If you’ve seen one of these on Desborough Island or close to Cowey Sale, you may wonder what they are for. They actually date back to the Victorian era and mark the Coal Tax boundary. So anyone bringing coal into the Metropolitan Police District (plus the City of London) would have to pay Coal Tax. The purpose of the posts was to give notice of where the boundary ran so that no-one could claim ignorance of liability to pay the duties.
The 24/25 VICT refers to the years of Queen Victoria’s reign in which the Act requiring the payment of the duty was passed (i.e. 1861-62 session). CAP 42 refers to the relevant chapter of the parliamentary Act.
In the 1880s the City and the Metropolitan Board of Works wanted the duties to continue in the face of growing opposition from the public and national politicians, but when the MBW was replaced by the London County Council in 1889, the new council declined to support renewal. An act was passed in that year abolishing the duties, the last of which was collected in 1890. The abolition was opposed with some underhand tactics: a parliamentary select committee sitting in 1887 found that signatures on a petition in support of keeping the tax had been forged!
The posts thus represent the final phase of the duties in the face of growing opposition. They had been collected for over 300 years but within 30 years of the posts going up were abolished.
See how many you can spot! There were originally around 280 posts of which around 210 remain.