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The Tollgate 1 Bedford Road Cople

 The Tollgate Cople 1962
The Tollgate, Cople in 1962 [Z49/64]

1 Bedford Road is known as the Tollgate. This is because Bedford Road, the modern A603, was part of Bedfordshire's thirteenth turnpike road, known as the road from Bedford to the Great North Road. It was a dual track turnpike as it also included that part of the modern A428 between Bedford and the modern A1.

Turnpike or toll roads were introduced in order to keep major roads in use. Previously road maintenance had been the responsibility of the parish through which they ran. Not surprisingly the labour and cost involved in keeping the road in good order were not popular with parishioners and so often the road became impassable. The parish would then be indicted at the Quarter Sessions to put the matter right but prevention was clearly better than cure. The new turnpikes were designed to be self-supporting; people paid to use the road and this money went towards its upkeep. They were stopped at certain distances along the road at tollgates where the toll would be assessed and paid.

The tollgate on what is now the A603 was, to begin with, in Willington, but was later moved to Cople. The present house called The Tollgate is, in fact, the gatekeepr's lodge. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has the following records relating to the trust which administered this particular turnpike:

  • QT2/1: accounts: 1823 to 1833 and 1845 to 1869;
  • QT2/2: notices: 1851 to 1869;
  • QT2/3: leases of tolls: 1860;
  • QT2/4-9: mortgages of tolls: 1776

The Duke of Bedford bought the former Tollgate from the Turnpike Trust in 1870 [R1/192 page 169] and sold it on in 1903 [X403/3]. In 1927 the dwellings of Cople were valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every building and piece of land in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting The Tollgate noted [DV1/C49/20] that it was owned by H.Hawkins and occupied by R.Golder at a "scandalous rent". The property was described as brick and tile; the tenant was not at home at the time of the visit and the valuer guessed that the building comprised a living room and kitchen downstairs with one bedroom above. Outside were a wood, brick and tile wood barn and coal barn.

The Tollgate in February 2008
The Tollgate in February 2008