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Monday, June 21, 2010

Regency Travel by Coach

Most Regency Romance novels are about the very wealthy, because, let's face it, most of us read as a form of escape. And what could be a better escape than vicariously living the lifestyles of the rich?

The very wealthy traveled by private coach, which came in all different shapes and sizes. The carriage pictured here is called a Scotland State Coach, circa 1830. Lovely, isn't it? Sigh. However, everyone else had to hire a coach.

In London, one hired a hackney which was like a cab with a driver, horse and some kind of used carriage. To travel a long distance, other arrangements had to be made.

The cheapest way to travel was on mail coach, pictured here. Travel was fast but very uncomfortable.

The next best way to go was by stage coach but it was crowded, and some passengers ended up riding on top in all kinds of weather. Unpleasant, to say the least.

A nice way to travel was to hire a carriage called a Post Chaise pictured here circa 1795. A post chaise could pick up passengers and drop them off anywhere specified, so a passenger could go from door to door, but usually passengers traveled from one posting inn to the next where the carriage and the horses were changed. The teams of horses always came with a postillion, a rider who rode on the back of one of the lead horses and controlled their travel. Generally it only had room for one seat, which seated two, but it also had an outside, rear facing seat for servants and a platform in front for luggage. Two teams could travel faster than a single team. The postillions changed every time horses were changed.

To figure how long it took to travel, here’s a good rule of thumb for figuring travel by horse: walking = 5 mph, trotting = 8-10 mph, cantering = 15 mph. All depends on the terrain. Naturally, horses would have to be changed on a regular basis and the faster one goes, the more frequently horses had to be changed.

Stage coach and mail coach horses were changed about every twenty miles. They had a fast and efficient routine to get the teams exchanged in less than 5 minutes. It would take longer for a private individual who had to wait for available horses, unless they were ridiculously wealthy and boarded horses at various posting inns along their most frequently traveled routes.

One thing that slowed travel was the existence of toll roads. Though the mail coach traveled free, other commercial vehicles made arrangements with the toll authorities. Private carriages had to stop and pay the toll which included the number of horses and the distance to be traveled.


Jenny Allworthy said...

What is a barouche? Curricle? Landau? Gig? And what does a dogcart have to do with dogs? Or how about "a low phaeton, with a nice little pair of ponies" . So many carriages, and I always wonder what the difference is.

Sandra Sookoo said...

I enjoyed this post. Hubby and I were just discussing the journey lengths the other day LOL While alot of historicals deal with the rich, I like to write about the regular people and how they had to live. I would imagine bouncing around on the seat of any carriage wouldn't be very fun or romantic LOL

Sue Millard said...

barouche and landau were 4 wheeled open, sober family carriages drawn usually by 2 horses. Gig and dogcart were 2 wheeled, drawn by 1 horse. Dogcarts had a compartment under the seat to carry a retriever/gundog to a shooting party. A curricle was a high, showy 2 wheeler drawn by 2 horses - a very sporty vehicle and one requiring skilled driving in order not to tip over on rough roads or when cornering fast.

The Mail coach was not the "cheapest" way to travel - it was the fastest, tightly-scheduled road service, which averaged 10 mph over 5 to 10 mile stages, punctuated by stops as short as 1 minute for changing teams of horses.

Post chaises and Mail services were Royal monopolies. Post stages (as fast as the Mail) and common stages (relatively slow and with longer stops for coffee, ale, meals and gossip) were the commercial alternatives.

Jack Robinson said...

i also enjoyed this post because of it detailed informative on barouche
coach to Rome

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. Any idea what kind of schedule these things ran on? Were there "stations" where people caught the coach, like bus stations?

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of info here:

Apparently dozens of mail coaches left London at 8pm every night.

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