As I looked into the Great Age of Coaching, I came across several books that were written in the last quarter of the 1800s. They were written by a handful of authors who had actually travelled by cochleae when they were young, before the railways came. The books are full of information and living memories about travelling during the coaching days and they describe a way of life is far busier and more organised than we ever imagine.
This was a time when the railways were well established and had transformed almost every aspect of life in Britain. Not unexpectedly, there was a revival of interest in coach travel which was still within living memory. Old people would have reminisced about travelling on a coach-and-four in their youth just as I reminisce about steam travel in my youth.
People who could afford it developed a passion for driving teams of four horses, which, as you can imagine, is a considerable skill and it attracted an enthusiastic membership.
And it was into this enthusiastic revival that the authors published their books.
I’ve drawn on five books to capture a taste of the living memories of coachmen, and passengers as they were recorded in the late 1800s. The books are freely available online (see links below).
They describe a glamourous and exciting way to travel. But it could also be cold and wet and I don’t think we’d cope very well. Back then, it was simply how you got from A to B and getting soaked was just the luck of the draw.
Sitting inside the coach was dry but expensive so most people climbed up onto the wooden benches on top of the coach.
Coach travel had evolved over the centuries until, in the early 1800s, it reached its peak. Forty coaches a day passed through Stamford, and London was alive with their comings and goings.
(The next page is entitled “coaches to all parts” and has more details)
Then, just as coaching was at its zenith, railways spread across the country and people flocked to the new faster (and drier) mode of travel. The coach trade died out in just a couple of decades around the 1840s.
By the later decades of the 19th century, coach travel was a thing of the past.
Happily, in the late 1800s, a handful of gentlemen decided to capture this living memory before it passed into history by writing books about the Coaching Age.
These are the five I’ve used to create this website. They can be read in their entirety (and original phraseology) at these links:-
Note: Four of the books are on a website called Archive.org. At the time of publishing, it has a request for donations. It’s an excellent website and you may like to donate in future, but for now, close the panel - I’ve made a donation on our behalf.