the late 1880s, the law treated them like traction engines until 1896, when the law at last recognised that they were different and allowed a top speed of 12 mph. The Highways and Locomotive Act 1872 directed Quarter Sessions to make highway districts coterminous with rural Sanitary Districts and to transfer the functions of highways to rural sanitary authorities.
The Highways and Locomotives (Amendment) Act 1878 included a provision for County Courts to take over the responsibility for maintaining ‘main roads’ which were generally the former turnpike roads when half the cost of their upkeep should be found by the county authority from the county rate, leaving the other half to be raised by the parish or highway district. County Councils were formed under the Local Government Act 1888 and one of their functions was to take over from the County Court the responsibility for maintaining ‘main roads’, when the whole cost of their upkeep was found by the new county councils. The Local Government Act 1894 established rural district councils to which it transferred powers of rural sanitary authorities, including highways that were not already maintained by the County Council. It also established that no rural sanitary authority should cut a county boundary. The Local Government Act 1929 transferred the road functions of Rural District Councils to County Councils. The old tollhouse in South Street later became the village Police Station.
The introduction of tarmacadam in the early 20th century

Police House, Fontmell Magna

Police House, Fontmell Magna

brought a great improvement to roads which previously (under their best condition) were only macadamed (i.e. stones compacted without a binding of tar) and could be dusty in dry periods. [The Fontmell Archive has photographs of what is now the A350 in this condition.] The Rural District Council had many miles of roads to maintain for a small population and income. In some areas a few of the lesser-used rural roads appeared nothing more than farm tracts with little maintenance. In consequence, it was appropriate for the larger Dorset County Council to take over the maintenance of rural roads in addition to maintaining ‘main roads’. The transfer of duties occurred on 1st April 1930 and in regard to Bedchester, the minutes of the Dorset County Council Roads and Bridges Committee for April 1930 record taking over the road from Bedchester Cross Roads to East Orchard, the Twyford Road to Shaftesbury and the Pen Hill Road to Sutton Waldron, but it does not include West Street/Common Lane to Bedchester Cross Roads which was already maintained by the County Council as a former Turnpike.
Some Turnpike Gates remained on the roads long after the termination of Turnpike Trusts. Those that remained were removed by the County Council and locally were kept at the former Todber Depot. One was subsequently used by the County Council during the 1960s as a gate for a fenced enclosure of road materials and situated north of Gillingham on the west side of the Wincanton Road. The gate had a central disc bearing the letters ‘SSTT’ representing Shaftesbury and Sherborne Turnpike Trust.
In the early 20th century a Mr Rueben Cutler operated a carrier service as well as being a smallholder at Bedchester where he lived at Meadow Hayes. In the 1930s his vehicle was a Ford van and when not in use was kept in a shed on the other side of the road to Meadow Hayes. The carrier service operated to Shaftesbury and Blandford and on Market Days items would taken for sale at the market. The carrier service terminated during the Second World War owing to a shortage of petrol when petrol was rationed.

Author: F. E. Casemore