THE COACHING AGE

An Industry at Full Gallop

By 1830, stage-coaches were an industry at full gallop. They were going just about as fast as was possible using only the power of horses and they had become fashionable conveyances each having a grand name. Their drivers were the elite workers of the period. Even their horses knew they were superior as they cantered, faster than any other conveyance, along “their” stretch of the turnpike.

The stage-coach industry had reached a degree of speed, reliability, and complexity far removed from its beginning in 1657. Roads were rapid and safe. Travel was in vogue. Travellers with time and money had a very sophisticated set of travel facilities at their disposal.

Short routes enabled those living in small country towns and villages to visit the nearest big town, conduct some business there, and return home the same day. Longer routes criss-crossed the country, linking major towns, and many minor ones. The longer journeys usually involved an overnight stay, or at least overnight travel.

A stage-coach travelled about 100 miles in twelve hours, so for the 200 miles from Cheshire to London, Bristol, or Edinburgh, the traveller had a choice. Either travel non-stop and finish the journey in 24 hours, or stop overnight en-route and take two days. Those travelling longer distances had similar choices.

Mail and post coaches wooed the non-stop travellers. “Day coaches” and coaching inns provided an integrated service for those who preferred to rest overnight. To cater for day-coach travellers, several large towns, London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, etc., located about a hundred miles apart, had developed into travel-hubs. Each was the focal point for many stage-coach routes, and had several large Inns and Hotels.

In addition to overnight accommodation, the larger Coaching Inns also provided complex travel facilities. They could usually arrange a through-journey to anywhere in the country, and to the main continental European destinations. A journey may have needed several changes of stage-coach and overnight stops, but it could be arranged by the booking-clerk in the travel office of one of these Inns . . . for a price.


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Section 3

History of Coaches


Very Early Coaches
In the Middle Ages, coshes were extremely rare.

Stage Waggons
The first wheeled transport was the Stage Waggon.

Flying Waggons

As time went on, roads and speed improved - a little.

First Stage Coach
Stage coaches began to appear in the 17th century.

Coaches Improve
Coach travel improved over the next 190 years.

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Go to Section 1

Tales of the Road: This section tells what was it like to travel by stage coach in the mid 1800s.

Go to Section 2

Travel in England is inseparably connected to the state of our roads. This section looks at the history of British roads.

Go to Section 3

Wheeled transport evolved over many years. This section looks at how coaches developed.

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