The Cost of Travel

It was a costly as well as a lengthy business to travel from London to Edinburgh.  Not so lengthy, of course, by mail as by stage-coach, but much more expensive.  If you wished to take it comfortably during the forty-two hours and a-half or so of travelling, you went inside, especially if it happened to be in winter; but an inside place cost eleven guineas and a-half, which was thought a much larger sum in 1830 than it would be nowadays.  Accordingly, the stalwart and the not particularly well-to-do, who at the same time wanted to travel quickly, went outside, whereby they saved no less than four guineas.

But let not the reader think that these respective sums of eleven and a-half and seven and a-half guineas comprised the whole of the traveller’s expenses in the old days.  There were numerous people to tip, such as porters, waiters, and last, but certainly not the least of them, the coachmen and guards, who at the p. 40end of their respective journeys, when they left their seats to a new guard or a new Jehu, “kicked” the passengers, as the expressive phrase went, for their respective two shillings or so.  To be kicked at intervals in this figurative manner, all the way between London and Edinburgh, was not physically painful, but it came expensive; and what with the necessary meals and refreshments during those forty-two hours or so, it could scarce have cost an “inside” less than fifteen guineas, or an “outside” less than eleven.

Now let us take the mazy “Bradshaw” or the simpler “A B C” railway guides, and see what it will cost us in time and pocket to reach the capital of Scotland.  A vast difference, you may be sure.  It is possible to go by three different routes, but the distance is much the same, and the times vary little, whether you go by Midland, London and North-Western, or by the Great Northern Railway.  The last-named has, on the whole, the best of it, with a mileage of 395 miles, and a fast train performing the journey in seven hours and twenty-five minutes.  It costs by any of these routes for first-class travelling, which answers to the “inside” of old times, fifty-seven shillings and sixpence, and thirty-two shillings and eightpence by third-class, equivalent to the “outside.” [40]  You need not tip unless you like, and even then but once or twice, and assuredly no one will ask you for one.  Whether you travel “first” or “third,” a dining-saloon and an excellent dinner are at your service for a moderate sum, and the sun scarce rises or sets with greater certainty than that the Scotch express or its London equivalent will set out or reach its destination at its appointed minute.

Next: The desire to drive a coach

Section 1:

Living Memories

Introduction
Introducing the real life stories collected in the late 1800s

London to Stamford

What was it like to travel by coach on a winter’s day? Come on the first stage of a journey from London to Stamford.

Driving a Mail Coach
Mail coaches were the high speed elite. What was it like to drive them?

Then and Now

Comparing rail and coach travel in 1888!

An Incident at Wansford

Things didn’t always go smoothly and this amusing incident took place on the Great North Road.

Charlies and Hackneys

A recollection of life in London before taxi cabs, policemen and even electricity.

Perils by Water

One of the many hazards that could be encountered was flood water. This is near St Neots.

Latin

The people who could afford to travel were educated in - among other things - Latin!

Red Kites

Yes, they were common in the early 1800s. They’d all gone by the 1880s. Attitudes were different then!

The Cost of Travel by Coach

What did it cost to make a long distance coach journey?

The Desire to Drive a Coach

Young gentlemen often fancied themselves as coachmen. Unlike today, you could often ‘have a go’ with the reins.

Two Short Videos
Although we have no films from the time, modern producers have imagined coach travel for us.

The Peacock at Islington

The northern coaches all stopped here to pick up passengers. The scene was amazing.

London Coaching Inns

A description of the London termini from which coaches ran

Some famous London Inns

A list of London coaching inns and where you could travel to from each.

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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