Robert Griffiths’ Toxteth Park: The Aigburth Toll Gate

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Another property that Robert Griffiths’ mentions in his 1907 history of Toxteth Park is a Toll Gate and Bar at Aigburth Vale. This gate has been referred to before on this site, but it has such an interesting history to merit its own page. It was erected at the beginning of the 19th century to fund a new road from Aigburth to Toxteth Park but was later the place where trams terminated and turned around for the return journey.

Typical of Griffiths’ wandering style of writing, the information he gives of the gate is scattered across several chapters. Here Griffiths links it with the house the ‘Three Sixes’ (the original building was supposedly erected in 1666, at the entrance to Fulwood Park):

In the old tables of cab fares you will see “to the Three Sixes” as a kind of boundary limit. The road used to slope very sharply down to the present tramway siding. On this spot there used to be

A TOLL GATE AND BAR.

The Hill was known as Bunnell’s Brow, and the only persons exempt from paying toll were the occupier of the Three Sixes and the Backhouse family, who lived In a house even older then the Three Sixes exactly at the south top of St. Michael’s Road.
Tipping’s Farm was situated on the present road, on the land of Sefton Park, South Side, and an unsavoury brook ran through the farm, where now the Sefton Park Lake is. On the dip of Bunnell’s Brow (where now where a clump of evergreens stands), was a forge, much needed, owing to the constant accidents on the Hill to carts and horses and a much frequented little public house.

The proprietor of the last-named put over the door, ‘The Three 6’s’.
Public opinion ‘(in the shape of mud thrown at the sign and jeers at the ‘Three Six Shillings’ as it was contemptuously called) compelled the proprietor to remove this.

Being situated at Aigburth Vale, the toll gate was on the southern border of the ancient hunting park of Toxteth and where it met Aigburth (‘Ackeberth’, the place of many oaks). For centuries Toxteth Park was owned by the Earl of Sefton, Aigburth on the other hand was owned by the Tarleton family who (apart from a spell when it left the family through marriage to the Harringtons), had presided over it since the 16th century from their seat at Aigburth Hall – located on Aigburth Hall Avenue and demolished about 1840.

Until the end of the 18th century no direct road existed to enable direct passage from Garston to the town of Liverpool, instead a longer route had to be taken via Mossley Hill. By the 1770s John Tarleton had regained his ancestral land and soon after purchased a strip of land on the border of Aigburth and Toxteth park from the Earl of Sefton. This made the construction of a new road possible (along the route of St Marys Road to Aigburth Road). The cost of building this road was to be met by revenue gained at the toll gate.

1769 MAP OF MOSSLEY AND AIGBURTHOn this map from the 1760s the road from Aigburth Vale leads not to Garston but directly to the entrance of Aigburth Hall – the ancient seat of the Tarleton family.
The C-shaped building is Aigburth Grange, this dated from the 13th century and was granted to the monks of Stanlawe. The granary of this building still exists in the form of Aigburth Hall Nurseries.
Aigburth Road can be seen on the map under its original name of Park lane. Although supposedly built in 1666, the Three Sixes is shown as ‘New House’.

The toll gate was erected in 1806. This was a through a partnership of Thomas Tarleton and Edward Falkner. (Falkner of Fairfield married Thomas’ sister Bridgett and gave his name to Falkner Square). The Earl of Sefton reserved the right to take down the gate at their decease, or after a period of ten years, but the gate remained there until 1847, much to the anger of residents, farmers and tradesmen.

The Aigburth toll bar was not the first gate in this vicinity. Originally, Toxteth Park was surrounded by a high wall (its very name from the Doomsday book – ‘Stochestede’ meant the Stockaded or enclosed place). At least two gates where set within the wall – a southern gate close to the toll gate at Aigburth Vale and a northern gate which was located close to where St. James Church would later be built. The latter was at the point where the park met the town of Liverpool.

Bunnell’s Brow

Griffiths mentions a feature called Bunnell’s Brow that was close to the toll gate ‘On the dip of Bunnell’s Brow (where now where a clump of evergreens stands), was a forge, much needed, owing to the constant accidents on the Hill to carts and horses and a much frequented little public house’. He adds that this was named after William Bunnell who together with owned/leased the Brow, also the Three Sixes and the land that was later to become Fulwood Park from the Earl of Sefton:

THE HISTORY OF FULWOOD PARK
is as follows :-
Lord Sefton leased to Thomas Balmer the White House Farm, and, in 1781, further leased the fields on which Fulwood Park is now laid out. In addition to the names of the fields given in Mr. Stewart-Brown’s letter, we have five closes of land mentioned in a deed of 1781.

THE FURTHER TWINDLE BROW, THE NEARER
TWINDLE BROW.

The Little Hey, The Further Meadow, The Rushey Hey,* and the Pinfold.” In 1803, these leases passed into the’ hands of William Bunnell, who, in 1808, obtained from the
Earl the freehold of this land, together with that of the White House. In 1833 William Bunnell died, leaving as his executors Thomas and William Birkett. These gentlemen, in 1839, sold the White House to James Birkett, and the fields in question to William and Alexander Smith. In 1840 the two latter gentlemen drew up articles of agreement which contain restrictive clauses, and which were afterwards signed by the various purchasers of the different allotments. Some of these restrictions are rather curious: for instance, none of the houses erected on this land are to cost less than £1,500, and are to be built of stone, or brick, cemented or stuccoed, and must not be higher than two storeys.

toll bar bennisonA detail from Jonathan Bennison’s map of 1835, I have coloured the toll bar red. The dark area to the right is what is now Otterspool Park.

943893a891e78c4e5b8305f3af9bc8ffBy 1847 the toll gate was taken down and converted into shops, here it is at the turn of the century. From left to right is the Post Office, Jones & Son (saddlers and harness makers), Hawley (Dispensing chemists) and G. F. Pickles (fruiterer and greengrocer).

1840s Bunnels BrowA map from the mid-1800s, in the centre can be seen Aigburth Post office – this is the site of the toll gate in the dip of Aigburth Vale.
I have highlighted in red (Thomas) Tipping’s farm, the public house and the forge that Griffiths mentions. White House Farm can be seen at the top, this was owned by Bunnell up until his death in 1833. This is now within Sefton Park which was opened in 1872. Also of note is the Three Sixes and just a couple of villas built on the new development of Fulwood Park.

1760s Bunnels BrowThe above map from the 1760s shows the same area before the toll gate was erected. Further Twindle Brow and Nearer Twindle Brow can be seen, together with Little Brow and Further Brow – making up the Bunnell’s Brow mentioned by Griffiths. Interestingly, the Three Sixes is again called ‘New House’. No properties can be seen in the area that would become Fulwood Park from around 1840.

1840s Bunnels Brow overlayedAn overlay of the 1840s and Google Street view to show the locations today. The properties of Bunnell’s Brow were situated at the entrance to Sefton park overlooking the lake.
White House Farm was demolished to make way for Sefton Park. It was situated opposite what was to become Aigburth People’s Hall, seen below on the right, the farm would be somewhere beyond the daffodils.

White house farm

The Three SixesThe entrance to Fulwood Park, on the right is the ‘Three Sixes’ so called as it is said the original was erected in 1666, this was later demolished and the present house erected. Usually completely obscured by trees, this is the first time I have seen it unobstructed.

IMG_20191205_150031783The original Three Sixes (1666) Aigburth Road, sketch by Miss Mary Birkett.
Image: Copyright of The Athenaeum.

The ‘much frequented’ public house on Bunnell’s Brow that Griffiths mentions was ran by William Johnson in the 1840s and Edward Moore from Lincolnshire in 1865 – as can be seen from the license application below. He is still there in the census of 1871.

Edward Moore Bullens Brow

A killer chased by police on horseback to the Aigburth Turnpike

In 1837 a man on horseback, suspected of trampling a man to death on Berry Street, was pursued by police riders as far as the Aigburth turnpike, at which point the police had to abandon the chase as their horses were exhausted (a distance of 3.5 miles), allowing the man to escape capture.

Soon after, a curious letter appeared in the Liverpool Mail. George Green Jnr of Aigburth (probably of High Pasture, Mossley Hill) wrote to the paper to attempt to clear his name after being accused of being the man seen being chased by police. So far I have not been able to discover if the real culprit was ever found or indeed if Green really was guilty, but his alibi of dining with a friend does seem a little convenient, as does his comment ‘my horse was sent home earlier in the day’.

Chase to the Aigburth Turnpike Liverpool Mail - Tuesday 28 November 1837
Liverpool Mail, 28th November 1837. British Newspaper archive.

End of the road for the toll gate

Paying a toll every time you passed from Toxteth to Aigburth had been unpopular since it’s inception, even more so to the tradesmen who depended on the road for transporting goods. By the 1830s, the legality of the toll gate was being questioned, resulting in demands for it it being taken down.

This cutting below from 1834 tells of a gentleman who asked the keeper by what authority the tolls where collected, when answered “by the authority of the gentlemen of Aigburth” the traveller refused to pay and instructed his servant to drive through, and did so many times afterwards. Even when the gate was padlocked he had his servant break the lock. ‘Albion’ who is writing the piece says ‘If this toll is not sanctioned by the law, we cannot see why the poor farmers in the neighbourhood should be taxed by the gentry of Aigburth ; and we hope steps will be taken to put the matter upon a proper footing”.

Toll Liverpool Mercury - Friday 21 March 1834
Liverpool Mercury, Friday 21st March 1834. British Newspaper Archive

The ratepayers of Toxteth Park had to pay for the upkeep of a road that was outside of their township and yet they still had to pay the toll. Their grievance was aired in 1845 at a meeting of the ratepayers of Toxteth Park:

A meeting of the ratepayers of Toxteth-park was held yesterday at the Public Office, Park-road, to take into consideration certain matters relative to the toll-bar at Aigburth. Mr. M. Gregson, chairman of the commissioners for the better paving and sewerage of the township was called on to preside. The meeting was rather numerously attended, a great number of the most respectable tradesmen and other inhabitants being sent. The notice calling the meeting having been read. the chairman made a few observations touching the business they had met to consider. He stated that it had long been : a grievance to the rate-payers of Toxteth-park, that they were obliged to repair the Agburth-road, between Aigburth and Liverpool, and that the gentlemen on this and the south side of the gate should bear no part of the expense.

…there was every reason to believe, so far, from the opion given that the trustees of the Aigburth toll bar had no right to keep the gate their, and where liable to an action for collecting tolls.

After years of legal wrangling, including some shenanigans by John Moss of Otterspool, the gate was finally taken down on 1st March 1847.

1806 Aigburth Toll started Liverpool Mail - Saturday 10 January 1846
Liverpool Mail, 10th January 1846. British Newspaper Archive.

After the toll gate

After the tolls were abolished in 1847, the building was converted into shops and two of these survived, although much altered, until the end of the 20th century.

photo6
Image from 1899 (source unknown) showing the remainder of the building where it turns into Aigburth Vale where a reversing triangle was situate to allow the trams to turn around. (Thanks to Ross Walsh)

turning triangle 1908A map from 1908 showing the shops on the site of the toll gate and the turning triangle of the tram line on Aigburth Vale.

Bishops courtThe site today, a reminder of the old tram turning triangle exists in the shape of this crossing island.

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d563b2c7747bbcfc4238acc8882b13b5Postcards from the turn of the century – the old toll gate had long been converted into shops which extend to the corner and into the road of Aigburth Vale.

D8xMeqDXsAAx4OV.jpg_largeThe rounded building on the corner of Aigburth Vale was demolished to make way for A. E. Vaughn & Co., a wine and spirit merchants. Image: @angelcakepics

37f021f70df73f4818f572d23198f51aThis 1980s view of Aigburth Vale that will be familiar to many. Two of the single storey toll gate shops survived until the end of the 20th century, notice the chimneys above the Pet Store and compare to the image above, the shopfronts have changed but the structures survived until the late 1990s. Image: @angelcakepics

82c1960s, ’15 Atlantean L645 on route 82C at Aigburth Vale’ from https://www.flickr.com/photos/happyraildays/7081638373/

28292391416_48152bcea8_bEntitled ‘Aigburth Vale, 1920s and 2016′ from Keith Jones’ this montage is from the excellent series of photographs ‘Liverpool then and now’, a perfect illustration of how the site changed over a century. https://www.flickr.com

If I remember correctly, the roof of the building on the corner of Aigburth Vale had collapsed after repairs had taken place, causing it to be demolished. Since about 2002 the site has been occupied by Bishops Court.

Link to the African slave trade

John Tarleton who re-purchased the Aigburth estate, and his son Thomas who erected the Toll Gate, were slave traders and in partnership with Daniel Backhouse in the firm Tarleton’s and Backhouse. This is why the owners of Old Hall where exempt from paying the toll as that house was the residence of Daniel Backhouse. Read more about the Tarletons, Backhouse, Old Hall and slavery links to Aigburth here.

old hall 2Old Hall, home of Daniel Backhouse. This was situated on the corner of Aigburth Road and St Michaels Road. Image: Liverpool Record Office

 

Further reading:

Tarleton & Backhouse slaving voyages:
The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A History By James A. Rawley, Stephen D. Behrendt https://books.google.co.uk

Stanlawe Grange – Home of the Tarleton family:
Stanlawe Grange. – Monastic Lands by Mike Royden
http://www.roydenhistory.co.uk

Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire paper on Stanlawe Grange:
https://www.hslc.org.uk

My thanks to Ross Walsh and @Waite99D for their assistance in this post and @angelcakepics for several of the old photographs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 comments on “Robert Griffiths’ Toxteth Park: The Aigburth Toll Gate

  1. David Steers says:

    Another excellent post. I remember those shops well, I had no idea they had ever been a toll gate.

  2. […] Lark Lane was originally part of Toxteth Park, a royal hunting ground laid out for King John in the 13th century. The park was originally enclosed by a wooden (later stone) wall. This may have given the park it’s name as it appears in the Domesday Book as ‘Stochestede’ – Old English for Stockaded Place. It appears there were two ‘Park Gates’, these were located at the Park’s north and south extremities, one by where St James Church now stands, being the boundary of Upper Parliament Street and the other was likely to have been at Otterspool. […]

  3. […] at Aigburth Vale. Although this was quite close, it is too far to be associated with the lane. Read here. I have also heard it said that James Penny’s name was spelt Penney, I have not seen evidence […]

  4. […] Aigburth Vale. Although this was quite close, it is too far to be associated with the lane. Read here. I have also heard it said that James Penny’s name was spelt Penney, I have not seen evidence of […]

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