Coal & Wine Tax Posts

Article by Bob Poole GRES Chairman

Levies on items entering London had been used to raise taxation since medieval times.

The great fire of London devastated much of 17th Century London and funds were needed for re-building. To recover the costs, legislation was passed in 1667 giving the City corporation the right to levy a tax on coal.This tax applied to all coal and wine entering the Metropolitan Police District from 1861, the levy was 9d per ton for coal.

This revenue was used in the 19th century to fund works such as the Thames Embankment and improving Cannon Street. The levy continued to be collected up until 1889, when ownership of the posts passed to local authorities.

The responsibility for payment rested with the coal merchants receiving the coal. Up until the 19th century all of London’s coal entered by sea, but with the advent of more efficient land transportation a method for collecting dues from these sources was required. A series of posts and stones marking Londons jurisdiction limits were st up in 1861,  approximately 15 miles from central London. Thes marked the boundaries on the canal, road and railway systems. 250 posts were erected, and over 200 still survive.

Railways: These 5 metre high stone obelisks are usually found close to trackside locations

Railways: A change of material to cast iron was made for these 1-1.5 metre high obelisks, again found close rail lines.

  • Canals and rivers: A stone post found on navigable waterways
  • Roads and Tracks : Thes cast iron pillars, 1-1.5 metre high are to be found at roadsides.
  • Boundaries: Cast iron plates situated on County boundaries.

The markers all originally had cast iron identifying plates fitted, but many are now missing.

Post 206 just outside Swanley station still marks the boundary between London and Kent. This is one of the larger posts that were erected by the side of railways where a larger marker than the standard small white iron variety was thought more appropriate.

Unlike other carriers, the railway companies were responsible for collection of coal tax where this means of transport was used. Inspectors were appointed to check carriers financial returns to ensure that all coal entering was recorded and taxes paid.

The closest posts to Gravesend are probably Swanley post 206 and Crayford post 209 situated in Crayford at the location where Old Bexley Lane Dartford becomes Dartford Road.