Being taxed for using the roads isn’t new; this tollhouse was built in 1810 for a road toll (tax) collector to live in.
It’s on the Kettering and Newport Pagnell turnpike, which had opened in 1754, 56 years earlier. I suppose it replaced an earlier building.
The tollhouse is on the bridge over the Great Ouse at Newport Pagnell. It was built here because there is no easy way to avoid crossing the bridge to dodge payment.
There would have been a gate across the road here, the turnpike, which the toll collector would only open once he had your money.
The tollhouse is designed so that travellers can be seen approaching from either direction or when they are at the gate; the collector could keep watch from indoors in bad weather or see what’s happening at night.
The turnpike was only about 25½ miles long, but there were four more toll gates, which all seem to be where the Kettering and Newport Pagnell intersected other turnpikes.
The nearest one was a little way South of a crossroads that used to be just North of Warrington, where the Northampton and Cold Brayfield turnpike crossed the Kettering and Newport Pagnell. The crossroads is gone, replaced by a roundabout where the A509 and A428 intersect.
But this one at Newport Pagnell is the only one listed as having a weighbridge. I don’t know why, but the turnpike trust wouldn’t have had one if they couldn’t make money from it.
There are several similar words and phrases used to describe these toll roads, so here’s an explanation.
A pike is a weapon, a long wooden shaft (sometimes called a pikestaff) with a metal point. It’s like a spear, but as it’s not designed to be thrown, it can be much bigger.
A turnpike was originally a defensive framework of these pikes that could be turned aside to allow the passage of horses; perhaps just a temporary measure. The word then came to mean a gate blocking a toll road. These roads also came to be called turnpikes, or just pikes; a term still in use in the USA.
These were formed by acts of parliament and the trustees charged with keeping the road in good condition. This needed money, so the trusts were given powers to collect tolls from travellers.
The bill for the Kettering and Newport Pagnell turnpike was spoken on in Parliament on the 21st of February 1754, when Lord Willoughby of Parham reported to the house:
"An Act for repairing and widening the Road leading from the Toll Gate in the Parish of Kettering, through the Town of Wellingborough, in the County of Northampton, and through Olney, over Sherrington Bridge, to Newport Pagnell, in the County of Bucks; and for repairing and widening, or re-building, the said Sherrington Bridge,"
Sherrington (now Sherington) bridge is not in Newport Pagnell, but you’ll cross it if you take the turning to Chicheley and Sherington at the edge of the town.
The original parapets were removed in 1972 and the bridge widened with a concrete deck. The original 18th Century bridge can still be seen from the Great Ouse below it. From there the turnpike ran through Sherington towards Olney.
This should all be clear to you now; as plain as a pikestaff!
I used a Sony A6000 and zoom lens just like this one for the photo in this post.
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