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.
Introducing the real life stories collected in the late 1800s
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?
Comparing rail and coach travel in 1888!
Things didn’t always go smoothly and this amusing incident took place on the Great North Road.
A recollection of life in London before taxi cabs, policemen and even electricity.
One of the many hazards that could be encountered was flood water. This is near St Neots.
The people who could afford to travel were educated in - among other things - Latin!
Yes, they were common in the early 1800s. They’d all gone by the 1880s. Attitudes were different then!
What did it cost to make a long distance coach journey?
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 northern coaches all stopped here to pick up passengers. The scene was amazing.
A description of the London termini from which coaches ran
A list of London coaching inns and where you could travel to from each.
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