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The Coachmen

Section 2:

The Age of Coaching

Introduction

‍​The world of long-distance coach travel

An Early Advertisement

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

Highwaymen
The scourge of the early coaching industry, these robbers eventually disappeared

Transition
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

Destinations

The list of places you could go to is remarkably familiar to the modern 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

An Industry at Full Gallop

‍​The first half of the 19th century saw coaching at its peak

Inns, Drivers & Passengers

‍​Who were the travellers and who owned the horses and coaches? Find out here

One Coach Proprietor

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

Swan With Two Necks

One of Chaplin’s Inn has an unusual name which comes from history

The Cost of Coach Travel

We complain about rail fares but coach fares were far higher

Cost to Proprietors

What did it cost to run a coaching business?

The Value of Money

To understand coaching prices you must compare them with present day values

Accidents

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

The Post Office

This is the story of the Mail Coaches, how the mail evolved and what mailcoaches were like

Itineraries

A set of possible journeys that you might wish to make

Death by Steam

The railways effectively killed the coaching industry very quickly. Here’s what happened 

Inns Become Booking Offices

City inns had to change when the coaching trade dried up. Here’s how they coped


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Part 1: Living Memories

Anecdotes written by people who actually travelled on the coaches

Part 2: The Age of Coaching

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

Part 3: The Roads

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

Part 4: The Coaches

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

Background

Sources and information about how I came to create this website

Home Page

Home Page of the Coaching Website

The pinnacle of the Great Age of Coaching came in about the year 1800 and lasted for full thirty years. During this time, the drivers of the coaches became the heroes of the period. Just as my generation of boys wanted to grow up to be engine drivers, young boys of that period all aspired to become great coach drivers. They were held in high esteem by the general pubic and generally feted as important individuals. This is despite the fact that “many broken heads and limbs, and bruises and contusions innumerable, can be laid to the account of these gay sportsmen.”

Washington Irving (1783 – 1859) was an American short-story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century and has left us a portrait of the typical stagecoachman of the time in this delightful literary jewel:—

“He cannot be mistaken for one of any other craft. He has commonly a broad full face, curiously mottled with red, as if the blood had been forced by hard feeding into every vessel of the skin; he is swelled into jolly dimensions by frequent potations of malt liquors, and his bulk is still further increased by a multiplicity of coats in which he is buried like a cauliflower, the upper one reaching to his heels.  He wears a broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat, a huge roll of coloured handkerchief about his neck, knowingly knotted and tucked in at the bosom, and has in summer-time a large bouquet of flowers in his buttonhole—the present, most probably, of some enamoured country lass.  His waistcoat is commonly of some bright colour, striped; and his small-clothes extend far below the knees, to meet a pair of jockey-boots which reach about half-way up his legs.

“All this costume is maintained with much precision; he has a pride in having his clothes of excellent materials, and, notwithstanding the seeming grossness of his appearance, there is still discernible that neatness and propriety of person which is almost inherent in an Englishman. He enjoys great confidence and consideration along the road; has frequent conferences with the village housewives, who look upon him as a man of great trust and dependence, and he seems to have a good understanding with every bright-eyed country lass. The moment he arrives where the horses are to be changed, he throws down the reins with something of an air, and abandons the cattle to the care of the ostler; his duty being merely to drive from one stage to another. When off the box, his hands are thrust into the pockets of his great-coat, and he rolls about the inn-yard with an air of the most absolute lordliness. Here he is generally surrounded by an admiring throng of ostlers, stable-boys, shoe-blacks, and those nameless hangers-on that infest inns and taverns, and run errands, and do all kinds of odd jobs for the privilege of battening on the drippings of the kitchen and the leakings of the tap-room. These all look up to him as an oracle, treasure up his cant phrases, echo his opinions about horses and other topics of jockey-lore, and, above all, endeavour to imitate his air and carriage.  Every ragamuffin that has a coat to his back thrusts his hands in the pockets, rolls in his gait, talks slang, and is an embryo coachey.”

Next: An Industry at Full Gallop