Domestic Toll in English

The preserved toll houses of Kristinestad are unique in Finland. In this building, the Western Toll House, a toll was collected on goods brought into town from the countryside.

During the period 1622–1808, duties had to be paid not only on imports, but also on commodities brought from the countryside into towns. This domestic toll applied in the whole of Sweden, including Finland. Its purpose was to concentrate trade to towns and generate income for the state treasury. Toll fences were erected around the towns. Their original legal minimum height of approx. 4.5 metres was later reduced to approx. 1.5 metres. All entry was via gates that were closed at night, and toll houses were constructed at the gates.

The domestic toll was charged on all edible or usable goods. It was originally set at 1/32 (i.e. 3%) of the value of the goods, and later determined according to weight or measurement. When a farmer arrived with a cartload of goods destined for sale in the market square or directly to a customer, these were weighed and measured by the toll inspector. Upon payment, the farmer was issued with a receipt, which he presented to a guard who opened the gate.

The toll had to be paid irrespective of whether articles were sold or not. The system was therefore very unpopular and toll inspectors had to be armed in order to carry out their duties. Smuggling was commonplace. The toll collection was outsourced to private actors for lengthy periods of time. The domestic toll was abolished in Finland in 1808.

The toll fence in Kristinestad encircled most of today’s wooden town. During the Russian occupation in the early 18th century, the fence was destroyed, but it was rebuilt in 1726. The responsibility for building and maintaining the fence lay with the burghers. However, according to a report to the Swedish Customs office in 1803, this task had been neglected in Kristinestad: the fence had fallen into disrepair and disappeared.

Toll houses were often built according to predefined templates. In addition to an office for clearance procedures, they could also contain accommodation for the toll inspector and his family. Today, only a few such buildings remain in Sweden and Finland, having often been moved and/or repurposed.

The first toll houses in Kristinestad were in place in the 1660s. At the eastern one, in today’s Market Square, duties were paid on goods entering town on the waterfront side, by boat or across the ice. The western one – this building – handled import by road from the villages west and north of town. It was originally placed 20 metres north of its present location. In addition, there was a temporary winter toll station at the so-called North Toll (Norrtullen). The toll houses of Kristinestad are unique, having been preserved in a relatively authentic state.  Through dendrochronological analysis, the buildings have been dated to the early 1760s.

© Staffan Martikainen 2023.

Bengtsson, Richard: Vid stadens hank och stör: tullstugor, portar och bommar i svenska städer 1622–1810. Tullmuseum, 1998
Berggren, Jan: Tullsnok – öppna bommen! Carl Michael Bellman och tullen. Carlsons, 2003
Nymansson, Peter: Kristinestad och Kaskö. Manuscript, 1803.
”Pikkutullin päiviltä”. Suomen Kuvalehti 17.3.1933
Suomen kaupunkirakentamisen historia. Eds. Henrik Lilius & Pekka Kärki. SKS, 2014


After 1808. Having lost their purpose, both the Western and the Eastern Toll House were moved to the northern edge of town in the early 19th century. They then served as accommodation for the poor, and as an epidemic emergency hospital during the outbreaks of cholera (1899) and scarlet fever (1910). In 1967, the Western Toll House was moved back to roughly its former site. Its eastern counterpart can still be seen at the address Norrtullen / Pohjoistulli. The photo is from the 1930s.

[Architectural drawing and layout + dendrochronological sample]
How old are the toll houses? The toll houses of Kristinestad, particularly the western one, closely correspond to the standard template from 1759 issued by the Swedish public authority Kammarkollegiet. Identical toll houses were built in other towns in Sweden, but none of those remain today. In 2022, samples of the constructional timber were taken for dendrochronological analysis. The annual growth rings show that the timber was felled in 1760 and 1761, and we can establish that the Kristinestad toll houses came about in the early 1760s.

[Cover page from a book]
Regulation on domestic toll and excise duty from 1756. In addition to the domestic toll, toll inspectors were also charged with the collection of the excise duty, a kind of consumption tax paid by town dwellers on bakery, brewery and butchery products.

[Piece of paper]
Toll receipt from the 1770s. Fredrik Grönlund cleared some goods at the Eastern Tollhouse in the town of Rauma on the 16 August. The types and quantities of goods were specified on the reverse side.

[Book page with list]
Extract from the 1622 domestic toll tariff, with the toll stated in the Swedish currency unit öre for various wild fowl (such as eider, crane and heron), smoked salmon, oxhide, calf skin, beaver fur and lynx fur, amongst other things.

[Map on the wall]
The toll fence in Kristinestad encircled most of today’s wooden town. On the western side, its route is reflected in the present-day name Staketgatan/Aitakatu (’Fence Street’). Map from the early 18th century. Kungliga Biblioteket (Swedish National Library), Stockholm.

[Toll house miniature]
The Western Toll House, mid-18th century

Goods being brought into town under the supervision of the local toll inspector and a toll guard. Miniature by Pirjo Rajasalo.

The customs officers’ uniform. In 1803, the collection of customs and toll duties in Kristinestad was carried out by a customs officer, two scribes and four inspectors. The customs officers’ powers were evident from his badge and sceptre. In the early 19th century, Swedish state officials wore the so-called provincial uniform: a long dark blue felted wool coat with a shalloon lining in the same colour, a white waistcoat and blue trousers. The yellow buttons were adorned with the coat of arms of the province. The black tricorn hat featured a gold braid, a black rosette and a larger button. The uniform was completed by black jackboots, which could be worn with spurs, and a dress sword with a black sheath.

Money chest for the toll collection. The toll was not paid to the customs officer, but the sum due was inserted directly into the coin slot. The keys to the chest were held by the provincial governor. In order to prevent theft and corruption, the chest often had three locks which had to be opened simultaneously by three people present. The original use of this chest is unknown. It was lent to the exhibition by the local office of Suomen Osuuspankki/Andelsbanken Finland.