YOU don’t miss something until it is gone. Driving along the A167 this week from Darlington to Northallerton, Memories noticed a pile of rubble behind a fence next to the Tollbar Garage near Great Smeaton.

What had the pile of rubble once been?

Google Streetview provides the answer. It was, of course, the old Entercommon toll bar cottage, where travellers once paid to use the road. As the Streetview image shows, the cottage had strategically placed windows so the toll collector inside could see anyone trying to sneak past without paying.

Entercommon toll bar cottage even has a unique place in English literature.

The road from Boroughbridge through Northallerton to Darlington was turnpiked around 1745 – the Government gave a “turnpike trust”, made up of wealthy local businessmen, the right to take ownership of a road as long as they improved and maintained it. In turn, they were allowed to collect tolls from travellers.

Milestones were placed along the turnpiked road to show travellers how much they were required to pay, and to this day, a fairly complete sequence of metal mileposts lines the A167 from Great Smeaton to Northallerton, although they are in a disappointingly grubby condition.

At pay points, where barriers prevented travellers from making progress until they had paid, little communities grew up. Next to the Entercommon toll cottage was a coaching inn, the Golden Lion, which was a farmhouse, and presumably the garage and petrol station on the site has its roots back to the coaching days as running repairs could be performed while the tolls were paid.

On May 12, 1799, William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, were dropped off by a stagecoach at the Entercommon toll bar.

They were collected by Thomas and George Hutchinson who pulled them onto their horses and rode them pillion over the Tees to Sockburn where their sister, Mary Hutchinson, lived. Mary had grown up in the Lake District and had been friendly with Dorothy, but during the Wordsworths’ six month stay at Sockburn, William fell in love with her and they married in 1802.

During the stay, Wordsworth, who was just back from a long spell in France, wandered extensively along the banks of the Tees, from Dinsdale to Croft, which is supposed to have inspired his famous love song to his country:

“I travelled among unknown men in lands beyond the sea;

Nor, England! did I know till then what love I bore to thee.

‘Tis past, that melancholy dream! Nor will I quit thy shore

A second time, for still I seem to love thee more and more.”

And it all started at the Entercommon toll bar cottage which, derelict for years, is now just a pile of rubble behind a fence.