The first scheduled coach service ran between Chester and London and it began in 1657. To set this in historical context, it was during Oliver Cromwell’s “Protectorate” when England had no king or queen and was ruled by Parliament. It was before the Great Plague of 1665 and the Fire of London in 1666.
There are other claims to be the first but they were all around this time and the Chester coach was certainly one of the earliest, if not the actual first.
The coaches were uncomfortable, the roads impassable at times, and yet it was a commercial success. Other coach services quickly followed.
During the rest of that century and throughout the next, both roads and coaches gradually improved until, by the middle of the 19th century, the country was networked by dozens of stage and mail coaches running to timetables at speeds of between eight and ten miles an hour, day and night, and connecting all parts of the United Kingdom and beyond. By the mid 1800s, a network of coaching inns every ten or twelve miles peppered the country to service both the coaches and their passengers.
The coaching age came to an end when the railways were built. As each line opened, the coaches which had served its route lost their passengers and eventually stopped running.
From the first coach in 1657 to the last in around 1848, we have a period of one hundred and ninety-one years which saw the beginning, the growth and perfection, and ultimately the final extinction of the Coaching Era.
The Age of Coaching
The world of long-distance coach travel
A coach advertisement from 1706
Beginning to End
How long did the Great Age of Coaching Last?
Two Coaching Periods
The age of coach travel falls into two distinct phases
The First Coaching Period
Coaches in the early period were uncomfortable, slow and dangerous
The scourge of the early coaching industry, these robbers eventually disappeared
The change from the early period to the late happened because life in Britain was altering
The Second Coaching Period
This is the Great Age of Coach Travel - surprisingly familiar; just slower and wetter
Facts and Figures
A look at prices, costs and numbers involved in coaching
Different Ways to Travel
There were stagecoaches and mail coaches, and more besides
The list of places you could go to is remarkably familiar to the modern traveller
We’re familiar with railway termini but what were the departure points like in the Age of Coaching?
Here are most of the coaching departure points in London, together withe here you could travel to from each one
An example of how politics influenced attitudes in some inns along the road
Not a war, just passengers trying to grab a bite to eat on the road
Coach drivers were an elite group, but as the coaching age declined, they lost their importance
The first half of the 19th century saw coaching at its peak
Who were the travellers and who owned the horses and coaches? Find out here
William Chaplin was one of the most successful coach proprietors - and he survived the move to railways
One of Chaplin’s Inn has an unusual name which comes from history
We complain about rail fares but coach fares were far higher
What did it cost to run a coaching business?
To understand coaching prices you must compare them with present day values
Coach travel was not without risk. Here are some reported coach accidents
This is the story of the Mail Coaches, how the mail evolved and what mailcoaches were like
A set of possible journeys that you might wish to make
The railways effectively killed the coaching industry very quickly. Here’s what happened
City inns had to change when the coaching trade dried up. Here’s how they coped
Anecdotes written by people who actually travelled on the coaches
The coachmen, the inns, the coach proprietors - they’re all here. Come in and meet them
Britain’s roads were pretty impassable for most of our history. Coach travel was very difficult until they improved
Wheeled transport evolved over many years. Find out how coaches developed
Sources and information about how I came to create this website
Home Page of the Coaching Website