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Stagsden Toll House

The Stagsden toll house in 1936
The Stagsden toll house in 1936

110 Stagsden Road, Bromham is very different from the houses around it. The building was a toll gate keeper’s cottage and was listed by English Heritage in August 1987 as Grade II, of special interest. It was built in the early 19th century for the Bedford to Sherington [Buckinghamshire] turnpike and is constructed from coursed limestone rubble and has a new clay tile roof. It is built in an L-plan and comprises one storey.

Turnpikes were created from the end of the 17th century onwards as a way of improving England’s terrible road network. Until that point all roads in England were the responsibility of the parish and its officers, the Overseers of the Highways. Each parish had to keep all its roads and the bridges and culverts over which they ran in good condition. This meant expenditure of money to labourers to make repairs and the time of parishioners themselves as labourers. It was, not surprisingly, unpopular and often roads were allowed to descend into a shocking state before the Quarter Sessions fined parishes for their inactivity in keeping them in good repair. By the middle of the 19th century there were over a thousand turnpikes in England. The first turnpike in Bedfordshire, from Hockliffe to Woburn, was created in 1706 and by 1710 there were five such roads. There were eventually nineteen in the county. Turnpikes were administered by turnpike trusts which used the tolls collected to maintain the road, with the surplus being profit for the trust’s shareholders.

The Bedford to Sherington turnpike was the ninth created in Bedfordshire. Papers of the trust from 1790 to 1875 are held at Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service [GA576] and include acts of parliament, correspondence, financial and legal papers. The road was created in 1754 and was, in fact, two separate roads, which forked in Bromham as the act made clear: “An Act for repairing and widening the High Road from a place called Saint Loyds, in the Town of Bedford, through the Parishes of Bromham, Stagsden, Astwood, Hardmead and Chicheley, to the Way-post in Sherington Field, where the said Road joins the High Road from the Town of Olney to the Town of Newport Pagnell; and also the High Road from Bromham aforesaid, through the Parishes of Turvey and Cole Brayfield, to the Town of Launden, otherwise Lavendon in the Counties of Bedford and Buckingham" [Z417/36].

A bar was placed across the road at certain intervals and people using the road had to pay a fixed fee depending on whether they were on horse back or on foot, or had a flock or herd of animals, or were driving a wagon, cart of coach. A toll gate keeper’s house typically adjoined each of these bars. It was decided to sell the toll house now at Bromham in 1874 [HiBB2/2].

The illustration at the top of the page shows the house in 1936 when it appeared in the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society Survey of Ancient Buildings volume III. It was then in the parish of Stagsden as noted below. All turnpikes were discontinued when maintenance of a county’s roads was taken over by the newly formed county councils in 1889.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the former toll house, then in the parish of Stagsden, [DV1/C36/113] found it owned by W. Rose and occupied by his employee P. Green whose accommodation comprised a living room, a kitchen and one bedroom. A barn and an earth closet stood outside. The valuer commented: “Bungalow”. He also noted: “Next to Road. Small but fair, good garden”. However someone else thought differently as there is also the note: “E. T. Thinks very poor Cottage”. Another note at the top of the page states: “Transferred to parish of Bromham 1 April 1948”. In 1992 a planning application was submitted for a single storey extension to the building [BorBTP/92/0874/LB].

110 Stagsden Road May 2012
110 Stagsden Road May 2012