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Although the Vestry was responsible for maintaining footpaths and roadways until the 19th century, main roads were the responsibility of the Kensington Turnpike Trust. Tollgates were erected at key junctions and the fees supposedly collected to build, maintain and light the roads. Many complaints were made plus the usual accusations of corruption. The last toll gates were removed in 1869. The old turnpike roads were slowly improved and new roads laid out. Chelsea Bridge was built in 1856, followed by Albert Bridge in 1873. Chelsea Embankment, opened in 1874, swept away the old waterfront with its coal, hay and timber wharves and small boat building enterprises.
Small traders still ran the high streets but from small beginnings Messrs Harrods, Toms, Derry, Barker, and Jones were establishing their emporiums. These were soon to dominate the high streets, bringing increased trade into the area.
Although revenues were growing so were demands on the Vestries with free libraries and public baths being added to their responsibilities. Many of the Vestrymen were local tradesmen and very thrifty when it came to levying rates. Assistance to the needy was often left to wealthy benefactors. By 1901 the population of Kensington was 190,000 and Chelsea nearly 74,000 and all over London the system of local government was showing severe signs of strain.
Watercolour of a toll gate in Kensington
Herbert Jones, Chief Librarian of Kensington 1887 to 1924