Posted by Bob Whitworth on August 13, 1998 at 11:41:09:
The following is taken from Josiah White’s “Letters on England”, written during his travels there in 1810 and published in Philadelphia in 1816.
CUSTOMS AND REGULATIONS OF THE PUBLIC COACHES--General directions to Strangers and Travellers in the Stage.
Stage Travelling: The public vehicles for the conveyance of persons are here called coaches. They are generally neat and commodious, and furnished with good horses; the names of the towns and villages at which they stop are handsomely painted on the outside; and at the principal towns the number is so great, that passengers are seldom delayed. When expedition is required, this is the best mode of travelling. Strangers should make themselves acquainted with their usages and regulations, that they may guard against impositions, vexation, and perplexity.
Besides the regular and established fare for a seat, the driver and the guard (the last of whom accompanies the mail stage only) are to be paid at the end of every stage of about twenty miles. This has been so longa custom as almost to have the force of law; and the perquisite is generally demanded as a matter of right. The usual donation, for such it is, is six pence to each, but a shilling and even more is often given, and never refused. The sum thus annually collected by this tax on travellers is almost incredible; and the place of driver and guard to some of the coaches in the large towns, is of so much emolument as frequently to enrich the holders; and they are often sold at a high price. In other respects the travelling charges are not unreasonable or exorbitant. They are greater in the mail than in the common coaches, but the accommodations are better in the former, and the expedition is greater; hence, where this is required, most travellers willingly pay the difference; and besides, there is more security from accidents and robberies. The hours of departure are fixed, and passengers must be punctual to secure their seats; and this is absolutely necessary where a choice is wanted, for no one is entitled to this from his name being first or second on the way-bill. The seat may be also secured by a servant, or a cloak, great coat, or cane; any of which will be considered as the representative of the passenger himself.
In pleasant weather I would prefer a seat on the outside, as affording a prospect of the country; and it is most desirable for the traveller, if a stranger, to take one with the driver, for the information which may be derived from him of the country through which he passes. In the accommodation coach it is a good general rule to take an inside seat when the number of passengers is greatest on the outside; or the weight from the baggage is such as to increase the risk of being overturned. Again, when the weather is unfavourable, or there is a probability of being benighted, it is most prudent to secure and inside seat. Even, however, where there is a desire to be on the outside, this is not always necessary where the seats in the coach are all unoccupied. In such a case it will be economy not to pay for a seat in the coach until it is actually occupied. In this way I have often changed my seat as I felt disposed, and I have frequently exchanged seats with passengers who were in the coach.
The mail coaches are limited to carry four inside passengers, and two on the outside; but in the others, though also limited by law, less attention is paid to infractions; and the number is frequently so great as to make it both uncomfortable and dangerous. They all travel with great speed; and the average number of miles per hour, including all necessary stoppages, is perhaps not less than six and a half or seven. I have sometimes been carried at the rate of ten miles an hour.
Passengers should bestow strict attention to their baggage, for although packages are sent to every part of the kingdom with great safety in the coaches, it is not generally considered as incumbent on the coachman to attend to the baggage when the owners are present. Small trunks or bundles may be put under the seats in the coach, but larger are generally put into the boot or box behind it. Caution is particularly necessary where there are several coaches starting about the same time from the same inn, and in a country where pety thefes may be committed with so much facility, and with so little danger of detection.
Travellers in the mail and common coaches seldom meet with that polite attention at the inns for which they are generally distinguished, and which is almost always shown to those who arrive in their own carriage, or even in a post-chaise. Passengers in the former may be permitted to get out of the coach or descend from its roof in the best way they can: no servant offers any assistance. But as soon as a private carriage makes its appearance at the door, a crowd of waiters are in immediate attendance, who evince by their officiousness their expectation of a reward. One opens the door, another will assist you to alight, while a third will conduct you into the house.
To secure comfortable accommodations, experience taught me not to put up at the inn where the coach stopped, if I intended to remain a few days or weeks. I have already stated the reason. I therefore always chose some other. To stage passengers the servants want their accustomed civility, from a belief that their stay being merely for a day or two, it is a matter of indifference to the latter whether the former are pleased or not.
When the coach is to set off at an early hour, the seat should be previously engaged; and the reward which the boots, chamber-maid, and principal servant expects, and to which they are entitled, should not be given until the morning; for thus you will be certain of being called in time to take your seat; but if they receive their douceurs before you retire to bed, they will feel no interest in awaking you, and you may sleep till doomsday for what they care. A few disappointments taught me this precaution, and I found it to be very useful.
The transaction of business will be facilitated, pleasure increased, and an accurate knowledge of the country much sooner obtained, by reading such books only as relate to its geography, topography, arts, sciences, manufactures and commerce. These, with the various fugitive publications, such as reviews, magazines, and news-papers, ought to be attentively read, and a preference given to them over more elaborate or systematic works, which are most valuable for occasional reference. Books of roads, pocket maps, and descriptions of places about to be visited, should always be at hand; and they are to be procured in almost every town. They are necessary appendages to the baggage of a traveller.
Respectable strangers will have no difficulty in having access to the public literary institutions which abound in almost every large town. In the Lyceum and Athenaeum of Liverpool, as also the reading rooms of this place, Manchester, and some other towns, I have passed many hours with equal delight and profit.
- Coach Travel Bob Whitworth 11:43:25 8/13/98 (1)
- A book to remember, thanks. Ann2 07:29:06 8/14/98 (0)
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