Between Llangollen and Glyndyfrdwy is a remarkable testimony to the efforts of Thomas Telford in building a reliable route between London and Holyhead in Anglesey - the remarkable A5, a road with a gradient no greater than 1 in 22, even through this mountainous part of North East Wales. The Tollgate cottage, now a café and situated in a lay-by a few miles outside of Glyndyfrdwy would have collected the tolls of traffic travelling along the road. The road itself would have had a large spiked gate (to prevent horses leaping over it) that could be raised on payment of the tolls which would have been prominently displayed. These monies would have been used in the upkeep of the stretch of road for which the Turnpike trust that operated it was responsible.
Turnpike trusts were generally entrepreneurial endeavours that were often seen by the local population as a means of robbing them of their hard-earned money. In South Wales, they were often seen as much more than that, and the sheer volume of tollgates, in controlling the flow of traffic to factory and mine works, were seen as nothing short of a means of squeezing every last penny out of the populace. With feelings running high, the Rebecca Riots (c. 1839-44) were a direct attack on turnpike trusts, but also the prevailing social concerns of the time. The fact that the north and in particular, the tollgates on the A5 were not affected by this southern heat was probably to do with the traffic that used the A5, namely individuals that could afford the price, and the fact that there is no suggestion that the number of tollgates were inordinate. Most of the populace of the area would have known older ways to get to where they wanted, and drovers were notorious for avoiding the tollgates on their journeys south to the cattle markets in England. In the light of the Rebecca Riots, the Government, while deporting hundreds, also increased the amount of regulation of turnpike trusts and restricted the amount of tollgates to one every seven miles.
There is much of the tollgate cottage which remains contemporary with its original building, including the strange angled windows which would have allowed the tollkeeper to watch the road, even as they stayed in the warmth of the building. There is a milestone still in-situ in the lay-by which shows the amusing effort the workmen went to in order to fit, ‘Llangollen’ into its width. There are also really rather wonderful views of the Llantysilio Mountains to the north.