History of Christchurch

Recording the history of the village of Christchurch (originally Brimstone Hill) in Cambridgeshire

The Old Toll House

Probably one of the oldest buildings in Christchurch is the old Toll House (Plate 4). This is just to the north of Christchurch village and is very close to Wisbech Ouse or old Croft River, which forms part of the county boundary with Norfolk. The Half penny Toll, as it is called, is actually situated in Norfolk, although most of what was the short piece of private road which it paid for is in the Isle of Ely. According to Well’s ‘History of the Drainage of the Fens’, there are several private tolls in the Middle level, all of which were placed in lieu of ancient ferries; one of which is the old Craft River, in the parish of Upwell, called the Half-penny Toll, which formerly ran from Littleport Chair to Wisbech.’ No doubt it was called Half penny Toll because the payment to pass along the road was a half penny, but the earliest information I can find about the Toll is from the present post mistress who, now about seventy years old, used to live at Toll House when she was a child. She recalls that a Traction Engine used to cost three shillings, a horse and cart sixpence and a bicycle three perce. Nor can I find any indication as to the exact age of the Toll House, which still stands today, except that Well’s volumes were published in 1830, so that the Toll House must have been built before this date. [1]

A great loop in the river east and north of Christchurch past Halfpenny Toll Farm is now by-passed and mostly dry and difficult to see, the IDB directing the flow by Beechwood Farm. According to Wells writing in in 1830, Half-penny Toll was one of several private tolls “placed in lieu of ancient ferries”. I presume that means a charge for using bridges where once a ferry operated. [2]


  1. Study of a Fenland Village
  2. http://www.ousewashes.info/rivers/old-croft.htm