A Guide to Commuting In Regency London

Rules of the Road | Wanstead | UK Destinations | Porters, Goods & Luggage

stagecoach perils

Finding a stagecoach might be the start of your troubles

Should you ever find yourself transported back to Regency London (1819), here is an essential guide to making your way home. Remember that this was an age before trains, or motorised public transport could whisk you home in time for tea. Your destination will undoubtedly be unrecognisable from how it looks today, yet I hope my advice will remove you from the streets of the Metropolis before darkness sets in, and the Regency Underworld takes over.

Having explained the rules and regulations of coach fares, this second post focusses on my own locality, namely Wanstead and its environs. But part three now provides information upon travelling to other destinations throughout Britain. Special priority will be given to requests submitted by anyone overly anxious about the dangers of slipping through a time portal.

book reference

Information drawn from this hand-book

So if one day you do happen to wake up in 1819, please DON’T PANIC because London already has a highly organised and efficient transport system, relying on horse power [and Old Father Thames] to move people from A to B. You will discover a network of coaching inns and wharves, acting as proto ‘station terminals’ taking you to all manner of destinations.  Each can offer a choice of departure times, mode of carriage, and hospitality to suit the weary traveller should they decide to bide a while longer in the City before departure.

Before you book your journey, it is necessary to draw your attention to the terms and conditions prevailing in 1819.  After all you don’t want to end up in darkest Snaresbrook being bludgeoned by an irate coach driver because you have failed to read the small print governing Regency period transportation.

Most coaching inns provide stagecoaches, with some offering luxury Chariots to their richest clients. However, to reach your destination safely you may be compelled to board a Waggon alongside farm animals – or worse still, endure the ignominy of sharing a Cart with anything from perishable goods through to dead bodies (perished goods heading back to their parish for burial). So please study the timetable carefully to ensure you make the right choice!!

 

Wanstead [Essex, 8 miles from London] – Approximate cost 11 shillings

Magpie and Stump3
The Magpie & Stump – With prime views of Newgate Prison executions from the upstairs windows

As late as 1821 Wanstead was a very sparsely populated, with most local employment engaged at Wanstead House. In fact the only means of hired travel to Wanstead was by Cart:-

Kings Arms, Leadenhall Street, and Spotted Dog, Strand 4pm daily; Blue Boar Cellar, Aldgate, Kings Arms & Flower Pot, Bishopsgate; Three Nuns, Whitechapel, and White Hart, Strand, 2pm daily; Cheshire Cheese, Crutched Friars, and Magpie & Stump, Newgate Street, daily (on demand)

Given that the Wanstead Estate produced a great deal of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as timber, it is likely that Carts travelled to London laden with goods early each day and then in the afternoon served as carriages for their return journey.

 

Leytonstone [Essex, 6 miles] – Approximate cost 8 shillings

saracens head aldgate 1855

The Saracen’s Head, Aldgate – Regular trips to Leytonstone

Given the surprising difference in mileage from that of nearby Wanstead, I assume that ‘Laytonstone’ (as it was then termed) must have had a drop off point nearer the parish boundary with Stratford. There are far more options available to Leytonstone dwellers:

By Coach daily: – The Bull, Aldgate, 11am and 3pm; Kings Arms, Leadenhall Street, 10am, 3pm, 4pm and 7pm; Saracen’s Head Aldgate, and Three Nuns, Whitechapel, 10am and 7pm; Blue Boar Cellar, Aldgate, 4pm during summer, 3pm in winter.

By Cart daily:- White Hart, Strand, Flower Pot and King’s Arms, Bishopsgate, and The Bull, Whitechapel at 3pm, Cheshire Cheese, Crutched Friars, The Bull and Blackboy & Camel, Leadenhall Street, and Magpie and Stump Newgate, (on demand)

 

Snaresbrook [Essex, 8 miles] – Approximate cost 11 shillings

the bell gracechurch st

The Bell, Bell Yard, Holborn – served Snaresbrook

During my research into Wanstead House I discovered that Snaresbrook was an important stage post for carriages travelling in the direction of Norfolk. This may explain why there are a reasonable amount of options available in London for what was (at this time) mainly open country.

By Coach daily:- Flower Pot and Four Swans, Bishopsgate, 10am, 4pm and 7pm

By Waggon daily:- The Bull, Aldgate, 3pm

By Cart daily:-   The Bell, Bell Yard, Gracechurch Street and Flower Pot, Bishopsgate Street 3pm and Kings Arms, Bishopsgate, at 2pm

 

Woodford [Essex, 9 miles] – Approximate cost 12 shillings

the kings arms holborn

The Kings Arms – good for Woodford

By 1819 Woodford had a number of fine mansions, farms and estates, so this may explain the range of options available for travel to that destination

By Coach daily:- King’s Arms, Leadenhall Street, 10am, 3pm, 4pm and 7pm; Saracen’s Head, Aldgate, and Blackboy & Camel, Leadenhall Street 3pm and outside No 93 Bishopsgate Street 4-30pm. The Bull, Leadenhall Street has a service 3pm daily apart from Sunday which leaves at 10-30am; and Three Nuns, Whitechapel, does 10-30am and 7pm daily, apart from Sunday when it departs at 9am and 7pm

By Cart daily:- Three Nuns, Whitechapel, 4pm; Flower Pot, Bishopsgate, 2pm; The Bull, Aldgate,  3pm and Magpie & Stump, Newgate Street, 2pm daily. Kings Arms, Bishopsgate, offers a service Wednesdays & Saturdays only at 2pm

 

Woodford Bridge [Essex, 10 miles] – Approximate cost 13 shillings

blue boar aldgate

The Blue Boar Cellar, Aldgate – try here for Woodford Bridge

Given that Woodford Bridge is close to Woodford, I am surprised to note the lack of overlap in service between these two destinations. The Bull, Aldgate for example offers a Coach to Woodford Bridge but only a cart to Woodford – and none of the regular coach services to Woodford have the option to stay on until Woodford Bridge. Perhaps folk were happy to walk the mile or two between destinations rather than looking upon coach services as a series of stops – which they clearly weren’t given the limited passenger capacity of each carriage.

By Coach daily:- The Bull, Aldgate, 3pm and Blue Boar Cellar, Aldgate,  4pm winter and 3pm summer, daily, save for Sunday which is at 8am

By Cart daily:-  Blue Boar Cellar, Aldgate,  4pm winter and 3pm summer, daily, save for Sunday which is at 8am, and The Bull, Aldgate, and Talbot, Whitechapel, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays  only at 3pm

♦   ♦   ♦

I hope you have found this an interesting guide as to how our ancestors found their way home from London. All information is drawn from a book in my possession, published by Critchett & Woods at the end of 1818. Meticulous work seems to have gone into the production of their guide – and I will be dipping into it again to examine other destinations served by the once great coaching inns of old London town.

These beautiful water colour paintings of London’s lost inns are all by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1792-1864). If he was around today I would gladly buy him a pint for his dedicated attention to detail.

If you like to know about old London pubs and coaching inns, I recommend Pubs History – an excellent resource for any local historian

8 thoughts on “A Guide to Commuting In Regency London

  1. I would need to know how to get to Cheltenham, please. Since it is a spa town I hope there were frequent coaches there!

    • That’s a 95 mile journey from London, but there are 12 coaching Inns offering daily services to Cheltenham by stagecoach – obviously the famous Spa is a great draw for travellers. However you must expect a journey approaching two days (including rest periods)

      If you are an early bird try The Angel Inn, near St Martins-le-Grand at 5am, though the most frequent service to Cheltenham operates from The Black Bear in Piccadilly which has departures at 6,7 and 8 in the morning and 1-30pm in the afternoon. Towards the City of London there are trips available at The Bell, in Savage Yard Ludgate (7-30am) or The Bull & Mouth in Holborn, which leaves at 1pm.

      If your finances are more constrained you could always go by Waggon from the Black Bear in Piccadilly at 10am. The Saracens Head (Bishopsgate) or the New Inn (Old Bailey) provide this service but only subject to demand. The latter two Inns should be avoided unless you are travelling en masse and capable of hiring a ‘special’.

      Finally, if you have all the time in the world and precious little else, you could make yourself available at Hambro Wharf in Queen Street from where a regular barge service operates. What you may save in costs, however, could be lost in the expense of washing clothes for these barges undoubtedly carry coal.

      Have a safe journey

  2. I would have thought that by the Regency period that the trip to Cheltenham would be accomplished in a day, admittedly a long uncomfortable day . Market Harborough which is approximately 90 miles north of London and was on the route for coaches to Manchester, had daily services to London.
    I was struck by the cost of travel for such short distances, to pay 11 or 12 shillings to go 6 to 8 miles seems a lot when you consider that a labourer would only be earning around 10 shillings a week.

    • The rates quoted were per coach and not per passenger, hence a full Coach or Waggon could bring the cost of travel down considerably
      Thanks for the info re travel times to Market Harborough. I hazarded a guess based on the time my guidebook reckoned a 10-mile journey would be, and then made an allowance for resting points along the way.

  3. Help please I find myself in the past and in Brighton. I would dearly love to travel back to London. Any assistance would be of great service!

    • Hello Paul
      Regrettably my guidebook only lists information FROM London, though at least this will give you some idea of the locations for trips to and from Brighton, together with mode of transport

      Brightelmstone [Sussex, 54 miles]

      Travel by stagecoach:- ‘Brighton’ as we now know it is served by 23 different inns throughout London, meaning that over 20% of all London Inns accept booking to that destination

      Early risers can book the 6-30am departure from The White Bear Piccadilly. There are services at regular intervals throughout the morning. The Bolt in Tun at Fleet Street is particularly recommended, as it leaves at the more sensible time of 8-45am each day. The Cross Keys at Wood Street has two morning and one afternoon coaches and the White Horse Cellar goes four times daily – with a nice late departure at 8pm, allowing you to enjoy the pleasures of St James’ until sunset. Also of interest may be The George in Borough High Street [which still stands today], which goes at 9am and 9pm every day.

      Travel by Waggon:- 18 inns offer fares to Brightlemstone by Waggon, though days and times vary at each location. Most regular is The Talbot at Borough which departs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at half past two. The Angel at Fleet Market is your best bet for a Saturday booking, leaving at 4pm. But if you want to see Brighton on a Sunday, there are no Waggon services so you must catch a stage coach instead.

      Travel by boat:- If you are intending on taking merchandise to or from Brightlemstone you are best advised to report to Beale’s Wharf, in Tooley Street or Griffin’s Wharf at Southwark – both of which are located on the South Bank.

      I hope the frequency of services gives you some comfort in finding your way back to London

  4. Pingback: Austentatious Links: March 12, 2017 | Excessively Diverting

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *