Celebrations in Honiton in 1910 when toll huts were abolished

Notice of auction of Honiton toll huts in 1910

Notice of auction of Honiton toll huts in 1910 - Credit: Honiton Museum

For over 120 years people had to pay a toll to enter and leave Honiton via Exeter Road, Dowell Street, Clapper Lane, Northcote Lane, Copper Castle or Holy Shute. The money raised went towards maintaining the town’s roads, the paving and cleaning and lighting of the streets.

The only day on which the tolls were not collected was a Saturday or any Fair Day. There were a few exemptions – a farmer living outside the town could enter or leave without payment at a gate if the vehicle they drove contained market produce. Disputes often occurred at the gates, resulting in the toll collectors being summoned to court. Officers of the King's Hussars complained that they should not have been charged as they were in uniform and leading a march on the War Office route - although one had a female passenger, and the other was driving his master’s gig and carrying his luggage.

Amelia Abbot of the Clapper Lane toll gate was fined 3s 6d for refusing to give Police Superintendent de Schmid a receipt when he demanded one. A butcher could come and go as he pleased provided, he was carrying meat in his cart, but a baker had to pay the toll whether he was carrying his goods or not. A circus proprietor refused to pay on the grounds that an elephant was pulling his waggon, and that it was not a horse-drawn vehicle. Reverend Copleston complained that in 30 years he had paid over 100 pounds in tolls at Honiton. Even the drivers of motor vehicles had to pay to pass through for a while until the Automobile Association and Harry Banfield agreed a settlement.

The whole town celebrated in June 1910 when the toll gates were abolished. The Town Council spared no trouble or expense in arranging that the day should be treated as a holiday, and the Mayor asked that shops were closed shortly after noon. There was a public luncheon, followed by a free tea for all of the children living in the borough. Races for cash prizes, dancing and firework displays were held in the High Street.

The council decided to sell off all of the gates and huts except the house and gates at Copper Castle. They wanted them to be preserved as a memento of past times because it was originally covered with a copper roof, hence the name. Copper Castle was first used when the thoroughfare from the building to the High Street, known as Kings Road, was opened by King George 111. He was travelling between Weymouth via Honiton and Escot to Exeter in August 1789. In Honiton, the King’s carriage was greeted by 300 girls wearing white ribbons.