Nostalgia visits Toll House and Waterloo Bridge
AN extensive restoration of Sidmouth’s Grade Two listed Toll House has been undertaken by East Devon District Council, which claims it as being one of the prettiest council houses around.
This week Charlie Lister investigates further for Nostalgia.
It is difficult now to imagine Sidmouth without Salcombe Road, Waterloo Bridge and the 200-year-old Toll House, but in the early 19th century, there was nothing but fields between the Radway Cinema and the River Sid.
“As Sidmouth grew there was more development on the east bank of the river and the lower slopes of Salcombe Hill”, writes Julia Creeke in her book Life and Times in Sidmouth: a guide to the Blue Plaque properties in the town.
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In spite of this growth, the only carriage access to the town was across the Mill Ford. If the river was in flood and the ford impassable, it meant a long detour via the only bridge at Sidford.
“As a number of influential residents had their houses and estates on the east bank of the Sid, it was not surprising that there was agitation for the river to be bridged near the town” writes Miss Creeke.
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“It seems that the county was prepared to provide the money to build the bridge and a subscription list was opened for the purpose of raising money to make a new road to connect with the upper part of the High Street.”
The road was built through a field owned by Joseph Hook and the new bridge was completed in 1817. It was named Waterloo Bridge in honour of the Duke of Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon two years earlier.
“A new toll house in the then fashionable Greek revival style was designed and built alongside the bridge and a toll gate placed across the road on the eastern side.
“The toll gate is said to have been made by an ironmaster at Honiton and is almost identical to the gate which is still extant in its original position outside Honiton on the Axminster Road,” writes Miss Creeke.
The toll house and gate were made redundant following the abolition of the Sidmouth and Honiton Turnpike Trust in 1888.
The toll gate was removed and languished in a nearby field until it was re-discovered in the late 1970s, when it was restored and re-hung at the entrance to The Byes by the Sid Vale Association.
The toll house was let as a dwelling and was eventually acquired by Sidmouth Urban District Council in 1936. The house was flooded in 1968 and refurbished by the council in 1974 and was re-let to a council tenant in 1975.
This most recent restoration has seen the house’s leaking roof replaced, chimneys repaired and the central heating upgraded. The interior has been refurbished and the property has been re-decorated in traditional Devon colours.
“The Toll House has been a feature of Sidmouth’s townscape for nearly two centuries and EDDC is proud to have restored it to its former glory,” said a council spokesman.