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A Beggar's Highway

Scotland History Geography Transport GIS Toll Roads Turnpikes Toll House Map


OSA, XVII,(1796), Cupar, 151.

Complaints and grumblings against the toll system were far from uncommon throughout their history and for many people the cost of paying the tolls far outweighed any benefits they may have brought.  One critic called on Scotland to ‘emancipate’ its roads from this ‘oppressive’ system and claimed that the delight of doing so would be similar to that ‘of the dark son of Africa, when escaped from the yoke of his taskmaster!’.  To what extent this sentiment was shared by all Scotland’s travellers however is doubtful.  Toll roads under law were not allowed to charge pedestrians for passing and so tolls were only charged on horses and wheeled vehicles.  For the lower classes then who could not afford to travel by such means, tolls were no obstacle and instead the improved road surfaces opened up new horizons and freedom of movement for Scotland’s poor. The minister at Cupar in 1796 commented on the fact that being on ‘the great turnpike road’, Cupar was experiencing more and more vagrant poor travelling from near and far.

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