Tollgates came into being when turnpike legislation was enacted between 1750 and 1773 as a remedy for the deplorable state of English roads. Gates, tollbars, fences, and toll houses were erected to collect tolls for the use of the turnpike road. The sum was to be used to maintain the road. Although there was a general improvement in the condition of the roads by the end of the 18th century, many of the Turnpike Trusts were more intent upon profit than upkeep.

The tollgate keeper was provided with a small house by the gate. The pay at the principal gates was usually no more than 5 shillings for a 24-hour day. The keeper's job came with the constant inconvenience of being awakened in the middle of the night and the danger of robbery and assault. Many contrived to cheat their employers and the road users. Georgette Heyer wrote a Regency novel entitled The Toll-Gate, which features a tollgate as the main setting.


Through the turnpike gate at Lathbury on the Newport Pagnell to Northampton road there passed in a single year, 1799-1800, no less than 89,000 sheep, 3,000 coaches, and 2,000 chaises. A little multiplication results in a figure of over 200 pounds for this single tollgate, which could hardly be called busy. To place the buying power of money of that time in perspective it should be noted that a sheep sold for 2 pounds and a pound of butter for 8d. (8 pence).


The act for the rebuilding of the bridges over the Ouse at Newport Pagnell in 1814 gives some impression of the variety of traffic and lists toll prices. Coaches drawn by four horses were to pay 1s. 6d., those drawn by two or three were to pay a shilling, and those drawn by one were to pay 6d. Wagons drawn by four or more horses were to pay 3½ d. a horse. If there were only two or three horses then the charge was 4d. a horse, and for one horse 6d. was paid. Unladen horses were to be charged 1 ½ d. Cattle were to be charged at 4d. a score. Calves, pigs, sheep, and lambs were charges at 5d. per score, and the charges were doubled on Sundays.

Lewis Levi, a rich stockbroker, purchased the lease on the Tyburn Turnpike for 12,000 pounds. Considering how busy the tollgate was, he could count on his investment being profitable. At that time tolls at Tyburn Gate were a carriage drawn by one or two horses paid 10d, horsemen 4d, and drovers 5d for 20 oxen and 2d for 20 pigs.

The mail coaches traveled the toll roads free of charge so the post horn call was sounded to alert tollgate keepers to immediately open the gate under the pain of a 40 shilling fine should they fail. Members of the Royal Family, soldiers in uniform, parsons on parish duties, funeral processions and prison carts were also exempt from tolls.

The Turnpike Gate aquatint engraved by J. Harris and published by R. Ackermann in 1839 after a painting by Cooper Henderson (1803-1877) at the Bruce Castle Museum
The mail passing through a tollgate at night. The mail coaches left London promptly at 8 p.m. every night.
The poor gate keeper is in his night shirt implying that the hour is late indeed.

The Busy Gates


Elephant and Castle Tollgate situated in the south bank area between Southwark and Lambeth stood just 542 yards southwest of the Southwark Tollgate, and across from the tavern and coaching terminus of the same name. The Elephant and Castle tavern, the famous coaching terminus of routes from southern England, founded in 1760 stood at the cross roads of the Kennington, Walworth, and Lambeth roads. The traffic at the crossroads was greatly increased in the mid-eighteenth century by the building of Blackfriars Bridge in 1769, The New Kent Road, and The London Road. The area was notorious as a confused traffic junction.

from an aquatint by Pollard in 1826 ________________________________________________________________________________________

Hyde Park Tollgate marks the beginning of the Bath Road at Westminster on the west side of London.

by Longmate in 1792


Islington , just north of London, was the final stopping off point for farmers and their cattle traveling to Smithfield Market. The raised pavement on Upper Street in Islington was built to stop pedestrians from being splashed by the animals and carts.


Mile End Road Tollgate in the Spitalfields area was the exit from London for those bound for northeastern England.

View of Mile End Road by Schnebbelie in 1808


View of tollgate and obelisk at St George's Circus, Southwark, situated to the southwest of London in the south bank area, with a street scene. Also showing London Road.


Tottenham Court Road Tollgate marks the beginning of the road to northwest England. St. James's Chapel is also shown in the print. The Tottenham Court Road was originally a market road leading from Oxford Street.

Tottenham Court Road Tollgate and St. James's Chapel from an aquatint by Rowlandson in 1809

Tyburn Turnpike Gate, at what is now the junction of Oxford Street and Bayswater Road, was the tollgate that opened into north London south of Islington on The Great North Road.

artist unkown 1813


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© S.W. This site last updated March 2003 by heather