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These brief histories, of some of the toll houses that the Exeter Turnpike Trust ran, are short extracts from Tim Jenkinson's and Patrick Taylor's book The Toll Houses of South Devon. The book contains information of many other toll houses across South Devon, along with details of the toll house keepers – there is also a The Toll-houses of North Devon available. You can purchase a copy of either book, from Tim Jenkinson directly - email Tim at . All photographs and text kindly supplied by Tim Jenkinson. See the separate Exwick Toll House for a full history of that house.
An Act of Parliament was passed in 1826 (7 Geo 4 c25) to build a new road out of the city towards Barnstaple as far as Eggesford Bridge on what is today the A377. Built by the Exeter Turnpike Trust in c1829 as the road neared completion, this house was used to collect tolls in the hamlet of Chenson some 19 miles from the city. Of the traditional octagonal design built to the road edge, there is now a window inserted in the front wall where a door was once positioned with possibly a porch and gate extending across the road. The house was extended to the north in the early part of the 20th Century. A triangular Turnpike Trust milestone still stands beside the house showing a distance to Exeter that is recorded in Roman Numerals (XIX) and using the Medieval Latin name of EXON. The house retains its elegance on this once busy road that until 1989, upon completion of the North Devon Link Road, had been the main route from the city towards the town for around 170 years.
Census returns from the mid to late 19th Century reveal that in 1841 the house at ‘Chenstone Gate’ was occupied by 40 year old Maria Sage and her seven daughters. By 1871 William Hunt and his wife Grace were employed by the Trust as ‘toll-collectors’ living at the house with their six children. The couple were still in residence at the ‘Turnpike House’ in 1881 but William is recorded as an ‘agricultural labourer, a mere three years before the Exeter Trust disbanded and either dismantled or sold off all its toll-houses.
Hill Toll-house, Kenn
Standing on a now redundant part of the old A38, this interesting Grade II listed toll-house with distinctive pointed arch windows and large enclosed porch was built by the Exeter Turnpike Trust in c1842 having taken over responsibility for five miles of road previously owned by the Plymouth and Exeter Road Trust. Now ‘Turnpike Cottage’ it replaced an older toll-gate at the site that is shown on early 19th Century OS maps. The present house has three bedrooms and retains not only its flagstone floor at ground level but also an old toll-collection drawer under one of the windows.
The modern dual carriageway above the house was built in various stages between 1964 and 1972 effectively by passing this downhill section. The Census returns of 1881 show that 45 year old ‘toll-collector’ William L Anstey was living at the house at this time, with his wife Mary Ann and their son George, probably the last inhabitants of the house before the Trust disbanded in 1884. The house was on the market in 2009 with an asking price of £320,000.
Gate Toll-house, Down St Mary
This classically styled toll-house similar in appearance to the house at Chenson operated for the Exeter Turnpike Trust along what was then the new road to Barnstaple at the site of an older toll-gate in the village of Copplestone for 30 years from 1854-1884. It retains its distinctive angled frontage and possesses an unusual brick porch now blocked, edging to the roadside with a space above for the toll-board. Another porch and doorway is positioned on the north side. The house looks to have been modified and extended at some point and now stands on a one way section of the A377 that passes through the village about 12 miles from the city.
Bridge Gate Toll-house, Exeter
Now a private dwelling known as ‘Bernadot’ this small and rather insignificant single storey building was once used in the 1830s as a toll house for the independent Cowley Bridge Turnpike Trust that used to collect money from people crossing the bridge on what is now the A377 Exeter to Barnstaple road. Spanning the confluence of the rivers Exe and Creedy the bridge was completed in 1820, under the instruction of Civil Engineer James Green. Standing at the two mile point from the city on the north side, the house no longer has a door or porch facing on to the road where gates would have once been used to stop travellers on this busy route.
Cheriton Cross Toll-house, Cheriton Bishop
Built by the Exeter Turnpike Trust in c1838 at the site of an existing toll-gate at Cheriton Cross in the village of Cheriton Bishop on what is now the old A30, the road to Cornwall, this classically styled Grade II listed two storey sandstone toll-house with angled front and porch to the road edge, has a space above the door for a toll-board and there are small windows fixed in the side walls to facilitate visibility up and down the road. In 1871 the ‘Toll Bar House’ here was occupied by 67 year old ‘toll-gate collector’ Anne Avery and her 10 year old grandson George Drake.
Built in c1829 by the Exeter Turnpike Trust on the old road to South Molton from Crediton half a mile to the north of the village of Kennerleigh, this house appears in the Census Records of the mid 19th Century as ‘Staple Green’ a no longer used name for the hamlet of few houses here. Standing on the east side of the road the tall two storey and once thatched building, retains an unusual wooden porch facing the road on its angled front. There is a space above the doorway where a toll-board was once affixed and the usual windows are set in the side walls to assist with visibility up and down the road. The house looks to have been extended on the north side but is in need of some renovation at the start of the 21st Century. The old road here retains several of the Exeter Turnpike milestones and the building itself was still being marked on OS maps as the ‘Turnpike House’ as late as the 1891 some seven years after the Exeter Trust had disbanded.
Retaining its distinctive angled front this much altered and extended two storey toll-house once collected tolls on the road from Topsham some two and a half miles from the city centre. Now known as ‘Newport Lodge’ it is nonetheless recorded in various Turnpike Trust records as ‘Loggerheads’ and appears under this name in the Census returns of 1881 when 63 year old ‘pensioner and gate keeper’ William Gibbs was living at the house. Dated to 1841 by MC Lowe (1992) the present house was built at the site of an older gate on this route than can be traced as far back as 1769. Whilst the house no longer has a porch or doorway facing the road there is a space for a toll-board. It was sold by the Exeter Trust in 1884 into private ownership for £160.
Meadow Toll-house, Exeter
Suggested as a possible toll-house by John Kanefsky (JK) in 1984 but now not thought to be so, this rather untypical two storey building stands in New North Road near to the city centre close to the junction of Hele Road. The road here was constructed c1834 and JK advises that during the restoration of what is present day Bury Meadow Cottage evidence of a smaller one storey house was uncovered with an angled front indicative of a former toll-house. However, it remains unclear as to why there would be a second house so close to the site of the nearby Elmfield turnpike gate, now demolished, that stood just beyond the Atwill Almshouses. In addition there is no mention of Bury Meadow in Turnpike records so the house must be considered a somewhat dubious site.
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