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Matlock Bath: Toll Bar at Artists' Corner, before 1879
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Artists' Corner

Warm wells toll bar

Hascar Lane toll bar

There were two toll bars on the main road running through Matlock Bath, one at the southern end of the village and this one at the northern end, below High Tor at Artists' Corner in Matlock Dale. The toll house in the Dale replaced the toll house at Holt Lane about 1833[1]. The specification shows the Matlock Dale replacement was to be as similar to the Holt Lane building as possible. When the Holt Lane house was demolished it was stipulated that the materials were to be re-used, including the front doorcase which was to be installed at the back of the "new" building. Even the slate roof slates from the Holt Lane house were to be salvaged. It seems to have continued to be called the Holt Lane Gate[2].

A small number of contemporary images of this toll house are in private collections and they show the other side of the toll bar. The two storey toll building was reconstructed against the wall of the right hand house of the block of three storey properties next to it. The ground floor windows looked straight into the other house. This possibly also explains why the end of the roof of the block of three is cut away today. Presumably a short supply of land along this strech of road meant there was little space to build.

Several nineteenth century guide books mention the area around the toll bar[3]. The 1840 edition of "Gem of the Peak", for example, talks of "Fox's lodging house beside the toll bar"[3]. In the 1845 edition of "Gem" there is a little more information, especially as more properties had been built in the interim. "On proceeding into the Dale, we come to, in succession, Mr. Chinnery's Cottages, then Dale Cottage, beautifully situated, then a large house by the Toll Bar, a good building, and now the residence of Charles Milnes Esq. Beyond this is seen ... Tor Cottage". The shadow cast by the coach house of Tor Cottage can be seen across the front of house on the far left.

In a footnote to the page Adam added that: "‡We regret to name that several small but heavy looking houses have been recently erected here not at all in keeping with the scenery"[4].

The 1851 version of his book tells us that the large house by the toll bar was "now the residence of _ Darwin, esq., solicitor"[5].

The task of toll keeper or collector wasn't always undertaken by men. In 1841 Elizabeth Knowles was the toll bar keeper here and thirty years later the job was being carried out by another woman, Mary Greatorex of Common Wood[6]. In between then Mr. and Mrs. Phillips collected the fee at "Matlock Bridge Gate"[7]. They were followed by the Dunns[8].

The toll gate was open in the photo; when closed it prevented vehicles or people from passing through without paying a fee to reach their destination. Some undoubtedly would have tried to get through and avoid paying but occasionally a toll was demanded when an individual was exempt. An example of this occured in 1872 when a Reverend G. Taylor summoned Mary Greatorex, who had made him pay a toll on the 10th September which he believed he should not have paid. Taylor was being conveyed to Winster by horse and gig as he was to preach there by authority of the Wesleyan Conference. After some deliberation the Chairman of the magistrates announced that the court had taken the view that any minister could travel toll free to his church, or to preach if he had been authorized to do so[9].

In 1879 we discover that "the bars on the road leading through Matlock Bath and Matlock Dale are now gone, and so completely swept away scarcely to leave a mark of the place where they have stood for nearly a century past"[10]. A slight exaggeration here as the house was less than fifty years old.

In some respects the scene has changed very little over the last one hundred and forty plus years. The open space on the opposite side of the road is a car park these days, but in the mid twentieth century it was more of a park. Visitors then would buy trays of tea from Wilson's shop and carry them across to the park where they would sit and enjoy the view. Life was full of simple pleasures!

Original photograph in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
Scanned for this website and information written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Research undertaken by Colin Goodwyn at Matlock RO has found a specification drawn up during or soon after 1831 for pulling down the toll house "near the Boat House Inn" and rebuilding it "at a place appointed by Peter Walthall esq". Neither of the two copies of this spec. are endorsed and it is probable that the work wasn't proceeded with but there is another spec. for "pulling down and removing the Materials of the Old Toll House at Holt Lane" and erecting a new one "between the house occupied by ___ Collingwood Esqr and the house belonging to Mr Chinery in Matlock", i.e. between Tor Cottage and Dale Cottage. This work was accepted by Joseph Watts on 18 July 1833 who undertook to complete it by 11 September 1833. The building is on the deposited plans for the Manchester, Buxton & Matlock Railway for 1845.

[2] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited. Bryan states that there were five toll bars within the parish. He was refering to the original parish of Matlock.

[3] William Adam's "Gem of the Peak", 2nd edition, 1840 - see the section the northern end of the Dale | Croston's "On Foot Through the Peak" (see Chapter 13, sixth paragraph down). Joseph Fox, who kept the lodging house mentioned by Adam, is shown in the 1841 census.

[4] Adam, William (1845) "The Gem of the Peak"... 4th edition ... London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row.

[5] Adam, William (1851) "The Gem of the Peak"... 5th edition. Edward Dawin was living there at the time of the 1851 census.

[6] Elizabeth Knowles was listed in the 1841 census and in the 1871 census Mary Greatorex was in charge of collecting the toll due. Another woman who lived in the Matlocks, Eliza Dorothy Doxey, had kept Toll Gate at Wensley (see Biographies)

[7] William Phillips, with his wife Jamina supporting him, were listed in the Dale in the 1851 census return.

[8] The burial of 14 year old William Dunn was recorded in the parish register in 1857. His parents were still living in the Dale in 1861.

[9] "Derbyshire Times", 16 November 1872. Important Turnpike Toll Case.

[10] "Derbyshire Courier", 15 November 1879. Removal of Toll Bar.