My watch list  

Coal tax post

   Coal tax posts were marker posts, about 250 in number, first erected in 1851 and forming a rough circle about twenty miles from the centre of London, England, to mark the points where taxes on coal and wine due to the Corporation of London had to be paid.



Coal sold in the City of London had been taxed since mediaeval times and, as it was all brought in by sea to one or two riverside wharfs, the collection of the duty had been relatively easy. A similar duty was collected on all wine landed in London. By the nineteenth century, however, there was increasing trade by canal and rail, and various acts of parliament extended the catchment area to a radius of about twenty miles from London. The City is a small (one square mile) but influential part of London and in 1851 an Act was passed specifying the points, far beyond its boundaries, where the collections could be made. Marker posts, inscribed with this legal authority, were erected. About two hundred have survived. Following enlargement of the Metropolitan Police District (which, paradoxically, did not include the City of London) in 1861 a further Act was passed and new marker posts were set to show the boundary inside which the duty was payable. Most of these later posts survive.

Not all of the points were staffed by tax collectors but on well-used routes with a heavy coal traffic, such as on the Grand Union Canal at Grove Park, Hertfordshire, permanent toll houses were built. [1] [2] In other cases local coal merchants or, when the bulk of the traffic passed to the railway, the railway companies calculated the sums due and passed the money to the Corporation. The railway companies were allowed to offset the coal they used for their engines, but only when employed on coal trains.

The erection of these posts was very much a last ditch attempt to retain the tax in the face of growing opposition. The tax had been running for at least two hundred years but within twenty years of the posts going up it was abolished. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, London was expanding rapidly. The outer suburbs were becoming towns and their residents beginning to resent paying a tax which had very little direct benefit for them. One extreme case is Caterham which lay (and still lies) outside the Metropolitan Police District (MPD) but if coals were to be brought there by rail they had to pass through the MPD and presumably were subject to the tax.

The powers to extract these taxes were abolished in 1889, notwithstanding the City had fought against the abolition moves with some underhand tactics: a parliamentary select committee sitting in 1887 found that signatures on a petition in support of keeping the tax had been forged.[3]


Most posts were made of cast iron and stood at four or five feet tall, but the railway posts were large and impressive obelisks of granite fourteen feet in height. All bore the City coat of arms. Most of those surviving are painted white, with the arms picked out in red, but the stone ones are often of a sombre black, still bearing the stains accumulated on the smoky trackside.

Most of the posts are Grade II listed buildings.

See also

  • The London Stone in Staines is very much older but lies on the line of route of the posts
  • Close-up image of the shield
  • Two posts near Tattenham Corner


  1. ^ Making History, BBC Radio 4, broadcast 2003-12-23. Real Player audio accessed 2007-07-25
  2. ^ The Queen's Head public house in Colney Heath has a "canted front bay said to have been used for the collection of coal tax".
  3. ^ Lowther, W; et al (June 1887). London Corporation: forged signatures to petitions in favour of coal and wine duties. Sessional Papers of the House of Commons. British Official Publications Collaborative Reader Information Service. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Coal_tax_post". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE