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.
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
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
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, 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 – 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
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