The road was built as a carriageway through the Porlock Parks, avoiding the steep gradient of Porlock Hill. This was somewhere about 1840 -50. The Tythe map of Porlock 1840/1 does not show the road. At first it wasn’t greatly used as most of the traffic was of horses, donkeys and carriages pulled by these creatures, although there were a few machines and steam engines. The first years takings, it was said, were £7.
As the ‘new fangled’ motor cars came into use they were unable to climb Porlock Hill, and it wasn’t until 1900 that Mr. S.F.Edge, a noted rally driver at the time, drove up Porlock Hill for the first time as a wager. Mr Edge won £50. The first motorcycle climbed the hill in 1909 and the first charabanc drove up in 1916.
For many years motors were unable to drive up the hill, so in order to see Exmoor, or even venture to other places beyond, it was necessary to use the Toll Road. The result of which was it was gradually improved and widened over the many years, then finally tarred.
In my own memory everyone called it the “New Road” although it was over a hundred years old even then. Now everyone knows it as the Porlock Toll Road. The tolls were taken in the early days to the Ship Inn. There was a gate across the bottom of the road near where the village hall was later built. Someone told me as a boy he would rush out of the Inn, swinging around the post of the porch and proceed quickly up to collect the toll, then he would open the gate.
In the early 20’s it was decided to build two toll houses at the halfway point in the road. There was plenty of building stone on the estate, as well as stones available from the recently demolished Keepers Cottage, situated in the top of the Parks. The top Toll House has one odd window which was from the Keepers Cottage.
The road is four and a half miles long from Porlock to Pitt Combe Head where it joins the A39, usually reckoned to be the top of Porlock Hill. It is a lovely ride, the first part of which is up through the varied woods and the last part is on open moorland of heather, gorse and whortleberry bushes. It is usually considered that the best way to see the views is to come down the road, as the driver can see them without having to stop, although there are several stopping places, and a picnic area. There are views of the Porlock Vale and the Village and on clear days there are spectacular views of the Welsh coast from the Gower Peninsula to beyond Newport. From near the top there are views over Bossington Hill, Selworthy Beacon and beyond to Burnham On Sea, Weston Super Mare and Clevedon as well as the Quantock and Mendip Hills and the islands of Flat Holm and Steepholm. With good eyesight it is possible to see the two Severn Bridges.