Friday, March 10, 2017

Getting from Here to There -- Post Coaches

There were no trains, no cars, no airplanes. There were no inter-city buses, but there were plenty of post coaches in Regency England. For the vast majority of people, private carriages and chaises were out of the question. Public coaches were their only means of traveling around the country.

Mail coaches were the most well-known of passenger carriers. This advertisement (my apologies for the poor scan) shows the desirability of such reliable transport:
Gore's Liverpool General Advertiser - Thursday 09 January 1800

There were books like Cary's New Itinerary or Cary's Traveller's Companion which listed the schedules of mail coaches, stage coaches and post coaches to and from major cities. If you were lucky, the route you wanted to take was listed among Cary's timetables. But if you wanted really up-to-the-minute information on the coaches leaving your town, you could turn to the newspaper. There you would find advertisements from the local coach suppliers with their routes and all the other pertinent information for road travel.

Gore's Liverpool General Advertiser - Thursday 09 January 1800
Exeter Flying Post - Thursday 09 January 1800
The advertisements often listed the number of passengers accepted; some carried only four inside riders. This no doubt was an inducement for riders to enjoy greater comfort.

Cheltenham Chronicle - Thursday 13 August 1818
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette - Saturday 03 January 1807
It is worth noting the illustrations accompanying the coaching advertisements. From 1800-1820 virtually the only illustrations in newspapers were in fire insurance adverts, where they displayed the fire company's badge, and in coach advertisements where the small, hurrying coaches are beautifully illustrated. The illustrations are almost all different.
Chester Courant - Tuesday 02 January 1810
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Thursday 17 March 1814
Most advertisements carried a disclaimer stating that they accepted no responsibility for damage or loss of possessions, luggage or parcels. Later in the decade some illustrations displayed the outdoor passengers, paying less and suffering more for their transport.
Cheltenham Chronicle - Thursday 13 August 1818
Kentish Gazette - Tuesday 01 August 1815
Some advertisements employed a sort of 'hard sell' extolling their virtues with sometimes extravagant claims. But they hardly needed to--post coaches were the only means of convenient, semi-comfortable travel in a pre-railway world.
Leicester Chronicle - Saturday 24 June 1815
There are few things that underline the differences between the modern age and the Regency era as clearly as changes in transportation. It is tempting to assume private carriages were the norm; Regency fiction reinforces this belief. In fact, the post coaches made the world go round, and their confident advertisements indicate they knew the fact very well.

'Til next time,


Credit: all newspapers excerpts from