The Tokomairiro and Waihola area was one of the most significant food gathering areas in Otago, this importance evident through acknowledgement the importance of Waihola in the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlements Act 1998. Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe and Ngai Tahu visited the area. The plains and wetland supported a number of pa. There were also many nohoanga (temporary campsites) located within the area. The attractiveness of the area as a mahinga kai was enhanced by its accessibility via waterways. With the direct link to the Taieri River, access via the Taieri to villages on the banks of the Taieri River, upstream and down, and access by waka to the coast and northward to Otakou, kai and other resources gathered from the wetlands could be transported back to these home bases with relative ease. Because of the long history of use of the area as a mahinga kai, supporting permanent and temporary settlements, there are numerous urupa, wahi tapu and wahi taonga associated with the wetlands. These are all places holding the memories, traditions, victories and defeats of Ngai Tahu tupuna, and are frequently protected by secret locations. Urupa are the resting places of Ngai Tahu tupuna and, as such, are a particular focus for whanau traditions. There are no recorded Maori archaeological sites on the piece of land on which the Tollhouse sits.
The Significance of Transport Networks
As for Maori, location, accessibility and resources were all important to the European newcomers. The development of a transport infrastructure, particularly roading and railways, was crucial to the settlement and development of New Zealand. The construction of all weather routes made possible the transport of people and goods to encourage the population of interior areas. Geographer Brian Renzella notes that roads enabled the ‘migration of culture, religion and ethnic tradition’ and that such networks allowed for the spread of architectural traditions, and the development of agriculture and extractive industries. They also allowed for the transportation of manufactured goods and trade, and had political and cultural impacts on the communities that developed in sites close to transportation networks.
In the New Zealand context, historian James Watson writes that transport was of central economic importance to European settlers trying to establish lives on the land in the nineteenth century, allowing the transport of goods to and from their often isolated homes, and reflecting settlers’ participation in a commercial society. Settlers also believed that the government should invest in transport infrastructure to encourage settlement and promote agricultural interests. The development of a transport infrastructure exemplified ‘both the Victorian belief in the progress and propensity for boosting the local district, lauding its almost limitless potential.’
Transport was a vital concern for early authorities: roads provided access to ports and enabled settlement of inland areas. Railways and the recognition of the transformative power of such networks were also met with hopeful enthusiasm. The lack of an effective roading network was seen as a limitation on growth (and therefore wealth) - ‘there is a wide distance between the port of supply and the population on the gold fields; the belt of land that separates them is fertile, and the only barrier to its cultivation is the difficulty and cost of the carriage of produce to the markets.’ The ‘primitive’ transport networks influenced government strategies for revenue gathering. Watson writes that direct taxation was difficult because of poor access to isolated properties. Tolls were a way of exploiting ‘transport bottlenecks’ and were generally levied for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. While early transport difficulties led to the creation of many small settlements (such as that of Lower Taieri Ferry where the Clarendon Tollhouse was originally sited), it also led to the demise of settlements as problems were overcome and routes became quicker.
Early dirt roads turned to quagmires in the wet. Horse drawn wheeled transport required harder surfaces which cost more to build. Road building made considerable demands on provincial finances, in Otago in the late 1850s taking a third of the Otago Provincial Council’s funds, and even that amount was probably insufficient for the task. In country areas road boards often took on the task, with elected board members collecting rates from landowners, but with county councils also taking on the task later in the 1870s. Tolls were one way in which money was raised for road and bridge maintenance. Early plans for the railway on the Taieri noted the proximity of the proposed railway to the roading network, including the ‘turnpike road’ with associated tollhouses.
While many roading structures are well recognised in their values, bridges in spectacular situations or as examples of ground breaking engineering technologies or equally impressive feats of construction such as the Skippers Road through the precipitous Skippers Canyon, other structures have gone largely unrecognised. Renzella, using American examples, which are applicable to the New Zealand situation, notes that tollhouses are particularly interesting but largely unrecognised as elements in the historic roading landscape, and that many were destroyed as the roading infrastructure developed.
The toll system with tollhouses and toll gates were an inheritance from Great Britain. In Great Britain the road network was dotted with such structures. Tollhouses there were built next to the turnpike gate and housed the toll collector (or pikeman). Some were substantial structures providing permanent residential accommodation, while others just provided shelter for the toll collector. Purpose built tollhouses had particular architectural requirements. They required a good view of the road, easy access to the roadside close to the toll gate often in tight locations next to bridges or road junctions. A porch was needed to provide shelter for the toll collector who had to be outside in all weathers.
For New Zealand government administrators the question of tolls was an early consideration because roading and infrastructure were crucial to development. The Legislative Council was debating the merits of the establishment of turnpikes in mid 1849. The debate centred on whether turnpikes should provide revenue for the construction of new roads or the repair of existing roads. There was also debate about the principle of imposing tolls. One politician considered that tolls were ‘one of the most obnoxious systems of taxation, and it was especially objectionable as the natives were just beginning to get horses, and would of course have to pay the toll.’
The toll and turnpike system was not necessarily a welcome inheritance as one settler pointed out. Mr W.A. Mosley voiced his opinion following the opening of the Matau Bridge (presumably over the Clutha/Mata Au). He wrote: ‘Even those who are sensible that good roads are worth paying for at any reasonable cost, have all along felt the toll system to be an annoyance and an obstruction to traffic, unjust in its application and unnecessary expense. The chief waste is the machinery for collection, besides the erection and maintenance of toll houses and gates.’ Mosley went onto describe the system in Great Britain and Ireland where revenue used for road maintenance was collected through tolls, a system increasingly archaic once railways were established as an alternative.
The establishment of tolls, and the associated tollhouses and toll gates seems to have been country wide, though administration of the systems look to have been varied. A search on Archives New Zealand records relating to tolls indicate that there were tolls in the Wanganui area, Hawke’s Bay, Auckland, Taranaki, Waikato, Rotorua, and Canterbury. The charging of tolls could also be a political statement of control and ownership. The Kingitanga, for example, erected a toll gate at the entrance to their land and charged all men, livestock and carts which passed it. Other people tried to use the imposition of tolls to discourage travel on the Sabbath.
There were toll houses on the Great South Road in Auckland in the 1850s which helped pay for metalling. Toll gates were unpopular, and toll evasion was a matter of much discussion, and also ended up in court. In Kaiwharawhara, near Wellington, citizens ripped out the toll gates, burnt them, and threw the remains in Wellington Harbour. Taranaki councils were enthusiastic about tolls and had seven gates by 1906 and a good roading infrastructure as a result. Toll gates disappeared in 1922 with the passage of the Main Highways Act. From that time toll gates were only used occasionally – at Auckland Harbour Bridge (1959-1984), Lyttelton road tunnel (1964-1978) and on the Tauranga Harbour Bridge (1988-2001).
In Otago the collection of tolls was controlled by the 1862 Turnpike Ordinance. The ordinance authorised the collection of tolls for the purpose of the ‘maintenance of Public Roads within the Province of Otago.’ With an expanding population and the consequent demands of traffic, ordinary revenue was inadequate. Tolls were designed to make up the shortfall. ‘Toll-gates Toll-bars Toll-houses and other such erections and buildings for the collection of tolls’ were able to be constructed. The General Road Board was able to repair, remove, and re-erect said structures, and able to move them to different parts of the roads if required (an indication that these buildings were intended to be portable or deconstructed and reconstructed). By 1868 there were thirteen toll gates in operation in Otago.
The schedule of charges was comprehensive and depended on the nature of the carriage and how many animals were drawing it (chariot, landau, barouche, chaise, phaeton, curricle, gig, wagon, wain, cart or dray), and how many wheels the carriage had, a horse not drawing, a laden or unladen ass, a drove of ‘oxen cows or neat cattle’ (per score), and a drove of ‘calves hogs sheep or lambs, (also per score).’
There was also a list of exemptions. These included those people ‘going to attend or in returning after having attended His Excellency the Governor’; those involved in carting materials for road construction or repair; General Road Board or District Road Board trustees engaged in their duties; Any animal or carriage employed in carrying material to do with land improvement (lime, dung etc) or animal fodder to be used on a farmers own land or those animals on the way to work the land; those on the way to or home from religious worship, or funerals, or visiting clergy; member of the police force ‘in proper dress or undress [!] or prisoners under their supervision; mail carriers; officers or soldiers conveying arms; judges on the way to perform their duty.’
Toll evaders were subject to a fine. Proof of the right to an exemption was the responsibility of the claimant. All the whys and wherefores were to be outlined to the public by way of a Toll Board. Avoiding the toll by going around it was also an offence (or a landowner knowingly allowing someone to cross their land to evade a toll), as was engineering it so that when passing a toll there were fewer horses hitched to a vehicle. The Toll Board (‘distinct and legible black letters on a board with a white ground’, or the reverse) was to be displayed at the toll gate. The toll collector (whose name was to be clearly displayed) provided those who went through the toll with tickets which denoted the payment of tolls and the name of the toll gate. A lamp was to be lit in the hours of darkness.
In 1876 with the abolition of the provinces, The Counties Act 1876 enabled local councils to erect tolls.
Transport on the Taieri and Tokomairiro Plains
Not until 1851 was the first dray track opened from Dunedin to the navigable Taieri River, soon after a bridle path ran inland through the gorge. Memoirs from a traveller in the early 1850s indicated that it took three days to travel the thirty six miles from Dunedin to the Tokomairiro Plains. The first wheeled vehicle came through from Dunedin in 1853, with the journey taking nine days through flax, scrub and quagmire. The first cart road to Tokomairiro was opened in 1858, which saw bullock teams then able to carry goods and provisions. The main highway was constructed in 1861, with the first coach service beginning January 1861.
Beginning in mid 1861 the gold rushes put heavy demands on the infant infrastructure with a constant traffic of six, eight and ten horse wagons. The road was ‘cut up and destroyed’ leaving it in an ‘indescribable condition.’ The cost of upkeep was far beyond the ability of the Provincial Government, and a number of potential solutions were discussed, including taxation, turnpikes and the hopeful alternative of railways. Travelling was arduous:
‘Creaking wagons toiled slowly along, the patient bullocks swinging their heads from side to side, dripping saliva from their mouths, swishing their tails at each crack of the terrible whip, and laboriously dragging their huge load. Rumbling drays, whose quicker-stepping, powerful horses, sweated under their burden, and responded to the call upon their magnificent muscles, swaggers ‘humping their blueys’ and clattering their tin cans, served to make the passing procession look like companies of soldiers on the trek.’
In October 1863 the Provincial Government called for tenders for the ‘Erection of Toll House and Gates’ at several locations: the ‘Town Belt’ in Dunedin, on ‘Main South Roads’, at the ‘Junction of East and West Taieri Roads’; at ‘Lower Taieri Bridge’, at the ‘Junction of Clarendon and Main South Roads’ at the Junction of Tuapeka and Main South Roads’, at ‘West Taieri Bridge’ and at the ‘Water of Leith.’ Tollhouses seem to have had a peripatetic life. Those on the Taieri seem to have moved between locations and functions as need required.
The need for tolls changed as the transport infrastructure developed. For example, in November 1863 the Provincial Government announced that the Lower Taieri Ferry (with the construction of a bridge) was to be abolished, and that a Toll Bar was to be erected in its stead. Tenders for the lease of the Toll and the Toll House for 1864 were called for. Toll charges were often complex depending on the number of horses drawing a vehicle, the type of vehicle, time of year among other considerations.
As the traffic was steady, revenue based on the number of travellers was an attractive option for the Provincial Council. Returns were immediately obvious - tolls amounted to a substantial amount. A ‘Commission on Roads and their Construction’ in the 1860s indicated that the letting of five toll bars on the Main South Road (Hillside, Saddlehill, East Taieri, Waihola Gorge, Clutha and Tuapeka Junction) provided a rental of £6870 per annum, equal to an average of £1374 per gate. This was estimated at as traffic, exclusive of passengers of from twenty thousand to twenty five thousand tons per annum, at a cost of £2,000 per mile.
As transport was essential so carriers were indispensible. The imposition of tolls was a constant gripe, particularly once the gold rush lost its brilliant sheen of the early sixties. In 1866 Otago carriers took strike action over the toll charged on horse drawn wagons (as compared with drays), which was, in their view, oppressive, partial in its operation, [and] unequal to the diminished prosperity of the times.’ Carriers felt they were being unfairly taxed and that it was a ‘heartless infliction upon one portion of the community’ to pay double what others paid. Residents and merchants living in the interior felt themselves to be held to ransom as they were dependent on the carriers for life and livelihood. The strike, which lasted from 12 April through to 3 May, saw five hundred horses idle, their owners and families without any income, their collective losses outweighing the cost of paying the toll.
The life of a toll keeper was not easy. Being a toll collector was a complex and literate job, clearly requiring a lot of character judgement of passing travellers and their story telling ability. They were also required to keep the peace and any toll collector using ‘scurrilous or abusive language’ to travellers was subject to a fine. The West Taieri toll keeper in the 1870s, for example, paid £600 for the lease, but found so many travellers defaulting on the tolls that he had to constantly sue to recover the revenue. His takings were often over £20 a week but the court cases caused him to relinquish the lease.
By 1870 there were pleas from settlers about the advisability of abolishing tolls on the main roads. A correspondent from the Bruce Herald wrote in April of that year that given that the ‘district roads’ had been improved ‘so much so that teamsters and others are showing themselves to be so much alive to the fact, that by taking advantage of certain district roads the tolls may, in some instances, be evaded’ to the disadvantage of the Provincial Treasury. The writer continued that teamsters could hardly be blamed for taking advantage of the situation but that this was likely to affect local farmers ‘who tax themselves to construct and maintain such roads for their own immediate use, and we trust that, ere very long, tolls will be abolished and become a barbarous relic of the past.’ As the Provincial Government ‘followed the example of the old country in establishing tolls’, and the system was being abandoned there, it was hoped that ‘we will now speedily follow its example in abolishing them.’
Tolls were not popular and disputes sometimes ended up in court. Travellers attempted to evade tolls – two cases in 1876 are examples of this with the waggoner unhooking two horses from a team in a wagon and leading them behind approaching the Taieri Bridge toll. This teamster was attempting to exploit the anomaly that 4s was charged for a six horse wagon with other horses led behind, and 8s if those two horses were also pulling.
The Tollhouse’s function was wider than just revenue collection. The local newspapers have a multitude of examples of the important role the building played in community life: the Clarksville tollhouse, for example, was used as a polling place for county elections, a meeting place and as a place where important documents, such as tender documents for council projects could be viewed. Tollhouses were often the site where community and associated businesses developed, and were used as a location marker. This was not without problems, as when the Clarksville tollhouse was required for a meeting it was found that the late tenant had taken the key with him and was not able to be found, and the Road Board meeting had to be removed to another venue. This multiple use was common with other tollhouses on the Taieri.
The Lower Taieri Ferry/Waihola Tollhouse and Gate: aka Clarendon Tollhouse
In 1876 the ‘Waihola Tollhouse and Gate’ was removed and re-erected, where it served as the Clarendon railway station, tollhouse and post office. The bar and fencing was to be removed and put up in line with the side of the toll house. The chimney was to be taken down and rebuilt on a stone foundation. It was suggested that the building be moved in sections, or by any other method found acceptable.
Once the Provincial Government system was abolished the Bruce County Council took over the toll system. In August 1877 the Council advertised that it had taken charge of the existing toll bars at East Taieri Bridge, Clarendon, and Clutha Junction. Copies of fees and exemptions were available at each Toll Bar. Councillors wondered whether they would be able to go through the tolls for free, to which the reply was that ‘Council had the power to grant free passes to whom they liked. For instance, they could grant members of Road Boards and County Councillors passes when on business connected with their different offices.’ The hopeful councillor then moved that ‘all Road Board and County Council members should have free passes through the tolls when on their way to meetings.’ Whether this was acceded to was not recorded in the article as the proposal was deferred to the next meeting.
The Clarendon Tollhouse was advertised for ‘use’ in 1878. The associated tenancy was for one year. The County Clerk received tenders for use of the building. The building was recorded at that time as ‘disgracefully out of order’ and the Council were to take steps to repair it.
In July 1882 tolls were abolished in the County. In September 1882 the tenders for the purchase of the Clarendon Tollhouse and gates were opened. Prominent businessman and farmer Henry Driver was the successful tenderer, with his bid of £60 10s accepted. In October 1882 the Toll House was recorded as being in good repair, and able to be moved without being dismantled.
The former Clarendon Tollhouse was moved onto ‘Helensbrook’ at Milton in the 1890s (a property sold to the Duffys by Henry Driver), where it was used as a residence. Owner Noleen Duffy indicated to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) that there used to be Toll Houses at various locations on the Taieri, but that this building was the only one to survive, and the only one remaining in the South Island.
Little is known about the life of the Tollhouse in the intervening years on Helensbrook. No records have been located to date that indicate the use or modifications to the building during this time.
In the mid 1970s the owners of the Tollhouse were keen to see the building restored and the NZHPT was contacted about the building and appropriate restoration work.
By the end of the 1980s there was concern about the condition of the building. Beci Horder wrote that the building was in a ‘sorry looking state.’ Discussions about potential uses and restoration began at this time. The Tollhouse Trust was formed to enable funding to be sought to restore the building. In 2001 restoration work began on the Tollhouse. The community project was supported by a $15,000 grant from the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board. The building’s roofing iron, fascias, floor, casement windows and porch were all original. Builder Dave Sheppard began the first stage of the project. The NZHPT also provided advice and support. Builders who had worked on the Toll House believed it was a prefabricated structure, because of the way the weatherboards fitted together and the construction details of the casement windows which opened outwards from the centre, like English ones.
Modern interior linings were removed revealing match-lining, and the original flooring cleaned and repaired. The building was originally partitioned into two, but the partition wall was removed at an unknown date. The ceiling has a 2.9 metre stud. There were originally two doors into the building on the long side elevations.
The community interest in the project led to some interesting debates about the origin and original location of the building. The Department of Conservation was reported to be investigating whether the tollhouse was originally part of the Auckland Islands whaling station before being shipped to Dunedin. A recent publication on the Auckland Islands settlement indicates that the buildings were primarily timber, mostly from England, but some from Australia. After the failure of the settlement, and its deconstruction in 1852, the buildings were ‘dismantled and packed for reconstruction elsewhere, some with their timbers carefully marked for this purpose.’ The fate of the buildings is unknown, though it is thought that some may have been sold in Sydney or Melbourne. These claims have not been able to be substantiated, and research completed to date seems to indicate local design and construction.
In 2010 the Tollhouse, owned by Tollhouse Trust, sits alongside State Highway 1 between Milton and Milburn and serves as a reminder of the turnpike roads and toll gates once common on the Taieri and throughout the country.
The Clarendon Tollhouse is located between Milton and Milburn on the west side of State Highway One in Otago. The small building sits in a grassed paddock close to the roadside, with a post and wire fence between it and the State Highway. On either side of the paddock are houses, though this area is largely rural with a mixture of small sections backing onto farmland.
The Tollhouse is a small single storey building, rectangular in plan, 6.5m by 4.95m. It is of timber frame construction with a corrugated iron hipped roof. It has a gabled porch at the front door. The building is clad in horizontal weatherboard with tongue and groove internal linings.
The building was originally divided into two rooms, with one off set near the centrally located front and rear doors. The original partition wall has been removed. According to community members the building was constructed as a kitset and this may be the case given the Roman numeral carved into one of the visible bearers. The timbers used in the construction of the building have not been confirmed, but NZHPT notes indicated that they may be Baltic pine and possibly rimu for some elements. Baltic pine was used in both prefabricated kitset buildings and imported as boards or framing. Baltic pine was available from timber merchants in Otago in the late 1850s and early 1860s, so the use is not unusual.
There are four sets of three pane double casement windows (six lights per window), approximately 1.5m high and 0.8m wide. There are two windows on the front façade set symmetrically on either side of the porch. There is a window set symmetrically in each end wall.
The interior is a single room with match-lined walls. A brick fireplace with a Victorian timber mantelpiece surround and cast iron insert is located on the rear wall. The interior was not inspected for the preparation of this report, but viewed through the window.
Original construction as Waihola Tollhouse
Waihola Tollhouse and Gate shifted to Clarendon
Clarendon Tollhouse shifted to property of Henry Driver
Clarendon Tollhouse shifted to ‘Helensbrook’
Internal partition walls removed
Restoration work completed
Timber, corrugated iron.
10th February 2011
Report Written By
New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA)
New Zealand Archaeological Association
Paul R. Dingwall, Kevin L. Jones and Rachael Egerton (ed), In Care of The Southern Ocean. An archaeological and historical survey of the Auckland Islands, New Zealand Archaeological Association Monography 27, Auckland, 2009
Otago Daily Times
Otago Daily Times
Robert Fulton, Medical Practice in Otago and Southland in the Early Days: A Description of the manner of life, trials, and difficulties of some of the Pioneer Doctors, of the places in which, and of the people among whom, they laboured, Otago Daily Times and Witness Newspapers Co. Ltd, Dunedin, 1922
James Watson, Links: A History of Transport and New Zealand Society, Wellington, 1996
D.J. Sumpter and J.J. Lewis, Faith and Toil: The Story of Tokomairiro, Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd, Dunedin, 1949 [Capper Press reprint, 1978]
Brian Renzella, ‘Remote Sensing of Corridor Landscapes: A Case Study of the National Road Wheeling, West Virginia.’ MA Thesis, University of West Virginia, 2005
fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago / Southland Area Office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.