Staffordshire Working Lives
At the whim of the toll-keeper

Witnesses’ depositions in the case of a disputed toll, 1812.

(© Staffordshire Record Office:Q/SB 1812 T/343)

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At the whim of the toll-keeper

This document relates to an appeal by Elizabeth Oakden against a conviction for “taking an unlawful toll” which she had charged upon a cart carrying hay. She was the toll-keeper at Stoney Rock near Waterhouses in Cauldon which is in the southern Staffordshire Moorlands. This toll house was on the main route between Ashbourne and Leek which was a turnpiked road. The toll keeper was in the stronger position at the time, having control of the toll-gate, so he or she could refuse to allow the vehicle to proceed. It would be likely that the toll would be paid and the carrier to proceed on his journey, and the toll then be claimed back later, through legal process if necessary.

Her conviction is marked as “Quashed”, but she was convicted for a similar offence the following year, for charging a toll upon a cart carrying lime intended to fertilise the fields. The lack of clarity in both cases over the turnpike rules appears to have been because the goods were for local agricultural use, by the same owner, and thus apparently exempt from any toll. The witness statements carefully describe all the processes and locations, from the cutting of the hay, loading on to the wagon, its journey, and eventual use. But there is little known information about the terms of individual turnpike trusts. The local landowners who may have been trustees would very likely have exempted themselves from payment.

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