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Are there any old Toll-Houses left around Torrington?

The Great Torrington Trust made use of eight toll-houses around the town but only three can still be identified.

The Rothern Bridge Toll-house, which stands in the fork where a steep minor road turns off to Frithelstock from the main A386 about a mile out of Torrington, is a very good example of a traditional angle-fronted toll-house.  There would have been space for a toll-board above the projecting ground floor window overlooking the road, or over the porch.  It was occupied in 1871 by ‘toll collector’ John Tucker and his wife.

Town Bridge Toll-house is a Grade II listed, square built, classically inspired toll-house next to Taddiport Bridge.  It was built by the Great Torrington Trust in around 1830 alongside the town’s Canal Offices that, in 1874, became the Torridge Vale Butter Factory.  This company, by then known as Dairy Crest, closed down in 1993 and the house faces the dilapidated remains of the factory buildings.  Census returns of 1871 show 33 year old ‘Farmer’s labourer and toll-collector’ Robert Mitchell living at the house with his wife and daughter.

An unusual two storey house which stands in Calf Street opposite East Street, where the roads from Barnstaple and South Molton enter the town, was probably the Calf Street East Toll-house.  It is in the right position for a toll-house and possesses a blanked out window suitable for a toll-board on its tall projecting front gable.  In 1841 the ‘Toll-gate keeper’ is recorded as 55 year old John Hill.  Still recorded as the ‘Calf Street Toll Bar’ in the Census of 1871, it was then occupied by 53 year old Rebecca Copp and her family.

Other toll-houses which no longer exist include Rosemoor Toll-house which stood near the junction of the present-day A386 with the A3124 and was used to catch travellers coming from the direction of Morchard Road and Exeter.  In 1871 it is recorded as the ‘Row’s Moor Toll-Gate’ with 71 year old Chelsea Pensioner Joseph Hammon in residence.

A new bridge over the River Torridge was constructed in 1843, to carry the new main road into the town from Okehampton and Hatherleigh, and New Bridge Toll-house was built on the west side of the bridge.  In 1871 the ‘turnpike gate toll-collector’ is recorded as 44 year old Sarah Hammet in residence with her four children.

After New Road was built into the town, a turnpike gate was constructed at the west end of Calf Street, which probably also had a toll-house.  Another toll-bar operated at the western end of what is now Dick Hills Lane to catch travellers from the direction of South Molton who tried to evade tolls in Calf Street.  Although retaining the name of ‘Castle Garden Lane Toll Bar’ in 1871, the house was occupied at that time by 71 year old ‘Master Shoemaker’ Richard Hill and his family and may by then have stopped being used by the trust for collecting tolls on this road.

There was another toll-house built at the junction of the road into the town from Weare Giffard, where School Lane joins New Street.  The toll-house has long since been demolished, no doubt a victim of road widening, but was occupied in 1871 by ‘Glover and Toll-collector’ Fanny Piper and her two children.

In 1880 toll gates throughout North Devon were sold off as the old toll road system had come to an end.