Wednesday, August 15, 2012
I live and work in Surrey. Near where I live, the landscape is dotted with old Coal-tax posts. They are usually tucked by the side of the road, or sometimes in the middle of woodland, overgrown and paint peeling. Even people who have lived here all their lives don't always know about them, and quite often I'll be cycling on a regular route that I've used for years, and I'll spot another one.
They existed to mark the point where taxes on coal were due to be paid to the Corporation of London (hence the crest on them). Basically, if you had a sack of coal in the back of your cart, and you went past one of these, You Owed Money. This Wikipedia article explains in greater detail. Pretty much every road, trail and path had one of these - there was no escaping the tax - which is why derelict ones lie around in woodland, on golf courses, and one (I believe) in the middle of Epsom Racecourse, right next to the track.
Oddly, although I live outside the boundary and commute to within, I don't think I pass one of these on any of the roads I cycle. The one in these photos is (I think) the closest, and I think I by-pass it on a road that was constructed more recently. Annoyingly, no-one has yet constructed an online map clearly showing all the extant posts, so I can't confirm.