|A new office block has recently been
completed adjacent to the new roundabout at King's Coughton and has been named
"Turnpike Gate House" - a reminder of the turnpike gate, or tollgate, which
stood close to this site.
This was erected by the turnpike trust set up in 1754 to manage roads from Alcester to Feckenham (the present Droitwich Road) and to Tandebigge (the present road to Spernal - Crabbs Cross - Bromsgrove). Turnpike trusts were empowered by Parliament to: raise loans for road repairs, build tollhouses, erect gates and milestones and each trust would often consist of a local lawyer (as clerk), a treasurer and a surveyor, together with many of the landowners through whose land the road passed. In 1813, William Jones was Clerk to the Alcester Turnpike Trust and he was succeeded by attorney, Robert Bartlam until his death in 1821.
At first there were no permanent tollhouses and the gates were closed at night, but once it became apparent that the turnpikes were not temporary, then tollhouses were built at road junctions with a clear view of the gates and roads. However, there were still complaints that gates were found locked because the keeper was missing or that he wasdrunk or asleep. The wages of 9s per week did not always encourage the right sort of staff. This changed in the 1770's when the operation of the turnpikes was "farmed" out to the highest bidder at auction (an early example of privatisation). This meant that the "farmer" paid annnual rent to the trust, but kep the tolls collected. He would either run the tollgate himself or appoint a gate-keeper.
The Alcester gate was farmed out for the following annual rent:
There were still complaints on some roads about the state of the road surfaces and much depended on the integrity of the trustees. Tolls were originally based on the size of a vehicle (and number of horses drawing it) or the number of animals in a drove. However, it soon became evident that the size of vehicle was not the only factor in causing damage to road surfaces and Acts were introduced to charge tolls based on the weight of the load and a weighing machine was installed alongside the Alcester gate. This allowed a ticket to be provided indicating the weight of the vehicle which could then be produced each time a vehicle passed through a gate subsequently. By coincidence, the public weighbridge remained close to this site until demolished after the closure of Three Counties Agricultural Supplies warehouse and the acquisition of the site by Blakes of Loxley.
The original tollhouse was situated alongside the Roebuck Inn until replaced in 1839 by a new tollhouse at the junction of the roads to Feckenham and Studley and this remained until demolished after World War Two. Today, the only visible reminders of this aspect of local history are the black and white posts of the tollgate which are now sited at the entrance of the driveway leading to Beauchamp Court.
After 1821, the rights to operate three tumpiked roads were auctioned together (Stratfo~d to Alcester, Droitwich & Bromsgrove; Alcester to Wootton Wawen and Alcester to Evesham) and raised these annual rents:
|1822||£935||The Alcester - Evesham and Alcester - Wootton Wawen Trusts were separate ones from that of Stratford to Droitwich and Bromsgrove.|
Thereafter the successful bids for the nine gates progressively reduced with the increase in the use of the railways in place of road transport. In 1850 the three local trusts were amalgamated into "The United Road Trust". Finally, the responsibility for highway maintenance passed to the parishes' highway boards and ultimately to district and county councils under the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894.
Summer 1992 Index
© G.E. Saville