One of the books is “Down the road or Reminiscences of a Gentleman Coachman” (a typical two-part title of the time) was written by an educated gentleman called C. T. S. Birch Reynardson who had qualified as a coach driver simply because he loved coaches. Just as small boys of my generation wanted to be engine drivers when they grew up, he wanted to drive coaches. The difference is that he did.
“In these days of revived Coaching, when there seems to be a perfect mania amongst young people for a trip ‘down the Road’ and the park is full of smart coaches and high-stepping teams, I hope you will not think me presumptuous if I offer you a few anecdotes of old times.
My coaching days are over, but whenever I see one of these coaches my mind goes back to the days when they were in their glory.
I fear there are very few of us left who have really worked a coach by night and by day, through wind and rain, frost and snow, and who have done the thing in rough and smooth. If any of you old ones should happen to read my humble production, I hope you will bear me out when I say that, pleasant as it was, it was often hard work and at times quite dangerous. It also carried a considerable amount of responsibility.
In producing my ‘Reminiscences’ I’d like to amuse those of the present day, by telling them how their poor dear old grandpapas used to see and hear things that are now for ever gone.
I’m not a great author. Although I was educated at Eton, I didn’t learn much there but mischief and despite my education being finished at Cambridge I didn’t learn much there except to drive coaches. So, dear readers, I hope you will be kind to get too much water out of an empty pitcher.”
And he goes on to explain why he wants to capture the living memories before they are lost:-
As you whisk along to Scotland at forty miles an hour in your cosy first class carriage, with a zinc or tin foot-warmer full of hot water, a copy of ‘The Times’ and even an oil lamp in the ceiling, do you ever stop to wonder what it was like in your grandfather’s time?
Your journey of 400 miles in ten hours used to take two days and two nights and you might wonder how he ever got through it, sitting outside on the top of a coach; or how cold he must have been on such a day as this.
Now, in 1874, there are only a few of us left who regularly travelled on a coach back in their heyday - 1823 or 1824. There may be a few, but, alas! how few remain to tell the tale.
I am one of the ‘old ones’ and I have seen many changes during my lifetime. The stage coaches and mail coaches have all gone now and I should like to put down for posterity some living memories before we are all gone. I should like to hand down some memories of an age that would be a wonder to behold for you later generations who travel by electricity and steam.”
These are the first two pages of his book. I’ve put them into modern English for readability but they, and the entire book can be read, completely free of charge, at this website.
The story behind this website and
Books written in the late 1800s
One of the books
This London to Stamford journey as it was written. Enjoy the style of language and additional description of the Peacock at Islington
A summary of the Coaching Age from early to late
Websites about the coaching age.
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
Home Page of the Coaching Website
Sources and information about how I came to create this website