Since Tudor times, essential roads were the responsibility of the parishes who were empowered to ensure their upkeep.
They appointed surveyors, possibly without any qualifications and were forced to keep the roads in repair.
This arrangement was adequate for roads that the parishioners used themselves but proved unsatisfactory for the principal highways that were used by long-distance travellers and waggoners.
Turnpiking of stretches of highway from 1663 until the 1840s was an attempt to place the cost of the upkeep and improvement of roads on the user rather than on the local parish. The basic principle was that the trustees would manage resources from the several parishes through which the highway passed, augment this with tolls from users from outside the parishes and apply the whole to the maintenance of the main highway. This became the pattern for the turnpiking of a growing number of highways, sought by those who wished to improve flow of commerce through their part of a county.
In the 18th century the levying of tolls on roads became common practice and trusts were established by Acts of Parliament. However, the practice of turnpiking was not popular and the tollgate became a public annoyance as transport networks developed and grew over the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
At the peak, in the 1830s, over 1,000 trusts administered around 30,000 miles of turnpike roads in England and Wales, taking tolls at almost 8,000 toll-gates and side-bars.
The turnpikes of South Wales were abolished in 1844 following the famous Rebecca Riots and the roads were handed over to country road boards. References are made to the burning of a tollhouse near Llantrisant during the riots, but little evidence is available as to its actual location.
Llantrisant Turnpike Trust existed to regular the tollhouses of the old town.
Meetings were advertised in the press, such as the one on 6 February 1836:
"Llantrissent Turnpike Trust:
Notice is hereby given that the Trustees of the said Turnpike Trust will meet at the Cross Keys Inn in the town of Llantrissent on Friday the 5th day of February next at twelve o’clock at noon for the pupose of electing Trustees or Commissioners in the room of such Trustees who had died or become disqualified. Wm Jacob, Clerk to the said Trustees"
By the early Victorian period toll gates were perceived as an impediment to free trade. The multitude of small trusts were frequently charged with being inefficient in use of resources and potentially suffered from petty corruption. The coming of the railways spelt disaster for turnpike trusts and gradually they fell into decline. The Local Government Act of 1888 gave the responsibility for maintaining roads to local county councils.
There were two main tollhouses in Llantrisant at its south and north entrance. Southgate Toll House, better known as the Turnpike House once stood opposite the Southgate bend on the lower end of High Street. It is not the ruined Southgate Cottage of 1785 which stands on the main junction, although this is Grade II listed.
In 1851 Thomas Williams, “a farmer of 10 acres” was tenant and images of the tollhouse exist until the early part of the 20th century before it was demolished in around 1930.
A second tollhouse called Northgate Cottage on Heol-y-Sarn was owned by Llantrisant Corporation and later Town Trust as it stood on Common land.
The tenant from 1906 was Edwin Francis, succeeded by Clydai Evans (1883-1954) from April 1920 whose brothers were Iestyn, Johnny and Ithel Evans. She remained in the house until a burglary resulted in her departure and the last known resident of the cottage before it was demolished in the late 1950s was Freda Williams.