Stagecoach Travel: Information on Porters, Goods & Luggage (1819)

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

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

The coaching era is generally thought to have begun around 1660 and lasted until the late 1840s when the last passenger-carrying mail coaches and stage services were discontinued, as the age of steam travel was now upon us. Though several key routes were established from London across Britain during the reign of Charles II, the state of roads meant that coach travel was only ever undertaken if absolutely necessary. However this was all to change after the creation of various statutory bodies empowered to raise tolls for the maintenance and improvement of important stretches of road. By the reign of George III there were over 1000 of these ‘Turnpike Trusts‘ administering about 2500 miles of roadway.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Turnpike at Kings Road, in rural Chelsea c.1819

Turnpike tolls ranged from a penny per person or horse to sixpence for carts, waggons and coaches. But the mail coaches, the army, and local labourers on foot were allowed to use such roads free of charge. At first the Trusts were little more than local tax-raising fiefdoms, as very little of the money raised was invested in road improvements. However, two technological breakthroughs changed all this, leading to an era of fast and efficient stage coach travel – perhaps reaching its apogee in the 1820s. Firstly, the appointment of engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) signalled a policy of easing gradients on existing roads, and finding short cuts which avoided uneven terrain. Telford also implemented new systems of drainage meaning that the roads were passable more often and over a greater period of the year. Secondly the introduction of a new road material, ‘tarmacadam’, named after its inventor John Macadam (1756-1836) was vital for modernising Britain’s roadways, ushering in an era of mass stagecoach travel both for  business and pleasure. These advances meant that a stagecoach journey from London to Manchester (which would have taken 4 and a half days in 1750) could be done in 26 hours by 1821.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Expect to be fleeced at provincial coaching inns

When undertaking a long journey from London, the cost of your fare and luggage was far from the only expense to be considered. Provincial inns has a reputation pretty much like today’s motorway service stations and were only to ready to fleece passengers for all manner of additional charges as they stopped for rest and refreshment. For example it was widely established that stops should only last 20 minutes. Passengers were expected to pay for their meal in advance but rarely had time to eat it before going on their way. So coaching inns commonly re-sold ‘left-overs’ to the next coach party. If you were unfortunate enough to stay overnight, it was usual to tip the coachman and any accompanying staff, waiters, coaching inn porters, and even charges for candles in your room (which could be as much as 5 shillings extra per night!). There were even ‘local’ taxes levied for support of the poor. Hence lengthy journeys often led to hefty bills, so the best option for any departee from London was to find a regular service from an established carrier, using good roads with minimal stops.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Fully laden stagecoach at Highgate c.1835

The cost of travel was also affected by tax charged upon each and every coach using the roads. After 1776 there was a £5 Stamp Duty on all coaches, plus from 1783 half a penny per mile travelled was levied – applying whether the coach was fully loaded or not. Hence it became economic to load up coaches as much as possible to spread the cost, but also resulted in less frequent winter services due to reduced passenger numbers making it uneconomical. Over time these taxes increased by degree, reaching 2 and a half pence per mile by 1838. The Government perhaps inadvertently hastened the decline of stage coach travel by being very slow to release stage coach operators from the burden of excise duty, at a time when railways were taking away much of their trade.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Porters – vital  cogs in the wheels of industry right back to Roman times

In Roman times carriages and chariots were prevented from driving into the forum by barriers across approaching roadways. All merchandise had to be handed over to porters, whose job it was to unload and distribute deliveries to and from the forum. The above image can be found on a wall behind the forum at Pompeii, signifying the important role carried out by porters. Fast forward to 1819 and we find that the most important job at any London coaching inn is carried out by the head porter. It was a well paid, responsible, and powerful job – The porter was the main point of contact with passengers, and organised staff at the inn and on the coaches – collecting tips and other benefits on their behalf during the loading and unloading process. Anyone staying overnight could rely on the head-porter to act as a concierge procuring goods and services or arranging entertainment for clients satisfaction. However, my guide to Stage Coaches for 1819 sets down some very important standards of behaviour expected from head-porters in the performance of their duties

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Beware the unscrupulous porter

A porter must ensure that parcels conveyed from coaching inns will not exceed the following rates:

  1. Anything up to a quarter of a mile – 3 pence
  2. Between 1 and up to two miles – 6 pence
  3. Two miles and above – 10 pence with an additional 3 pence for every half mile thereafter

Any person or porter demanding more than the above rates, for any parcel not exceeding 56lb*, will be compelled to forfeit 20 shillings

Any inn or warehouse keeper neglecting to send a Ticket with every parcel, containing the Name or Description of the Inn or Warehouse from whence the same is sent, with the Christian and Surname of the Porter who is to deliver the same, and Carriage and Porterage marked thereon, forfeits 40 shillings, and the Porter not leaving the Ticket with the Parcel, or, altering, or wilfully obliterating, anything written thereon, forfeits 40 shillings. and if he demands more than written on such ticket, 20 shillings

Every parcel arriving by Coach to be delivered within 6 hours after such Arrival; (if not after 4pm, or before 7am, then within 6 hrs after 7am;) or by Waggon, within 24 hours after such arrival; or Inn-keeper to forfeit 20 shillings 

Parcels directed ‘to be left till called for’ to be delivered on Payment of Carriage and 2d Warehouse-room for the first, and 1d for each week after, or forfeit 20 shillings

Every porter misbehaving, forfeits 20 shillings

These offences are cognizable before any Justice of the District.

*56lb was 4 stone in imperial weight, which is about 25 kilos. This is not a bad baggage allowance when thinking about airlines today.

waggon

If moving a load, then waggons or carts are for you

As well as the above rules of conduct for porters, it was important to be aware of charges payable for larger items being transported. My guide book sets it out thus:

  1. A ‘load’  = 25 hundredweight (1.25 tons)
  2. A ‘half load’ = 15-19 hundredweight (from 0.75 up to one ton)
  3. A ‘small load’ anything under 15cwt (0.75 tons)

Some items which might constitute a load: Two hogsheads of sugar, 50 baskets of raisins, 20 barrels of figs, 5 barrels of rice, 3 bales of aniseed, 6 barrels of almonds or 10 barrels of fish oil

hogshead of sugar

A hogshead of sugar – very popular with children

A half load tended to be scaled down quantities of full load items, such as one hogshead of sugar

A small load might be made up of: 50 jars of raisins, one butt of currents, or 3 puncheons of prunes

The orange wharf at London bridge

The Orange Wharf at London Bridge

If you direct a coach or waggon to collect goods on your behalf from any of London’s many wharves – there are a sliding scale of costs applicable. For example quays around London Bridge incur a surcharge per load of 3 shillings and four pence, but wharves around the Tower of London charge as much as 4 shillings and a penny. In all wharves goods such as wine, olive oil, rum, and brandy are liable to additional charges – which can vary by individual wharf – often dependent on how the goods are packaged and distributed from the ships or barges.

Goods collected from wharves and leaving the City of London by more than a mile radius are charged 5 shillings and two pence, rising on a sliding scale thereafter according to distance travelled to point of delivery

stagecoach 1

I hope you have enjoyed this little dip into Regency transport for London, and that reproduction of any part of this blog will be fully acknowledged or credited. Any comment or feedback is always welcome.

For the modern-day equivalent of Regency stage coach service why not consider a London & UK Taxi Tour – or for a broader brush look at all things Georgian try Rachel Knowles’ Regency History website. To learn about Britain’s very first celebrity couple – who caused a Regency scandal extraordinaire visit author Geraldine Roberts

For more about horsemanship in Georgian Britain why not check out the Epping Hunt – or follow Wicked William off to war

 

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