‍Perils by Water

‍There were various modes of being made nervous on a coach, and I do not think anything made one's heart come into one's mouth much more than having to go through water. On the ‘Regent’ coach we used to leave the main road, at times, and go round by the St. Neot's paper mills, which were situated on a flat piece of ground, and occasionally, when the weather had been what the Scotchman calls ' varra saft' for any length of time, the river Ouse would take it into its head to overflow its banks, and lay the road for about half a mile under water. 

‍Upon those occasions we often had a pair of leaders put on which were ridden by a horsekeeper, not only to keep us in the right track, but to pull us through the mud and silt which made the road extra ‘gummy’).

‍I have seen the water over the axle-trees; and on one occasion it fairly ran into the coach, and all but set afloat two old ladies who were inside. Their dismay may be easily imagined, and their supplications to the coachman to stop, as the water was coming into the coach, were quite affecting. They no doubt thought they were going to meet with a ' watery grave,' and I believe they gave themselves up as lost. 

‍However, nothing so terrible took place; but I have no doubt from the water having come over their shoes, and from their petticoats getting somewhat wet, they were not quite comfortable for the rest of their journey. We, on the outside, were nearly as much to be pitied, for it had rained without ceasing all day — that kind of pitiless rain which comes down straight, and in solid stripes, like the water from a shower-bath, which, in nautical language, goes by the appellation of ' raining marling-spikes with their points downwards; ' the only difference between us and the old ladies being that whilst they got it from below we got it from above. It was nevertheless hardly to be called a pleasant state of things, to have water above and water below, water on all sides, heaps of stones by the roadside, invisible from the discoloured water, and a deep ditch upon either side, into which had one of our wheels gone, it would have been a case of ' over you go, Jem Peck; ' and all this with the flood rising, so that it was all but impossible to get on, and would be quite so in a few hours more. 

‍Next: London Coaching Inns

Section 1 Menu

The Age of Coaching
Introducing a world of horse-drawn public transport

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

Coaches to All Parts
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 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?

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

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.

The Peacock at Islington

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

Perils by Water

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

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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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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