For the edification of those who were never on a coach it may be well to describe what the term ' Shouldering' means.
‘Shouldering,’ or carrying ‘shoulder sticks’ was this:
Passengers boarding a coach at any inn or change, paid at the authorised booking-office and were entered in the waybill, the money going to the proprietors of the coach. The same applied to anyone booking the fare ahead of time.
Sometimes however, a person who wished to travel without paying the full fare, would meet the coach on the open road. What happened next was a conversation such as this between the person and the coachman who wants to see if they were worth having:
Person: ‘Can you give me a ride to-day?’
Coachman: ‘How far are you going?’
Person: ‘Oh, only to Biggleswade’ (or Huntingdon, or any other town he might name). ‘How much do you want?’
Coachman: ‘Five shillings,’ (or whatever he thought his passenger-to-be, would be likely to give).
Person: ‘Very well, I don't mind giving you that’
Coachman: ‘Jump up then. I’ll pull up before we get into the town, and you can walk through it while we're changing. But mind you don’t let “Old Crouch” (or “Barker” or whoever horsed the coach) see you. And you must look sharp and get a bit out of the town whilst we are changing. I’ll pull up for you when I catch you up on the other side of the town.’
Thus our friend would ride to the outskirts of the next town, where he would get down and walk past the inn where the horses were being changed and on into the open road beyond, where he would be picked up and resume his seat. And at the next change, he would perform the same antics until he arrived at his destination, when the coachman would take the five shillings and “Stuff the Monkey” with it, (as it was called), thus doing his little bit of “Shouldering”.
Shouldering was a profitable side-line for coachmen, but it required not a little caution because if an innkeeper became suspicious he would be on the look-out. And if a coachman was ever caught, he was severely handled.
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.
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
Sources and information about how I came to create this website
Home Page of the Coaching Website