Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Park Street Toll House

The main road through to Launceston was completed by Governor Arthur, but it was only after the introduction of the probation system, which increased the building of public works, that organized and constant maintenance of the road by convict gangs could be under taken. The Road Tax, introduced by the government to help defray the enormous costs of construction and maintenance, was bitterly resented by the population so the act was repealed in 1846. The costs for construction continued to climb so it was decided to implement a system of tolls for usage of the road system. To collect the road tolls, a system of Toll Houses or Toll Bars were erected along the routes.

There was a long list of tolls for various types of animals and vehicles and pedestrians.These included two pence for a horse, three pence for a two wheeled cart drawn by one horse, one penny for a pedestrian (but if he was going to a funeral, there was no charge) Tolls were also waived for persons wearing the Queen's uniform or for persons going to or from church. Coaches paid one penny per passenger and one penny per wheel.

The first toll gate established in New Town was built in 1848 and was originally located on New Town Road. The funds collected were used to help pay for the maintenance and gradual improvements of the main road from Hobart Town to Launceston. By the 1860's, traffic was using Park Street as an alternate north - south route the new Town in order to avoid passing through the New Town road toll bar and thus paying the tolls. In December, 1863, the government advertised that they were setting up a new toll bar in Park Street to prevent the evasion of the tolls. That Toll House building has survived to this day. Although described as a toll bar, there was no actual bar, simply just a chain across the road which was lowered by the resident gatekeeper who resided in the Toll House.

Tolls were never really a great success. The system was inefficient, hard to manage and the gatekeepers were often unreliable. To the horse riding gentry, the toll bar was often nothing more than a challenge to be taken at a jump. The revenue was never enough to keep the roads in good repair, and the volume of traffic was barely enough to justify the overall expense of keeping the houses operational. After the advent of the railways, the tolls virtually became useless and by 1880 the were finally abolished altogether.

The Park Street toll house became a private residence and then later on it was rented out for a time. It currently remains a private residence and the building still retains its original distinctive appearance. A wonderful little reminder of a bygone era although I would suggest that there would not be too many people who would be aware of the original occupation of this beautiful little house.

Main Information & Text Source - 
"The Story of New Town Street by Street" - Donald Howatson