Monday 31 January 2011

Toll Rage

A random early-Victorian crime for you ... an incident of 'toll rage' reported in the Morning Post of 1 May, 1839:

WORSHIP STREET.—Yesterday the Duchess of Marlborough was summoned before Messrs. Codd and Mallard, a county magistrate, charged with having neglected to pay the toll of the Kingsland-gate ; and William Simpson, coachman in her Grace's employ, was also summoned on a charge of assaulting George Hawkins, the toll-collector.
    Mr. Simpson, superintendent of the collection of tolls under the commissioners of the metropolis roads, attended to support the case.
    James King, steward to the Duchess of Marlborough, stated the non-payment of the toll arose entirely from a mistake. In coming from Wanstead, where the Duchess had called upon a friend, the coachman came through the wrong gate, and her Grace was not aware that it was necessary to pay.
     Mr. Codd—Then as far as the Duchess is concerned she pleads guilty, and is ready to pay the toll?
    King said that he was ordered to pay.
     Mr. Codd—The charge against her Grace is then withdrawn, but that against the coachman is more serious, and we must proceed with that.
    The complainant stated that he was collector at the Kingsland gate on the 17th inst., between six and seven in the evening, when the defendant passed through with the carriage, which was drawn by two horses, and in which was her Grace and two children, he asked for the toll, when the defendant produced the Islington ticket. Complainant told him that it was not right. He then whipped his horses to go on. Complainant laid hold of their heads, and was carried about fifty yards, throughout which distance he, as well as the horses, was severely whipped. The coachman then showed the Dalsion-lane ticket, which complainant said was not right. The defendant again whipped his horses, which he continued doing for 30 yards. He then stopped, when her Grace, who was greatly frightened, offered complainant 10s. to compromise the alfair, which he refuoed to do.
    Mr. Codd—Are you sure that he struck you intentionally?
    Complainant—Yes, sir ; he cut my ears so that they bled most profusely.
    Mr. Wm. Fleetwood, Shacklewell-lane, stock-broker, said that he was in an omnibus when he saw the occurrence. The defendant whipped the complainant at least five-and-twenty times. The whipping was most severe and the conduct of the defendant was most shameful.
    By Mr. Codd—It appeared quite premeditated on the part of the defendant, and his conduct was most deliberate.
   Two other witnesses corroborated this statement, and who added that the complainant behaved very leniently.
    243 N said that he would have taken the defendant into custody but that the complainant objected.
    The defendant expressed his regret at his conduct, which he admitted was not to be justified, but he was very much excited. It was the first time that he had been through that gate, and it was entirely through error that he refused to pay. He was very sorry for the occurrence. He had been two years in the Marlborough family and had a wife and two children.
    Mr. Codd observed that, according to the act 4 Geo. IV. c. 95, he was liable to a penalty of 10l. He and his brother magistrate could scarcely make up their minds to reduce the fine; but it was only in consideration of his penitence, that he had a wife and family, and that he had been two years in his situation, that could induce a mitigation. Persons in his capacity must be taught that they would not be allowed to act with impunity; and if ever he should be brought to this office again, or should be taken to any other office another time, the full penalty would be levied. The defendant was fined 40s. and costs. The fine was paid.


  1. And that's why toll collectors are in booths today.

    What does 40s equate to in today's currency? Is there a retro-currency converter somewhere?

  2. It's a difficult one to get right, currency, and I'm no expert but - some examples ... a "shilling day" allowed the industrious working classes to attend the Great Exhibition (1851); a successful working-class man would make no more than about £75 a year; a middling clerk, if lucky, double that; Mrs. Beeton gives a coachman's wage as £20-£35 a year (but I think that would exclude accommodation and food). Any help? £10, in order words, would have been four or five months' wages for a coachman; £2, not so bad.