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Historic toll house saved

[Friday 5 November 2010]

Before and after the renovation

An historic building in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been given a new lease of life.

The Punchard Gill toll house was built beside the Reeth to Tan Hill road in Arkengarthdale and was used to collect tolls from passing traffic after the road was turnpiked in 1770.

But it has been used as an agricultural store for the last 100 years and was badly in need of major repair work, according to Robert White, Senior Historic Environment Officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

“Thirteen toll houses are recorded in the National Park but their road side positions make them very vulnerable and most have been demolished or converted almost beyond recognition,” he said.

“Despite this one being in agricultural use for over a century, it is a Grade 2 listed building and has been described as "a rare and relatively unaltered survival of the turnpike road era in Richmondshire".

“It was on our Buildings at Risk register because of its poor condition.”

Thanks to a partnership between the YDNPA, Natural England and the owner, it has now been given a new lease of life.

The extensive work involved re-roofing, partial underpinning and rebuilding of stonework, repointing and renewing external joinery and guttering.

Dr Margaret Nieke, Natural England’s Historic Adviser, said: “There is so much history linked to this building – it’s fantastic to see it restored to its former glory. It shows how Natural England’s agri-environment schemes are helping to safeguard the historic environment in this much loved part of the Yorkshire Dales.”

The building’s owner, Paul Harker, who lives in Punchard House, Arkengarthdale, said: “The toll house was deteriorating rapidly but, with the help of the YDNPA and Natural England, a thorough renovation has taken place and the building has now been preserved for future generations.”

The Reeth-Tan Hill-Brough road was turnpiked in 1770 and was improved to cope with increasing traffic, particularly from the coal field at Tan Hill, and the need to make it easier to transport smelted lead from Swaledale.

The building was sited at the edge of the enclosed land in Arkengarthdale, just as the road opens out onto moorland, in order to make it difficult to avoid paying tolls.

In 1841 it was occupied by David Raine, a toll gatherer, who was described as a roadmaker in 1851. In 1861 the census reveals that John Calvert was a cattle jobber as well as a toll bar keeper but in 1871 the head of the household was a coal merchant and in 1881 a coal miner.

The building is not mentioned in the 1891 and 1901 census returns which suggests it was then uninhabited.

Turnpike trusts were generally wound up in the second half of the 19th century and responsibility for the roads passed to the County Councils in 1888.

More information about the Punchard Gill toll house can be found on the National Park Authority website at http://www.outofoblivion.org.uk/record.asp?id=399.

More general information on toll roads and toll houses can be found on the same website at http://www.outofoblivion.org.uk/roads.asp.

Feedback received on this subject:

This is great news. All too often traces of our heritage are wiped away forever due to neglect, poor management or 'progress'. Well done to all concerned on this project.

Martin Williamson - Silsden, West Yorkshire

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