Toll Roads

The 19th Century Ballincollig Toll Road

A toll road from Cork via Ballincollig to Tralee was constructed in 1812. The toll road commenced on the road section at the junction of the Magazine and College roads in Cork and continued out through the Model Farm Road to Ballincollig and then on to Macroom via the current N22 route. The toll road then went to Millstreet, and branched at Rathmore to Killarney and to Tralee. The 1812 toll road to Tralee replaced, in part, an earlier toll road to Tralee. This earlier toll road was set up in 1747 and became known as “The Butter Road”. The Butter Road went from Cork via Tower to Millstreet. This toll road did not prosper financially and with lack of investment, fell into disrepair and the 1812 toll road was set up as replacement route.

The toll road had two tollbooths (or turnpikes) in Ballincollig. One, across the main road in the main Street of Ballincollig at Station Road and the other at the West End Roundabout, across the road to Inniscarra Bridge where the road exits the present day roundabout. The tollbooths are long demolished, but a tollgate associated with the toll road has survived due to the foresight of the Tanner family who lived at Coolroe and who were local landowners at the time of the toll road.


Ballincollig Toll Road Act of Parliament

Toll Roads:
Toll roads were first introduced into Ireland in 1729 following similar introductions in England. All toll roads in Ireland and England were established by Acts of Parliament, by the Irish Parliament prior to the Act of Union, and then by the British Parliament. Prior to the toll road Acts, roads were maintained by local committees called Grand Juries and these roads were used mainly by local traffic. The increase in population, and in trade in general, in the 17th century caused a great increase in traffic traversing through the Grand Juries areas. Great wear was being caused to existing roads by the increased traffic. The roads were, in most cases, just enlarged tracks – and the state of many roads was such that they were impassable to wheeled traffic in wintertime.

Present day “Turnpike Corner”, location of one of two tollbooths that were in Ballincollig

The Toll Road at Ballincollig:
The toll road through Ballincollig was constructed in 1812 and was closed in 1833. All toll roads were set up and managed as private Trusts by local landowners and others with money to invest. Charles H. Leslie was one such investor in the toll road and was also a large landowner in the Ballincollig area. He had earlier set up the Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills.
All toll roads in Ireland were abolished by Act of parliament by 1858 and the toll road system reverted to the control of the local Grand Juries. The Grand Jury system had been upgrading and maintaining roads other than the toll roads and these roads were as well constructed and maintained as the toll roads and were, in addition, free of tolls. While there was probably great rejoicing in general at the abolition of the toll road system, at least one person in Ballincollig was unhappy at their demise. A court case was taken in 1848 against Florence Donovan the toll keeper at Ballincollig who was reluctant to give up his tollhouse following the closure of the toll road and the loss of his position as toll keeper; he was fined 6 pence (€6.00 at current value). The only physical trace of the Ballincollig Turnpike is the low section of stone wall at the N22 junction with Station Road in Ballincollig (see picture above). This wall was part of the turnpike barrier. The wall was originally about two metres in height up to the mid 1960’s. The County Council then reduced the wall height because of the restriction to traffic visibility for vehicles exiting Station Road.

Toll Charges:
Toll charges on toll roads were fixed by Act of Parliament and could not be changed except by another Act of Parliament. A graded system of tolls was applied depending on the tolled item concerned. Individuals were not charged when on foot and the toll was graded to account for the wear and tear caused by the tolled item. The system and gradation chosen was well designed and modern road design engineers would agree with the relative tolls charged in terms of expected wear and tear on the road.

A table, abstracted from the Parliamentary Act establishing the toll road and giving the toll charges on the toll road is provided underneath. The table gives the original charge in shillings and pence in the old imperial units (12 pence = 1 shilling; 20 shillings = 1 Pound Sterling). An approximate current day equivalent in Euro is provided taking into account inflation since 1813.

Ballincollig Turnpike Toll Charges – 1813
Toll 1813 Cost Equivalent Cost 2006
Toll Item Shillings Pence Euros
Coach, or similar carriage, drawn by 6 or more horses 3 3 16.25
Coach, or similar carriage, drawn by 4 or 5 horses. 2 6 12.50
Coach, or similar carriage, drawn by 1 horse. 0 6.5 2.71
For every horse drawing any wagon with wheels of 5 inches breadth. 0 2 0.83
For every horse drawing any wagon with wheels of 4 inches breadth. 0 3 1.25
For every horse drawing any wagon, with wheels of 3 inches to 4 inches in breadth. 0 4 1.67
For every horse drawing any wagon, with wheels of less than 3 inches breadth. 0 6.5 2.71
For every horse, mule or ass, laden or unladen. 0 1.5 0.63
For every drove of oxen, cows, or cattle per score (20). 1 8 8.33
For every drove of hogs per score (20). 0 10 4.17
For every drove of calves, sheep or lambs per score (20). 0 5 2.08

3. Toll Road Charges with their Modern Equivalent Cost

In contrast to modern day toll roads, only one toll levy was permitted in any one day on the toll road.


Tollgate in current position

The gate is of solid forged wrought iron and is approximately 2 metres in height and 4 metres in length. The construction of the gate is similar to the type of gate produced in the Monard Ironworks north of Cork City in the early nineteenth century. The gate is still performing a useful function to this day and is in place locally. Corrosion of the wrought iron bars has damaged part of the gate and the wheel and support is a modern addition to support the great weight of the gate. Very little information is available about the actual tollgates in Ireland and this gate may be a unique survivor from Ireland’s early toll roads.

Source Material:
1. Turnpike Definition: A turnpike was a barrier extending across the road, similar to a modern turnstile, that was turned (opened) in order to allow traffic to pass after the payment of a charge, or toll, to a tollgate keeper who collected money for the toll road trust.
The word “turnpike” has changed in meaning and now describes the actual toll road in many parts of the world. The word has also been incorporated as a local place name in Ireland with the ending –pike, as in, Kerrypike, or Dublinpike.
2. The First Toll-Roads – Ireland’s Turnpike Roads 1729 – 1858, David Broderick, The Collins Press 2002.
3. Bishopstown, Wilton and Glasheen, A picture of life in the three western suburbs of Cork from early days to modern times, Richard Henchion, Dahadore Publications, 2001, p18.
4. Journal of the Ballincollig Community School Local History Society 1987, p 29-30.
5. An Act for maintaining the Road from the City of Cork to the Town of Tralee, in the County of Kerry, Georgii III Regis, 52GeoIII,c.cxxxviii (Local and Personal Act).
6. Atlas of County Cork, John Crowley, Robert Devoy, Denis Linehan and Patrick O’Flanagan, Cork University Press, 2005, Chapter 17 – Connecting Cork by Colin Rynn, pages 194-196.

Article by Rod MacConaill, 2007