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Sandwich - Dover Turnpike


 

Information on this page has been extracted from Archaeologia Cantiana, vol. 142, 1997, pp 1-11.

The Kent Archaeological Society has published reports on its activities annually since its inception in 1858.  This report takes as its main sources the account books and minute books of the Dover Turnpike Trust.  It contains much information about the finances of the Trust and the effects of the coming of the railway.


The Sandwich to Dover Turnpike originally had four gates: Stone Cross (Sandwich), Upper Deal, Deal Castle and Castle Hill (Dover).

In October 1833 the road was described as being "in tolerable condition throughout) and the Turnpike Trust, which maintained the road and collected the tolls, was financially fairly secure.  However, they were careful with their funds, as is demonstrated by the refusal of an offer to provide two gas lamps for each toll gate at a cost of 10 per year on the grounds that the expense could not be justified.

The minutes of the Trust contain many examples of the type of repairs needed to be carried out in order to maintain the road; for example, in January 1834, the Corporation of Sandwich was required to carry out repairs to the embankment of the South Stream between St Bartholomew's Hospital and the Town.  In 1835 there was a requirement that the crest of Hacklinge Hill be lowered by 3 feet "more or less".  Also that year, the Surveyor was instructed to use a sieve with a mesh of 2 inches rather than 2 inches to provide a better surface to the road.

In 1837 it was decided that the gatekeepers were to have "each a sufficient light at their toll houses to enable passengers to distinguish their money."

By 1838 things were clearly not looking good financially, as new gates were erected at Sholden Church and Walmer Pond to increase revenue, in spite of which proposals to improve the road were rejected in April that year as being "impractical in the present state of the funds," and the Trust had to ask the Master-General of the Ordnance to wait for the 25 per year due for Dover Hill.  Also that year it was discovered that the Walmer collector was fraudulently issuing free tickets; this would not have directly affected the Trust, as the gates were leased to private operators, but it could have made it difficult to attract lessees if it had become widespread.

There was a definite "Mr. Micawber" situation in the Trust's funding as reported in 1838: average annual income (over 5 year period to Christmas 1838), 860; average expenditure, 911; a loss of roughly 1 per week.  At the same time, 400 was needed to repair the road.  A sub-committee report concluded that:

It is evident that the present income of the Trust is totally inadequate to afford the necessary funds for maintaining the road in repair and providing for the payment of the bondholders (the Trust issued bonds, or shares, from time to time to raise money), and it appears to your Committee absolutely necessary to increase the revenue 300 a year by some alteration of the tolls payable on the road.

It seems as though there had been a "through ticket" for the whole, or different sections of, the road at a reduced rate, as it was resolved that, in future, each gate should collect its own tolls to increase the income.

The cost of repairing the road in 1839 was estimated to be 1,192 11s. 9d.  The Trust decided that year to take the collection of tolls into its own hands instead of letting the gates, and four gate keepers were employed for the task.  The keepers at Deal, which each covered 2 gates, were paid 18s per week, while the Dover and Sandwich keepers were paid 14s.  This only lasted about 4 months before the gates were let out again so, presumably, the scheme was not very successful.

The road was reported to be in a very bad state of repair in 1840 and the Trust's financial position was also very poor.

Over the next few years the situation did not improve very much and the Trust from time to time had to resort to collecting its own tolls, as lessees were not coming forward.  In 1843 the Upper Deal collector was offered 15s. per week, the Deal Castle collector, 12s., the Walmer man, 7s. The Sandwich and Dover collectors were to be paid just 12s. each.  It is not clear if this was a reflection of a reduction in traffic or an indication of a glut of labour.

The condition of the road had much improved by 1844 and the Trust was now, finally, solvent once more.  It was in that year that various Bills were going through Parliament to build a railway line from Minster to Deal and Walmer, which caused the Trust some concern, not least due to the fact that the proposed line would cross the road at various points.  In 1845 they asked the South Eastern Railway Company to carry its lines either under or over the road, rather than having level crossings.

It was decided in 1845 that the line would terminate at Deal and would not continue on to Walmer or Dover, which meant that it would not affect half of the road, but it was clear that it would have a major effect on the Sandwich-Deal section of the route.  The railway opened on 1st July 1847.  The first locomotive to operate the branch had to be carried over the turnpike from Dover to Deal, which was achieved with great difficulty, due in no small measure to the climb up the hill from the Town to Dover Castle.

There were further proposals from a number of companies in 1846 to extend the railway from Dover to Deal.  These again caused problems for the Trust in attracting lessees for the toll gates.

In 1855 the first "season tickets" were sold for various sections of the road, which allowed the holders to travel freely.

The coming of the railway to Deal in 1847 caused toll collections on the Sandwich-Deal section of the road to drop dramatically for a few years, levelling off at about half the pre-railway level.  The tolls at Deal Castle and Dover Castle remained at a viable level as the railway was not extended to Dover until 1881.

The Trust was finally wound up in 1874.


  The Account Books for 1797-1832 and 1863-1874 and the Minute Books for 1832-1846 and 1846-1874 can be found at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, Ref: T11.  They are catalogued at the National Archives, Ref: NRA 5632 Dover trust.