The first turnpike road, whereby travellers paid tolls to be used for road improvements, was authorised in 1663 for a section of the Great North Road
in Hertfordshire with early turnpikes administered directly by the Justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions.
(The term turnpike refers to the military practice of placing a pikestaff across a road to block and control passage.
Upon payment of the toll, the pike would be "turned" to one side to allow travellers through).
The first Trusts were established by an Act of Parliament in 1706. The trustees could erect gates as they saw fit, demand
labour or a cash equivalent, and appoint surveyors and collectors, in return they repaired the road and put up mileposts.
The Ledbury Turnpike Trust was established by an Act of Parliament in 1721 aiming to improve the road from Gloucester to Hereford and
was the first turnpike trust to be set up in Herefordshire.
This met with some opposition and led to the "Ledbury Riots".
The London Gazette in February 1735 tells the story:
WHEREAS it hath been represented to us, that several ill designing and disorderly
Persons, having their Faces blacked. and being disguised, and being armed with Fire
Arms, and other offensive Weapons, did, upon the Twentieth and Twentyfirst Days
of September last. assemble themselves together in a riotous and tumultuous Manner
at Ledbury, in our County of Hereford, and cut down and destroyed several of the
Turnpikes for repairing the Highways erected by Authority of Parliament, in or near
the said Town or Ledbury, and made Publick and open Declaration. that they would
not suffer any Turnpikes to be erected in or near the said Town of Ledbury, and that
if any of the Commissioners should attempt to set up the Turnpikes again. they
would pull down their Houses, and would cut down the Turnpikes, as often as they
should be set up: And whereas great Numbers of the said Rioters and disorderly
Persons did afterwards, on the said Twenty first Day of September, make an attack
upon the House of John Skipp, Esquire, one of our Justices of the Peace for our said
County of Hereford, who had secured in his House two of the said Rioters taken in
the Fact and disguised, in order to bring them to Justice, and threatened to pull down
or fire his House, if the said two Rioters were not immediately delivered up to them:
And whereas several Guns were fired by the said Rioters against the Persons
defending the said House, and in the said Attack several Persons were wounded on
both Sides, and one of the Rioters was actually killed..... ....
And whereas such Attempts to remove and destroy Turnpikes in general are by the
Laws or this Kingdom High Treason; and those who are guilty of such other
outrageous and riotous Practices as are herein before specified, and who set
themselves up in Defiance of the Publick justice of the Nation, and who threaten to
kill and destroy all Magistrates, and others, who shall endeavour to put the Laws in
Execution against them, are liable by the Common Law of this Kingdom to very
great and severe Punishments.....
Justice was indeed severe:
On April 10th 1736 William Bithell and William Morgan were tried at Worcester for "cutting down turnpikes" and executed there on April 29th.
Thomas Reynolds and James Baylis were ordered up to London to be tried at the King's Bench Bar. They were executed at Tilburn on August 2nd.
Ledbury Turnpike Trust covered the area from Malvern to Tarrington and Bromesberrow to Bosbury in which there were at least 13 Toll Houses.
The tolls payable were fascinating but complicated, here are some examples:
For a horse, mule or ass, laden or unladen 1½d. (£1 today)
For a drove of oxen, cows or neat cattle 1s 3d per score. (£9.30 today)
For a horse drawing a wagon or carriage with a wheel width of six inches or more 6d (£3.60 today).
For a horse drawing a wagon or carriage with a wheel width of less than six inches or more 4d (£2.40 today). Plus a further charge based on tonnage hauled.
All Building materials between the first day of October and the first day of March were subject to double toll.
Tolls to be taken only once in twenty four hours to be computed from twelve at night to twelve at night.
A complete listing can be found here.
To control all this it was obviously necessary to have a gate and a toll collector at every entry point.
Ledbury had six just outside the Borough Boundary and I am looking them in detail below.
One ticket covered all gates:
From Hereford Times 28th January 1843:
LEDBURY TURNPIKE GATES
We have reason to believe that many of our Ledbury readers are not aware that a ticket from either of the gates surrounding the town of Ledbury,
clears the whole of these gates; for instance a person having a ticket from the Homend gate, may pass through the Bradlow, Horse Lane,
Southend, New Street and Bye Street gates.
Toll Receipts for the year 1860 are available in the Record Office ( HARC BS96/19)
Here is a summary for the 4 week period ending May 19th. shown in descending order of receipts.
It is interesting to note that Horse Lane receipts ie traffic to Malvern/Worcester is double its nearest rival, the Homend, traffic to Hereford.
The Hazle gate reciepts were subject to traffic on the canal which was becoming less by 1860, see below.
Actual receipts Equivelant today
Horse Lane £38 5s £3,529
Homend £19 13s £1,813
New Street £15 9s £1,425
Southend £11 11s £1,066
Fair Tree £2 11s £235
Hazle 1s £4
Managing all these gates was a problem and it later became general practice everywhere to lease the income from tolls received for a fixed sum, ie privatise the enterprise in today's terminology.
Here is an example: (Hereford Times March 21st 1863)
There is some serious money involved here, £1,810 in 1863 is worth about £170,000 today!
Mr Husted seems to have made a career in Toll leasing as his name crops up as Toll lessee in various districts over the years. Before April was out he had fallen out with the local squirearchy.
It was soon realized that the turnpike system wasn't working and was out of date as shown in this series of reports:
From the Hereford Times January 12th 1867.
The Rev Higgins was the rector of Eastnor Church.
From the Worcester Herald September 23rd 1871.
This decision meant the end of the Toll houses.
Some were sold with the neighbouring land owner being given first refusal
Others, as shown below, were demolished to improve the road. Those that were rented from the local landowner
automatically reverted to his ownership.
Before selling the Houses the gates, posts etc of all six were sold separately on October 4th 1871 to the following:
Homend       Mr Martin £2
New Street   Mr Biddulph 15s
Horse Lane  Mr Biddulph 10s
Southend     Mr Biddulph £1 10s
Hazle           Mr Biddulph 5s
Fair Tree      Mr Martin 15s
On October 27th 1871 John Martin of Upper Hall bought the Fair Tree (Bye Street) House for £50 and the Homend one for £60. And
on October 31st Michael Biddulph bought the New Street House for £80 and the Horse Lane one
for £100 "together with the weighing machine in front of the said messuage".
The fate of the Hazle Toll House, and others, is confirmed by this notice.
(Ledbury Terrace was in Malvern) Note that none of the above mentions the Southend Toll House which must therefore have been
rented 'from a local landowner'. For more on this see below.
In the following section as well as the bare facts about each gate I have included some newspaper reports of interest
to Ledbury historians and to give a flavour of the life of a gatekeeper in the ninteenth century.
People paying the tolls are not news and inevitably reports only deal with those trying to avoid paying and many tried different ways to do so, usually unsuccessfully.
The stories show that, far from being a lowly job, toll collectors had to be literate, numerate and diplomatic and honest as cash was being handled.
A case concerning the gatekeeper of New Street (see below) shows that a barter system could be set up with local
traders which I am sure was widespread with no cash going through the books.
To attract honest toll collectors who would not leave the gate at night, nor let friends through without paying, it was ensured that they were comfortably housed.
Gatekeepers were quite well paid by the standards of the time especially at a busy gate. That said I have included the keeper's names from the 1851 census
showing that the family income was often supported with another trade.
The Horse Lane Tollgate.
From the 1813 Enclosure map. The red line is the borough boundary.
The Tithe Apportionment states that it was owned by the Ledbury Turnpike Trust, and 'occupied' by William Palmer, although with all the Toll Houses grouped under his name he was probably the agent for the Trust.
Sorry about the different orientation but comparing the two maps above it looks as if in 1813 the Toll gates were further up the Horse Lane than they were in 1841 when
it was right by the footpath leading to the Church.
This makes a lot of sense if you consider that the track shown going off to the right on the 1813 map led to Bullen Farm (above Parkway)
a route that could have been used to bypass both this Tollgate, if it had been nearer town, and the Southend one.
This route was closed in 1815. From a public announcement in the Hereford Journal December 27th 1815:
...for stopping up a Public Carriage road branching out of the Turnpike Road leading from Ledbury towards Gloucester, at or near a farm called the Wildhouse, and
extending in an eastward and south eastern direction until it reaches a farm called Bullen,
in the said parish of Ledbury, for Discontinuing, Diverting, and Turning a Public Footway branching out of a street called the Horse Lane in the Town of Ledbury, and extending
in a southward direction until it reaches the said farm called Bullen.
With that route closed the tollgate could be moved toward town into what was probably a purpose built Tollhouse.
Various means were tried to avoid paying the tolls. These four tried to get round paying a new day's charge at midnight.
From the Hereford Times February 28th 1863.
TOLL CASE. Wm.Tibbatts, of Rose Hill, Dymock, Robert Howard, of Dymock, John Howard , of Preston and Daniel Scattergood, of Ledbury, were summoned for passing through
the Horse Lane turnpike gate, Ledbury, on the night of the 17th inst. without paying the toll, namely 1½d each, the defendants being each on horseback. Wm. Chambers, the keeper of the Horse Lane gate, deposed
that on the 17th inst, the four defendants appeared at the gate on their return home, it being then a quarter past 12 o'clock; he demanded of them an extra toll, but which they refused to pay, alleging that it was but just 12 o'clock.
Thos. Davis, the keeper of New Street gate deposed to defendants passing through his gate at half past 12 o'clock, and that it would take them about four or five minutes
to pass from one gate the the other. For the defence George Groves, a barber, was called, who stated that he came from Malvern on the night in question.
He stated that defendants passed him at the Cross Hands about a mile out of Ledbury. As he came near the gate he heard the altercation between the gatekeeper and the defendants. Witness stated that he was past
the gate when the clock struck and heard the chimes play, at which time all the defendants except Tebbatts had gone through, and thought they must have been at the gate some time,
but the witness afterwards stated on being questioned that the clock had struck before he got to the turnpike and not when he was in sight of the gate.
The defendants were all there. The defence made by the defendants was that they were at the gate in proper time, but were detained by the gate keeper a considerable time.
The Magistrates considered the case proved, and fined the defendants 5s. each and costs.
I always imagined that once night fell nothing happened in the Ledbury countryside in 1860. What were these four young men, not to mention the barber, George Groves,
doing travelling back from Malvern at that time of night?
William Harris is the gatekeeper in 1851 supplementing his income by making shoes.
Horse Lane (now Worcester Road) Tollhouse.
In 1871, when the Toll system was dissolved, Michael Biddulph bought the house. It was demolished in the 1950s to enable the Police Station to be built.
The Toll House being demolished c 1950.
Picture by kind permission of Mike Paul and the Old Ledbury Facebook group.
The Homend Toll House.
1813 Enclosure Map.
The Homend Toll Gates were situated at the junction of the Hereford and Bosbury roads with the Homend Road just below the station today.
The Homend to Ledbury town centre is on the right of
these maps and the road to Hereford is heading toward the bottom. The Borough Boundary is off the map on the town side of Knapp Lane.
Two gates were needed, one for each road into or out of Ledbury, and these are shown.
The Tithe Apportionment states that it was owned by the Commissioners of the Ledbury Turnpike Trust and is Number 969 on the Plan.
Note: Difficult to see on this scale the number can be seen in the road on a large version of the map.
Bought by John Martin of Upper Hall, in 1871. It is gone by 1886, probably demolished before 1885 when the Ledbury to Gloucester Railway branch line embankment was completed.
More toll evasion stories!
From the Worcester Journal November 9th 1843:
EVADING TURNPIKE TOLLS.
Mr John Phillips, collector of tolls for the Commissioners of the Ledbury turnpike roads, summoned John Hill,
the driver of a caravan or omnibus from Yarkhill, before the Magistrates assembled at the Committee Room, on Wednesday last,
for defrauding the Commissioners of tolls which ought to have been paid. It appears that Hill has been in the habit of driving
two horses, tandem fashion, and before he came to the Homend gate, of taking off the leader and only paying 1½d for same,
thus denying the trust of the sum of 10½d each day. Mr Phillips having been apprised of his practice, caught him in the fact,
and he was fined in the sum of £2 with 12s 6d expenses. What made his offence the worse is, that he and his parents have been gate keepers
for a number of years; and the Magistrates said that they would report his conduct to the Commissioners of the Leominster district.
Even the local police tried to get away with offering someone a lift to Hereford for free if I read this case correctly:
From Hereford Journal July 2nd 1845:
It has been decided by the Magistrates at this town that a vehicle in which are other persons besides the police officer and prisoners
being conveyd for trial or examination, is not exempt from toll. William Shead, superintendant for this district,
made a complaint against Rober Cannage, of the Homend gate making a charge under such circumstances,
but it was held that he was right in so doing, and the superintendant had to pay the expenses of the summons.
A clear case of road rage!
From the Hereford Times November 24th 1860:
John Taylor, waggoner to Mr Greenway, of Ledbury, was charged with obstructing the turnpike road. Elizabeth Davis deposed:
I am collector of the tolls at the Homend gate in Ledbury; On Tuesday week Greenway's cart came through the gate with three horses laden with dung.
I demanded 1s 6d toll. The defendant said his master would not pay, and I then said "I must stop the team" I closed the gate,
the defendant stopped the team and said he would stop every one else. Gigs passed by with difficulty and then a waggon came that
could not pass and was detained half an hour, defendant would not let any one pass or pay the toll. Fined 10s and 8s expenses.
As shown John Husted became lessee of the Trust in April 1863. He based himself at the Homend gates and soon made his presence felt.
From the Hereford Journal April 25th 1863.
Petty Sessions, Wednesday April 22nd. Before R. Webb Esq. (Chairman), Rev B.L.S. Stanhope, Rev E. Higgins and T. Heywood Esq.
John Husted stated that the defendant (Edward John Webb) did on the 6th April inst. Unlawfully make rescue of a certain horse,
the poroperty of the defendant, the said horse having been before then restrained and levied upon for the sum of three halfpence
by the complainant, then being the collector of tolls at a certain toll gate there, called the Homend gate......
Mr Webb attempted to pass through the Homend gate about five o'clock on horseback; I did not know him: I had never spoke
to him or seen him before; he didn't pull up; he walked gently through; the gate was open; I said "You haven't paid, sir" he said
"I have paid at one of the other gates". I told him he must show his ticket; he said he never bought a ticket never showed a ticket,
nor never would; he was passing on, and I gently put my hand on the horse's neck and told him I couldn't allow him to pass before
he paid the toll or showed a ticket.....he told me to leave go of the horse.....struck me with the point or butt end of his hunting
whip on my hand and broke my knuckle...he kept on striking me with the whip on the head and ear.....
They finished up scuffling on the road!
Mr Webb's defence was that he had paid a toll at the Bradlow gate but had not received a ticket, the toll keeper there,
Mary Matthews, acknowledged this saying she knew the defendant well and he would never take a ticket, despite her knowing that
the (Turnpike ) Act directed that a ticket had to be given to persons whether they will have them or not.
Mr Heywood said the offence charged had been condoned by the receipt of the money, Several witnesses were called for the defence,
and the case dismissed.
Mr Husted: Upon what ground?
The Chairman: The case is dismissed on the ground that your tollgate keeper omitted to offer Mr Webb a ticket.
He was given leave to take the case to the Queen's Bench.
The appeal was held at the Queen's bench on July 4th with differing arguments for and against.
Mr Justice Blackburn suggested and Court concurred, that as they all differed in opinion the appeal should be
withdrawn without costs and no further proceedings taken in the matter.
The appellant's counsel, and ultimately, after some discussion, the respondent's counsel consented and the appeal was withdrawn.
From the Worcestershire Chronicle 27th May 1863:
On Wednesday, before R. Webb Esq., and Col. Webb, Mr T Haywood, a butcher of Ledbury, was summoned by John Husted,
the lessee of the Ledbury turnpike tolls, for passing through the Homend gate, on horseback, on the 15th inst.,
without paying the toll. Defendant lived outside the gate, but had his place of business in the town,
and he contended that he was exempt in going to his usual place of business. It was held he was not exempt. Fined 6s and expenses.
Mark Meredith, gatekeeper in 1851, is also supplementing his income as a shoemaker.
The New Street Toll House
New Street Toll Gates were located at the junction of Little Marcle Road and New Street, two gates were needed.
1813 Enclosure Map.
The hatched line in the map of 1841 is the Borough Boundary so the cottages at the entrance to Little Marcle Road would not be shown
if they existed at the time.
The Tithe Apportionment states that it was owned by the Commissioners of the Ledbury Turnpike Trust and is Number 1680 on the Plan and adjoining Plot No 1400.
This case gives some idea of a gatekeeper's duties and wages.
From Hereford Times March 19th 1842.
Thos Blandy, aged 30, a collector of turnpike tolls,was charged withhaving embezzled sums of money, the property of his master, John Phillips.
The first count in the indictment charged him with embezzling £1 14s 9d on the 8th December; the second with embezzling 7s on the 12th January
and the third with 4s 4½d on the same day. Mr Skinner conducted the prosecution and Mr Cooke the defence. The defendant was a well dressed
and respectabl looking man. The trustees of the Ledbury Turnpike Trust have for some time past collected the tolls within their district.
A stamp agreement, entered into between prosecutor and the trusteeswas put in to prove he was appointed by them as collector of the tolls,
and that he was held responsible for the same, having given sureties for the due performance of the agreement. The prosecutor was examined and
cross examined as to whether he was the defendant's master. In answer, he said he engaged the collectors at the different gates, and could discharge
them if he chose; he did not know whether the law would justify the trustees turning a collector away without consulting him. The Court ruled that he
was the defendant's master. The defendant collected the tolls at the New street gate.
Prosecutor next produced the weekly accounts rendered by the defendant of monies received, and deposed that no money was accounted for,
in the account rendered for the week ending December 11th, as received from William Davis by the defendant. On the 12th January defendant left
the prosecutor's service and paid to his successor £2 1s 6d which he held was all he had received that week, deducting 7s for four day's wages;
prosecutor asked him for his weekly accounr, Journal and Trust Book; he said he could not find them, they must have gone with his goods removed;
he then filled up a blank weekily account and appointed five o'clock next afternoon to settle the outstanding debts, saying he had not received
any money due; there was no entry in the weekly accounts of money received from Wm Jukes or John Fleetwood. The defendant did not meet the prosecutor
The prosecutor stated on cross examination that defendant wrote a letter to him about a week after he left from Barns Hall near Worcester
where he had heard his parents lived stating that he would call on the prosecutor in the course of the next week and settle, but he did not come.....
......Robert Gamage deposed that when he succeeded defendant, prosecutor told Blandy to put down what debts he had received on the back of
the weekly account,and defendant said he had received none.
Mr William Davis, a miller, residing in Ledbury, deposed that he was debtor to defendant for tolls and defendant was a debtor for him for goods;
on the 7th or 8th December they balanced accounts and witness paid to defendant 4s or 5s. The account was put in.
Mr William Jukes, builder, Ledbury, deposed that he was debtor for tolls and paid defendant 5s on the 12th January.
Mr John Fleetwood, butcher, Ledbury, deposed that he was a debtor for tolls and defendant was a debtor to him for meat;
the account was never balanced. Fleetwoods case consequently broke down.
Verdict: Guilty. Imprisoned six months without hard labour.
From Hereford Times May 18th 1850.
John Grubham was summoned by Thomas Davis, keeper of the New Street gate in Ledbury, for passing through the gate with a horse without paying the toll.
Complainant deposed that on the 25th April, the defendant rode a horse through the gate, and witness followed him and demanded three halfpence for toll;
defendant said he would be back directly, and presently came with the horse and a cart;
witness would not let him pass through the gate with the cart, and defendant told him to ask Mr Lissiman, who owned the horse, for the toll;
witness had nothing to do with Mr Lissiman about the toll and refused to ask him for it.
The defendant said that the complainant did not ask him for the toll.
Thomas Davis had his wife adding to the family income as a dressmaker in 1851.
The Fair Tree Toll House.
Located on the town side of the junction where the Little Marcle Road meets Bye Street today, both roads can be seen on the map.
'The Fair Tree' still exists as Fair Tree Farm opposite the Heineken/UBL factory.
What is interesting here is the course of the river passing close to the Little Marcle Road.
It still took that route in 1953, an interesting reminder that the river was straightened when the bypass was built. 1813 Enclosure Map.
Unfortunately the image quality from the 1841 map is not good enough to read the Plot Number.
The low gate receipts listed earlier shows that only traffic from Little Marcle went past this gate, consequently there are fewer cases of toll evasion.
Just one is of interest. From the Hereford Times 17th December 1864.
Thomas Firkins, a farmer of Little Marcle, summoned Edwin Smith, the foreman for the lessee of the Ledbury gates,
for taking toll from him when exempt. Mr G.H. Piper appeared for Mr Firkins and Mr Barber for the defendant.
Complainant stated that on the 23rd November, he passed through the Fair Tree gate on horseback, and paid the toll 1½d; the gatekeeper (Phillipps)
gave him a ticket; the ticket from the Fair Tree gate cleared the Horse Lane gate, kept by the defendant. He rode straight from the Fair Tree
and told him that the ticket did not clear the gate and asked him (witness) if he had paid at Little Marcle gate; he (witness) demanded a ticket
and he refused to give it. He again demanded it, Smith ran back and he cantered through. He returned the same evening and defendant would
not let him pass through without payment, he then paid him 1½d and he gave the ticket now produced. He asked him his name and he said it was over
the door and he would not give it.
Cross examined by Mr Barber: The chain is about 28 yards from the Little Marcle gate and was on the Preston side; had never paid the keeper of
the Little Marcle gate, the toll was never demanded of him; the keeper said she wished him to pay when he went to Ledbury; he never paid
the chain gate when he only went to Ledbury; a ticket from the chain or Little Marcle gate would free the Fair Tree; the distance from the
chain to the parish road is 16 yards; he took a ticket at the Fair Tree. When he got to the Horse Lane gate the defendant asked him "are you Mr Firkins"
he replied "yes" and defendant said "you must pay" he took the ticket and said it did not clear the gate; he had not paid at the Little Marcle gates
since he took out the summons against defendant; he had come through a private road of his own and had passed through
it several times and had paid the Fair Tree gate on coming to Ledbury. The magistrates considered the defendant was wrong
in demanding the toll. If the complainant had evaded the toll at the Little Marcle gate chain (which appeared to be the case),
his, the gatekeeper's, duty was to summons him for so doing. They fined him one penny.
William Meredith doesn't even say he is a gatekeeper in 1851 just a shoemaker.
It is interesting to note here that the Turnpike has been split into two residences and that two new houses are being built.
Hazle Toll House.
Located at the junction of the road to Newent and the road to Ross with gates for each road. The Brick House marked on the map is now
The Full Pitcher, the River Leadon and the canal are shown.
In 1798 the canal from Gloucester was completed ( For more on this click here). Goods could now arrive at this point or at the wharves opposite the Brick House (The Full Pitcher) and be transported along the Ross or
Dymock roads without paying a toll. Goods to Ledbury had to pass the New Street gate. To correct this a meeting of the Ledbury Turnpike Trust was held in Mr Slade's house. (Hereford Journal Wednesday 23 May 1798)
"to consult about erecting a Toll Gate on the side of the said Turnpike road at the entrance of a lane called Hazle lane,
near the Brick House, upon the road leading from Ledbury towards Ross in the parish of Ledbury."
Of course this relied on canal
traffic to produce an income and by 1860 the revenue was only 1s per 4 week period and the house was pulled down in 1871.
1813 Enclosure Map
The Tithe Apportionment states that it was owned by the Commissioners of the Ledbury Turnpike Trust and is Number 1678 on the Plan and adjoining Plot No 1391.
Esther Webb evidently needed no extra income in 1851.