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The Toll House Lodge, Entrance Gates and Turnstiles

The gates and turnstiles between the Toll House Lodge and the Pier Master's Cottage form the main landside entry point to Birnbeck Pier. When the pier was opened in June 1867 the toll to pass through the gates was one penny (1d), although this was increased to two pennies (2d) by the end of the first season.

The Toll House Lodge

The Toll House Lodge itself is a small exactly-square limestone-constructed building measuring some 3520mm (11 feet and 6 inches) along each side, it has a low hipped natural slate roof with a central flat area and forms part of the retaining sea wall. It is 'crowned' by a decorative metal (originally cast iron but now wrought iron or steel) finial surround. It always had a (single) barred window and door facing north. In this first scanned and cropped image dating from 1887 work can be seen taking place on the extended and raised sea-front promenade leading up to the pier. This was the year that P & A Campbell first began operating their steamers in the Bristol Channel. It was Grade II listed in 1974.

Toll House 1887

© Phil Johnson Collection and Francis Frith & Co

The pier's then-present 'camera obscura' booth can be seen here in this photograph, taken in 1893. The margin of the original single-storey wooden building that eventually became the basis for Pier View can just be seen at the lower left edge of the image. Although Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in June 1887 and her Diamond Jubilee in June 1897, these events commemorating her 50 and 60 years of reign respectively, the shrubbery around the gates with a representation of a crown on top are there in respect of the wedding of Prince George, Duke of York (later King George V), and Princess Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary and later still the current Queen's grand-mother), which took place on July 6th 1893.

Toll House 1893

© Phil Johnson Collection

It is evident from the other photographs in this series that a flag pole once stood on top of the Toll House. In this image dating from 1895 it appears to have been temporarily removed. It can also be more easily seen here that the design of the gate lamps had been changed from their earlier globe-like design by this time. These were almost certainly gas powered - this service having been supplied to the pier since its opening.

Toll House 1895

© Weston-super-Mare Library

This image, from 1898, better shows the refreshment hut below the end of the promenade. It can be seen that by this time what had previously been the camara obscura was no longer visibly identified as such. It is possible that it had already been converted into a gift shop or similar. A postcard of 1902 indicates that by this time it was used as a retail outlet by a tobacconist.

Toll House 1898

© Phil Johnson Collection

This enlarged portion of a scan of an original photograph shows the damage that occurred to the sea wall in the 'great gale' of 1903. This storm was of such severity that it fatally damaged both the north and south jetties.

Toll House 1903

© Phil Johnson Collection (Postcard)

Thereafter, the sea wall was rebuilt and a new gift shop, which remains to this day, was constructed on the same spot next to the Toll Lodge. This image dates from 1906.

Toll House Gift Shop 1906

© Phil Johnson Collection (Postcard)

The Entrance Gates and Turnstiles

The pier's gates and turnstiles as they were in 1887. Plainly visible are the tracks that ran along the pier, and well as (just behind the gates) one of the wheeled dollies that were pushed along the pier to transport both goods...

Toll Gates 1887

© Phil Johnson Collection and Francis Frith & Co

... and, seemingly, in 1896, first-class passengers and their baggage too.

Toll Gates 1896

© Woodspring Museum Service

Another view of the entrance gates in this image from 1898, again showing the change in design of the lights there.

Toll Gates 1898

© Phil Johnson Collection

A colourised postcard showing a busy day in 1907.

Toll Gates 1907

© Unknown (Postcard)

Next - the Main Pier Bridge Structure

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