Tolls and Toll Keepers

An example of a very early wooden toll keepers house with tollgates.

From the earliest days of European settlement, a northwest track existed much along the same line as the present Hume Highway.  This route was the early beginnings of Sydney Road and the Hume Hwy as we know it today which passes through Craigieburn and eventually on to Sydney.  These roads crossed a basalt plain with a surface of clay, winter rains did not drain off, creating an impassible quagmire, so this meant money was needed to be raised to repair and improve the colonies roads.

In 1848 it was noted in the Port Philip Herald 'that the great drawback in the wretchedly impassable state of the roads, in fact the great thoroughfares of the colony are no thoroughfares at all and unless some steps are taken to improve them, in the even of the wet season, the progress of drays and teams must be greatly retarded if not wholly obstructed.   Many parts of the Sydney Roads are in a shameful state.  Even go no further that from Pentridge to Kinlochewe, it is in some respects one of the worst, roads that can be travelled'.

In 1851 Victoria became a separate colony, no longer, as previously, a part of New South Wales (NSW) and became responsible for its own building and maintenance of roads.  The roads were so bad in 1853, the the Central Roads Board was established and was responsible for making and improving Roads in the Colony of Victoria.  The Board was also responsible for the calling of tenders, deciding the position of toll gates, appointment of toll keepers, levying of tolls and for prosecutions for the non payment of tolls.

 In 1854 as part of this network intended to raise money for road construction a toll gate was placed across the road at Mt. Ridley (Kinlochewe), there was also toll gates at Campbellfield and on Mickleham Road (Broadmeadows Road) near Wallan,  the toll gate is believed to have been situated at the junction of the old Broadmeadows Road and the Beveridge - Darraweit Guim Road.  The heavy traffic necessitated constant maintenance, so the Government established a network of tollgates on roads radiating from Melbourne.

On Tuesday, December 26th 1854, the Victorian Government Gazette published that a Mr. Mollinson and Co and W. D. Scott tendered for the job of erecting a toll house and gate at Kinlochewe and Kilmore at the cost of 554 and that the contract  had been approved on the 23rd of December.

The toll charges were published in the Victorian Government Gazette in 1850

For every wagon, wain or other vehicle, with four wheels, drawn by one or two horses or other animals....1 shilling

For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by three horses or other animals.....2 shillings.

For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by four horses or other animals.....2 shillings and sixpence and add three pence for each additional horse of other animal drawing.

For every cart, dray or waggon drawn by two bullocks  or other animals.....1 shillings and sixpence and every additional bullock drawing gig or chase or other such carriage constructed to carry passengers, with two wheels and drawn by one horse or other animal and extra 6 pence.

For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by two of more horses or other animals add an extra 5 pence.

For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by more than 2  horses or other animals.....2 shillings.

Tolls payable one way only going and returning only on the same day.

Three fourths only of the above rates for any vehicle to be paid when the tires of the wheels of such vehicle are not less than four and a half inches wide and are perfectly flat and level throughout their whole width.

(By order)  C. Gavan Duffy

President of the Lands Boards and Works (1850)

The Argus - Friday 23 March 1855

TOLLS.- Separate Tenders will be received until eleven o'clock on Friday, 23rd day of March instant, for Renting the Toll-gates on the Sydney Road, at Kinlochewe and Kilmore, on the Deep Creek Road, Pascoevale Road, and Mount Alexandor Road, on Keilor Plains, from 1st April to 30th September, proximo, according to conditions to be seen at the Central Road Board Office, Little Bourke Street West.  Tenders to be endorsed, " Tender for Renting Toll-gate," and forwarded, prepaid, to the President of the Central Road Board, Melbourne.
The Board will not necessarily accept the highest or any tender.

 This toll was a charge made on those using the road.  It was therefore sometimes decided to avoid road charges by tackling a route through the bush thus risking being stuck in the mud or breaking a wagon wheel on a rock at a much more costly price than the toll but  it was not surprising that people went to great lengths not to pay the toll by taking side tracks or by just refusing to pay the toll at the gates.

The toll keeper would have lived near to the toll gates in a toll keepers cottage or dwelling of some sort and a toll gate placed opposite on the other side of the track to collect the money paid to the toll keeper.  An example of an early NSW 1849 toll keepers cottage is on the left.  Like tax collectors, toll keepers were not seen in the highest of light by the common man, verbal and physical encounters were often the order of the day.

The early Broadmeadows Rate Books and Toll Ledgers (VPS 2964) at PROV tell us a story of the early toll keepers at Kinlochewe.   The toll ledgers in the series VPRS 2964 extend from 1858 to 1866 in two volumes and the Broadmeadows Rate Books VPRS 2337 run from 1863 to 1890.

Toll Ledgers (VPS 2964) - In 1858 from January to April the Kinlochewe toll house and gates were being leased to a W. Keogh and a deposit of ₤207.10 was entered in the ledger.  The sum was never paid and the lease revoked.  The collections were then made by a tempory collector Joseph Sharp in March and April and then re-let in the April of 1858 to Christopher Sunny.   From April to December at an agreement of ₤1768.10 was reached and Christopher re-leased the Kinlochewe toll house and gates through whole of the next year of 1859 and was charged ₤2350 and an agreement to pay it off at ₤195.16.8 per month.

On Friday, February 4th 1859 The Roads and Bridges Office called for tenders under the heading of 'Repairs to Toll Houses and Gates' and that tenders for the work would be received until 12 o'clock on Friday the 11th instant for repairs to the Kinlochewe Toll House and Gates.

 On Wednesday, May 25th 1859 the Victorian Government Gazette published calls for the re-lettering of the sign boards at the Kinlochewe Toll house costing the sum of 8 done by James Hickford, who by all accounts did a satisfactory job and the 8 came from the toll funds of 1859.

The very next year in 1860 the lease amount was increased and let to William Jackson at the sum of ₤2424.12, repaying to amount at the sum of ₤202.1 per month. 1861 leased to D. Duirk at ₤2628.12 and in 1862 leased to P. Hanna for 6 months ₤1020 and then for the rest of the following 6 months for the same previous amount.  The entries in the second ledger finish for Kinlochewe in 1862.

Broadmeadows Rate Books VPRS 2337 -  the rate books began c. September 1863 and the first entry was picked up in 1866 when Edmund Cotter was the toll keeper at Kinlochewe and leasing the 'tollhouse and gate at Kinlochewe' the property had a gross annual value of ₤1575 at a rate of 9 pence in the pound and 'the Queen' was the owner of the rateable property.   Edmund Cotter continued to lease the  'tollhouse and gate at Kinlochewe' to 1867 when it changed hands and was run by Edward Hill in 1868 to 1871 when in 1871 we now find James McCue running the 'tollhouse and toll bar at Kinlochewe' and 'the Queen' was still the owner of the rateable property.

The entries finish after 1871 and it is possible the toll was removed and the gates dismantled after this time and when the toll gate was actually removed is yet to be discovered in another visit to PROV.

'Refusal to Pay Toll- ₤3.00 FINE'

A small glimpse can be had, when in  the 'History of Victoria' the writer goes on to say 'at the Merri Creek stood a toll gate and the keeper of the gate lived in a humpy nearby and came out to collect a fee from every rider and driver using the the road. On Sunday people owning carriages and gigs would gladly pay the toll and drove at a spanking pace along the road, reminding themselves of what it was like to live in England'.


 

Early Toll House and gates at St. Kilda, Melbourne courtesy of Picture Victoria.

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