Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Toll in Queen Street

By its very nature, charging toll fees for the use of a facility, or in fact the “user pays principle” is an elegant method for authorities to recover the cost of maintaining roads and bridges yet worldwide it sometimes invokes the worst of human nature. In Port Elizabeth’s case, it was just over four years after its founding in 1820, that the first toll was installed.

To ensure that only out-of-town traffic would be tolled, the toll was setup outside the limits of the town which in 1824 was Donkin Street. The position selected was about 500 metres from Russell Road as it was in the country.  

Main picture: The Baptist Church in Queen Street

Modus operandi

In August 1824 a tollgate was set up at the northern entrance of what was then the village of Port Elizabeth, on what was a track which would later become Queen Street. Local Government Ordinance No. 8 was enacted on 7 January 1834 to regulate the Toll at Port Elizabeth. Its stated object was to defray the expenses of keeping the roads in the vicinity of the town in good and sufficient repair. It repealed the laws then in force regulating the Toll and provided that as from 1 February 1834 the following toll was to be levied at any place within the distance of half a mile (about 800 metres) from the marketplace:

The Ordinance provided that the toll should only be levied once a day, which was to be reckoned from midnight, in respect of each carriage or other vehicle and for each animal for which toll was payable.

It also provided that the toll could be let to “farm” by the Civil Commissioner of Uitenhage and prescribed the procedure to be followed. Briefly, this was that the letting of the toll was to be sold by auction to the highest bidder who had to produce two sureties for payment of the hire of the toll and the performance of the contract. The “farmer of the toll” could appoint collectors to collect the toll in his place and such collectors had the right to stop every carriage and animal for which toll was payable, until the toll had been paid and, if required, such collectors had to deliver a ticket on which was printed or written the day of the month and year, the amount of the toll and the name of the collector by whom it was received, under a penalty of £1 for each offence.

The amounts collected as toll from 21 September 1824 when the toll was first levied, were (in round figures):


Due to the Frontier War, there was no toll in 1835. It was first let to farm in 1836, the contractor paying £112. For the year 1 February 1837 to 31 January 1838 the toll was leased to Nathaniel Randall for £190. At that time the building was so small (it consisted of a small, thatched cottage with one room and a kitchen) that his family could not be accommodated in it, and he requested that he be allowed to rent the toll for a period of seven years at the same rental, and if this were granted, he was prepared to erect a building large enough to accommodate his family, at his own expense. He was advised that his proposal could not be complied with. Probably as a result of this, Randall did not again bid for the lease when his expired, and it was let to Richard Tee from 1 February 1838 to at least 31 January 1841. He paid the following rentals: 1838/9 – £255; 1839/40 – £115; 1840/1 – £247.

As the land which he had purchased from Hubbard in 1836 (on which he had built his home) was close to the toll, accommodation would not have been a problem for him. By 1846 the Toll House was an octagonal building beyond which there were only two or three properties, Richard Tee’s being one of them.

Court cases

On 31 December 1839 Richard Tee issued a summons out of the Circuit Court against Thomas Hodgkin for £17 10s. due by the latter pursuant to an order for that amount dated 24 December 1839 on one James Chapman, which had been dishonoured by non-payment. When the summons was served on Hodgkin, he denied the claim which Richard withdrew on 2 January 1840.

It was while he was the “Toll Keeper of the Toll of Port Elizabeth” that Richard Tee was involved in one of those cases which never should reach court (the sum involved was one shilling and four pence!), but which even reached the Circuit Court. As is so often the case in matters of this nature, each party no doubt felt that a matter of principle was at stake.

On Monday, 18 May 1840, Mrs. J.C. Chase, and her son Frederick Damant from her deceased husband, John Damant, were on their way into town on an ox wagon to which an empty horse wagon was tied. The horse wagon was being taken into town for the purpose of undergoing some repairs. Arriving at the tollgate, Mrs. Chase gave young Richard, who was employed as a collector by his father, the sum of one shilling and asked for change as there were ten oxen on the wagon and the toll payable was eight pence.

Richard Tee took the shilling and said it was not enough. When asked by Mrs. Chase as to why it was not, he replied that she had to pay for two wagons. This she refused to do, and according to young Damant, she offered to leave the horse wagon at the toll, but Richard would not allow it. Mrs. Chase then ordered the wagon to proceed, but Richard stood before the oxen and stopped them. At that stage the oxen were through the gate, but the horse wagon, which was fastened to it, was not. Damant then asked Richard for a ticket, saying that he would pay the money, but Richard refused to give him one, saying that he had to have the money before he could give a ticket.

Damant then left to call his stepfather who arrived, no doubt duly incensed and indignant, and asked Richard what he meant by stopping his wagon? When asked where the ticket was, Richard replied that it was up at the house and on being told by Chase to fetch it, he did so. Chase then paid him one shilling and four pence and asked him why he would not allow the horse wagon to be left behind, whereupon Richard denied that Mrs. Chase had made such a request.

The wagons then proceeded on their way, but that was not to be the end of the matter for that same day Chase, who was a Notary Public, issued a summons out of the Resident Magistrate’s

Court against Richard Senior claiming one shilling and four pence, being an amount wrongfully and unlawfully demanded from him, and paid by him, as toll duty on two wagons passing the toll, in contravention of Clause 2 of Local Ordinance No. 8 (which provided that the toll had to be set up at a place within the distance of half a mile from the marketplace).

On the summons being served on him the following day, Richard stated, “I don’t know that I owe him anything“.

1849 Map of old Toll House in Queen Street

The matter was set down for hearing on the 21st when Charles Whitcomb appeared for the Plaintiff and the Defendant appeared in person. Richard objected to short service of the summons, stating that he had not had forty-eight hours’ notice as required by Rule of Court No. 11. Mr. Lloyd, the Resident Magistrate, then adjourned the case to the following day. That day the parties as before appeared and Richard once again objected to the summons on the same grounds. His point was that once there had been short service of a summons, this could not be cured by the matter being adjourned. The Magistrate overruled his objection whereupon Richard left the Court. Young Damant then gave evidence and so did John Thornhill whose evidence was to the effect that on 20 May 1840 he had measured from the extreme point of the Market Square to the toll bar where the toll was levied and that he had found the distance to be 3,670 feet, or 5 furlongs and 370 feet, being 1 furlong and 370 feet (about 314 metres) more than half a mile. Interlocutory judgment was entered for the Plaintiff, with costs, and the same day a notice of the judgment was served on Richard in terms whereof he was called upon to show cause on 26 May why the interlocutory judgment should not become final and absolute.

On 26 May the parties as before again appeared before Lloyd and Richard submitted a written statement again objecting to the proceedings on the same grounds as before. He also referred the Court to Rule 20 which provided that a case could not be heard in the absence of a party unless the Court was satisfied that the summons had been duly served, which it had not. He requested the Court in any event to adjourn the matter for a rehearing to enable him to call the Civil Commissioner whose attendance he had not been able to procure before. He also submitted an affidavit to the effect that the summons had not been served on him until about three o’clock on the afternoon of the 19th. However, despite this, judgment was entered for the Plaintiff with costs amounting to 19s. 6d. and on 2 June a warrant was issued against Richard’s goods and chattels for the recovery of the claim and costs. The warrant was duly executed.

Russell post 1863

That was not, however, to be the end of the matter for on 19 October Attorney J.G. de Villiers instituted proceedings in the Circuit Court, on Richard’s behalf, against the Resident Magistrate and Chase, seeking an order that the former produce the court records before the Court and that the latter should show cause why the judgment should not be reviewed, set aside and corrected, on account of it being contrary to law and the Rules, Orders and Regulations of the Court. At the hearing the Circuit Court, inter alia, ordered that the case be reopened, and that Richard be given full forty-eight hours’ notice of the time appointed for the hearing of the matter and that the evidence be taken anew. It was further ordered that each party should pay his own costs as to and for the proceedings in review.

As no further litigation between the parties has been traced, it would appear that each felt that he had made his point – or perhaps it was the thought of the farther legal costs which would be incurred which made them decide to call it a day?


As the town encroached upon this toll, it had to be closed. In its place two tolls were erected: one on Uitenhage past the house of Berry on Berry’s corner and the other one was on the Fishwater Flats at Swartkops.


A Genealogy of the Tee Family of Norfolk by Brian Tee Senior

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