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Full text of "Stage-coach and mail in days of yore : a picturesque history of the coaching age"



STAGECOACH 
AND MAIL IN 
DAYS OfYOEE 




CHARLES G. HARPER 



5 




John Gf offri^y Miiou Ifomle^ 



TUFTS UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 



3 9090 013 415 498 




Vetermwy Library 

Tufts Universsty 

School of Vetennary Medkine 

200 Westboro Rd. 

North Grafton. MA 0;536 



STAGE-COACH 
AND MAIL IN 
DAYS OF YORE 



WORKS BY THE SAME 


AUTHOR 


The Brighton Road : Old Times and New on 
a ('lassie lli<^di\v;iy. 


The Portsmouth Road, and 

To-day and in Days of Old 


ts Tribntaries : 


The Dover Road: Annals 

Tiirni)ik('. 


nf an Ancient 


The Bath Road : History, 

Frivolity on an Old Highw 


Fashion, and 


The Exeter Road: The Stoi 

of England lligliwjiy. 


y of the West 


The Great North Road : Tbe 

to Scotland. Two Vols. 


Old Mail Road 


The Norwich Road: An 

Highway. 


East Anglian 


The Holyhead Road : The M 

to Dnlilin. Two Vols. 


ail-Coach Eoad 


The Cambridge, Ely, and King's Lynn 

Road: The Great Fenl.md Highway. 


Cycle Rides Round London. 




The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford Haven 

Road : Two Vols. [In the Press. 



STAGE-COACH 
AND MAIL IN 
DAYS OFYORE 

A PICTURESQUE HISTORY 
OF THE COACHING AGE 

VOL. I 
By CHARLES G. HARPER 




Illustrated from Old- Time Prints 
and Pictures 



London : 

CHAPMAN & HALL, Limited 
1903 

All rights reserved 



PRINTED BY 

HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD. 

LONDON AND AYLESBURY. 




PREF/ICE 



Vy^ 



*' J-IANG up my old wliip over the fireplace,'''' 
said Harry Littler, of the Southampton 
" Telegrapjh,'" lohen the London and Southampton 
Mailioay icas opened, in 1833, — " I shan't loant it 
never no more " ; and he fell ill, turned his face to 
the wall, and died. 

The end of the coaching age was a tragedy for 
the coachmen ; and even to many others, whose 
careers and livelihood were not hound up with the 
old order of things, it tvas a bitter uprooting of 
established customs. 3Iany travellers v:ere never 
reconciled to railways, and in imagination dioelt 
fondly in the old days of the road for the rest of 
their lives ; while many more never ceased to re- 
count stories of the peculiar glory and exhilaration 
of old-time travel, forgetting the miseries and in- 
conveniences that formed part of it. But although 
reminiscent oldsters have talked much about those 
vanished times, they have rarely attempted a con- 
secutive story of them. Such an attempd is that 
essayed in these pages, confined within the compass 
of tioo volumes, not because material for a third 
was lacking, but simply for sake of expediency . Lt 



viii PREFACE 

is sJiown in the body of this hook, and may be noted 
again in this place, that the task of writing any- 
thing in the nature of a History of Coaching is 
rendered exceeding difficult by reason of the dis- 
appearance of most of the documentary evidence on 
lohich it should be based ; but I have been fortunate 
enough to 'secure the aid of 3Ir. Joseph Baxendale 
in respect of the history of Pickford 8f Co., of 
Mr. William Chaplin, grandson of the great 
coach-proprietor, and of 31r. Benjamin Worthy 
Home, grandson of Chaplin s partner, for in- 
formation concerning their respective families. 
Colonel Edmund Fuluier, also, communicated 
interesting notes on his grandfather, John Fahner, 
the founder of the mail-coach system. To my 
courteous friend, Mr. JF. H. Duignan, of 
Walsall, ivhose own recollections of coaching, and 
lohose collections of coaching prints and notes I 
have largely used, this acknowledgment is due. 
Mr. J. B. Muir, of 35, Wardour Street, my 
obliging friend of years past, has granted extensive 
use of his collection of sporting pictures, and 
3Iessrs. Arthur Ackermann ^' Son, of 191, Regent 
Street, have lent p)rints and pictures from their 

establishment. 

CHARLES G. HARPER. 

Peteesham, Sueeey, 
April 1903. 



CONTENTS 



ciiArxnii 

I. The Introduction of Carriages . 

II. The Horsemen .... 

III. Dawn of the Coaching Age 

IV. Growth of Coaching in the Eighteenth Centur\ 
V. The Stage-Waggons and what they Carried 

How the Took Travelled ... 

VI. The Early Mail-Coaches .... 

VII. The Nineteenth Century : 1800—1824 

VIII. Coach Legislation 

IX. The Early Coachmen 

X. The Later Coachmen 

XI. Mail-guards 

XII. Stage-coach Guards 

XIII. How THE Coaches were Named . 

XIV. Going by Coach : Booking Offices . 
XV. How the Coach Passengers Fared: Manners 

AND Customs down the Road 



PAGE 

1 

14 

57 
87 

103 
146 
181 
194 
221 
231 
249 
272 
282 
320 

333 




SEPARATE PLATES 

PAGE 

1. The Maidenhead and Maulovv Post-coach, 1782. 

{From a contemjwrary Faintiny) . Frontispiece 

2. The Stage-coach, 1783. {After Kowlandson) . . 83 

3. The Waggon, 1816. {After Roivlandson) . . • T15 

4. The Stage-waggon, 1820. {After J. L. Agasse) . .121 

5. The Eoad-waggon : a Trying Climb. {After J. 

Pollard) . . . . . . .. . -131 

6. The Stage-waggon, 1816. {By Rowlandson) . . 137 

7. Pickford's London and Manchester Fly Van, 1826. 

{After George Best) . . . . . . .141 

8. John Palmer at the Age of 17. {Attributed to 

Gainsborough, Ji.A.) ...... 149 

9. John Palmer. {From the Paiuting by Gainsborough, 

^-^•) 153 

10. The Mail-coach, 1803. {Front the Engraving after 

George Robertson) . . . . . . .169 

11. John Palmer in his 75th Year. {From an Etching 

by the U on. Martha Jer vis) . . . . -175 

12. Mrs. Bundle in a Page; or, Too Late for the 

Stage. {After Rowlandson, 1809) . . . .183 



xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

13. The Sheffield Coach, about 1827. {From a con- 

temporary Painting) . . . . . .187 

14. The " Birmingham Express " Leaving the " Hen and 

Chickens." (From a contemporary Paintinrj) . .191 

15. "My Dear, You're a Plumper": Coachman and 

Barmaid. {After Rotdandson) . . . -223 

16. The Old "Prince of Wales" Birmingham Coach. 

(After 11. Aiken) 233 

17. In Time for the Coach. (After C. Cooper Henderson, 

1848) 243 

18. Stuck Fast. {After C. Cooper Henderson, 1834) . 267 

19. The "Reading Telegraph" passing Windsor Castle. 

(After J. Pollard) 297 

20. The Exeter Mail, 1809. (After J. A. Atkinson) . 301 

21. The Brighton "Comet," 1836. (After J. Pollard) . 307 

22. Matthews' Patent Safety Coaches on the Brighton 

Road 3^3 

23. A Coach- Breakfast. (After J. Pollard) . . . 349 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT 



F'AGF. 



Vignette (Title-page) 

Preface .......... vii 

List of Illustrations xi 

Stage-coach and Mail in Days of Yore . . . . i 
Arms of the Worshipful Company of Coach and Harness 

Makers 12 

Epigiam Scratched with a Diamond-ring on a Window- 
pane by Dean Swift . . " . . . .46 

Old Coaching Bill, Preserved at the " Black Swan," York 75 
Old Birmingham Coaching Bill . . . . .81 
Coaching Advertisement from the Edinburgh Courant, 

1754 89 

One of Three Mail-coach Halfpennies struck at Bath, 1797 173 

Moses James Nobbs, the Last of the Mail-guaids . . 265 



/A\KiB/;jA\/ao[!3 




CHAPTER I 

THE INTRODUCTION OF CARRIAGES 

" Ah ! sure it was a coat of steel, 
Or good tough oak, he wore, 
Who first unto the ticklish wheel 
'Gan harness horses four." 

The lines quoted above are not remarkably good 
as poetry. Nay, it is possible to go farther, and to 
say that they are exceptionally bad— the product 
of one of those corn-box poets who were accus- 
tomed to speak of steam as a " demon foul " ; but 
if his lines are bad verse, the central idea is good. 
That man who first essayed to drive four-in-hand 
must indeed have been more than usually 



To form anything at all like an adequate idea 
of the Coaching Age, it is first necessary to 
discover how people travelled before that age 
dawned. As a picture is made by contrasted 
light and shade, so is the story of the coaching 
yoL. I, 1 1 



2 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

period only to be properly set forth by first 
narrating how journeys were made from place to 
place before the continuous history of wheeled 
trafiic begins. That history, measured by mere 
count of years, is not a long one. It cannot, in 
its remotest origin, go back beyond the first 
appearance of the stage-waggon, about 1590, when 
the peasantry of this kingdom began to obtain an 
occasional lift on the roads, and sat among the 
goods which it was the first business of those 
waggons to carry. The peasant, then, was the 
first coach-passenger, for while he was carried 
thus, everyone else, in all the estates of the 
realm, from King and Queen down to the middle 
classes, rode horseback, and it was not until 1G57 
and the establishment of the Chester Stage that 
the Coaching Age opened for the public in 
general. 

If, then, we please to pronounce for that event 
as the true beginning, and allow 1848, the year 
when one of the last coaches, the Bedford "Times," 
Avas Avithdrawn from the London and Bedford 
road in consequence of the opening of the 
Bletchley and Bedford branch railway, to be the 
end, Ave have the beginning, the groAvth and 
perfection of the old coaching era, and its final 
extinction, all comprised Avithin a period of a 
hundred and ninety-one years. 

Wheeled conveyances are generally said by the 
usual books of reference to take their origin in 
this country with the introduction of Queen 
Mary's Coronation carriage in 1553 ; but, so far 



THE INTRODUCTION OF CARRIAGES 3 

from that being correct, mention of carriages is 
often found in authorities of a period earlier by 
almost two centuries. Thus, in her will of Septem- 
ber 25th, 1355, Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady Clare, 
bequeathed her " great carriage, with the cover- 
tures, carjiets, and cushions," to her eldest daughter; 
and carriasre-builders at the close of Edward III.'s 
reign charged £100 and £1000 for their wares. 
Carts were not unknoAvn to the peasantry ; 
Eroissart tells us that the English returned from 
Scotland in 1360 in " charettes," a kind of carriage 
whose make he does not specify ; and ladies are 
discovered in 1380 travelling with the l3aggage 
in " Avhirlicotes," which Avere cots or beds on 
Avheels, or a species of Avheeled litter. We have, 
by favour of one of the old chroniclers, a fugitive 
picture of Richard II., at the age of scA'enteen, 
travelling in one of these Avhirlicotes, accom- 
panying his mother, Avho Avas ill. 

Bat such instances do not prove more than 
occasional use, and it certainly appears that Avhen 
Queen ^lary rode from the Toaa er of London to 
Westminster on her Coronation Day, Sej^tember 
20th, 1553, in her State coach, she thereby revived 
the use of carriages, Avhicli, for some reason or 
another, had fallen into disuse since those early 
days. Her coachmaker, by a grant made on 
May 29tli in the first year of her reign, Avas one 
Anthony Silver. 

We may seek the cause of A\dieeled conveyances 
going out of use in the tAvo centuries before this 
date in the steady and continuous decay of the 



4 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

roads consequent upon the troubled state of 
the kingdom in that intervening space. Re- 
bellions, pestilences, foreign wars, and domestic 
strife had marked that epoch. The Wars of the 
Roses themselves lasted thirty years, and in all 
that while the social condition of the people had 
not merely stood still, but degenerated. Towns 
and districts were half depopulated, and the 
ancient highways fell into disuse. It is signifi- 
cant that the first General HighAvay Act, a 
measure passed in 1555, was practically coincident 
with the reintroduction of carriages. 

Queen Mary's Coronation carriage — or, as it 
was called in the language of that time, " coach " 
— was draAvn by six horses, less for reasons of 
display than of sheer necessity, for, with a less 
numerous and powerful team, it would probably 
have been stuck fast in the infamously bad roads 
that then set a gulf of mud between the twin 
cities of London in the east and Westminster in 
the west. Only three other carriages followed 
her Majesty on that historic occasion, and the 
ladies who attended rode horseback. 

Two years after this new departure mention is 
found of a " coach " — still, of course, a carriage — 
made for the Earl of Rutland by one Walter 
Rippon, who in the same year appears to have 
built a new one for the Queen. 

The next patron of carriages seems to have 
been Sir Thomas Hoby, sometime Her Britannic 
Majesty's Ambassador to the Erench Court : that 
Sir Thomas who lies beside his brother, Sir Philip, 



THE INTRODUCTION OF CARRIAGES 5 

in their magnificent tomb in the little Berkshire 
village chnrcli of Eisham, beside the Thames. 
He owned a carriage in 156G. 

The jirogressive age of Elizabeth now opens. 
In 1564, six years after her accession, she was using 
a carriage l^rought over from Holland by a certain 
William Boonen, himself a Hollander. Boonen, 
indeed, became her Majesty's coachman, but his 
services cannot often have been required, for, if 
we are to believe Elizabeth's own words to the 
Erench Ambassador in 1568, driving in these early 
carriages, innocent of springs, must have been as 
uncomfortable as a journey in a modern builder's 
cart or an ammunition- waggon would be. When 
his Excellency waited upon her, she w^as still 
suffering " aching pains, from being knocked 
about in a coach driven too fast a few days 
before." 

Little wonder, then, that the great Queen used 
her coach only when occasions of State demanded. 
She journeyed to her palace at Greenwich by 
water, between Greenwich and her other palace 
of Eltham on horseback, and to Nonsuch and 
Hampton Court and on her many country pro- 
gresses in like manner, resorting only to wheels 
with advancing years. How bad were even the 
roads esj)ecially repaired for her coming may 
be judged from a contemporary description of 
her journey along that "new highway" whose 
" perfect evenness " is the theme of the writer. 
" Her Majesty left the coach only once, while 
the hinds and the folk of a base sort lifted it on 



6 s7\i(;/u\\ir// ./.)■/> ,1/.///, /.y /ins or )(>a7; 

\\\\\\ tluMT |n>K's." Majt^stv iniist havo Ixhmi soiv 
pill to it lo li>olv uini(>siii' on such »)(.*(.';vsi()iis, and in 
lh,> h.ul coiulition o{ all ivkuIs al tliat tiiut> wf I'md 
a iii>\\ siu'iiil'u'aiuu^ ii) \\u' coinM liiu^ss of Sii- \\'alt(>r 
KaliMU'li. NNlioat (IrctMiw ic'h llirow his V(d\tM cloak 
upon iho urouml for I'lli/alu'th to walk o\c\'. 

Illi.aluMh \>as an acconiplisluul horsiMvoniau. 
aiul i( is not surin"isinu\ uniKn- tluvst^ I'ircMiiu- 
stani'os. that slu^ niado full us^m^I' the accomplish- 
UKMU. cvMUinuiui;- on all possibh^ public occasions 
to apiH>ar in this manner. On lon^-ci' journeys 
she roile on a pillion hehiml a niounteJ chaniher- 
lain. hohlinu" on to him l\\ his waisthelt just as 
hulies continued to ilo for centuries yet to cinne. 
The curious in these thiuii's may t'uul interest in 
the tact that the moilern ^a-ov^m's hwthern waist- 
belt. \\hich now serves no practical function, is 
meridv a strange surN ival oi that oUl necessity of 
fiMuinine travel. The commonly-receivcil opinion 
that Kli/.abeili objected to carriaii'cs from the 
snpposcd •' etVeminacy "' (^i usiuii' them receives a 
severe sluH'k from her cavriau'e experiences. Avhich 
make it quite idn ions that travelling- in the 
earliest o{ them was only to be induli^'cd in hy 
persons of the stroni^cst frame and in the rudest 
health. She w lu\ mounted on her palfrey before 
her troops at Tilbury, w hen the Armada threatened. 
could justly claim that thouirh but a woman she 
had the spirit of a Kiuir— aye. and a Kinir of 
Eiiicland-- quailed before the riirours of a carria^ro- 
drive. 

In lo7i> the Earl of Arundel imported one of 



'J UK IXJ RODL'CIION 01' CARRfAGRS 7 

tli('S(! new Jtfid stmnge machinos from Germany. 
J low riov^l ;i(id stranf^f3 thoy wore may he gathered 
from tlif; pai-ticidar mention thus accorded them 
in tlie annals of tfie time. When we consider 
how l)ad was tlie condition evfjn of the streets of 
London, it will he* ahundantly evident that a 
desire for disphiy rather than comfort hrought 
ahout the increasing use of carriages that marked 
the closing years of Elizaheth's reign. By 1001 
they had hecome so comparatively numerous that 
it was sought to ohtain an Act restraining their 
excessive use and forljidding men riding in them. 
This proje'cted r)idinance especially set forth the 
enervating nature of riding in carriages; hut 
it would seem that the real ohjection was the 
growing magnificence displayed in this way hy 
the wealthy, tending to overshadow the puhlic 
appearances of lloyalty itself. Whatever the real 
reason of this disahling measure, it was i^ejected 
on the second reading and never hecame law, 
and four years later both hackney and private 
carriages were in common use in London. Carters 
and waggoners hated them with a Intter hatred, 
called them "hell-carts," and heaped abuse upon 
all who usf;d them. Both their primitive con- 
struction and the fearful condition of the roads 
rendered their use impossible in the country. 
Teams of fewer than six horses were rarely seen 
dj-auijig coaches in what were then regarded as 
London suburbs, districts long since included in 
Central London ; and perhaps even the haughty 
and arrogant Duke of Buckingham, favourite of 



8 STAG&'COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

James I. and Charles, was misjudged when, in 
1619, the people, seeing his carriage drawn hy 
that number, " wondered at it as a novelty, and 
imputed it to him as a mastering pride." Had he 
employed fewer horses he certainly would have 
been obliged to get out and walk, or to have again 
resorted to the use of the sedan-chair, in which, 
before he had set up a carriage, he was used to be 
carried, greatly to the indignation of the j)opulace, 
to whom sedan-chairs were at that time novelties. 
" The clamour and the noise of it was so 
extravagant," we are told, "that the people would 
rail upon him in the streets, loathing that men 
should be brought to as servile a condition as 
horses." Yet no one ever thought of denouncing 
Buckingham or any other of the magnificos when 
they lolled in easy seats under the silken hangings 
of their state barges and were rowed by the labour 
of a dozen lusty oarsmen on the Thames. The 
work was as servile as the actual carrying of a 
passenger, but the innate conservatism of man- 
kind could not at first perceive this. On the Avhole, 
Buckingham therefore has our sympathy. The most 
innocent doings of a favourite with Uoyalty are 
capable of being twisted into haughty and 
malignant acts, and had it not been for Bucking- 
ham's position at Court his displays would not 
have brought him the hatred of the people and 
the rivalry of his own order which they certainly 
did arouse. The Earl of Northumberland was one 
of those who were thus goaded into the rivalry 
of display. Hearing that the favourite had six 



THE INTRODUCTION OF CARRIAGES 9 

horses to his carriage, he thought that he might 
very well have eight, " and so rode," we are told, 
"from London to Bath, to the vulgar talk and 
admiration." 

The first public carriages, according to a state- 
ment made to Taylor, the "water poet," hy Old 
Parr, the centenarian, were the "hackney-coaches," 
established in London in 1605. " Since then," 
says Taylor, writing on the subject at different 
times betAveen 1623 and 1635, " coaches have 
increased with a mischief, and have ruined the 
trade of the watermen by hackney-coaches, and 
now multiply more than ever." The "watermen" 
were, of course, those who plied with their boats 
and barges for hire upon the Thames, chiefly 
between London and Westminster, the river being 
then, and for long after, the principal highway for 
traffic in the metropolis. So greatly, indeed, was 
the river traffic for the time affected, that the 
sprack-witted Taylor relinquished his trade of 
waterman and embarked upon the more promising 
career of pamphleteering. 

" Thirty years ago," he says, in one of these out- 
bursts, " The World runnes on Wheeles," " coaches 
were few " : — 

Then upstart helcart coaches were to seeke, 
A man could scarce see twenty in a weeke, 
But now I thinke a man may daily see 
More than the whirries on the Thames can be. 
Carroches, coaches, jades and Flanders mares 
Doe rob us of our shares, our wares, our fares; 
Against the ground we stand and knock our heeles, 
Whilest all our profit runs away on wheeles. 



to STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

" This," we find him saying, on another occasion, 
" is the rattling, rowling, rumbling age, and the 
world runnes on wheeles. The hackney-men, Avho 
were wont to have furnished travellers in all 
places with fitting and serviceable horses for any 
journey, are (by the multitude of coaches) undone 
by the dozens." 

The bitter cry of Taylor and the Tliames 
watermen may or may not have been hearkened 
to, but certainly hackney-coaches were prohibited 
in 1635. This, however, was probably due rather to 
Royal whim or prejudice than to any consideration 
for a decaying trade. 

It was an arbitrary age, and it only needed a 
Star Chamber order for public carriages, considered 
by the Court to be a nuisance, to be suppressed. 
The reasons advanced read curiously at this time : 
"His Majesty, perceiving that of late the great 
numbers of hackney-coaches were grown a great 
disturbance to the King, Queen, and nobility 
through the streets of the said city, so as the 
common passage was made dangerous and the 
rates and prices of hay and provender and other 
provisions of the stable thereby made exceeding 
dear, hath thought fit, with the advice of his 
Privy Council, to publish his Royal pleasure, for 
reformation therein." His Majesty therefore 
commanded that no hackney-coaches should be 
used in London unless they were engaged to 
travel at least three miles out of town, and 
owners of such coaches were to keep sufiicient 
able horses and geldings, fit for his Majesty's 



THE' INTRODUCTION OF CARRIAGES ii 

service, "whensoever his occasion shall require 
them." 

This despotic measure was amended in 1637, 
when fifty hackney-coachmen for London were 
licensed, to keep not more than twelve horses each. 
This meant either tliat three hundred or a hundred 
and fifty public carriages then came into use, 
according to Avhether tAvo or four horses were 
harnessed. " And so," says Taylor, " there grew 
up the trade of coach-huilding in England." 

These early carriages, whether hackney or 
private, were not only without springs, hut were 
innocent of windows. In their place were shutters 
or leather curtains. The first " glass coach " 
mentioned is that made for the Duke of York in 
1661. Pepys at this period becomes our principal 
authority on this subject. On May 1st, 1665, 
he is found witnessing experiments with newly- 
designed carriages with springs, and again on 
September 5th, finding them go not quite so easy 
as their inventor claimed for them. Yet, since 
private carriages were clearly becoming the 
fashion, Mr. Secretary-to-the-Admiralty Pepys 
must needs have one ; and accordingly, on 
December 2nd, 1668, he takes his first ride : 
" Al)road with my wife, the first time that I 
ever rode in my own coach." 

Pepys always delighted in being in the fashion. 
He would not be in advance of it, and not, if he 
could help it, behind. The fact, then, of his 
setting up a carriage of his own is sufiicient to 
show how largely the moneyed classes had begun 



12 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 



to go about on wheels. But better evidence still 
is found in the establishment, May 1677, of the 
Worshipful Company of Coach and Harness 
Makers, whose arms still bear rej)resentations of 
the carriages in use at that period. The armorial 
bearings of the Coach-makers are, when duly 
tricked out in their proper colours, somewhat 




ARMS OF THE WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF COACH AND 
HARNESS MAKERS. 



striking. Stated in plain terms, done into English 
out of heraldic jargon, they consist of a blue 
shield of arms with three coaches and a chevron 
in gold, sup23orted on either side by a golden horse, 
harnessed and saddled in black studded with gold ; 
with blue housings garnished with red, and 
fringed and j^urfled in gold. The horses are 
further adorned with plumes of four feathers in 
gold, silver, red, and blue. A crest above displays 



THE INTRODUCTION OF CARRIAGES 13 

Plicebiis driving his chariot, and the motto beneath 
declares that "After clouds rises the sun." 

The hackney-carriages of London in 1669, the 
year following Pepys' establishment of his own 
private turn-out, numbered, according to the 
memoirs of Cosmo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who 
travelled England at that time, eight hundred. 
The age of public vehicles was come. 



CHAPTER II 



THE HORSEMEN 



"The single gentlemen, then a hardy race, equipped in jack-boots 
and trousers up to their middle, rode post through thick and thin, 
and, guarded against the mire, defying the frequent stumble and fall, 
arose and pursued their journey with alacrity." — Pennant, 1739. 

Long before wheeled conveyances of any kind 
were to be hired in this country, travellers were 
accustomed to ride post. To do so argued no 
connection with that great department we now 
call the Post Office, although that letter-carr\ing 
agency and the custom of riding 2:)ost obtain 
their name from a common origin. The earliest 
provision for travelling post seems to have been 
in the reign of Henry YIII., when the office of 
" Master of the Postes " was established. Sir 
Brian Tukc then held that appointment, and to 
him were entrusted the arrangements for securing 
relays of horses on the four great post roads then 
recognised : the road from London to Dover, on 
which the carriers came from and went to foreign 
parts ; the road to Plymouth, where the King's 
dockyard was situated ; and the great roads to 
Scotland and Chester, and on to Conway and Holy- 
head. These relays of horses were established 
exclusively for use of the despatch-riders who went 
on affairs of State ; but by the time of Elizabeth 



THE HORSEMEN 15 

these messengers Avere, as a favour, already 
accustomed to carry any letters that might be 
given into their charge and could be delivered 
without going out of their way ; while travellers 
constantly called at the country post-houses, and 
on pretence of going on the Queen's business, 
obtained the use of horses, which they rode to 
exhaustion, or overloaded, or even rode away with 
altogether. 

These abuses were promptly suppressed when 
James I. came to the English throne. In 1603, 
the year of his accession, a proclamation was issued 
under which no person claiming to be on Govern- 
ment business Avas to be supplied with horses 
by the postmasters unless his application was 
supported by a document signed by one of the 
officers of State. The hire of horses for public 
business was fixed at twopence-halfpenny a mile, 
and in addition there was a small charge for the 
guide. A very arbitrary order was made that if 
the post-houses had not sufficient horses, the 
constables and the magistrates were to seize those 
of private owners and impress them into the 
service. Post-masters, who were salaried officials, 
were paid at the very meagre rate of from six- 
pence to three shillings a day. They Avere 
generally innkeepers on the main roads ; other- 
wise it is difficult to see hoAV they could have 
existed on these rates of pay. Evidently these 
were considered merely as retaining fees, and so, 
in order to give them a chance of earning a more 
living Avage, they Avere permitted to let out horses 



i6 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

to " others riding poste with horse and guide about 
their private business." Those private and un- 
official travellers could not demand to be supplied 
with horses at the official rate : what they were to 
pay was to be a matter between the post-masters 
and themselves. In practice, however, the tariff 
for Government riders ruled that for all horsemen, 
as made clear in Eynes Morison's Itinerary, 1617, 
where he says that in the south and west of 
England and on the Great North Road as far as 
Berwick, post-horses were established at every ten 
miles or so at a charge of twopence-halfpenny a 
mile. It was necessary to have a guide to each 
stage, and it was customary to charge for baiting 
both the i^uide's and the traveller's horses, and to 
give the guide himself a few pence — usually a four- 
penny-piece, called "the guide's groat" — on parting. 
It was cheaper and safer for several travellers to 
go together, for one guide Avould serve the whole 
company on each stage, and it was not prudent to 
travel alone. Morison says that, although hiring 
came expensive in one way, yet the sjieed it was 
possible to maintain saved time and consequent 
charges at the inns. The chief requisite, however, 
was strength of body and ability to endure the 
fatigue. 

As to that, the horsemen of the period were, 
equally with those of over a hundred years later, 
mentioned by Pennant, " a hardy race." In 
March, 1603, for example, Robert Gary, afterwards 
Earl of Monmouth, eager to be first in acclaiming 
James VI. of Scotland as James I. of England, 



THE HORSEMEN 17 

left London so soon as the last Lreatli had 
left the body of Queen Elizabeth, and rode 
the iOl miles to Edinburgh in three days. He 
reached Doncaster, 158 miles, the first night, 
Widdrington, 137 miles, the second, and gained 
Edinburgh, 106 miles, the third day, in spite of a 
severe fall by the way. About the same time a 
person named Coles rode from London to Shrews- 
bury in fourteen hours. 

When Thomas Witherings was appointed Master 
of the Post, in 1635, the Post Office, as an institu- 
tion for carrying the correspondence of the public, 
may be said to have started business, although 
as early as 1603 private persons were forbidden to 
make the carrying of letters a business. Like all 
such ordinances, this seemed made only to be 
broken every day. It was particularly unreason- 
able because, before Witherings came upon the 
scene in 1635 and reorganised the posts, there 
existed no means l)y Avliich letters could be sent 
generally into the country. Only the post-riders 
on business of State on the four great roads were 
in the habit of taking letters, and their doing 
so was a matter of private arrangement. 

The postmasters now, on the appointment of 
Witherings, first officially made acquaintance 
Avith letters, and their name began to take on 
something of its modern hieaning. They still 
supplied horses to the King's messengers and the 
King's liege subjects, and held a monopoly in 
these businesses. 

In 1657 the so-called " Post Office of England " 
VOL. I. 2 



tS STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

was established l)y Act of Parliament, and the 
oifice of Postmaster-General created, in succession 
to that of Master of the Posts. His business was 
defined as " the exclusive right of carrying letters 
and the furnishing of jDOst-horses," and these 
two functions — the overlordship of what were 
officially known for generations afterwards as the 
" letter 2^ost " and the "travelling post" — the 
long line of Postmasters- Greneral continued to 
exercise for a hundred and twenty-three years. 

In IG08 the mileage the country postmasters 
were entitled to charge was, according to an 
advertisement of July 1st in that year, increased 
from twopence-halfpenny to threepence, and on 
the Chester E<oad, at least, there was no longer 
any obligation to take a guide : — 

" The postmasters on the Chester Road, petition- 
ing, have received order, and do accordingly 
publish the folloAving advertisement : All gentle- 
men, merchants, and others who have occasion to 
travel between London and West Chester, Man- 
chester, and WarringtoD, or any other town upon 
that road, for the accommodation of trade, dispatch 
of business, and ease of purse, upon every Monday, 
Wednesday and Priday morning, between six and 
ten of the clock, at the house of Mr. Christopher 
Charteris, at the sign of the Hart's Horns, in West 
Smithfield, and postmaster there, and at the post- 
master of Chester, and at the postmaster of 
Warrington, may have a good and able horse or 
mare, furnished at threej^ence the mile, Avithout 
the charge of a guide; and so likewise at the 



THE HORSEMEN I9 

hoiiso of Mr. Thomas Clialloncr, postmaster at 
Stone in Staffordshire, upon every Tuesday, 
Thursday, and Saturday mornings, to go to 
London ; and so likewise at all the several post- 
masters upon the road, who will have such set 
days, so many horses, with furniture, in readiness 
to furnish the riders, without any stay, to carry 
them to and from any of the places aforesaid in 
four days, as well to London as from thence, and 
to places nearer in less time, according as their 
occasions shall require, they engaging, at the first 
stage where they take horse, for the safe delivery 
of the same to the next immediate stage, and not 
to ride that horse any farther without consent of 
the postmaster, hy whom he rides, and so from 
stage to stage to their journey's end. All those 
who intend to ride this way are desired to give a 
little notice heforehand, if conveniently they can, 
to the several postmasters where they first take 
horse, wherehy they may be furnished with as 
many horses as the riders shall require, with 
expedition. This undertaking began the 28th of 
June 1658, at all the places aforesaid, and so 
continues by the several postmasters." 

The Chester Koad — the road to Ireland — was 
of great moment at that age. Indeed, it had 
been of importance for centuries past. It was in 
a lonely holloAV near Plint, on his landing from 
Ireland, that Ilichard II. was waylaid in 
1399 by Henry Bolingbroke, and his progress to 
London barred ; and from Chester as well as from 
Milford Haven English expeditions were wont to 



20 S7\iaK-C0.lCfr A.YD MAIL /.V /)./);v OF VORR 

sail — some carry in, i;" lire and sword across St. 
Coor^'c's C'liainicl, and later ones takini;- h]ni;'Iisli 
coloiiisls to occupy and cultivate tlic lands j'roni 
Avluch the shirtless Irish had i)een di-iven. Hut it 
was not until live closc^ of h'di/alx'th's reii;ii, wlien 
Ireland was suhjui^ated, that tin's I'oad l)ei;;in to h(5 
constantly travelled. 

Under James I. the Irish chiel'tains came to 
these shoi'cs to swear I'calty, and in the \\il(l and 
whirl inji,' series of events that 111 led the years 
IVom Kill to \(\\yi with horroi', a. continual llu\ 
and rellux of militai'y trav(dlers and trend)lini^- 
rerui»'e(\s came and went aloni»' these storied mihvs. 

Already, in the year Ix'l'ore the announc(Mn(Mit 
of ])ost-horses on the Chester Ivoail, the lii'st sta^'c- 
coach ol' which we have any ])articulars had hceii 
estahlished on litis \ (M-y route. It did m)t 
continue to Jlolylu^ad, lor the individually 
suiiicient reasons that no ])i-act icahle i-oad to that 
2)()rt existed for anytiiini»' i^'oini;- on wheels, and 
tliat Clu^st(M' itseir, and Parki^atc, a lew miles 
down the estuai'y of th(> l)(>e, were the most con- 
venient ])oi'ts ol" (Muharkat ion loi* lindand. No 
direct road to Holyhead existed until 1 T'^-^ when 
coaches hci^an to run to Ihat i)ort. HcM'ore that 
time, those who wished to cross IVom Holyhead 
i;'enerally rode horsehack. h'ew Ncntured across 
country hy Llani^'ollen ami Melt ws-y-C'oed ; most, 
lik(^Swirt, leavini;' ci\ilisation Ix^hind at Chester, 
took hors(» and i^uide. and i^oini;' hy Ivhuddlan and 
Conway, darcnl the i)r<H'ii)itous h(Mi;hts ol" that 
great headland called Penmaenmaw i', or, even 



THE HORSE ME X 21 

more greatly daviui;. crept round by the rocks 
underiieatli at ebb tide. Swift wrote two couplets 
for the inn that then stood beside the track on 
renmaenmawr. As the traveller approached he 
read, on the swinging sign : — 

Before you venture liei-e to pass, 
Take a good ivfreshing glass: 

while the returning wayfarer was cheered by : — 

Now this hill you'i-e s;\fely over, 
Prink, your spirits to recover. 

One personage, greatly daring, did in 1GS5 
succeed in passing his carriage over this height. 
This was the Viceroy, Henry, Earl of Clarendon. 
Avho. ill enough advised to try for Holyhead, 
embarked liis baggage at Chester, and essayed this 
perilous undertaking. '* If the Aveather be good," 
he wrote, before setting out, '* we go under the 
rocks in our coaches." But it was December, the 
weather was not good, and so they had to take to 
the hill-top. His Excellency had ample cause to 
regret the venture, for he was live hours travelling 
the fourteen miles between St. Asaph and Conway, 
and on the crossing of Penmaeumawr the ** great 
heavy coach " had to be drawn by the horses in 
single trace, while three oi* four sturdy AVelsli 
peasants, hii-ed for the job, pushed behind, so that 
it should not slip back. His Excellency walked 
all the way across, from Conway to Bangor, and 
Li\dy Clarendon was c<irried in a litter. How the 
Menai Straits were crossed does not appear, but 



2 2 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

there is evidence in the tone of his letters that he 
was astonished at last to find himself safely come 
to Holyhead. 

In 1660, on the Restoration, the law of 1657, 
constituting the Post Ofiice and regulating the 
letting of post-horses, was re-enacted. By some 
new provisions and amendments of old ones, 
travellers might now hire horses wherever they 
could if the postmasters could not supply them 
within half an hour. This concession, together 
with that wdiicli repealed the power given hy the 
earlier Act for horses to he seized, was evidently 
made in deference to the indignation of travellers 
delayed by lack of horses in the hands of the 
only persons who could legally hire them out, 
and hy the fury of private individuals who had 
seen their own choice animals not infrequently 
requisitioned in the King's name and hack- 
ridden unconscionable distances by travellers or 
King's messengers whose first and last thoughts 
were for speed, and who had not the consideration 
of an owner for the steeds that carried them. The 
term " postage," occurring in the Act of 1660, 
shows that a widely different meaning was then 
attached to the word : " Each horse's hire or 
postage " is a phrase that sufiiciently explains 
itself. 

Such Avere the methods and costs of riding horse- 
back when stage-coaching began. The Government 
monopoly, however, was infringed with increasing 
impunity as time went on, and as the letter- 
carrying business of the Post Office developed, so 



THE HORSEMEN 23 

was the " travelling post " allowed to decay. The 
growing niimher and increasing convenience of 
the coaches, too, helped to make the monopoly less 
valnahle, for Avlien travellers could he conveyed 
Avithout exertion by coach at from twopence to 
threepence a mile, they were not likely to pay 
threepence a mile and a guide's groat at every 
ten miles for the privilege of humping in the 
saddle all day long. Those who mostly continued 
in the saddle Avere the gentlemen who OAvned 
horses of their OAvn, or those others to Avhom the 
chance company of a coach Avas objectionable. 

The Post Office monopoly in post-horses Avas, 
accordingly, not Avorth preserving Avlien it Avas 
abolished by the Act of 1780. From that time 
the Postmasters-General ceased to have anything 
to do Avitli horse-hire, and anything lost by their 
relinquishing it Avas amply returned to the State 
by the ncAV license duties levied upon horse-keepers 
or postmasters, and coaches. A penny a mile Avas 
fixed as the Government duty upon horses let out 
for hire, AA^iether saddle-horses or to be used in 
post-chaises. All persons Avho made that a business 
— generally, of course, innkeepers — Avere to take 
out an annual five-shilling license, and were under 
obligation to paint in some conspicuous place on 
their houses " Licensed to let Post-Horses." In 
default of so doing the penalty was £5. As a 
check upon the business done, travellers hiring 
j^ost-horses Avere to be given a ticket, on Avhich the 
number of horses so hired, and the distance, Avere 
to be specified. These tickets Avere to be delivered 



24 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

to the turnpike-keeper at the first gate, and the 
vigilance of these officials was made a matter of 
self-interest hy the allowance to them of three- 
pence in the j^o^^nd on all tickets thus collected. 
At certain periods the tickets were delivered to 
the Stamp Office, and the innkeepers and post- 
masters themselves were visited by revenue 
officers, who required to see the books and the 
counterfoils from which these tickets had come. 

But the Government did not for any length 
of time directly collect these duties. They were 
farmed out by the Inland Revenue Department, 
just as the turnpike tolls were farmed by the 
Turnpike Trustees, and men grew rich by buying 
these tolls and duties at annual auctions, relying 
for their profit on the increased vigilance they 
would cause to be exercised. The Jews were 
early in this field. In the golden era of coaching 
a man named Levy farmed tolls and duties to the 
annual value of half a million sterling. 

But to return to our horsemen. In the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the country 
gentlemen, the members of Parliament, the judges 
on circuit, every hale and able-bodied man of means 
sufficient, rode his horse, or hired one on his 
journeys, for the reason that carriages could only 
slowly and Avith great difficulty and expense be 
made to move along the distant roads. The 
passage from Pennant's recollections, quoted at 
the head of this chapter, shows the miseries made 
light of by the single gentlemen, and endured by 
those married ones whose wives rode behind them 



THE HORSEMEN 25 

on a pillion and clutched them convulsively round 
the waist as the horse stumhled along. 

Nor did stage-coaches immediately change this 
time-honoured way of getting about the country, 
for there existed an aristocratic prejudice against 
using public vehicles. Offensive persons who 
never owned carriages of their OAvn were used to 
give themselves insufferable airs when journeying 
by coach, and hint, for the admiration or envy 
of their fellow -passengers, that an accident had 
happened to their own private equipage. Satirists 
of the time soon seized upon this contemptible 
resort of the snob, and used it to advantage in 
contemporary literature. Thus we find the com- 
mitteeman's wife in Sir Robert Howard's comedy 
explaining her presence in the Reading coach to 
be owing to her own carriage being disordered, 
adding that if her husband knew she had been 
obliged to ride in the stage he would " make the 
house too hot to hold some." 

Here and there we find excejitions to this 
general rule. In the coach passing through 
Preston in 1662, one Parker was fellow-traveller 
with " persons of great qualitie, such as knightes 
and ladyes " ; and on one occasion in 1682 the winter 
coach on its four days ' journey between Notting- 
ham and London had for passenger Sir Ralph 
Knight, of Langold, Yorks ; but the single gentle- 
men in good health continued for years after the 
introduction of stage-coaches to go on horseback, 
and when their families came to town they usually 
took the family chariot, and either contracted with 



2 6 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

stable-keepers for horses on the Avay, or else, 
taking their most poAverful horses from the plough, 
harnessed four or six of them to their private 
vehicle, and so, with the driving of their best 
ploughman, came to the capital in state, much to 
the amusement of the fashionables of Piccadilly 
and St. James's. 

We must, however, suppose, from the fury of 
Cresset's Heasons for ^'uppressing htage Coaches, of 
1662, that some of the less enersretic anions^ the 
country gentlemen had already succumbed to 
the discreditable practice of travelling in them. 
In his pages we leai-n something of AA'hat a 
horseman's life on the road was like, and Avhat 
he escaped by taking to the coach. The hardy 
race became soft and grievously enervated by the 
unwonted luxury ; their muscles slackened, and 
they developed an infirmity of purpose that 
rendered them no lons-er able to " endure frost, 
snow, or rain, or to lodge in the fields " — trifling 
inconveniences and incidents of travel which, it 
appears, they had previously been accustomed to 
support Avith that cheerfulness or resignation with 
Avhicli one faces the inevitable and incurable. 

But Cresset had other indictments, throwing a 
flood of light upon what the horseman endured in 
wear and tear of body, mind, and wearing apparel : 
" Most gentlemen, l)efore they travelled in 
coaches, used to ride with swords, belts, pistols, 
holsters, j^ortmanteaus and hat-cases, which in 
these coaches they have little or no use for ; for, 
when they rode on horseback, they rode in one 



THE HORSEMEN 27 

suit and carried another to wear \ylien they came 
to their journey's end, or lay by the way ; but 
in coaches a silk hat and an Indian gown, with 
a sash, silk stockings, and beaver hats, men ride 
in, and carry no other with them, because they 
escajoe the Avet and dirt, which on horseback they 
cannot avoid ; whereas, in two or three journeys 
on horseback these clothes and hats Avere wont 
to be sj)oiled; which done, they were forced to 
have new ones very often, and that increased the 
consumption of the manufactures and the em- 
jiloyment of the manufacturers ; which travelling 
in coaches doth in no way do." 

Fortunately, the biographical literature of our 
country is rich in records of the horsemen w^ho, 
still relying upon their oAvn exertions and those 
of their willing steeds, rode long distances and 
left the toiling stage leagues behind them at the 
close of each day's journey. Ralph Thoresby, of 
Leeds, a pious and God-fearing antiquary Avho 
flourished at this time, gives us, on the other 
hand, the spectacle of one avIio generally rode 
horseback trying the coach by Avay of a change. 
He had occasion to visit London in February 1688, 
and as there Avas at that time no coach service 
between Leeds and London, he rode from Leeds to 
York to catch the stage, which seems to have kept 
the road in this particular Avinter. He rose at five 
one Saturday morning, and AA'as at York by night, 
ready for the coach leaving for London on the 
Monday. Four years earlier he had scorned the 
coach, and did not noAv take it for sake of speed, 



2 8 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

for he commonly rode from Leeds to London in 
four days, and the York stage at this period of its 
career took six ; so, including the two days ex- 
pended in coming to York, he was clearly twice 
as long over the husiness. He looked forward to 
the coach journey Avith misgivings, " fearful of 
being confined to a coach for so many days with 
unsuitable persons and not one I know of." 

On other occasions, Avlien he rode horseback, 
his diary is rich with picturesque incident. He 
finds the waters out on the road between Ware 
and Cheshnnt, and waits until he and a party of 
other horsemen can be guided across by a, safe 
way, and so avoid the pitiful fate of a poor higgler, 
who blundered into the raging torrent where the 
road should have been, and Avas sAvept aAvay and 
droAvned. He loses his Avay frequently on the 
high-road ; shudders Avith apprehension AAdien 
crossing Witham Common, near Stamford, " the 
place where Sir Ralph Wharton sIcav the high- 
wayman " ; and, Avitli a companion, has a terrible 
fright at an inn at Topcliffe, Avhere they miss 
their pistols for a Avhile and suspect the inn- 
keeper of sinister designs against them. Hence, 
at the safe conclusion of every journey, with 
humble and heartfelt thanks he inscribes : " God 
be thanked for his mercies to me and my poor 
family ! " 

In 1715, when John Gay wrote his entertaining 
poem, A Journey to Exeter, describing the adven- 
tures of a party of horsemen Avho rode doAvn from 
London, things Avere, Ave may supjiose, much 



THE HORSEMEN 29 

hetter, for tlie travellers found amusement as well 
as toil on their way. 

They took five days to ride to Exeter. The 
first night they slept at Hartley How, 36 miles. 
The second day they left the modern route of 
the Exeter E-oad at Basingstoke, and, like some 
of the coaches ahout that time, struck out along 
the Winchester road as far as Popliam Lane, where 
they branched off across the downs to Sutton and 
Stockbridge, at which town they halted the night, 
after a day's journey of 30 miles. The third 
morning saw^ them making for Salisbury. MidAvay 
between Stockbridge and that city their road falls 
into the main road to Exeter. That night they 
were at Blandford. The fourth day took them to 
Axminster, and the fifth to Exeter : — 

'Twas on the day when city dames repair 

To take their weekly dose of Hyde Park air ; 

When forth we trot : no carts the road infest, 

For still on Sundays country horses rest. 

Thy gardens, Kensington, we leave unseen ; 

Through Hammersmith jog on to Turnham Green : 

That Turnham Green which dainty pigeons fed, 

But feeds no more, for Solomon is dead. 

Three dusty miles reach Brentford's tedious town. 

For dirty streets and white-legg'd chickens known : 

Thence o'er wide shrubby heaths and furrow'd lanes 

We come, where Thames divides the meads of Staines. 

We ferry'd o'er ; for late thie winter's flood 

Shook her frail bridge, and tore her piles of wood. 

Prepar'd for war, now Bagshot Heath we cross, 

Where broken gamesters oft repair their loss. 

At Hartley Bow the foaming bib we prest. 

While the fat landlord welcom'd ev'ry guest. 



3o STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

8uj)ptr was ended, healths the glasses cruwnM, 
Oav host extolled his wine at ev'iy round, 
Relates the Justices' late meeting there, 
How many bottles drank, and what their cheer ; 
What lords had been his guests in days of yore, 
And praised their wisdom much, their drinking more. 
******* 

Let travellers the morning's vigils keep : 
The morning rose, but we lay fast asleep. 
Twelve tedious miles we bore the sultry sun. 
And Popham lane w'as scarce in sight by one; 
The straggling village harbour'd thieves of old, 
'Tvvas here the stage-coach'd lass resigned her gold ; 
That gold which hud in London purchas'd gowns, 
And sent her home, a belle, to country towns. 
But robbers haunt no more the neighbouring wood ; 
Here unnamed infants find their daily food; 
For should the maiden mother nurse her son, 
'Twould spoil her match, when her good name is gone. 
Our jolly hostess nineteen children bore, 
Nor fail'd her breast to suckle nineteen more. 
Be just, ye pi-udes, wipe off the long aii-ear. 
Be virgins still in towns, but mothers here. 
Sutton we pass; and leave her spacious down, 
And with the setting sun reach Stockbridge town. 
O'er our parch'd tongues the rich metheglin glides, 
And the red daiuty trout our knife divides. 
Sad melancholy ev'ry visage wears ; 
What! no election come in seven long years! 
Of all our race of Mayors, shall Snow alone 
Be by Sir Bichard's dedication known ? 
Our streets no more with tides of ale shall float. 
Nor cobblers feast three years upon one vote. 
******* 

Next morn, twelve miles led o'er th' unbounded plain 
Where the doak'd shepherd guides his fleecy train. 
No leafy bow'rs a noontide shelter lend, 
Nor from the chilly dews at night defend ; 



THE HORSEMEN %\ 

With wondrous art he counts the straggl'ug Hock, 

And by the sun iufornis you what's o'clock. 

How are our shepherds fall'n from ancient days ! 

Ko Amaryllis chants alternate lays; 

From her no list'ning echoes learn to sing, 

Nor with his reed the jocund valleys ring. 

Here sheep the pasture hide, there harvests bend, 

See Sarum's steeple o'er yon hill ascend ; 

Our horses faintly trot beneath the heat, 

And our keen stomachs know the hour to eat. 

Who can forsake thy walls, and not admire 

The proud cathedral and the lofty spire ? 

What sempstress has not proved thy scissors good ? 

From hence first came th' intriguing riding-hood. 

Amid three boarding-schools well stock'd with misses, 

Shall three knight-errant s starve for want of kisses ? 

O'er the green turf the miles slide swift awa}'. 

And Blandford ends the labours of the day. 

******* 

The morning rose; the supper reck'ning paid. 
And our due fees dischajg'd to man and maid, 
The ready ostler near the stirrup stands. 
And as we mount, our halfpence load his hands. 
Now the steep hill fair Dorchester o'trlooks. 
Bordered by meads, and wash'd by .silver brooks. 
Here sleep my two companions, eyes supprest. 
And propt in elbow-chairs they snoring rest; 
1 weaiy sit, and with my pencil trace 
Their painful postures and their eyeless face ; 
Then dedicate each glass to some fair name. 
And on the sash the diamond scrawls my flame. 
Now o'er true Roman way our horses sound ; 
Grsevius would kneel and kiss the sacred gronnd. 
On either side fair fertile valleys lie, 
Tlie distant prospects tire the travelling eye. 
Through Bridport's stony lanes our route Ave take. 
And the pioud steep ascend to Morecombe's lake. 
As hearses pass'd, our landlord robb'd the pall. 
And with the mournful scutcheon hung his hall. 



32 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

On unadulterate wine we here regale, 

And strip the lobster of his scarlet mail. 

We climb'd the hills when starry night arose, 

And Axminster affords a kind repose. 

The maid, subdued by fees, her trunk unlocks, 

And gives the cleanly aid of dowlas smocks. 

Meantime our shirts her busy fingers rub, 

While the soap lathers o'er the foaming tub. 

If women's gear such pleasing dreams incite, 

Lend us your smocks, ye damsels, ev'ry night. 

We rise, our beards demand the barber's art ; 

A female enters, and performs the part. 

The weighty golden chain adorns her neck. 

And three gold rings her skilful hand bedeck ; 

Smooth o'er our chins her easy fingers move, 

Soft as when Venus strok'd the beard of Jove. 

Now from the steep, 'mid scatter'd cots and groves. 

Our eye through Honiton's fair valley roves. 

Behind us soon the busy town we leave, 

Where finest lace industrious lasses weave. 

Now swelling clouds roll'd on ; the rainy load 

Stream'd down our hats, and smoked along the road ; 

When (0 blest sight !) a friendly sign we spy'd. 

Our spurs are slacken'd from the horse's side ; 

For sure a civil host the house commancls. 

Upon whose sign this courteous motto stands — 

" This is the ancient hand, and eke the pen ; 

Here is for horses hay, and meat for men." 

How rhyme would flourish, did each son of fame 

Know his own genius, and direct his flame ! 

Then he that could not Epic flights rehearse 

Might svt^eetly mourn in Elegiac verse. 

But were his Muse for Elegy unfit. 

Perhaps a Distich might not strain his wit ; 

If Epigram offend, his harmless lines 

Might in gold letters swing on alehouse signs. 

Then Hobbinol might propagate his bays. 

And Tuttle-fields record his simple lays ; 



THit HORSEMEN 33 

Where rhymes like these might lure the nurses' eyes, 

While gaping infants squall for farthing pies. 

" Treat here, ye shepherds blithe, your damsels sweet, 

For pies and cheesecakes are for damsels meet." 

Then Maurus in his proper sphere might shine, 

And these proud numbers grace great William's sign ; — 

"This is the man, this the Nassovian, whom 

I named the brave deliverer to come." 

But now the driving gales suspend the rain. 

We mount our steeds, and Devon's city gain. 

Hail, happy native land ! — but I forbear 

What other counties must with envy hoar. 

Deau Swift, too, was a frequent traveller on 
horseback, particularly on the Chester and Holy- 
head road. He seems once to have tried the 
Chester stage, and ever after to have taken to 
the saddle. Eiding thus in 1710 from Chester 
to London in five days, he describes himself as 
" Aveary the first, almost dead the second, toler- 
able the third, and Avell enough the rest," but 
" glad enough of the fatigue, Avhicli has served 
for exercise." After making the journey from 
London to Holyhead and Dublin in 1726, he wrote 
to Pope, describing " the quick change " he had 
made in seven days from London to Dublin, 
" through many nations and languages unknown 
to the civilised Avorld." He had expected the 
enterprise, " with moderate fortune," to take ten 
or eleven days. " I have often reflected," he adds, 
" in how few hours, with a sAvift horse or a strong 
gale, a man may come among a people as unknown 
to him as the Antipodes." Swift Avas l)y no means 
indulging in playful banter Avlien he Avrote this. 
VOL. I. 3 



34 ^TAGIL-CO AC Ti AMD MAIL W DAYS OP YORE 

He folt a genuine cause for wonder in such 
expedition ; and certainly if the rustic speech of 
rural England was like a strange and nncivilised 
tongue, how much more strange and uncivilised 
the languages of Wahvs and Ireland must have 
sound (h1 ! 

The Dean's last recorded journey Avas made in 
September 1727. The little memorandum-hook, 
tattered and discoloured, in which he noted down 
many of its incidents is still in existence, and is 
not only a valuable document in the story of 
Swift's life, but is equally precious and interesting 
as an intimate record of the daily trials and 
troul)les of a traveller in those times, set down 
while he was still on his journey and thus echoing 
every passing feeling. Swift was in bad health 
and worse spirits when he \\'rote this diary at 
Holyhead, where he was detained for seven days 
by contrary winds. It was written for lack of 
employment afforded to a cultivated mind in 
the dreary little seaport, and under the influence 
of a great sorrow. " Stella " lay dying over in 
Ireland, and he, raging with impatience at Holy- 
head, filled his notebook Avith aimless scribbling. 
" All this to divert thinking," he writes, sadly, in 
the midst of it. 

The (u'iginal note])ook is still in existence, and 
is carefully ])reserved at the South Kensington 
Museum, to which it was bequeathc^d by John 
Porster. Inside its cover the handwriting of 
successive owners gives the relic an authentic 
pedigree, and Swift himself humorously declares 



THE HORSEMEN 35 

hoAV lie came into possession of tlie blank book : 
" This Look I stole from the llii-ht Honourable 
George Dodington, Esq., one of the Lords of the 
Treasury, hut the scrihl)ling-s are all my OAvn." 
This George Dodington was George Buhl) 
Dodington, afterwards Lord Melcomhe. 

On the first page are hastily-scrihhled memo- 
randa for appointments : "In Fleet Street, 
ahout a clerk of St. Patrick's Cathedral " ; 
" Spectacles for seventy years old " ; " Godfrey 
in Southampton Street " ; " Hungary waters and 
23alsy drops." 

Then the Dean left London, riding horseback, 
with his servant. Watt, for company on another 
nag, and carrying his master's travelling valise. 
The heavy luggage had been sent on by waggon 
to Chester. Watt, as we shall presently see, Avas 
a veritable Handy Andy, ahvays doing the Avrong 
thing, or the right thing in a Avrong Avay. SAvift 
carried the notebook in his pocket, Avithout Avriting 
anything of his journey in it until Holyhead Avas 
reached. 

A fcAV unfinished lines on an old cassock, 
out at elboAvs, preface the diary, Avliich begins 
abruptly : " Eriday at 11 in the morning I left 
Chester. It Avas Sept. 22, 1727. I baited at 
a blind alehouse 7 miles from Chester. I 
thence rode to Hidland (Rhuddlan), in all 22 
miles. I lay there : bred, bed, meat and tolerable 
wine. I left liidland a quarter after 4 morn on 
Saturday, slept on Penmanmaur (PenmaenmaAvr), 
examined about my sign verses the Inn is to 



36 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

be on t'other side, therefore the verses to he 
changed." * 

Here, on the verge of tlie wikl Welsh coast, 
the way was so uncertam and dangerous that 
travellers had of necessity to employ guides, who 
conducted them thence to Bangor, and across 
Anglesey to Holyhead. The roads in Anglesey 
were unworthy of the name, and only a little 
better than horse-tracks ; while the inhabitants 
of the isle spoke only Welsh, and understood 
not a word of English. Nearly two liundred 
years have passed, but although the roads 
have been made good, the folks of Anglesey 
speak English no more than they did then, 
when the guides acted the part of interpreters 
as well. 

Swift, therefore, is found at Conwaj^, men- 
tioning the guide who had already brought 
him safely over PenmaenmaAvr : "I baited at 
Conway, the guide going to another Inn; the 
maid of the old Inn saw me in the street and 
said that was my horse, she knew me. There I 
dined, and sent for Ned Holland, a Squire famous 
for being mentioned in Mr. Lyndsay's verses to 
Day Morice. I there again saw Hook's tomb, 
who was the 41st child of his mother, and had 
himself 27 children, he dyed about 1638. There 
is a note here that one of his posterity new 
furbished up the inscription. I had read in Abp. 
Williams' Life that he was l)uryed in an obscure 
Church in North Wales. I enquired, and heard 
* See p. 21. 



THE HORSEMEN 37 

that it was at * . . . Cliiircli, within a niile of 
Bangor, whither I was going. I Avent to the 
Church, the guide grumhling. I saw the Tomh 
with his Statue kneeling (in marble). It began 
thus (Hospes lege et relege quod in hoc obscuro 
sacello non expectares. Hie jacet omnium 
Praesulum celeberrimus). I came to Bangor and 
crossed the Perry, a mile from it, where there 
is an Inn, which, if it be well kept, will break 
Bangor. There I lay ; it was 22 miles from 
Holyhead." 

This was the " George " at Menai Straits, a 
house that until the building of Telford's suspen- 
sion bridge in 1825, flourished greatly on the 
traffic of tlie ferry that theu j^lied between it and 
the oj^posite shore. Large additions have been 
made to the hotel, but the original Aving that 
Swift knew is still in existence, and is a character- 
istic specimen of the architecture in vogue about 
the time of Queen Anne. 

Swift unfortunately tells us nothing of the 
actual crossing of the Straits. He must have 
l)een up at an unconscionable hour, for he was 
already on the Anglesey side by four o'clock the 
next morning, Sunday : "I was on horseback at 
^i in the morning resolving to be at Church at 
Holyhead, but we then lost Owain Tudor's tomb at 
Penmarry." This was Pelimynydd, a very steep 
and craggy place, whence came those Tndors who 
through the fortunate marriage of Owain Tudor 
came at last to the throne of England. 
* It was Llandegai. 



;,S STACF. (\).\(ll .\\n MAIL I X DAYS ()/' YOKE 

" W(^ passed tJic place," says Swiri, '' heiiii;' a 
lilile oiH (»r the way, by flie (Jiiide's kiiaNcry, wlio 
had IK) iiiiiid to slay. I was now so weary with 
ridiiii;' that I was forced to stop at Lan^aieveny 
( Lhiiii^'eriii), 7 miles IVoiii the l^'erry, and rest two 
hours, 'i'hen I went on \ery weary, hut in a. I'ew 
miles more Watt's horse lost his two fore-shoes. 
So the lloi-se was forced to limp after ns. The 
(Jnide was less concerned than I. In a few miles 
more my Horse lost a fore-shoe and eonid not i^o 
on the ro(d\ \ wa\s. I walked al)o\e two miles, 
to spare him. It was Siniday, and no Smith to 
he L;'ot . .\t last there was a Smith in the way: 
we left the (Inide to shoe the horses and walked 
to a, hedi^'c Inn W miles from Holyhead. There 
I stayed an lionr with no ale to l)e drunk. .V 
l)oat olVered, and I went hy sea and sayled in it 
to Holyhead. The (Jnide came ahoui \\w same 
time. I dined with an old I nn keeper, Mrs. Welch, 
al)oiit I>, oil a. Loyue of mutt(tii \v\-\ i^ood, l)ut the 
worst ale in the world, and no wine, foi- the day 
hefore I came here a vast nnmherwent to Ircdaiid 
afticr haviiii;- drunk out all the wine. There was 
stale l)e(M*, and I t r \ ed a rtn-eit of Oyster sludls 
whiidi I i^ot |)owdered on |)iii-pose ; hut it was 
i;'oo(l for nothiiii;'. I walked on ihe rocd^s in the 
cvenini;-, and then went to hed and dreamt I 
liad i»-ot 20 falls from m\ Horse. 

'* Momlaij, S,'/)/. L>:.. The ('ai)taiii talks of 
sailini;- at ll*. The talk i;'oes olV, the wind is fair, 
hut he sa\s it is too tierce. I h(die\e he wants 
more Companx. 1 had a raw Chicken for 



THE HORSEMEN 39 

dinner and lirandv with water for \\\\ drink. I 
walked nioriiini;' and at'ternooii ainoiiL;- the rocks. 
Tliis eveiiiiii;' AVatt tells me that inv laiid-Iadv 
whispered Iiiiii tliat the (Ji-aftoii |)a('k('t-l)o;»t just 
come in had hroiiulit iioi- is bottles of Irisli 
Chiret. I s('('iii-(m1 one, and siipjx'd on part of a 
neat's t()nu,'ue wliich a fri(?nd at liondon liad i;i\(Mi 
AVatt to ])iit up for in(\ and drank a ])int of the 
wine, which was Itad enoULih. Xot a son! is yet 
come to Jlolyliead, e.vcept a youni^' f(dh)w who 
smiles when lie meets me and would fain he my 
companion, hut it has not come to that yet, I 
Avrit ahiindance of verses this day ; and sevei'al 
useful hints, tho' 1 say it. I went to hed at ten 
and dreamt abundance of nonsense. 

Ti(('s<hiy 'liMli. — I am foi'ced to wear a shirt 
3 days for fear of heini;- lowsy. 1 was spai'iuL;' 
of them all the way. It was a nu'rcy there were 
6 clean when 1 left London ; otherwise AVatt 
(whose l)lundei-s wonid hear an history) would 
have got them all in the na-eat l')o\' of i^^oods which 
went hy the ("an-ier to ("liestei-. 1 1 e hi'ouuht hut 
one crevat, and the reason he i:,-a\'e was Ix^cause i he 
rest were foul and he thoui^-ht he should not ^•et 
foul linen into the I'ortmanteau. For he never 
dreamt it mi^-ht he washed on the way. Aly 
shirts are all foul now, and hy his i-easonini^- I 
fear he will leaxc them at Holyhead when we l;'(). 
I £^ot a small iioyn of nintton hut so tonL;-li I could 
not chew it. and drank my second pint of wine. 
I walked this moi-ninu' a i^ood way amoni^ the 
rocks, and t(j a hole in one of them from whence 



40 STAGE-COACff AXD ^fAIL IX DAYS OF YORE 

at cHM'taiii ]>tM-i()(Is tlio watm- spiirtrd up sex (>ral 
1'cet hiii'li. It rainoil all iui>'lit aiul liath raiiunl 
siiico diniun". But now the sun shines and I will 
take my at'teruoou walk. It was tiercor and 
wilder weatlun* than yesterday, yet the Captain now 
dreams of sailinii". To say tlu^ truth Michaelmas is 
the worst season in the year. Is this strang:e stuff ? 
Wliy, Avhat would you liave me do r I liave writ 
verses and ]mt d<n\ n hints till T am weary. I 
see no ertwture. I eannot ri\ul l)y eandh^-liii'ht. 
Sleepinu" u ill mak(^ nie siek. 1 reckon myself 
fixed lifr(\ and havi^ a mind like Marshall Tallard 
to take a house and g-arden. T wish you a Merry 
Christmas and expect to see yini hy Candlemas. 
I have walked this niorniuii: ahout 3 miles on 
the rocks : my s'iddiness. God he thanked, is almost 
gone and my heariuii' continui^s. I am now 
retired to my chamber to seribbh^ or sit 
humdrum. The nii^lit is t'air ami they iiret(Mul to 
have some hojies of going to-morrow. 

Soptomhev "I'oth. — Thoughts ui)on being confined 
at Holyhead, if this were to be my settlement 
during life I could content myself a while hy 
fmaning new conveniences to be easy, and should 
not bi> frighten(\l either by tlu> solitude or the 
meanness of lodging, eating or drinking. I shall 
say nothing ahout the suspense I am in about my 
dearest friend because that is a case extraordinary, 
and tluM'efore by way oi comfort. 1 will sjieak as 
if it A\ere not in my thoughts, and only as a 
2)asseuger who is in a scurvy, unprovided com- 
fortless place without one companion, and who 



THE nOKSE.VEX 41 

theivt'oiv ^\ants to he at lionu^ a\ Iumh^ Ih' liatli all 
convonieiicos proi)er for a i;vutleniaii of (quality. 
I cannot road at nii;'lit, and T liavc^ no hooks to 
read in tlio day. I have no suhjeet at present in 
my head to write upon. I dare not send my linen 
to he Avashed for fear of heing- called away at half 
an hour's warning, and then I must leave them 
heliind, which is a serious Point. I live at great 
(^xpense without one comfortahle hit or suj). 1 
am afraid of joyning Avitli ])assengers for fear of 
g-etting acquaintance Avith Irish. Tlie days are 
short and I have live hours a niglit to sjjend hy 
myself hefore I go to Bed. I should he glad to 
converse Avitli Farmers or shoj^keepers, hut none 
of them speak English. A Dog is hotter company 
than the Vicar, for I rememher him of old. AVhat 
can T do l)ut write everything' that comes into my 
liead ': AVatt is a boohy of that sj^ecies which I 
dare not suffer to he familiar Avith me, for he 
would ramp on my shoulders in half an hour. 
But the worst part is in my half-hourly longing, 
and hojies and vain ex2)ectations of a Avind, so that 
I live in susjieuse which is the worst circumstance 
of human nature. I am a little wrung from two 
scurvy disorders, and if I should relapse there is 
not a AVelsli house-cur that would not have more 
care taken of him than I, and whose loss would 
not he more lamented. I confine myself to my 
narroAV chamber in all unwalkahle hours. The 
Master of the jjacquet-hoat, one Jones, hath not 
treated me with the least civility, although AVatt 
gave him my name. In short I come from being 



42 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

used like an Emperor to he used worse than a Dog 
at Holyhead. Yet my hat is Avorn to pieces hy 
answering the civilities of the poor inhahitants as 
they pass hy. The women might he safe enough 
who all wear hats yet never pull them ofp, and if 
the dirty streets did not foul their petticoats by 
courtesying so Ioav. Look you ; be not impatient, 
for I only wait till my watch makes 10 and then 

1 will give you ease and myself sleep, if I can. 
O' my conscience you may knoAv a AVelsh dog as 
well as a Welsh man or woman, by its peevish 
passionate way of barking. This paper shall serve 
to answer all your questions about my journey, 
and I will have it printed to satisfy the kingdom. 
Forsau et haec oliui is a damned lye, for I shall 
always fret at the remembrance of this imprison- 
ment. Pray pity your Watt for he is called 
dunce, pnppy a.nd lyar 500 times an hour, and 
yet he means not ill for he means nothing. 
Oh for a dozen bottles of Deanery Avine and a slice 
of bread and butter ! The wine you sent us 
yesterday is a little upon the sour. I Avish you 
had chosen a better. I am going to bed at ten 
o'clock because I am weary of being up. 

" Wednesday. — To-day we were certainly to 
sayl : the morning AA^as calm. Watt and I walked 
up the mountain Marucia, properly called Holy- 
head or Sacrum Promontorium l)y Ptolemy, 

2 miles from this toAvn. I took breath 59 times. 
I looked from the top to see the WickloAV hills, but 
the day Avas too hazy, Avhich I felt to my sorroAV ; 
for returning we Avere overtaken by a furious 



THE HORSEMEN 43 

shower. I got into a Welsh cabin almost as l)ad 
as an Irish one. There were only an old Welsh 
woman sifting flour who understood no English, 
and a l)oy ayIio fell 'a roaring for fear of me. 
Watt (otherwise called unfortunate Jack) ran 
home for my coat, but stayed so long that I came 
home in worse rain without him, and he was so 
lucky to miss me, but took good care to convey 
the key of ni}^ room where a fire Avas ready for me. 
So I cooled my heels in the Parlour till he came, 
but called for a glass of Brandy. I have been 
cooking myself dry, and am now in my night 
goAvn. . . . And so I AA^ait for dinner. I shall 
dine like a King all alone, as I ha\'e done these 
six days. As it hapj^ened, if I had gone straight 
from Chester to Park-gate 8 miles I should have 
been in Dublin on Sunday last. Noav Michaelmas 
aj^proaches, the Avorst time in the year for the sea, 
and this rain has made these parts uuAvalkable, 
so I must either Avrite or doze. Bite, Avlien we 
Avere in the Avild cabin I order Watt to take a 
cloth and Avipe my wet goAvn and cassock : it 
happened to be a meal-bag, and as my goAvn dryed 
it Avas all daul3ed Avitli flour Avell cemented Avitli 
the rain. AYliat do I but see the gown and cassock 
Avell dryed in my room, and A\hile Watt Avas at 
dinner I Avas an hour rubbing the meal out of 
them, and did it exactly^ He is just come up, 
and I ha\'e gravely bid him take them doAvn to 
rub them, and I Avait Avhether he Avill find out 
AA^hat I haAX been doing. The Bogue is come up 
in six minutes, and says there Avere but few specks 



44 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

(tlio' he saAV a thousand at first), but neither 
wondered at it, nor seemed to suspect me who 
laboured like a horse to rub them out. The 3 
packet boats are now all on their side, and the 
weather grown worse, and so much rain that there 
is an end of my walking. I Avish you would send 
me word how I shall dispose of my time. I am 
as insignificant a person here as parson Brooke is 
in Dublin ; by my conscience I l^elieve Caesar 
would l3e the same Avithout his army at his l)ack. 
Well, the longer I stay here the more you Avill 
murmur for Avant of packets. WhocA^er AAould 
AA^sli to live long should Kac here, for a day is 
longer than a Aveek, and if the aa eather be foul, 
as long as a fortnight. Yet here I could Mac 
with two or three friends in a aa arm house and good 
wine ; much better than being a slave in Ireland. 
But my misery is that I am in the very AA^orst 
part of Wales under the very Avorst circumstances, 
afraid of a relapse, in utmost solitude, impatient 
for the condition of our friend, not a soul to 
converse Avith, hindered from exercise by rain, 
caged uji in a room not half so large as one of 
the Deanery closets ; my Boom smokes into the 
])argain, but the Aveather is too cold and moist 
to be Avithout a fire. There is or should be 
a proverb here : When Mrs. Welch's chimney 
smokes, 'Tis a sign she'll keep her folks. But 
Avhen of smoke the room is clear. It is a sign 
Ave shan't stay here. All this to divert thinking. 
Tell me, am not I a comfortable wag ? The 
Yatcht is to leave for Lord Carteret on the llth 



THE HORSEMEN 45 

of Octol)er. I fancy ho and I shall conic over 
together. I have opened my door to let in the 
wind that it may drive out the smoke. I asked 
the wind Avliy he is so cross ; he assures me 'tis 
not his fault, hut his cursed Master, Eolus's. 
Here is a young Jackanapes in the Inn Avaiting 
for a wind Avho Avould fain he my companion, and 
if I stay here much longer I am afraid all my 
pride and grandeur will truckle to comply with 
him, especially if I finish these leaves that remain ; 
hut I will write close and do as the Devil did at 
mass, pull the paper with my teeth to make it 
it hold out. 

" Thursday. — ^'Tis allowed that we learn patience 
hy sulfering. I have not spirit enough now left me 
to fret. I was so cunning these three last days that 
whenever I hegan to rage and storm at the weather 
I took special care to turn my face towards Ireland, 
in hope hy my hreath to push the wind forward. 
Eut now I give up. . . . AVell, it is now three in 
the afternoon. I have dined and revisited the 
master ; the Avind and tide serve, and I am just 
taking hoat to go to the ship. So adieu till I see 
you at the Deanery. 

''Friday, 3IicI/ael>nas Day. — You will now know 
something of Avhat it is to he at sea. We had not 
heen half an hour in the ship till a fierce wind rose 
directly against us ; we tryed a good while, hut the 
storm still continued ; so we turned hack, and it 
was 8 at night dark and rainy hefore the ship 
got hack, and at anchor. The other passengers 
Avent back in a boat to Holyhead ; but to prevent 



46 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

accidents and broken shins I lay all night on 
board, and came back this morning at 8. Am 
now in my chamber, where I must stay and get 
a fresh stock of patience." 

So ends this curious diary. This is the last 
time that Swift is known to have visited England, 
and it has always been assumed, from the lack of 
evidence of his again touching these shores, that 
he never did return. But he was mentally active 
until 1736, and it was not until 174^5 that he died, 

in madness and old 

"^ktve ou^ Ihree. age. Meanwhile, 

P , , , there still exists in- 

r^. ^ , disputable evidence 

^^y^WJj^ of his travelling 

^ Y^\ ec^^^vy^ 7c.wv along the Holyhead 

?W^(? Road in 1730; for 

'/3/^ an old diamond- 

EPIGRAM SCRATCHED WITH A DIAMONL- shapcd paUC Of O'hlSS, 
RING ON A WINDOW-PANK BY DEAN , O ' 

SWIFT. tor m e r 1 y in a 

window of the 
"Pour Crosses" Inn at Willoughby, and deeply 
tinged with a greenish hue, as much old glass 
commonly is, may be found in private possession 
at Rugby, inscribed by him with a diamond ring. 
The handwriting compares exactly Avith that of 
his diary and other manuscripts still extant, and 
the ferocity of the humour in the lines is charac- 
teristic of him. Other windows, at Chester and 
elsewhere, are known to have been insci'il3ed l^y 
him with epigrams and satirical verses, but they 
do not appear to have survived. The occasion of 



THE HORSEMEN- 47 

his oflPering this advice to the hindlord of Avhat was 
then the " Three Crosses " has always heen said to 
have heen the landlady's disregard of his import- 
ance. Anxions to set off early in the morning, he 
conld hy no means hurry the good woman over the 
preparation of his hreakfast. She told liiu; "he 
must wait, like other people." He waited, of 
necessity, hut employed the time in this manner. 

John Wesley was of this varied company of 
horsemen, and in a long series of years rode into 
every nook and corner of England. His " Jour- 
nal," abounding Avith details of his adventures on 
these occasions, proves him to have heen a hard 
rider and among the most robust and enduring of 
travellers in that age. He rode incredible dis- 
tances in the day, very frequently from sixty to 
seventy miles. Once, in 1738, he travelled in this 
Avay from London to Shipston-on iStour, a distance 
of 82| miles, and ended the long day, as usual 
Avith him, in religious counsel. "About eight," 
he says, " it being rainy and very dark, we lost 
our Avay, but before nine came into Shipston, 
having rode over, I know not hoAV, a narroAv 
footbridge Avhich lay across a deep ditch near the 
town. After supper I read prayers to the people 
of the inn, and explained the Second Lesson ; I 
hope not in vain." The next day this indefati- 
gable traveller and missioner rode 59 miles, to 
Birmingham, Hednesford, and Stafford ; and the 
next a further 53 miles, to Manchester, feeling 
faint (and no Avonder !) on the Avay, at Altrincham. 
In November 1745, riding from NcAvcastle-on- 



48 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Tyne to Wednesbury, he did not experience many 
difficulties until he came, in the dark, to Wednes- 
bury Town-end, where he and his comj^anion 
stuck fast. That is indeed a bad road in which 
a horse sticks. However, j^^ople coming Avith 
candles, Wesley himself got out of the quagmire 
and went off to preach, Avliile the horses were 
disengaged from their awkward jiosition by local 
experts. The spot where Wesley Avas bogged is 
now a broad and firm macadamised road through 
Wednesbury, part of the great Holyhead Road. 
Eighteen years before this happening, an Act of 
Parliament had been passed for repairing and 
turnpiking the road between Wednesbury and 
Birmingham ; but, although the turnj)ike gates 
may have been in existence, the road itself cer- 
tainly does not seem to have been repaired, and 
must have remained in the condition described 
in the preamble to that Act, when it was " so 
ruinous and bad that in the winter season many 
parts thereof are impassal3le for Avaggons and 
carriages, and very dangerous for travellers." At 
the same time, the road on the other side of 
Wednesbury Avas "in a ruinous condition, and 
in some places very narroAv and incommodious " ; 
so it is evident that Wednesbury Avas in the 
unenviable but by no means unique position of 
l)eing islanded amid execrable and scarcely 
jiracticable roads. 

In his old age Wesley occasionally made use 
of coaches and chaises, Avliich Avere then a great 
deal better and more numerous than they had 



THE HORSEMEN 49 

been forty years earlier, Avlieii he commenced his 
labonrs ; but he did not give up the saddle until 
very near the last. In 1779, being then in his 
seventy-seventh year, he was still so active that 
on one day he rode from Worcester to Bi-econ, 
sixty miles, and preached on his arrival there. 
In 1782, when eighty, he still travelled, according 
to his own computation, four or five thousand 
miles a year, rose early, preached, and possessed 
the faculty of sleeping, night or day, Avhenever he 
desired to do so. When he began to travel he 
rose at the most astonishing hours — hours un- 
known even to the early-rising, hard -riding, hard- 
living travellers of that time. Let us look at his 
record for Pebruary 1746, along the Great North 
Hoad : — ■ 

" \Wi Fehniary. — I rose soon after three. I 
was wondering the day before at the mildness of 
the weather, such as seldom attends me in my 
journeys ; but my wonder noAV ceased. The wind 
Avas turned full north, and blew so exceeding hard 
and keen that when Ave came (from London) to 
Hatfield neither my companions nor I had much 
use of our hands or feet. After resting an hour, 
Ave bore up again through the Avind and snow, 
Avhicli drove full in our faces ; but this Avas only 
a squall. In Baldock fiekl the storm began in 
earnest ; the large hail drove so vehemently in our 
faces that we could not see, nor hardly breathe ; 
hoAvever, before two o'clock Ave reached Baldock, 
Avliere one met and conducted us safe to Potton. 
About six I preached to a serious congregation. 
VOL. I. 4 



50 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

" Yltli. — ^We set out as soon as it was well 
light ; but it was hard work to get forward, for 
the frost would not well break or bear ; and, the 
untracked snow covering all the roads, we had 
much ado to keep our horses on their feet. Mean- 
time the wind rose higher and higher, till it was 
ready to overturn both man and beast. However, 
after a short bait at Bugden, Ave pushed on, and 
were met in the middle of an open field with so 
violent a storm of rain and hail as we had not had 
before ; it drove through our coats, great and 
small, boots, and everything, and yet froze as it 
fell, even upon our eyebrows, so that we had 
scarce either strength or motion left when Ave 
came into our inn at Stilton. 

" We now gave up our hopes of reaching 
Grrantham, the snoAV falling faster and faster. 
However, we took the advantage of a fair blast 
to set out, and made the best of our way to 
Stamford Heath ; but here a new difficulty arose 
from the snoAV lying in large drifts. Sometimes 
horse and man were Avell nigh swallowed up, 
yet in less than an hour avc Avere lu'ought safe 
to Stamford. Being Avilling to get as far as we 
could, Ave made but a short stop here ; and about 
sunset came, cold and AA^eary, but avcII, to a little 
town called Brig Casterton. 

" 18^//. — Our servant came up and said, ' Sir, 
there is no travelling to-day ; such a quantity of 
snow has fallen in the night that the roads are 
quite filled up.' I told him, 'At least we can 
Avalk tAventy miles a day, Avith our horses in our 



THE HORSEMEN 51 

hands.' So in the name of God we set out. The 
north-east Avind was piercing as a sword, and had 
driven the snow into such uneven heaps that the 
main road was not passable. However, we kept 
on on foot or on horseback, till we came to the 
White Lion at Grantham" — from whence Mr. 
Wesley continued his journey to Ep worth, his 
birthplace, in Lincolnshire. 

Wesley's economy of time and his methods 
when riding are indicated in an interesting way 
in his observations on horsemanship : — 

" I went on sloA\'ly, through Staffordshire and 
Cheshire, to Manchester. In this journey, as well 
as in many others, I observed a mistake that 
almost universally prevails ; and I desire all 
travellers to take good notice of it, which may 
save them both from trouble and danger. Near 
thirty years ago 1 was thinking, ' How is it that 
no horse ever stumbles while I am reading ? ' 
(History, poetry, and philosophy, I commonly 
read on horseback, having other employment at 
other times.) No account can possibly be given 
but this— because when I throw the reins on his 
neck, I set myself to observe : and I aver that in 
riding above a hundred thousand miles, I scarce 
ever remember any horse, except two, (that would 
fall head over heels any way,) to fall, or make a 
considerable stumble, while I rode with a slack 
rein. To fancy, therefore, that a tight rein pre- 
vents stumbling is a capital blunder. I have 
repeated the trial more frequently than most 
men in the kingdom can do. A slack rein will 



52 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

prevent stumbling, if anything will, but in some 
horses nothing can." 

Dr. Johnson's is a figure more often associated 
with coach and chaise travelling than with horse- 
manship, but in his younger days he could ride 
horseback with the best. He only lacked the 
money to afford it. His wedding-day — when he 
took the first opportunity of teaching his Tetty 
marital discipline — was passed in a journey from 
Derby. His wife rode one horse and he another. 
" Sir," he said, a few years later, " she had read 
the old romances, and had got into her head the 
fantastical notion that a woman of spirit should 
use her husband like a dog. So, sir, at first she 
told me that I rode too fast, and she could not 
keep up Avitli me ; and when I rode a little slower 
she passed me and complained that I lagged 
behind. I was not to be made the slave of 
caprice, and I resolved to begin as I meant to 
end. I therefore pushed on briskly, till I Avas 
fairly out of her sight. The road lay between 
two hedges, so I was sure she could not miss 
it ; and I contrived that she should soon come 
up with me. When she did, I observed her to be 
in tears." 

It has already been noted that judges and 
barristers formerly rode circuit on horseback. As 
Pielding says, "a grave serjeant-at-law con- 
descended to amble to Westminster on an easy 
pad, with his clerk kicking his heels behind 
him." In such cases, and when a lady rode 
pillion behind her squire, clutching him by the 



THE HORSEMEN- 53 

waistbelt, the " double horse " was used. This, 
which was by no means a zoological freak, Avas 
the type of horse asked for and supplied by 
postmasters to two riders going in this fashion 
on one animal. Like the brewers' double stout, 
the " double horse " was specially strong, and 
possessed more the physique of the cart-horse 
than the park hack. It Avas chiefly for the use of 
the ladies thus riding that the " upping blocks," 
or stone steps, still occasionally seen outside old 
rustic inns, were placed beside the road. They 
enabled them to get comfortably seated. 

Travellers from Scotland to London about the 
middle of the eighteenth century were accustomed 
to advertise for a companion. Thus, in the Edm- 
hnrgli Courant for January 1st, 1753, we tind : — 

" A Gentleman fets off for London Tomorrow 
Morning, and will either j^oft it on horfes or a 
Poft-Chaife, fo wants a Companion. He is to be 
found at the Shop of Mr. Sands, Bookfeller." 

It was then generally found cheap, and some- 
times profitable as well, to buy a horse when 
starting from Edinburgh, and to sell him on 
arrival in London. Prices being higher in the 
Metropolis, the canny travellers who adopted this 
plan often got more for the horse than they had 
given. This method had, .however, the defect of 
not working in reverse, and so those Scots who 
returned would have had to hire at some con- 
siderable expense, or buy dear to sell cheap, a 
thing peculiarly abhorrent to the Scottish mind. 
-L'r. Johnson would have characteristically brushed 



54 STAGE-COACH AND mAiL IN DAYS OF YORE 

this argument away by declaring tliat the Scot 
never did return. 

During many long years Scots travelling in 
their own country followed an equally economical 
plan. "The Scotch gentry," said Thomas Kirke 
in 1679, " generally travel from one friend's house 
to another ; so seldom require a change-house. 
Their way is to hire a horse and a man for two- 
pence a mile; they ride on the horse thirty or 
forty miles a day, and the man who is his guide 
foots it beside him, and carries his luggage to 
boot. The " change-house " was, of course, an 
inn ; and from this custom, when every man's 
house was an hotel, the Scottish inns long remained 
very inferior places. 

Yielding throws a very instructive light upon 
the device hit upon l)y any two travellers who 
wished to go together and yet had only one horse 
between them. This was called " Eide and Tie." 
He says : " The two travellers set out together, 
one on horseback, the other on foot. Now, as it 
generally happens that he on horseback outgoes 
him on foot, the custom is, that when he arrives 
at the distance agreed on, he is to dismount, tie 
the horse to some gate, tree, post, or other thing, 
and then proceed on foot ; when the other comes 
up to the horse, he unties him, mounts, and 
gallops on, till, having passed by his fellow- 
traveller, he likewise arrives at the place of tying. 
And this is that method of travelling so much in 
use among our prudent ancestors, who knew that 
horses had mouths as well as legs, and that they 



THE HORSEMEN- 55 

Could not use the latter without being at the 
expense of suftering the heasts themselves to use 
the former." 

Not until the first decade of the nineteenth 
century had gone ])y did the horseman wholly 
disappear from the road into or on to the coaches. 
Let us attem^^t to fix the date, and j^ut it at 1820, 
when the fast coaches began to go at a pace equal 
or superior to that of the saddle-horse. The 
curious may even yet see the combined upping- 
blocks and milestones placed for the use of horse- 
men on the road across Dunsmore Heath. 

In thus giving 1820 as the date of the horse- 
man's final disajipearance, it need not be supposed 
that Cobbett and his Bural Rides are forgotten, 
He covered England on horseback some years 
later, but his journeys are not on all fours Avith 
those of the horsemen whose only desire was 
quickly to get from start to finish of their 
journeys. He halted by the way, and from the 
vantage-point of the saddle cast a keenly scruti- 
nising eye upon the agricultural methods of the 
various districts, as seen across the toj^s of hedge- 
roAvs, or delayed his travels to harangue the 
farmers on market-days. Nor is the existence 
forgotten of those country gentlemen and City 
merchants Avho, seventy years ago, rode to and 
from the City on horseback ; but they also formed 
an exception. Already, by some ten years or so, 
the commercial travellers, as a l)ody, had left the 
saddle and taken to Avhat Avas, in its first incep- 
tion, essentially the vehicle of the commercial 



56 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

representative. This was the " gig-" The gig 
at once became a favourite middle-class convey- 
ance. Thurtell, the flashy betting-man, vulgar 
rone, and murderer, Avas thought by a witness " a 
respectable man : he kept a gig." This aroused 
the scorn of Carlyle, avIio coined the word 
" gigmanity." 

The early commercial travellers, in fact, were 
long known as "riders," from their custom of 
riding horseback from town to town, sometimes 
with a led pack-horse when their samples were 
unusually Inilky or heavy. The " London riders " 
sometimes found mentioned in old literature were 
therefore London commercials. The successive 
names by which these " ambassadors of commerce," 
as they have sometimes been grandiloquently 
styled, were known are themselves highly illumi- 
nating. They were, in succession, "bagmen," 
"riders," "travellers," and "commercial gentle- 
men." They are now " representatives." 



CHAPTER III 

DAWN OF THE COACHING AGE 

Meanwhile the first stage-coaches had been put 
upon the chief roads out of London, and had 
begun to ply betAveen the capital and the principal 
towns. Stage-coaches are, on insufficient authority, 
said to have begun about 1640, but no particulars 
are available in support of that statement, and in 
considering this point we are bound to look into 
the social state of England at that time, and to 
consider the likelihood or otherwise of a public 
service of coaches being continued throughout 
those stormy years which preceded, accompanied, 
and followed the great Civil War that opened 
with the raising of the King's standard at Not- 
tingham in 1042, and ended with the Battle of 
Naseby in June 1645. That victory ended the 
war in favour of the Parliament men, but the 
political troubles and their attendant social dis- 
placements continued. 

It has been said that hawking parties pursued 
their sport between the opposed armies on Marston 
Moor, and the inference has been drawn that the 
nation was not disturbed to its depths by what we 
are usually persuaded was a tremendous struggle 
between King and Parliament. Certainly the 



58 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

Associated Counties of East Anglia were little 
att'ected by the contest, but theirs was an excep- 
tional exj^erience, l)rouglit al)out l)y that associa- 
tion, entered upon for mutual protection against 
either side, and to prevent the scene of warfare 
being pitched within those limits. It is not likely 
that any service of coaches ran in the disturbed 
period, when confidence was so rudely shaken ; and 
it was not until the Commonwealth had been 
established some years that the first coaching 
advertisement of Avhich Ave have any knowledge 
appeared. 

In writing thus, it is not forgotten that some- 
where about the year 1610 a foreiii^ner from the 
wilds of Pomerania obtained a Royal patent grant- 
ing him, for the term of fifteen years, the exclusive 
right of running coaches or waggons between 
Edinburgh and Leith. We have no details of this 
purely local service, but it is to be sujiposed that 
it was little more than a stage- waggon carrying 
goods and passengers too infirm to ride horseback 
between Edinburgh and its seaport. We are 
equally ignorant of the length of time the service 
lasted. 

The next reference to stage-coaches is equally 
detached and inconclusive. It is found in a 
booklet issued by John Taylor, describing a 
journey he made to the Isle of Wight in 1648. 
He and his party set out on Octol)er 19th to see 
the captive Charles the Eirst, their " gracious 
Soveraigne, afilicted Lord and Master," im- 
prisoned at Carisbrooke Castle. They " hired the 



JDAIVN OF THE COACHING AGE ^9 

Southami^ton Coacli, Avliicli comes weekly to the 
Eose, near Holborn Bridge " — a statement that at 
least proves the existence of a pul)lic yehicle of 
sorts. Bnt it is the first and h\st reference to the 
Sontham^iton Coach that has come down these two 
hundred and fifty-odd years. If Tayk)r tells us 
nothing of its history, he at least gives a descrip- 
tion of the journey that retains something of its 
original amusing qualities, and, with the lapse of 
time, becomes something of an historic docu- 
ment : — 

We took our coach, two coachmen and four horses, 

And uieirily from London made our courses. 

We wheel'd the top of th' heavy hill call'd Holborne 

(Up which hath been full many a sinful soule borne), 

And so along we jolted past St. Gileses, 

Which place from Braiuford six (or neare) seven miles is. 

To Stanes that night at five o'clock ^^e coasted, 

W'here (at the Bush) we had bakVl, boyl'd, and rcasted. 

Bright .Sol's illustrious Rajes the day adorning, 

We past Bagshot and Bawwaw Friday morning. 

That night we lodg'd at the White Hart at Alton, 

And had good meate — a table with a salt on. 

Next morn w'arose with blushing cheek'd Aurora ; 

The wayes were faire, but not so faire as Flora, 

For Flora was a goddesse, and a woman, 

And (like the highwayes) to all men was Common. 

Our Horses, with the Coach, which we went into, 

Did hurry us amaine, through thick and thine too ; 

With fiery speede, the foaming bit they champt on, 

And brought us to the Dolphin at Southampton. 

Southampton, eighty miles from their starting- 
point, was therefore a three days' journey in the 
autumn of 164<8. That they were careful not to 



6o STAGE-CO ACB AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

be on the road after dark is evident from the time 
they got to Staines, the first stojiping-phxce. The 
sun sets at exactly 5 p.m. on October 19th. 

The reference to a place called " Bawwaw," 
lietween Bagshot and Alton, is not to be explained 
by any scrutiny of maj^s. 

Thenceforward until 1657 stage-coaches are not 
mentioned in the literature of the age, and we set 
foot upon firm ground only with the advertisement 
in the Mercurius PoUticus of April 9th in that 
year :— 

" 1^0 R t/ie co)ivenie7it acconiniodation of Paffoigers 
from attd betwixt the Cities of London and 
WeflcheRer, there is provided fevered Stage- Coaches 
ivhich go from the George Inn without Alderfgate 
itpon every Moiiday, Wednefday, and Friday to 
Coventry, /;/ Tivo days for Twe?ity five fhiilings, 
to Stone in Three days for Thirty f hill i?igs, and to 
Chefler in Four days for Thirty five fhiilings, and 
from thence to return upon the fame days ; which is 
performed with much safety to the Faffengers, having 
frefh Horfes once a day. In Mondays Intelligence 
lafl the feverall fims and rates ivere ly the Frititer 
miflaken." 

The objective of the first stage-coach ever 
established being Chester naturally provokes in- 
quiry. There seems to have been no other stage 
upon any road in that pioneer year. The j^re- 
ference for Chester argues a large traffic already 
existing on that road : men riding joost-horses, 
women riding j^illion behind friends, relatives, or 
servants, or possibly in some stage-waggon whose 
historv has not come down to us. The coach can 



DAJVJV OF THE COACHING AGE 6i 

only have been established to satisfy a pre-existent 
demand. The question Avhy there should have 
been more travellers on this route than any other 
is answered in this being the road to Ireland 
then generally followed, and Chester itself the 
port of embarkation for that country. Coventry 
and Stone were only served incidentally. 

The following spring witnessed an amazing burst 
of coaching activity, for the Mercuvlns Politi 



ciis 



in April contained an advertisement announcing 
stage-coaches on the Exeter and Great North roads, 
to begin on the 26th of that month. They ran from 
the "George" Inn, Aldersgate Street Without:— 

"On Mondays, Wednesdays and Eridays to 
Salisbury in two days for xx^ Blandford and 
Dorchester in two days and a half for xxx', 
Burput in three days for xxx', and Exmaster, 
Hunnington, and Exeter in four days for xl'. 

"Stamford in two days for xx^ Newark in 
two days and a half for xxx% Doncaster and 
Eerribridge for xxxv% and York in four days 
for XL\" 

Every Monday and Wednesday others Avere to 
set forth for, 

" Ockinton and Plimouth for L-. 

" Edinburgh, once a fortnight for £i apeece. 

"Darneton and Eerryhill for l, Durham for 
LV', and Newark for £iii." 

Every Eriday, 
" To Wakefield in four days for xl'." 

This advertisement then concluded by inviting 
passengers to another " George " Inn : — 



62 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IX DAYS OF YORE 

" Let them re2:)air to the George Inn on Hol- 
borii Bridge, and they shall he in good Coaches 
with good Horses at and for reasonable rates, 
to Salishury, Blandford, Exmaster, Hunnington, 
Exeter, Ockinton, Plimouth, and Cornwal." 

The extraordinarily misspelt names of some of 
the j^laces mentioned in these notices show how' 
ill-known the country then was. Por " Burput " 
we must read Bridport ; for " Hunnington," Honi- 
ton; and for "Exmaster," Axminster; "Ockin- 
ton" is j^robahly Okehampton. 

At this time, and for yery many years yet to 
come, the stage-coaches Ayere strictly fair-weather 
seryices. With eyery recurrent spring they were 
brought out from their retirement, and so early 
as Michaelmas were taken off the roads and laid 
up for the winter. HoAy the pioneer coach to 
Chester fared in its second season is hid from us, 
but the announcement of its third year, in 1659, 
is instructiye : — ■ 

" These are to giye notice, that from the 
George Inn, without Aldersgate, goes eyery 
Monday and Thursday a coach and four able 
horses, to carry passengers to Chester in fiye 
days, likewise to Coyentry, Cosell (Coleshill), 
Cank, Litchfield, Stone, or to Birmingham, 
Wolyerhampton, Shrewsbury, Xewport, AVhit- 
cliurch, and Holywell, at reasonable rates, by us, 
who haye performed it two years. 

" AViLLIAM DUXSTAX. 

"Henry Earle. 
"William Eowler." 



DAWN OF THE COACHING AGE 63 

It now took a day lono;er to reach Chester — 
assuming' that the promise to perform the journey 
in four days ever was kept ; and it will be 
observed that Birmingham, Shrewsbury, and other 
places, on a different route than that through 
Lichfield and Stone, are named in the manner of 
an alternative. The Chester stage of this year, 
in fact, varied its itinerary to suit its passengers. 
The "by us, who have performed it two years," 
looks suspiciously like an opposition already 
threatened; while the "four able horses" insisted 
on (but not mentioned in the first announcement) 
reads like an imjirovement upon a former team 
that was not able. Those, of course, were times 
before horses Avere generally changed on the 
way, and the same long-suffering beasts that 
dragged the coaches from London often brought 
them to their destination. According to the first 
advertisement of this Chester stage, quoted above, 
this particular coach was an exception to the 
usual 2^i"^ctice, and actually had fresh horses once 
a day. 

A stage seems to have plied between London 
and Oxford in 1661, but new coaches for a time 
were few, and it is said that there were but six 
in 1662. In the folloAving year a coach of sorts 
ran from Preston in Lancashire to London ; and, 
as may be gathered from a letter from Edward 
Parker to his father, it was a very primitive 
contrivance : — 

" I got to London on Saturday last ; my 
journey was noe way pleasant, being forced to 



64 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

ride in the boote all the waye. The company 
y* came np with mee were persons of greate 
qualitie, as knightes and ladyes. My journey's 
expense was 30'. This travel! hath soe indisposed 
mee, y* I am resolved never to ride up againe 
in y^ coatche. I am extremely liott and feverish. 
What this may tend to I know not. I have not 
as yet advised my doctor." 

Our natural curiosity on that head cannot 
he satisfied, for the Parker corresj^ondence ends 
abruptly there ; but we fear the worst. Eeading 
that testimony to the quality of early coach- 
travelling, we may find it not altogether without 
significance that from this year forAvard to 16G7 
little is heard of coaches. Perhaps those who 
gave the early ones a trial Avere glad to get back 
to their saddles and ride horseback again. How- 
ever that may be, certainly coaching history, 
except by inference, is in those years a blank. 
We may infer services to other towns from oblique 
and scattered references, but direct information is 
lacking. That a stage-coach — or possibly more 
than one — was on the road between London and 
Norwich in 1665 is to be gathered from the 
proclamation issued in that East Anglian city 
on July 20tli of that terrible year of the Great 
Plague, Avliich destroyed half the population of 
London : " Prom this dale," ran that ordinance, 
" all ye passage coaches shall be prohibited to goe 
from ye city to London, and come from thence 
hither, and also ye common carts and wagons." 
Alreadv, before that notice was issued, Avavfarers 



DAJVN OF THE COACHING AGE 65 

from that doomed city had heen struck down l^y 
the deadly and mysterious disease, and at Norwich 
itself travellers hailing from the centre of 
infection had died, swiftly and in circumstances 
that struck terror into the hearts of the people. 
Not that plagues were things unknoAvn ; for 
Hohson, the Caml)ridge carrier, had died from the 
vexation and enforced idleness of the Camhridge 
edict of 1631, forbidding intercourse with London, 
even then ravaged with an infectious disorder. 

What were the first stage-coaches like ? 

If we are to credit Taylor's description of 
the earliest coaches, some of them must have 
resembled the present Irish jaunting-car, or 
Bianconi's mid-nineteenth century coaches, in the 
manner of carrying passengers. He tells us, in 
his fanciful way, that a coach, "like a perpetual 
cheater, wears two bootes and no spurs, some- 
times having tAvo pairs of legs to one boote, and 
oftentimes (against nature) it makes faire ladies 
weare the boote ; and if you note, they are carried 
back to back, like people surprised by pyrats, to 
be tyed in that miserable manner, and thrown 
overboard into the sea. Moreover, it makes j^eople 
imitate sea-crabs, in being drawn sideways, as 
they are when they sit in the boot of the coach ; 
and it is a dangerous kind of carriage for the 
commonwealth, if it be considered." This boot, 
or this pair of boots — which did not in the least 
resemble, in shape or position, the fore and hind 
boots of a later age — was a method of carrying 
the outsides in days before the imj^rovement of 
VOL. I. 5 



66 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

roads rendered it possible for any one to ride on 
the roof without incurring the danger of being 
flung off. No illustration of this type of coach 
has ever been found, but it seems possible that 
the back-to-back boots, to carry four, were built 
on to the hinder part of the coach, and really 
formed the first attem2)t to carry outsides. 

This type of coach described by Taylor must 
have been freakish and ephemeral. Those in 
general use were very different, resembling in 
their construction the private carriages and 
London hackney-coaches of the lime, and vary- 
ing from them only in being built to hold a 
number of peojDle — usually six, but on occasion 
eight. In Sir Robert Howard's comedy. The 
Committee, printed in 1665, the Reading coach 
brings six passengers to London. 

The body was covered with stout leather, 
nailed on to the frame with broad-headed nails, 
whose shining heads, gilt or silvered, picked out 
the general lines of the structure, and were 
considered to give a pleasing decorative effect. 
Windows and doors were at first unknown. In 
their stead were curtains and wooden shutters, 
so that the interior of an early coach on a wet 
or chilly day, when the curtains were drawn, 
must have been a close and dismal place. It 
was this feature that gave Taylor an opportunity 
of comparing a coach with a hypocrite : "It is 
a close hypocrite, for it hath a cover for knavery 
and curtains to vaile and shadow any wickedness." 
The first vehicle with glass windows was the 



DAJViV OF THE COACHING AGE 67 

private carriage of the Duke of York, in 1(3G1, 
and we do not begin to hear of glazed windows 
in stage-coaches until the beginning of the 
eighteenth century, Avhen " glass coaches " were 
announced. It is, indeed, unlikely that glass 
could in any case have been introduced for the 
jiurjiose of country travelling at an earlier date, 
for it Avould need to have been of extraordinary 
strength and thickness to survive the shocks and 
crashes of travel of this period. 

All these vehicles were low hung, for the 
heavy body, slung by massive leather braces 
from the uj^right posts springing from the axle- 
trees of front and hind wheels, Avas too responsive 
to any and every rut and irregularity of the road 
to be placed at the height to which the coaches 
of a century later attained. 

In the excessive jolting then incidental to 
travelling, the body of a coach swayed laterally 
to such an extent that it Avould often swing, in 
the manner of a pendulum, quite clear of the 
underworks. Occupants of coaches were thus 
often afflicted with nausea, not unlike that of 
sea-sickness, and to be " coached " Avas at that 
time an exj^ression Avhich meant the getting used 
to a violent motion at first most emphatically 
resented by the human stomach. 

Although the body of a coach enjoyed a wide 
range of motion sideAAays, it had not by any means 
the same freedom back and forth. A severe strain, 
in the continual plunging and jolting, Avas there- 
fore throAvn upon the suj)i)orting uprights, so that 



68 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

they not iiifroqiiontly ij^avc way under the ordeal, 
and suddenly threw passen£^ers and coachman in 
one common heaji of ruin. To aid him in makini;' 
such roadside repairs as these and otlier early de- 
fects of construction often rendered necessary, the 
coachman carried with him a hox of tools placed 
under his seat, and it is from this circumstance 
that the name of " hammercloth " — the hangings 
decorating the coachman's seat on many a State 
carriage — was derived. 

Bad as was the situation of the passengers, that 
of the coachman was infinitely worse. His was a 
seat of torture, for it was placed immediately over 
the front pair of wheels, and, totally unprovided 
with springs, transmitted to his hody the full 
force of every shock Avith which those wheels 
descended into holes or encountered stones. 

In 16G7 a London and Oxford coach is found, 
performing the fifty-four miles in two days, 
halting for the intervening night at Beaconsfield ; 
and in the same year the original Bath coach 
appears, in this portentous announcement : — 

" FLYING MACHINE. 

" All those desirous to pass from London 
to Bath, or any other Place on their 
Road, let them repair to the ' Bell 
Savage ' on Ludgate Hill in London, 
and the ' White Lion ' at Bath, at 
Loth which places they may be 
received in a Stage Coach every 
Mondav, Wednesday, and Friday, 



DAWN OF THE COACHING AGE 69 

which performs the Whole Journey 
in Three Days (if God permit), and 
sets forth at five o'clock in the 
morning. 
" Passengers to pay One Pound five 
Shillings each, Avho are allowed to 
carry fourteen Pounds Weight— for 
all above to pay three-halfx^ence per 
Pound." 

This is the first appearance of the epithet 
" Flying " in the literature of coaches. Possibly 
it was used in this first instance in order to dis- 
tinguish the new conveyance from a stage-waggon 
that must for many years before have gone the 
journey, as well as to justify the higher fare 
charged by the new vehicle. The waggon would 
have conveyed passengers at anything from a 
halfpenny to a penny a mile ; by " Plying 
Machine " it came to threepence. The term 
" Plying," for a coach that consumed three days 
in performing a journey of 109 miles, raises a 
smile; but it w^as only relative, and in contrast 
with the pace of the Avaggons of that period, which 
would probably have made it a six-days' trip. 

This Bath coach would seem to have set the 
fashion in nomenclature, ior in April 1669 a 
" Plying Coach " began to fly between Oxford 
and London. It was, it will be noticed, a 
" coach," and not a " machine " ; the term 
" machine " did not come into general use until 
about seventy years later. But although the 



70 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Oxford coach did not call itself hy so high- 
sounding a title, it made a hetter pace than the 
Bath affair, doing the fifty-four miles in one day, 
between the hours of six o'clock in the morning 
and seven in the evening. Moreover, its fare — 
twelve shillings, reduced tAvo years later to ten — 
was somewhat cheaper. Perhaps one was ahvays 
charged higher rates on the fashionable Bath 
Eoad. 

How, in this thirteen years' interval between 
1657 and 1669, had the older stages progressed ? 
The Chester stage was going its way, promising 
to do the distance in five days, but taking six^ 
a sad falling off from the original four ; of the 
others, presumably continuing, we hear nothing 
further, and of new ventures there is not a 
whisper. Yet it is surely not to be supposed 
that, at a time when coaches ran to Bath, 
to York, to Coventry, and to Norwich, such a 
place (for instance) as Bristol would be Avithout 
that convenience. Por Bristol Avas then Avhat 
Glasgow is now — the second city. London came 
first, with its half a million inhabitants ; Bristol 
came next, with some 28,000, and NorAvich third, 
with 27,000. It is, then, only fair to assume that 
other coaches existed of Avhose story nothing has 
survived. A strong reason for coming to this con- 
clusion is found in the pul)lication in 1673 of 
Cresset's violent tirade against coaches, not, 
surely, called forth apropos of the already old- 
established stages, but provoked, doul)tless, by 
some sudden increase, of which a\ e, at this lapse 



DAJVJV OF THE COACHING AGE 71 

of time, know nothing. What brief John Cresset 
coukl have hekl for the inn-keepers and horse- 
breeders, and for the other trades supposed to be 
injuriously affected by the increase of stage- 
coaches, we knoAv not, nor, indeed, anything of 
Cresset himself, except that he lived in the 
Charterhouse. 

Between London, York, Chester, and Exeter 
he calculated that a total number of fifty-four 
persons travelled weekly, making a grand total 
for those roads of 1,872 such travellers in a year. 
A brief examination of his arithmetic shoAvs — as 
we have already pointed out — that the coaches of 
that age lay up for the winter months. 

His indictment of coaches is to be found in his 
Grand Concern of England Explained, and is 
very vigorous indeed, and — as we see it nowadays 
— extravagantly silly : — 

" Will any man keep a horse for himself and 
another for his servant all the year round, for to 
ride one or two journeys, that at pleasure, when he 
hath occasion, can slip to any place where his 
business lies for two or three shillings, if within 
twenty miles of London, and so proportionately 
to any part of England ? No, there is no man, 
unless some noble soul that seems to abhor being 
confined to so ignoble, base, and sordid a way of 
travelling as these coaches oblige him to, and who 
prefers a public good before his own ease and 
advantage, that will keep horses." 

According to this vehement counsel for the 
suppression of stage-coaches, they brought the 



72 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

country gentlemen up to London on the slightest 
pretext — sometimes to get their hair cut — with 
their wives accompanying them ; and when they 
were hoth come to town, they would " get fine 
clothes, go to plays and treats, and by these means 
get such a habit of idleness and love for pleasure 
that they are uneasy ever after. 

" Travelling in these coaches can neither prove 
advantageous to men's health or business, for 
Avhat advantage is it to men's health to be called 
out of their beds into their coaches an hour before 
day in the morning, to be hurried in them from 
place to place till one, two, or three hours within 
night, insomuch that sitting all day in the summer 
time stifled with heat and choked with dust, or in 
the winter time starving or freezing with cold, or 
choked Avith filthy fogs ? They are often brought 
to their inns by torchlight, when it is too late to sit 
up to get a sujiper, and next morning they are 
forced into the coach so early that they can get no 
breakfast. What addition is this to men's health 
or business, to ride all day with strangers often- 
times sick, or with diseased persons, or young 
children crying, to whose humours they are obliged 
to be subject, forced to bear with, and many times 
are j^oisoned with their nasty scents, and crip2:)led 
by the crowd of their boxes and bundles ? Is it 
for a man's health to travel with tired jades, to be 
laid fast in the foul ways and forced to wade up to 
the knees in mire, afterwards to sit in the cold 
till teams of horses can be sent to pull the coach 
out ? " 



DAWN OF THE COACHING AGE 73 

Cresset was also of opinion that the greater 
numl)er of the many roadside inns woukl lose their 
trade owing to the rapidity of coach-travelling. 
Here, at least, he exceeded his brief, for coaches 
by no means attained so speedy a rate of travel as 
that reached by horsemen. Thoresby, ten years 
later, is a case in point. He was wont to travel 
horseback between Leeds and London in four days, 
but when he journeyed from York to London in 
the coach, no greater distance than from Leeds, 
it took six days. Swift, too, in 1710, rode from 
Chester to London in five days ; when the de- 
generating Chester stage, which had started to 
perform it in 1657 in four days, had already taken 
one additional day, and was about to take another. 
Cresset, summing up such ol)jectionable things as 
" rotten coaches" and traces, and coachmen "surly, 
dogged, and ill-natured," advocated the total sup- 
pression of such methods of travelling, or at least 
— counsels of moderation prevailing — of most of 
them. In conclusion, he proposed that coaches 
should be limited to one for every county town in 
England, to go backwards and forwards once a 
week. 

Unhappily for Cresset's peace of mind, coaches 
did not decay. Nor did they wilt and Avither 
before the onslaught of another writer, who, under 
the pen-name of " A Country Tradesman," pub- 
lished a pamphlet in 1078, called The Ancient 
Trades Decayed, Repaired Again. According to 
this writer, if coaches Avere suppressed, more wine 
and beer would be drunk at the inns, to the great 



74 



STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 



increase and advantage of the Excise ; and the 
breed of horses would be improved, in consequence 
of the gentlemen who then rode in coaches being 
obliged to return to horse-riding. 

In 1673, in an announcement of stages to 
York, Chester, and Exeter, the journey to Exeter 
is put at " eight days in summer, ten in winter." 
Here was at least one coach that had already 
begun to run throughout the year, but its summer 
performance justified the remarks of those ancients 
who, seeing the original " four-days " announce- 
ment of 1658, had shaken their heads and sus- 
pected it would never last. 

The year 1678 saw a coach on the road between 
the important seaport of Hull and the city of 
York, proljably in connection Avith the York stage 
between that and London; l)ut our only know- 
ledge of its existence at so early a date is — ^to put 
it in rather an Irish way — a reference to its having 
been taken off. Ralph Thoresby, the Yorkshire 
antiquary, is our authority. In his diary he notes 
that he landed at Hull in November of that year, 
and that the stage coach was already over for the 
winter. This Hull and York coach we may suppose 
to have been in connection Avith a York and London 
stage already existing — that original vehicle, 
started in 1658 and alluded to in 1673, Avliich was 
to perform the journey in four days, the fare 40s. 
The first detailed account of the '•' York Old 
Coach," as it came to be known, is found in an old 
advertisement broadside discovered some years 
since at the back of an old draAver at the " Black 



DAllW OF THE COACHIiVG AGE 75 



Swan," in York. It is dated 1706, and is evidently 
an announcement of the coach resuming its season 
after one of its annual hibernations : — 



YORK Four Days 

Stage-Coach. 

Segxns an Friday ihc i7ih of April 1 706. 

ALL that are defitovu to pafj from LoTUjfcn to Tcrrt^ 
or from Tor\ to Lorubn, or any other Place 
on-thai Road, Let them RepAir lo the BlaJ^Swanm 
Mdbodrn in London J aud to the hhic\SiPart m Coney 

At boihw^ich Places, ihey may be rctovcdma 
Staec Coach every MonAay, ^cdnejday and Friday, 
TvljKh performs the whole Jourrxeyin Four Days, ({/" 
God permiij.) And fet6 forth at Five m 'heMornmg. 

And Tctums from Torf^ to Stamford in two d^yj, 
and from Stamford by Hunttngton to London m two 
days moTc. And the lite Stages on theu reiurru 
Alkranng mJi Faffeagtr n\ wei^t, and all 4bovc jrf 4 Ponad. 

r benjamin Kinsman, 
Performed By I Henry Harrijoa, 

\WalUT Bayne\ 

Alio ih is gives Notice that Ncwcafllc Stage Coach , fcts 
out from York, every Monday, and Fnday, and 
from Ncwcaftle evety Monday, and Friday. 

OLD COACHING BILL, PRESERVED AT THE "BLACK SWAN," 
YORK. 

It still took four days, as it had done when 
first estahlished close upon half a century before. 
Clearly times and coaches alike moved slowly. 



76 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

That York even then displayed its sub-metro- 
politan character will be seen from the footnote 
to the handbill, relating to the Newcastle coach. 
Local services apparently radiated from the city 
to Hull, Leeds, Wakefield, and other places. 

Meanwhile, other provincial towns had not been 
idle, and we must needs make a slight divergence 
here to give an outline of what Glasgow was 
attempting in local intercommunication. Nothing 
thus early was on the road between Glasgow and 
London, but strenuous efforts were made to link 
Glasgow and Edinburgh (forty-four miles apart) 
together by a public service so early as 1678, when 
Provost Camj^bell and the magistrates of Glasgow 
agreed with William Hoorn, of Edinburgh, for a 
coach to go on that road once a week : "a suffi- 
cient strong coach, drawn by sax able horses, 
whilk coach sail cojitine sax persons and sail go 
ance ilk week, to leave Edinburgh ilk Monday 
morning, and to return again (God willing) ilk 
Saturday night." To travel those forty-four miles 
was, therefore, the occupation of three days. Even 
thus early we see the beginnings of that spirit of 
municipal enterprise which has in modern times 
carried Glasgow so far. Now the local tramway, 
water, gas, and electric lighting authority, she, so 
early as the seventeenth century, essayed a public 
service of coaches. 

Like much else in early coaching histor}^ this 
is merely a fragment ; but again, in 1743, Glasgow 
is found returning to the question, in an attempt 
of the Town Council to set up a stage-coach or 



PAWN OF THE COACHING AGE 77 

" lando," to go once a Avcek in Avinter and twice in 
summer. The attempt failed, and it Avas not until 
1749 that the first conveyance to ply rei^'ularly 
bet\veen Glasgow and Edinhurgh Avas established. 
This Avas the " CaraAan," Avhicli made the passage 
in tAvo days each Avav. It AAas succeeded in 1759 
by the "Ply," Avhich brought the time doAvn to a 
day and a half. 

In 1697, according to an entry in the diary of 
Sir William Dugdale, under date of July 1 6th, a 
London and Birmingham coach, by Avay of Ban- 
bury, Avas then running ; but such isolated refer- 
ences are quite obscured by the flood of light 
thrown upon coaching by the Avork of De Laune, 
The Fresetit Slate of London, dated 1681. In 
his pages is to be found a complete list of all the 
stage-coaches, carriers, and Avaggons to and from 
London in that year. The carriers and Avaggons 
are A^ery numerous, and there are in all 
119 coaches, of AAhicli number betAveen sixty 
and seventy are long-distance conveyances, the 
remainder serving places up to tAventy or 
twenty-five miles from London. In that list Ave 
find that, although a marvellous expansion of 
coaching had taken place, some of the j)laces 
already catered for in 1658 are abandoned. The 
Edinburgh stage does not appear, and nothing is 
to ])e found on that road farther north than York. 
The reason for the omission AA'as, doubtless, that 
York, then relatively a more important place than 
now, had its OAvn Avell-organised coaching busi- 
nesses. Travellers from London for Edinburgh 



78 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

would secure a place to York, and, arriving there, 
book again by a York and Edinburgh coach. The 
Edinburgh stage from London, once a fortnight, 
is, indeed, not heard of again until 17oi. 

Many of the coaches mentioned l:»y De Laune 
went twice and thrice a Aveek, and a large propor- 
tion of those to places not beyond twenty or 
twenty-five miles from London made double 
journeys in the day. Thus Windsor had no fewer 
than seven coaches, six of them in and out daily. 
The age, it will be conceded, was not Avithout 
enterprise. But the omissions are striking ; 
Okehampton, Plymouth, and Cornwall, in- 
cluded in the purview of the pioneers of 1G58, 
are not mentioned. Liverpool, Sheffield, New- 
castle, Leicester, Hereford and others were 
outside their activities. No one, it seemed, wanted 
to go to Glasgow ; Manchester men were content 
to ride horseback ; Leeds, now numbering some 
430,000 inhabitants, and increasing by 2,000 a 
year, was a town of only 7,000, and the clothiers 
rode to York and caught the London coach there. 
To Bath and Bristol, however, there were five 
coaches; to Exeter, four; to Guildford, three; 
to Cambridge, Braintree, Canterbury, Chelmsford, 
Gloucester, Lincoln and Stamford, Norwich, Ox- 
ford, Portsmouth, Reading, Saffron Walden, and 
Ware, two each. 

Despite the four coaches between Exeter and 
London mentioned by De Laune in 1681, the 
Mayor of Lyme Begis, having in October 1081 
uro-ent official business in London, is found, in 



DAWN OF THF COACHING AGE 79 

comjjany witli one servant, hiring post-horses from 
Lyme to Salishury. It is quite clear that if there 
had been a coach serving at the time, he would 
have caught it at Charniouth, a mile and a half 
from that little seaport ; but there was, for some 
unexplained reason, a break in the service, and it 
was not until Salisbury was reached, sixty miles 
along the road, that he found a stage. The coach 
fare from Salisbur}^ to London foi' self and servant 
was 30s., and he spent, " at several stages, to 
gratify coachmen," 4^. Oc/. 

With the existence of such a volume of trade 
as that disclosed by De Laune, it is not surprising 
to find that the scolding voices of opponents to 
coaching had by this time died down to a mere 
echo. Instead of reviling coaches, the writers of 
the age extolled their use and convenience. Thus 
Chamberlayne, in the 1684 edition of his Fresent 
State of Great Britain, the JFhltakers Al- 
manack of that period, says : " There is of late 
such an admirable commodiousness for both men 
and women to travel from London to the principal 
towns in the country, that the like hath not been 
known in the world ; and that is by stage-coaches, 
wherein any one may be transported to any place, 
sheltered from foul weather and foul ways, free 
from endamaging of one's health and one's body 
by hard jogging or over-violent motion, and this 
not only at the low price of about a shilling for 
every five miles, but with such velocity and speed 
in one hour as tbat the post in some foreign 
countries cannot make but in one day." Those 



8o STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORD 

foreign countries liaAe our respectful sympatliy, 
for Chamberlayne in thus extolling our superiority 
was singing the praises of four miles an hour ! 

Prom the limho of half-forgotten things we 
dra": occasional references to coaches towards the 
close of the seventeenth century. In Ai:>ril 1694 
a London and Warwick stage was announced to 
go every Monday, to make the journey in two 
days, " performed (if God permit) by Nicholas 
Rothwell " ; and in 1696 the " Confatharrat " 
coach was already spoken of as a familiar object 
on the London and Norwich road. All Ave know 
of the " Confatharrat " is that it came to the 
" Four Swans," in Bishopsgate Street Within. Its 
curious name is probal)ly the seventeenth-century 
spelling of the word " confederate," and the coach 
itself Avas, no doubt, run by an association, or " con- 
federacy," of owners and innkeepers, in succession 
to some unlucky person Avho singly had attempted 
it and failed. 

On some roads enterprise slackened. Thus, in 
1700, the "Ely " coach to Exeter slept the fifth 
night from London at Axminster, Avhere the next 
morning a Avoman " shaved the coach," and on the 
afternoon of the sixth day it crawded into Exeter. 
Eorty-three years earlier it had taken only four 
days. 

Nicholas RotliAvell, of the London and War- 
wick stage in 1691, reappears in an extremely 
interesting broadsheet advertisement of 1731, 
announcing that the " Birmingham stage-coach in 
two days and a half begins. May the 21th." 




BI R M 1 N G HAM 
STAGE-COACH, 

In Two Day3 and a half; begins May tbc 
24th, '173 J. 

SETSont from the Sipan-hn in Birmimhamy 
every MonJayzt fix a Clock in the Morning. 
through ti/arwick. Banbury and Alesbury^ 
to the Red Lion Innyix Alder fgatf ftrecu London, 
cvery^ Wednffday Morning: And returns from 
the fold Red Hon Inn every Iburjdaj Morning 
ac five a Clock the fame Way to the Swan-Jnn 
in Btrmingbam every Saturday, at 2 1 Shillings 
each Paffengcr. and 18 Shillings from WV»>/V/f, 
who has libcrry tocarry 14 Pounds in Weiahc, 
and all above to pay One Penny a Pound, 
Perform d (if God permit) 

By Nicholas Rothwell. 

The Weekly Wag^n feu o« wen TutfJ'J fr<m th< l^t^uHfoJ m 
«^«h«ni. to thf Red Lion fen afortftid, every J"aiKr</<«; » W rof^nt 

Nctt. 27/Af/«JNichol«sRoth*dI«W,rwid{, ^Tcrfon, mr, k fnr. 
mpitd^Klb, BjHoarh. CbmH. C/Mft t^feaft, 'Mth* McMmn, ChuH 
•ud dUH^rln, ta^j Prntf Crs»l Jtrtttitt, u rulonobi, fi,l„ ylnJ 
al/o ^addlt Horftt n it htd ' 

OLD BIHMINGHAM COACHING BILL. 



VOL. I. 



82 STAGECOAC/J AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Although we have no earlier information of this 
coach, it is prohably safe to assume that this, like 
the advertisement of the York coach already 
quoted, merely advertised the heginning of a new 
season, and that winter was still largely, as it had 
been seventy-six years hefore, a blank in the 
coaching world. Rothwell was evidently estab- 
lished at Warwick, and seems to have been the 
first notable coach-proprietor, the forerunner of 
the Chaplins, Nelsons, Mountains, Shermans and 
Ibbersons of a later age. By his old advertise- 
ment we see that he catered for all classes of 
travellers — by stage-coach, private carriage, chaise, 
and waggon — and that he hired out horses to the 
gentlemen who still preferred their own company 
and the saddle to the coach and its miscellaneous 
strangers. Even the dead were not beyond the 
consideration of Mr. Rothwell, whose " Hearse, 
with Mourning Coach and Able Horses," is set 
forth to "go to any part of Great Britain, at 
reasonable Bates." Unhappily for the historian 
eager to reconstruct the road life of those times, 
this old advertisement is almost all that survives 
to tell us of Rothwell, and fortunate avc are to 
have even that, for such sheets, as commonplace 
when issued as the advertisements of railway 
excursions are at the present time, are now of 
extreme rarity. It would appear, from the rude 
woodcut illustrating Rothwell's bill, that his 
coach was of the old type, hung on leather straps 
and quite innocent of springs — the kind of coach 
that Parson Adams, in Melding's Joseph Andrews, 



DAJIW OF THE COACHING AGE 85 

outAvalked Avitliout the slio-btest difficulty. It 
seems to hid more up-to-date in the matter of 
windows, and to be a " glass-coach," if we may 
judge by the appearance of the window at which 
the solitary and unhappy-looking jiassenger is 
standing in an attitude suggestive of stomachic 
disturbance. There are no windows in the upper 
quarters of the coach, Avliich in that and some 
other respects greatly resembles the vehicle pic- 
tured in 1747 hj Hogarth in his Inn Yard. 

llothwell's coach is drawn by four horses in 
hand, with a postilion on the off horse of a couple 
of extra leaders. The practice of using six horses 
and a postilion is one to Avliich we find allusion 
in Eielding's Joseph Andrews, written nine years 
later than the date of this Birmingham coach. 
The curious will find the description in the twelfth 
chapter of that novel, Avhere Josejih, recovering 
from the murderous attack of tAVO higliAvaymen, 
attracts the attention of the postilion of a passing 
stage-coach. " The postilion, hearing a man's 
groans, stopped his horses, and told the coachman 
he Avas certain there was a dead man lying in the 
ditch, for he heard him groan." (That postilion 
surely was an Irishman.) " "Go on, sirrah ! ' says 
the coachman : ' Ave are confounded late, and have 
no time to look after d^ad men.' A lady, Avho 
heard AA'^hat the postilion said, and likcAvise heard 
the groan, called eagerly to the coachman to stop 
and see Avliat aa as the matter. Upon Avhich, he bid 
the postilion alight and look into the ditch. He 
did so, and returned, ' That there was a man 



86 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORM 

sitting upright, as naked as ever he was horn.' 
'O J — sus!' cried the lady; 'a naked man! 
Dear coachman, drive on and leave him ! ' " 

Howlandson shows that in 1783 six horses were 
still used, and that a postilion continued to ride 
one of the leaders. It was about this same period 
that the generally misquoted remark about the 
ease of driving a coach-and-six through an Act of 
Parliament grew proverbial. It had originated so 
early as 1689, when Sir Stephen Kice, Chief Baron 
of the Irish Exchequer and a bigoted Papist, 
declared for James the Second, and was often 
heard to say he would drive a coach and six horses 
through the Act of Settlement. Later generations, 
knowing nothing of six horses to a coach, and 
unused to seeing more than four, unconsciously 
adapted the saying to the practice of their own 
times. 



CHAPTER IV 

GKOWTH OF COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH 
CENTURY 

All this while the stages had gone their journeys 
with the same horses from end to end, and travel 
was necessarily sIoav. To the superficial glance it 
would seem that neither the dictates of humanity 
towards animals nor even the faintest glimmering 
perception of the possibilities of speed in constant 
relays had then dawned uj)on coach-proprietors; but 
it would 1)0 too gross an error to convict a whole 
class of stupidity so dense and brutal. It is not to 
be supposed that, at a time when ten-mile relays 
of saddle-horses for gentlemen riding post were 
common throughout the kingdom, the advantages 
of frequent changes and fresh animals were hidden 
from men whose daily business it was to do with 
coaches and horses. The real reasons for the bad old 
practice were many. They lay in the uncertainty of 
passengers, in the extreme difficulty of arranging for 
changes at known places of call, and, above all, in 
the impossilnlity of those, coaches changing whose 
route between given starting-point and destination 
was altered to suit the convenience of travellers. 

The first hint of quicker travel and of a better 
age for horses is obtained in this advertisement of 
the Newcastle " Flying Coach," May 9th, 1734 :— 



8g STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OP YOKE 

" A coach will set out towards the end of next 
week for London, or any place on the road. To he 
performed in nine days, heing three days sooner 
than any other coach that travels the road : for 
which purpose eight stout horses are stationed at 
proper distances." 

This, we may take it, was a rival of the old 
once-a-fortnight London and Edinhurgh stage, 
travelling those 396 miles in fourteen days, and, 
as we infer from ahove, reaching Newcastle in 
twelve. At the same time John Dale came for- 
ward with a statement that a coach would take 
the road from Edinburgh for London, " toAvards 
the end of each week," also in nine days; so that 
rivalries evidently existed on the great road to the 
north at that period. No conceivable change can 
satisfy everyone, and these accelerated services 
alarmed the innkeepers, who thought they saw 
their business of lodging and entertaining travellers 
thus doomed to decay. It Avas obvious that Avhen 
the Edinburgh stage travelled an average of forty- 
four miles a day instead of a mere twenty-eight or 
twenty-nine, and lay on the road only eight nights 
instead of thirteen, innkeepers on that route must 
have lost much custom in the course of the year. 
Other innkeepers on other roads gloomily heard of 
these improvements, thought the times moved a 
great deal too rapidly, and talked of the good old 
days when travelling was safe and respectable, and 
an honest licensed victualler could earn a living. 
All these good folks were, no doubt, greatly re- 
lieved when this sudden burst of coaching enter- 



COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 89 

prise died away, as it presently did, either because 
the proprietors had undertaken to perform more 
than they coukl do, or j^ossihly for the reason that 
they had come to an agreement not to force the 
pace or cut the fares. Such rivalries and such 
subsequent agreements were in after years the 
merest commonplaces of coaching history, and if 
we seek them here we shall probably lie by way 
of explaining the falling-off that left its traces 
twenty and thirty years later in the following 
announcement : — 




THE EDINBURGHSTAGE-COACH, 
for the better Accommodation of Pailen- 
gers, will be altered to a new genteel Two-end 
Glafe Machine, hung on Steel Springs, exceeding 
light and eafy, to go in ten Days in Summer and 
twelve in VVinier, to fet out the firft Tuefday in 
March, and continue it from Hofea Eaftgate's, the 
Coach and Horfes in Dean-ftreer, Soho, LON- 
DON, and from John Somervell's in the Canon 
gate, Edinburgh, every other Tuefday, and raeei 
at Burrow-bndge on Saturday Night, and fet out 
from thence on Monday Morning, and get to 
London and Edinburgh on Friday. In the Win- 
terao fet out from London and Edinburgh every 
other Monday Morning, and to get to Burrow- 
bridge on Saturday Night; and to fet out from 
thence on Monday Morning, and get to London 
and Edinburgh on Saturday Night. ■ PafFengers to 
pay as ufual. Perform'd, if God permits, by your 
dutiful Servant, HOSE A EASTGATE. 

Care is taken of fmall Parcels, paying according 
to their Value. 

COACHING ADVERTISEMENT FROM THE EDINBURGH 
COURANT, 1751. 



90 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

It is noteworthy that the Sunday was still 
kept in this year of 1754 as a day of rest. The 
reference to fares, in the lack of antecedent in- 
formation, leaves us in ignorance of what the 
passengers who paid " as usual " really did pay, 
l)ut it seems that the coach itself was in that year 
something new and wonderful— a great improve- 
ment on Avhat had gone hefore. The old convey- 
ance, hung on leather straps and with unglazed 
windows, was discarded, and we have a " glass 
coach-machine," on steel springs, and Avitli two 
ends, whatever they may have been. Also, the 
coach ran winter and summer. The rough wood- 
cut accompanying this advertisement in the 
Edinhurgli Coiwant for March ith, 1754, and 
subsequent dates, shows us rather a coach built 
on the lines of the gentleman's private carriage of 
that age than a stage-coach. The boasted springs 
are duly indicated. The driver has four horses in 
hand, while a postilion, with a face like an agonised 
turnip, has a couple of leaders. 

So much for 1751 on the Great North Road ; 
but 1763 showed that retrogression was still the 
note of the time in that quarter, for the Edinburgh 
stage set out only once a month, and only when 
the weather was favourable did it get to its 
destination in less than a fortnight. 

A feeble effort made about 1739 to expedite 
travelling on the Exeter Road seems also to 
have done little. The Exeter " Elying Stage " of 
that year, purporting to perform the journey in 
three days, generally took six. In 1752 it was 



COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 91 

announced that the " ' Exeter Past Coach,' for 
the better conveyance of travellers, starts every 
Monday from the ' Saracen's Head,' Skinner Street, 
Snow Hill." This also, although it promised to 
get to Exeter in three days and a half, usually 
took six days in winter. 

Its programme was thus set out : — 

Monday. — Dines at Egham ; lies at Murrell's 
Green. 

Tuesday. — Dines at Sutton; lies at the " Plume 
of Peathers," in Salisbury. 

Wednesday. — Dines at Elandford; lies at the 
" King's Arms," in Dorchester. 

Thursday. — At one o'clock, Exeter. 

It carried six inside, but no outsides. 

But let us be just to the coach-proprietors 
whose fate it was to work the Exeter Road at that 
time. In that very year a correspondent Avrote to 
the Gentleman s 3Ia(jazine pointing out the dread- 
ful character of that road. " After the first forty- 
seven miles from London," he said, " you never 
set eye on a turnpike." There were turnpikes, 
and, by consequence, well-kept roads, on the way 
to Bath, and he declared that every one who knew 
anything at all about road-travelling Avent to 
Exeter by way of Bath. As for the country along 
the Exeter Boad, it was reputed to be picturesque, 
but the state of the road forbade any one making 
its acquaintance. " Dorchester is to us a terra 
incognita^ and the map-makers might, if they 
pleased, fill the vacuities of Devon and Cornwall 



92 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

with forests, sands, elephants, savages, or what 

they 2^1^^^^6-" 

Mean Avhile, manufacturing Engh^nd was coming 
into existence, and the growing necessities of trade 
had hrought al30ut an increase of coaches in other 
directions. Thus Birmingham, whose first direct 
communication with London has already been 
shoAYu in existence in 1679, and again in 1731, 
had set up a " Flying Coach " in 1742, followed in 
1758 by an " Improved Birmingham Coach," with 
the legend " Friction Annihilated " j^rominent on 
the axle-boxes. This the Annual Register declared 
to be " perhaps the most useful invention in 
mechanics this age has produced." Much virtue 
lingered in that " perhaps," for nothing more was 
heard of that w^onderful device. 

It w^as not until 1754 that Manchester and 
London w^ere in direct communication. The desire 
of the provinces to get into touch with the metro- 
polis has always been greater than that of London 
to commune with the country toAvns, and thus we 
see that it was an association of Manchester men 
who set up the " Flying Coach," just as the 
citizens of Oxford and the good folks of Shrews- 
bury's desire to travel to London established con- 
veyances for that purpose, and just as that early 
railway, the London and Birmingham, Avas pro- 
jected and financed at Birmingham, and should, 
strictly speaking, have been inversely named. But 
hear what the Manchester men of 1751 said : — 

" However incredible it may appear, this coach 
will actually (barring accidents) arrive in London 



COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 93 

in four days and a half after leaving Man- 
chester." The distance, it may be remarked, was 
182 miles. 

The ancient rivalry of Manchester and Liver- 
pool Avas roused by this, and four years later the 
Liverpool " Flying Machine " Avas established, to 
travel the 206^ miles between Liverpool and 
London in three days. The fare, at £2 2.9., thus 
represents about ^\d. a mile. This was followed 
by the Leeds " Plying Coach " of 1760, advertised 
to do the 196 miles in three days, by Barnsley, 
Wakefield, and Sheflield, but actually taking 
four. 

Another great centre of coaching activity at 
this period was Shrewsbury. Those who know 
that grand old town, seated majestically on its 
encircling Severn, that girdles the ancient blood- 
red walls with a flow as yellow as that of the 
Tiber, will have observed an ancient metrojoolitan 
air, an atmosphere of olden self-sufliciency, subtly 
characterising the place. It is complete in itself : 
within the double ceinture of river and hoary 
defensive walls it comprises something typical of 
each separate estate of the realm. The monarch 
and the governing idea are represented within that 
compass by the Castle and by the Council House, 
and all around are still to be seen the toAvn houses 
of the old nobility and county families, neigh- 
boured by prosperous shops and smaller residences. 
Shrewsbury, like York and Edinburgh, is in fact 
an ancient seat of government, delegated directly 
from the Crown, once as vitally viceregal as the 



94 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

Viceroyalty of India is now and much more so 
than that of Ireland for long years past has been. 
Shrewsbury remained the capital of the Marches 
of Wales until 1689, and the history of the Council 
that thence ruled the border-lands is still singularly 
fresh. Nor did it lose its importance even with 
the abolition of that body ; for, more than else- 
Avhere, the town, until the railways came— suddenly 
breaking up the old order and centralising every- 
thing in London — Avas a centre of social life for 
wide surrounding districts. The titled and gentle 
families of Shropshire, Herefordshire and North 
"Wales who had resorted to the old Court of the 
Marches continued to adorn Shrewsbury, which 
had its own fashionable season and its own self- 
contained interests. The whole social movement 
of those surrounding districts was centred here, 
and at a time when the great manufacturing 
future of England had not dawned, creating vastly 
populated cities and towns, Shrewsbury was not 
rivalled as a coaching centre even by Bath. A 
Shrewsbury coach Avas in existence in 1681, but 
the roads betAveen the Salopian capital and London 
proved too bad, and it did not last long, nor was 
it succeeded by any other coach until the spring 
of 1753. Stage-waggons Avere on the road in the 
interval between 17o7 and that date, but they did 
not fit the requirements of the gentlefolk, Avho, 
when they did not ride horseback or drive in their 
own chariots to London, posted across country to 
Ivetsey Bank, Avhere they caught the Chester and 
London stage. 



COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 95 

With 1753 the continuous coaching history 
of Shrewsbury begins, in the starting of the 
" Birmingham and Shrewsbury Long Coach," 
which journeyed to London in four days, by 
the efforts of six horses. The distance was 152 
miles, the fare 18s. The " Long Coach " was a 
type of vehicle intermediate between the "Cara- 
van" of 1750* and the "Machine," established 
in April 1761. It was a cheap method of con- 
veyance, one remove above the common stage- 
waggons. It set out once a Aveek, and seems to 
have l)een so immediately successful that a rival 
and somewhat higher-class vehicle was put on the 
road as soon as the coachmakers could build it. 
It was in the June of that same year that 
the rival — " Fowler's Shrewsbury Stage-coach " 
was the name of it — began to ply to and from 
London in three and a half days ; fare, one guinea 
inside, outside half a guinea. Thus they con- 
tinued to run for thirteen years, Avithout the 
intrusion of a third competitor. We are not 
told hoAV these outsides Avere carried. Probably 
they Avcre obliged to cling to the sloping roof, 
on Avhicli the athletic and adventurous found a 
fearful joy Avitli every roll and lurch, Avhile those 
Avho Averc neither agile nor imbued Avith the spirit 
of adventure grcAv grey Avitli apprehension. In- 
deed, it Avas probably the freak of some Avild spirit 
— perhaps a sailor or a drunken soldier — in 
seating himself on the roof that first gave coach- 
proprietors the idea that roofs might be used to 
* P. 119. 



96 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

carry outsides as well as to shelter the august 
occupants of the interior. We may he allowed 
to imagine the arrival of the coach that first 
carried these freakish persons on that dangerous 
eminence, and to picture the joy of the proprietor, 
who thereupon determined that, as these pioneers 
for the fun of it had arrived safely, there must 
he a commercial value in places on the roof. The 
thing was done. Three outsides sat on the front 
part, with their feet on the hack of the driving- 
hox, while one had a place on the hox-seat with 
the driver, and room was left for three more on 
the hind, and most inconvenient, part of the roof, 
where, like Noah's dove, they found no rest for 
the soles of their feet, and had the greatest diffi- 
culty in maintaining their position. 

If the " outsides " on Fowler's Shrewsbury 
stage of 1753 were not carried on the roof, they 
must have been carried in " the basket " ; but as 
stage-coaches provided with this species of accom- 
modation were generally stated in their advertise- 
ments to have " a conveniency behind," and the 
advertisement of this makes no such claim, Ave are 
free to assume that the roof was their portion. 
The " basket " was, however, already a well- 
established affair. It Avas a great Avicker-Avork 
structure, hung on the back of the coach betAveen 
the hind wheels by stout leather straps, and 
rested on the axle-tree. Originally intended to 
convey the luggage, it was found capable of 
holding passengers, Avho suffered much in it in 
order to ride cheaply. In the racy, descriptive 



COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 97 

language of the time, this " coiiveniency " was 
known much more aptly as the " rumhle- tumble." 
In this " rumble-tumble," then, the second-class 
passengers sat, up to their knees in straw. The 
more straw tlie l)etter the travelling, for although 
the body of the coach had by this time been eased 
with springs, the basket was not provided with 
any such luxury, and anything in the nature of 
padding would have been welcome. Already, in 
1747, Hogarth had pictured an inn yard A\ith a 
coach preparing to start, and had shown a basket 
fully occupied, and tAvo outsides above. 

The coaches were by now hung much higher, 
and the original driver's seat had given place to a 
lofty box, from which the coachman had a greater 
command over his horses. 

The general appearance of stage-coaches at 
this time has been eloquently described by Sir 
Walter Scott. They were covered with dull black 
leather, thickly studded with l)road-headed nails, 
tracing out the jianels. The heavy window -frames 
were painted red, and the windows themselves 
provided with green stuff or leather curtains 
which could be draAvn at will. On the panels 
of the body were displayed in large characters 
the names of the places whence the coach started 
and whither it Avent. The coachman and guard 
(Avhen there was a guard at all) sat in front ujoon 
a high narrow boot, often garnished with a spread- 
ing hammer-cloth with a deep fringe. The roof 
rose in a high curve. The wheels Avere large, 
massive, ill formed, and generally painted red. 
VOL. I. 7 



98 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OD YORE 

In shape the l)ody varied. Sometimes it resembled 
a distiller's vat somewhat flattened, and hung 
equally balanced between the immense back and 
front springs ; in other cases it took the form of 
a violoncello case, which was, past all comparison, 
the most fashionable form ; again, it hung in 
a more genteel posture, inclining on the back 
springs, in that case giving those who sat within 
the appearance of a stiff Guy Fawkes. The fore- 
most horse was still ridden by a postilion, a long- 
legged elf dressed in a long green and gold riding- 
coat and wearing a cocked hat ; and the traces 
were so long that it was with no little difficulty 
the poor animals dragged their unwieldy burden 
along. It groaned, creaked, and luml)ered at 
every fresh tug they gave it, as a ship, beating 
up through a heavy sea, strains all her timbers. 
In 1774 the proj^rietors of the "Original London 
and Salop Machine, in the modern taste, on steel 
springs," announced that, among other imjDrove- 
ments, their coach had "bows on the top." Some 
consideration of this portentous improvement 
inclines us to the belief that these " bows " must 
have been guard-irons on the roof for j^assengers 
to hold on by, and to prevent them being thrown 
off. A little further consideration will j^ei-haps 
bring us to the conclusion that those " bows " 
would not even then have been placed there had 
not some serious accident already hajipened. 
Such protection was not uncommon, as may be 
gathered from an account of a coach journey 
written by Charles H. Moritz, a worthy German 



COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 99 

jmstor who visited England in 1782. His narra- 
tive shows that those who were obliged to ride 
cheajoly had a choice of the basket and the roof, 
and that although the roof then had no seats, it 
was provided with little handles, to hold on by. 
But they were of little use, and when the coach 
rolled like a ship upon a stormy sea the chances of 
being flung overboard Avere still as many as ever. 
But he, like others, having tried both basket a.nd 
roof, preferred the latter, and returned to it, 
groaning with the shocks received in the " rumble- 
tumble." 

Rowlandson's picture of a stage-coach in 1780 
shows the same preference. Only one jjassenger 
is seen in the wickerwork appendage, while the 
roof, innocent of safeguards or seats, is covered 
with sprawling passengers who are content to take 
their chance of an involuntary flight, so that 
they escape the certain inconveniences of the 
"conveniency." 

" I observe," says Moritz, " that they have 
here a curious way of riding, not in, but upon, a 
stage-coach. Persons to whom it is not convenient 
to pay a full price, instead of the inside, sit on the 
top of the coach, without any seats or even a rail. 
By what means passengers thus fasten themselves, 
securely on the roof of these vehicles I know 
not ; but you constantly see numbers seated there, 
ai^parently at their ease and in perfect safety. 
This they call riding on the outside, for Avhicli 
they pay only half as much as those aa ho are 
within. 



too STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

" Beiiii^ oljlijj;'e(l to hestir my sell' to got l)ack to 
London, as the time clreAV near w hen the llamhurg 
captain with whom I intended to retnrn had fixed 
his departnre, I determined to take a phxce as far 
as Northampton on the outside. But this ride 
from Leicester to Northampton I shall remember 
as long as I live. 

" The coach drove from the yard through a part 
of the house. The inside passengers got in from 
the yard, l)ut we on the outside were obliged to 
clamber up in the street, because we should have 
had no room for our heads to pass under the gate- 
way. My companions on the tojD of the coach 
were a farmer, a young man very decently dressed, 
and a blackamoor. The getting up alone was at 
the risk of one's life, and when I Avas up I was 
obliged to sit just at the corner of the coach, with 
nothing to hold on by but a sort of little handle 
fastened on the side. I sat nearest the wheel, and 
the moment that we set off I fancied I saw certain 
death before me. All T could do was to take still 
tighter hold of the handle, and to be strictly 
careful to preserve my balance. The machine 
rolled along with prodigious rapidity over the 
stones through the town of Leicester, and every 
moment Ave seemed to fly into the air, so much so 
that it appeared to me a complete miracle that we 
stuck to the coach at all. But we Avere com- 
pletely on the A\ ing as often as Ave passed through 
a village or Avent doAvn a hill. 

"This continual fear of death at last became 
insupportable to me, and therefore, no sooner Avere 



COACHING IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY loi 

we crawling up a rather steep hill, and consequently 
proceeding slower than usual, than I carefully 
crept from the top of the coach, and was lucky 
enough to get myself snugly ensconced in the 
basket behind. ' O sir, you will he shaken to 
death ! ' said the blackamoor ; but I heeded him 
not, trusting that he was exaggerating the un- 
pleasantness of my new situation. And, truly, as 
long as A¥e went on slowly up the hill, it was easy 
and pleasant enough ; and I was just on the point 
of falling asleep, having had no rest the night 
before, when on a sudden the coach proceeded at 
a rapid rate downhill. Then all the boxes, iron- 
nailed and copper-fastened, began, as it were, to 
dance around me ; everything in the basket ap- 
peared to be alive, and every moment I received 
such violent 1)1oavs that I thought my last hour 
had come. The blackamoor had been right, I now 
saw clearly; but repentance was useless, and I 
was ol)liged to suffer horrible torture for nearly an 
hour, which seemed to me an eternity. At last we 
came to another hill, when, quite shaken to pieces, 
bleeding, and sore, I ruefully crept back to the 
top of the coach to my former seat. ' Ah, did I 
not tell you that you would be shaken to death ? ' 
inquired the black man, when I was creeping 
along on my stomach. But I gave him no reply. 
. Indeed, I was ashamed ; and I now wa'ite this as 
a warning to all strangers ayIio are inclined to ride 
in English stage-coaches and take an outside seat, 
or, worse still, horror of horrors, a seat in the 
basket. 



I02 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

"From Harborough to Northampton I had a 
most dreadful journey. It rained incessantly, and 
as before we had been covered with dust, so now 
we were soaked with rain. My neighbour, the 
young man who sat next me in the middle, every 
now and then fell asleep ; and when in this state 
he perpetually bolted and rolled against me with 
the whole weight of his body, more than once 
nearly pushing me from my seat, to Avhich I clung 
with the last strength of despair. My forces were 
nearly giving way, when at last, haj^pily, we 
reached Northampton, on the evening of July 14th, 
1782, an ever-memorable day to me. 

" On the next morning I took an inside place 
for London. We started early. The journey from 
Northampton to the metropolis, however, I can 
scarcely call a ride, for it was a perpetual motion, 
or endless jolt from one place to another, in 
a close wooden box, over what appeared to be 
a heap of unhewn stones and trunks of trees 
scattered by a hurricane. To make my happiness 
complete, I had three travelling companions, all 
farmers, who slept so soundly that even the 
hearty knocks with which they hammered their 
heads against each other and against mine did 
not awake them. Their faces, bloated and dis- 
coloured by ale and brandy and the knocks 
aforesaid, looked, as they lay before me, like so 
many lumps of dead flesh. I looked, and certainly 
felt, like a crazy fool when Ave arrived at London 
in the afternoon." 



OHAPTEE, V 

THE STAGE-WAGGONS AND WHAT THEY CARRIED : 
HOAY THE POOR TRAVELLED 

We have now arrived at the time when the goods 
traffic became a prominent feature of the road. 

The precursor of all public vehicles was the 
carrier's waggon, a conveyance of hoary antiquity, 
intended in the first instance for the carriage of 
heavy goods, but finding room for those Avayfarers 
who Avere too poor to own or hire a horse, or 
possibly too infirm to sit one even if their means 
sufficed. At least a hundred and fifty years before 
the earliest stage-coach was put on the road, the 
Avaggon, the poor man's coach, Avas creaking and 
groaning on its tedious Avay at a pace of little 
more than tAA^o miles an hour. The stage-Avaggon, 
in fact, came into use about 1500, and the first 
glimpse and earliest notice of the carrier's and 
stage-waggon business introduces us to a very 
celebrated Avaggoner indeed, by far the most 
notable of all his kind^^none other, in fact, than 
Thomas Hobson, the carrier betAA^een Cambridge 
and London, the grand original of the Chaplin & 
Homes, the Pickfords, the Carter Patersons, and 
Suttons of succeeding generations. Hobson's 
London place of call was the " Bull/' Bishopsgate 



I04 STAGE-COACH AiVD MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Street Witliiii. When the husiness was founded 
is not on record, hut it was okl-estahlished and 
prosperous when he succeeded to it on the death 
of his father in 1508. Under the terms of his 
father's will he inherited, among other things, 
the vehicle with which tlie carrying trade was 
conducted, the "cart and eight horses, and all the 
harness and other things thereunto belonsrins;, 
with the nag." It is quite evident from this that 
one cart or waggon sufficed for all the commerce 
between London and Cambridge at that time. If 
he did not choose to take these things, he was to 
have £30 instead, the equivalent of their value, 
which — taking into consideration the fact that the 
purchasing power of money at that time Avould be 
about six times that of our own — was therefore 
£180. The " nag " specified in the will was, of 
course, the horse ridden by the waggoner by the 
side of the eight-horse waggon team. In old prints 
of stage-waggons we see that the waggoner did not 
usually drive his team from the waggon holding 
the reins, but rode a pony, and, wielding a whip 
of formidable length, urged on the much- suffering 
beasts through mud and ruts. 

Hobson senior had been a man of Avealth and 
consideration, and his son increased both. In his 
father's lifetime he had gone continually back and 
forth with the waggon, and so continued to go until 
his death, January 1st, 1631, in his eighty-sixth 
year. He was, as his father had been before him, 
not merely a carrier between Cambridge and 
London, l)ut the only one, and specially licensed 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 105 

by the University. He conveyed the letters, too, 
and had a very lucrative business of letting out 
saddle-horses. In those days, before coaches had 
come into existence, and when able-bodied men, 
despising the slow progress of the waggon, rode 
horseback, his stable of forty horses, " lit for 
travelling, with boots, bridle, and whip, to furnish 
the gentlemen at once, witliout going from college 
to college to borrow," was in great request. From 
his determination to allow no picking and choos- 
ing, and his refusing to allow any horse to be 
taken out of its proper turu, first arose that 
immortal proverb, " Hobson's Choice, that or 
none " — in other words, no choice whatever. 
University Avitlings made great play Avith Hobson, 
and when at last he died, quite a sheaf of lyrical 
epitaphs on him appeared, from the well-known 
ones by Milton to the more obscure exercises of 
anonymous versifiers.* 

The business of stage-waggoning ol^tained its 
first specific notice so late as 1617, when Tynes 
Morison, in his Itinerary, mentioned the " carryers, 
who have long covered waggons, in which they 
carry passengers from place to place ; but this 
kind of journey is so tedious by reason they must 
take waggon very early and come very late to 
their innes, that none but women and people of 
inferior condition travel in this sort." 

How early they were accustomed to start, and 

* For a detailed notice of Hobson, with a portiait of him, 
seethe Cambridge, Ely, and King's Lynn Road, pp. 10-12, 32, 
140, 157-166. 



io6 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

hoAv late would come to their inns, may be gathered 
from the great classic instance in Shakesjieare, 
where the two carriers in the First Part of King 
Henry the Fourth are discovered in the innyard at 
Eochester preparing to set forth for London. It 
is two o'clock in the morning-, and London but 
thirty miles away, yet it will not be earlier than 
" time to go to lied with a candle " before that 
gammon of l)acon and those two razes of ginger 
are delivered at Charing Cross. 

Shakespeare, of course, here wrote, not of the 
manners and customs of Henry the Fourth's time, 
but of Avhat he had himself heard and seen, and 
what might so be seen and heard on any day, early 
in the morning, in the yard of any considerable 
hostelry in the kingdom. He has fixed for ever, in 
his deathless pages, the road life that existed when 
the sixteenth century was drawing to its close. 

Contemporary with, but originating even 
earlier than, the stage-waggons were the pack- 
horses, which dated from a time when even the 
broad-Avheeled wains would have sunk hopelessly 
in the mud of the best roads in the country. By 
pack-horse, at an earlier date than 1500, all goods, 
and even such heavy articles as building-stone, 
coals and timber, were carried, for the very 
eloquent reason that, before the passing of the 
first General HighAvay Act, in 1555, which was 
the first obligation upon the parishes to repair and 
maintain the roads, nothing had been done to keep 
them in repair for many centuries ; and the 
parishes, with the best will in the world, could 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 107 

not at once retrieve them from their desperate 
condition. Wheeled traffic had heen unknown 
until the early stage- waggons appeared, and those 
few who travelled otherwise than afoot or on 
their own horses were content to mount the pack- 
saddle of a patient and long-suffering pack-horse, 
themselves only a degree less long-suffering 
and patient. Then the etymology of the words 
"travel" and "journey" was ahundantly justi- 
fied ; for it was sorrow and hard lahour to leave 
one's own fireside, and a day's journey Avas — what 
the word " journey " imj^lies — the j^assing from 
place to place within the hours of daylight. No 
one dared travel tlie roads when night had fallen, 
and it was not until the eighteenth century had 
dawned that coaches began to run by night as 
well as day. 

In far parts of the country and on the by-roads 
the pack-horse train lasted an incredible time. 
Wheeled conveyances of any kind Avere, generally 
speaking, imj)ossible on any but the principal 
roads. The farmers and higglers who had occa- 
sion to transport heavier loads than it was possible 
for horses to carry, used a primitive kind of sledge, 
formed of tree-trunks, of Avhicli the light tapering 
ends formed the shafts and the heavy bodies of the 
trunks the runners. Thus the building materials 
Avere of old often carried or dragged, Avitli much 
friction and Avaste of effort, to their destination. 
Tn Devon and CornAvall these truly savage make- 
shifts were called by the peculiarly descriptive 
name of " truckamucks," 



io8 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

When Smollett, the novelist, travelled from 
Glasgow to Edinhurgh and on to London as a 
yonng man, in 1739, he rode pack-horse as far as 
Newcastle, for the simple reason that between 
Glasgow and the Tyne there was neither coach, 
cart, nor waggon on the road ; and in Yorkshire, 
Cumberland, Devon and Cornwall, and the like 
extreme corners of the land, where remoteness 
from the world and the rugged nature of the 
country conspired to exclude wheels, the packman 
and his small hut sturdy breed of laden horses 
alone kept the rural districts supplied with their 
barest requirements until the first years of the 
nineteenth century were come. The old pack- 
men's and drovers' ways, narrow and winding to 
avoid the turnpike-gates that once took toll of all 
l)ut the foot-passenger, may still be traced on the 
Yorkshire wolds, along the shoulders of the West- 
morland and Cumberland fells, and by the rivers 
and moors of Devon and Cornwall. Often they 
are not even lanes, but only precipitous and rocky 
tracks, eloquent of those old times that are com- 
monly pictured so rosy, but were really very grey 
and dour. Here and there the sign of the "Pack 
Horse" still survives, and marks the old houses of 
entertainment once frequentcHl by the j^ackmen of 
that vanished past. The " Pack Horse " at Chip- 
penham and those tAvo old houses at Turnham 
Green, the " Old Pack Horse " and the " Pack 
Horse and Talbot " were halting-places of the 
packmen Avho travelled the Bath Boad. The last- 
named house is now little more than an ordinary 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 



tOQ 



London "public," l)ut it still displays a picture- 
sign, copied from an old orii^'inal, showing a 
packliorse with a talbot by his side ; the " talbot " 
being the old English hound, something between 
a foxhound and a bloodhound, a fierce creature 
who guarded his master's j^i'op^^'ty from the 
thieves and dangers of all kinds that then befell 
so constantly along the roads, or even at the often 
ill-famed inns by the wayside. 

An attenijit to su23plant the pack-horses between 
London and Shrewsbury was made in 1737, by the 
establishment of the " Gee-ho." Facts relatins: to 
this conveyance are of especial interest, because 
we are told the circumstances that led to it being 
23ut on the road. It seems, then, that until that 
year Shrewsbury had known no other than a 
pack-horse service, which set out from and came 
to Avhat was then the " Pheasant," now the "Lion 
and Pheasant," Inn on Wyle Cop, in that town. 
A Mrs. Warner, a widow, was landlady, and 
apjjarently pack-horse proprietor as well. A 
shrewd fellow named Carter, a soldier who had 
been billeted at the inn, made love to the widoAV, 
married her, and managed the business. Let us 
hope they were both happy and successful. At 
any rate, Carter started the " Gee-ho " as the 
first conveyance to ply between Shrewsbury and 
London. It was a stage-waggon, drawn by eight 
horses, with two others in reserve to pull it out 
of those sloughs that might then be confidently 
expected on the Avay. It was advertised to go 
to or from London in seven, eight, or nine days 



no STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

in either direction, according to the condition of 
the roads. 

Smollett's description of how Roderick Ran- 
dom and Strap easily overtook the waggon jour- 
neying to London along the Great North Road 
naturally leads to an inquiry why, if being ill- 
provided with money and only lightly burdened 
with luggage, they, in common with others, pre- 
ferred to pay for the doubtful jorivilege of going 
slower than they could easily Avalk. The reason, 
perhaps, lay jjartly in that lack of appreciation of 
scenery which characterised the period. Poets had 
not yet seen fit to rliajosodise ujion the beauties of 
nature, and artists had not begun to paint them. 
Both were in thrills of the most exquisite rapture 
on the subject of shepherds and shepherdesses, but 
their Arcady was l)ounded by bricks and mortar. 
Strephon and Chloe Avore silk and satin, red-heeled 
shoes and Avigs, and j^atched and powdered amaz- 
ingly. Theirs Avas a bandbox Arcady, a pretty bit 
of make-believe of the kind j^ictured by Watteau ; 
and though they found much poetry in lambs, they 
knew nothing of the AAdntry horrors experienced 
by the genuine shej^herds in the lambing season, 
and, indeed, nothing of nature outside the Avell- 
ordered parks and formal gardens of the great. 
All classes alike looked Avitli horror upon natural 
scenery, regarded the peasantry as barbarians, and 
left the toAvns Avith reluctance and dismay. 

With feelings of this kind animating the time, 
it is not surprising that even humble Avayfarers, ill 
able to spare the money, should have sought the 



THE STAGE-WAG GON!s lii 

shelter and the society that tlie interior of the 
stage-waggons afforded. Other reasons existed, 
little suspected by the present generation, Avhose 
great main roads, at any rate, are well defined and 
excellently Avell kept. No one, nowadays, once 
set upon the great roads to York and Edinburgh, 
to Exeter, to Portsmouth, Dover or Bath, need 
ask his way. It is only necessary to keep straight 
ahead. In those old days, however, when travellers 
could describe the visible road as being a narrow 
track three feet wide, occasionally rising out of the 
23rofound depths of mud and water on either side, 
no one who could afford to pay Avould walk, even 
assuming the very doubtful physical possibility of 
struggling through such sloughs afoot. 

In 1739 two Glasgow merchants, going horse- 
back from Glasgow by Edinburgh to London, 
found no turnpike road until they had gone 
three-quarters of their journey, and were come 
to Grantham. Up to that point they travelled on 
a narrow causeway, and met from time to time 
strings of pack-horses, thirty to forty in a gang, 
carrying goods. The leading horse of each gang 
carried a bell, to give warning to travellers coming 
from an opposite direction. The narrow causeway 
not affording room to pass, the horsemen were 
obliged to make room for the pack-horses and 
plunge into the mud, out of which they sometimes 
found it difficult to get back upon the road again. 
Those were the times when coachmen, often finding 
the old roads impassable, would make new routes 
for themselves across a country not merely strange 



112 STAG ECO AC FT AND MAIL IN DA VS OF YORE 

to turnpike, roads, but still largely ojieu and uu en- 
closed. Travellers then dare not go alone, if only 
for a very well-founded fear of losing their way, 
just as Pepys, years before, often did when travel- 
ling in his carriage to Bath, to Oxford, Salisbury 
and elsewhere. He is found paying a guide 22s. M. 
to show him and his coachman the way between 
Newport Pagnell and Oxford ; 3s. Q)d. for another 
to guide him from Hungerford to Market Laving- 
ton, and, indeed, after he had experienced the 
awful seventeenth-century mischance of losing his 
wav two or three times throus^h havinsr economised 
and neglected to provide this necessary aid, guides 
everywhere. Travellers then achieved what we 
moderns are apt to think wonderful things in thus 
losing themselves. Pepys actually missed his way 
on the Bath Road between Newbury and Reading, 
and Thoresby lost himself riding on the Great 
North Road between Doncaster and York in 1680 ; 
in his diary fervently thanking God that he found 
it again. 

Although, by an early i^ct of William III.'s 
reign, the justices were ordered to erect guide- 
posts at the cross-roads, and road surveyors were 
to be fined 10s. if the provisions of the Act were 
not complied with, such posts (excej^t j^erhaps on 
the road to Harwich, so often travelled by the 
Third William on his journeys to and from the 
Continent) were conspicuously lacking for many 
generations yet to come, and no one ever seems to 
have heard of country surveyors being fined for 
not performing the duty thus laid upon them. An 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 113 

exception to this picture of an uncharted wikler- 
ness thus presented is found in the diary of Celia 
Fiennes, who in the last decade of the seventeenth 
century travelled through England on horseback, 
and especially remarked the Lancashire cross-roads 
between Wigan and Preston being furnished with 
" hands pointing to each road, Avith ye names of 
ye great towns on." The fact of her thinking 
the circumstance worth noting shows us how un- 
common it was for roads to be signposted. 

Only the waggoners who constantly used the 
roads could Avith certainty find their Avay ; and so, 
and for fear of the higliAvaymen and the footpads 
and other hedgerow rascals to Avliom the smallest 
plunder Avas not despicable, the A\^aggon Avas a 
welcome friend to the poor. Safety was thought 
to lie in numbers ; although it is true that, in the 
moment of trial, even a Avaggonful of able-bodied 
travellers Avould commonly surrender their few 
valuables to the first demand of a single higliAvay- 
man, whose pistol was probably unloaded, and, 
even if primed, generally refused to " go ofi" " 
Avlien fired. It is not unnatural to prefer to be 
robbed in company Avitli a number of others, rather 
than to be the solitary victim. For these reasons, 
therefore, even the able-bodied and unencumbered 
often chose to tediously travel with the women, 
the infirm, and those A\^liose luggage compelled. 
Smollett's humorous description of the stage- 
waggon and the follies and foibles of its very 
mixed passengers is the classic authority for this 
stratum of road life. The sham cajitain, really a 
VOL. I. 8 



114 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

quondam valet, Ijraggart before the timorous, but 
shaking with the fear of death upon him when the 
pretended highwayman appears ; his wife, aping 
a gentility as mean as it is transparently false ; 
the money-loving and peace-loving but satirical 
Jew ; the lively Miss Jenny, and the waggoner, are 
all types, slightly caricatured, but true to the life 
of the period. Putting aside the question as to 
whether such people could be conjured out of his 
inner consciousness without some basis of fact, we 
must consider that Smollett, writing of his OAvn 
time, would not for his own sake be likely to draw 
a picture which would seem a forced or unnatural 
representation of the wayfaring life of the period. 
Thus, when he makes his characters journey for 
five days in this manner, and brings them on the 
sixth to an inn where the landlord gives the meal 
they had bespoken to three gentlemen who had 
just arrived, we think we learn something of the 
contempt with which almost every one looked down 
upon passengers by stage-waggons. The gentlemen 
themselves said : " The passengers in the waggon 

might be d d ; their betters must be served 

before them ; they supposed it would be no hard- 
ship on such travellers to dine on bread-and-cheese 
for one day." And the poor devils certainly Avould 
have gone without their meal had it not been for 
that good fellow Joey, the waggoner, who, entering 
the kitchen of the inn with a pitchfork in his 
hand, swore he Avould be the death of any man 
who should pretend to seize the victuals prepared 
for the waggon. " On this," says Smollett, "the 



^■1^ 




^ s 



IHE STAGE- WAGGONS 117 

three strangers drew their swords, and, being 
joined by their servants, bloodshed seemed immi- 
nent, when the landlord, interposing, offered to 
part with his own dinner, for the sake of peace," 
which proposal was accepted, and all ended 
happily. 

Such was the picture of travel by stage-waggon 
it was possible to present to the public in 1748 as 
a reasonably accurate transcript of road-life. 

It was at that time the usual practice among 
a party of travellers by waggon to elect a chair- 
man on setting out. The one thus set above his 
fellows arranged with the waggoner where they 
were to halt during the day, settled with the inn- 
keepers an inclusive charge for meals and accom- 
modation, and was treasurer, paymaster, umpire, 
and general referee in all disputes. Thus was the 
ancient original idea of government in larger com- 
munities — government solely for the welfare of the 
community itself —reproduced in these poor folk. 

The gradual replacement of the pack-horses 
by heavy waggons began on the most frequented 
roads about the third decade of the eis-hteenth 
century. Twelve Turnpike Acts for the improve- 
ment of local roads had been passed in the ten 
years between 1700 and 1710. They increased 
by seventy-one in the next ten years, and no 
fewer than two hundred and forty-five came into 
existence between 1730 and 1760, followed from 
1760 to 1770 by a hundred and seventy-five more. 
The great number of five hundred and thirty Acts 
in seventy-five years shows both the crying needs 



ii8 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

of the age and the energy with which the problem 
of road-improvement was grasped by Parliament. 
If the resulting betterment of the roads was not 
so great as it should have been, that was due 
rather to the unbusinesslike methods by which 
the turnpike trustees des23atched their business, 
and not to the Government. 

Aikin, writing of Manchester and its history, 
tells how the trade of that town, carried on of old 
by chapmen, owning gangs of pack-horses, began 
to increase in 1730, consequent ujdou the improve- 
ment of the roads. Waggons were set up, and the 
chapmen, instead of setting forth with their goods 
for sale, only rode out for orders, carrying patterns 
with them in their saddle-bags. Thus the com- 
mercial traveller, familiar in all the years between 
1730 and the present time, came into existence. 
During the forty years from 1730 to 1770, says 
Aikin, the trade of Manchester was greatly pushed 
by the practice of sending these " riders," as they 
were called, all over the kingdom. The goods 
they sold by sample were delivered in bulk by the 
waggons. 

By 1750^ the gradual introduction of two 
classes of vehicles between the common stage- 
waggon and the stage-coach had begun. The first 
of these intermediate types was the Shrewsbury 
and London "Plying Stage Waggon," announced 
to begin flying from Shrewsbury, October 22nd, 
1750, to reach London in five days, winter and 
summer. As Shrewsbury is 152 miles from 
London, this meant thirty miles a day. Welsh 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 119 

flannels, and consignments of butter and lard and 
miscellaneous goods, shared this vehicle with the 
passengers. There was nothing in the build of 
this new comer on the road to distinguish it from 
the common stage-Avaggons, and it only progressed 
the quicker because, following the newly -estab- 
lished practice of the coaches of that period, it 
changed horses at j^laces on the way, instead of 
making the whole journey with one — often tired 
and exhausted — team. The other type of vehicle 
was the " caravan " or " long coach," the next 
step higher in the social scale. A " caravan " 
was put on the road between Shrewsbury and 
London at the close of 1750. It was an affair 
greatly resembling modern gipsy-vans, and was 
fitted inside with benches for eight, twelve, or 
even, at a pinch, eighteen persons. It was drawn 
by " six able horses," and professed to reach 
London in four days, but often occupied the 
whole of five. The fare to London by " caravan " 
was 15s. — rather less than a penny-farthing a 
mile. A six-horsed conveyance answering to 
this description, but uncovered, is pictured by 
Eowlandson fifty-six years later, on a road not 
specified by him. 

In April 1753 the " Birmingham and Shrews- 
bury Long Coach " began to ply between those 
places and Loudon, completing the distance in 
three and a half days ; fare 18s. Here, evidently, 
were several social grades ; and when the Shrews- 
bury stage-coach of the same year, charging a 
guinea for an inside place, and the "Machine" 



I20 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YOR^ 

of 1764, with a limited number of seats at 
30s., each came on the scene, the several 
degrees of contempt with which all these classes 
of travellers, from those at twopence-farthing a 
mile down to those others at a penny-farthing, 
regarded one another and the lowest class, whose 
shilling a day or halfpenny a mile was the lowest 
common denominator in stage-waggon travelling, 
must have been curious certainly, if not edifying, 
to witness. The usual alternative of a halfpenny 
a mile or a shilling a day gives about twenty-four 
miles as a day's journey for the common stage- 
waggon, and as the Flying Waggon was advertised 
to go at the rate of thirty miles a day, six miles a 
day was therefore the measure of the superiority in 
speed of one over the other. But the accumulated 
contempt of all those social scales for the occupant 
of the common waggon did not rest there, any 
more than it began Avith the passengers of the 
" Machine." Just as the lordly and gentle folk 
who had travelled in their own chariots looked 
down even upon the loftiest heights of stage-coach 
travelling, so did the poor folk of the waggons 
unload their weight of contempt upon those poorest 
of the poor, who, having nothing to lose, feared 
no one — except perha23s the parish constable, apt 
to be arbitrary and not always able to distinguish 
between a penniless but honest wayfarer and a 
rogue and vagabond. Frequently these travellers 
in the lowest stratum saw the highwayman 
approach, not merely without fear but with a 
certain pleasurable anticipation ; because your 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 123 

true knight of the road had a certain generous 
code of morals, and while he rohbed the rich, 
gave to the needy — a thing perhaps counted to 
him for righteousness by that recording angel 
who effaced the record of Uncle Toby's hasty 
imprecation with a kindly ol3literating tear. 

The general increase of heavy traffic soon after 
the middle of the eighteenth century did not 
escape the notice of those responsible for the con- 
dition of the roads. Incompetent road-surveyors, 
ignorant of the science of road construction and 
employing unsuitable materials and unskilled 
labour, saw the highways they had mended with 
mud, road-scrapings and gravel continually falling 
into ruts and sloughs, often from twelve to eighteen 
inches deep. Seeking any cause for this rather 
than their ignorance of the first rudiments of 
construction, they naturally discovered it in the 
passage of the heavily-weighted waggons, and 
raised an outcry against them accordingly. To 
an age that saw no better method of mending the 
roads than that of raking mud on to them and 
throwing faggots and boulder-stones upon that basis, 
this seemed reasonable enough, and Parliament 
was at length persuaded to authorise discriminatory 
rates to be imposed by the turn2:)ike trusts upon 
carts and waggons whose wheels were not of a 
certain breadth. The argument was that the 
broader the wheels, the greater would be the dis- 
tribution of weight, and consequently the road 
would be less injured. It was an argument based, 
correctly enough, upon natural laws, and the age 



124 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

was not educated to the point of seeing that roads 
shoukl be made to the measure of the traffic they 
might be called upon to bear, rather than that the 
build of vehicles should be altered to suit the dis- 
abilities of the roads themselves. So, from 1766, 
a series of Turnpike Acts began, containing clauses 
by which narrow wheels were j^enalised and broad 
ones relieved. Tolls were not uniform throughout 
the country, but although those one Trust would 
be authorised to levy might, from some special 
circumstance, be higher than others, they ranged 
Avithin narrow limits. Generally, a four-wheeled 
waggon drawn by four horses, with wheels of a 
less breadth than six inches, would pay a shilling 
on passing a turnj^ike gate ; with wheels measuring 
six inches broad and upwards, tbe toll would be 
ninepence ; and with a breadth of nine inches 
and upAvards, sixpence. Not at every gate was 
payment of tolls made in those old days. 
Payment made at one generally " freed " the 
next, and sometimes others as well ; but here 
again there was no general rule. Special cir- 
cumstances made some trusts liberal and others 
extremely grasping. 

A width of sixteen inches for waggon wheels 
was very generally urged and adopted, and thus 
it is that in old pictures of this j^eriod the great 
wains have so clumsy an appearance, looking, 
indeed, as though the waiuAvrights had not yet 
learned their business, and from ignorance built 
more solidly than the loads carried gave any 
occasion for. 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 125 

In 1773, one James Sharp, of Leadenhall Street, 
advertised his invention of a " rolling Avaggon," 
whose rollers (in place of wheels) Avere of this 
hreadth of sixteen inches, and proceeded to state 
that " two late Acts of Parliament " allowed all 
carriages moving upon rollers of that gauge to 
he draAvn hy any numher of horses or cattle, and 
further, that they were alloAved to carry eight tons 
in summer and seven in Avinter, and to pass toll- 
free for the term of one year from Michaelmas 
1773, and after that time to pay only half toll. 
Clearly, then, in the great mass of legislation for 
roads and traffic there Avas then a limit existing 
for loads and for teams. It only remained for the 
wisdom of the time to enact laws giving a honus 
to every AA^aggon whose Avheels exceeded a hreadth 
of tAVO feet — thus making every such vehicle its 
own road-repairer — for the ahsurdity to he com- 
plete. There had, indeed, already arisen a hright 
genius Avith a someAvhat similar idea, for in 1763 
Bourne puhlished his design of a four-Avheeled 
Avaggon Avhose front axletree Avas to he so much 
shorter than the hind one that the foremost wheels 
would make a track inside the hinder. The l^readth 
of wheel, indeed, Avas not to he more than fifteen 
inches, hut the comhined hreadth of all four 
planned thus would flatten out no less than a 
five-foot Avidth of road, and the heavier the con- 
tents of the Avaggon, so much better for the 2:>roper 
rolling of the Avay. But this ingenious person 
took no account of the extra difficulty of haulage, 
and the consequently larger teams that Avould be 



126 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

required for this engine of his. It never came 
into use, nor did the rival invention of another 
amiable theorist meet a better fate. This device 
set out to deal with the problem of soft and 
rutted roads by fixing heavy iron rollers under 
the frame of a waggon. While the vehicle 
progressed along good roads these rollers were 
not l^rought into contact with the ground, but as 
soon as the wheels began to sink into foul and 
miry ways, the rollers came into touch with the 
surface, and at the same time prevented any 
further sinking and flattened out all irregularities. 
Turnpike roads, being then things "new- 
fangled " and unusual, were of course disapproved 
of by all that very numerous class who distrust 
any change. Doubtful of their own ability to 
hold their own in any order of things newer than 
that in whicli they have been brought up, any 
change must to them be for the worse. The 
waggoners to a man were numbered in this class, 
and, apart from the tolls to be paid on the new 
roads, objected to them as new. An entertaining 
contributor to the Gentleman s Magazine in 1752 
consulted " the most solemn waggoner " he could 
find between London and Bath. This was one 
" Jack Whipcord," Avho, like every one else, pre- 
ferred to go round by "a miserable waggon-track 
called ' E-amsbury Narrow Way.' Jack's answer 
was, that roads had but one object — namely, 
waggon-driving ; that he required but five feet 
width in a lane (which he resolved never to quit), 
and all the rest might go to the devil. That the 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 127 

gentry ought to stay at home and he damned, and 
not run gossii3ping up and down the country. No 
turnpikes, no improvements of roads for him. The 
Scripture for him was Jeremiah vi. 16.* Thus," 
says the writer, " finding Jack an ill-natured 
brute and a profane country wag, I left him, 
dissatisfied." 

We are not to suppose, from this imaginary 
*' Jack Whipcord," that waggoners were generally 
of a dour and unpleasant nature. Indeed, the 
consensus of opinion to be collected from old- 
world literature shows that, as a class, they 
w^ere pleasant and light-hearted. M. Samuel de 
Sorbiere, a distinguished Frenchman who visited 
England in 1663 and has left a very entertaining 
account of his travels, paints a charming little 
cameo portrait of the waggoner who was in charge 
of the six-horse stage-waggon by which he travelled 
from Dover to Gravesend. The horses were yoked 
one before the other, and beside them walked the 
waggoner, " clothed in black and appointed in all 
things like another Saint George. He had a brave 
mounteero on his head, and was a merry fellow, 
who fancied he made a figure and seemed mightily 
pleased with himself." "Joey," too, the waggoner 
already glimpsed in Roderick Eandom, was 
sprightly and light-hearted; and we have the 
evidence of that old English ballad, the "Jolly 
Waggoner," that men of this trade were conven- 

* " Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, 
where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest 
for your souls." 



128 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

tionally regarded as devil-me-care fellows, own 
brothers in disposition to sailors, always repre- 
sented as jolly, even in the old days when rations 
were scanty and bad and rope's endings plentiful. 
This jollity is insisted upon, even by the old 
wayside signs of the country inns. Now and 
again you may find the sign of the "Jolly 
Anglers," while on the Portsmouth Road the 
" Jolly Drovers " is to be seen, and on the Exeter 
Eoad the " Jolly Farmer," a creature vanished 
from this country and utterly unknown these 
forty years and more ; but only the waggoners 
and the sailors are usually known by that adjec- 
tive. Rarely, indeed, is the sailor described in 
any other way. In a few instances he may be 
"Valiant," but ninety times in every hundred he 
is " Jolly." 

According to the second verse of the " Jolly 
Waggoner," his cheerfulness was invincible : — 

It is a cold aucl stormy night : I'm wetted to the skin, 
But I'll bear it with contentment till I get me to my inn, 
And then I'll sit a-drinking with the landlord and his kin. 

Sing wo ! my lads, sing wo ! 

Drive on, my lads, gee-lio ! 
For who can live the life that we jolly waggoners do-o-o ? 

He kncAV something of all kinds of weather, and 
met all kinds of men in his daily journeys, and 
thus early became something of a philosopher, 
looking forward for nothing beyond his nightly 
inn, in whose kitchen he was well known and 
esteemed, alike for his own qualities and the news 
and parcels he brought from the outer world on 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 129 

the other side of the distant hills. With a sack 
over his shoulders and jieace in his mind, he could 
greet the rainy days with joke and song, or endure 
even the wintry horrors of December and January 
with equanimity ; yet when spring was come and 
grass grew green and the bare, ruined boughs of the 
trees began to be clothed again with leaves, not 
even the old heathen Greeks and Romans in their 
Floralia celebrated the coming again of the sun 
with more heartiness. His horses and himself 
were decked with ribbons on May Day, his sweet- 
heart had some longed-for present from the Great 
City, and not even the blackbird on the hawthorn 
spray sang a merrier tune, as he drove his team 
along their steady pace. 

It is not a little difficult to pronounce an 
opinion upon the fares which the poor folk paid 
by stage -Avaggon. Prices varied widely. On the 
Great North Eoad in 1780, between London and. 
Edinburgh, the measure was, indeed, not by miles 
but by days ; but as the journey took fourteen 
days, and the fare was a shilling a day, and the 
distance covered was 390 miles, we can figure it 
out at about twenty-eight miles a day at something 
less than a halfpenny a mile. Early stage-waggons 
to Cambridge, however, ajjpear to have exacted 
three-halfpence a mile, and moved with incredible 
sloAvness, taking two and a half days to perform 
the fifty-one miles, and sleeping two nights upon 
the road. On the Bath Road the waggon-fare 
seems to have been something less than a penny 
a mile. 

YOL. I, 9 



I30 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

We have already seen something of the old 
waggon-life, as shown by Smollett : let us now 
inquire into the costs and charges of the journey, 
apart from the fare. How did these humble folk 
eat and drink, and how did they lodge for the 
night when the waggon came to its inn at sunset ? 
Sometimes they slept in the shelter of the waggon 
itself, under the substantial covering of the great 
canvas tilt, snugly curled up in the hay and 
straw, and barricaded by the crates and boxes that 
formed part of the load — not an altogether uncom- 
fortable, if certainly too promiscuous, a sleeping 
arrangement. At other times the stable-lofts of 
the inns formed their apartments. Landlords of 
reputable hostelries, mindful of the social gulf 
that (in the opinion of the insides) existed between 
the inside passengers of a stage-coach and those 
off-scourings of the country who rode on the roof 
or in the " basket," did not commonly allow those 
belonging to that even lower stratum, the waggons, 
to sleep in their houses. A supjier of cold boiled 
beef and bread in the kitchen, followed by a 
shake-down in the hay or straw of the stables, at 
an inclusive price of sixpence or ninepence, was 
their portion. Swift himself, that terriljle genius 
of the eighteenth century, Avho knew the extremi- 
ties of obscurity and fame, of penury and affluence, 
was, in his early days, of this poor company. 
When a young man, travelling from the house of 
his patron. Sir William Temple, at Moor Park, 
near Farnham, in Surrey, to see his mother at 
Leicester, he rode in the waggon, and slept at " the 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 133 

j^enny liedge-iDiis," where they were not above 
letting a bed for the night to a young man so 
unusually particular as to j^a-y sixi^ence extra for 
clean sheets and a bed to himself — an exclusive 
arrangement, it would appear, not within the 
everyday philosophy of those humble caravan- 
serais. He whom not only later ages, but even 
his contemporaries, unite in acclaiming a genius, 
generally chose to take his food with waggoners, 
ostlers, and persons of that station. The superfine 
Lord Orrery, who recorded these facts, and tells 
us that Swift " delighted in scenes of low life," 
says he " dined " with them ; but if Lord Orrery 
had been as well acquainted with humble circles 
he Avould have known that the low people in them 
do not " dine " at all ; they just " have dinner," 

It is imjoossible to obtain more than a glimpse 
of the early carriers, and even the later stage- 
waggons were only occasionally advertised in the 
newspapers of the past. Thus, turning to Sussex, 
we only hear of " Thomas Smith, the Old Lewes 
Carrier," in a reference to him after his death. 
How many years he had jogged along the green 
Surrey and Sussex lanes on his weekly journeys 
between Southwark and Lewes we know not. He 
died in 1746, and his widow carried on the busi- 
ness, according to her advertisement in tlie Lewes 
Journal :— 

"THOMAS SMITH, the Old Lewes Car- 
rier, being dead, the business is now continued 
BY HIS WIDOW, Mary Smith, who o^ets into the 



134 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

' George Inn,' in the Borough, Southwark, every 
Wednesday in the afternoon, and sets out for 
Lewes every Thursday morning by eight o'clock, 
and brings Goods and Passengers to Lewes, 
fetching, Chayley, Newick, and all places 
adjacent at reasonable rates. Performed {If God 
permit) by Mary Smith." 

No mention yet, it will be observed, of 
Brighton, that little fisher-village of Brighthelm- 
stone which presently was to rival fashionable Bath. 
The waggon went no farther than Lewes ; and 
the first jmblic conveyance to Brighton appears to 
have been the " Brighthelmstone Stage" of May 
1756, running as an extension of the "London 
and Lewes One-Day Stage." 

Speed was by no means sought upon these old 
waggon-journeys. Quite apart from their usual 
inability to go, under the most favourable circum- 
stances, at more than about four miles an hour, 
they were exempt from passenger-duty, on all 
travellers carried, only when the rate of progres- 
sion did not exceed that speed. 

Thus, although the Brighton waggon owned by 
Tubb and Davis in 1770 had a rival conveyance 
put on the road in 1776 by Lashmar & Co., both 
continued at the old jmce. Both went by way of 
East Grinstead and Lewes, and took three days to 
perform the fifty-eight miles, Lashmar's waggon 
leaving the " King's Head," Southwark, every 
Tuesday at 3 a.m., and arriving at the " King's 
Head," Brighton, on Thursday afternoons. Goods 



7 HE STAGE-WAGGON'S 135 

and parcels Avere carried at the rates of 2s. ikl. 
and 3s. per cwt. 

Malachy Postlethwayt's Dictionary of Trade, 
a work published in 1751, gives some eloquent 
details on this subject of the carriage of goods. 
Comparing that year, a\ hen turnpikes had improved 
the roads, with the bad ways of thirty or forty 
years earlier, it is stated that where six horses 
could in former times scarcely draw 30 cwt. 
sixty miles, they could then draw 50 or 60 cwt. 
Carriage, too, was cheaper by 30 per cent, than 
before. In 1750 there Avere from twenty-five to 
thirty waggons sent Aveekly from Birmingham to 
London, carrying goods at from £3 to £1 a ton ; 
thirty years earlier the cost had been £7 a ton. 
Between Portsmouth and London freights had 
fallen from £7 to £4 or £5 ; and between Exeter 
and London and other towns in the Avest of like 
distance from £12 to £8. Postlethwayt cited these 
figures with jiride, but he argued that the heavy 
waggons AA^ore out the roads, and that they did not 
pay sufficient toll. The manufacturers, he thought, 
got too much advantage out of these low freights, 
and although the public thereby could purchase 
goods more cheaply, they paid their savings all 
out again in the heavy repairs of the liighAvay and 
the consequent extravagant highway rates rendered 
necessary. RailAA^ay rates, Ave may here remark, 
are a source of much bitter discussion to-day, but 
they are fifteen times less than the reduced rates 
of 1750, 

Even in the last days of the road, Avhen railways 



136 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

had already begun to stretch the length and 
breadth of the land, the waggons on the less 
important highways continued very much as they 
had been accustomed to do ; but with the second 
decade of the nineteenth century a demand for the 
quicker conveyance of goods arose on those great 
roads that gave access from the important manu- 
facturing towns to London, or from London to the 
chief seaports. With this demand, in the improved 
condition of those roads, it now became for the 
first time possil)le to comply. On less frequented 
routes— roads leading to agricultural districts and 
sleepy old towns and villages that produced nothing 
for distant markets and wanted little from them — 
the common stage waggon and the flying waggon 
lingered. The Kendal Plying Waggon of 1816, 
pictured by Rowlandson, halting at a wayside inn 
to take up or set down goods and passengers and 
to change horses, lasted well on into the railway 
age ; but in places nearer to and in more direct 
communication with the commerce of great cities, 
the type was early supplemented by later con- 
trivances. 

The first of these were the " Ply Vans," of 
which the swift conveyances of Kussell & Co., 
van jiroprietors, trading between London and the 
West of England, were typical. They were built 
on the model of the wooden hooded van seen in 
London streets at the jj resent time, but considerably 
larger than now common. Russells had for many 
years continued a service of stage-waggons between 
the port of Palmouth and the Metrojiolis. Drawn 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 139 

by the then usual team of eight horses, augmented 
by two, or even four, more on many of the hills 
that make the Avest-country roads a constant suc- 
cession of ujis and downs, they had brought heavy 
goods and luggage that distance in twelve days, at 
the rate of three miles an hour, carrying passengers 
at a halfpenny a mile. But with the coming of 
the nineteenth century they found the stage- 
coaches, with their "rumble-tumbles," beginning 
to carry peojile at a slightly higher fare, and 
performing the whole distance of 269 miles 
in three days and nights. Even the poorest 
found it cheaper to pay the higher fare and save 
the delays and expenses of the other nine days, 
and so Messrs. Russell found one branch of their 
trade decaying. They accordingly, about 1820, 
put their " Fly Vans " on the road, vehicles which 
did the journey in the same time as the ordinary 
stage-coaches of that period, and, running night 
and day, continued so to set forth and come to 
their journey's end until the railway came and 
presently made away with fly vans, stage-coaches 
and mails alike. 

A sign of the times immediately preceding 
railways was the ajDjiearance of the heavy covered 
luggage and goods vans, exclusively devoted to 
that class of traffic and carrying no passengers. 
How the heavy goods of Birmingham and other 
great towns were then conveyed along the roads 
is shown in the curious and very interesting 
old painting, engraved here, of Pickford & Co.'s 
London and Manchester Luggage Van. The roads 



140 STAGE- CO A CH AND MAIL 'IN DA\ 'S OF 1 ^OJ^E 

between London and the great mannfacturing 
towns at length l)ecame crowded with goods, and 
had it not l3een for the railways, they must at an 
early date have become altogether inadequate, and 
an era of great highway improvement and widening 
have set in, notAvithstanding that quite two-thirds 
of the goods traffic at that time was water-borne, 
and went l^y those canals with which the genius 
of Brindley and Telford, and the enterprise of the 
Duke of Bridgewater and others, had half a century 
earlier iutersected the trade routes and manufac- 
turing centres of the country. 

It is at once instructive and interesting here to 
glance at the figures prepared by the promoters of 
the London and Birmingham Railway, opened in 
1838, by Avhicli they argued the pressing need of a 
railway, which should carry cheaper and quicker. 
They gave several sets of estimates, whose discre- 
pancies are to be accounted for by the increasing 
volume of traffic ; but, to reduce their figures to 
round numbers, it seems that in the year before 
the line was begun, the annual average of goods 
despatched ])etween Birmingham and London Avas 
144,000 tons, carried at rates of from fivepence to 
sixpence a mile per ton by the " Ply-boats " on the 
canal and by the vans and waggons. By canal 
the annual expenditure Avas £227,000, by road 
£113,000. Passengers, numberins: 488,342, at an 
average of twopence a head per mile on the 109 
miles, spent £447,646 in travelling. 

To those Avho unfailingly see the wise direction 
of Providence in everything, it Avould seem that 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 143 

Providence had thus raised up railway engineers 
and cajntalists at the psychological moment ; hut 
the views of coach-proprietors, coachmen, guards, 
ostlers, innkeepers, and the innumerahle others 
depending in one way or another upon the road 
for a living, did not, it is to be feared, look so 
complacently upon the new era which in many 
instances ruined them. Nor, perhaps, did those 
who were financially interested in canals ascribe 
the new order of things to providential inter- 
position. 

That, indeed, is providential Avhich advances 
one's own interests and preserves one's well-being, 
but misfortunes are generally given a very different 
ascription. The providential interpositions that 
benefited one class inflicted very great hardship 
and loss upon another. The canals that were, 
before the introduction of railways, very great and 
keen competitors Avith the waggons, were frozen 
up in severe winters, and all traffic along them 
stopped, and thus the whole of the carrying trade 
went by road, greatly to the advantage of the turn- 
pike trusts and the owners of waggons. Indeed, 
severe winters, if unaccompanied by snow, were in 
every way advantageous to the waggons, because 
the li-ost-bound roads gave good going, Avhile 
" open " winters made the highways a sea of mud 
and almost impassable. 

Although with the coming of the railways the 
stage-waggons swiftly disappeared from such direct 
commercial routes as those between London and 
Birmingham and London and Manchester, this 



144 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

ancient type of vehicle lingered amazingly on the 
purely agricultural roads leading to the Metropolis 
out of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. As the stage- 
waggon was the earliest of old road vehicles, so 
also it was the last ; and even when the last coach 
came off the road, and people travelled only by 
train, there were still left not a few of the old 
waggons continuing their sober journeys, not in the 
least affected by the railways. They came to and 
set out from London very much as they had been 
used to do two hundred and forty years before, 
and resorted as of old to the ancient inns that 
lingered in such strongholds of the old road-faring 
interest as the Borough High Street, Aldgate and 
Whitechapel, and Bishopsgate Street. It is true 
they carried passengers no longer, for when railway 
travel came, and was cheap as well as speedy, there 
were none who could afford the time taken of old 
by waggon. It was cheaper to pay a railway fare, 
and thus save a day or even more. But with 
heavy goods it long remained far otherwise, and 
even into the 'sixties it was possible to see the 
lethargic waggons still ponderously coming to their 
haven out of Kent and Sussex at the " Talbot " in 
the Borough (only demolished in 1870), from the 
Eastern Counties to the " Blue Boar " or the " Sara- 
cen's Head " in Aldgate, or from the North to the 
"Tour SAvans," the "Bull," or the "Green Dragon," 
in Bishopsgate Street Within, precisely as they had 
done from the beginning, when Shakespeare was 
play- writing. They were built in the same fashion 
as of yore. The immense canvas-covered tilts had 



THE STAGE-WAGGONS 145 

not changed their pattern, and their dim okl horn 
hmterns Avere genuine antiques ; tlieir Avheels, as 
clumsy as ever they had Ijeen, shrieked for grease 
and racked the ears of the lieges as they had 
always done ; and the lieges swore at the waggoners 
and the waggoners cursed hack at them in strange 
provincial dialects, just as their resjiective ancestors 
had been wont to do for more generations than one 
cares to count. The Londoner little imagined — 
because his imagination on any suljject is small 
— Avlien he looked dully upon these old convey- 
ances, and the old inns to which they came, that 
he was gazing upon a survival of the age of Eliza- 
beth ; and while he was thus failing to realise the 
exquisite interest of what he saw, the " common 
stage waggons," as they Avere technically named 
by Act of Parliament, ceased altogether off the 
face of the earth, and nearly all the old galleried 
inns Avere sAvept aAvay. 



VOL. I. 10 



CHAPTER VI 

THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 

Long before the last quarter of the eighteenth 
century da\Yned, the time was ripe for Post Office 
reform in the carrying of the mails ; but, as a 
matter of course, no one within that department 
saw any necessity for change, and although the 
Post Office revenue was suffering severely from 
correspondence being sent in a clandestine manner 
by stage-coach, the slow and uncertain old methods 
had been retained, Reform had, as always, to 
come from without, just as when Ralph Allen 
of Bath planned his service of postboys in 1719. 
He had, against much opposition, introduced his 
system of messengers riding with the mails at a 
sj^eed of " not less than five miles an hour," then 
considered great expedition, and comparing very 
favourably with the average stage-coach speed of 
something less than four miles, including stops. 
Allen's postboys were at that time the fastest 
travellers on the road, Avith the excej^tion of the 
highwaymen, whose blood mares, according to 
tradition, were faster stilL No one could grumble 
at the course of post in those days on the score 
of comparison Avith the journeys made by other 
travellers ; but, like many other reforms, Allen's 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 147 

postboys, excellent at the l)eginiiing, did not Avholly 
sncceed in keeping abreast of the times. Roads 
improved : everyone and everything went at a 
much greater rate of progression, save the Post 
Office postboys, who for forty-six years continued 
to go at the same sj^eed as that of their predecessors 
of an earlier generation. They were, indeed, sent 
out more frequently on certain routes on which 
business had increased, and on the more frequented 
roads the mails were, from June 17^1, despatched 
six days in the week, instead of twice and thrice, 
as had formerly been the case ; but up to the 
time of Allen's death, in 1764, speed remained 
what it had always been, and it was not until the 
following year that the postboys' regulation rate 
of travelling was raised by Act of Parliament from 
five to six miles an hour, inclusive of stops. The 
post-horses were, hoAvever, of the same inferior 
kind as of old. The best animals Avere, very 
naturally, kept back by the postmasters — Avho were 
generally the innkeepers also — for their customers, 
and for the Post Office the worst nags in the stable 
were invariably reserved. An Act of Parliament, 
backed by the power of the executive, is a very 
dread thing, but it has not the poAA^er of counselling 
a horse incapable of going more than a certain 
number of miles an hour to add another mile to 
his speed. The improvement could thus have 
been only nominal. 

The Post Office officials in Lomlsard Street, 
where the General Post Office AA^as then situated, 
were very Avell content for the public service to 



148 STAGli-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

be continued as of old. It would l3e idle to 
speculate how long the department Avould have 
lagged behind the times and seen the Post Office 
revenues being gradually eaten away by the 
growing practice of secretly sending letters by 
the stage-coaches, which had by this time attained 
a speed of about seven miles an hour, and in 
addition set out more frequently and at more 
convenient hours than the postbo^-s. It Avould be 
idle thus to speculate, because, when the scandal 
was growing to noticeable proportions — when it 
was asserted that the Post Office lost not less 
than £80,000 a year by letters being conveyed 
by unauthorised persons, and when people grew 
indignant that " every common traveller passed 
the King's Mail " — there came to the front a man 
with a plan to remedy what surely was the very 
absurd paradox that the Government strenuously 
reserved to itself the monopoly of letter-carrying, 
and yet provided no reasonable facilities for those 
letters to be conveyed, and idly watched thousands 
of pounds of that cherished revenue being annually 
diverted from their proper destination. This man 
with a well-matured scheme of reform was John 
Palmer, a native of Bath, born at No. 1, Galloway's 
Buildings (noAV North Parade Buildings), in 1742. 
His father was a brcAver and spermaceti-merchant, 
and j)roprietor of two highly prosj^erous theatres 
at Bath and another at Bristol. Intended by his 
father for the Church, his oAvn inclinations were 
for the Army ; but he was not suffered to follow 
his bent, and so was taken from school and placed 




JOHX PALMER AT THE AGE OF 17. 

Attributed to Gaiiishorougli, R.A. 



THE EARL Y MAIL- CO A CHES 1 5 1 

in the counting-liouse of his father's hrewery. 
Wearying of that commercial routine, and still 
without success disputing the question of entering 
the Army, he set about learning the practical side 
of brewing, and worked among the vats and mash- 
tubs of his father's establishment. Then his health 
gave way, and signs of consumption rendered a 
rest and change of air necessary. Recovering at 
last and returning to Bath, he entered into the 
conduct of his father's theatrical enterprises, and 
at the time when he conceived his plan was the 
very busy and successful manager of all these 
theatres, for Avhicli his energy had secured Royal 
patents - a license then necessary for the presenta- 
tion of stage-plays. These patents were then the 
only ones enjoyed by theatres out of London. 

Palmer was, therefore, no impecunious adven- 
turer, but a theatrical proprietor and manager, 
accustomed to secure the highest talent for his 
houses in this resort of fashion. His native 
energy, that brought him success in beating up 
for talented actors and actresses all over the 
country, stood him in good stead when the idea 
of entirely remodelling the carrying of the mails 
occurred to his active mind. Nothing, indeed, 
short of the utmost persistence and determination 
could have surmounted the obstacles to reform that 
were placed in his way by the Post Office officials. 

The mails he had perceived to be the slowest 
travelling in the kingdom, and he decided that 
they ought to be, and should be, the quickest. 
His own frequent journeys had shown him the 



152 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

possibilities, and long observation at Bath had 
displayed how far short of these the postboys' 
journeys always fell. Thirty-eight hours were 
generally taken to perform the 109 miles between 
the General Post Office and Bath, at a time when 
travellers posted down in post-chaises in one day. 

Other objections to postboys existed than on the 
score of insufficient speed. It was, he declared, 
in the last degree hazardous to entrust the mail- 
bac^s— as inevitablv Avas often done — to some idle 
boy, without character, and mounted on a worn-out 
hack, who, so far from being able to defend him- 
self ascainst a robber, was more likely to be in 
league with one. 

Post Office postboys, it should here be said, 
were, like the postboys who drove the post-chaises, 
by no means necessarily boys or youths. They 
included, it is true, in their ranks all ages, but 
the great majority of tliem were grown-uji, not to 
say aged, men. Some people, indeed, recognising 
the absurdity of calling a decrepit old man a 
" postboy," preferred to give him the title of 
"mailman," by which name a postal servant Avho 
got drunk and delayed the Bath mail in 1770 is 
styled in a contemporary newspaper, which says, 
" The mail did not arrive so soon by several hours 
as usual on Monday, owing to the mailman getting 
a little intoxicated on his way between Newbury 
and Marlborough and falling from his horse into 
a hedge, where he was found asleep by means of 
his dog." 

Instead of exposing letters to these and other 




JOHN RALMER. 

FrOhi, the iMintinfj by Gainsborough, R.A. 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 155 

risks, Palmer j^roposcd that a service of mail- 
coaches should he estahlislied on every great road. 

It was a hold scheme, and seemed to most of 
those to whom it was unfolded rash and unwork- 
able. To quite understand this attitude of mind 
on the part of Palmer's contemporaries, both inside 
and outside the Post Office, it is essential to project 
ourselves mentally into those closing years of 
the eighteenth century, Avhen no one travelled save 
under direful compulsion, when correspondence 
between sundered friends and relatives was fitful 
and infrequent, and when even business relations 
between the newly-risen industries of the great 
towns and the rural districts were carried on 
in what Ave now consider to have been a most 
leisurely and somnolent manner. The world went 
very well then for the indolent, and they resented 
any quickening of the pace ; and that the average 
acute business men of that age considered the course 
of post reasonable seems evident when we consider 
that it was not from their ranks that this reform- 
ing project came, and that they are not found 
supporting it until the first mails had been put 
on the road and proved successful. Then that 
imagination which had been altogether lacking or 
dormant in business minds was aroused, and the 
great towns and cities not at first provided with 
these new facilities eagerly petitioned the Post 
Office authorities for mail-coaches. 

Palmer contended that mail-coaches could be 
established at no greater expense than that of 
the postboys and horses, who cost threepence a 



156 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

mile. At a time, he continued, when stage- 
coaches cost their proprietors about twopence a 
mile, it was quite certain that adventurers 
could be found to establish mail-coaches if the 
Government would consent to pay them at the 
same rate as the postboys, to exempt them from 
the heavy tolls to which ordinary traffic Avas 
liable, and to permit passengers to be carried to 
enable these speculative persons to earn a profit 
on their enterprise. The projDosed exemjjtion from 
toll was very reasonable when we consider how 
onerous were the turnpike charges on the Bath 
E-oad, typical as it was of others. The charges for a 
carriage and four horses between London and Bath 
Avere not less than ISs., or about twopence a mile. 

These mail-coaches, he considered, should travel 
at about eight or nine miles an hour. They should 
carry no outside passengers, but were to be j^i'o- 
vided Avitli a guard, avIio, for the better protection 
of the mails, should be armed with tAvo short guns 
or blunderbusses. The coachman, too, should be 
armed, but his equipment Avas to be tA\"o pistols, 
for with his reins to hold Avitli one hand he could 
not, like the guard, bring his Aveapon to the 
shoulder. The journey, for example, betAveen 
London and Bath, it Avas thought, could be per- 
formed in sixteen hovirs, including stoppages ; and 
this unusual expedition, together Avitli the assured 
safety, would result in the projected coaches being 
well patronised by the public. 

This plan was matured in 1782, and Palmer 
lost no time in securing the good offices of an 



THE EARLY AlAlL-COACFTES 157 

influential friend to hring it to the notice of the 
"Heaven-born Minister," Pitt, tlien Chancellor 
of the Exchequer. The time, however, was not 
propitious, for the ministry soon went out of 
office, and it was not until 1781, Avhen he was 
again in power, that Palmer's plan obtained a 
trial. Pitt was heartily in favour of it, and 
carried it into efi'ect against the unanimously 
adverse opinions of the Post Office surveyors, who 
resented one outside their OAvn sanctified and 
anointed caste daring to suggest that the methods 
of the dej)artment were capable of improvement. 
One was, or affected to be, unable to see why the 
post should be the swiftest conveyance in the 
kingdom ; and to another it appeared that for 
guards and coachmen to carry arms would be to 
encourage the higliAvaymen — Avho assuredly would 
continue to attack the mail — to a greater use than 
before of pistols, so that murder would be added 
to robbery and the country run Avitli blood. In 
conclusion, they were all amazed that any dis- 
satisfaction or desire for change should exist, and 
from that amazement proceeded to argue that they 
really did not exist. If (they said) the mails were 
not frequent enough or swift enough, there were 
always the expresses ready to be specially hired. 
Now, as at that time ^ letter going a hundred 
miles by mail would cost fourpence, and the cost 
of an express— at threepence a mile and a two- 
and-sixpenny fee — Avould for the same distance 
be 27s. QcL, this surprise was not altogether 
unlike that of Marie Antoinette, who, hearing 



t58 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YOKE 

that the peoj^le were starving for lack of l)rea(l, 
wondered why they did not eat cakes instead. 

These official ohjections having l)een brushed 
aside at a Treasury conference held on June 21st, 
arrangements were made for a coach to run on 
the road from Bristol, through Bath, to London, 
pursuant to an order issued on July 21th, which 
stated that " His Majesty's Postmasters-General, 
being inclined to make an experiment for the 
more expeditious conveyance of mails of letters by 
stage-coaches, machines, etc., have been pleased 
to order that a trial shall be made upon the road 
between London and Bristol, to commence at each 
place on Monday the 2nd August next." 

On July 31st, 1784, five innholders — one in 
London, one at Thatcham, one at Marlborough, 
and two in Bath — entered into an agreement to 
horse the coach down that ancient turnpike. 
They received threepence a mile for their services. 

A conflict of testimony as to whether the first 
mail-coach started on August 2nd, 1781, or on 
August 8tli, seems to be disposed of by the 
advertisement in Bonner Sf lliddletons Bristol 
Journal of July '31st in that year, although there 
is nothing in succeeding issues of that journal to 
show whether the service actually did or did not 
begin on the date announced : — 

Mail Diligence. 
To commence Monday, Auguft 2nd. 
The Proprietors of the above Carriage having agreed 
to convey the Mail to and from London and 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 159 

Briftol in Sixteen Hours, with a Guard for its Protec- 
tion, refpect fully inform the Public, that it is con- 
ftructed so as to accommodate Four Infide Paffengers 
in the moft convenient Manner ; — that it well {sic) fet 
off every Night at Eight o'Clock, from the Swan with 
Two Necks, Lad-Lane, London, and arrive at the 
Three Tuns Inn, Bath, before Ten the next Morning, 
and at the Rummer-Tavern, near the Exchange, Briftol, 
at Twelve, . . . Will fet off from the faid Tavern at 
Briftol at Four o'Clock every Afternoon, and arrive at 
London at Eight o'Clock the next Morning. 

The Price to and from Briftol, Bath, and London, 
i%s. for each Paffenger ... No Outfide allowed. 

Both the Guards and Coachmen (who will be like- 
wife armed) have given ample Security for their Conduct 
to the Proprietors, fo that thofe Ladies and Gentlemen 
who may pleafe to honour them with their Encourage- 
ment, may depend on every Refpect and Attention. 

Parcels will be forwarded agreeable to the Directions 
immediately on their Arrival at London, etc. etc., and 
the Price of the Porterage as well as the Carriage, 
on the moft reafonable Terms, will be charged on the 
Outfide to prevent Impofition. 

Any perfon having reafon to complain of the 

Porter's Delay, will oblige the Proprietors by fending 

a Letter of the Times of Dehvery of their Parcels to 

any of the different Lins the Diligence puts up at. 

Performed by ,.. o /- t j 

•' Wilson & Co., London. 

Williams & Co., Bath. 

N.B. The London, Bath, and Briftol Coaches from 
the above Inns as ufual. 



t6o STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Immediately beneath this advertisement it is 
amusing to see a counterblast, in the form of an 
announcement by Pickwick, Weeks, and other 
" Proprietors of the Coaches from Bristol, Bath, 
and London," who "respectfully beg leave to 
inform the Public that they continue to run their 
Coaches from the Bush Tavern in Corn Street, 
Bristol," and from other inns in that city and 
at Bath, " with equal Expedition to any Coaches 
that travel the Eoad." Stage-coach proprietors 
in general were, not unnaturally, alarmed and 
angered by the inauguration of a swift service of 
subsidised mail-coaches, not only claiming to 
perform their journeys in a specified time, but 
actually doing so under contracts providing for 
penalties when the official time-table was not 
kept. They were under no such obligations, and 
continually claimed to do things impossible to l)e 
performed, secure from penalties. " What time 
do you get to London ? " asked a passenger of a 
stage-coachman. " Six o'clock, sir, is the proper 
time, but I have been every hour of the four- 
and-twenty after it," was the reply. 

The first mail-coaches were merely ordinary 
light post coaches or diligences pressed into the 
service ; but, unlike those of other and unofficial 
coaches, wdiose stages ranged from ten to fifteen 
miles or more, the horses were changed at stages 
varying from six to eight miles. In this way it 
was possible to attain a running speed of eight 
miles an hour, to destroy the old reproach that 
the mail Avas the slowest service in the kingdom. 



THE EARL Y MAIL- CO A CHES 1 6 1 

and to set the pace to everything else on the road. 
Thus once again the Post Office commanded the 
utmost expedition, and to the mail-coaches those 
travellers flocked who desired the quickest, the 
most dignified, and the safest method of pro- 
gression in that age. 

The first results of the mail-coach system were 
of a very mixed nature. The course of post was, 
it is true, greatly accelerated, hut the rates of 
postage were immediately raised, and although 
the added convenience was well worth the extra 
charge — which, after all, was much less than the 
surreptitious sending of letters by stage-coach had 
been — people grumbled. By the ordinary postboj^s 
the charge for a single letter had been a j)enny 
for one stage, twopence for two stages, and three- 
pence for any higher distance up to eighty miles. 
Over that distance the charge Avas fourpence. 
The postboys' stages ranged from ten to as many 
as fourteen miles. Under the new dispensation 
the postage was raised at once to twopence the 
first stage, and the stages themselves were rarely 
more than seven or eight miles, and often shorter. 
Correspondence going longer distances enjoyed, it 
is true, a reduction ; for two stages cost threepence 
and distances exceeding two stages and not more 
than eighty miles were rated at fourpence. 

The short-distance correspondence therefore 
paid from three to four times as much as under 
the old order of things, and long-distance letters 
a penny more ; but all alike shared the advantage 
of the mail-coaches' comparative immunity from 
VOL. I. 11 



1 62 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

attack and their going every day, including even 
Sundays. One class of correspondents, indeed, 
suffered inconvenience for a time while reorganisa- 
tion was in progress. These were the residents 
on the bye-roads and in the smaller towns not 
situated on the great mail routes. It is obvious 
that the coaches could not be made to go along 
the secondary and very ill-kept roads, and that, 
even could that have been done, it would not 
have been possil)le, in the lack of passenger traffic 
along them, to have found contractors prepared to 
horse the coaches at the price they gladly accepted 
on the main arteries of travelling. The postboys 
had, on the other hand, gone everywhere, and the 
complex system of bye- and cross-posts established 
by Allen and maintained l)y these riders was 
really, for that time, a wonderful achievement. 
Eesidents off the mail routes uoav began to miss 
the postboy's horn, and found their letters lying 
for days at the post-offices until they were called 
for. Instead of the post coming to the smaller 
towns and villages, those minor places had to 
send to the nearest post-ofiice on the mail-coach 
road. These inconveniences only gradually dis- 
appeared on the organisation of a service of mail- 
carts from the post-towns to rural post-offices, 
collecting and delivering the cross-posts ; and it 
was not until another ten years had passed that 
the bye-mails became, as well as the direct ones, 
what they should always have been, quicker than 
any other public conveyance on the roads. With 
this at length accomplished, the leakage of Post 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 163 

Office revenues automaticcilly (lisa])i)eai-(Ml, foi- it 
is not to l)e suj)j)ose(l tliat, \\\\k\\\ tlx; mails \vei-(; 
more frequcMit, cliea])('i-, a.ii(i nioi-c spCM'dy tlian 
other metliods, tlie ])iil)lic would resort to slow 
and more expensive ways of scndinL-- tlieir l(3tt(;rs. 

'J'Ik; next mail-coach to Ix; put on the road was 
i\\(\ Norwich Mail, in March 1785 ; and in May 
of that same year tin; first of the cross-road 
mails was estahlish(;d. Tliis was tin; Bristol and 
Portsmouth. It was followed in raj)id succession 
hy the lon*^ services from London : the Leeds, 
Manchester and Liverpool, on July 25th; the 
London, Gloucester and Swansea ; the Hereford, 
Carmarthen and Mil ford Haven, hy Glashury ; the 
Worcester and Lndlow ; tli(5 ]')ii'mini^-liam and 
Shrewsl)ury ; the Chester and Holyhead; the 
Exeter; tlie Portsmouth; and — on Octoh(n- Kith, 
]7S(), in answer to the petitioji for a mail-coach 
aloji^- th(i (jii'(;at North lload sent np l)y tlie cities 
and towns on that hi<^-hway — hy the York and 
Edinhuri^'h Mail. 

Palmer was not content with merely i-e- 
oi-i^-anisiny the inland mails ; lu; was eag-(n' to sec; 
his plan adopted in France, and to this end 
opened up nei^-otiations with Jiaron D'0<^-ny, 
the Erench Minister of Eosts, in 1787. Cor- 
respondence hetween them, and hetween his 
secretary, Andrew Todd, and M. d(3 I?ichehour<,% 
was still proceeding in 171)1, wh(>n tin; Erench 
Revolution put an end to all such things. 

The success of his ])lan in Eni^dand was no 
sooner assured than his position came u]) fcjr 



1 64 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OP YORE 

discussion. We must by no means regard Palmer 
as a mere sentimental reformer. Nothing could 
be wider of the truth. He thought he saAV, in 
thus being of service to the public, an excellent 
ojiportunity of furthering his oAvn fortunes. He 
had observed how great a fortune Allen had made 
by the posts being farmed to him, and although 
by this time the business of the Post Office was 
grown too huge to be let out at a rent, his acute 
mind, as we have seen, devised a plan that 
brouo^ht him little financial risk or outlay. His 
were the brains ; the Post Office, and the 
contractors who horsed the coaches, took the 
responsibility and the risk, if any. 

It was now only to be expected that he should 
be rewarded for his idea and for the way in which 
he had brought the plan into being. He was 
accordingly, but not until October 1786, 
appointed Comptroller-General, with a yearly 
salary of £1,500, and 2i per cent, on the net 
revenue in excess of £250,000 ; which sum 
represented the former Post Office revenue of 
£150,000 plus the £90,000 the newly-raised rates 
of postage had added to the year's takings. 

It is not the purpose of these jiages to enter 
into the long and pitiful story of the hatreds and 
jealousies that Palmer's appearance at the Post 
Office excited, nor does the subject in hand admit 
any extended study of Palmer's own character. 
When he went to the Post Office as Comptroller- 
General, he went with a determination to be 
unfettered in his actions, and expected to be 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 165 

supreme in fact, although nominally responsible 
to the Postmasters-General. At this period the 
Post Office, which had staggered on from job to 
job from its very inception, and had been purged 
from time to time only to settle down on every 
occasion into a ncAV era of corruption and theft of 
every degree, from the most pettifogging 2)ilfering 
up to malversation of funds on a monumental 
scale, was riddled through and through with 
scandals. There had long been a succession of 
joint Postmasters-General from 1690, when Sir 
Robert Cotton and Mr. Thomas Prankland were 
appointed ; and that double-barrelled office, 
although conducted by those first incumbents in 
an efficient and altogether praiseworthy manner, 
had long degenerated into a political appointment. 
Cotton and Prankland had l)een more than official 
figureheads. They had resided at the General 
Post Office, and were hard-working and con- 
scientious servants of the pul)lic. Their successors 
degenerated into impracticable officers of State, 
who usually only took part in Post Office work 
to the extent of signing official documents they 
never read, and never actively interfered but to 
perpetrate some new job, or — for they commonly 
were violently jealous of one another — for the 
purpose of undoing some already existent scandal 
set agoing by their fellow Postmaster-General. 

It was Palmer's misfortune to go to the Post 
Office at a time when these gilded figureheads 
were not perhajis more efficient, but certainly 
more interfering, than the generality, and, being 



1 66 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

himself hot-headed and impatient of control, he 
very soon came to disagreement from them. 
Their suggestions he at first haughtily ignored, as 
in his opinion likely to injure his plans, and when 
those suggestions l)ecame commands, he entirely 
disoheyed them. The chiefs witli Avliom he thus 
came into bitter conflict were at first Lords 
Carteret and Walsingham : the former a " job- 
master," as Palmer satirically styled him, of 
peculiar shamelessness and audacity; his colleague 
a man of probity, but with something of the 
formal prig in his constitution that irritated 
Palmer at last beyond endurance. Walsingham 
made a point of investigating everything. He 
may not have been a better man of business than 
Palmer, but he was a man of orderly metliods, 
which Palmer was not. Palmer did things well, 
but in an unbusinesslike way ; Walsingham must 
for ever be seeking precedents, calling for vouchers, 
and insisting ujion official etiquette. All this was 
very poisonous to the new Comptroller-General, who 
found himself largely controlled instead of control- 
ling. Carteret, being convicted by his colleague 
of a job. Palmer hotly thought his own honesty 
questioned when careless and unreported appoint- 
ments solely on his own initiative were resented 
by his official suj^erior. Thus affairs continued 
through six years of changes, in which Postmasters- 
General succeeded one another and returned like 
the changes of a kaleidoscope. But while other 
Postmasters disappeared, Walsingham, the stickler 
for form, remained. With others Palmer might 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 167 

have found some way of compromise, but with 
Walsingham he coukl not do other than carry on 
a strugii:le for mastery. The end came when that 
l^eer had for his fellow the Earl of Chesterfield, 
who iiossessed sufficient humour hy himself to be 
amused with Palmer's frettings against authority, 
but in conjunction with Walsingham could only 
follow his lead. Annoyed beyond his own poAvers 
of control (which, to be sure, were very limited) 
by the action of the joint Postmasters in referring 
to the Treasury an affair which he conceived to be 
a purely Post Office matter, concerning the mileage 
to be paid for the Carlisle and Portpatrick mail, 
Palmer forthwith suddenly stopped on his own 
authority the Palmouth, Bristol, Portsmouth and 
Plymouth mail-coaches, which were all being paid 
for at a higher rate than his superiors thought 
necessary, but which they had not agreed to 
discontinue. Questioned about this action, that 
had thrown the mails in the south-west of England 
into utter confusion, he insolently declared that 
what their lordships objected to on one road was 
surely objectionable on another ; if they preferred 
mail-carts to mail-coaches they could have them. 
A violent quarrel then blazed up. Palmer 
charged the Postmasters-General Avith deliberately 
and capriciously thwarting his best arrangements. 
He would appeal to the Prime Minister against 
their interference. 

The Postmasters desired nothing better ; but 
Pitt, who had the greatest confidence in Palmer, 
long evaded the interview they sought with him 



1 68 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

to ])rocui'e liis dismissal, and avIkmi at Icni^tli tlicy 
did ^viii to his proscnc(> lie made it quitch clear 
that it was not in their direction his sympathies 
extend(Ml. Indeed, it is quite jiossible that the 
Com j)tr()ller General Mould have seen his masters 
out of office while he retained his own, had it 
not heen for the extraordinary and unex2)lained 
treachery of Palmer's own friend, Charles Eonnor, 
whom he had ])rovi(le(l with a sj)lendi(l post at 
the General Tost Office. This man suddenly 
launched a pamphlet in which he accused his 
benefactor of delaying the London post in order 
to create popular demands for reforms Palmer 
himself desired to introduce, reforms that would 
j)lace him in a j)ositi()n of higher authority. The 
Postniasters-CJeneral received the publication of 
this ])ami)hlet a\ ith a well-simulated amazement, 
but the suspicion that they had themselves induced 
Eonnor to perform the jjart of Judas is inevitable, 
and is deepened by their subsequent action. 
Palmer, of course, suspended Eonnor, a\ hereupon 
they asked the reason, and on Palmer refusing 
to give an explanation that must have been Avholly 
unnecessary in fact, if not in actual form, they 
reinstated the man. Nay, more, when Eonnor 
repaired to my lords with the news that Palmer 
had refused to reinstate him, and had, in fact, 
ordered him with threats off the premises, they 
consented to read and to show to Pitt the i)rivat(5 
and confidential corr(\s2)ondence he had l)rought 
with him, addressed l)y Palmer to his former 
friend during a series of vears, and containing not 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 171 

a little compromising matter, proving how Palmer 
had been steadily bent on asserting his own 
authority and on denying that of the Postmasters- 
General. 

The Avliole pitiful story is at l)ottom an indict- 
ment of the figurehead in public life ; an exposure 
of the hoary custom of apjDointing political and 
ornamental heads to the overlordship of executive 
departments really ruled by permanent officials. 
My lords came and went as party fortunes willed. 
Palmer had officially no politics; all he desired 
was to perfect his already successful plan. Other 
Postmasters-General would have been content 
with their figureheadship, and have danced like 
any other Governmental j^uppets to the pulling of 
official strings ; but Palmer's overlords declined to 
do anything of the sort, and if they could not 
organise or originate, found it at least possible to 
meddle and veto. 

Palmer, ready at most times to do anything— to 
travel many miles, to exj^end his highly nervous 
energies in any other way than l)y letter-writing, 
made this one irretrievable blunder of a a^enerous- 
minded man. He was accustomed to unburden 
himself on paper to the friend who already owed 
everything to him— and who by natural conse- 
quence hated him for it — and by so doing was, 
as we perceive, in the end undone. 

The Postmasters-General were the sole eventual 
gainers by Bonnor's incredible perfidy, for that 
creature, by rare poetic justice, died at last in 
misery and want. 



172 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

When at length they succeeded in obtaining 
another interview with Pitt and disclosed these 
letters, there was, of course, an end of Palmer's 
official career. But it was sorely against his will 
that the Great Commoner left the Comptroller- 
General to his fate. He saw that a great deal of 
the animus shown against him l)y my lords was 
due to their sense of the enormity of a person of 
his rank Avithstanding not merely Postmasters- 
General, but Postmasters- General who were also 
peers of the realm. He saw, too, that a peer 
with the dignity of his caste offended can descend 
to more despicable depths to avenge himself than 
a mere untitled person Avould plumb. The pity 
is that even Pitt could not ignore letters written 
in confidence and treacherously disclosed. 

But, although Palmer was left to the mercy 
of his enemies, Avho instantly dismissed him, he 
did not go without acknoAvledgment. His salary 
and commission had by noAV reached £3,000 a year, 
and this sum Pitt continued to him as a pension 
from 1792, the date of his dismissal. 

Palmer Avas noAv fifty years of age, and in his 
prime. He naturally was not CDutent Avith this 
settlement, and moved the Avhole influential Avorld 
to aid him, petitioning the House of Commons, 
and at length securing a committee to investigate 
his case. Sheridan, moving the appointment of 
this body, urged Palmer's claims Avith generous 
eloquence. He described hoAV the reformer had 
formed the i)lan of a mail-coach service, and had 
introduced it to the notice of the Government, 



THE EARLY MAIL-CO ACHES 



173 



entering into an agreement to receive a percentage 
in the event of success, and not one shilling if it 
proved a failure. " None but an enthusiast," he 
declared, " could have formed sucli a plan ; none 
but an enthusiast could have carried it into 
execution ; and I am confident that no man in 
this country or any other could have done it but 
that very individual, John Palmer." 

The report of this committee, recommending 
an increased pension or a grant, was not adopted ; 
but in 1801 
Palmer him- 
self entered 
Parliament 
and fought 
his o w n 
battles. He 
l^rinted and 
circulated 
among the 
members and 

in other circles a statement of his case, and in 
the course of eight years expended no less a sum 
than £13,000 in appeals for justice — in vain, and 
it was left for his eldest son. Colonel Charles 
Palmer, who succeeded him in the representa- 
tion of Bath in 1808, to ^t last fight the question 
to a victorious issue. In 1813 he secured for his 
father an award of £50,000, and the continuance 
during his life of the commission on Post Office 
receipts originally agreed upon. 

In the meantime, Palmer had been variously 




ONE OF THREE MAIL-COACH HALFPENNIES STRUCK 
AT BATH, 1797. 



174 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IiY DAYS OF YORE 

lionoiircd. (Jainsboroui;'!!, liis ii(ML;lil)()iir at Royal 
Circus, J5atli, ])aiiitc(l his ])i)i"tniit ; CUasi^ow 
iiuM'chants, moiuhovs of tlio Chaiuhcn* of CoimncMrc 
ill that city, had as early as 17S{) ])rcs(Mi((Ml hiiii 
Avith a silver l()viiii!;-ciii), "as an ackuow Icdi^iiuMit 
of the heuetits resiiltiiii»' from his plan to the 
trader and coniniercc of this king'dom " ; and in 
17D7 three "mail-coach hallpennies " wen^ struck 
by some now unknown admii'(>r. They hear on 
the obverse a mail-coach, and on tiie reverse an 
inscription to him "as a token of g'ratitude for 
benefits received " from his system. A third 
tribute was the j)aintini;' by George Robertson, 
eng'raved l)y Januvs b'itthn', and inscribed, curi- 
ously, to him as Comptroller-G(MUM'al, in ISOo, 
eleven years after he had ceased to hold that 
position. He also rectMved the freedom of (Mi;hteen 
cities and towns in recognition of his public 
services, was ]\layor of Hath in 171X) and ]S01, 
and rejn'csented that city in tin* four Parliaments 
of 1801, 1802, 1800, and 1807. il(^ died at 
]?rii;'hton in 1818, in his seventy-sixth year. His 
body was conveyed to Eath and laid in the Abbey 
Church ; but no monument marks the spot, and 
it is only recently that his residence at Royal 
Circus, and his birthplace in his native city, have 
been ideutitled to the wayfarer by inscribed 
tablets. 

The very earliest mail-coaches were ill made, 
and were continually breakin;;- down. Althoui^h 
the coaches themselves were supplicnl by the 
contractors, and the Post Othce was not concerned 



^ - v^^<' 




J^aJ^^u^^ 



JOHN 1'AJ,AIJ;U IN HIS ToTJI YKAK. 

lu-o,n an ,,tdd,;j hy Ih'i lion. Martha Jtrvu. 



THE EARL V MAIL- CO A CHES 1 7 7 

in their cost, it was very closely interested in 
their efficiency ; and so, early in 1787, Palmer 
had already represented to the contractors that 
the mails mnst be conveyed by more reliable 
coaches. 

" The Comptroller-General," he wrote to one 
contractor, " has to complain not only of the 
quality of the horses employed on the Bristol Mail, 
but as well of their harness and the accoutrements 
in use, whose defects have several times delayed 
the Bath and Bristol and London letters, and have 
even led to the conveyance Ijeing overset, to the 
imminent peril of the passengers. Instructions 
have been issued l)y the Comptroller for new sets 
of harness to be supplied to the several coaches in 
nse on this road, for which accounts will be sent 
you by the harness-makers. Mr. Palmer has also 
under consideration, for the contractors' use, a 
new-invented coach . ' ' 

This was a truly imperial Avay of remedying 
gross dereliction on the contractors' part, but it 
had its effect in this and other instances, for it 
may be presumed that the harness-makers thus 
officially selected to replace the contractors' 
ancient assortments of worm-eaten leather and 
cord were not the cheapest in the trade, and that 
tliose contractors very soon awoke to the fact that 
it would be more economical in future to provide 
ncAv harness of their q\s\\ free will, and from their 
own harness-makers, than under compulsion. 

In respect of the type of coaches, as well as of 
their equipment in minor details, Palmer sternly 
VOL. I. 12 



178 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YOKE 

resolved to impose thorough efficiency. As he 
was very well assured that their defects arose 
from the cheese-paring policy of the contractors 
themselves, he decided that the Post Office 
must have a voice in the selection of the 
coaches, and, having discovered what he considered 
a suitable huild, made it a condition of the service 
that it should he used. This officially-approved 
new type was a " j)atent coach " by one Besant. 
The contractors had no choice in the matter. 
Palmer, the autocrat, had seen that Besant's 
coaches were good, and willed it that they should 
use none others, and so to that fortunate patentee 
they were obliged to resort. He entered into 
partnership with Vidler, a practical coachbuilder ; 
and thus at Millbank, Westminster, was estab- 
lished that mail-coach manufactory which for 
forty years sup2)lied the mail-coaches to the mail- 
contractors. Besant and Vidler 's terms were 
twopence-halfpenny a double mile. Por this price 
the coaches were hired out to the contractors and 
kept in repair. The practice was for Vidler's men 
to take over the mail-coaches after they had 
entered the G-eneral Post Office in the morning, 
on the completion of their up journeys, and to 
drive them to Millbank, where they were cleaned 
and greased, and delivered to the various con- 
tractors' coach-yards in the afternoon. 

On December 2nd, 1791, Besant died. He 
was, we are told, " an honest, worthy man, and 
the mechanical Avorld sustains a great loss by his 
death. His ingenuity was in various instances 



THE EARLY MAIL-COACHES 179 

sanctioned by the Society of Arts, many of Avliose 
premiums were awarded to him." 

However that may have been, and although 
to Palmer the patent coach of Besant may have 
seemed altogether admirable, there were many 
who condemned it and its patent springs. It is 
apparently one of this type that is pictured by 
Dalgety in his print of St. George's Circus, dated 
1797. It is curious and interesting, as showing 
a transition between the old type of coach and a 
style yet to come. The fore boot is of the old 
detached type, but the wickerwork basket behind 
is discarded, and a hind boot may be observed, 
framed to the body. The coach is hung very 
high, and suspended at the back from iron or steel 
arms of the pump-handle kind. This seems to be 
the type criticised so severely by Matthew Boulton, 
himself an engineer, in 1798, when, describing a 
mail-coach trip from London to Exeter, he roundly 
condemned the patent springs : — 

" I had the most disagreeable journey I ever 
experienced the night after I left you, oAving to 
the neAV improved patent coach, a vehicle loaded 
with iron trappings and the greatest complication 
of unmechanical contrivances jumbled together, 
that I have ever Avitnessed. The coach swings 
sideAvays, Avith a sickly sway, Avithout any vertical 
spring ; the point of suspense bearing upon an 
arch called a spring, though it is nothing of 
the sort. The severity of the jolting occasioned 
me such disorder that I was obliged to stop at 
Axminster and go to bed very ill. HoAvever, I 



i8o STAGE-CO AC II AND MAI I IN DAYS OF YORE 

was able to jiroceed next day in a post-cliaise. 
The landlady in the ' London Inn ' at Exeter 
assured me that the passengers who arrived every 
night were in general so ill that they were obliged 
to go supperless to bed ; and unless they go back 
to the old-fashioned coach, hung a little lower, 
the mail-coaches Avill lose all their custom." 

Some debated points respecting the early mails 
are cleared up in a series of replies by Palmer 
to questions put by the Prench Post Office in 
1791, respecting the English mail-coach system. 
"What," asks M. de Richebourg, " is a Mail- 
coach ? " and among other details we learn that 
" it is constructed to carry four Inside Passengers 
only, and One Outside Passenger, Avho rides with 
the Coachman." Here we perceive the beginning 
of the outsides. 

Then the question is asked : " When there 
are no Travellers on the Mail-coaches, do they 
put-to the same number of Horses as Avhen there 
are ? " To this the answer was : " They are all 
drove Avitli four Horses, sometimes, in Snow and 
very bad weather, Avitli Six ;— never less than four, 
whether they have Passengers or not." This 
disposes of the statements made that the early 
mails were two-horsed. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY : 1800 — 182J^ 

The period at wliicli this chajiter begins is that 
when outside passengers were first enabled to ride 
on the roofs of coaches without incurring the 
imminent hazard of being thrown off Avhenever 
their vigilance and their anxious griji were relaxed. 
It was about 1800 that fore and hind boots, 
framed to the body of the coach, became general, 
thus affording foothold to the outsides. Mail- 
coaches were not the cause of this change, for 
they originally carried no passengers on the roof. 

We cannot fix the exact date of this improve- 
ment, and may suj^j^ose that, in common with 
every other innovation,, it was gradual, and only 
introduced when new coaches became necessary on 
the various routes. The immediate result was to 
democratise coach-travelling. Exclusive insides, 
who once with disgust observed the occasional 
soldier or sailor dangling his legs in the Avindows, 
now Avere obliged to put lij) with a set of clieaj^ 
travellers avIio, if they did no longer so dangle 
their common legs, being provided with seats and 
footholds, were always to be found on the roof, 
laughing and talking loudly, enjoying themselves 
in the elementary and vociferous way only 



1 82 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

possible to low persons, and disturljiiig the genteel 
reflections of the insides. Let us pity the sorrows 
of those superior travellers, unwillingly conscious 
of those stamping, noisy, low-down creatures on 
the roof ! 

The revulsion of those sensitive persons led to 
the establishment of a superior class of coach, 
carrying insides only ; and accordingly, we find the 
original improvement of seats on the roof bringing 
far-reaching consequences in its train. While 
democratising coaches, it at the same time 
necessitated another class, and thus directly 
brought about a numerical increase. The ex- 
clusive were thus enabled to keep their exclusive- 
ness by going in such conveyances as that 
announced in the advertising columns of the 
high-class papers : — 

For Portsmouth. 

A New Carriage on Springs, 

called 

THE LAND FRIGATE, 

gets out from the 'Bell Savage, Ludgate Hill, to the 
'Bjd Lyon at Portsmouth, every Tuesday and 
Saturday, at 6 a.m. Fare, i 5^. each Passenger. Ladies 
and Gentlemen are requested to Observe that the 
Frigate is elegantly sashed all round, and in order to 
preserve the gentility and respectability of the vehicle, 
no outside passengers are carried. 

The period now under consideration was in 
other ways a very great and progressive one. In 



THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: 1800— 1824 185 

this space of twenty-five years were included the 
two most significant advances in the whole history 
of the road — the introduction about 1805 of 
springs under the driving-box, and the shortening 
of the stages. AVithout either of them, the 
acceleration that resulted in the Golden Age of 
coaching, beginning in 1825, AAould have been 
impossible. 

The placing of springs under the driving-l)ox 
was due to the suggestion of John Warde, earliest 
of the coaching amateurs, who had been taught 
the art of driving a stage-coach by Jack Bailey, 
a famed coachman on the old " Prince of Wales," 
between London and Birmingham. He had found 
the jolting received directly from the axle an 
intolerable infliction on a long drive, and urged 
coach-proprietors to provide springs. Said " Mr. 
AVilkins of the 'Balloon'" — a character in 
Nimrod's Life of a Sportsman — " they do say they 
are going to put the boxes of all stage-coaches on 
springs, but Heaven knows when that will be — 
not in my time, 1 fear. Our jjeople say it 
won't do; we shall go to sleep on them. No 
danger of a man doing that now, even if he should 
be a bit overtaken Avitli drink." Under these 
circumstances there was, as Mr. AVilkins Avent on 
to show, " a great deal of hart in sitting on a 
coacli-l)ox," as well as driving four horses. 
" Your body must go with the swing of the box, 
and let your lines (loins, he meant) l^e as lissom as 
you can. It would kill a man in a week to drive 
as far as I do, if he did not do as I say." 



1 86 STAGE-COACH AN'D MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

When it Lecamc clear to coach-proprietors that 
a coachman couhl drive a Ioniser distance Avhen 
his body was not racked so intolerably, they 
provided springs, and risked the remote chance of 
coachmen g'oing to sleep on the hox. 

Another reform, humane to the liorses and 
dii-ectly productive of increased speed and effi- 
ciency on the road, was the introduction of shorter 
stages. Prom those almost incrediT)le times when 
a coach went from end to end of a long trip and 
returned with the same team, to those when the 
stages were twenty miles long constituted, no 
doiiht, a great advance; hut that was hy this time 
no longer sufficient. Tlu.' mail stages, as Ave have 
seen, rarely at the earliest times exceeded ten 
miles, and were often much less. The mails also 
travelled at night, a thing the stage-coaches did 
not in the old times dare attempt. In the early 
days of Pennant, and other chroniclers contempo- 
rary with liim, the coaches inned every evening. 
None dared travel when the sun had set and 
darkness brooded over the land, for there were not 
only the highwaymen to 1)e feared — and they still 
continued to increase— but the badness of the 
roads had constituted a danger even more dreaded. 
Now, however, roads — thanks to Post Office 
insistence — were greatly improved; and if the 
mails could go througli the darkness, why not 
also the stages ? Coincident with these things, 
great minds perceived that by changing horses 
every ten miles or so, and coaclimen at intervals, 
a coach might, in the first jjlace, be made to go 



THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: 1800— 1824 189 

much faster, and secondly, might jnit into twenty- 
four hours of continuous running Avhat had 
formerly heen the work of three days. It is 
obviously easy to go over a hundred miles in the 
twenty-four hours even if you only go five miles 
in every hour. These great truths once perceived 
and acted ujwn, the coaching Avorld Avas revolu- 
tionised. 

No longer did coaching announcements propose 
to perform journeys in so many hours if the roads 
were good. They boldly promised that they Avould 
complete their course by a certain time, and 
altogether disregarded contingencies. By this 
time the " God-permits " had also become things 
of the past, and no proprietor was so old-fashioned 
as to announce that his coach Avould set out or 
arrive, " God permitting," as aforetime had been 
the cautious or pious proviso. They now 
" started " instead of " setting out," and arrived, 
as an irreverent Avag observed, " God willing, 
or not." 

In fine, the Avorld Avas made to go according to 
time-tables, and much faster than of old. Coaches 
actually, as an ordinary everyday thing, Avent at a 
quicker pace than an able-bodied man could Avalk, 
and it Avas no longer j^ossible for a weary traveller 
when ofi'ered a lift, to decline Avith the bond-fide 
excuse that he was in a hurry ; and so, continuing 
afoot, to arrive before the coach. Fielding shows 
us Parson Adams outAvalking the coach, about 
1715 ; but in this era the passengers just too late 
for the stage could by no means hope to catch it 



I90 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

up. Why, it commonly went at eight miles an 
hour, and often nine ! Thus we see Rowlaudson's 
anxious travellers, unable to attract the attention 
of the coach in front of them and equally unable to 
overtake it, left lamenting. 

This, too, was the age of increased competition, 
when a continuous smartening-up alone kept 
some of the old-stagers going. Thus, in 1805, 
when three coaches left London every day for 
Sheffield, the quickest took over thirty hours. In 
1821 it left the "Angel," Angel Street, St. Martin's- 
le-Grand, at 3.30 p.m., and arrived at Sheffield at 
8 the next evening, — 163J miles in 28^ hours, or 
at the rate of 5f miles an hour, including stops. 
In 1821 it started an hour later and arrived at the 
same hour as before ; and in 1827 was expedited 
by another half-hour. That was very poor 
travelling, and it is not surprising that after 1827 
it is heard of no more. More strenuous rivals 
usurped the route. 

Here we see that coach draAvn up in front of a 
wayside hostelry, — the " Eull's Head "^ — at some 
unnamed spot. Let us not criticise the draAving 
of it too narrowly, for the painting whence this 
illustration was engraved was the work of the 
coachman, Alfred Elliot. He Avas coachman first, 
and artist afterwards. 

Another result of competition Avas the gorgeous 
livery a coach on a hotly contested route would 
assume, and the number of places it Avould pretend 
to serve. In the illustration of the " Express " 
London and Birmingham coach — represented in 



THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: 1800—1824 193 

the act of leaving the " Hen and Chickens," New 
Street, Birmingham, and reproduced from a 
curious contemporary painting executed on sheet 
tin — an extraordinary numher of place-names are 
seen ; some those of towns this coach could not 
possibly have served. The explanation is that the 
" Express" made connections with other routes and 
booked passengers for them, whom they set down 
at ascertained points to wait for the connecting 
coach. This in itself, an early attempt at the 
through booking and junction system obtaining on 
raihvays, is evidence of the progress made towards 
exact time-keeping in this era. 

De Quincey, as a mail-passenger, has a 
scornful passage reflecting upon the gold and 
colour that adorned these stage-coaches, which, 
being furiously competitive, could not afford to be 
quiet and plain, like the mails. " A tawdry thing 
from Birmingham," was his verdict upon the 
" Tally-Ho " or " Highflyer," that overtook the 
Holyhead Mail between ShrcAvsbury and Oswestry. 
" All flaunting Avitli green and gold," it came up 
alongside. "What a contrast with our royal 
simplicity of form and colour is this plebeian 
wretch, Avith as much writing and painting on 
its sjirawling flanks as Avould have puzzled a 
decipherer from the tombs of Luxor ! " Precisely 
the same things might be said of omnibuses in our 
OAvn days. 



VOL. I. 13 



CHAPTER VIII 

COACH LEGISLATION 

" The law," said Mr. Bumble, " is a liass ! " and 
scarcely ever has it ajipeared more asinine than in 
its dealings with the roads and road-traffic. Legisla- 
tive traffic restrictions were very early introduced, 
originally on behalf of the highways ; and not until 
the coaching age was well advanced did it aj^pear 
necessary to intervene with enactments protecting 
the passengers as well as the road surface. There 
was perhaps no necessity to legislate against reck- 
less driving in the early days of coaching; for, 
Avith the singularly bad state of the roads, the 
clumsy build of the original vehicles, and the 
exhaustion of the teams that drew them great 
distances without a change, it would have passed 
the wit of man to be a charioteer with the dashing 
methods attributed to Jehu, that Biblical hero, 
the son of Nimshi, who, we are told, "drove 
furiously." 

The first restrictions to be put in force were 
those levelled against the heavy road-traffic of 
the time of James I. By them, four-wheeled 
carts and waggons were, in 1G22, absolutely pro- 
hibited, and loads above 20 cwt. forbidden : " No 



COACH LEGISLATION 195 

carrier or other person whatsoever shall travel 
with any wain, cart, or carriage Avith more than 
two wheels, nor ahove the weight of twenty 
hundred, nor shall draw any wain, cart, or car- 
riage with more than five horses at once." This 
was confirmed in 1629. It seems an arbitrary and 
merely freakish act, thus to interfere with the 
traffic of the roads ; but we must remember what 
those roads were like, and consider that our 
ancestors were not irrational j^uppets, but living, 
breathing, and reasoning men, whose doings, when 
considered in relation with the times, the limita- 
tions that obscured their view, and the disabilities 
that surrounded them, were eminently logical. 
It is not easy to be wiser than one's generation, 
and those who are have generally been accounted 
geniuses by later ages and madmen by their 
contemporaries. Even Avhen ideas are of the 
CD lightened kind, they are not readily to be applied 
when greatly in advance of their era ; for stubljorn 
facts, difficult to remove or improve away, com- 
monly delay the practical application of the most 
brilliant theories. If a seventeenth-century 
MacAdam had arisen to preach the gospel of good 
roads, instead of repressive regulations for bad 
ones, he would still have had to overcome the 
difficulty of finding road-metal in districts far 
removed from stone ; and how he would or could 
have surmounted that impediment when all roads 
were bad and the transport of materials from a 
distance expensive and tedious, we will leave the 
reader to determine. 



196 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OP YORE 

To look upon our forbears, therefore, as though 
they were strange creatures whose movements 
were not governed by as much common sense as 
our own would be absurd. 

The reason for the regulations proclaimed in 
1622 and again in 1629 was set forth in the state- 
ment that the four-wheeled waggons used up to 
that time had, with their excessive burdens, so 
galled the highways and the very foundations of 
bridges that they had become common nuisances. 

The carriers and drovers and their kind were, 
in 1627, forbidden to travel on Sunday, under a 
penalty of 20s. By the terms of this Act, 
which began by stating that " the Lord's Day, 
commonly called Sunday," Avas " much broken 
and profaned by carriers, waggoners, carters, wain- 
men, butchers, and drovers of cattle, to the great 
dishonour of God and reproach of religion," any 
of these persons travelling or causing their servants 
to travel or come to their inns on Sundays could 
be convicted on the evidence of witnesses, or on 
their own confession, at any time up to six months 
after the commission of the offence, and the magis- 
trates could at their discretion aAvard one-third of 
the penalty to the informer and two-thirds to the 
poor of the parish. Thus early did the informer, 
who was in later years to play so important a part, 
come upon the scene. The notion of a conscious- 
stricken carrier or drover confessing to the heinous 
crime of travelling on Sunday is amusing. 

The next intervention was that of the Sunday 
Trading Act of 1676, a Puritanical measure whose 



COACH LEGISLATION 197 

enactment in the licentious reign of Charles II. 
is still the Avonder of students of social history. 
Had it heen a measure originating Avith tJie 
Commonwealth, its appearance in the statute 
hook could he readily explained, hut, as matters 
stand, we are reduced to assuming that, although 
King, Court and Society might he vicious, yet 
Parliament, and England as a whole, Avere still 
deeply tinged with strict Sahhatarian sentiments. 
The Act forhade the sale or exposing for 
sale of any AA^ares or merchandise Avhatsoever on 
the Sahhath day. Drovers, waggoners, horse- 
coursers, hutchers and higglers were not to come 
to their inns on Sundays, under a penalty of 
20s. ; and no Avork, except works of necessity 
and charity, Avas to he undertaken. The service in 
private families and at inns Avas alloAved, and meat 
might he dressed on that day, and milk cried hefore 
9 a.m. or after 4 p.m. But plying for hire and 
travelling Avere not then considered necessary on 
that day, and so enjoyed no special exemption. 
The cooking of meat and the selling of milk only 
enjoyed this Sunday franchise because milk and 
meat are perishable. It Avas this consideration that, 
in 1G90, l3rought ahout an amendment by Avliich 
the crying of that exceptionally perishable fish, 
mackerel, Avas legalised^ on the Sabbath. 

Not a Avheel AA^agged, therefore, on Sundays in 
the early days of coaching, and the tradition 
against Sunday travel long outlasted the legal dis- 
ability ; so that although mail-coaches Avere never 
a Sabbatarian institution, the stage-coaches on 



198 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

tliat clay Avere always few wliilc coacliing lasted. 
The tradition was weaker on the Brighton Eoad 
than elsewhere. That was a fashionahle road, and 
fashion has ever heen irreligious, leaving the 
people outside its ranks to he the hulwarks of the 
Seventh Day. Thus we find the first Sunday 
coach hetAveen London and Brighton estahlished 
in 1792. 

The Sunday Trading Act has never heen 
wholly repealed, and it is still possihle for sour 
and malignant persons to intervene, under the 
ready cloak of religious and Sahhatarian feeling, 
and to lay information against shopkeepers who 
open on Sundays, and so cause the tohacconists, 
the hairdressers and newsagents, who commonly 
continue their husiness on that day, to he sum- 
moned and fined for every such ofPence. The Act 
only generally comprehended hackney-coaches, 
hut that term included the stages, which were 
thus penalised until 1710, when, hy the 9th of 
Anne, c. 23, hackney-coachmen and chairmen 
might ply. 

It is a curious and notcAvorthy point ahout this 
ohsolescent Act that Avhen an information is laid 
the police have no optional course. They must 
issue a summons, Avhile the magistrates are hound 
to fine offenders on their heing convicted. It 
depends, hoAvever, upon the character and the 
prejudices of the hench Avhether the penalty may 
he a merely nominal one, carrying an implied 
disapproval of the informer's action, or the full 
statutory fine of 5s. and costs. We here ohserve 



COACH LEGISLATION 199 

the ill which it is still possible for the common 
infoi^mer to work, but the great days of these 
gentry are gone. 

Parliament, never tired of legislating for roads 
and vehicles, produced in course of time a strange 
and bewildering medley of laws, often contradic- 
tory of one another. Among these Acts, those for 
the regulation of Avaggons were the most numerous. 
An early curiosity of the statute book in this 
connection is the Act of Charles II. forbiddinc: 
carters and waggoners to drive six or more horses 
tandem. Already, it appears, the old prohibition of 
four-wheeled carts or wains, in 1622 and 1629, was 
obsolete. Then followed an Act of William III. 
expressly forbidding waggon-horses being yoked in 
I)airs ; but another of the same reign Avithdrew this 
prohibition, and, in allowing pairs, limited the team 
to eight animals. In the succeeding reign of 
Anne this limit was reduced to six in pairs, 
except uphill, when additional horses might be 
yoked on. The prohibition of horses going abreast 
points to the extreme narrowness of the roads in 
many parts of the country at that time, just as its 
supersession by the Act permitting pairs would 
appear to be a result of road-Avidening. 

To make a digest of this Avhole series of enact- 
ments and the clauses repealed and re-enacted 
would not only tax the acumen and industry of a 
Parliamentary lawyer, but the result would be 
tedious. Let us, then, jiass to the Act called, in 
Parliamentary jargon, " 2J^th George II., c. 43." 
This came into operation July 1st, 1752, and took 



2 00 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

off one of the six horses alloAved to Avaggons by 
the Parliament of Queen Anne. No carriage or 
waggon drawn l)y more than five horses, except 
up steep hills, was permitted to pass through any 
toll-gate or toll-bar, unless the sum of twenty 
shillings over and above the usual tolls was paid ; 
and any person taking off any horse from such 
vehicle, Avith intent to avoid the payment of the 
additional toll, was, on conviction of the offence, 
to forfeit £5 to the informer, who was given the 
right to levy a distress on the offender's goods if 
he could not recover the penalty in any other Avay. 
At the same time, no waggon was to pass which 
Aveighed, Avith its contents, more than three tons ; 
and Aveighing engines Avere to be provided by 
turnpike trustees, to see that the hxAV A\^as not 
infrinored. This Avas a very determined Act, but 
those Avho drcAV it were very Avell satisfied that, 
considering the comparatively few roads already 
turnpiked, its meshes could not be made small 
enough to catch those offenders who constantly 
carried Aveights up to five tons upon the roads 
and yoked up ten or tAvelve horses to drag the 
enormous load. It Avas obvious that the only thing 
the Avaggoners had to do in order to evade the laAV 
was — risking the chance of finding the Avay impass- 
able — to turn aside on nearing a turnpike and to 
make a circuit along parish roads Avhere no toll- 
houses existed. Accordingly, those Avho framed 
the Act inserted what Avas intended to be a very 
alarming and altogether disabling clause. It was 
made an unlaAvf ul act to drive off in this manner 



COACH LEGISLATION 201 

into adjacent roads for the purpose of avoiding 
toll, and a penalty Avas set up for so doing. This 
was the forfeiting of one horse (not heing the shaft 
or thill horse) and " all his gear and accoutre- 
ments." This phrase for harness strikes one as 
lacing magnificent, and almost raises the sturdy 
Suffolk " Punch " or the Lincolnshire carthorse to 
the status of a military hero. 

No enforcement of this penalty can he found, 
hut it is not to he supposed that it was never made, 
although, to he sure, the clause had loopholes suffi- 
ciently wide for the traditional coach-and-six to he 
easily driven through. Apart from the question- 
ahle legality of forbidding common roads to traffic, 
it Avould have needed no very able lawyer to suc- 
cessfully defend an oifender charged with being 
on a bye-route " with intent to defraud " the tolls. 
Half a dozen sufficient exj)lanations would have 
been ready. The waggoner might have missed 
his way; it might have been his best way— and 
so forth. 

This Act, and others of like nature, especially 
exempted certain classes of waggons and carts, 
particularly agricultural vehicles ; while his 
Majesty's War Office and military commanders 
might use waggons carrying any weight they 
thought proper and draWn by as many horses as 
might be thought necessary. The law was, in 
fact, framed to protect the roads against traders, 
who were thought to be profiting greatly by the 
growth of manufactures and not contributing 
sufficiently to the upkeep of the roads which it 



202 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

was thought their excessive loads did much to 
wear out. The Acts had force in the country 
generally, hut London and a radius from twenty- 
five to thirty miles were usually excepted. 

A very lengthy and severe General Turnpike 
Act, emhodying some of the provisions already 
detailed, with many new ones, was that of 1766. 
Preamhles to Acts of Parliament are generally 
exaggerated statements of the necessities that 
jirocured the passing of the enactments to which 
they sometimes afford astonishing prefaces. They 
are, indeed, officially so recognised, and lawyers 
accordingly descril)e them as " common form." 
The preamhle, however, to the Act of 1766 was 
an exact statement of affairs, and in saying that 
" the laws for the general regulation of turnpike 
roads are very numerous and in some respects 
ineffectual," it merely set forth a commonplace 
of the time. 

For a numl3er of years hefore the passing of 
this measure, lengthy and heated controversies 
had arisen on the subject of Avaggons and roads, 
and as a result it Avas generally conceded that 
wheels Avitli narrow tyres and heavy loads cut 
up the highways into ruts, Avhile broad wheels 
so distributed the Aveight that they greatly 
minimised that evil, or even, if they Avere broad 
enough, rolled the surface into a better condition 
than it Avas in l)efore their passing. Inventive 
minds, rioting Avitli theories not perfectly tested, 
went to extremes and produced extraordinary 
waggons Avith heavy iron rollers instead of wheels, 



COACH LEGISLATION 203 

which AYOiild certainly have flattened out the most 
rugged of roads had it been jiossiblc for horses 
to have moved the enormous weight. As a result 
of much trial, the stage-Avaggons of the time were 
constructed Avith Avheels Avhose breadth ranged 
from six to nine inches, and such vehicles enjoyed 
a remission of extraordinary toll in proportion 
to those measurements. Prom 1760, then, four- 
Avheeled waggons Aveigliing over three tons, with 
Avheels less than nine inches in breadth, paid 
20s. over and al)ove the ordinary toll ; all over 
six tons, irrespective of Avheels, 20s. ; and two- 
Avheeled carts over three tons, 20s. ; Avhile Avaggons 
and carts so constructed Avitli regard to long and 
short axletrees to front and hind Avheels that, 
in conjunction Avitli the breadth of their AAdieels, 
they rolled a track of not less than sixteen inches 
on either side, paid only half of the ordinary toll 
levied upon Avaggons Avith a nine-inch breadth of 
Avheel. These provisions may perhaps seem a 
little complicated, but they were a great deal 
more so in actual Avorking, for their chance of 
being ahvays understood and fairly applied Avas 
small Avhen administered by country pike-keepers. 
The maximum length and Avidtli of Avaggons 
Avas specified by this Act, Avhich declared it to be 
unlawful for any but timl^er-Avaggons to be of 
greater breadth than four feet six inches between 
the axletrees, or of a greater length than nine feet 
from the centre of fore Avheels to tliat of the hind 
ones. No broad-Avheeled Avaggon Avas to be draAv^n 
by more than eight horses, or tAvo-Avheeled carts 



204 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

by more than five, in pairs ; and narrow-wheeled 
waggons Avere not allowed more than four. A 
penalty of 20s. Avas indicated for harnessing an 
extra horse, in addition to the horse being con- 
fiscated. Additional horses might be used Avhen 
the roads Avere covered Avith snoAv or ice, and it 
Avas left to the discretion of turnpike trustees to 
alloAV extra horses on steep hills, in Avhich cases 
any number up to ten might be used for four- 
wheeled AA^aggons, or up to six for two-AA heeled ; 
but trustees Avere to carefully specify those hills 
on Avhich this indulgence Avas granted. Steep 
hills, consequently, for many years afterwards 
Avere generally seen Avith notices beside the road, 
Avhere the horses might be attached. A post at 
the bottom announced in large letters, " Put On," 
and another, at the top, " Take Off." 

NarroAV-Avheeled Avaggons Avere not to be drawn 
by 2^t^ii's. Drag-irons or slijij^ers to be flat, not 
rounded ; penalty 40s. The OAvner's name and 
place of abode were to be painted on the most 
conspicuous part of each Avaggon or cart, Avith 
the Avords " Common Stage- Waggon," or cart, as 
the case might be. It Avas this enactment tliat 
for many years afterAvards gave their character- 
istic appearance to the old stage-AA-aggons, for the 
most conspicuous place on them Avas undoubtedly 
the canvas tilt, Avhich Avas always painted as the 
Act directed, in very large lettering. 

The Act Avas lavish Avith its pains and penalties. 
For using a Avaggon Avith a false name, or Avithout 
a name, 40s. was the price. The driver of any 



COACH LEGISLATION 205 

waggon with wheels not constructed according 
to law, or drawn hy more horses than authorised, 
coukl he imprisoned, and j^owers Av^ere given to 
any person to apprehend any driver in such cases. 
If a driver, on coming to a toll-gate, unharnessed 
any horses or unloaded any part of his load with 
intent to deceive or defraud the turnpike authori- 
ties, he forfeited £5 ; while the owner paid the 
same sum in cases where waggons were loaded 
to excess, and the driver hecame liahle to he 
committed for one month to a house of correction. 

Among the clauses of this and other Acts it 
is especially forbidden to waggoners to sit in, or 
drive from, their waggons. They must either 
walk or ride beside them. They had, indeed, 
generally done so, as the portrait of old Hobson, 
on horseback, shows us, or the pictures and narra- 
tives of old road life by contemporary artists and 
writers sufficiently j)rove ; but as the Acts espe- 
cially decree that waggoners were not to ride on 
the waggons, the reason being that from such a 
position they could not maintain sufficient control 
over their horses, some of them must have done 
so, and perhaps have fallen asleep and so caused 
accidents, just as the slumbering carters and 
waggoners on their way to and from Covent 
Garden Market do now. 

It now became the turn of the coaches to 
attract the attention of legislators. They obtained 
this doubtful favour because it had just occurred 
to the Revenue officials that, owing to the increased 
number of coaches running, and the larger number 



2o6 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

of persons resorting to them, tlie duty on post- 
horses had not grown at its accustomed rate. The 
remedy ready to hand was a Stamp Office duty on 
stage-coaches, which was accordingly introduced 
in 1776, and four-wheeled coaches paid £5 per 
annum. The Eevenue " vampires," as the coach- 
proprietors called them, turned again to this 
new source of income, and in 1783 levied a duty 
of a halfpenny a mile run hy every stage-coach. 
Further measures Avere introduced two years later, 
when the duties Avere revised, and four-wheeled 
and two-wheeled coaches alike paid a five-shilling 
annual license, and a duty of a penny a mile. 
Erom this express inclusion of two-wheeled coaches, 
it Avould seem that some vehicles of that nature 
had heen introduced to evade the previous duty ; 
but coaching history is silent on the subject. The 
duty of a penny a mile Avas to be paid monthly, 
and seven days' notice to be given of any coach 
being discontinued. 

So far the legislature had only taken notice of 
coaches AAdien ucav sources of revenue Avere being 
sought ; but an eye AA^as already upon their doings, 
an eye that had noted the increasing accidents, due 
to overloading, reckless driving, and a variety of 
other causes. It Avas not an official eye that thus 
ranged over the roads of the kingdom and marked 
the broken limbs and contusions of the lieges, 
acquired by falling from the roofs of coaches, by 
collisions and upsets : it AA^as the stern gaze, indeed, 
of one Eichard Gamon, a private memberof Parlia- 
ment, who in 1788, in the face of much opposition 



COACH LEGISLATION 207 

and ridicule, brought in a Bill to regulate stage- 
coaches. It is sad to think that even those who 
travelled largely hy coach, whom Mr. Gamon 
desired to protect, made fun of his efforts, and, 
when his Eill at first failed to pass, rejoiced as 
greatly in the prospect of a continued free trade 
in broken necks and legs as ever the coacli- 
proj^rietors themselves could have done. Some of 
this wit was very cheap stuff indeed. It largely 
consisted of torturing Mr. Gamon's name into 
" Gammon," and that done, the rest was easy. 
A morning newspaper found it possible to write 
thus : — 

Whene'er a loaded stage drives by 
With more than it should draw, 

We view the outside groujD, and cry, 
" That's contrary to law." 

But all the folks who clamour thus 

Aie totally mistaken, 
For Gammon's Bill did never pass, 

So coachmen saved their bacon. 

Richard Gamon was a member for Winchester 
in five several Parliaments. He had Ijeen a com- 
missioner for salt duties, but resigned that office 
to enter the House. He was created a baronet in 
July, 1795, and died, aged sixty-nine, April 9th, 
1818. His Act was not forgotten, for in his 
obituary notice it is duly stated that "with 
him originated that useful and humane law for 
regulating the number of outside passengers on 
>5tagc- coaches." 

What with public ridicule of his original I3ill 



2o8 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

and the petition of the coach-proprietors against it, 
Mr. Gamon and his legislative effort had, in one 
way and another, a stirring time. Bnt in the same 
year he saw it pass into an Act, and two years 
later he procured an amended and stricter statute. 
So ridicule does not always kill. 

It therefore hecame law that stage-coaches 
were not to carry more than six passengers on the 
roof or more than two on the hox in addition to 
the coachman. For every passenger in excess the 
coachman was liahle to a penalty of 40s., and if he 
Avas proprietor, or jmrt proprietor, this penalty was 
raised to £4. The amended Act very materially 
altered this regulation. Coaches drawn hy three 
or more horses were allowed only one passenger on 
the box and four on the roof, and those with fewer 
than three horses, one passenger on the box and 
three on the roof. If the pair-horse coaches did 
not travel farther than tAventy-five miles from 
London, they might carry an additional passenger 
on the roof. The penalty for carrying excess 
passengers was severe, and ingeniously contrived 
in order to wholly sujipress the practice. It Avas 
5s. each for every supernumerary passenger, to be 
paid to the toll-keeper at every turnpike gate. 
This Avas a sure method, for an excess number 
would be instantly detected by pike-men eager for 
a chance to add to their income. The penalty for 
fraudulently setting down a passenger near a turn- 
pike gate, and taking him up on the other side, 
with intent to evade this regulation, Avas of a 
different kind, but of equal severity. It Avas a 



COACH LEGISLATION 209 

term of imprisonment, of not less than fourteen 
clays or more than a month. The names of the 
coach proprietors were to he painted in legihle 
characters on the doors of all the coaches, with the 
exception of the mails. 

One section of the Acts of 1788 and 1790 had a 
special significance. It forbade coachmen per- 
mitting other persons to drive, under a penalty of 
from 10s. to £5. The amateur whip, of whom 
later writers complained so bitterly, had evidently 
already been taking coaching lessons on the road, 
with disastrous results. The j^i'^ctice was not 
stopped by the Acts or the penalty, for in 1811 the 
prohibition was renewed, and the fine raised. It 
Avas then to be anything between £5 and £10, at 
the discretion of the magistrates. 

Coachmen were viewed all round, as it were, 
and their failings separately ticked off and provided 
against. No coachman was to leave his box without 
reasonable cause or occasion, or for an unneces- 
sary length of time. Furious driving now being 
physically possible, and frequently indulged in, 
was legislated for, together with any negligence or 
misconduct resulting in the overturning of a coach 
or the endangering of passengers. A guard of a 
stage-coach who should fire off his piece unneces- 
sarily, or for other than defensive purposes, on the 
road or in any town, forfeited 20s., a penalty 
enlarged to £5 in 1811, and including mail-guards. 

The Act of 1806, introducing itself by stating 
that previous Acts were ineffectual and insufficient, 
started off by repealing the provisions of the older 
VOL. I. 14 



2IO STAGE^COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YOKE 

ones, allowing only six outsides for four-horse 
coaches. They might now carry twelve outsides 
in summer and ten in winter, including the guard, 
hut exclusive of coachman. In 1811 the numher 
was reduced to ten throughout the year. The 
positions of the outsides were specified— one pas- 
senger on the hox Avitli the coachman, three in 
front of the roof, the remainder hehind. Coaches 
with only tAVO or three horses now carried five 
outsides, exclusive of the coachman ; hut " all 
stages called long coaches, or douhle-hodied 
coaches " might carry eight outsides, exclusive 
of coachman, hut including the guard. Children 
in arms or under seven years of age were not to he 
counted, unless there Avere more than one, Avhen 
two were to he counted as one passenger, and 
so on. 

A curious section, hearing upon and corrohora- 
ting Avhat De Quincey and others have written 
upon the disdain and contempt of the insides for 
the outsides, is that which forhade any outside 
passenger to go inside or to remain inside Avithout 
the consent of one at least among those already 
Avithin; and Avhen that permission Avas granted, 
the outsider Avas to he placed next the consenting 
passenger. 

The height to Avhich luggage might he piled 
on the roof of a coach Avas also carefully set forth. 
Prom March 1st, 1811, it hecame unlaAvful for 
any driver, OAAaier or proprietor to permit luggage, 
or indeed any person, on the roof of a coach the 
top of Avhich Avas more than 8 ft. 9 in. from the 



COACH LEGISLATION 211 

ground, or whose gauge was less than 4 ft. 6 in. 
Coaches must then have been of an extraordinary 
height to need such a clause as this. The penalty 
for infringing it was £5. Luggage on ordinary 
stage-coaches was not to exceed 2 ft. in height, or 
three-horsed coaches, 18 in., with a penalty of 
£5 for every inch in excess. Luggage might he 
carried to a greater height if it was not, in all, 
more than 10 ft 9 in. from the ground. Turnpike 
keepers and others were given powers to have the 
luggage measured, and passengers themselves 
might see that it was done ; and drivers refusing 
such measurements to he taken were to he fined, 
on conviction, 50s. Passengers, too, came in for 
their share. Xo passenger was to sit on the 
luggage, or the place reserved for it, under the 
like penalty of 50s. 

Intoxicated coachmen came in for a maximum 
£10 penalty, or the alternative of a term of 
imprisonment not less than three months or not 
exceeding six ; insulting coachmen, or others 
exacting more than the proper fare, or endanger- 
ing passengers' lives, a maximum of 40s., or 
imprisonment of three days to one month. 
Mail-coach drivers, being more responsible offi- 
cials, Avere awarded the heavier of the above 
penalties for any among a variety of possible 
offences — such as loitering, or hindering the 
conduct of his Majesty's mails to the next 
stage, or wilfully misspending or losing time, so 
that the mails did not travel at the rates of speed 
specified by the Postmaster-Greneral. 



2 12 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Licences a\ ere to specify the number of i)ersons 
inside and out the coaches were authorised to 
carry ; and any running without a licence, or 
carrying passengers in excess, were to he fined £10 
for each passenger or additional passenger, or 
double if the driver were also owner or part-OAvner. 
If the offending coachman could be proved to have 
carried the additional j)assengers without the 
knowledge of the proprietors, and if the proprietors 
derived no profit from it, they escaped the penalty, 
which then had to be borne by the coachman, Avith 
the alternative of imprisonment. 

These regulations were notoriously broken with 
impunity every day in the year. Passengers sat 
on the luggage if they felt so inclined ; coachmen 
got drunk, drove furiously, or allowed the deadly 
amateur to drive ; luggage was stacked to alpine 
heights ; guards discharged their l)lunderbusses 
everywhere from sheer Avantonness or on joyful 
occasions ; passengers Avere carried to excess ; and, 
indeed, every provision of every Act was fla- 
grantly violated, generally of malice aforethought, 
but not seldom from very ignorance and the sheer 
inability of coach-proprietors and the others con- 
cerned to keep themselves fully informed on all 
points. The Avaggoners esj^ecially found it diffi- 
cult, Avith the best will in the Avorld, to keep the 
law ; and even the pikemen at the turnpike gates, 
who Avere the sAvorn enemies of all the users of the 
roads, but who Avere bound to comply Avith certain 
regulations, often heedlessly omitted the formulae as 
by law established, and became liable to penalties. 



COACH LEGISLATION 213 

This lengthy and confusing series of Acts 
brought into existence that conteniptil)le parasite, 
the Professional Informer. By those provisions, 
which awarded sometimes the whole penalty, and 
in other cases the half or two-thirds, or merely 
one-third, at the discretion of the magistrates, to 
those persons who would discover these infringe- 
ments of the law to the authorities, the Sneak 
became an institution, wholly suj^ported l)y the 
involuntary contributions of the coaching Avorld. 
Informers swarmed on every road, and their 
operations were conducted with a legal astuteness 
and business acumen that would have made the 
fortunes of these gentry if they had directed their 
talents into more reputable channels. Por although 
Parliament had created the Informer, it is not to 
be thought that he was liked by any class. He 
was held to be a necessary evil, as from fear of 
him offenders might be made to mend their ways, 
and so the roads be preserved. The end, it was 
thought, justified the means employed. No one 
knew the Acts of Parliament through and through, 
inside out and uji and down, as this detested class. 
Informers sometimes worked singly ; at others 
they constituted themselves into firms, with offices 
and tame attorneys, and staff's of travelling s^oies, 
whose travelling expenses were well repaid, with 
a handsome profit besides, by the materials for 
informations which they had obtained on the 
roads. Indeed, it Avas stated that on certain routes 
the waggoners paid annual sums to the informers, 
as a kind of quit-rent against prosecutions ; for. 



2 14 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

as an informer in a confidential moment was 
heard to declare, the Acts were so many and so 
conflicting that it was impossible to travel with- 
out a breach of the laAY. 

The greatest of all informers was Byers, who 
combined the occupation with that of a small 
shopkeeper in the outskirts of London. The acts 
of Byers may be traced through many old files of 
newspapers, and even then you shall not discover 
his Christian name ; for in those records it is 
generally " Byers again ! " or " Byers appeared 
before So-and-so charging What's-his-name." 
Thus do we speak of the great in war, in science, 
in literature ; for custom tells only of a Welling- 
ton, a Newton, or a Thackeray. We know their 
titles and Christian names, but suppress them to 
gain a grand and monumental simjilicity. To 
reduce the argument to a logical conclusion, 
Byers was a greater than these, for Ave do not even 
know his baptismal cognomen. He is a classic 
noAv, for Barham accorded him the honour of an 
allusion and an explanatory note in one of the 
IngoliUhij Legends — the " Lay of St. Nicholas," 
where we read : — 

The Accusing Byers " flew up to Heaven's Chancery," 
Bkishing hke scarlet with shame and concern. 

The note describes him as " The Prince of Peri- 
patetic Informers, and terror of Stage Coachmen, 
Avlien such things Avere. Alack ! alack ! the Bail- 
roads have ruined his ' vested interest.' " Time 
has so dimmed the meanina" of both the reference 



COACH LEGISLATION 215 

and the explanation that modern commentators 
are generally puzzled l)y both. What he was we 
have stated ; Avhat hecamc of him Avhen railways 
ruined coaching and his business at once, we do 
not know. Some few details of his career have 
survived. He originally seems to have been in 
the employ of one Johnson, an informer, in 182i, 
when he obtained convictions against coachmen at 
Dover and Canterbury, and on the Brighton Eoad ; 
but by the summer of the next year he had gone 
into the business for himself, and presently became 
the Napoleon of the profession. 1825 was a busy 
year with him. In August he summoned a coach- 
proprietor named Selby for that " on the 28tli day 
of July he did suffer and permit a stage-coach 
belonging to him, and drawn by two horses only, 
to carry more than the usual number of pas- 
sensjers on the roof." Moreover, he Avas sum- 
moned again for not having his name painted on 
the door of the coach. After much cross-swearing 
and discussion, the Brighton bench fined the 
coach-proprietor £5 and I65. costs. 

In Bath, in the November of the same year, 
Byers laid so many as thirty-four informations. 
The penalties to Avhich the unfortunate coach- 
proprietors and others Avere liable in this pro- 
digious batch were estimated at £500, but the 
newspaper reports of that time do not tell us the 
total of the fines actually inflicted, so we are 
unable to form any idea of the profits realised by 
the enterprising Byers in this Western raid. The 
petty and tyrannical nature of the prosecutions 



2i6 STAGE-COACrt AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

may l)e gathered from one instance before the 
Bathforum (for such was the style and title 
of the local bench) magistrates. A farmer was 
siiumioned for not having his Christian name and 
surname painted on the rixjht or off-side of his 
Avaggon, and mulcted in lOs. and costs, while 
another for the same mistake in the position was 
fined 5s. and costs ; the magistrates, in addition, 
holding that the strict letter of the law required 
not only the name of the owner and that of the 
town, but the street as well. 

A great sheaf of informations was laid by him 
at Brighton in July 1827. William Blunden, 
proprietor of a stage-van, was summoned — not for 
carrying more passengers than he should, but for 
not having painted on his conveyance the number 
of passengers his licence entitled him to carry. 
A £5 fine was the result, of which Byers was 
aAvarded 50s. and costs. In another of his cases 
on this occasion the informer did not come off 
victorious. It was not his master-mind that had 
prepared the cases, but that of one of his hirelings, 
Aaron Holland, and there was a fatal flaAV in this 
particular one. It was a summons against Snow, 
the Brighton proj^rietor, for carrying passengers 
in excess ; but, unfortunately for the prosecution, 
the coach was not j^lying for hire on that occasion, 
and Byers suffered defeat. 

In this same year Byers was arrested and 
imprisoned for debt, but he was soon out again 
and prosecuting with redoubled energy. In 
November William Cripps, of the firm of Crijips & 



COACH LEGISLATION ifj 

Wilkius, coach-projn'ietors, aj^peared at his in- 
stance before the Brighton magistrates, charged 
with permitting a name other than that of the 
licensees to he painted on his coach. The name 
Avas that of the afterwards celebrated Henry 
Stevenson, of the " Age." It was placed there with 
an idea of securing patronage for the coach, and 
it was contended in court that forty names might 
so be painted on the panel of the coach, if the 
proprietors liked. But the bench held otherwise, 
and imposed two mitigated jDcnalties of 60s. each 
with costs, it being the first offence. 

In August 1830, Byers procured three fines of 
£10 each and costs in an overloading case against 
Erancis Vickers. In this affair the methods of 
himself and his spies were disclosed, for it 
appeared that the spy was watching the coaches 
from the upstairs window of a jiublic-house. But 
already, for some time past, one of Byers' men 
had set up for himself as a coachman's lawyer, 
and, coming from the opposition camp, of course 
brought Avith him a great deal of special knoAV- 
ledge. From this time Byers' business Avaned. 
The early steam- carriages of 1826 had foreshadoAved 
the end of the coaching age, and when railways 
came the informers' business Avas ruined. True, 
they might still make a trifle out of the surviving 
Avaggons, and it Avas possible, noAV and again, to 
catch a pikeman not giving a ticket when toll Avas 
paid, or not having his OAvn name painted on his 
toll-board as collector Avhen he had succeeded 
some other pikeman ; but the penalties for these 



2i8 STAGECOACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

offences were, like the offences themselves, trivial. 
In short, informing ceased to pay its travelling 
expenses. 

Among the many enactments for the protection 
of the puhlic Avas one forbidding all four liorses 
galloping at the same time. Mail- contractors, 
however, finding that they could not maintain 
the speed necessary to fulfil their contracts 
without galloping, generally secured a certain 
number of exceptionally fast trotters, for Avhicli 
they paid high prices, in order to have one in 
every team. Such an one was pretty widely 
known down the road as "the Parliamentary 
horse." Proprietors of fast day coaches, however, 
infringed this provision of the Act every day, as 
indeed every Act was continually infringed. 

The last years of coaching were marked hy a 
reduction in the duties on stage-carriages, long 
urged hy the coaching interest, and introduced 
l)y the Act of August 24th, 1839. It Avas a 
grudging reduction, and came too late to Ije of 
much relief to an oppressed industry. Up to 
that date the mileage duty on passengers Avas 
on the graduated scale of \d. a mile if licensed 
to carry four ; \\d- if licensed for six ; 2f/. 
for nine ; 2Jf/. for tAvelve ; M. for fifteen ; and 
o\d. for eighteen ; Avhether running fully loaded 
or not. It Avas ahvays open for proprietors to 
license for more or less, according to the season 
or their OAvn requirements ; hut, on the other hand, 
if in vicAV of a slack season they licensed for a 
small number and then on one of their journeys 



COACH LEGISLATION 219 

took up additional passengers, they Avere liable, 
on conviction, to a heavy penalty. In addition, 
there was a duty of \d. a mile on the coach itself. 
The concession of 1839 reduced this impost to 
a halfi^enny a mile, and provided a graduated 
j)assenger duty hy Avhich a coach licensed for not 
more than six persons paid \d. a mile ; up to 
ten, \\ih ; not more than thirteen, 2^/. ; not more 
than sixteen, 2Jf/., and so on to the impossil^le 
number of twenty-two, when the license Avould 
be U4. 

According to a return made for 1838, the 
mileage duty paid on stage-coaches in England 
for that year was £106,625, showing a total 
mileage for those twelve months of 10,530,000. 
The Grovernment thus apparently sacrificed 
£83,312 10s. in reducing the mileage duty by 
one-half; but the greatness of the sacrifice was 
more apparent than real, for already railways 
had begun and coaches were being discontinued 
on every hand, while a small railway passenger 
duty of one-eighth of a penny a mile made up 
for its smallness by the increase in travelling that 
railways brought. 

Still later, the passenger duty on coaches was 
further reduced, and made \\d. a mile on any 
number of passengers ; "while the annual stage- 
carriage license was reduced Irom £5 to £3 3s., 
and the licence for each coachman or guard from 
£1 5s. to 5s. 

The harassed coach-proprietors, or those Avho 
still existed, were properly grateful for the 



220 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

reduction made, for it just turned the scale in 
many coaching accounts, and so kept on those 
public conveyances where otherwise they Avould 
have been commercially impossible. The railway 
magnates, who had by that time become a power 
in the land, could afford to influence the Govern- 
ment in favour of these concessions, for the coaches 
had already been driven off the direct routes, and 
Avere no longer formidable competitors of the loco- 
motive. They had, indeed, l)ecome merely feeders 
to the victorious railways. 



CHAPTER IX 



THE EARLY COACHMEN 



When stage- coaclimen are mentionedj the mind at 
once flies to Mr. Tony Weller, a stout man Avitli a 
red face and a hoarse voice proceeding from the 
depths of capacious shawls in which his throat is 
muffled. Such Avas the typical coachman at any 
time between the introduction of coaches and 1820, 
when a leaven of smartness and gentility began to 
be noticeable, and the time-honoured type to fade 
aAvay. 

Coachmen were generally fat for the same 
reason that postboys were thin : it Avas a necessity 
of their occupation. The postboys bumped their 
flesh aAvay on horseback, but the coachman's 
sedentary occupation, and still more a tremendous 
capacity for drinking induced by the open-air life, 
caused him to accumulate fat to an immoderate 
degree. The typical coachman is pictured in 
Hood's ballad of John Day, Avho Avas 

the biggest man, 
Of all the coachman kind, 
With back too broad to be conceived 
By any narrow mind. 



But Avhile it Avould j^robably be safe to declare, 
cti( 

221 



Avitliout fear of contradiction, that there never Avas 



2 22 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

such a thing as a fat postboy, it would he the very 
height of rashness to say that a lean coachman 
was unknown. There were many such, hut the 
traditional coachman was a hulky person, helped 
uj^ to his seat hy the combined efforts of the stable- 
helpers ; and Dickens, in picturing Tony Weller, 
fell in with the public humour, although already 
the type was become somewhat out of date. 

The stage and mail coachmen Avere no exotics, 
but, like every one else, the product of their 
country and their times ; and as those times 
changed, so did they. The evolution of the smart 
coachmen of the 'thirties can be followed, step 
by step, until progress, in the shape of railways, 
extinguished the species. The original floggers of 
six horses, who could only get along by dint of 
severely punishing those unhappy animals through- 
out the day, were not really coachmen in the later 
sense. They understood little of the art of coach- 
ing, and were merely drivers. From early morn 
to sundown they lashed the same horses along 
the rutted ways, with intervals for mending the 
harness — generally, according to the testimony of 
the time, the " rotten harness " ; but those would 
have been wonderfully strong traces that could 
long have withstood the strain they were subjected 
to, and so they were probably not always so decayed 
as contemporary accounts would have us believe. 
Under these circumstances, and the generally hard 
and rough life they led, it is not to be wondered at 
that coachmen were originally a rough and brutal 
class of men, They cannot be paralleled nowadaysi 




'•Mi- DEAR, YOL'kE A PLUMt'EK^' I COACHMAN AND BARMAID. 

jj_^ After Kowlandson. 



THE EARLY COACHMEN 22^ 

and the difference betAveen them and the later 
ornaments of the box can only he understood 
by comparing a modern van-driver Avith the 
coachman of an aristocratic carriage — and then Ave 
should be doing injustice to the van-man. 

As coaching progressed and twenty-mile stages 
replaced the day-long toil of the horses, not only 
did the six-horse give place to four-horse teams, 
but coachmen improA^ed. There a\ as need for such 
improvement, and all the science and resource of 
Avhich they Avere capal)le Avere put to the proof. 
Mud, stones, ruts, sandy places to plough through, 
steej) hills to lash his horses up to, and dangerous 
descents to hold them in, AA^ere the commonjilaces 
of the coachman's career up to the daAvning of the 
nineteenth century. The coaches, too, AA^ere heavy 
and clumsy, and harness noAV really Avas rotten, 
and had ever}^ noAv and again to be mended Avhile 
the passengers Avaited Avith Avliat patience they 
could command. Happily, time AVas not " of the 
essence of the contract," as the laAvyers say, and 
half a day late Avas no matter at that jieriod. But 
all these difficulties made the coachman of those 
times an expert in many things. He Avas not of 
that later kind, finicking in manner and dandies 
upon the box, but a great, Aveather-beaten, blulf 
and gruff creature, mummified in Avraps ; an expert 
in getting the last ounce out of his cattle, and 
ready Avitli his Avhi]!, not ahvays because he Avas 
brutal by nature, but because he had to thrash the 
A\a'etched animals to get his coach along at all. 
The coachmen of those days Avore their Avhips out 

VOL. I. 15 



226 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

frequently, and a usual detail of their equipment 
was the dozen or more of whijocord points in the 
button-hole, ready to be spliced on — an operation 
they could perform with ease and efficiency with 
their teeth while driving. When even the double- 
thonged whip failed to rouse the poor brutes to 
super-equine exertions, the " apprentice " — a kind 
of cat o' nine tails — was brought into use, and the 
wheelers thrashed with it. This engine of torture 
was in later years known familiarly as the " short 
Tommy," and was kept in reserve on many provincial 
coaches. Among those familiar with coaching in 
its last years, some have asserted the use of this 
instrument up to the time when coaches themselves 
disappeared, and others deny it. Both were right 
and both wrong : on some roads it was on occasion 
brought forth, while on others it was unknown. 

There were no smart coachmen before the intro- 
duction of mail-coaches. Before coaches carried 
the mails and the drivers became, in a sense, 
officials and persons of importance, Avreathed 
around with a vague atmosphere of authority, 
your average driver took no sort of pride in him- 
self. Nor, sui)posing the existence of one who 
fared the roads in smart attire, could he for long 
have kejit so gay and debonair an aj^pearance. 
The meagreness and uncertainty of his livelihood 
forbade it, and if those factors had been eliminated, 
there still remained the unutterable badness of the 
roads to discourage him, together with the longer 
spells of driving that these earlier men knew, 
which wearied them and rendered them careless 



THE EARLY COACHMEN 227 

of details. Thus the stage-drivers of the era that 
preceded the chissic age of the road Avore clumsy 
hay-hands round their legs to protect them from 
the cold, and, together with their many layers of 
clothing, their top-hoots encrusted with the mud 
of a month's journeys, and their general air of 
untidiness, were figures of fun, in sharp contrast 
with their hrethren of a later day, who were certain 
of their emj^loyment, of their liheral and frequent 
tij^s, of good roads exceedingly well kept, and of 
their coaches and cattle heing maintained in the 
pink of condition hy a small army of stahle-hands 
and helpers. The poor old fellows of a hygone 
age wore perhaps nothing but fold upon fold of 
" comforters " round their necks, while their linen 
did not hear insjoection. The flower of the coaching 
age, on the other hand — the coachmen of the first 
quarter of the nineteenth century — wore the gayest 
and the neatest neckties as a finish to a neat and 
striking professional costume. They Avere artists 
alike in the management of their horses and in the 
folding of a tie. Never a journey but they had 
a posy in their buttonhole, and never an occasion 
when they were not spotlessly clean, in linen, 
top-boots, and costume generally. It was an 
unmistakable costume, and one familiar to us now- 
adays in its revival by modern coaching enthusiasts. 
Box-cloth coats, fearfully and Avonderfully stitched 
in five or six rows, and decorated with buttons of 
an enormous size, together with white beaver hats, 
were the most outstanding items of this marvellous 
costume. 



228 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

A rominiscent travollor, writing* in 1831, lets 
some lii^lit into dark places, lie said he was old 
enough to remember a certain West-country coach, 
wliich he took to he representative of others at 
that period. It always took ten, and sometimes 
twelve hours to do fifty-seven miles. " Now," he 
said, marvelling at the progress of the age, " it 
takes only six hours." ,loe Emmens, the driver 
of this slow coach, Avas famous for never at 
any time turning aAvay a w()uld-l)e j^^^ss^'nger, no 
matter how crowded his conveyance, which Avas 
often observed to be carrying seventeen out and 
nine in, Avith parcels and hampers tied to and 
suspended from all kinds of hazardous places. 
This did not, we sorroAA^fuUy acknoAvledge, argue 
zeal for his employers' interests, but only an 
inordinate appetite for those " sliort fares " Avhicli 
by ancient use and Avont the coachman pocketed. 
The custom Avas as old as tliat of " tipping." 

Tipping the coachman, a practice already men- 
tioned, Avas early introduced. It originated, there 
can scarce be any reasonable doubt, Avith the very 
first stage-coach journey, and flourished exceedingly 
to the very last, when the guard as Avell came in 
for his share. The cust(mi Avas originally known 
as " capping," from the coachman coming Avith 
hat or cap in hand for these contributions : a 
humble and beggarly method to Avliich the later 
artists of the coachbox Avere a\ holly strangers. 
The later generation, it is true, removed their hats 
as a matter of courtesy Avhen they " left you here," 
but their fee was no longer chucked negligently 



THE EARLY COACHMEN 229 

into that lu'cidi^car, as of old, but discreetly in- 
serted into an extended ])alni, and reccMved as 
of ri^lit. 

MMie earliest sta^'es ol* ii|)j)iiii;- sliowed the |)ra,c- 
tie(^ ill a very loi^'ical and coinnioiiseiise lii^'lii, lor 
altli()iii;li llie later coachmen could h(\ v(n'y surly 
and (lis()l)lii;iiii;' if tli(\y were not " i-eineinl)er(Ml," 
they lia.d not a titlie of those o])j)ortunities ol' l)ein£^ 
actively olTensive whicli the older race; ol" drivers 
enjo}cd. The later i^-(nierations of coachmen were 
more directly responsil)le. Tliey worked to a tiiruv 
table, on '••ood roads, Avith fiiu) catth^ and perfect 
coaclu^s ; tlie ohh'r men stopped when and wlnu'c 
they lik(ul, and alt()L:,-(^ther had tlie comfort or dis- 
coml'oi-t of tlu'ir ])asseni^-ers very lai-i»'(dy in tlveir 
hands. I'll us Ihey were to 1x3 conciliated and kejit 
in ii,<)od humour by a reasonabh; exjx^ctancy ol" 
vails. VV^e lirst hear of ti|)])ini:^ in 1(>()5, in The 
Committee, Sir Robert Howard's comedy, Avlnnu^ 
the vuli^ar committeeman's wife gives Toby, th(3 
coachman, something less than he expected. " By 
my whip," In^ says aside, " 'tis a groat of more 
than ordinary thinness. Plague on this new 
gentry," he adds, with a sneer, " how liberal 
they are!" 

" Tipping " gr(nv and llonrished extravagantly 
in after ages, ^i'he wealthy and the free-handed 
set the standard then, as they do now in these 
otherwise altered times, with the result that 
those who conld not aiford the outlay in which 
the richer indulged were generally insulted or 
neglected, 



230 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

It was not often that the coachmen were so 
outspoken as the hero of the following tale. 
" What do you expect ? " asked a passenger ncAV 
to the road of him when collecting the customary 
tips at the end of his stage. That ornament of 
the hox was blunt and frank : " Gents generally 
gives me a shilling ; fools with more money than 
brains gives me half a crown," he said. What, in 
that case, could the jiassenger do but proclaim 
himself, in the amount of his gratuity, a " gent " 
with a superfluity of brains over cash, even though 
the coachman-philosojiher was a loser to the extent 
of one-and-sixpence ? 



CHAPTER X 



THE LATER COACHMEN 



The smart coachmen came into existence with 
short stages and the fast day-coaches, about 182 i. 
They did not burst suddenly upon an astonished 
workl — were not, like those insect-wonders, 
chrysalids in the morning and butterflies in the 
afternoon — but developed by insensible degrees. 
The first incentive to this improvement was, 
doubtless, that acquaintance with the moneyed 
sporting world which began when the country 
gentlemen ceased to travel horseback and took 
to going by coach, and thence, from passive 
l^assengers, developed an interest in driving ; 
sitting beside the coachman and learning from 
him something of what those worthies now, for 
the first time in their lives, began dimly to perceive 
was an art, and not merely an ordinary wage- 
earning occupation. When Jack Bailey, of the 
old " Prince of Wales," who taught old John 
Warde, the first of the amateurs, how to drive, 
tutored him, he wrought a greater revolution than 
he knew. Acquaintance with, and tutorship of, 
the growing ranks of the amateurs brought a 
strange alteration in themselves. They taught 
the young sprigs of nobility coaching, and their 



232 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

pupils unconsciously initiated them in new 
manners of thought, sjieech and dress. The two 
classes strangely reacted on one another, for 
Avhile the coachmen learned to discard top-hoots 
and took to trousers, the amateurs thought it 
a line thing to file their front teeth, so that they 
could sj^lice whij^-points and spit like the profes- 
sionals, to wear the heavy " douhle Eenjamins," 
clumsy and many-caped, that were necessary for 
the coachmen, and to he, in fact, as thoroughly 
" down the road " in dress, manner and talk as 
though they were professionals themselves. Each 
exaggerated the most remarkahle features of the 
other, so that the coachmen hecame caricature 
gentlemen, and the gentlemen the most Avonderful 
travesties of the coachmen. 

An admiring critic of coaching in its last 
decade enlarged with great satisfaction upon 
the comj^lete dissimilarity hetween the modern 
" artists " and the " workmen " of old time. 
Their change of character and appearance had 
kej^t jiace with the improvements in the different 
points of their j^rofession. No longer did one see 
the dram-drinking, gin-consuming, jolly-looking 
rotundities of yore. Instead of those honest, wet 
old souls, the " ribhons " were handled by jDinks 
of perfection, turned out at all points like gentle- 
men, and in character also like gentlemen, tasting 
nothing hut their glass of sherry from end to end 
of a journey. 

But side by side Avith these improvements 
upon the old order came what were knoAvn to oui' 



THE LATER COACHMEN 235 

grandfathers as the " flash men," who, at the 
extremity of ill-assumed gentility, were prohahly 
more objectionable than the rough-and-ready old 
fellows of an earlier generation. The flash coach- 
man flourished very rankly indeed at Birmingham, 
Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, and other 
great commercial centres. He always dressed 
in the extreme of fashion, and perhaps a little in 
advance of it. His silken stock was swathed 
higher up his neck, his gold (or gilded) scarf-pin 
was bigger, his waistcoat had a more alarming 
pattern, his hat was more curly in the brim than 
others, and in his conversation and manners he 
dotted the " i's " and crossed the " t's " of his 
betters. He was, in fact, an unconscious carica- 
ture of those among the upper classes who took 
an interest in the road, and Avas a very loud, 
insuft'erable and ofl'ensive person, who, it was said, 
" had a missus at both ends," smoked a dozen real 
Havanahs in a hundred miles, and hardly thanked 
you for half a crown. Such men imposed upon 
many of the good commercial folks of those 
trading towns Avho were foolish enough and 
inexperienced enough to take cigar-smoking for 
superiority and overdressed insolence for the hall- 
mark of gentility ; and these fellows became, in 
consequence, the curse of the roads. Borrow has, 
in his Romany Bye, a very vigorous chapter on 
their kind, but errs in so far as he seems to 
consider that they, and they only, formed the 
"stage-coachmen of England." 

" The stage-coachmen of England, at the time 



236 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

of which I am speaking, considered themselves 
mighty fine gentry ; nay, I verily helieve, the 
most important personages of the realm, and their 
entertaining this high opinion of themselves can 
hardly he wondered at : they were low fellows, 
l)ut masters at driving; driving was in fashion, 
and sprigs of nohility used to dress as coachmen, 
and imitate the slang and hehaviour of the coach- 
men, from whom occasionally they would take 
lessons in driving, as they sat heside them on the 
hox, which post of honour any sjirig of nohility 
who happened to lake a place on a coach claimed 
as his unquestionahle right ; and these sprigs 
would smoke cigars and drink sherry with the 
coachmen in l)ar-rooms and on the road ; and Avlien 
hidding them farewell would give them a guinea or 
a half-guinea, and shake them by the hand, so that 
these fellows, being Ioav fellows, very naturally 
thought no small liquor of themselves, but would 
talk familiarly of their friends Lords So-and-so, the 
Honourable Misters So-and-so, and Sir Harry and 
Sir Charles, and be wonderfully saucy to any one 
who Avas not a lord or something of the kind ; 
and this high opinion of themselves received daily 
augmentation from the servile homage paid them 
by the generality of the untitled male passengers, 
especially those on the forepart of the coach, who 
used to contend for the honour of sitting on the 
box with the coachman when no sj^rig was nigh to 
put in his claim. Oh ! what servile homage these 
craven creatures did j^ay these same coach fellows, 
more especially this or t'other act of brutality 



THE LATER COACHMEN 237 

practised upon the weak and unoffending— upon 
some poor friendless Avoman travelling with but 
little money, and perhaps a brace of hungry 
children with her, or upon some thin and half- 
starved man travelling on the hind part of the 
coach from London to Liverpool, with only 
eighteen-j^ence in his pocket to defray his ex- 
penses on the road ; for as the insolence of these 
knights was vast, so was their rapacity enormous ; 
they had been so long accustomed to have crowns 
and half-crowns rained upon them by their 
admirers and flatterers that they would look at a 
shilling, for which many an honest labourer was 
happy to toil for ten hours under a 1)roiling sun, 
with the utmost contempt ; would blow upon it 
derisively, or fillip it into the air before they 
pocketed it; but when nothing was given them, 
as Avould occasionally happen — for how could they 
receive from those who had nothing ? and nobody 
was bound to give them anything, as they had 
certain wages from their employers — then what 
a scene Avould ensue ! Truly, the brutality and 
rapacious insolence of English coachmen had 
reached a climax ; it Avas time that these felloAvs 
should be disenchanted, and the time — thank 
Heaven !— Avas not far distant. Let the craven 
dastards Avho used to curry favour Avith them, and 
applaud their brutality, lament their loss noAv that 
they and their vehicles have disappeared from the 
roads." 

Here the Borrovian fury overreaches itself, and 
fails to convince the reader of that brutality of 



238 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

a whole class lie would fain have you believe in. 
Were the later coachmen, indeed, moulded in so 
unvarying a form ? Assuredly not, for character 
still survived in the individual before the railway 
age dawned, and nowhere was more marked than 
on the box-seat. The sole person convicted of 
brutality in that attack is Borrow himself, con- 
signing all the objects of his dislike to misery and 
want. 

Such men might have been found ; but we have 
only to mention old Thomas Cross, the dreamy, 
jDoetical, shiftless, other-worldly coachman of the 
"Lvnn Union," the Wards, and John Thoroi^ood, 
on the Norwich Road, to see that the road was not 
handed over entirely to ruffians of the kind Borrow 
draws. But in all coachmen reigned an autocratic 
spirit, born of their mastery over four horses. In 
some this was expressed by contemptuous replies 
when passengers unqualified for the task en- 
deavoured to talk about coaching and horsey 
matters; in others it was manifested by a far- 
away and unapproachable meditation or contem- 
plation — or perhaps even vacuity of mind — like 
that of some Indian fakir dwelling upon the 
perfections of Buddha; beside which many a 
box-seat passenger felt a mere worm. 

It was difficult to penetrate this professional 
reserve. A remarkable character of this type was 
John Wilson, who drove the " Everlasting " coach 
between Wolverhampton and Worcester ; a coacli 
so called because, at a time when all the direct 
routes were being abandoned to railways, this 



THE LATER COACHMEiV 239 

cross-country journey was left open and un- 
challenged for many years. John, in addition to 
being a coachman, was host of the " King's Head," 
a minor house in Bell Street, Wolverhampton, hut 
was a taciturn and grumpy individual. He drove 
only at the jog-trot of eight miles an hour, and 
so had no excuse on that score for silence. He 
cherished the greatest dislike to being questioned, 
and his replies, especially to strangers, were of 
the briefest and surliest. On the occasion of the 
British Association visiting Dudley in 1849, a 
gentleman residing at Worcester, being very 
anxious to attend the meetings of so learned a 
body, secured a box-seat on the " Everlasting " to 
Dudley. John was the coachman on that occasion. 
The historian of it is the passenger himself : — 

'"A nice mild day, coachman,' I said, as he 
mounted and took the ribbons. 

" ' 'Tis, sir.' 

" (After a pause of five minutes.) ' What time 
do you get to Dudley ? ' 

" ' Eight o'clock.' 

" (A quarter of an hour's pause.) ' Cajiital crop 
of turnips this year, coachman.' 

"'Ees.' 

" (A pause of twenty minutes, varied only by 
some long yawns from the coachman, and some 
responsive ones from myself.) 

" ' I say, driver, can you tell me who's dead at 
that house ? ' 

" ' Don't knoAV. 'Niver inquires about nothing 
— yaw — haw— a-liaw,' yawning prodigiously. 



240 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

" Here a jiassenger pointed out to ' coachey ' 
a covey of partridges in an adjoining field, and 
asked liim if he knew the 2)rice of l)irds at 
Worcester. 

" ' No,' says he, ' I don't — yaw-he-haw ; hut 
fresh herrings at Wolverhampton he mighty cheap 
at thirty a shilling.' 

"Another quarter of an hour's profound silence, 
and we arrived at the 'Crown,' Omhersley. 
Seeing the fate that awaited me, of heing linked 
to this dreary fellow for a journey of nearly thirty 
miles, I proposed to him a gentle stimulant, and 
expressed my apprehension that he was consider- 
ably out of condition. 

"'Well, then, I'll ha' some brandy, I s'pose,' 
he replied, with as much politeness and satisfaction 
at this sixj)enny treat as a porker may he supposed 
to entertain on his first introduction to a bucket 
of grains. Too soon, however, I found this invest- 
ment of ray capital was more than useless — the 
man with the Avhip would not be drawn out. His 
horses, too, seemed to be under the influence of the 
same stupifjdng medium, jogging along at a rate 
which rendered our arrival at Dudley a jirobability 
somcAvhat remote . ' ' 

John, oddly enough, was succeeded l)y another 
Wilson, but not a relative. William Wilson was 
the direct antithesis to his predecessor, and when 
the "Everlasting," belying its proud name, went 
oft' the road before the advance of the Great 
Western Hail way from Oxford to Worcester, he 
left pleasing memories. 



THE LATER COACHMEN 241 

Jo Walton, on the Cambridge Road, was a 
notable whip of the smarter kind. No unwieldy 
stout man he, l3ut tall and slim, faultlessly dressed, 
and one of the best coachmen that ever drove. 
The railway spoiled him in mid-career, but not 
before the very knowing gentlemen who wrote for 
the sporting periodicals of the age had made his 
a classic figure. The Cambridge Road alone w^as 
Walton's ground. He drove the " Safety," and 
then the "Times," in six hours; but it was not 
until he succeeded to the l)ox-seat of the " Star of 
Cambridge " that he came into notice. That coach 
performed the fifty- two miles between the " Belle 
Sauvage " and the " Hoop " at Cambridge in five 
hours. With fifteen minutes deducted for break- 
fast on the way, and another fifteen for changing, 
this gives four hours and a half actual running, or 
a speed of nearly eleven and three-quarter miles 
an hour : an incredible rate of jirogress, but 
vouched for by a contril)utor to the New Sporting 
Magazine in 1833. 

Jo Walton drove the " Star " double, every 
day except Sunday, leaving the " Hoop," at Cam- 
bridge at 7 a.m., reaching London at noon, and 
setting forth again for Cambridge the same after- 
noon. This feat of driving over a hundred miles 
a day he continued until the railway by degrees 
caused the splendour of the " Star " to wane. 

The Cambridge Road has, of course, many dead 

level stretches, and Walton was sometimes known 

to put the coach along a certain five miles in 

twenty minutes. Yet, according to the enthusiastic 

VOL. I. 16 



242 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

chronicler of tlicso tliini^s, he was among the 
safest of coacliinen — a testimony not siii)porte(l by 
the fact tliat lie twice ui)set the " Star " l)etween 
lloyston and linntingford. ITis determination to 
keep his time was, we are told, sni)erior to all 
mercenary considerations or regard for the " short 
pocket." Thus, although he pulled up on one 
occasion when hailed on the road hy a gentleman 
in a ])haeton, saying he " might as well have this 
half-crown as not," he drove oif again because the 
passenger did not come instantly. 

lie was, according to the admiring testimony 
of the time, a fixture on the box — notliing could 
throw him off. K. scientific punisher of refractory 
horses, too; accompanying the corrective discipline 
of the whip with much grim humour. Passing 
through Buntingford one day, the chestnut near 
leader attemi)ted to bolt into a public-house. " I 
didn't know your friends lived tJiere^' said Walton. 
" Come, come, now you are got into this coach you 
must give up low company," and two slashing- 
strokes of the whip followed. Walton, it was said, 
had the temper of an emperor and a tongue as 
fluent and free as that of a bargee. The story was 
told that he refused to pull up for a passenger 
Avho had lost his hat, and that the passenger there- 
upon pushed AValton's off, compelling him to halt; 
but that tale Avas eitluu* untrue or the passenger 
luiaccpiainted with AValton. It was not likely that 
any one who knew him Avould have taken such a 
liberty. We are not told what became of that 
imjpulsive passenger. 



THE LATER COACHMEN 245 

The characteristics of coachmen had every 
oj)i)oi*^^^i^i^y c>f heing well impressed uj^on box-seat 
passengers down the long monotonous miles, and 
their j^^culiarities have accordingly been well 
preserved in travellers' recollections. One choice 
spirit, who drove the Leeds " Union " from the 
" George and Blue Boar " in Ilolhorn to Eaton 
Socon, let his leaders down in Biggleswade street, 
so that they broke their knees. He observed that 
they had made a terrible "fore paw," but whether 
that was conscious or unconscious humour remains 
uncertain. 

A sharp distinction was drawn between London 
and provincial coachmen, and l)etween coachmen 
on main roads and those on by-Avays. Yorkshire 
by-roads, in particular, were regarded Ijy coaching 
critics, from Nimrod downwards, with contempt, 
alike for their coaches and coachmen. Thus, one 
tells in 1830 of a dirty coach in Yorkshire, drawn 
by a team of " tike " horses known to the coach- 
man by the names of Rumblcguts and Bumblekite, 
Staggering Bob and Davey. On the cross-roads 
of that many-acred shire the coachmen changed 
with every stage, and cleaned and harnessed their 
own horses. They were, in fact, in those remote 
parts, a hundred years behind the age, and one 
might in the nineteenth century have studied the 
manners and customs of the early eighteenth. The 
same thing Avas noticed by Hawker in 1812, on the 
Glasgow and Carlisle road, Avliere the stage-coach- 
men resembled " a set of dirty gipsies," driving but 
one stage each, and tlien looking after their horses. 



246 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OE YORE 

Those country liancis Avere not in general very 
great respecters of rank or station. The London 
coachmen were civil, had a peculiar humour ahout 
them, and did not consider themselves quite the 
equal of the hox-seat passenger who sat heside 
them ; but the j^rovincial performer poked one in 
the ribs when he wanted to say anything, and 
perhaps nearly ejected one from the box by his 
" knowing " jerk of the elbow when he considered 
emphasis necessary to point his remarks. The old 
six-inside coaches survived here long after they 
had been forgotten in most other jiarts of the 
country, often driven by a coachman as comfort- 
able as a " drop " of gin could make him, and 
drawn by horses as weak as the Avater he forgot to 
put into his last tumbler. In such an ominous 
combination, the passengers involuntarily repeated 
the prayer in the Litany for "all travellers by land." 

Drunken coachmen are heard of in the old 
coaching annals, and accidents caused by them 
when in that state stand on record, but they are 
comparatively few. It Avas not so easy a matter 
to make a seasoned coachman — even one of only 
a fcAV years' experience — drunk. The capacity of 
coachmen for drink was marvellous. As throAving 
some light upon it, a meeting with Harry Ward 
at the " White Hart," Andover, may be instanced. 
He Avas then on the famous " Quicksilver " Devon- 
port Mail. 

On this occasion it Avas a cold Avinter's night, 
and Ward was waiting for the "Quicksilver" to 
come up, and to take his stage. 



THE LATER COACHMEN 247 

" How many brandy s-and- water docs that make 
to-day ? " asked a passenger avIio had just stood 
him one, hot. 

"This is the twentieth," replied Ward. (A 
ghiss of hrandy-and-water then cost \s.) 

He was not regarded by his contemporaries as 
an intemperate man, and was never -known to he 
the worse for drink ; hnt he felt called npon to 
exj)lain those twenty glasses, and said, " You soon 
get it blown out of you, crossing Salisbury Plain." 

This was in 1837, and Ward was then only 
twenty four years of age. " Youthful depravity," 
some might say, and surmise an early and unhappy 
end. But facts controvert such views. Harry 
Ward, who had already, in 1833, driven on the 
London and Glasgow Mail, and was then the 
youngest coachman on the road, was also among 
the steadiest, and owed his transference to the 
Devonport "Quicksilver" to that already estab- 
lished reputation. To his last days— he died in 
1891, in his 81st year — he was proud of the fact 
that he never had an accident on any road. 

Coachmen seem never to have been averse from 
loading their coaches to their fullest capacity, 
except in one particular. Barrels of oysters, kegs 
of spirits, hampers of game, and such heavy and 
bulky things, seem never to have roused objec- 
tions ; but they nursed a grudge against literature, 
for when the quarterly reviews were published 
and magazine-time came round, and the fore and 
hind boots of the night coaches were crammed 
with the damp sheets just issued from the press, 



248 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

they discovered that the weight severely tried 
weak teams over long stages, Edinburgh and 
Quarterly reviewers prided themselves on their 
literary weight, which Avas an unknown quantity 
to the coachmen, who cursed them for their 
avoirdujiois. 

These old Automedons rarely took a holiday, 
and when they did were at a loss how to use it. 
Like London omnil)us drivers of the present time 
under similar circumstances, they generally spent 
their off -time in riding on some other coach and 
criticising the driving. The postboys were alike 
in this respect. One of the fraternity— Tom King, 
of the " Crown," at Amersham, spent his holiday in 
a most peculiar manner. He had had the honour, 
on one occasion, of driving "Earmer George" 
post, after hunting with the Royal Staghounds, 
from Amersham to Windsor ; and to the end of 
his life he would do no work on the anniversary of 
that day. After Ijreakfast he repaired to the same 
yellow post-chaise, and sat in it till nightfall, on 
the seat his Sovereign had occupied. Throughout 
the day he refreshed himself liherally with pots of 
ale, and if he took his pipe from his lips at inter- 
vals, it was only to replace it with a key-bugle 
and to play "God save the King." His master 
humoured his fancy, and visited the post-chaise 
with many others during the day, to see Tom 
indulging in these quaint Pleasures of Memory. 



CHAPTER XI 

MAIL-GUARDS 

When Palmer first introduced his plan of mail- 
coaches he 2^i'<^>posed that, while the contractors 
supplied coaches and horses and the men to drive 
them, the guards should be the servants of the 
Post Office, and should, considering the dangers of 
the roads, be retired soldiers, who, from their past 
training and habits of discipline, would be reliable 
servants and men capable of defending the mails 
against attack. This advice was not followed, 
and the first mail-guards were provided by the 
contractors, who emj^loyed such unsatisfactory 
men that in a very short time the Post Office Avas 
oljliged to make the position of a mail-guard a 
Post Office appointment and the guards them- 
selves servants of and directly responsible to the 
Department. 

Placed on this footing, they were by no means 
fellow-servants Avitli the coachmen, but their 
official sujieriors, and not j^rojoerly concerned in 
any way with the passengers or any unofficial 
parcels or luggage. In practice, hoAvever, they 
took part in all these things, and although the 
coachmen were technically under their orders, it 
was only when ill-assorted and quarrelsome men 



250 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

came together on one coach that any disputes 
arose. 

Mail-coaches had not long been established 
before the guards, those protectors of his Majesty's 
mails, presuming upon their position, became the 
tyrants of the road. Pennant, writing in 1792, 
tells how, in his district of Wales, "the guards, 
relying on the name of royalty, in the course of 
the Irish road through North Wales, committed 
great excesses. One, on a trifling quarrel, shot 
dead a poor old gatekeeper. ... In Anglesey 
another of these guards discharged his pistol 
wantonly in the face of a chaise-horse, drawing his 
master, the Eev. John Bulkeley, who was flung 
out and died, either on the spot or soon after. 
These guards shoot at dogs, hogs, sheep, and 
poultry as they pass the road, and even in towns, 
to the great terror and danger of the inhabitants." 
As with the mail-guards, so with the mail-coach- 
men. " It has been a common practice with them 
to divert themselves Avith flinging out their lashes 
at harmless passengers, by way of fun. Very 
lately, one of these wretches succeeded so well as 
to twist his lash round a poor fellow's neck in the 
parish where I live. He dragged the man under 
the wheels, by which one of his arms was broken." 

Not only Pennant complained of the early 
mail-guards. The country in general went in 
terror of them and their lethal weapons, the bell- 
mouthed blunderbusses which they carried to 
protect the mails and were wont to discharge at 
random as they went along. It was, with some 



MAIL-GUARDS 2^1 

jiardonable exaggeration, said that the Post Office 
had conferred a licence for indiscriminate slaughter 
upon them ; for not only were they armed against 
attack, hut during the wars with France (and we 
were always fighting the French in those days) 
the Postmaster-General issued a kind of commission 
to mail-guards to shoot any prisoner of war break- 
ing parole. To promote zeal in this direction, a 
reward of £5 was offered for every prisoner so 
winged or killed. Prisoners of war were plentiful 
then, and in Edinburgh Castle, on Dartmoor, and 
at "Yaxley Barracks," near Norman Cross, on the 
Great North lload, were to be counted in thousands. 
At Yaxley, as also perhaps at other places, they 
were often allowed out on parole, with the under- 
standing that they were not to leave the high road 
and were not to remain out after sunset. It is not 
on record that any prisoner was thus shot, Ijut 
many inoffensive rustics were wounded by guards 
sportively inclined, or — with what St. Paul calls 
a "zeal not according to discretion" — eager to 
earn the reward offered. 

The mail-guards were, indeed, very dangerous 
fellows to the law-abiding subjects of the Xing, 
however innocuous they may have been to 
the law-breakers. We may dismiss the cutlass 
with which they were armed. Not much 
damage could be accidentally wrought by that; 
but the blunderbuss was a terror to nervous 
passengers by the mail, for when the guard 
sportively loosed it off at the wayside sparrows, 
or at the ploughman busy against the sky-line, it 



252 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

exploded with the roar of a cannon, and some of 
its slns^s generally Avhistled unpleasantly past the 
ears of the outsides or pierced their tall heaver 
hats. The guard, in fact, was a person to he 
shunned when he took his hlunderl)uss in hand, 
either for practice or examination ; for it was not 
only dangerous as a gun, l)ut was furnished with 
a hayonet which, folding hack on a hinge against 
the harrel, Avas released hy touching a powerful 
spring. How many j)6i'sons were accidentally 
slain or mutilated hy the guards' awkward hand- 
ling of this infernal contrivance we shall never 
know. 

It was not, however, until 1811 that anything 
was done to stop this indiscriminate shooting on 
the part of the guards ; hut in that year an Act of 
Parliament came into existence which forhade the 
firing of their hlunderhusses except for defence, 
and instituting a penalty of £5 for l)reaking this 
new law. 

Meanwhile the j^o^ition of mail-guard liad 
hecome a dignified and desiraljle one, often ohtained 
through Parliamentary and other influence brought 
to hear upon the Postmasters-General. Here, for 
example, is a copy of a letter of recommendation, 
unfortunately undated, but showing the methods 
in vogue : — 

" To their Lordshijis 

" the Postmasters-General. 

" My Lords, — 

" The hearer of this, John Peters, is very 
well known at the General Post Ofilce, and is 



MAIL-GUARDS 253 

desirous of becoming a Mail Guard, he is 23 years 
of age, and we beleive {sic) him to be a Sober, 
Steady Man, and deserving of the Situation. 
" We are, 

" My Lords, 

" Your Lordships' 

" Obedient Servts., 
" Caltkorpe ; 

" Rd. Spooner, Banker, Birmingham ; 
"Thomas Attwood, Banker, Birmingham." 

It was not the salary that made the position of 
a mail-guard so well w^orth having. He received 
only 10^. 6c?. a week from the Dejiartment, and 
his uniform of trousers, top-boots, scarlet coat, 
frogged across the front of the body with gold lace, 
and a gold-banded black tall hat with a cockade. 
Out of his miserable half-guinea he had to himself 
provide the cost of oil for the hand-lamp in front 
of his seat on the dickey, and to pay the stable- 
helpers who cleaned his tools and tool-box, oiled 
and reloaded every day his blunderbuss and pair 
of pistols, and performed a variety of odd jobs that 
took five shillings a week out of his pocket. He 
obviously could not exist on his j^^y '• how, then, 
did he live ? That is a question soon answered. 
A mail-guard going a long distance — anything 
from a hundred to a hundred and fifty miles was 
a usual sjoell — generally looked for half a crown 
each from inside passengers and two shillings from 
the outsides. If you could not afford so much he 
would do with less, but then you lost the touch of 
the hat that accompanied the larger sum, 



254 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

A full coacli produced 16s. in tips ; or, if the 
trip did not boast so good a waybill, guard and 
coachman by prescriptive right divided all short 
fares below os. A " good mail " — that is to say, a 
mail on one of the great direct roads — loading well, 
Avould produce sometimes as much as from £300 to 
£500 a year in tijis and fees for services rendered to 
passengers and others. A guai'd's income depended 
mainly upon his attention and civility to passengers, 
but there were many other sources. Before 1831 
the sale of game was absolutely prohibited, yet a 
great trade was done in it, with the mail and stage- 
guards as intermediaries, and there can be no doubt 
that the coaches afforded every ojiportunity that 
poachers could desire of marketing the birds and 
ground-game that fell to their guns or nets in the 
darkling midnight woods. 

Country squires knew this very well, and 
threatened and fumed without ceasing, Ijut they 
or their keepers never by any chance saw those 
roadside scenes familiar enough to passengers on 
the up-mails ; when, passing at midnight by some 
dense woodland bordering the road, a low whistle 
would be heard, and the coach would pull uj^ Avhile 
a couple of men handed a sack over to the guard, 
who, thrusting it into the hind-boot and stam])ing 
the lid down, called out " Good-night ! " and the 
journey was resumed without comment. The 
curious or suspicious might connect such an 
incident with another which often haj)i)ened on 
entering London. "Jack," the guard would sing 
out, " Mr. Smith wants his luggage left at so- 



MAIL-GUARDS 255 

and-so," and the coach would be brought to a 
momentary halt outside some public-house, and 
the sack, from whose neck the inquisitive might 
perhaps have seen something remarkably like 
pheasants' tails projecting, handed to an expectant 
porter. Any interested person following that 
porter would observe that the sack was delivered 
at the nearest poulterer's. 

A guard pocketed half a crown each for all 
bankers' parcels he was entrusted with ; he was 
purveyor of tea and fish and buyer of meat to 
a hundred villages down the road; netted many 
a guinea from the lawyers in those days before 
ever the Judicature Act was thought of, when 
every answer filed in Chancery must needs be filed 
by special and sworn messenger ; had a penny each 
for all letters picked up on the way, when post- 
offices were few and far between ; was entrusted 
with great sums of money for payment into the. 
London banks ; and purchased wedding-rings for 
half the love-sick swains in a county. Every one 
knew^ him, trusted him, and fed him, and if he was 
a prudent man he had no difiiculty in making 
money at express speed. One guard, it is 
recorded, was so earnest a fishmonger that he 
used the Post Ofiice bags to carry his fish in, 
greatly to the disgust of the clerks, who found 
themselves smothered in scales and surrounded by 
a decidedly ancient, as well as fishlike, smell. 
They complained to the Postmaster-General, who 
reprimanded the delinquent, and with a quite 
unintentional pun observed that the "sole" reasons 



256 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

of his not l)eing dismissed were his good character 
and long service. 

The guard of the Southampton Mail had long 
been suspected of smuggling, and at last the 
Customs officers at that port determined to search 
the mail. They accordingly attempted to stop it 
one evening, but the guard himself levelled his 
blunderbuss at them, swearing he Avould blow out 
the brains of the man who should lay a hand upon 
the horses or seek to search " His Majesty's Eoyal 
Mail," and so he got off, with the hind boot 
stuffed to bursting Avith excisable but unexcised 
goods in the nature of spirits and tobacco. A long 
correspondence between the Postmaster-General 
and the Commissioners of Customs arose out of this 
incident, each official jealous of his own Depart- 
ment's rights as only Government officers can be ; 
but the Postmaster- General, although declaring 
himself an enemy to smuggling, was indignant 
at the idea of the mail being searched and 
possibly detained ; and although Avarning the 
guard, approved his conduct. It needs no great 
imaginative poAvers to picture that guard embark- 
ing upon a colossal smuggling scheme after finding 
himself thus secured from being searched. 

Although the mail-guards Avere as a body a 
brave and devoted class of men, determined to do 
their duty and to carry his Majesty's mails in 
the face of all difficulties of snoAvstorms, winds, 
and floods, yet they gave Thomas Hasker, Chief 
Superintendent of Mail-coaches, a good deal of 
trouble. They numbered 268, and he exercised 



MAIL-GUARDS 257 

tlie supreme control of them. Complaints con- 
tinually reached him from one quarter or another 
of the mails l)eing late, of the guards being 
impertinent, and of the hind-hoot, sacred to the 
mail-hags, heing used hy the guards as a receptacle 
for things quite unauthorised and unotFicial. To 
stop some of these practices he was obliged to issue 
this notice, which reads somewhat curiously now- 
adays : " In consequence of several of the mail- 
guards having been detected in carrying meat and 
vegetables in the mail-box, to the amount of 150 
pounds weight at a time, the superintendents are 
desired to take oj^portunities to meet the coaches in 
their district, at places where they are least ex- 
pected, and to search the boxes, to remedy this evil, 
which is carried to too great a length. The super- 
intendents Avill please to observe that Mr. Hasker 
does not wish to be too hard on the guards. Such a 
thing as a joint of meat, or a couple of fowls, or 
any other article for their own families, in modera- 
tion, he does not wish to deter them from the 
privilege of carrying." 

Loading the roof with heavy or bulky articles 
was a thing he could not allow as a usual thing. 
" Such a thing as a turtle tied on the roof, 
directed to any gentleman once or twice a year, 
might pass unnoticed, but for a constancy cannot 
be suffered." 

In one respect the lot of a mail-guard did not 
compare favourably with that of his plebeian 
brethren on the stage-coaches. He rode through- 
out the night in a solitary position on the little 
VOL. I. 17 



258 SJ'AGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

seat on the liind-boot called tlie " dicky," Avitli 
the two outsides on the front part of the roof 
facing away from him. It was a rule for many 
years strictly enforced that the outside passengers 
of a mail-coach should he limited to three : one on 
the box-seat beside the coachman, and the other 
two with their backs to the guard, as described. 
It had its origin in the fear that, if more 
were allowed, it would be an easy matter for 
desperadoes to overpower coachman and guard, 
and to rob the mail. Por the same reason, the only 
means of access to the hind-boot, in which the 
mails were stowed away in those early days, before 
the expansion of mail-matter caused the roof to be 
piled up with great sacks of letters and packets, 
was by a trap-door at the top, carefully locked, 
and on Avhich the guard had his feet placed during 
the whole of the journey. Any infraction of the 
rule against allowing a passenger on the hind part 
of the coach was sure to bring instant dismissal, 
and for permitting an extra passenger on the roof 
the guard was fined £5. 

But some of the joys of a mail-guard's life are 
recounted in the old verses : — 

At each inn on the road I a welcome could find ; 

At the Fleece I'd my skin full of ale ; 
The Two Jolly Brewers were just to my mind; 

At the Dolphin I drank like a whale. 

Tom Tun at the Hogshead sold pretty good stuff ; 

They'd capital flip at the Boar ; 
And when at the Angel I'd tippled enough, 

I went to the Devil for more. 



MAIL-GUARDS 259 

There I'd always a sweetheart so snug in the bar ; 

At the Rose I'd a lily so white ; 
Few planets could equal sweet Nan at the Star, 

No eyes ever twinkled so bright. 

I've had many a hug at the sign of the Bear ; 

In the Sun courted morning and noon ; 
And when night put an end to my happiness there, 

I'd a sweet little girl in the Moon. 

To sweethearts and ale I at length bid adieu. 

Of wedlock to set up the sign ; 
Hand-in-Hand the Good Woman I look for in you, 

And the Horns I hope ne'er will be mine. 

Once guard to the Mail, I'm now guard to the fair, 
But though my commission's laid down. 

Yet while the King's Arms I'm permitted to bear. 
Like a Lion I'll fight for the Crown. 

Something of the okl mail-guard's welcome is 
reflected in those lines. That he was, in the eyes 
of the country folk a highly important personage 
admits of no douht, and that, even among the 
upper classes, he was a trusted emissary and 
purveyor of news is equally sure. He was, in 
fact, news embodied. Winged Mercury might, in 
the ancient Avorld, and may be now, the i^ersoni- 
fication of intelligence, hot and hot ; but from 
178 i until the first railways began to outstrij^ the 
mail-coaches, the mail-guards were the better tyj^e. 
They brought the first rumours of joy or sorrow, 
of victory or defeat, down with them on the Royal 
Mail ; and as we were warring almost incessantly 
all over the world during the mail-coach era, few 
were those occasions when the advent of these 
official carriers was not awaited with bated breath. 



26o STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

The tale has often been told how the mail-coaches, 
carrying down with them the news of Trafalgar, of 
Vittoria, and — culminating victory — of Waterloo, 
went down into the country wreatlied with laurel 
and flying juhilant flags, and Iioav the guards, 
hoarse at last and inaudible from continual shout- 
ing, resorted to the expedient of chalking the 
words " Glorious Victory " in large letters on the 
dickey, for the villagers to read as they dashed 
along the roads. Often, under these circumstances, 
a mail-guard was journalist as well, for when 
he could string sentences together with a fair 
approach to grammar, liis contriljutions to the 
provincial press were welcomed and well paid 
for. 

The duty of a mail-guard, besides the primary 
one of protecting the mails, for which he Avas 
provided with a blunderbuss, a pair of pistols, and 
a cutlass carried in a case, was to see that time 
was kept according to the official time-bill handed 
to him. Por the purpose of checking sj^eed on the 
road, and of keeping to that time-table, the Post 
Office furnished every one of its guards with an 
official time-piece enclosed in a wooden box in such 
a way that it was impossible for any one to tamper 
with it, or to alter the hands, without being 
discovered. These clocks were regulated to gain 
or lose so many minutes in twenty-four hours, 
according to the direction in which the coach 
travelled, in order that local time might be kept. 
The timepiece was invariably carried in the leather 
pouch with a circular hole cut in it that all mail- 



MAIL-GUARDS 261 

guards wore, so that the time could instantly be 
seen. 

To every guard the superintendent supplied a 
list of instructions comprising tAventy-six items. 
Prominent among these was the obligation to date 
and sign the time-bill correctly at every place, 
or to see it signed and dated by the postmasters on 
the way. Hoay this was always accomplished in 
snow and wind and rain, with numbed fingers, 
is not easily understood. Often the time-bills 
must have been reduced to something like pulp 
by the time the trip was ended. 

It was also the guard's duty to report any 
horses unfit for service, and any defective harness, 
and to see that the coaches were in proper condition. 
He was urged to look to the lamps, to behave with 
civility to the i)assengers, and to sound his horn on 
several occasions and in certain contingencies duly 
specified. 

Besides these ordinary official duties there were 
the extraordinary ones, in the case of a l)reakdown 
or in the event of a snowstorm. The guard had 
his tool-box and an assortment of spare parts at 
hand, so that he could help the coachman in 
effecting roadside repairs to harness or the coach 
itself ; and when, li'om snowstorm or any other 
cause, the coach could be driven no fartlier, it was 
the guard's duty to impress one of the mail horses 
and ride to the next stage, or to secure post-chaises 
or saddle-horses, and personally convey the mail- 
bags. No matter what became of the passengers, 
his lirst Qare was for His Majesty's mails, 



262 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Coaclimen, althougli not tlie servants of the 
Post Office, were fined heavily for heing late, and 
for stopping at unauthorised places, and the guards 
were fined as well for allowing them to do so. To 
one guard, who had been severely rejirimanded for 
not keejiiiig time, and excused himself by saying 
he could not get the passengers away from their 
dinner, Hasker said, " Stick to your time-bill, and 
never mind what passengers say respecting waiting 
over-time. Is it not the fault of the landlord to 
keep them so long ? Some day, when you have 
waited a considerable time (suppose five or eight 
minutes longer than is allowed by the bill) drive 
away and leave them l)ehind. Only, take care 
you have witness that you called them out two 
or three times. Then let them get forward how 
they can." 

Beyond his weekly half-guinea, an annual suit 
of clothes, and a superannuation allowance of 
seven shillings a week, a mail-guard had no official 
prospects. It is true he might rise to become 
a travelling inspector of mails, when he would 
receive up to £100 a year, with 15s. a day 
travelling expenses. But inspectorships were 
naturally few, and in any case it is not conceivable 
that a guard on a " good mail " would ever have 
exchanged places with an inspector, who certainly 
drew the higher salary but acquired no tips. 

It has already been shown that guards did very 
well indeed on the mainroad mails, and could very 
well have afforded to take the situation Avithout 
any salary at all, or even, like waiters at modern 



MAIL-GUARDS 263 

restaurants, to pay for the privilege of receiving 
fees and tips. The salary Avas, in fact, merely 
a nominal retaining-fee, to give the Department 
a hold upon them. But there were a number of 
cross-country mails that were not nearly so profit- 
able as those that ran direct from London, and 
it is to be feared that their guards did not always 
do so particularly well. Nor even did those on 
the great mail-coaches keep their handsome incomes 
at the last. Railways impoverished many a mail 
before they were finally withdrawn, and it was 
then that the guards agitated for higher salaries. 
Their perquisites had reached the vanishing-point, 
and at last the Post Ofiice agreed to a new scale of 
pay. From 1842 the guards were to receive from 
£70 to £120 a year, according to length of service, 
but at the same time Avere forbidden to receive 
gratuities. This looks like a concession made by 
some malevolent humorist, for already most of 
the mails had been withdrawn. 

But mail- guards were, as a class, more 
fortunate than their brethren of the stage-coaches 
when railways ran them off the road. It is true 
that they keenly felt the loss of the great popu- 
larity they had enjoyed, and more keenly still did 
they miss the very handsome incomes they in 
many instances had made ; but as officials directly 
employed by the Post Office, it Avas incumbent 
upon that Department to find them employ or to 
pension them. No such assured future could, or 
did, cheer the lot of the coachmen of the mails, or 
the coachmen or the guards of the stages. 



264 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

The mail-guards in many instances were 
drafted to the great railway stations, where they 
assisted in despatching the mails by railway. Most 
prominent among all whose career was thus 
diverted was Moses James Nohbs, who died in 
1897, half a century after the road as an 
institution came to an end. 

The career of this old servant of the Post Office 
is, from a variety of circumstances, exceptionally 
interesting. He was horn on May 12th, 1817, at 
Angel Street, Norwich, and was the son of a 
coachbuilder. Entering the Post Office service on 
June 27th, 1836, as guard of the London and 
Stroud Mail, he was shortly transferred to the 
Peterhorougli and Hull Mail, and then to the 
Portsmouth and Bristol. In 1837 he was on the 
new Exeter Mail, just started, on the accession 
of Queen Victoria, to go through Salisbury 
and Yeovil — 170 miles in 18J hours, doing the 
journey to Exeter in two minutes' less time 
tlian the famous " Quicksilver " mail, which with 
this vear varied its route and, avoidins; Salis- 
bury and Yeovil, went by the slightly shorter 
route through Amesbury and Wincanton. Nobbs 
went the whole distance, resting the following day. 
The following year found him as guard on the 
Cheltenham and Aber^-stwith Mail, on which he 
remained until 1851 — sixteen years of nightly 
exposure on a route one hundred miles long, 
through the difficult and mountainous districts 
of mid- Wales. One of his winter experiences may 
be given as a sample, 



MAIL-GUARDS 



265 



"We had left Gloucester," he says, "and 
all Avent on pretty well until we came to Radnor 
Eorest, where we got caug-ht in such a snoAv- 
storni that it Avas impossible to take the coach 
any farther, so aa^c left it. I took the mail-bags, 
and Avith the assistance of tAvo shepherds made 
my Avay over the mountains. It took us five 
hours to get to the 
other side, to an inn 
at LlandeAvy. There 
Ave met the up-guard, 
Couldery, Avho took 
my guides back 
again. It Avas not 
many hours before 
the aliandoned coach 
was completely 
covered Avith snoAV, 
and there it remained 
buried for a Aveek. 
Well, Couldery, it 
seems, fell doAvn in 
the snoAv from ex- 
haustion, and had to 
be carried by the 

tAvo shepherds to the ' Forest ' inn, on the other 
side of the mountain, and there he remained 
for some days, to recover. I had to proceed 
with my bags, so I got a chaise and jmir from 
Pen-y-Bont and another at Hhayader, but was 
unable to take that very far OAving to the snoAV. 
There av^s nothing for it but to press on again 




MOSES JAMES NOBBS, THE LAST OF THE 
MAIL-GUARDS 



266 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

on foot, wliicli I did for many miles, until I came 
to Llangerrig. There I found it was hopeless 
to think of going over Plinlimmon, and was in- 
formed that nothing had crossed all day ; so I 
made up my mind to go round hy way of Llanid- 
loes, and a night I had of it ! I was almost tired 
out and henumbed with cold, which brought on 
a drowsiness I found it very hard to resist. If 
I had yielded to the feeling for one instant I 
should not be telling these tales now. When 
I got about eight miles from Aberystwith I found 
myself becoming thoroughly exhausted, so I hired 
a car for the remainder of tlie journey, and fell 
fast asleep as soon as I got into it. On arriving 
I was still fast asleep, and had to be carried to 
bed and a doctor sent for, Avho rubbed me for 
hours before he could get my blood into circulation 
again. I had then been exposed to that terrible 
weather for fifty hours. Next day I felt a good 
deal better, and started back for Gloucester, but 
had great difficulty in getting over the mountain. 
I had the honour of receiving a letter from the 
Postmaster-General complimenting me on my zeal 
and energy in getting the mail over the mountain. 
Even when there was no snoAV, the wind on the 
top of Plinlimmon was often almost more than 
Ave could contend A\itli. Once, indeed, it Avas 
so strong that it blcAV the coach completely over 
against a rock ; but aa^c soon got that right again, 
and always afterAvards took the precaution of 
opening both the doors and tying them back, so 
that the wind might pass through the coach." 



MAIL- G UARDS 269 

On another occasion Nobbs and the mail 
escaped in a miraculous manner. The snow had 
been falling for many hours on Plinlimmon, and 
it was a fearful night. They safely passed tlie 
summit at Stedfa-gerrig, but, after going down 
for a mile, lost their way in a dense combined fog 
and snowstorm. A post-boy was riding one of the 
leaders, but he took the coach over a precipice 
about sixty feet deep, and Nobbs and the coach- 
man performed two somersaults in the involuntary 
descent. When they reached the bottom they 
blessed that same snowstorm which they had been 
regarding in quite another light, for the drifts 
made a soft and safe resting-place. There were 
only two passengers, who were, of course, riding 
inside on such a night. They were greatly cut 
by the breaking of the glass, and two horses were 
killed. But in two hours the coach was righted, 
and, having found an old Roman road in the 
hollow and harnessed the two remaining horses, 
they drove ofP, and actually succeeded in reaching 
Cheltenham in time to catch the up London 
mail. 

When the Cheltenham and Aberystwith Mail 
came off the road, in 1854, Nobbs was ajipointed 
travelling inspector to the Post Office on the Great 
Western Railway between Paddington and Exeter, 
and was shortly afterwards transferred to Padding- 
ton, where he remained for the rest of his official 
career, superintending the receipt and des^iatch 
of the mails until retired and pensioned off in 
1891, under the Post Office regulations. He had 



2 70 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

thus performed fifty-five years' service, and had 
seen the business of the Post Office grow from 
the one liundredweight of mail-matter in his 
charge on tlie Cheltenham and AhcrystAvith Mail 
at Christmas 1839, to the twenty tons despatched 
from Paddington on Christmas Eve 1889. 

A very curious experience fell to the lot of 
this veteran in 1887, when a revival of the old 
days of the road took place, in consequence of the 
Post Office deciding to send the London and 
Brighton Parcel Mail by horsed van along that 
classic highway instead of by rail. By the 
Post Office agreement with the railway companies 
of 1882, the year when the Parcel Post was 
introduced, the companies Avere given 55 per 
cent, of the total receipts ; but as it presently 
appeared that this was an extravagant proportion, 
and that the parcels could be conveyed by van 
along the road at a much smaller cost, the road 
service now in force was at length inaugurated, 
on June 1st, 1887. 

To Nobbs, as the oldest guard in the service, 
fell the distinction of acting in that capacity on 
the Brighton Parcel Mail on its trial-trip. Again 
he wore the gold-banded hat and the scarlet 
coat, and sentimental souls not only provided 
one of the old timepieces, but included a blunder- 
buss in the equipment, while an even more 
enthusiastic admirer of the bygone days pro- 
duced a key-bugle, so that Nobbs might play 
"Auld Lang Syne." He tried, but the attempt 
was not a success. The results were feeble, in 



MAIL-GUARDS 271 

consequence, as he explained, of his having lost 
his front teeth. 

Nobhs died. May 18th, 1897, in his eighty- 
first year, at Uxhridge. His portrait is one of 
the cherished items in the Post Office Record 
Department. 

One of those who, for some reason or another, 
was not continued in Post Office employment 
was an odd character popularly called " Cocky " 
Murrell, who for many years afterwards was a 
solicitor's clerk at DoAvnliam Market, Norfolk. 
" Cocky " he was called from his prodigious 
amount of bounce. He had formerly been guard 
of the mail between Ely and King's Lynn, and 
though not much taller than the horn he blew, 
assumed as much authority as though he had 
been the Postmaster- General himself. 



CHAPTER XII 

STAGE-COACH GUARDS 

XoT every stage-coacli carried a guard, and 
largely to that omission was due the prevalence 
of accidents in the last years of coaching. When 
we find guards first mentioned in old stage- 
coach advertisements, shortly after the middle 
of the eighteenth century, they were provided 
strictly for the purpose their name indicates— 
to guard the coaches against attack; and when 
such dangers grew more remote they were 
generally discontinued on day- coaches. Thus 
very often, except on long-distance stages, even 
the smart day-coaches carried no guard, and 
when they did, his functions were not so much 
to safeguard the coach in the original sense as 
to help the coachman by skidding and unskidding 
down hill, and to look after the way-bill and 
the passengers' luggage. It Avas when no such 
useful functionary was carried, and Avhen tJie 
coachman, combining the parts, descended from 
his box, and leaving the reins in charge of a 
passenger, or often merely resting them on the 
horses' backs, went to explore the contents of 
the boots, or alighted for some other necessary 
business, that the horses often started off on 



STAGE-COACH GUARDS 273 

their own accord and wrought disaster to coach 
and passengers. 

In early days, when horses were either not 
changed at all on a long journey, or went 
twenty-mile stages, nothing was less likely than 
that they would ])olt. All they av anted to do 
was to lie down and die. But in the golden 
age of coaching, Avhen well-kept teams working 
sometimes only six- or eight-mile stages were 
usual, that coach-proprietor who, from motives 
of economy or for any other reason, omitted 
to provide a guard, should have been made 
criminally responsible for any accidents caused 
by that omission. 

As a rule the guards of mails and stages 
went from end to end, being responsible for 
the contents of the way-bill. These spells of 
from ten to fifteen hours' duty were naturally 
very tiring, and they generally rested the 
following day, or, if in London, took the 
opportunity of executing those varied com- 
missions — from the filing of a Bill in Chancery 
to the matching of silks — of Avhich every guard 
had plenty always in hand. 

An outstanding specimen of a stage-coach 
guard is the figure of George Young, of the 
Leeds " Union." An excellent whip, as well 
as guard, he was a man of a peculiar versatility 
of genius, and as an entertainer of company on 
the roof of a coach was probably unequalled in 
his day. He transacted business commissions 
for the better class of jewellers and attorneys, 

VOL. I. 18 



2 74 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

was fond of all kinds of sport, a successful 
bookmaker, a good shot, went coursing, and 
at liorseracing was as keen as any tyke in broad 
Yorkshire. Not insensible, either, to the charms 
of the P. R., he introduced some noted bruisers 
in his day, and Avas an intimate friend and 
companion of Tom Spring. When not actively 
engaged, he was always ready to take the ribbons 
for a friend who wanted a holiday or had 
urgent private affairs to attend to ; and the 
tooling of the teams, no matter how refractory, 
never suffered in dignity from his manipulation. 
He was, take him for all in all, perhaps one of 
tlie most original and jierfect specimens of the 
old-fashioned, cheery, story-telling, and loquacious 
sort who ever blew a horn, kissed a pretty 
barmaid, pulled a sluggish team out of a difficulty, 
or chaffed a yokel on his way to market. 

This jDaragon among guards met his death 
in April 1825, dying at the " Eed Lion," Ponte- 
fract, of mortification resulting from an accident. 
It seems that, to make room for an extra 
passenger, he had given up the guard's seat, 
and went to sit beside the coachman, who 
already had a j)assenger on the box. In order 
not to inconvenience the coachman's driving, 
he sat on the edge of the seat, with one of his 
legs dangling over the side, and so when the 
coa,ch gave a lurch, was throAvn off and his 
thigh broken. 

Bob Hadley, guard of the " Unicorn " coach 
between Manchester and the Potteries, was of 



STAGE-COACH GUARDS 275 

the eccentric kind, sporting an odd kind of 
headgear which went by the name of the "Hadley 
Tile," and was as well knoAvn in his circle as 
the " D'Orsay Hat " was in fashionable London. 
"It resembles," said a contemporary, "an um- 
brella in extent, and Bob, as he luxuriates under 
its broad leaf, looks like an ouransj-outano* under 
a banyan-tree. Some of his contemporaries having 
adopted his taste too closely, he has been under 
the necessity of extending its brim about four 
inches, which puts all competition at defiance, 
and he now presents an unique specimen. To 
put himself still further beyond the reach of 
envious competition, he has enclosed his delicate 
person in a complete suit of plaid, from his 
thorax to his trotters, and is now as complete 
an original as is to be found in any zoological 
collection in the Kingdom." 

It was in the very nature of their work that 
the " up " and " down " coachmen and guards 
should never meet, save in that moment of 
passing one another on the road. Like the little 
man and woman of the old-fashioned weather- 
gauge — the one coming out and the other going 
in, as fine or wet weather willed it — they could 
not, in the ordinary routine, possibly enjoy one 
another's society. An exception was annually 
made on the Holyhead Eoad, when a hundred 
coachmen and guards were bidden to a feast at 
the " Green Man," Dunchurch. They managed 
to find substitutes for their j^laces on the box, 
or on the guard's seat, for the occasion, and 



2 76 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

usually sat down to the half of a fat huck from 
the Buccleuch estate adjoining that village. 

The festival of September 1834^ Avas a 
memorable one. According to a contemporary, 
the anticipation of the tuck-out had kept them 
on the qui vlve for a week, and it was not a 
little amusing to see them nearing the point of 
attraction on the evening and night before ; in 
some cases two, and even three, being perched 
on one coach and making the welkin ring with 
notes of their bugles, in solos, duets, or trios, 
to the no small interruption of the peaceful 
slumbers of wayside hamlets, whose inhabitants, 
from the constant din of " See the Conquering 
Hero Comes," fancied the Duke of Wellington, 
at least, was on the road. 

The guards of the Manchester " Red Hover " 
were particularly on their stilts, and, having 
met for the first time on the same vehicle in 
musical fellowshiji, continued practising every 
tune they did know and did not knoAV, from the 
time they quitted Highgate until they entered 
Dunchurch, at about 3 a.m., when they took 
leave of the coach Avith the splendid finale of 
" We won't go Home till Morning," leaving the 
harassed passengers Avith the chance of an odd 
wink for the remainder of the journey. "We 
ought," says the historian of these things, " as 
faithful reporters, to state that Bob Hadley 
and his chum on the ' Eover ' occasionally 
rested their pipes Avitli a cigar or a song ; and 
in the latter attempt Hadley Avas certainly second 



STAGE-COACH GUARDS 277 

best, for no raven in a chimney-pot could have 
more barbarously murdered the airs of Rossini — 
so much to the horror of a lady outside, who 
was herself a bit of a musician, that she fancied 
she had by accident got upon the railway, and 
taken her seat in a cattle train, in one of the 
private boxes set apart for the accommodation 
of four-footed squeakers." 

The dinner on this occasion was of the most 
substantial description, and, for want of a bettor. 
Bob Hadley was jmt in the chair, a distinction 
his modesty would have induced him to decline; 
but the voices of the company were unanimous, 
and on mounting his perch he returned thanks 
on his l)ugle in the favourite hunting air of 
" Old Towler " ; which, as "on that day," or 
a few days before, a stag was supposed to have 
died, AA^as considered extremely appropriate, and 
was applauded accordingly. Whether a stag 
had died or not seemed subsequently to have 
become a matter of doubt, for the chairman, 
after carving the " noble haunch," and coming 
to the foot, which was enclosed with a profusion 
of curled Avriting-paj^er, was not a little surprised 
to find the hoof, instead of being cloven, to be 
entire. A noted farrier present swore it was the 
hoof of a young donkey ! This the landlord 
positively denied, but uj^on a jury being sum- 
moned to decide the question, the hoof was 
found to have mysteriously disappeared, and the 
point remained for ever unsettled ; although 
it was freely hinted that the guard of the 



2 78 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

" Emerald," jealous at being shut out from the 
feast, had conveyed the haunch away and sub- 
stituted for it the hind-quarter of a deceased 
" Neddy " he had imported from Wolverhampton. 

One of the most daring deeds ever related 
of a guard was that well-nigh incredible one 
told of the guard of the famous " Tantivy " : — 

"We had just entered Oxford from Wood- 
stock," says Lord William Lennox, " when 
suddenly the horses started off at an awful j^ace. 
What made matters worse was that Ave saw at 
a distance some men employed in removing a 
large tree that had fallen during the storm of 
the previous night across the road near St. 
John's College. The coachman shook his head, 
looking very nervous, while the guard, a most 
powerful man, stood up, prepared for any emer- 
gency. On we went, the coachman trying in 
vain to check the galloping steeds, and we had 
got within a few yards of the critical spot when 
the guard, craAvling over the roof, managed, 
somehow or another, to get on the footboard, 
when, with a spring, he threw himself on the 
near wheeler, and with a giant's clasp checked 
the horses at the very moment the leaders 
were about to charge the tree. Down they 
came, but the guard never yielded an inch, and, 
with the assistance of the country people near 
at hand, the leaders regained their legs, without 
the slightest damage to man, horse, coach, or 
harness. A subscription for our gallant j)reserver 
was got up on the spot." 



STAGE-COACH GUARDS ^79 

The last twenty years of the coaching era 
were remarkable for the development of musical 
ability on the part of the guards, both of the 
mail- and stage-coaches, who, relieved from their 
old-time anxieties and fears of highwaymen, kept 
their blunderlousses safely stowed away, and, 
turning their attention, like so many scarlet- 
coated Strephons, to the ballad-music of the 
moment, became expert practitioners on the key- 
bugle. That instrument came over from Germany 
in 1818, and for a time pretty thoroughly dis- 
placed the old " yard of tin " the earlier guards 
had blown so lustily. The new generation 
developed a passion for this strident kind of 
minstrelsy. Like the hero (or is it heroine ?) of 
the " Lost Chord," their " fingers wandered idly 
over the sounding keys," and although many 
were expert players and, unlike the organist in 
that song, did know what they were playing, 
the jolting of the coaches must often have dis- 
composed their harmony to some extent, so that 
the passengers could not always boast the same 
knowledge. 

Piccadilly, one of the chief starting-points in 
London, was in this manner a highly musical 
thoroughfare at the period now under review. 
Ten guards, blowing ten dilferent tunes at once, 
produced, we are told — and can well believe — 
a wonderful effect ; and the roads became ex- 
cruciatingly lively when every gay young blood 
of a guard learned to play " Cherry Eipe," the 
" Huntsman's Chorus," " Oh ! Nanny, wilt Thou 



28o STAGE-COACH Al^D MAIL IN DAYS OF YORJS 

gang wi' Me ? " and half a hundred others. The 
passengers, like that famous young lady " with 
rings on her fingers and hells on her toes," had 
music wherever they went. Let us hope they 
apj^reciated their good fortune to the full. 

The Post Office looked with a cold glance upon 
these proceedings, and forbade mail-guards to ^\'i\>j 
the key -bugle. Those officials therefore purchased 
them secretly, and snatched a fearful joy l)y pro- 
ducing them when clear of London streets, and 
playing, loud and long, such airs as " The Days 
when we went Gipsying, a Long Time Ago," and 
"Sally in our Alley," to the great admiration of 
the country joskins. The performances of expert 
players were said to be delightful, and no doubt 
they quickly reaped in tips a harvest from what 
they had expended on their instruments. 

It is on record that a guard on the Chester 
Mail, Avith the fear of God or pul)lic opinion 
before him, always used to honour the Sal)bath 
Day by playing the " Old Hundredth " as the 
coach passed through town and village, reserving 
his secular tunes for the secluded highway. 

Cornets-a-piston began to rival the key-bugle 
in the last years of coaching, and the hurly-burly 
grew terrific. To what lengths this progressive 
din would have been carried had not the coaching 
age itself come to an end let us not seek to 
inquire ; but when the coaching revival of 1863 
and succeeding years brought back some of the old 
sights and sounds of the road, key-bugles and their 
like were very properly voted bad form, and the 



STAGE-COACfT GUARDS 281 

older coacli-liorn regained and still retains its 
ancient ascendency. Those other instrnments and 
all their j)ossibilities are left to modern heanf easters 
and Bank-holiday merrymakers, Avho, as the 
suhnrhan Londoner knows only too Avell, do not 
fail to take fnll advantage of them. 

What became of the stage-coach guards ? 
Some of them were killed, and thus never experi- 
enced the bitterness of finding their occuj)ation 
gone. There is an inscription in the churchyard 
at Great Driffield, Yorkshire, to one who ended 
thus : — 

TO THE MEMORY OF 

THOMAS RUSSELL, 

Guard of the " Wellington," who lost his life by 

the Coach being unfortunately overturned at 

Nafferton, September 9th, 1825. 

Aged 36 years. 



on Tomb Stones are but vainly sjient ; 
A Man's Good Name is his best jMpnunient. 

Tliis Stone was erected by his Companions in Friendship. 

Less noticed by gossips on old coaching days than 
the coachmen were, their ending is more ol)SCure, 
but it may be supposed that, like those occupants 
of the box-seat, many of them settled down as 
landlords of small inns in towns they had known 
when they travelled the road. 



CHAPTER XIII 

HOW THE COACHES AA^ERE NAMED 

" What's in a name? Little enough, by the fact that people travel 
by the Thame coach, the Hitchin chaises, and the Crawley stage." — 
Old Coaching Essay. 

It was not until quite late in the coacliing era that 
proprietors began generally to adopt the practice 
of naming their coaches. In early clays there was 
little or no occasion to do so, for Avlien there Avere 
only tAA^o or three coaches on the most frequented 
roads, no difhculty existed in distinguishing 
between them. One might be the old original 
stage ; another, someAvhat better built and more 
up-to-date, would be the "Machine"; another yet, 
fastest of all, the "Ply," or the "Plying Machine." 
The earliest named coacli of Avhich Ave liaAC any 
record Avas the " Confatharrat " London and 
NorAAdch stage, mentioned in 1G95. As aa^c liaA^e 
already seen in these j)ages, tliis Avas an old-time 
Avay of spelling the AAord " Confederate," and the 
coach AA^as one probably OAA^ned and run by a 
syndicate, aaIio shared the risks and the profits. 
Before competing coaches began to multiply and 
hustle one another in the struggle for public 
supjiort, 2^1'oprietors AA^ere content to announce 
"a coacli," or "a stage-coach," to run, and took 
no trouble to characterise their vehicle in any 



HOW THE COACHES WERE NAMED 283 

more attractive fashion. But when an opposition 
took the road, the vehicles so curtly named hecame 
"commodious," "easy," "elegant," and anything 
else you like in the commendatory kind. The 
next stage in this development was to appeal to 
the sentiment of old customers and to endeavour 
to retain their favour, not usually hy increased 
speed, loAver fares, or hotter accommodation, hut 
hy descrihing an old-estahlished coach as " the 
original." Passengers, who did not lay so much 
stress upon sentiment as upon personal comfort, 
were generally well-advised to hook seats hy 
the new opposition coaches rather than hy the 
"originals," which had the defect of heing old- 
fashioned, and perhaps, in many cases, worn out. 
Surely in no other husiness was rivalry so hitter 
and unrelenting as in that of coaching, and the 
annals of the road afford occasion for a sigh or 
a smile as one reads the furious denunciations 
levelled hy one coach-master against another in 
their old advertisements. This contention started 
in the very first years of the Brighton Boad. In 
1757 James Batchelor extended his old Lewes 
stage to Brighthelmstone (as Brighton then was 
known). He took two days to perform the journey. 
Five years later appeared a certain J. Tuhh, allied 
in partnership with S. Brawne, with intent to 
drive Batchelor off the road. They advertised, 
in May 1762, a " Lewes and Brighthelmstone 
Elying Machine, hung on steel springs, very neat 
and commodious," to do the journey in one 
day. This presumption aroused Batchelor, the old 



284 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IIV DAYS OF YORE 

incuml^ent, to extraordinary energy, for, the 
very next week, he started a " new large Elying 
Chariot," and — reduced his fares ! This reduction 
of fares seems to have struck Mr. Tuhh as an 
exceedingly mean and contemptible move, and he 
rushed into print Avith a very long and virulent 
advertisement in the Leioes Journal, desiring 
"Gentlemen, Ladies, and others" to "look 
narrowly into the Meanness and Design of the 
other Flying Machine to Lewes and Brighthelm- 
stone in lowering his prices, w^hether 'tis thro' 
conscience or an endeavour to suppress me. If 
the former is the case, think how you have been 
used for a great number of years, when he 
engrossed the whole to himself, and kept you two 
days upon the road, going fifty miles. If the 
latter, and he should be lucky enough to succeed 
in it, judge whether he won't return to his old 
prices Avhen you cannot help yourselves, and use 
you as formerly." 

To this Batchelor rejoined with an appeal " to 
the calm consideration of the Gentlemen, Ladies, 
and other Passengers, of Avhat Degree soever." 
This appeal was chiefly the time-honoured one, 
that his coach was the original, and therefore 
deserved supj)ort : " Our Family first set up the 
Stage Coach from London to Lewes, and have 
continued it for a long Series of Years, from 
Father to Son and other Branches of the Same 
Bace. Even before the Turnpikes on the Lewes 
Boad were erected, they drove their Stage, in the 
Summer Season, in one day, and have continued 



HOJV THE COACHES WERE NAMED 2S5 

to do ever since, and now in the Winter Season 
twice in the week." The Lewes and Brighton 
Iload seems, however, to have heen long enough 
and hroad enough for hotli Tubh and Batchelor, 
for they both continued until four years later, 
Avhen Batchelor died, and his business was sold to 
Tubb, who took a partner, and himself in due 
course experienced the bitterness of a rival on the 
road, prepared with better machines, a sj^eedier 
journey, and lower fares. 

About this time, when hatreds and rivalries 
were seething in the south on this then com- 
paratively unimportant road, the Shrewsbury and 
London road, on its several routes, by way of 
Birmingham and Coventry, or by Oxford and 
Banbury, was, as befitted so important a high- 
way, the scene of a much keener and more 
protracted strife between opposing confederations 
of coach-proprietors, and in consequence coach 
nomenclature grew with the rapidity of melons 
under a glass frame. It should be noted here 
tliat coaching did not progress evenly all over 
the kingdom, but was more advanced on some 
roads than others. Thus, although the era of 
" Machines " and " Flying Machines " did not 
properly dawn until after 1750, yet on the 
Bath Boad we already find a " Mying Machine " 
in 1667. Just as, nowadays, those people who 
happen to reside on a branch line of some great 
raihvay are commonl}^ fobbed off with the second- 
hand rolling-stock and other offscourings of the 
main line, so the inhabitants along the lesser 



2 86 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

roads had to be content with a mere " stage- 
coach," while the great trunk roads were 
thronged with " machines " and " post-coaches." 

In 1753 the Shrewsbury "Long Coach" and 
"Stage Coach" were started, and long continued; 
but from Vl^A things changed swiftly. In that 
year the " Machine " began. The next spring 
it had become the " Plying Machine," and in 
1773 its success had raised up a "New Mying 
Machine," soon re-christened the " New My." 
To the challenge of this "New Ely," fitted, 
according to its proprietors, " quite in the modern 
taste " and with steel springs, the owners of the 
" original London and Salop Machine " replied, 
not only with the boast of being pioneers in 
days of old, but (much more to the point) 
advertised that their conveyance also was in the 
modern taste and fitted with springs ; and, more- 
over, pointed out that the Coventry route, taken 
by it to London, was shorter than that by Oxford, 
taken by the rival firm.: 

" Machine " seems to have been a favourite 
description for coaches at any time between 
1754 and the beginning of the nineteenth century. 
If the term had any specific meaning at all, and 
was anything more than a vague, grandiose 
way of advertising an ordinary stage, it must 
originally have indicated a vehicle just in 
advance of the usual ruck. The Bath "Plying 
Machine " was probably of lighter build than 
the other coaches, and the Edinburgh " new 
genteel, two-end glass coach machine, on steel 



HO]V THE COACHES WERE NAMED 287 

springs," of 1754, Avas cloiil^tless only a somewhat 
neater example of a stag-e-coach than many then 
in use on that route. 

The next development was the " Diligence," 
conveying only three passengers and going at 
the express rate necessary to cover the distance 
between Shrewsbury and London in one day. 
It Avent three times a week, and charged some 
four shillings less than the " Flying Machine." 
Uivalries on this road had by this time quite 
outgrown custom. In 1776 there were three 
distinct coaches between Shrewsbury and London, 
but they could not all pay their expenses, and 
so were gradually taken off altogether, or ran 
less frequently. The " Diligence," Avhich more 
than any other had forced the pace, Avas itself 
discontinued. 

" Diligence " had noAV become a very popular 
name for fast coaches, as speed Avas understood in 
those times. It derived from across the Channel, 
Avhere conveyances known by this title had 
already supplemented the ordinary sloAV-going 
stage-coaches, called carrosses; but the importation 
of the word into this country in connection with 
stage-coaching was absolutely inexcusable, for 
already our " Post Coaches " and " Light Post 
Coaches " had begun to give the travelling public 
an idea of quick transit. 

The English " Diligence," as originally built 
and run upon the roads, Avas nothing more nor 
less than a light coach, to hold three inside 
passengers only, facing in the direction the 



288 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

coacli travelled. It, indeed, greatly resembled, 
if even it was not identical in every particular 
with, the post-chaises of that time, themselves 
built to hold three persons, and by that measure 
of accommodation helping to prove every day 
and upon roads innumerable the truth of the old 
adage which declares that " Two's company ; 
three's none." If, in fact, Afe come to the 
conclusion that post-chaises were sometimes used 
as " Diligences " and on other occasions as post- 
chaises, Ave shall only be giving the proprietors 
of coaches and chaises their due credit of being 
clever business men, suiting their stock to the 
needs of the hour. 

BetAveen the appearance of the Shrewsbury 
"Diligence" and the opening of the nineteenth 
century, " Diligences " abounded. The first 
mail-coach Avas a " Diligence." It is not to be 
supi^osed that they were all fast; and indeed, so 
early did the impudent slow coaches assume 
the title, in order to deceive the public, that it 
soon became a synonym for laziness and un- 
punctuality, and so far Avere they in many cases 
from being light coaches carrying only three 
passengers, that references to them in the 
literature of a hundred years ago mention as 
many as six, or even eight persons. 

The AA^ord " diligence " in some subtle manner 
conveys a very true idea of these coaches. There 
is in it something soothing and trustworthy. In 
some vague Avay it radiates a calm atmosphere 
of plodding virtue and slow-going innocence, to 



aOJV THE COACHES WERE NAMED i^ 

which your clashing but breakneck " Tally-ho's ! " 
and " Comets " are entirely strange. The " mind's 
eye, Horatio," jiictures in the progress of a 
Diligence a patient toiling against difficulties, 
rewarded in the end by the happy issue of an 
arrival at one's inn, Aveary perhaps with long 
hours of travel, but still sound in body ; an ending 
not always so comfortable when travelling by 
the swift " Tally-ho's " and " Comets " aforesaid. 
Then, too, when " Diligence " became shortened 
into "Dilly," as it very soon was, the title grew 
in a sense poetic. The " Derby Dilly," which, 
faithful among the faithless, would aj^pear to have 
remained really and truly a Diligence, has in fact 
been celebrated in verse by no less an one than 
Canning, in the lines contributed by him to the 
Loves of the Triangles : — 

So down thy lull, romantic Ashbourne, glides 
The Derby Dilly, carrying* three insides. 
One in each corner sits and lolls at ease, 
With folded arms, propt back, and outstretched knees; 
While the press'd Bodkin, pinch'd and squeezed to death, 
Sweats in the mid-most place, and scolds, and pants for 
breath. 

Canning's vivid picture of travelling by Dilly 
describes in an unaj^i^roachable manner the 
peculiar defects of its construction. 

* It is worthy of note that these lines are generally mis- 
quoted. But the misquotations are improvements upon the 
original ; as, in fact, the best known misquotations are. The 
usual version runs, "So down thy vale," and substitutes "The 
Derby Dilly, with its three insides " for the original clumsy line, 
which fails to scan. 

VOL. I. 19 



290 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

There were those ingrates who, contemporary 
with the Diligences, did not appreciate them very 
highly. They valued speed more than safety. 
" You should have called it the Sloth," said the 
traveller at the Hawes Inn, somewhere ahout 
1790, referring to the " Hawes Fly, or Queen's- 
ferry Diligence," which then plied between Edin- 
burgh and the shores of the Forth ; " why, it 
moves like a fly through a glue-pot." 

It is now necessary to turn aside for aAvhile to 
contemplate the final debasement of the Diligence, 
which in 1835 became, in the hands of Mr. George 
Shillibeer, something very like an omnibus. In 
1829 he had introduced a line of jmblic vehicles 
running from Paddington to the City, and had 
himself named them " omnibuses " ; but in 1835 
he appeared with a long-distance vehicle which he 
put on the Brighton Hoad and named " Shillibeer's 
Improved New Patent Diligence." By this, three 
classes of accommodation were provided : the 
" Coupe or Chariot," to convey three persons, at 
£1 \s. each; behind it, in a separate comjoartment, 
the "Omnibus," to hold eight, at 1(5^.; and the 
" Exterior," as he somewliat grandly named the 
roof, accommodating an indefinite number at 10s. 
each. Shillibeer was a great advertiser, and gave 
this, as well as his omnibuses, due publicity. He 
was inordinately fond of advertisements cast in a 
metrical form, and accordingly his tame poet was 
made to grind out a set of halting verses which 
fully describe the beauty and convenience of his 
master's new enterprise : — 



ITOJV THE COACHES WERE NAMED 291 

In this age of novelty, railroads and steam, 
And of ships in the air, of which some people dream, 
For the safety and comfort of travellers of sense, 
Shillibeer starts for Brighton a new Diligence. 

This elegant carriage (Shil's taste is well known) 
Has been built by himself, on a plan of his own, 
And the world may be challenged, 'tis no vain pretence, 
For a conveyance to equal his new Diligence. 

At Charing Cross daily, at ten may be seen 
Three grey horses abreast, his trinity team. 
And all will allow he has spared no expense 
For a splendid set-oat to his new Diligence. 

First comes the Coupe, just suited for three. 

Where the King, Queen, and Princess Victoria might be, 

For Royalty, even, could take no offence. 

So splendid and handsome is the new Diligence. 

Here seated, as if in a chariot, the fare 
May the prospect survey, and enjoy the fi-esh air. 
And the ladies in order their linglets dispense, 
In due form at the glass in the new Diligence. 

Then comes the Omnibus, four on each side. 
In safety and comfort eight persons may ride. 
And in six hours' time, when started from hence, 
They at Brighton arrive in the new Diligence. 

Through Clapham and Mitcham and Reigate the route. 

By Crawley, and Cackfield, without any doubt, 

Far the most pleasant road, in every sense, 

To the Royal Clarence Hotel runs the new Diligence. 

As economy now is the rage of the day. 
One guinea a seat is the price in coupe, 
The fare in the omni, sixteen shillings expense. 
Outside, half a sovereign, on the new Diligence. 

I have only to add that the public will find 
Extreme expedition, with safety combined, 
And most civil attention, avoiding offence, 
To the patrons of Shillibeer's new Diligence, 



292 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Poor Shillibeer, however, came to an unfortu- 
nate crisis in his affairs in this very year, when 
the omnibuses he put on the road between London 
and Greenwich had been running in ruinous com- 
petition Avith the new London and Greenwich 
Railway, and had l)rought him so very low, 
financially, that he Avas unable to meet the 
demands of the Stamp Office for the duty payable 
on the vehicles. The Office seized his omnibuses, 
and presumably his Diligence as well, for Ave hear 
nothing more of it, and his mellifluous songster no 
longer enlivened the pages of the public prints 
with his rhymes. There Avas a Diligence on the 
Brighton Road in the folloAving year, but it was 
owned by another firm, Avho made a l3etter per- 
formance, for their conveyance did the journey 
in 5J hours, and the fares were much cheaper. 
Passengers by coupe paid 16s., by second class 
12s., and outsides only 8s. 

MeauAvhile, " Post Coaches " and " Light Post 
Coaches " Avere at the head of the coaching 
hierarchy. Introduced long before mail-coaches 
came into being, they Avere then the most ex- 
pensive and exclusive, as they Avere also the 
speediest, of public conveyances, and ranked 
next after the post-chaises. They Avere expen- 
sive chiefly because they provided only limited 
accommodation ; originally only three or four 
inside, and one or tAvo out, with no luggage, 
except small trunks or parcels. The term " Post " 
had no reference to the Post Office, but was 
intended to give at once an idea of speed and 



no IF THE COACHES WERE NAMED 293 

an approach to that absolute privacy only obtained 
by specially hiring- a j^ost-horse or a post-chaise. 
Indeed, the earliest Post Coaches not a little 
resembled a post-chaise hired by a party of friends 
for the journey. In securing a seat by post-coach, 
the traveller, in view of the limited accom- 
modation, mathematically reduced his chances 
of meeting and journeying with vulgar and 
objectionable characters ; while the higher fare 
tended to produce the same effect by eliminating 
all but those who were rich enough to afford 
the cost, and were therefore, by an easily under- 
stood process of reasoning, likely to l)e cleanly 
and well-mannered. How highly objectionable 
the company in a stage-coach might and could 
be we have the testimony of many travellers to 
tell, from Dean Swift to John Wesley and 
Macready, the actor. Their trials and experiences 
are mostly recorded elsewhere in these pages ; 
but two examples may take their place here to 
illustrate the reason why Post Coaches flourished 
so greatly. 

Let us, then, hear Wesley : — 

" I went," he says, " to Norwich (from London) 
in the stage-coach with two very disagreeal)le 
companions, called a gentleman and gentle- 
woman, but equally igiiorant, insolent, lewd, 
and profane. 

''July 21s/, 1779.— (Prom Coventry) I took 
coach for London. I was nobly attended : behind 
the coach were ten convicted felons, loudly 
blaspheming and rattling their chains; by my 



294 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

side sat a man with a loaded blunderbuss, and 
another upon the roof." 

The felons, " behind the coach," Avould ride 
in the liasket, which was without springs. Their 
chains would necessarily rattle, and considering 
the discomfort of ten manacled men, jammed 
together, without seats, and jolted over bad roads, 
it is not surprising they "blasphemed." 

Macready travelled in 1811 by the Liverpool 
stage, from Birmingham to London. He says : — 

" I got into the coacb ; its odours were many, 
various, and unpleasantly mingled, and the 
passengers, a half-drunken sailor and an old 
Avoman, did not impress me Avitli the prospect of 
a very pleasant journey. The pace at which 
the vehicle proceeded made me doubt Avhether it 
would ever reach London, and its creakings and 
joltings seemed to augur a certain overturn." 
This objectionable conveyance took five hours to 
accomplish the eighteen miles between Birmingham 
and Coventry, and only reached London at five 
o'clock the next evening. 

But there is no subject upon which it is 
more rash to generalise than that of coaching 
history. One road might be thirty or forty 
years in advance of another, and Diligences and 
Post Coaches mean things very different in one 
part of the country from conveyances similarly 
named, but of different construction and capacity, 
running in other districts. In 1782, for example, 
there was a self-styled " Post Coach " running 
between London, Maidenhead, and Mario w, Avhich 



HOW THE COACHES WERE NAMED 295 

certainly did not fully answer the description 
given above ; although, from the evidence of the 
very curious old painting, it still retained a 
certain elegance, in spite of carrying outsides, 
and owning that vulgar appendage, a "basket," 
behind. This Post Coach, which in the contem- 
porary painting bears its name, starting-point, 
and place of destination plainly to be seen, is 
first heard of in 1773, running daily from the 
"King's Head," Old Change, at noon. What 
the fare was to Marlow we have not been able 
to discover, but to Maidenhead, distant from the 
City 31 miles, it was 5s. 

"Accommodation" coaches abounded all over 
the country from about 1800. They were gener- 
ally slow coaches, with ample room, travelling 
along the roads in leisurely fashion, and stopping 
anyAvhere and everywhere, to pick up passengers 
and luggage. The nearest parallel to them 
nowadays is the slow, stopping, long-distance 
.train, which halts at every little wayside station 
and sees the express flash by at sixty miles an 
hour. 

Thus far we have recorded chiefly the titles 
by which types of coaches were known. We 
now come to coaches individually named. Early 
among these is the " Eockingham," London and 
Leeds stage, established in 1781, and continued 
rmtil the railway came to Leeds, in 1811. 
Uockingham was, indeed, a name to conjure 
with in Yorkshire, and there were at least tAVO 
other coaches with that name running on branch 



296 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

roads from Leeds. The " True Blue " was tlie 
name of the okl Leeds, Malton and Scarborough 
coach, originating in the same year as the 
" Rockingham," and lasting three years longer. 
Three others ran between Leeds and Wakefield, 
Knaresborough and Selby, and Leeds and Bradford. 
" True Britons," too, were plentiful in the broad- 
acred county of Yorkshire, where jiolitics and 
patriotism kept parties at fever heat and divided 
even travellers into parties to such an extent 
that an ardent sujoporter of the " BufPs " would 
almost rather walk or post than journey by a 
"Blue" coach; while a True Blue Tory inn- 
keeper would deny accommodation to a Buft' 
Whig (supposing in the first instance that the 
Whig had so far forgotten what was due to 
his faction as to seek shelter there) and think 
nothing of the custom lost. 

In I784i the " Expedition " coach is first 
mentioned as running between London and 
Norwich, by way of Newmarket and Thetford. 
The " expedition " consisted in going 108 miles 
in 17J hours, including stops, or a net running 
speed of about seven miles an hour. 

" Balloon " coaches were first heard of in 
1785, when a plentiful scattering of that name 
over the country proved how deep an impression 
had been made upon the public mind by the 
balloon ascents of Lunardi in the previous year. 
A stone monument marks the spot beside the 
Cambridge Boad, near Ware, on which that 
aerial traveller descended after his first flight 



HO IV THE COACHES WERE NAMED 299 

in this country ; and the coaches long carried an 
echo of the wonderment then excited. Coach- 
i^roprietors had, indeed, by this time begun to 
see the commercial advantage of imjiressing the 
public with a sounding name. Already, by long 
use and wont, ears had become blunted by the 
name of the Flying Machines, which had fallen 
unmeaningly upon several generations accustomed 
to liberally discount the absurd pretension. No 
one at this time, it is safe to say, ever received 
a mental impression of flying when a flying 
coach was named. The name had become a mere 
convention. The Balloon was therefore a god- 
send to coach-proprietors who, in naming their 
conveyances after it, succeeded for a while in 
reviving an outworn figure of speed, and thus 
again suggested the idea of their coaches gracefully 
navigating the emjiyrean, rather than painfully 
staggering along the rutty roads. 

The " Defiance " coaches bring us closer to 
the great Augustan era of smart coaches and 
great emulation along the road. The earliest 
coach of this name was put on the Leeds and 
Hull road in 1784^, and became the parent of many 
more. Extraordinary ingenuity was used in the 
selection of "telling" names, supposed to instantly 
discover the character of a coach to travellers. 
The various " Highflyers," for example, sjioke to 
sporting men of a speed that might be neck or 
nothing. The typical sportsman would book by 
the "Highflyer," the "Vixen," "Spitfire," the 
"Plying Childers," "Lightning," or "Raj^id/' 



300 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

while the tyiDical parson Avoiikl go by the "Regu- 
lator," the " Reliance," or, best of all, if opportunity 
offered, by the " Good Intent." 

It is curious to note in how arljitrary a geo- 
graphical manner these names were distriljuted. 
It is no use seeking a " Highflyer " in the 
history of the Erighton Road. " Highflyers " 
were Yorkshire products, and almost exclusively 
confined to the Great North Road and its 
aflluents. There, indeed, they were numerous. 
The old original of the name was started in 
1788, and kej^t the road between London and 
Edinburgh until 18f0. There Avere at least 
six others. 

" Telegrapli " coaches, however, were not 
peculiar to any one road or district. Introduced 
about 1781 on the Leeds and Newcastle road, 
there were two others in Yorkshire, and in 1805 
and 1811 "New Telegraph" and "Telegraph" 
coaches were on the Brighton Road. In the 
'twenties a " Southampton Telegrajih," a " Man- 
chester Telegrajih," and a " Reading Telegraph " 
flourished ; while beyond all others in their 
fame and exploits were the immortal " Exeter 
Telegraph," started in 1826 l)y Mrs. Ann Nelson, 
of the " Bull," Aldgate, to travel the 173 miles 
between Piccadilly and Exeter in 17 hours, 
and the "Manchester Telegraph" day coach of 
1833, doing 186 miles in 18 hours. Before the 
advance of the Great Western Railway brought 
the "Exeter Telegraph" off the road, it had 
cut down the length of the journey by three 
hours, Coaches rejoicing in this name^a 



HO IV THE COACHES HERE NAMED 



303 



synonym for siDeed — were necessarily the fastest 
on the road, but they did not, of course, obtain 
the title from the electric telegraph, invented 
only in 1838. It Avas derived from the system 
of semaj^hore signalling, the quickest method of 
communication then known, by which messages 
were signalled between London and the coast, 
from lofty hills even yet marked on the Ordnance 
maps, "Telegraph Hill." Of how inconceivably 
swift telegraphy would in a comparatively short 
time become, the old coach-projirietors could have 
had not the remotest inkling, but they did not 
suffer from excess of modesty, and had the in- 
stantaneous signalling of electricity been known 
in their time, it would by no means have deterred 
them from christening their coaches in impudent 
rivalry with it. 

The " Exeter Telegraph " was put on to 
compete with another, and equally famous, 
coach, the Devonport Mail, generally known in 
coaching annals as the " Quicksilver." This 
celebrated mail started about 1820. Passing 
through Exeter, it went on to Plymouth and 
Devonport, and performed the whole journey in 
21 hours 11 minutes, an average speed, including 
stops, of 10 miles If furlongs an hour. " Quick- 
silvers," of course, became fashionable on other 
roads after the fame of this performance had 
spread. 

Our great wars with Erance and Sj^ain gave 
coaches a plentiful croj^ of titles, taking a higher 
note than merely that of party. The victory 



304 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

of Trafalgar and tlie death of Nelson, in 
1805, produced innumerable "Nelsons," "Lord 
Nelsons," and " Trafalgars," only rivalled in 
popularity by the "Wellingtons" and "Water- 
loos " ten years later. Even Blucher was 
honoured, in a coach named after him. Coach- 
proprietors, in fact, were keen to seize the 
popular incident of the hour, the hero of the 
day, or the name of the local magnate, to reflect 
a certain glory upon, or bespeak affection for, 
their enterprises. Even the " Union " coaches, 
which were christened in honour of that great 
political event, the Union of Great Britain and 
Ireland, and were from that date to be found 
on almost every great road, and in incredible 
numbers on the bye-roads, paled their lustre 
befere those named after the naval and military 
heroes, or the glorious victories of the hour. 

But when the glamour of the great achievements 
won on land and sea by generals and admirals 
and by our soldiers and sailors had waned, as 
it speedily did when peace came and the nation 
was called upoii to pay the bill, it is to be 
feared that the "Wellingtons" and "Nelsons" 
did not run so frequently with a full way-bill 
as they had done, and that opportunist coach- 
proprietors in many cases renamed them in 
styles that more exactly fitted the humours of 
the time. When the comets of 1811 and 1818 
appeared, flaming in the heavens, to excite the 
wonderment of the learned and to terrify the 
ignorant, the coach-proprietors were early in 



HOW THE COACHES WERE NAMED 305 

the field to take advantage of the event, and 
" Comet " coaches, intended to strike the public 
fancy with an idea of swift travelling, appeared 
on the main routes with amazing unanimity. 

The Brighton " Comet," established in 1815, ran 
until 1810, when the London and Erighton Eail- 
Avay was opencnl. It experienced a good many 
mishaps in the course of those twenty-five years. 
On September 2nd, 1815, when it had arrived 
at Castle Square, Brighton, and had discharged 
most of its passengers, the coachman turned it 
so sharply that the front wheels became locked, 
and in the endeavour to release them the 
coach was overturned. The careless coachman 
was himself seriously hurt, and a lady, an in- 
side passenger, and a gentleman on the outside 
much bruised ; but a Mr. Walker, who had 
just mounted the coach, had his leg broken. 
The " Comet " evidently went through Epsom, 
for it was there that another accident happened 
to it in later years. That coach carried no 
guard, and the coachman had, therefore, to act 
that part, as well as drive. He climbed down 
to take up a passenger, and while doing so the 
horses backed the coach into a bank and caused 
it to fall over. A lady travelling outside had 
her ribs broken. A third accident was due 
largely to the interference of a passenger, who 
met his death in consequence. The " Comet " 
had on this occasion nearly completed its down 
journey, when, at Patcham, the reins became 
entangled in some unexplained manner. A 
VOL. I. 20 



3o6 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Mr, Schraeder, who was on the box-seat, travelling 
to Brighton to join his family, made an effort, 
desjiite the protests of the coachman, to get down 
to disentangle them, when he fell between the box 
and the horses, and the coach ran over him. The 
"Comet" ran to the " Swan with Two Necks," in 
Lad Lane, and seems, from Pollard's spirited 
picture, to have been an exceptionally smart coach. 
The great era of coaching, with its attendant 
competition, opened about 1820, and from that 
time the " Defiances," the " Celerities," the 
"Rapids," "Expresses," "Reindeers," "Darts," 
"Stags," and "Antelopes" increased; while 
fiercely militant titles, such as those of the 
"Retaliator," the "Spitfire," "Vixen," "Pear- 
less," " Dreadnought," and "Invincible" reflected 
the extraordinary bitterness and animosity with 
which that competition was conducted. The 
reverse of this unamiable feature is seen in the 
names — breathing a spirit of goodwill, or at least 
of meekness, reliability, and inoff'ensiveness — of 
the "Amity," the "Live and Let Live," "Hope," 
"Endeavour," the "Give and Take," "Reliance," 
"Safety," "Regulator," "Perseverance," "Good 
Intent," and " Pilot " coaches. It is probable that 
some of these titles were given by small joro- 
prietors, anxious to disclaim rivalry with more 
powerful men. Others were intended to secure 
the patronage of the old ladies and the timorous, 
and all those to whom coach travelling, with its 
many accidents and hairbreadth escapes, was a 
disagreeable necessity. 



HOJV THE COACHES WERE NAMED 



309 



To reassure the old ladies of both sexes such 
coaches as the " Patent Safeties " were introduced. 
Many of those so called Avere neither safe nor 
patent, hut an excejition must be made in the case 
of the coach invented and patented in December 
1805 by the Eeverend William Milton, Vicar of 
Heckfield, near Reading. This gentleman, Avho 
yearned for a larger sphere of action than that 
provided by his rural parish, and appareiitly did 
not find his duties sufficient to occupy his time, 
studied the subject, and produced a book in whose 
pages he sets forth the design of his coach and 
its superiority over anything that had hitherto 
appeared on the road. His principle not only 
consisted in lowering the body of the vehicle upon 
its axles, so reducing the centre of gravity, but in 
addition provided a luggage box in the rear of the 
coach, hung so low that it was only fourteen 
inches from the ground. His idea was to carry 
the luggage thus, instead of on the roof, so render- 
ing it less top-heavy, and indeed, according to his 
theory, making the luggage act as ballast, so that 
the heavier the coach loaded, the safer it would 
be. Nor Avas this all. As a protection against 
overturning in the case of a wheel coming off, he 
provided Avhat he called a small " idle Avlieel," 
fitted to the axle a short distance inside each 
running Avheel. In the event of a wheel flying 
off, the coach Avould only dip slightly, and run on 
the " idle wheel " until the coachman could bring 
the whole affair to a stop. 

Of course this inventive clergyman found 



3io STAGE-COAGH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

the greatest indifference among coach-proprietors 
towards his patent safety coach. His hook reflects 
the disappointment he felt, and he enlarges npon 
the folly of men who had, time and again, heen 
heavy losers in paying compensation claims hy 
injured passengers, and yet would not try the 
merits of a vehicle Avhich would save them in 
pocket and in anxiety. He at last gave an order 
to a firm of coach-huilders, had one huilt to his 
own design, and prevailed first upon one of 
the London and Reading proprietors, and then 
the owners of a Stroud coach, to try it. The 
general feeling seems to have heen that it was 
safe, but slow, and did not possess so easy a 
draught as that of the usual build. To these 
arguments he replied by saying that his luggage- 
box, providing room for more goods and luggage 
than carried on ordinary coaches, was generally 
filled with heavy consignments sent by the Stroud 
clothiers, and that the heaviness of draught was 
due to that cause. But explanations of weight, 
demonstrations of safety, and even the recom- 
mendations he had i)rocured from a Parliamentary 
Committee, were useless, and Milton's Patent 
Safety Coach was never more than a fugitive 
occupant of the road. 

But still the public, horrified by the increasing 
number and the disastrous nature of the accidents 
that strewed every road with groaning j^assengers, 
were intent upon being carried safely, and so 
various attempts were made to reassure them. So 
many accidents had happened on the Brighton 



BOlf^ THE COACHES WERE NAMED 311 

Hoad, incom2:)aral)ly the most travellod of all, that 
in the spring of 1819 it was thought necessary by 
a prominent firm of coach-proprietors to introduce 
a " safety " coach. This was the " Sovereign," an 
entirely new departure in coach-building. It was 
at once larger and lighter than an ordinary coach. 
"It weighs," said the Brighton Herald, "only 
ISOOi lb.; which is 100 lb. lighter than the 
average of coaches built to carry luggage, and 
80j lb. less than some gentlemen's landaus. The 
different coaclimen who have driven it say that on 
level ground it runs much lighter than others, and 
every mechanic knows that small wheels have 
the advantage at a hill." Evidently then, the 
" Sovereign " was built Avitli smaller wheels than 
Avere usual. It was, in addition, five inches 
broader in the gauge of the axletrees, while, 
according to the official description, the weight of 
the l)ody was "placed five feet lower, so that when 
the wheels on one side are thrown off, the axle 
drags on the ground, and will allow the remaining 
wheels to be lifted twelve inches or more before 
the coach loses its balance. If a wheel had been 
thrown off any other coach while going at the rate 
of nine miles an hour with two outside passengers, 
it must have gone over ; but should it take place 
with the safe coach, it will not incline on one side 
so as to make passengers uncomfortable." 

The appearance of this affair was extraordinary. 
It carried no outsides on the roof ; they were 
placed in a fore-carriage like the body of a landau, 
constructed between the box and the body of the 



3 12 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORM 

coach. Under the hox Avas " a spacious lock-up 
receptacle for the stowage of luggage " ; so it was 
a " safety " coach in more than one particular, 
and the local ncAvspaper was of oj)inion that " the 
confidence which manufacturers and dealers have 
of their valuable j^roperty being secured from wet 
and pilfering is enough to secure for it the most 
decided preference, independently of its personal 
safety." So great was the interest taken at 
Brighton in this pioneer of safety coaches that 
an enormous crowd of nearly two thousand persons 
assembled to witness the departure on its first 
journey, Sunday, March 21st, 1819. It made the 
passage to London in six hours ; a speed quite up 
to the level of the usual performances. 

The popularity of the " Sovereign " was so 
great and immediate that other coach-proprietors 
lost no time in having " safeties " built. The next 
to take the road was the "Umpire,'' in July of the 
same year, followed by the " Dart " and " Hero." 
These were all swift, as , well as safe. A similar 
Patent Safety was Matthews's coach. The jiro- 
prietor of the " Comet " adoj^ted it for a time, as 
shown in the old print engraved here. 

The inevitable debasement of the specific term 
" safety," and its general application at the whim 
of jjroprietors, quite irrespective of safety con- 
struction, is found beginning in 1821, with the 
advertisement of Whitchurch, Best & Wilkins, 
of Brighton, in which, Avhile the public were 
reminded that the firm were the first to run a 
coach to London in six hours, returning the same 



irOW THE COACHES WJ^RE NAMEt) 315 

clay, stress a\ as laid upon the fact that this quick 
service had been continued daily for six years 
without an accident. Experienced coachmen, 
steady horses, and a stern discouragement of 
racing had procured this desirable immunity, and 
so (the advertisement continued) it Avas hoped the 
public Avould not deem the proprietors presump- 
tuous in claiming the privilege of calling the 
coach, although not a patent, a safety. Alas for 
these pioneers of quick transit and sticklers for 
decent conduct on the road ! The firm very soon 
decayed, and Whitchurch, the senior partner, Avas 
brought to poverty. 

To folloAV the history of the " safety " 
coaches and the pseudo-" safeties " would be a 
long business, but it may be said that these 
specially constructed vehicles did not long con- 
tinue, and that the average stage-coach passenger 
took the claims of all very much on trust. To 
show that he did so Ave need only quote the 
anecdote related by " Viator Junior " in the 
Sporting Magazine of 1828, at the expense of 
the " Patriot " coach, then ncAA^ly provided Avitli 
Cooke's protection reins : — ■ 

"Just as Pickett Avas starting with, his 
' Union ' coach out of Holborn, up comes a 
pursy old citizen, pufiing and bloAving like a 
grampus. 

" ' Pray, coachman, is this here the Patriotic 
Life-Preserver Patent Safety Coach ? ' 

" ' Yes, sir,' says Pickett, not hearing aboA^e 
half his passenger's question ; ' room behind. 



3i6 stage-coAch And mail in days of yore 

sir : jiimji up, if you please — very late this 
morning'.' 

" ' Why, where 's the machinery ? ' cries the 
old one. 

"'There, sir,' replies a passenger (a young 
Cantah, I suspect), pointing to a heavy trunk 
of mine that was swung underneath, ' in that 
box, sir, that's where the machinery works.' 

" ' Ah ! ' quoth the old man, climbing up, 
quite satisfied : ' wonderful inventions nowadays, 
sir. We shall all get safe to Brighton : no 
chance of an accident by this coach.' " 

The Brighton Boad, as already hinted, Avas 
in many ways exceptional. It had exceptionally 
many Boyal associations, reflected vividly enough 
in the names of its coaches. Among these was, 
of course, the " Prince Begent," started in 1813, 
but preceded by the " Princess Charlotte," estab- 
lished a year earlier, and followed by the 
"Begent," " Boyal George," " Boyal Adelaide," 
"Boyal Clarence," "Boyal Sussex," "Boyal 
Victoria," and " Boyal York." 

Later sporting names for coaches than the 
"Tally-ho's" and the "Highflyers" were such 
as the "Bang Up," the " Hieover " — surely no 
prudent person travelled by a coach with a name 
so suggestive of broken necks — and the " High- 
mettled Bacer," while the gay young bloods 
who drove the crack Windsor coach called it, 
after the first da me use of that time, the 
" Taglioni." The " Taglioni " was a fast coach, 
driven by fast men, and had a picture of 



HOW THE COACHES HERE NAMED 317 

Taglioni herself, pirouetting round on the tips 
of her toes, painted prominently on the body. 
But of all the sporting names, that of the 
" Tantivy " breathes most the classic spirit of 
that sporting age, and called forth one of the 
coaching classics, written in regretful anticipation 
of coaches being sujiplanted by railways. The 
" Tantivy Trot " was Avritten by Egerton War- 
burton, of Arley, Cheshire. It was sung to 
the air of " Here's to the Maiden of Bashful 
Fifteen," and was an especial favourite with 
the brazen-throated young sportsmen of the 
Bullingdon Club : — 



THE TANTIVY TROT 

Here's to the heroes of four-in hand fame, 

Harrison, Peyton, and Warde, su-; 
Here's to the dragsmen that after them came, 

Ford, and the Lancashire lord, sir. 

Here's to the team, sir, all harnessed to start, 

Brilliant in Brummagem leather; 
Here's to the waggoner skill'd in the art 

Of coupling the cattle together. 

Here's to the arm that holds them when gone. 

Still to a gallop inclined, sir; 
Heads to the front with no bearing reins on, 

Tails with no cruppers behind, sir. 

Here's to the shape that is shown the near side, 
Here's to the blood on the off, sir ; 

Limbs without check to the freedom of stride, 
Wind without whistle or cough, sir. 



3i8 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Here's to the dear little damsels within, 

Here's to the swells on the top, sir ; 
Here's to the music in three feet of tin, 

Here's to the tapering crop, sir. 

Here's to the diagsmen I've dragged into song — 

Salisbury, Mountain and Co., sir ; 
Here's to the Cracknell that cracks 'em along, 

Five twenty times at a go, sir. 

Here's to MacAdani, the Mac of all Macs, 

Here's to the road we ne'er tire on. 
Let me but roll o'er the granite he cracks. 
Ride 3'e who like it on iron. 
Let the sttam-pot 
Hiss till it's hot ; 
Give me the speed 
Of the Tantivy trot. 

It is a long set of verses, but it should not 
be difficult, if any one had the mind to it, to 
continue them indefinitely. In truth, they limp 
not a little, and do not go the swinging pace 
of the "Tantivy" itself. But this was the best 
the old-time enthusiasm for the road could 
jiroduce, and that it should have been so popular 
at coaching festivities shows that although coach- 
men, amateur and professional, were severe critics 
of other coaching matters, they were sufficiently 
indulgent to literary efforts on this especial 
theme. 

RoAvland Eyles Egerton Warburton, who wrote 
the "Tantivy Trot" in 1831, at i\\^ request of 
Charles Eord for something to celebrate the 
Birmingham " Tantivy " coach, was regarded by 



HO IV THE COACHES WERE NAMED 



319 



the sporting world as its laureate. He was 

the squire of Arley Hall, Cheshire, and the 

owner of many fat acres in that county. He 

outlived the coaching age by many a long day, 

and died in 1891 in his 88th year. The last 
sixteen years of his life were saddened by the 
affliction of total blindness. 



CHAPTER XIV 

GOING BY COACH : BOOKING OFFICES 

Journeys l)y coach were entered upon by our 
grandfathers with mucli deliberation. It was 
not then a matter of suddenly making up one's 
mind to go somewhere, and going accordingly, 
with only a few minutes' preparation. The first 
step Avas to book one's seat, a formality then 
absolutely necessary, and in most cases some days 
before the journey was proposed to be taken. 
Only by doing so could one be sure of finding a 
place. The nearest modern parallel to this custom 
is the booking of passages on ocean steamers ; 
and a relic of it may be observed every day at 
every railway station where the name of " Book- 
ins^ Office " instead of Ticket Office is a survival 
— like that of the official railway designation of 
carriages and passenger returns as "coaches" 
and " coaching traffic " — of customs gone, never 
to return. 

The passengers by coach were actually, as the 
term implies, "booked." The booking clerk did 
not merely give one a ticket in exchange for the 
fare. He entered the passenger's name and all 
necessary particulars in a huge ledger, and in 
this identical manner the first railway passengers 



GOING BY COACH: BOOKING OFFICES 321 

secured their x^laces, until the mere work of 
entering these details became too great. 

The booking-clerks in coach-offices had their 
resiionsibilities, and were kept up to the highest 
mark of efficiency by the knoAvledge that if they 
fell into such an error as overbooking a coach on 
any particular journey, not only would the pro- 
prietors be bound in law to by some means convey 
those passengers for whom there was no room, 
but that the extra cost of so doing would infallibly 
be deducted from their wages. The loss in such 
cases would inevitably be heavy, but dependent 
upon the length of the journey. Mistakes of this 
kind generally meant that the extra passengers 
were conveyed by post-chaise, at anything from 
ninepence to a shilling a mile ; and it was the 
difference between these rates and the coach-fares 
of from twopence to fivepence a mile that the 
clerks had to make good, unless the overbooked 
passengers were sufficiently good-natured to wait 
for another coach. 

The usual practice on securing a place was to 
pay a proportion — generally one-half of the fare — 
down, and the other half on taking one's seat, 
as noted in the contemporary doggerel, which 
declared: — 

When to York per mail you start, 
Four-caped, like other men, 
To the book-keeper so smart 
You pay three pounds, in part : 
Two pounds ten before you start : 
Sum total, five-pound-ten." 
VOL. I. 21 



322 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

If you did not put in an appearance, the deposit 
was, of course, forfeited. 

Dickens, who as a reporter in his early years 
was very intimately acquainted with coach travel- 
ling and all the manners and customs connected 
Avith it, has left a very picturesque description of 
a coach hooking-office and its occupants. The first 
impression received by the prospective traveller 
was of his own unimportance. One entered 
a mouldy-looking room, ornamented with large 
posting-hills, the greater part of the place enclosed 
behind a huge lumbering rough counter, and 
fitted up with recesses like the dens of the smaller 
animals in a travelling menagerie, without the 
bars. At these booking-ofiices, in fact, one booked 
parcels as well as passengers, and into these 
recesses the parcels were flung, with an air of 
recklessness at Avhich the passenger who might 
have chanced to buy a new carpet-bag that 
morning would feel considerably annoyed. 

The boo]\ing-ofiice to Avliich Dickens here refers 
was at the "Golden Cross," Chariiig Cross ; but 
booking-ofiices were all very much alike, and were 
exceedingly dreary and uncomfortable places, 
resembling modern ofiices for the reception of 
l^arcels : — 

" Porters, like so many Atlases, keep rushing 
in and out, with large packages on their shoulders ; 
and while you are waiting to make the necessary 
inquiries, you wonder what on earth the booking- 
ofiice clerks can have been before they were 
booking-ofiice clerks ; one of them, with his i^en 



GOING BY COACH: BOOKING OFFICES 323 

behind his ear, and his hands behind him, is 
standing in front of the fire like a full-length 
portrait of Napoleon ; the other, with his hat 
half off his head, enters the passengers' names in 
the books with a coolness AAliich is inexpressibly 
provoking ; and the villain whistles — actually 
whistles — while a man asks him what the fare is out- 
side — all the way to Holyhead ! — in frosty weather 
too ! They are clearly an isolated race, evidently 
possessing no sympathies or feelings in common 
with the rest of mankind. Your turn comes at 
last, and, having paid the fare, you tremblingly 
inquire — ' What time will it be necessary for me 
to be here in the morning ? ' ' Six o'clock,' 
replies the whistler, carelessly pitching the 
sovereign you have just j)^i't6d with into a 
wooden bowl on the desk. ' Rather before than 
arter,' adds the man with the semi-roasted un- 
mentionables, with just as much ease and com- 
placency as if the whole world got out of bed 
at five. You turn into the street, ruminating, as 
you bend your stej^s homewards, on the extent 
to which men become hardened in cruelty by 
custom." 

The long-distance coaches — divided into the 
" day " and " night " varieties — ^started very early 
in the morning, or late in the afternoon, The 
midday aspect of such yards as Sherman's " Bull 
and Mouth," Chaplin's " Swan with Two Necks," 
the " Belle Sauvage, the " Cross Keys," the 
" Golden Cross," and others was one of repose, 
but from unearthly hours in the forenoon until 



324 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

nine or ten, or from three o'clock in the afternoon 
until nine at night, they were the scenes of bustling 
activity. Any reference to old coaching time- 
bills will show that the majority of the clay stage- 
coaches to places distant a hundred miles or more 
from London started about C a.m. Thus in 1821, 
among the coaches from London to Birmingham, 
eifi^ht are found timed from London between five 
and a quarter to eight in the morning ; leaving 
the rest of the day blank until 3 p.m., when 
the earliest of the night coaches set out. The 
" Sovereign " went in 1821 from the " Bull," 
Whitechapel, at 5 a.m. Half an hour later went 
the " Crown Prince" from the " Belle Sauvage," 
and the " Aurora," from the " Bull and Mouth " ; 
followed by the " Courier," from the " Swan with 
Two Necks," and the "Light Coach" from the 
" Cross Keys " and " Golden Cross " at 6. At 
6.30 went the " Oxonian Express " from the 
"Bull and Mouth"; the "Independent Tally-Ho," 
from the " Golden Cross," while " Mountain's 
Tally-Ho," from the " Saracen's Head," Snow 
Hill, left at 7.15. In the same year the three 
early coaches for Bath left London at 5, 5.15, 
and 6.15 a.m. These hours, which we should 
nowadays regard as extravagantly early, were 
necessary if those coaches were to proj^erly serve 
the roads they travelled, for even a fast coach, 
doing its 9 or OJ miles an hour, including sto2)pages, 
would not reach Bath or Birmingham before the 
day had nearly closed. 

These unseasonable hours meant, of course, 



GOING BY COACH : BOOKING OFFICES 325 

very early rising indeed for Avould-be i^assengers, 
and not even that hardy generation endured the 
infliction without a very great deal of grumbling. 
But there Avas no remedy. It was only a choice 
of ills, Avhether you had to he called at a little 
after three o'clock on perhaj^s a winter's morning 
for a day's journey, or whether you elected to wait 
until the afternoon, and so, travelling through 
the night, were deposited at your journey's end on 
the pavements of Bath or Birmingham, or some 
other strange place, at the inhospitable hours 
between midnight and six a.m.; in which latter 
case you would be in that extremely unpleasant 
position of wanting to go to bed when the rest 
of the world was considering the expediency of 
getting out of it. 

Some, difficult to arouse in the early morn, 
adopted the heroic expedient of sitting up all 
night. Others, like Leigh Hunt and James Payn, 
taught by long experience, engaged a bedroom 
overnight at the inn whence the coach started, so 
that they might be on the spot and lie two hours 
longer. Even then, as Payn confessed, he often 
slept too long, and so, without breakfast, often 
carrying his boots in his hand, and in other ways 
not completely dressed, would dash into the coach 
at the very moment of itls moving away. 

"We have often wondered," wrote Dickens, 
"how many months' incessant travelling in a post- 
chaise it would take to kill a man; and, wondering 
by analogy, we should very much like to know 
how many months of constant travelling in a 



326 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

succession of early coaches an unfortunate mortal 
could endure. Breaking a man alive upon the 
wheel would be nothing to breaking his rest, his 
l^eace, his heart — everything hut his fast — upon 
four ; and the punishment of Ixion (the only 
practical person, hy-the-hy, who has discovered 
the secret of the perpetual motion) Avould sink 
into utter insignificance before the one we have 
suggested. If we had l)een a powerful churchman 
in those good times when blood was shed as freely 
as water, and men were mowed doAvn like grass 
in the sacred cause of religion, we would have lain 
by very quietly till we got hold of some especially 
obstinate miscreant, who positively refused to be 
converted to our faith, and then we would have 
booked him for an inside place in a small coach, 
which travelled day and night ; and, securing the 
remainder of the places for stout men Avith a slight 
tendency to coughing and spitting, we Avould have 
started him forth on his last travels — leaving him 
mercilessly to all the tortures which the Avaiters, 
landlords, coachmen, guards, boots, chambermaids, 
and other familiars on his line of road might think 
proper to inflict. 

"If," he continued, " there be one thing in 
existence more miserable than another, it most 
unquestionably is the being compelled to rise by 
candle-light. If you ever doubted the fact, you 
are painfully convinced of your error on the 
morning of your departure. You left strict orders 
overnight to be called at half -past four, and you 
have done nothing all niglit but doze for five 



GOING BY COACH: BOOKING OFFICES 



327 



minutes at a time, and start up suddenly from 
a terrific dream of a large church clock Avith 
the small hand running round, with astonishing 
rapidity, to every figure on the dial-plate. At 
last, completely exhausted, you fall gradually into 
a refreshing sleep — your thoughts grow confused — 
the stage-coaches, which have been 'going off' 
before your eyes all night, become less and less 
distinct, until they go off altogether ; one moment 
you are driving with all the skill and smartness of 
an experienced whip — the next you are exhibiting 
a la Ducrow on the off leader; anon you are 
closely muffled up, inside, and have just recog- 
nised in the person of the guard an old school- 
fellow whose funeral, even in your dream, you 
remember to have attended eighteen years ago. 
At last you fall into a state of complete oblivion, 
from which you are aroused, as if into a new state 
of existence, by a singular illusion. You are 
apprenticed to a trunk-maker ; how, or why, or 
when, or wherefore, you don't take the trouble 
to inquire ; but there you are, pasting the lining 
in the lid of a portmanteau. Confound that other 
apprentice in the back-shop, how he is hammering ! 
— rap, rap, rap — what an industrious fellow he 
must be ! you have heard him at Avork for half 
an hour past, and he has been hammering inces- 
santly the whole time. Rap, rap, rap, again — he's 
talking now — Avhat's that he said ? Pive o'clock ! 
You make a violent exertion, and start up in 
bed. The vision is at once dispelled ; the trunk- 
maker's shop is your own bedroom, and the other 



328 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

apprentice your shivering servant, who has been 
vainly endeavouring to wake you for the last 
quarter of an hour, at the imminent risk of 
breaking either his own knuckles or the panels 
of the door. 

" You 2^1'oceed to dress yourself Avitli all pos- 
sible despatch. The flaring flat candle with the 
long snuft' gives light enough to show that the 
things you want are not where they ought to be, 
and you undergo a trifling delay in consequence 
of having carefully jiacked up one of your boots 
in your over-anxiety of the preceding night. You 
soon complete your toilet, however, for you are not 
particular on such an occasion, and you shaved 
yesterday evening ; so, mounting your Petersham 
greatcoat and green travelling shawl, and grasping 
your carpet bag in your right hand, you Avalk 
lightly doAvnstairs, lest you should awaken any 
of the family, and after pausing in the common 
sitting-room for one moment, just to have a cuji 
of cofl'ee (the said common sitting-room looking 
remarkably comfortable, Avith everything out of its 
jilace, and strewed with the crumbs of last night's 
supper), you undo the chain and bolts of the street- 
door, and find yourself fairly in the street. 

" A thaw, by all that is miserable ! The frost 
is completely broken up. You look down the long 
perspective of Oxford Street, the gas-lights mourn- 
fully reflected on the wet pavement, and can 
discern no speck in the road to encourage the 
belief that there is a cab or a coach to be had — 
the very coachmen .have gone home in despair. 



GOING BY COACH: BOOKING OFFICES 329 

The cold sleet is drizzling down with that gentle 
regularity which betokens a duration of four-and- 
twenty hours at least ; the damp hangs upon the 
housetops and lamp-posts, and clings to you like 
an invisible cloak. The Avater is ' coming in ' in 
every area, the pipes have Ijurst, the water-butts 
are running over ; the kennels seem to be doing 
matches against time, pump-handles descend of 
their own accord, horses in market-carts fall doAvn, 
and there's no one to help them up again ; police- 
men look as if they had been carefully sprinkled 
Avitli powdered glass ; here and there a milk- 
woman trudges slowly along, with a bit of list 
round each foot to keep her from slipping ; boys 
Avho 'don't sleep in the house,' and are not alloAved 
much sleep out of it, can't wake their masters by 
thundering at the shop-door, and cry with the cold 
— the compound of ice, snow, and Avater on the 
pavement is a couple of inches thick — nobody 
ventures to Avalk fast to keep himself warm, and 
nobody could succeed in keeping himself warm if 
he did. 

" It strikes a quarter past five as you trudge 
doAvn Waterloo Place on your way to the " Golden 
Cross," and you discover, for the first time, that 
you were called about an hour too early. You 
have not time to go back, there is no place open 
to go into, and you have, therefore, no resource 
but to go forward, which you do, feeling remark- 
ably satisfied with yourself and everything about 
you. You arrive at the ofiice, and look wistfully 
up the yard for the Birmingham Highflier, which, 



330 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

for aught you cau see, may have flown away 
altogether, for no preparations appear to be on 
foot for the departure of any vehicle in the shape 
of a coach. You Avander into the booking-office, 
which, with the gas-lights and blazing fire, looks 
quite comfortable by contrast — that is to say, if 
any place can look comfortable at half-past five on 
a winter's morning. There stands the identical 
book-keeper in the same position as if he had not 
moved since you saw him yesterday. As he 
informs you that the coach is up the yard, and 
will be brought round in about a quarter of an 
hour, you leave your bag and repair to ' the Tap ' 
— not with any absurd idea of warming yourself, 
because you feel such a result to be utterly hopeless, 
but for the purpose of procuring some hot brandy- 
and-water, which you do — Avhen the kettle boils ! 
an event which occurs exactly two minutes and a 
half before the time fixed for the starting of the 
coach. 

" The first stroke of six peals from St. Martin's 
Church steeple just as you take the first sip of the 
boiling liquid. You find yourself at the booking- 
office in two seconds, and the tap-waiter finds 
himself much comforted by your brandy-and-water 
in about the same period. The coach is out ; the 
horses are in, and the guard and two or three 
porters are stowing the luggage awa}^ and running 
uj) the steps of the booking-office and down the 
stejDs of the booking-office, with breathless rapidity. 
The place, which a few minutes ago was so still 
and quiet, is uoav all bustle \ the early vendors of 



GOING BY COACH: BOOKING OFFICES 331 

the morning papers have arrived, and you are 
assailed on all sides with shouts of ' Times, 
gen'l'ni'n, T'Dues,' 'Here's Clirot — Chron — Cl/roii,'' 
' Herald, ma'am,' ' Highly interesting murder, 
gen'l'm'n,' ' Curious case o' breach o' promise, 
ladies.' The inside passengers are already in their 
dens, and the outsides, with the exception of your- 
self, are pacing up and down the pavement to keep 
themselves warm ; they consist of two young men 
with very long hair, to which the sleet has com- 
municated the apjiearance of crystallised rats' 
tails ; one thin young woman, cold and peevish, 
one old gentleman ditto ditto, and something in a 
cloak and cap, intended to represent a military 
officer; every member of the party with a large 
stiff shawl over his chin, looking exactly as if he 
were playing a set of Pan's pipes. 

" ' Take off the cloths, Bob,' says the coachman, 
who now appears for the first time, in a rough 
blue greatcoat, of Avhich the buttons behind are so 
far apart that you can't see them both at the same 
time. ' Now, gen'l'm'n ! ' cries the guard, with 
the waybill in his hand. ' Eive minutes behind 
time already ! ' Up jump the passengers — the 
two young men smoking like limekilns, and 
the old gentleman grumbling audibly. The thin 
young woman is got upon the roof by dint of a 
great deal of pulling and pushing, and helping 
and trouble ; and she repays it by expressing her 
solemn conviction that she will never be able to 
get down again. 

*' ' All right ! ' sings out the guard at last, 



332 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

jumping up as the coach starts, and blowing his 
horn directly afterwards, in proof of the soundness 
of his wind. ' Let 'em go, Harry; give 'em their 
heads ! ' cries the coachman — and off we start as 
briskly as if the morning were ' all right,' as well 
as the coach." 



CHAPTER XV 

HOW THE COACH PASSENGERS FARED : MANNERS 
AND CUSTOMS DOWN THE ROAD 

There is no consensus of opinion to be found 
among travellers by coacli on the subject of the 
joys or sorrows of old-time travel. Everything 
depended on the Aveather, the coach, the other 
passengers, and upon the nature of the traveller 
himself. Sometimes a coach journey was a 
misery ; at others it was a joy to look back 
upon. Humourists of the early and mid- 
eighteenth century found the subject of coach- 
travelling very attractive, and returned again 
and again to the stock characters of the brag- 
gart and domineering military man among the 
passengers, who was really a coward, and the 
modest, unassuming young man who always 
killed or dispersed the highwaymen while the 
captain, who by his own account had fought 
at families with Marlborough, prostrated him- 
self on the floor and tried to crawl under the 
petticoats of the lady passengers or cover him- 
self with the straw that streAved the floor. 
Those humourists could always get a laugh 
from such accounts, and sighs of appreciation 
from the ladies, who all wished they numbered 



334 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

among their acquaintance such proper young 
men as Roderick llandom, who in Smollett's 
romance performs such prodigies of valour in 
the "Exeter My" somewhere about the neigh- 
bourhood of Turnham Green. 

"When I had taken my seat," says E^oderick, 
after an adventure of the kind already hinted at, 
" Miss Snapper, who from the coach had seen 
everything that had happened, made me a com- 
pliment on my behaviour ; and said she Avas glad 
to see me returned without having received 
any injury ; her mother, too, owned herself 
obliged to my resolution ; and the lawyer told 
me I was entitled by Act of Parliament to a 
reward of forty pounds for having apprehended 
a highwayman. The soldier " — who had behaved 
in the conventional style of poltroonery — ■'' ob- 
served, with a countenance in which impudence 
and shame, struggling, produced some disorder, 

that if I had not been in such a d d hurry 

to get out of the coach, he would have secured 
the rogue effectually without all this bustle and 
loss of time, by a scheme which my heat and 
precipitation ruined. ' Por my part,' continued 
he, ' I am always extremely cool on these 
occasions.' 

" ' So it appeared by your trembling,' said 
the young lady. 

" ' Death and the deuce ! ' cried he. ' Your 
sex protects you, madam ; if any man on earth 
durst tell me so much, I'd send him to hell in 
an instant.' 



HOW THE COACH PASSENGERS EARED 335 

" So saying, lie fixed his eyes upon me, and 
asked if I had seen him tremble. I answered, 
without hesitation, ' Yes.' 

'"Damme, sir,' said he, 'd'ye doubt my 
courage ? ' 

" I replied, ' Very much.' 

"This declaration quite disconcerted him; he 
looked blank, and pronounced in a faltering 
voice, 'Oh! 'tis very well! I shall find a time.' 

" I signified my contempt for him by thrust- 
ing my tongue into my cheek, which humbled 
him so much that he scarce swore another 
oath aloud during the whole journey." 

These soldiers, or pretended soldiers — for it 
would not be fair to those who warred under 
Marlborough to assume that such cowardly 
ruffians were genuine military men — were found 
hectoring in every coach in those picturesque 
times, threatening to run everyone through the 
vitals, and rarely, it is to be. feared, meeting 
with those modest and self-possessed young 
demigods who wore all the lackadaisical airs of 
an Apollo superimposed upon the l^rawn and 
biceps of a Hercules, and with those biceps 
always at the service of the ladies at precisely 
the psychological moment. 

Ladies, strange to say, seem at a very early 
date to have travelled unaccompanied by friends 
or relatives. The way was long, the discomforts 
great, and so the politeness and attentions shown 
them were proj^ortionately increased. Thoresby, 
Avho in 1711 travelled to London by the York 



336 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OF YORE 

stage with some ladies of sorts, speaks of the 
well-estahlished custom of paying for their re- 
freshments on the road, and mentions, between 
Grantham and Stamford, that they were "more 
chargeable with wine and Ijrandy tlian the 
former part of the journey, wherein we had 
neither; but the next day we gave them leave 
to treat themselves," So the line was drawn 
somewhere. 

Shergold, who in the coaching era was ^vo- 
prietor of the " Castle Hotel," Brighton, and 
had every reason to know what life on the road 
was like, declared, in a very readable pamphlet 
he wrote, that " a woman was a creature to be 
looked at, admired, courted, and beloved in a 
stage-coach"; but let the rash modern traveller 
presume to look admiringly at the lady occu- 
jiant of a railway carriage, and it is not at all 
unlikely that she will be horribly frightened, 
and take the next opportunity of changing into 
another comi^artment. 

An amusing tale, declared to be true, has 
been told of the possibilities of a coach in the 
love-making sort. It Avas about 1780 that a 
young gentleman, anxious to win the good 
graces of a lady, and lacking other opportunities, 
engaged all the remaining inside seats of the 
coach between Glasgow and Edinburgh by which 
he knew she would travel. He succeeded so 
well in his enterprise that the lady consented 
on tlie journey to be his bride ; but candour 
comj)els the admission that the marriage thus 



HOJV THE COACH PASSENGERS FARED 337 

romantically agreed upon turned out a par- 
ticularly unhappy one. 

The final test of a gentleman in those days 
was his behaviour at a stage-coach dinner. It 
Avas, if you consider it, a very severe and unfair 
test, for it is allowed that politeness generally 
leaves starving people at an early stage; and 
the appetites that coach passengers brought with 
them into the dining-room of an inn were usually 
very keen. An acquaintance of Constable, the 
painter, could find no more striking climax to 
a list of his virtues than to declare that he Avas 
" a gentleman at a stage-coach dinner." " Then," 
said his companion, " he must have been a 
gentleman indeed ! " 

AYbat, then, did it mean, this gentlemanly 
conduct ? It meant, in short, that one w^ho 
could fairly lay claim to it must take some lady 
of the party into his care, escort her from the 
coach into the inn, see to it that she was pro- 
vided Avith dinner, and pay her reckoning. He 
must not first attempt to satisfy his own hunger, 
although perhaps he Avas up at five o'clock in 
the morning, and had only taken a hurried coach- 
breakfast at the first stage out. 

The gentleman aa ho fulfilled the canons of this 
time could rarely hope to get any dinner for 
himself. On the later coaches, time was so 
strictly kept that the coachmen Avere off to the 
minute ; and the landlords, avIio, of course, knew 
that, Avere generally suspected of delaying the 
appearance of the food so long that not one of 
VOL. I. 22 



338 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

the party could have time to do justice to it. 
Our gentleman, therefore, often had the morti- 
fication of paying both for the lady's dinner 
and for his own, of which he had not tasted a 
mouthful. He returned to the coach as hungry 
as he had left it, and kept his gentility as warm 
as it was possible to do on an empty stomach. A 
very little of this Avas sufficient to wear the nap 
off the politeness of a Chesterfield, and it must 
not infrequently have happened that the person 
who had been all courtliness at dinner became 
selfishness incarnate at tea. 

Those who did not come up to the high 
standard that Constable attained — and they Avere 
in the majority — hurried out of the coach A\'ithout 
the slightest consideration for any one else, and 
flinging themselves into the inn, roared out for 

"dinner, d d quick"; or — older travellers 

and more Avary — filled their sjiirit flasks at the 
bar, and made sure of having a meal of sorts by 
demanding cold ham or beef, or any of those 
dishes Avhicli the hostelries of that time possessed 
in abundance. 

Many Avriters have attempted to describe those 
coach-dinners, and one endeavoured to vividly 
picture them by declaring that they reminded 
him more of hounds feeding at a trough than 
human beings ; but none have equalled the 
anonymous account quoted here. 

" Eirst of all, you had, in Avinter, to be called 
before daylight; then you had to proceed in a 
rattling hackney-coach (your teeth rattling to 



HOW THE COACH PASSENGERS FARED 339 

match with the cokl) to the office from which the 
'Wonder,' 'Telegraph,' 'Regulator,' 'Highflyer,' 
or ' Independent ' started ; then you were hurried 
over your meals, as the following account will 
show : — 

" ' Twenty minutes allowed here, gentlemen, 
for dinner,' exclaims the coachman, as we drive 
up to the ' Bull ' at Smallborough. 

" What a scene of confusion ensued ! Bells 
rang, ostlers halloed, Avaiters ran, or rather broke 
into that shambling shuflie whose secret seems 
to be known only to those who ' stand and wait ' — 
at least, no other creature practises it. 

" ' Please to alight, ladies and gentlemen,' 
exclaims the landlord, addressing the four insides ; 
while the ostler, bringing a somewhat crazy ladder, 
makes a similar request to the eleven outsides. 

"The day has been a miserable specimen : 
incessant rain, with a biting easterly wind, giving 
an inappropriately jocose gentleman the oppor- 
tunity of offering facetious remarks upon ' heavy 
wet,' and 'cold without.' You enter the best 
parlour of the inn, anticipating a warm welcome 
and a share in those creature comforts looked 
forward to in such circumstances by all. But 
here the legal axiom, that ' possession is nine 
points of the law,' is realised to your horror and 
dismay in a sight of the first-comers on an earlier 
coach occupying every seat near the fire ; while 
a tablecloth covered with fragments, and a dis- 
array of empty glasses tell a tale of another 
dinner having recently been ' polished off.' 



34° 



STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 



" ' Waiter, waiter ! ' shriek half a dozen voices 
in as many keys, and in accents ranging from 
the imj^erious to the imploring. Enters then a 
slijishod, soiled heing, with Avatery eyes and apolo- 
getic mien. ' Here, you, where's the dinner ? ' 
chorus the starving, half -drenched passengers. 

" ' Dinner ? ' — scratching his head ; ' er — well 
— er : heg pardon, gents, hut the " Independent " 
was rather late like to-day, and the " Highflyer," 

she were down early, and — er ' Well, the gist 

of all these apologetics was that the company had 
to wait while the next joint was heing dished up. 

" Meanwhile the ' Independents ' ahsorhing all 
the fire are hustled off hy a portly man in a 
low-croAvned hat and a huge caped hox-coat, or 
' upper Benjamin,' as it used to he called. 
' Gentlemen,' he roars, ' time's up ! ' With great 
to-do of cloaking, shawling, greatcoating, and 
paying, they are outside, and we, in the tAvinkling 
of an eye, in their fireside seats, listening to the 
curses levelled at the ostler by the outsides for 
letting the seats get Avet. With a precautionary 
' Sit tight,' they lurch violently off, and we are 
left anxiously aAvaiting the arrival of that dinner. 

" At last it comes : a procession of three — the 
landlady, parlourmaid, and Avaiter— bearing dishes 
Avitli tin covers. These battered relics removed, 
a coarse fat leg of mutton, roasted to a cinder, 
is unveiled, together Avith a huge joint of boiled 
beef, very much underdone ; jiotatoes, hot Avithout 
and hard Avithin, and some gritty cabbage. 

" ' Slice of mutton for a lady,' says the Avaiter, 



now THE COACH PASSENGERS EARED 341 

approaching' a stout gentleman in the act of 
helping himself to that part of the joint so highly 
prized by epicures, called the ' Pope's eye.' The 
direction of the knife is instantly changed, and 
the lady's plate filled Avith a somewhat less desir- 
able ration. ' Please, sir, a little fat,' continues 
the assiduous waiter, ' and a little gravy,' he adds, 
anxious to earn a tip from the old stager of the 
male sex, who thus invariably forwarded his 
demands, as coming from a lady. Numerous 
other applications are made to the carver, who, 
disgusted with his j^lace, helps himself to his 
coveted delicacy, and requests the waiter, with 
emphasis, to attend to the other passengers 
himself. 

" Time flies fast, and especially time devoted 
to pleasure, and none of the party are aware 
how fast the glass has run, until the entrance of 
the coachman, informing all concerned that the 
coach is ready. 

" Up starts the stout gentleman. ' Coachman, 
the time can't be up ; I've not eaten a morsel.' 

" ' Pull twenty minutes, sir,' replies that Jehu. 

" ' Abominable,' continues the first speaker. 

" ' Who risetli from a feast with that keen 
appetite that he sits down ? ' quotes a stage-struck 
attorney's clerk. 

" ' I have,' mutters the Daniel Lambert of the 

party ; ' and if Shakespeare wrote that well, 

coach-dinners were not known in his time.' 

" Now^ we do as we saw the ' Independents ' 
do before us, and fee the coachman, scramble for 



342 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

greatcoats, cloaks, shawls and umbrellas, in 
addition to ringing for the waiters to bring that 
braudy-and-water ordered ten minutes before, but 
jiot yet forthcoming. 

" Half-crowns and shillings are tendered in 
payment to the waiter, who of course has no 
change : what waiter ever had, when you were in 
a hurry ? It is a mere additional annoyance 
that the stage-struck youth finds this an oppor- 
tunity of quoting from JPizarro, 'We want 
no change, and, least of all, such change as 
you would give us,' concluding with the lines 
of one of Haynes Bayley's poj^ular ballads : — 

And were I in a foreign land, 
You'd find no change in me. 

" No AY, at the ultimate moment, the waiter 
a2:>pears with a tray containing ' one cold, without,' 
'four hots, with,' 'two hots, sugar and no fruit,' 
and ' three with the chill off ' — the ' with ' and 
' without ' referring to sugar, the ' no fruit ' 
applying to lemon. Portunate now are the 
owners of cold beverages, for none but a fire- 
eater could swallow the scalding potations that 
are now left as perquisites to the waiter. Amid 
the babel of departure may be distinguished, 
' Please remember the waiter, sir ! ' ' Didn't 
take for your dinner, sir.' ' Glass of brandy, 
ma'am.' 'A basin of soup and a pint of ale gone 
away without paying ! ' ' Chambermaid, ma'am.' 
' Ostler, sir ! I got you some nice dry straw.' 

" Away, away. ' Now, gentlemen, sit fast. 



1^0 IV THE COACH Passengers fared 



34' 



Let 'em go, Jem — -I've got 'em ! ' and off goes 
the ' HigMyer.' " 

Here is another such scene, observed with 
another pair of eves, or imagined by another 
brain : — 

" ' Put the joints ojoposite the women,' says 
the hindlord to the waiter taking in the dinner ; 
' they're slow carvers.' 

" Meanwhile, passengers are busy, taking oft' 
coats, one, two and three in succession (those 
were the days of hond-fide ' great-coats,' now- 
adays become lessened, and merely overcoats). 
Chins appear out of their many wrappages of 
silk, and fur caps are bundled into pockets. In- 
side passengers eye outsiders with susjiicion, Avhile 
a deaf gentleman who has left his trumpet in the 
coach meets an acquaintance whom he has not 
seen for seven years, and in consequence of not 
having that instrument with him can only shake 
hands and grimace in return to the speaker's 
greetings : 

" ' You find it very warm inside, I should 
think, sir, don't you ? ' says the acquaintance. 

'"Thank ye, my good friend ; I am rather deaf, 
but I suppose you are inquiring after my Avife and 
daughters : they are quite well, thank you.' 

" ' Where Avill you sit at dinner ? ' rejoins the 
acquaintance. 

'"It is two years since I Avas there,' replies he. 

" ' No : Avhere Avill you sit, sir ? I said.' 

" ' Oh ! John : he is still in Jamaica Avith his 
rcffiment.' . . . 



344 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

" ' Come, waiter, d — n it all, why was not the 
dinner on the tahle when we arrived ? ' demands 
a superfine inside passenger. ' This is ahvays 
the way with your confounded coach-dinners. 
And what have you got under there, — goose, eh ? ' 

" ' No ; pork, sir.' 

" ' What is under that cover ? ' 

'"Pork too, sir." 

•' ' Great heavens ! pork again ! the country is 
deluged with pork : who the devil do you think 
can dine off pork ? ' 

"'A couple of ducks coming, sir,' says the 
waiter. 

" ' Confound your ducks ! What with your 
pork and ducks, you'll make the Avhole inside 
of the coach reek with onions and vulgarity.' 

" ' There's a cold collation on the side-tahle, 
sir, if you prefer cold meat.' 

" ' Hang your cold collation ! have you got any 
real Devonshire cider in the house ? ' 

" ' Yes, sir; some very excellent.' 

" ' Then hring me a bottle, and a toothpick ' 

" ' NoAv, look here, Avaiter,' says one of the 
diners, ' there are the horses out already, and 
we have not half done yet : blow me if I go 
before the half-hour's uj^.' 

" ' Take any cheese, sir ? ' asks the Avaiter. 

" ' No, to be sure, not yet ; have you no 
tarts ? ' 

" 'Why, none, I am afraid, that Ave can recom- 
mend, sir ; but there's some very nice cold plum- 
pudding you can have.' 



HOJV THE COACH PASSENGERS FARED 34S 

" Enter coacliman : ' I leaves you liere, if you 
please, sir.' 

" ' Just as you please ; I have no objection,' 
says a satirical passenger. 

" ' Please to remember the coachman — driven 
you forty-live miles.' 

" ' Yes, hut you Avill recollect you Avere very 
impertinent ai)out my wife's handbox; — there's a 
shilling, between us, for you.' 

'"Oh! sir, I'm sure I didn't mean no unperlite- 
i^ess — I hopes you von't think nothink about it ; 
it were wery aggravising that the box was forgot, 
Init I hopes you'll give me a trifle more — forty- 
live miles.' 

" ' No, no more — so be off.' . . . 

" ' Please to remember the coachman, ma'am 
— forty-five miles. Leave you here, sir, if 
you please — go no further, sir — forty-five miles, 
ma'am.' ... 

" ' Now, ladies and gentlemen, the coach is 
quite ready : time's up,' says the guard, entering 
the room. . . . 

" ' What's dinner, w^aiter ? ' 

" ' Two-and-three, and eighteenpence — one-and- 
eightpence — is three-and-eleven, sir,' says the 
cunning waiter, whose artful arithmetic is de- 
cidedly not 'according to Cocker.' 'Yours is 
three-and-sixpence, ma'am— two glasses brandy 
and Avater. Yours is four shillings, sir— a bottle 
of real Devonshire cider, sir.' . . . 

" ' Now, sir, coach is ready— time up ; can't 
wait,' roars out the guard. ' Here, Joe, set the 



346 STAGECOACH AND MAIL IN DA YS OP YORE 

ladder for the lady ' ; and the passengers are 
hiirried into their places.'' 

Not so hurried was that gentleman who on 
one of these qnick-change and pantomime-rally 
occasions remained calmly drinking his tea while 
his fellow-2)assengers were jostling each other in 
their anxiety to regain their seats. 

" You'll miss the coach, sir ! " shouted the 
landlord in his car, under the impression that he 
was deaf and had not heard the stampeding feet. 

" I want a spoon to stir my tea," said this last- 
remaining guest : " why didn't we have any ? " 

The landlord glanced hnrriedly round — ^not one 
spoon of all those that had been on the table 
remained. He rushed out to the coach to find 
who among the passengers had stolen them ; and 
by the time he had delayed the coach and insulted 
everyone, the last passenger, having finished his 
breakfast at leisure, came out with the informa- 
tion that they had been found in the teajiot, 
Avhere, as will by now have been suspected, he 
had himself j^laced them. 

There is no generalising on the subject of 
coach-breakfasts or dinners. Some inns Avere 
famous for good fare, others were notorious for 
bad provisioning and worse service ; and all were 
liable to change from good to ill, or the reverse, 
according to how they changed hands from time 
to time. Sidney Smith, who was under no 
illusions, and lived well into the rail av ay age, did 
not lament the days when he travelled j:>ost from 
Combe Elorey to London — " living for three days 



I£0]V THE COACH PASSENGERS EARED 347 

on veal-cutlets and waiters " ; but, on the other 
hand, travellers equally familiar Avitli the roads 
were heard lamenting the good and varied fare 
they had been used to find, and sought in vain in 
later days. Lord William Lennox wrote regret- 
fully of the " plain and perfect " English dinners 
down the road, generally consisting, he said, of 
mutton-broth, rich in meat and herbs, fresh-water 
fish in every form, eels— stewed, fried, boiled, 
baked, spitchcocked, and water-souche ; salmon, 
the purest butter, green gooseberries, the earliest 
cucumbers, saddle of Southdown mutton, kept to 
a moment and done to a turn, mutton chops, 
hot and hot, Irish stews, rump-steaks tender and 
juicy, chicken and ham, j^lum-pudding, fruit- 
tarts, and trifle and gooseberry-fool. 

Then the produce of the grape ! No thin, 
washy claret, at 18s. a dozen, no fiery port, one 
day in bottle, no sherry at 25s. the cask ; but 
fine, sound vintages, fit for any private cellar. 

Other travellers tell less roseate tales. Often 
they had the sole choice between ham and eggs, 
ill cooked, and nothing at all ; or, if the choice 
was there, the mutton was half-done and stringy, 
the chops greasy and cold, and the rump-steaks 
tough and dry, with everything else in accord- 
ance. If we like to take Thomas Hughes, in 
Tom Brown, as an authority, however, the break- 
fasts were really noble meals ; for Tom, goijig to 
Hugby, is represented at a table spread witli the 
whitest of cloths, and rich in cold pigeon-pie, a 
Yorkshire ham, a round of cold boiled beef, and 



348 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

a loaf of liouseliokl bread. On these the guests 
made a beginning', l)ut the waiter entered "in an 
instant " (paragon of waiters !) with kidneys, steak, 
rashers of bacon, poached eggs, and buttered toast 
and muffins. Tom fell-to with a will, and put 
away kidneys and pigeon-pie and coffee until his 
little skin was as tight as a drum — little pig ! 

It is a coach-breakfast that is so well pictured 
by James Pollard in the accompanying illustra- 
tion. The company, with an indescribable air of 
having been up all night, are just finishing their 
meal, and the polite gentleman in the ample over- 
coat is trying to induce the two ladies under his 
charge to take a little more. It is quite evident 
that this has been a more leisured affair than 
usual, for the yawning travellers by the fireplace 
have finished their meal long ago, and a stout 
person is being shaved by a barber in knee- 
breeches, with legs of a distinctly Lowther- 
Arcadian type, suggestive of bran and sawdust 
instead of bone and muscle. The coachman, 
ajipearing hat in hand and touching liis forehead, 
has come to the end of his stage : he " goes no 
further, gents," and is here to claim his dues. 
Meanwhile, the guard outside is lustilv l)loA\ino^ 
his horn, and the empty coach is seen Avaiting. 

The scene, in fact, here j^ictured is the last halt 
on a long journey; an opportunity seized by the 
passengers, not only for a meal, but for a shave 
and a general brush-up prej^aratory to alighting at 
their destination. Such scenes were the common- 
place incidents to be observed at Highgate, 



HO IV THE COACH PASSENGERS FARED 351 

Barnet, Hounslow, and other stages near London 
in the coaching age. 

Here at least — for there are twelve passengers 
present — the insides and the outsides have fore- 
gathered, and for once the gnlf socially dividing 
them has heen bridged. This generally impassable 
gnlf was more marked in the case of the mails 
than in that of the stage-coaches. The very 
superior and exclusive travellers who w^ent in 
their OAvn chariots or by post-chaise resorted to 
well-known hotels and posting-houses on the 
roads, whose chaste halls were never profaned by 
coaches. Even the sujierior j^ersons who travelled 
inside the mails could not hope to Avin to those 
expensive and select abiding-places ; but they 
formed a caste by themselves, who never willingly 
sat at meat with the outsides. De Quincey, who 
often travelled outside, experienced something of 
this contempt, and the recollection seems to have 
lent eloquence to his remarks on the subject. It 
was, he tells us, "The fixed assumption of the four 
inside people that they, the illustrious quaternion, 
constituted a porcelain variety of the human race, 
whose dignity would have been compromised by 
exchanging one word of civility with the three 
miserable delf-ware outsides. Even to have 
kicked an outsider might have been held to attaint 
the foot concerned in that operation, so that 
perhaps it would have required an Act of Parlia- 
ment to restore its purity of blood. What words, 
then, could express the horror and the sense of 
treason in that case, which had happened, where 



352 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE K 

all three outsides (the trinity of Pariahs) made a 
vain attempt to sit down at the same breakfast- 
tahle or dinner-tahle with the consecrated four ? 
I myself witnessed such an attem^it ; and on that 
occasion a benevolent old gentleman endeavoured 
to soothe his three holy associates hy suggesting 
that if the outsides were indicted for this criminal 
attempt at the next assizes, the court would regard 
it as a case of lunacy or delirium tremens rather 
than that of treason. England owes much of her 
grandeur to the depth of the aristocratic element 
in her social composition when pulling against 
her own strong democracy. I am not the man 
to laugh at it. But sometimes, undoul)tedly, it 
expressed itself in comic shapes. The course taken 
with the infatuated outsiders, in the particular 
attempt which I have noticed, was that the waiter, 
beckoning them away from the privileged salle-a- 
manger, sang out, 'This Avay, my good men,' and then 
enticed these good men away to the kitchen. But 
that plan had not always answered. Sometimes, 
though rarely, cases occurred where the intruders, 
being stronger than usual, or more vicious than 
usual, resolutely refused to Inidge, and so far 
carried their point as to have a separate table 
arranged for themselves in a corner of the general 
room. Yet, if an Indian screen could be found 
ample enough to plant them out from the very 
eyes of the high table or dais, it then became 
possible to assume as a fiction of law that the 
three delf felloAVs after all were not present. They 
could be ignored by the porcelain men, under the 



HOJV THE COACH PASSENGERS FARED 353 

maxim that ohjects not appearing and not existing 
are governed by the same logical constvnction." 

Humour had a splendid field in coaching, and 
the literature of the road is gemmed with twice 
a hundred good stories and mirth-j^rovoking scenes. 
Few things seem to have been more productive of 
funny stories than the undue tendency to fatness 
on the part of a passenger. There is, for example, 
the tale of the stupid servant who, having to l)Ook 
two seats inside a coach for his master, a man 
of prodigious hulk, to whom one seat would lie 
useless, returned from the hooking-ofiice with the 
news that he had secured the only two places to 
he had — one inside and one out. 

This hears comparison with that other story 
of the stout man's revenge. He, too, was 
accustomed to hook two seats. On one occasion 
this amiable eccentricity of his was observed 
overnight by two waggish fellows who thought 
they would play a trick on tliei fat man. They 
accordingly booked seats also, and took care to 
be seated in them before the man of much 
avoirdupois came. They sat facing one another, 
one back and the other in front, so that he 
had indeed two seats, but not, as they necessarily 
should have been, together. He asked them very 
politely to change their positions, but they refused, 
although he explained that he had booked tAvo 
seats, and his reason for doing so. There the 
seats were, they said. 

But the outraged man of flesh determined to 
be revenged, and, looking round at the next stage 
VOL. I. 23 



354 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

where the coach stopped, spied a chimney-sweep. 
He beckoned. 

" Chimley, yer hononr ? " queried Chummy. 

" No : come here. Have you any objection 
to a ride this morning ? I'll pay you for a day's 
work, and your fare back again." 

" All right, yer honour ; I'll just run home and 
clean myself." 

" No, no ! come as you are, and when in the 
coach give yourself a good shake every noAV and 
then, to make the soot fly." 

They got in, Chummy acting his part very well, 
and greatly to the annoyance and discomfort of 
the wags, who, however, said notliing. But Avhen 
the coach stopped at the next change, and for 
breakfast, they asked the man who had been their 
butt, and was now their tormentor, how far he 
was going to take the sweep, as he was not a very 
desirable companion. 

He replied : " I took two seats so that, although 
corpulent, I should annoy no one. You prevented 
me occupying them, therefore I filled the remain- 
ing seat Avitli Chummy, and he goes as far as 
the end of my journey. But I will dismiss him 
if you will agree to what I propose. When I 
engaged him, I agreed to pay him for his time, 
and to pay his fare home, with all other expenses 
incurred. He is now at breakfast. If you agree 
to pay him, he goes no farther; if not, he proceeds." 

Having listened to this ultimatum, and being 
completely discomfited, they accepted these terms, 
and the sweep was dismissed. 



HOfV THE COACH PASSENGERS FARED 355 

Among the most laughable of old-time skits 
on coaching miseries is the following breathless 
account, in the style of the immortal Jingle. Its 
humour is somewhat broad, and indeed all coach- 
ing humour was of the smoking-room rather than 
of the drawing-room order : — 

" Stage-Coach Adventures. 

" Inside. — Crammed full of passengers — three 
fat fusty old men — a young mother and sick 
child — a cross old maid — a poll parrot — a bag of 
red herrings — double-barrelled gun (Avhicli you 
are afraid is loaded) — and a snarling lapdog, in 
addition to yourself. Awake out of a sound nap 
Avitli the cramp in one leg and the other in a 
lady's bandbox — pay the damage (four or five 
shillings) for gallantry's sake— getting out in the 
dark at the half-way house, in the hurry stepping 
into the return coach and finding yourself next 
morning at the very spot you had started from the 
evening before— not a breath of air — asthmatic 
old woman and child with the measles — window 
closed in consequence — unpleasant smell — shoes 
filled with warm water — look up and find it's the 
child — obliged to bear it — no appeal — shut your 
eyes and scold the dog — pretend sleep and pinch 
the child — mistake — ^pinch the dog and get bit — ■ 
execrate the child in return — black looks — no 
gentleman — pay the coachman and drop a piece 
of gold in the straw — not to be found — fell 
through a crevice — coachman says ' He'll find it ' — 
can't — get out yourself — gone — picked up by the 



356 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YOKE 

ostler — no time for blowing up — coach off for 
next stai>c — lose your money — get in — lose your 
seat — stuck in the middle — get laughed at — lose 
your temper— turn sulky — and turned over in 
a horse pond. 

" Outside. — Your eye cut out by the lash of 
a clumsy coachman's whip — hat blown off into a 
pond by a sudden gust of Avind — seated between 
two apprehended murderers and a noted sheep - 
stealer in irons, who are being conveyed to gaol — 
a drunken fellow half -asleep falls off the coach — 
and in attempting to save himself drags you along 
with him into the mud — musical guard, and driver 
horn mad — turned over — one leg under a bale 
of cotton, the other under the coach — hands in 
breeches pockets —head in hamper of wine — lots of 
broken bottles versus broken heads — cut and run- 
send for surgeon — Avounds dressed, lotion and 
lint, four dollars — take post-chaise— get home — 
lie down — and laid up." 

A " humorous " story is told of a coach coming 
into Dover at night, and the coachman, "feather- 
edging " a corner, running into a lamp-post. 
It was the period just after Waterloo. A little 
Prench count, Avho occupied the box-seat, was 
thrown off, and, falling on his side, had three 
ribs fractured. The coachman pulled \\]) and 
asked a j^assing sailor to pick up the unhappy 
passenger. The half-drunken tar, seeing a heap 
of limji clothes on the pavement, said, " There's 
no gemman here — on 'y a lot of coats." At that 
moment the Count groaned, " Oh ! l)y gar ! I 



HO IV THE COACH PASSENGERS EARED 357 

brake tree rib." " Damn your eyes ! " roared the 
sailor, " you're a Erencbman, are you ? Lie there 
and be damned," and so went on his way. 

I think the brutality of this tale is even 
more noticeable than its humour, l3ut it is 
distinctly redolent of the age Avhen people only 
laughed on seeing others placed in a painful 
or uncomfortable position. When no one was 
hurt there was no humour, according to the 
notions of that time— a time when to crush a 
man's hat over his eyes was exquisitely funny, 
and for half a dozen lusty Toms and Jerrys 
to overturn a decrepit old watchman was a 
screaming farce. It is, by the way, significant 
that that Avas the era when screaming farces held 
the theatrical stage, and the rough-and-tumble 
of the harlequinade was at its zenith. The 
practical joker was then prominent, and the 
more "practical" {i.e. the more wantonly cruel 
and injurious) the joke the more it was applauded. 
If the victim ever thought of resenting a witticism 
of this kind, he was, in the cant of that period, 
" no sportsman," and behind that formula the 
blackguard jokers screened themselves. If they 
had not very carefully, for their own protection, 
erected that obligation to •' take a thing in good 
part " which stayed the heavy hand of revenge, 
it is quite likely that some of these humourists 
would have been very severely mauled. The 
amazing thing is that the victims agreed to that 
convention, and allowed themselves to be harassed 
with impunity. 



358 STAGE-COACH AND MAIL IN DAYS OF YORE 

Practical joking affected every class. One 
of the old borough members of Parliament^ 
Prancis Pane, who began his long Parliamentary 
career in 1790— was a practical joker of the 
most desolating kind. Travelling by coach to 
London along the Exeter Road on one occasion, 
he saw, from his seat inside, the coat-tails of 
one of the outside passengers — a barber, of 
Dorchester— hanging down. This gave him the 
pleasing notion of cutting open the pocket and 
extracting its contents, which happened to be 
a bulky parcel of banknotes the unfortunate 
shaver had had given in his charge. The extra- 
ordinary cruelty of the practical jokers who made 
existence a burden to their victims a hundred 
years ago prompted Pane to gloat over the 
barber's terror when he found the notes gone, 
and only to restore them when his enjoyment 
could be carried no farther. As some amends, 
he entertained his victim at the White Horse 
Cellar on the eve of the barber's return 
to Dorchester; but his practical joking Avas 
not yet complete, for, taking excellent care 
that his victim should be fully charged with 
liquor, he hustled him into the night coach for 
quite another Dorchester— Dorchester, Oxford- 
shire — where he was duly set doAvn the folloAving 
morninG*. 



APPENDIX 359 



APPENDIX 



Some detailed notice of the Palmer family will have 
interest here. Mischance long ago destroyed many 
genealogical documents relating to John Palmer's 
ancestors, but family tradition still points to the 
" John Palmere " who, in 1384, represented Bath in 
Parliament, as a distinguished forbear. Of ancient 
and honourable origin, the matrimonial alliances of 
the Palmers are found among the old county families 
of Somerset and Wilts. The postal reformer's mother 
was one of the Longs, to this day seated in the latter 
county. She and her husband, John Palmer the elder, 
lie at Weston, two miles from Bath, and in the village 
church their memorial tablets may yet be seen. 

A tradition tells how the reformer himself might 
have become a Long, had he desired. His kinsman, 
Walter Long, who died unmarried at the age of ninety- 
five, proposed to make him heir to extensive estates 
in Wilts, on condition that he assumed the name ; 
but, with the pardonable arrogance of one who owned 
an ancient and honourable ancestry. Palmer declined^ 
and satisfied his pride even though he relinquished a 
rent-roll. 

He received his education at Colerne, Wilts, and at 
Marlborough Grammar School. Of his three sons, John 
proceeded to Cambridge and took holy orders ; Charles 
and Edmund, educated at Eton, went respectively into 
the Army and Navy. It is curious to note how strong 
has been the militarj^ tradition in the family. Charles 



36o APPENDIX 

became Colonel of the 10th (Prince of Wales's) Hussars, 
following upon the scandal which discredited the 
former Colonel of that regiment, many of whose officers, 
charged with cowardice before the enemy in the 
Peninsula, were transferred to other regiments, and 
became known as the " Elegant Extracts." Their 
places were filled by officers from other sources, and 
the lOtli Hussars thereupon acquired the title of 
" Prince's Mixture." Colonel Palmer subsequently rose 
to the rank of general officer. 

Edmund was that distinguished captain in the Navy 
who, when in command of H.M.S. Hebrus in 1814, cap- 
tured the French frigate, VEtoile^ the last of the 
enemy's ships to be taken at the end of the long war. 
His son, Colonel Edmund Palmer, R.A., has himself 
carried on the tradition, and given sons of his own to 
the service of his country. His son Edmund fell to the 
bullet of an Afghan hillman, after he had captured a 
tower in one of the passes of that distant country 
whose sun-baked rocks have been stained with the 
blood of many a gallant Englishman. John Jervis 
Palmer, his brother, captain in the Egyptian Army, 
died of pneumonia at the frontier post of Wady Haifa, 
looking out across the parching sands of the Soudan. 



Printed by HazcU, Watson it' Vimy, Id., London and Aylesburij. 



Vetermsry Ubrary 

Tufts University 

School of Veterinary Medkmp 

200 Westboro Rd. 

North Grafton. MA 01S36 






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