Plan of Turnpike toll house, Aylesbury
From 1555 the maintenance of roads in Buckinghamshire was the responsibility of the parish; surveyors of the highways were appointed by the parish vestry and charged with organising work parties to mend and repair the roads. By the eighteenth century the increase in traffic and advent of coaches rendered this arrangement totally unsatisfactory.
In 1706 a group of gentry petitioned for an Act of Parliament to raise money to repair the section of the Great North Road (now the A5) that ran between Fonthill in Bedfordshire and Stony Stratford. Their success led to other gentry and interested parties banding together and obtaining Acts of Parliament to form a trust with powers to levy tolls to pay for effectual repair and maintenance of named roads. Trustees were allowed a lease, usually of 21 years, to make the necessary repairs, and this was usually renewed to continue the work. Thus the age of the turnpike trust came into being and between 1772 and 1834 approximately 1116 trusts were established in England and Wales. Toll houses, milestones and weighing engines became features of road travel and the trusts were responsible for building many lengths of new road. By the 1870’s the growth of the railway led to a decline in road traffic and turnpike trusts were regarded as a burden to the community rather than a help. From 1864 Parliament stopped renewing leases and the last of the trusts in Buckinghamshire was wound up in 1881.
This image shows a plan of one of the Buckinghamshire toll houses.
Many toll houses were built with a large bay front in order to give the pikeman a clear view of the road. Notice of the toll charges would be displayed close by and a sometimes a weighing engine which was used to penalise overladen wagons. High Wycombe had four toll houses and each was purchased by Lord Carrington when the turnpike trusts were wound down. The toll house that stood on the Rye in High Wycombe on the Stokenchurch to Beaconsfield turnpike is now in the Chiltern Open Air museum. The toll house shown is among plans of the toll house at Walton in Aylesbury and was built next to what we know today as the Gyratory on the Wendover Road.
The original of the plan is in the display case in the Archives Searchroom at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies. Further information on the turnpikes around Aylesbury can be found on our page for the Aylesbury Heritage Open Day.