Principal Departures for London Coaches (1819)

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

coaching inn porter 4 1829 satire

If you are heading out of London in 1819, you ought to be aware the best coaching inn from where to begin your journey. First and foremost it is important to remember that London is served by over 120 stagecoach inns, and every one of them offers a selection of destinations. Where stabling is ample, such as the Golden Cross in Charing Cross, the widest selection of options are available. However, most inns concentrate on specific routes to the same part of the country. A good example of this is the Blue Boar Cellar at Aldgate, which heavily relies upon Essex trade. Inns cited near important industry or London markets such as Smithfield will place greater emphasis on waggons or carts with much less traffic by stagecoach. Blossoms Inn (see below) has taken advantage of the recent boom in tourism by providing  a frequent and regular service to Brighton.  Some inns are owned by the same businessmen. The Swan with 2 necks, the Spread Eagle and the White Horse all belong to William Chaplin. Chaplin is ahead of his time in regard to corporate branding because all coaches have livery relating to the specific inn from where they operate. Thus it is common to see coaches with either a two-necked swan, a white horse or an eagle emblazoned across their rear.


In this blog have I have listed the principal London departure points for major towns throughout Britain in the year 1819, and tried to give some background information on each inn selected.

swan with 2 necks lad lane - london coaching inn

The Swan with Two Necks, Cheapside

The Swan with Two Necks was in Lad Lane (renamed Gresham Street in 1851). Known to have existed since the 16th Century this large inn was significant from early days of organised coach travel, and was a key departure point for the mail coaches until the 1840s

Depart here for: Andover, Axminster, Basingstoke, Bath, Bristol, Bury St Edmunds, Camelford, Chester, Coventry, Daventry, Dartmouth, Devonport, Exeter, Falmouth, Ipswich, Leicester, Liverpool, Macclesfield, Manchester, Nottingham, Penzance, Plymouth, Preston, Reigate, Salisbury, Southampton, Stroud, Totnes, Towcester, Truro, Winchester, or Wolverhampton

golden cross charing x - London coaching inn

The Golden Cross, Charing Cross

This famous inn was a thriving transport hub back in the days when Charing Cross was a mere village between the cities of London and Westminster. Probably reaching its apogee in 1819, a combination of pressure for urban redevelopment and the onset of railways lead to a sudden death for this inn. By 1827 The Gentleman’s Magazine reported that the Golden Cross and its ‘extensive stables’ had been acquired by commissioners acting on behalf of the architect John Nash for the princely sum of £30,000 – and Trafalgar Square’s development was underway. There is a great literary connection to Charles Dickens as The Golden Cross features in Sketches by Boz, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers

Depart here for: Ashby de la Zouch, Ashford (Kent), Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent, Chichester, Dover, Durham, Eastbourne, Harrogate, Hastings, Hull, Leeds, Litchfield, Ludlow, Maidstone, Mitcham, Nantwich, Newmarket, Potteries (Stafford), Stratford upon Avon, Tamworth, Taunton, Thetford, Worcester, Wrotham (Kent),  or York

La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London Coaching Inn

La Belle Sauvage Inn, Ludgate Hill

This coaching inn has been around since Elizabethan times where it also served as a playhouse and venue for sporting events, its rear balconies serving as upper and lower circles for crowds attending. Famous lodgers include Pocahontas (1616), and it is said to be the place where the first rhinoceros brought to England was kept. This is one of several pubs and inns mentioned in Dickens novel The Pickwick Papers. La Belle Sauvage was literally swept away by the railways when it was demolished in 1873 to make way for a viaduct.

Depart here for: Anglesey, Chippenham, Colchester, Darlington, Downham (Norfolk), Ely, Fulham, Holyhead, Kew, (Kings) Lynn, Maidenhead (Berks), Norwich, Shepton Mallet, Sherborne (Dorset), Shrewsbury, St Austell, Swindon, Tiverton, Trowbridge, Walsall, Warminster, Warrington, Warwick, Wimborne, or Windsor

white horse fetter lane - London coaching inn

The White Horse, Fetter Lane

The yard of this inn provided stabling for over 70 horses, and there were ample lodgings for both long and short-term visitors to the capital. It was demolished and rebuilt to a smaller scale in 1899, as the stables were no longer needed for the hotel guests, most of whom now travelled by rail.

Depart here for: Aberdeen, Aldborough, Arundel, Barnet,Barton Mills, Bishop Auckland, Blackburn, Bradford, Bury, Canterbury, Cromer, Croydon, Darlington, Dartford, Douglas (Isle of Man), Edinburgh, Gosport, Halifax, Hartlepool, Holmes Chapel, Hounslow, Huddersfield, Inverness, Kidderminster, Kilmarnock, Kirby Lonsdale, Kirkaldy, Knutsford, Lancaster, Leek, Milford Haven, Newark, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Newport Pagnall, Nuneaton, Peterhead, Pontefract, Rugby, Stockton on Tees, Selkirk, Sheerness, Sheffield, Stevenage, Stockport, Stockton upon Tees, Sunderland, Swansea, Ware (Herts), Wetherby, Wisbech, OR Worksop


Saracens Head Aldgate 1855 - London coaching inn

The Saracen’s Head, Snow Hill

The Saracen’s Head Hotel, Snow Hill (Holborn) is described in Chapter Four of Charles Dickens Nicholas Nickleby

Near to the jail, and by consequence near to Smithfield…and on that particular part of Snow Hill where omnibus horses going eastwards seriously think of falling down on purpose, and where horses in hackney cabriolets going westwards not unfrequently fall by accident, is the coach-yard of the Saracen’s Head inn, its portal guarded by two Saracens’ heads and shoulders…frowning upon you from either side of the gateway, and the inn itself, garnished with another Saracen’s Head, frowns upon you from the top of the yard

Knocked down to make way for the Holborn Viaduct in 1868 this ancient inn was once frequented by Samuel Pepys

Depart here for: Arbroath, Barnsley, Braintree, Burnley, Chelmsford, Cheshunt, Colne, Egham, Falkirk, Fishguard, Forfar,Greenwich, Grimsby, Hertford, Huntingdon, Kendall, Malmsbury, Marlborough, Minehead, Montrose, Newbury, Oldham, Padstow, Paisley, Perth, Poole, Reading, Sidmouth, Stirling, Thirsk, Ulverstone (Lancs), Upminster, Wakefield, Welwyn, Wentworth (Yorks), Weymouth, Whitehaven, OR Wigan

Bull and Mouth St Matrins le Grand 1830 - London coaching inn

The Bull & Mouth, St Martins Le Grand

This inn was situated near Smithfield Market was originally named ‘Boulogne Mouth’ in reference to a siege laid upon this French port by Henry VIII. It was burned down in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt as a thriving coaching inn until 1831, when it was replaced by The Queen’s Hotel. On his excellent London rambles blog Mark Rowland has written an intriguing post about the mystery of the Bull & Mouth

Depart here for: Bangor, Cardiff, Carlisle, Carnavon, Chesterfield, Dublin, Dudley, Dunstable, Glasgow, Fakenham, Henley, Knaresborough, Leighton Buzzard, Melton Mowbray, Northampton, Pembroke, Ripon, Rotherham, Scarborough, Skipton, St Albans, Stamford, Stourbridge, Stow on the Wold, Stranraer, Sutton Coldfield, Tipton, Wells (Norfolk), Woburn, OR Wrexham

Inner yard Blossoms Inn, Lawrence Lane Cheapside 1850 London coaching inn

Blossoms Inn, Cheapside

A corruption of the somewhat bawdy ‘Bosoms Inn’ this coaching inn dates back to the 14th century. In 1331 it was the venue for a jousting tournament that lasted three days. Pickfords Travel Company based their London headquarters here in 1720.

In 1822 The New Monthly Magazine published a popular ode to the coach journey from Bloossoms Inn to Brighton
blossoms inn poetry - London coaching inn

Depart here for: Brighton, Folkstone, Ramsgate, OR Sittingbourne,

spread eagle gracechurch st - London coaching inn

The Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street

This pub is recorded as a very important commuter hub for counting-house (banking) employees in the 1760s with a service 4 times daily to Camberwell. By 1819 it was still a very important meeting place and venue for commercial activities. One such businessman who used the Spread Eagle for deliveries was Thomas Twining the tea merchant.

Depart here for: Bromley (Kent), Epsom, Gravesend, Harwich, Lewisham, Lincoln, Lowestoft, Peterborough, Rochester, Sleaford, Stilton, Stoke (Suffolk), Streatham, Tooting, Woodbridge (Suffolk), OR Yarmouth

Bell Inn Holborn 1853 rear view - London coaching inn

The Bell and Crown, Holborn

This Holborn pub was largely concerned with routes from London into Hampshire, with Southampton and Winchester fairly important goods destinations.It was a very important masonic meeting place – Well past its best by 1819 – constrained by size and competition from a myriad of inns in and around Holborn

Depart here for: Aylesbury, Banbury, Berkhamstead, Edgware, Edmonton, Hampstead, Harrow on on the Hill, Hemel Hempstead, Leatherhead, Lewes, Rickmansworth, Stokenchurch, Teignmouth (Devon), Tottenham, Walthamstow, Watford, OR Wendover

blue boar aldgate - London coaching inn

The Blue Boar Cellar, Aldgate

If Eastenders had a coaching inn, this would be it. The bulk of all coach travel into Essex originated at the Blue Boar Cellar. But in the 1750s it was more renowned as a departure point for young men heading on a Grand Tour of Europe – Stagecoaches ran to the port of Harwich which was the favoured port for those travelling to the Low Countries or Germany. By 1819 and the restoration of peace with France, Dover and Folkestone had gained the ascendancy for cross-channel trips.

Depart here for: Barking, Bishops Stortford, Brentwood, Chigwell, Dagenham, East Ham, Epping, Grays, Harlow. Hornchurch, Ilford, Plaistow, Rayleigh, Romford ,Southend-on-Sea, Stanstead, Stratford (Essex), OR Waltham Abbey

The Bolt and Tun Fleet St 1859 - London coaching inn

The Bolt in Tun, Fleet Street

The Bolt in Tun is recorded as open as long ago as 1443, and it survived right up until 1853. The coming of the railways put paid to the vast majority of coaching inns by 1850, so the demise of the Bolt in Tun was not surprising. Bolt-in-Tun is Regency period slang for a man who has absconded from lodgings, or escaped from jail. The pub itself had a reputation for riotous celebrations and drunkenness amongst its clientele, so perhaps it was popular with wild youth of the Georgian era. Book your journey from here by all means, but don’t hang around after dark!

Depart here for: Aberystwyth, Battle (Hastings), Cheltenham, Cowes (Isle of Wight), Esher, Eton, Froom, Gloucester, Guildford, Havant, Hereford, Margate, Monmouth, Oxford, Petworth, Portsmouth, Sevenoaks, Shepperton, Tewkesbury, Tunbridge, Twickenham, Walton on Thames, OR Wells (Somerset),

For a very comprehensive guide to London’s lost pubs and inns look no further than Pubs History

If you like Georgian London, then try Death of a Regency Prizefighter or a brief history of Royal Ascot – or you can find out just how multicultural our great city was 200 years ago

In the final part of my blog series on transport from 1819 I will describe the role of the inn porter: what was expected of him, and what recourse disgruntled travellers have when things don’t go according to plan. I will also give you some guidance on transporting goods – what you can take and how much it is likely to cost. Finally we can consider some of the many wharfs and docks serving London and providing an equally important and reliable transportation system

27 thoughts on “Principal Departures for London Coaches (1819)

  1. fascinating essay, thank you! one question as you are normally so good at differentiating the towns by county if more than one exists – is the Yarmouth mentioned as a destination from the Spread Eagle Yarmouth [Norfolk] or Yarmouth [Isle of Wight]?

    • Hi Sarah
      Thank you for your feedback. I have consulted my trusty guide and find that Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) does not have a separate listing, so must presume anything heading to Cowes would also cover other locations on the Isle of Wight.

      As for Yarmouth (NorfolK), I can tell you a little more about this important Georgian sea-port. As you are probably aware, Norfolk was a very important area of England in the 1700s, and that Norwich was, for a considerable time, England’s second largest city by population.

      In my blog I tried to identify the most important inn for travelling to each UK destination, but I can add that Yarmouth had a whole range of options available – revealing how it was still very much in demand by 1819. According to my guidebook, Yarmouth was exactly 100 miles by road from London.

      As well as the regular twice-daily service from the Spread-Eagle in Gracechurch Street, The Bull in Aldgate offered a very early stagecoach, leaving at 6am. Several Inns including the Golden Cross and the Bull & Mouth had a service leaving at 4pm daily – and the Cross Keys in Wood Street had one at 7pm – which must have had a scheduled stopover because travelling right through the night was impractical.

      For less salubrious travel, you could go to the Saracen’s Head or the Bull in at Aldgate and jump on a waggon. This might be the best option if you have a lot of luggage or goods to transport – but be aware that such services tend to leave as early as 5am.

      Finally, Yarmouth can be reached by boat – with sailing each day at 6pm from Symonds Wharf, Custom House, and Wood Quays.

      Happy travelling!

  2. Many thanks! a delightfully full answer! I knew that Norwich certainly was the second largest city in England in the Medieval period, and Norfolk and Suffolk the most densely populated counties, that Norwich was still rich and important by the 18th Century when wool gave way to silk and that Norfolk and Suffolk were the bread-basket as they always had been. I didn’t know Norwich was still the second most populous city by the coaching age, so thank you for that confirmation.

    • I have been using ‘A New Guide to Stage-Coaches, Waggons, Carts, Vessels &c for 1819. Being A List of all the Inns in London where Stage Coaches put up and set out from, With their respective Days and Hours: Also the Names of the Carriers, the Places they go to, and the Inns they go from’
      This was the Seventeenth Edition published by Critchett & Woods and sold in selected locations, namely
      J Richardson, Royal Exchange
      J Asperne, Cornhill
      J Walker, Sherwood, Neely & Co, Paternoster Row
      Black, Kingsbury, Parbury and Allen, Leadenhall Street
      T Southeram, 2 Little Tower Street

      As you can see it is a very London-centric publication, so I am sure your source is better for a national discovery of Regency Britain in the coaching age.

      • many thanks!
        I have some snippets too from ‘coaching days and coaching ways’, which may have been written long after but is built around the memories of old folk. Most of what I’ve been building up about provincial inns and departure times and where the coaches go have been from adverts in the press of the time which requires a lot of diligent searching and which I’ve tended to write out in longhand in the notes of each book. I should probably pull it into a cohesive whole and blog with it.

  3. Very interesting article. May I ask for clarification as to whom would be using stagecoaches? Only the privileged would have their own carriages, but how expensive would it be to travel by stagecoach – and how respectable? Cheers!

    • Hello Cathy

      An interesting question as to who used the carriages. I would say that very few families would have had the means to keep their own carriage, and the retinue that comes with it. So I would say that stage coach travel was therefore used from the lower echelons of aristocracy right down to middling tradesmen. You could ‘upgrade’ of course by hiring your own carriage exclusively for specific journeys. But on the other hand, there was plenty of scope for economy, either by cramming into a communal coach, or sitting outside and braving the elements. In all cases, the safest and most reliable coaches were Royal Mail ones, which would have been a good option for women or children travelling unaccompanied.
      On a side note, I am researching a wealthy family from the Regency and find that they regularly paid stage coach fees for transporting their sons to and from school at the end of each term – so you can see that demand for coach travel was high throughout most levels of society.

      Thanks for getting in touch!

      • Hi Greg, this is a very intersting article! Have you any idea how a messenger would travel? I am to trying to work out how messengers or couriers travelled in early 1880s .Would they have taken a coach or just ridden on horseback to stay coach houses. I am trying to find routes from London to Portugal.

        • Hello Jill – Thanks for your feedback and apologies for the delay in replying to your question re messengers.
          I would have thought that messengers would have used fast horses and small speedy boats to convey important information during the Napoleonic wars. However, this was the dawn of the telegraph so I’m sure that this technology would have come into play increasingly more as the C19 progressed.
          With the advent of railways and steam boats, I would expect that couriers carrying sensitive information would have travelled by these means – or used diplomatic post which was probably the safest way to convey politically sensitive information.


  4. Pingback: Joseph Edge, the Macclesfield Pedestrian of 1806 – All Things Georgian

  5. Hi Greg, I am researching the movements of a miner, in 1842, when he travelled from Wakefield or Leeds to Newcastle. Would you know how long such a journey would have taken and the cost. He was an active Chartist and union leader. What I know of him so far I doubt he would have travelled on horseback, but may have done so. Can you help? Ken

    • I’m not really sure about this one Ken. I agree that your miner would probably have not travelled on horseback but he would have been able to afford a ride on a waggon or up top on a stagecoach. Also, by 1842 there would have been plenty of opportunity to travel by train. Given that most of the early railway lines originated in the North East – I would be surprised if this option would not also have been available to him.

      Good luck with your research

  6. Dear Greg
    I am a botanical historian preparing a Commentary on the life and travels of David Douglas (botanist & plant collector, 1799-1823). Currently I have him boarding a coach at the Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street bound for Gravesend and a boat to the Pacific North-west. I wonder whether I may use the image of the Spread Eagle on your blog, with attribution to your blog? NB – also posted in error on “Blog rules”
    Best regards
    Gordon Mason

  7. Frank Staff’s The Penny Post 1680-1918 (I was lent it by a friend but copies are available eg ) has quite a lot on messengers, post boys, and the mail coach network, with typical times for various routes and destinations from London to the provinces.

    The Postal Museum should though be considered for further research ………….

    Some excerpts from an overview of the Royal Mail Archive, which is divided into different ‘POST’ classes.
    For example:

    POST 4
    32 volumes
    Scope and content
    This series comprises accounts of British packet services and overseas posts, including records of agents and postmasters, packet stations, and packet boats. The accounts cover income, expenditure, salaries, allowances and disbursements.

    POST 10
    317 files, 88 volumes Scope and content
    This POST class contains records relating to the transportation of mails by road – mail coaches in particular – but also includes material on the early use of railways. Some reference to steam packets is also contained in this class.
    Administrative history
    Prior to the introduction of the GPO’s mail coach service in 1784, the mail was conveyed by horse riders or mail cart on the longer routes out of London and on foot on some country services. The service was slow and vulnerable to attacks by armed robbers. In 1782 John Palmer of Bath put forward his scheme for conveying the mail by stage coach. Rejected in 1783 by the Postmasters General, a trial was finally approved in Jun 1784, with the support of William Pitt, Chancellor of the Exchequer. The experiment on the Bristol-Bath-London road in August 1784 was a success and Palmer began to organise further mail coach services in 1785. He was appointed Surveyor and Comptroller General of the Post Office in 1786 and presided over the expansion of the service throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. By 1790 all the most important routes had been covered and many towns had a daily delivery and collection of mail by coach. The full scheme involved 42 mail coach routes.

    The mail coach service was almost immediately affected by the arrival of the railways in the 1830s. The GPO quickly took advantage of this new and faster method of transport to replace the mail coaches. The last of the London based coaches ceased in 1846, although this method of conveyance continued for cross post services between some provincial towns until the 1850s. The last coach in the Midlands ran out of Manchester in 1858. Mail coaches lasted longest in those area which railways were slow to reach, such as Cornwall, Mid Wales, the Peak District and far North of Scotland. One of the last mail routes to be used, to Thurso in northern Scotland, ceased after the opening of the Highland Railway in 1874. In some remote parts of Scotland railways were never built and horse drawn carriage continued into the twentieth century, until replaced by motor vehicles.

    POST 11
    106 volumes, 50 files Scope and content
    This POST class relates mainly to the railways but includes some material concerning conveyance of mail, by mail coaches and steam ships and cases of arbitration between the Post Office and these companies.

    POST 12

    POST 43
    211 files
    Scope and content
    This class covers the organisation and services of Packet Boats and shipping. The earliest established packet stations were Dover to Calais 1633, Harwich to Holland 1660, Falmouth to Spain and Portugal and Falmouth to the West Indies in 1702.

    POST 46

    An overseas mail service has been in operation since 1580, before the establishment of the public postal service. A staff of ten Royal Couriers carried letters on affairs of State, or on the business of ‘particular merchants’ to Dover. At Dover, the postmaster provided horses for returning couriers and vessels for those passing through to Calais.

    In 1619 the office of Postmaster General for Foreign Parts was created. The mail service with foreign countries was not large in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The foreign Post Office, as it was called, had a staff of only four men in 1660. At the time of the Napoleonic wars, the Foreign Office business was barely accounting for 10% of the total net income of the Post Office.

  8. Great blog….glad I found you.
    Did the carriers keep a list of passengers on their services.
    I am researching a military family living in Hailsham, Sussex who travelled to London regularly in the period 1803 – 1814.
    They used the Eastbourne – Golden Cross Inn stage and I am trying to find out more information. Fares, journey time etc.

    • Hello Stephen
      Thank you for your kind words about this post. I have had thousands of unique visitors over the past 2 years, proving how fascinated we all still are about Regency Britain.

      The Golden Cross to Eastbourne stage coach journey was 64 miles, leaving at 7-30am sharp every day apart from Sundays. Alternatively there was a daily service from 93 Bishopsgate Street running at 8am and also at 11am.
      Stagecoaches travelled at roughly 5 miles per hour, So a journey to Eastbourne could have taken the best part of a day including time for resting/exchanging horses

      Operators running to Eastbourne included Crossweller & Co and Bradford’s – both of whom were headquartered in Borough (just south of the River Thames). But best for Eastbourne were Hilder & Eastland, whose stables were situated at the White Hart & Spur, also in Borough

      Good luck with your research


      Greg Roberts

  9. Greg,

    Many thanks for your reply.

    Can you point me in the direction to find out more information for Hilder & Eastland and Crossweller & Co.
    I tried to Google and the National archives but no luck.



    • Unless these companies left an archive (business or personal) there is very little chance of finding out too much more about them.
      You could try Google Books – I did a quick scan and see that there have been some publications mentioning Crosswellers – and both companies appear in various trade directories from around 1814

      The only other possibility would be try try Southwark Council Archives – they may possibly have more information on the coach companies concerned

      At all events I feel it would be a miracle for you to find passenger lists etc because data like this was not generally collected at that time

      Good luck in any case

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