In the 17th century repairs to the roads leading into London were the duty and responsibility of the local parishes. This role they took on reluctantly and the state of the roads deteriorated to deplorable levels. An Act of Parliament established Turnpike Trusts to erect tollgates on the main routes into London, to raise money for the repairs. Only mail coaches, Royalty, soldiers in uniform, parsons on duty, funeral processions and prison carts were exempt from toll payments.
By the mid-18th century, there were some improvement to the roads, but most of the Trusts were more concerned with personal profit, and so functioned as businesses. At auction the turnpikes were sold for handsome sums. The most expensive was the Tyburn turnpike, which was sold to Lewis Levi for £12,000 (here the price for drovers with 20 oxen was 5d to pass and with 20 pigs, only 2d).
Although the toll-keepers’ perks included a small house at the gate, they still tended to take full advantage of their positions by cheating the owners of the turnpikes as well as the general public. And their wages of 5s for a 24 hour shift did not make up for the inconvenience of being woken up at all hours of the night, and possible robberies.
The Turnpike Trust erected a gate on today’s Turnpike Lane in 1765, and it was removed in 1872. It was near to the spot where today’s Burger King replaced the Wellington public house.
The last main turnpike was removed in 1866 at Mile End when its lease expired, but the smaller turnpike at Dulwich remained in operation until after World War II.
Image Source: http://www.british-history.ac.uk