So far back as 1556, the “Swane with ii Nekes at Mylke Street End” was known, and was then the property of the Vintners.  In the coaching era it is best remembered as the headquarters of the great William Chaplin’s huge coaching business.  Chaplin succeeded William Waterhouse, who had established himself here in 1792, issuing a curious token bearing the representation of a mail-coach on one side and that of the Double-Necked Swan on the other, with the legend, “Speed, Regularity, and Security.  Payable at the Mail Coach Office, Lad Lane, London, W.W.”

Lad Lane was until recent years the name by which this part of Gresham Street was known, while the inn itself was generally called by the coaching fraternity the “Wonderful Bird.”

Chaplin had in early days been a coachman himself.  His career would have delighted that sturdy moralist, Hogarth, painter of the successful career of the Industrious Apprentice, for from that useful but humble position he rose to be the largest coach-proprietor in England, Deputy-Chairman of the London p. 17and Southampton (now London and South-Western) Railway, and Member of Parliament for Salisbury.  He is said to have accumulated half a million of money.  Twenty-seven mails left London every night, and of these Chaplin horsed fourteen for various distances.  Very many stage-coaches were in his hands, and at the height of the coaching era he is said to have owned nearly two thousand horses.  He was an entirely level-headed man, and, seeing at an early stage that railways must succeed, threw in his lot with them.  Railway directors were exceedingly anxious to win over the coaching proprietors, and to induce them to withdraw from the road, so that with no coaches running the public should of necessity, whether they liked it or not, be compelled to travel by rail.  Chaplin sold off his stock before the oncoming railways depreciated it, and, joining Benjamin Worthy Horne, of the “Golden Cross,” Charing Cross, founded the great carrying firm of Chaplin and Horne, which enjoyed the exclusive agency for the London and Birmingham Railway.  There can be little doubt, although it was p. 18denied by the early officials of that line, that Chaplin and Horne were really bought off the road, and the sum of £10,000 has been mentioned as the price of their withdrawal.  Before that time had come, coaches issued from Chaplin’s yard for many places on the north-western roads: the Carlisle Royal Mail; the Birmingham Royal Mail, “Courier,” and “Balloon Post Coach”; the Chester “New Coach”; Coventry “Light Post Coach”; Liverpool Royal Mail; Holyhead “New Mail” and a stage-coach without any particular name; and the Manchester Royal Mail, “Defiance,” “Regulator,” and “Prince Saxe-Cobourg.”  The “Spread Eagle” in Gracechurch Street has also disappeared.  It was at one time a house of Chaplin’s, and was afterwards owned in succession, together with the “Cross Keys” next door, by Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Mountain.

Next: Accidents

Section 2:

The Age of Coaching

Introduction

‍​The world of long-distance coach travel

Beginning to End
How long did the Great Age of Coaching Last?

Travel in the Coaching Age
The world of coach travel - surprisingly familiar; just slower and wetter

Where Could You Go?

A list of destinations which is remarkably familiar to the modern day traveller

London Coaching Inns

We’re familiar with railway termini but what were the departure points like in the Age of Coaching?

Famous London Coaching Inns

‍​Here are most of the coaching departure points in London, together withe here you could travel to from each one

Inns and Politics

An example of how politics influenced attitudes in some inns along the road

The Battle of Barnet

Not a war, just passengers trying to grab a bite to eat on the road

The Coachmen

‍​Coach drivers were an elite group, but as the coaching age declined, they lost their importance

Shouldering

Illegal, but overlooked by the proprietors, this was a coachman’s perk

William Chaplin

William was one of the most successful coach proprietors - and he survived the move to railways

Accidents

Coach travel was not without risk. Here are some reported  coach accidents

The Royal Mail

The story of the Mail Coaches, how the mail evolved and what they were like

Title

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Go to Living Memories

Anecdotes written by people who actually travelled on the coaches

Go to the Age of Coaching

The coachmen, the inns, the coach proprietors - they’re all here. Come in and meet them

Go to the Roads

Britain’s roads were pretty impassable for most of our history.  Coach travel was very difficult until they improved

Go to The Coaches

Wheeled transport evolved over many years. Find out how coaches developed

Go to Home Page

Home Page of the Coaching Website

Background

Sources and information about how I came to create this website