Garstang Tollhouse is situated in the area known as Cabus, a little way out from the centre of the town. It was placed at the start of the Garstang to Heiring Syke toll road. Heiring Syke (or Heron Syke) is a stream at what was then the boundary between Lancashire and Westmorland, near Burton-with-Kendal.
A parliamentary act was required for the building of the road, and this was passed in 1751. Interestingly, this was just six years after the Jacobite forces supporting Charles Edward Stuart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) had passed this way from Scotland on their march on London. Improved roads would not only help local traffic, but would also ensure the army could move with ease to suppress a rebellion. This was not a military road, but having good access to the north and a regulated road in the form of tolls and toll houses may have been an additional incentive for its construction.
The tollhouse itself dates from 1824, replacing a nearby earlier one, and is in excellent condition. Now a private residence, there are good views of it from the road. Interestingly, photographs of the now disappeared toll house at Scotforth near Lancaster show both of the buildings to be of very similar design, presumably built at a similar time.
The two surviving gate posts (or piers) are also of interest. These would have originally held the gate that would have been opened to allow traffic through. The one nearest the house shows some of its mechanism still intact.
However, the one on the opposite side of the road is of particular importance. This appears to be a Roman milestone that has been reused as a gate post by the toll house. It is typically Roman in shape, with a rounded top and a square base, quite different from its partner opposite. David Ratlidge, a chronicler of the Roman Roads of Lancashire, seems to have been the first to notice it. He passed the information on to county archaeologist, Peter Iles, who agreed that it is Roman. (See the page on David’s excellent website here). It’s not clear if it has been scheduled as an ancient monument yet, but it needs to be.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2021
The toll house is on the B6430, Lancaster Road. Park on one of the residential streets nearby. The Roman milestone is on the opposite side of the road to the toll house and can be partially obscured by vegetation in late summer, but is easy enough to find.
Turnpikes and Toll Houses of Lancashire, Ron Freethy (1986) Countryside Publications
Leading the Way: A History of Lancashire’s Roads, Alan Crosby (editor) (1998) Lancashire County Books
The Garstang-Heron Syke Turnpike Road, Andrew White (undated). Available online as pdf document
Historic Cabus, Cabus Parish Council. Leaflet available online as a pdf document