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Archive for the ‘Regency Transportation’ Category

I’ve previously discussed the difficulties and dangers of travel in the Regency era in a number of posts on this blog, but the Lancaster Sands in Lanchashire presented a variety of difficulties for even the most knowledgeable traveler. My first introduction to this region was via a William Turner painting, Lancaster Sands, painted ca. 1826. I was struck by the laborers and villagers walking alongside a coach in shallow water. Why would a coach travel so slowly that pedestrians could keep pace?

Lancaster Sands, William Turner. Image @Wiki Paintings. Birminham Museum and Art Gallery

Thumbnail showing truer colors of Turner’s painting.

As it turns out, the crossing over the Lancaster Sands to reach Ulverston was fraught with danger, especially after heavy rains. In the early 19th century travelers crossed this watery passage in the Lake District at low tide, for this was the shorter (but more dangerous) route.

The sands forming the Bay of Morecambe, covered by the sea at high water, are crossed every day by travellers whose time or inclination leads them to choose this route rather than one more circuitous, and nearly thrice the distance, inland. - The Sands, John Roby

The crossing was extremely hazardous due to shifting sands and the timing of the departure had to be perfect:

“Coach services, scheduled to accommodate the changing tides, ran between hotels in Lancaster and Ulverston. In 1820, one traveller relates, he was rudely awakened in his Lancaster hotel at five in the morning when the coach driver burst into his bedroom shouting, “For God’s sake make haste! The tide is down … if you delay we shall all be drowned.” - The Pleasures and Treasures of Britain: A Discerning Traveller’s Companion (Google eBook)David Kemp Dundurn, Jan 12, 1992 – p. 307

Otley Map, Lancaster Sands, 1818. Image @Portsmouth University.

Today, as over 150 years ago,  the Sands Road requires a guide to help travelers negotiate the dangerous tide floods.

Before the railway was made, the old way of crossing the sands from Lancaster to Ulverstone must have been very striking, both from the character of the scenery around and a sense of danger, which cannot but have given something of the piquancy of adventure to the journey. The channels are constantly shifting, particularly after heavy rains, when they are perilously uncertain. For many centuries past, two guides have conducted travellers over them. Their duty is to observe the changes, and find fordable points. In all seasons and states of the weather this was their duty, and in times of storm and fog it must have been fraught with danger. These guides were anciently appointed by the Prior of Cartmel, and received synodal and Peter-pence for their maintenance. They are now paid from the revenues of the duchy. The office of guide has been so long held by a family of the name of Carter, that the country people have given that name to the office itself. A gentleman, crossing from Lancaster, once asked the guide if “Carters” were never lost on the sands. “I never knew any lost,” said the guide; “there’s one or two drowned now and then, but they’re generally found somewhere i’th bed when th’ tide goes out.” A certain ancient mariner, called Nuttall, who lives at Grange, on the Cartmel shore, told me that “people who get their living by ‘following the sands,’ hardly ever die in their beds. They end their days on the sands- and even their horses and carts are generally lost there. I have helped,” said he, “to pull horses and coaches, ay, and, guides too, out of the sands. The channel,” he continued, “is seldom two days together in one place. You may make a chart one day, and, before the ink is dry, it will have shifted.” I found, indeed, by inquiry, that those who have travelled the sands longest, are always most afraid of them ; and that these silent currents, which shimmer so beautifully in the sunshine, have been “the ribs of death” to thousands. - Over Sands to the Lakes by Edwin Waugh, 1860, Internet archive

Today, signs warn visitors about the passage, stating: “This route has natural hazards, seek local guidance.”  The following link shows modern images of the route (Lake Guide Sands Road), which is still crossed today with experienced guides.  A 19th century visitor related that:

It is safest to cross at spring-tides; the water then is more completely drained out, and the force of the tide sweeps the bottom clean from mud and sediment. – The Sands, John Roby

Many who took this route in days of yore, such as William Wordsworth, found the trip to be so memorable that it lived in their memory for a long time. Turner created a number of striking images of the dangerous crossing. In all of them, the pedestrians and riders stayed close to the coach as guides gauged how and where the sands had shifted with the last tides or storms. Brogs, or broken branches of furze, left by previous guides visually led the way. You can see a few of them placed in the lower right corner of Turner’s painting below.

In this dramatic painting, Turner shows the Lancaster coach struggling across the sands and being overtaken by the incoming tide in a rainstorm. (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery). One can imagine the panic of the passengers upon seeing the incoming water, and the struggles of the horses as they pulled their heavy loads along the soft sands.

Painter David Cox also painted the Lancaster Sands crossing. His images are less romantic than Turner’s, but dramatic nevertheless:  Lancaster Sands by David Cox, 1835. The route through the sands were ever-changing. The guides tested the way daily, looking for shifts in the channels and for quick sand, but even the most experienced could not prevent the drowning of carriages and coaches and the deaths of people who were caught by the incoming tides or who were trapped in quagmires. Graves in local cemeteries are testament to the many lives that were lost during these crossings.

David Cox, Sketch for Crossing Lancaster Sands. Image @Tate Britain

By the mid-19th century, the railroads provided a safer and faster route. Today, the crossing over the sands is a voluntary one and taken for the experience or thrill, not out of necessity.

Image of a carriage traversing the Sands in high tides from Waugh’s book.

More on the topic:

This site shows modern images of the Lancaster Sands: Sands Road at Low Water

Old Cumbria Gazzeteer: Lancaster Sands Road 

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Back in Jane Austen’s day travel was so difficult and laborious over poorly constructed roads that the majority of the people who lived in that century traveled no farther than 14 miles from where they lived. Most walked, and even so they had to contend with muddy roads that were almost impassible after heavy rains or breathe in choking dust during times of drought. (In cities, dusty streets would be watered down by merchants early in the morning.)

Diana Sperling, a party walking to dinner along muddy roads.

Travel at night was dangerous. Without a widespread means of lighting roads or an organized police force, night travelers were at the mercy of highwaymen. In cities, link boys were paid a half pence to carry a light in front of pedestrians, or for those on horseback and in carriages.

Georgian cast iron light fixtures, Landsdowne Crescent in Bath. Note the cones, which extinguished the light.

Lanterns hung in front of city doors or were carried. In the country, torches hung from trees lining a lane that led up to a house. Balls and parties were planned during the full moon, although a rainy or cloudy night would spoil these well-laid plans.

A link boy lights the way in the city, 1827.

The situation would not change until the Industrial Revolution brought about such life altering inventions as gas lights, macadam roads (whose hard surface facilitated smoother travel), the steamboat, and rail travel.

The perils of overcrowding, 1812

The following descriptions of poor road conditions from Old Country Life, a book published in 1892, describes a time just after Jane Austen’s death, but one that her longer lived siblings would have known. While people’s memories of distant events are often faulty, the emotions they felt tend to stay with them. Here then are some eye witness accounts retold many decades later:

What a time people took formerly in travelling over old roads! There is a house just two miles distant from mine, by the new unmapped road. Before 1837, when that road was made, it was reached in so circuitous a manner, and by such bad lanes, and across an unbridged river, that my grandfather and his family when they dined with our neighbours, two miles off, always spent the night at their house.

Negotiating a muddy road. Image @Roads in the 18th Century

In 1762, a rich gentleman, who had lived in a house of business in Lisbon, and had made his fortune, returned to England, and resolved to revisit his paternal home in Norfolk. His wish was further stimulated by the circumstance that his sister and sole surviving relative dwelt beside one of the great broads, where he thought he might combine some shooting with the pleasure of renewing his friendships of childhood. From London to Norwich his way was tolerably smooth and prosperous, and by the aid of a mail coach he performed the journey in three days. But now commenced his difficulties. Between the capital and his sister’s dwelling lay twenty miles of country roads. He ordered a coach and six, and set forth on his fraternal quest. The six hired horses, although of strong Flanders breed, were soon engulfed in a black miry pool, his coach followed, and the merchant was dragged out of the window by two cowherds, and mounted on one of the wheelers; he was brought back to Norwich, and nothing could ever induce him to resume the search for his sister, and to revisit his ancestral home.

Pack horses. Image @The Rolle Canal Company

Roads were in such a poor condition that transportation over rivers and canals was preferred. If waterways were not nearby, pack horses and carrier wagons carried heavy and fragile items into areas were roads were near to impassible. Carrier wagons were sturdy wagons pulled by oxen and covered with canvas cloth.

Items had to be safely packed before they could be transported. Paper was expensive and cardboard boxes had yet to be invented. Goods were carried in cloth sacks, metal canisters, leather baskets, wood barrels, sturdy trunks, or wooden crates. Additional containers were made of cloth, woven straw, crockery, glass, and tin.

18th century coopers making barrels. Image@Instructional Resources Corporation.

The safe preservation of foods in metal containers was finally realized in France in the early 1800s. In 1809, General Napoleon Bonaparte offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could preserve food for his army. Nicholas Appert, a Parisian chef and confectioner, found that food sealed in tin containers and sterilized by boiling could be preserved for long periods. A year later (1810), Peter Durand of Britain  received a patent for tinplate after devising the sealed cylindrical can. - A brief history of packaging

Fragile items like glass and china received extra protection and were wrapped in cloth or straw. Considering the poor road conditions,  it is a wonder that any of these items survived their long journeys intact. View an image and explanation of a stage wagon in this link.

Reliable forms of old-fashioned transportation still exist in this world. Image@Washington Post

Below is a description of a carrier and his wagon.  (click here to see examples):

It is a marvel to us how the old china and glass travelled in those days; but the packer was a man of infinite care and skill in the management of fragile wares.

Does the reader remember the time when all such goods were brought by carriers? How often they got broken if intrusted to the stage-coaches, how rarely if they came by the carrier.  The carrier’s waggon was securely packed, and time was of no object to the driver, he went very slowly and very carefully over bad ground. - Old Country Life, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1892

Breakdown of the Christmas stage, a Victorian illustration. Note that oxen are strapped to an empty cart, ready to take on passengers, who are still 10 miles from their destination.

As noted before, people often spent the night when they arrived as guests for dinner. Once a person made the journey to visit relatives, they tended to stay for weeks, even months. Elizabeth Bennet’s visit with Charlotte was of several weeks duration; Cassandra Austen frequently visited her brother Edward for weeks at a time, which is when Jane would write to her.

City streets were crowded and narrow. Thomas Rowlandson. The Miseries of London. 1807. Image @Lewis Walpole Library

“It is of some importance,” said Sydney Smith, “at what period a man is born. A young man alive at this period hardly knows to what improvements of human life he has been introduced; and I would bring before his notice the changes that have taken place in England since I began to breathe the breath of life—a period of seventy years. I have been nine hours sailing from Dover to Calais before the invention of steam. It took me nine hours to go from Taunton to Bath before the invention of railroads. In going from Taunton to Bath I suffered between ten thousand and twelve thousand severe contusions before stone-breaking MacAdam was born. I paid fifteen pounds in a single year for repair of carriage springs on the pavement of London, and I now glide without noise or fracture on wooden pavement. I can walk without molestation from one end of London to another; or, if tired, get into a cheap and active cab, instead of those cottages on wheels which the hackney coaches were at the beginning of my life. I forgot to add, that as the basket of the stagecoaches in which luggage was then carried had no springs, your clothes were rubbed all to pieces; and that even in the best society, one-third of the gentlemen were always drunk. I am now ashamed that I was not formerly more discontented, and am utterly surprised that all these changes and inventions did not occur two centuries ago.” – Old Country Life, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1892, p. 216

Paving a macadam road in the U.S., 1823

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Imagine a bicycle with no brakes and no pedals and you have an idea of what it was like to ride a velocipede, or the dandy horse, in the early 19th century.

“The dandy-horse was a two-wheeled vehicle, with both wheels in-line, propelled by the rider pushing along the ground with the feet as in regular walking or running. The front wheel and handlebar assembly was pivoted to allow steering.” (Wikipedia)

This meant that the man riding this contraption not only looked ungainly while riding it, but had very little control over what he was doing and where he was going, especially on uneven and hilly ground.

The earliest usable and much copied velocipede was created by the German Karl Drais and called a Laufmaschine (German for “running machine”), which he first rode on June 12, 1817. He obtained a patent in January 1818. This was the world’s first balance bicycle and quickly became popular in both the United Kingdom and France, where it was sometimes called a draisine (German and English), draisienne (French), a vélocipède (French), a swiftwalker, a dandy horse (as it was very popular among dandies) or a Hobby horse. It was made entirely of wood and had no practical use except on a well-maintained pathway in a park or garden. - Wikipedia

Learning how to ride one of these vehicles wasn’t easy. As seen in the image above, a man would propel himself with his legs and brake with them. The image below is from the archives of Westminster City Council, and is of a postcard of Dennis Johnson’s (c.1760-1833) velocipede school. The school was founded in 1818 by Johnson,  the coachmaker, who had made some improvements on Drais’ machine. He managed to make around 320 of his pedestrian curricles, as he called his patented machines. Then in 1819 the craze for velocipedes went out of fashion: Mr. Johnson returned to making carriages. (Velocipedes.) It wasn’t until towards the end of the 19th century that the velocipede began to be perfected and started to resemble the bicycle we know today.

Several years back I featured a remarkable publication on Dandyism.net called The Dandy’s Perambulations. The pamphlet was printed and sold in 1819 by John Marshall in Fleet Street.

Image @Dandyism.net

Below are a few lines from the pamphlet:

[They] ran along together straight,
Until they reached the turnpike gate,
Where a coach had made a stop;
So they both got upon the top,
And after their disastrous falls,
At length in safety reached St. Paul’s.

Image @Dandyism.net

The print below shows a dandy “forced off his hobby-horse and subjected to brutal punishment by the two professions most threatened by the new technology: a blacksmith and a vet.” (Wellcome Library)

Image @Wellcome Library

It is sad to think that Jane Austen, who died in 1817, never had the chance to observe a gentleman riding a velocipede. With her wit and keen sense of observation, what would she have made of the sight?

More on the topic:

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High Perch Phaeton

Gentle readers, Patty of Brandy Parfums is an avid fan of history, horses, Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer. She is also a devoted reader of this blog.  Just recently she wrote ‘Georgette Heyer for Horse Lovers’ for the October issue of Horse Directory Magazine. Patty has graciously allowed me to reproduce her article for Jane Austen’s World.

Walnut Hill Driving Competition, the largest driving competition in North America held each August in Pittsford NY, has no speed classes for high-perch phaetons. They tip over too easily to be safe. Yet in the colorful, elegant world of English author Georgette Heyer’s romance novels, many with references to horses, intrepid heros and heroines drive these carriages around corners at high speeds without tipping over.

Georgette Heyer published her first novel in 1921, when she was nineteen, and went on to write over fifty novels. She was especially known for her witty Regency romance novels, and was widely copied and imitated. If you have never heard of her, it is because after a badly made movie based on one of her novels, The Reluctant Widow, came out in 1951, Heyer put in her will that she did not want any other of her books turned into movies.

In Heyer’s Bath Tangle, Major Hector Kirkby questions Lady Serena Carlow about her choice of a high-perch phaeton with its “bottom five feet from the ground” and pair of horses. Major Kirkby says -

‘Serena,-my dearest! I beg you won’t! I know you are an excellent whip, but could you not have a more dangerous carriage!’

‘No! If I were not an excellent whip!…….The difficulty of driving them is what lends a spice!’

Cover of Bath Tangle by Heyer's favorite cover artist, Arthur Barbosa

The Heyer heros and heroines, who are skilled equestrians known as bruising riders, ride horses they treasure, like Maid Marion that Lady Serena rides in Bath Tangle.

By Jove, Lady Serena, you’re a devil to go!’ Mr. Goring exclaimed, in involuntary admiration. She laughed, leaning forward to pat the mare’s steaming neck. ‘I like a slapping pace, don’t you?’

‘I should have called it a splitting pace!’ he retorted…..’My heart was in my mouth when you rode straight for that drop fence!’

The more stable crane necked phaeton with smaller wheels

Because Heyer’s novels take place when horses were used for transportation, carriages and coaches breakdown in many of her books. In The Corinthian, there is little horse activity in the beginning except a coach breaking down, but the hero, Sir Richard Wyndham, a bored bachelor and renowned whip, is sure to get into action at some point in the story. Sir Richard (Ricky) asks his friend, the Honourable Cedric (Ceddie).

Ceddie, were you driving your own horses yesterday?’

‘Dear old boy, of course I was, but what has that to say to anything?’

‘I want ‘em,’ said Sir Richard………I must have a fast pair immediately.’

My favorite Heyer novel so far for horseyness is The Quiet Gentleman, a Regency romance and mystery of sorts, with Gervase Frant, the Earl of St Erth, a subdued dandy returning home from military duties at Waterloo. Mr. Warboys says -

‘……..that’s a devilish good-looking hunter you have there, St Erth! Great rump and hocks! Splendid shoulders! Not an inch above fifteen-three, I’ll swear! The very thing for this country!’

‘Oh, he is the loveliest creature!’ Marianne said, patting Cloud’s neck. He makes no objection to carrying me in this absurd fashion: I am sure he must be the best-mannered horse in the world!’

Cover of Infamous Army with horse. Image@Sourcebooks

Georgette Heyer wrote her romance novels over a period of many years and they were always best sellers even during WWII in England, when their lively, entertaining content helped people forget their misery. Heyer also wrote mysteries, and more serious historical fiction like the superb An Infamous Army, which takes place in Brussels in 1815 during the time of Waterloo. Infantry and calvary movements are so accurately described that this book is required reading at Sandhurst.

Other horsey and just plain amusing novels recommended include The Masqueraders, False Colors, Arabella, Sylvester or the Wicked Uncle and The Grand Sophy, a work unfortunately marred by the appearance of a cliché moneylender.  Sourcebooks has reissued many of Heyer’s fifty novels and they are proving quite popular – a wonderful diversion for our uncertain times.

More on the topic:

This is the first video of the film, The Reluctant Widow. Only 9 of the 10 videos are featured. Have no fear, this 1951 film is so badly made that you will probably not make it that far. Click on this link to access it.

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Crofts arrive in the gig, Persuasion 1995

In Persuasion, Jane Austen depicts the Crofts as the happiest couple imaginable. Sophy, who is also Captain Wentworth’s sister, follows her Admiral across the seas, sacrificing her looks in the process. She is only 38 years old, but her complexion is ruddy and has obviously been affected by the sun. Jane Austen writes about the couple in a realistic way, and like all happily married folks, these two exhibit their own idiosyncracies. Admiral Croft, it turns out, is a bad driver. Captain Wentworth says about his brother-in-law to Louisa:

“What glorious weather for the Admiral and my sister! They meant to take a long drive this morning; perhaps we may hail them from some of these hills. They talked of coming into this side of the country. I wonder whereabouts they will upset to-day. Oh! it does happen very often, I assure you–but my sister makes nothing of it–she would as lieve be tossed out as not.”

“Ah! You make the most of it, I know,” cried Louisa, “but if it were really so, I should do just the same in her place. If I loved a man, as she loves the Admiral, I would always be with him, nothing should ever separate us, and I would rather be overturned by him, than driven safely by anybody else.”

The party stops to talk to the Crofts

During their return walk from Winthrop, the party from Uppercross, which includes Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth and a number of the Musgroves, encounter Admiral and Mrs. Croft in a gig. They offer a seat to one of the party. Everyone declines, except for Captain Wentworth, who has noticed Anne’s fatigue. He whispers something to his sister, then encourages Anne to join the Crofts in their two-seater for the rest of the way back to Uppercross (about one mile.) Anne is grateful for his thoughtfulness. But as she rides in the carriage, she hears Mrs. Croft warn her husband:

The Crofts and Anne Elliot crowded in a 2-man gig

My dear admiral, that post!–we shall certainly take that post.”

Jane Austen goes on to write:

But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself, they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand, they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the cottage.

The happy admiral is more than willing to allow his wife to steer the carriage alongside him, which many of us who have driven with “back-seat driving” spouses know is a rare attitude indeed!

In this famous scene by Jane Austen, the Crofts moved over to make room for Anne. Mary Musgrove would rather die from fatigue than be seen crowded in a humble gig, but Anne could only feel gratitude. She is beginning to understand that while Captain Wentworth is unable to forgive her for rejecting him, he is still a kind and decent man. He knows her well enough to see that she was tired and made arrangements for her. In these small observable progressions (as with taking the child Walter from her without comment), we see the Captain’s love for Anne come to the surface. It will take a little longer for his anger at her rejection to recede. See also Shopping and Milsom Street, Bath

Light weight gig

About Gigs: Gigs were two-wheeled carriages equipped for one horse only. They were designed for two people, one of whom was the driver, and were considered carriages for the middle class, or for the “poorer” classes, who paid less duty on them. Because these carriages were light in weight and springy, they could be easily turned over, especially by a poor driver like Mr. Croft. Gigs were used by doctors, travelers, and people who made short journeys that would not fatigue the horse. Gigs evolved into cabriolets (early versions of cabs) Dennet, Stanhope, and Tilbury. The Stanhope was designed by Fitzroy Stanhope, the second son to the Third Earl Stanhope. This carriage became popular towards the mid-19th century for short trips between Town and the suburbs.

Road to a fight, detail by Henry Alken, 1821

The two men in this high perch phaeton show how precarious a light two-wheeled vehicle can be. One can see the difference between this “sporty” more expensive vehicle and the humble gig (above).

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This carriage database discusses the history of the carriage and its uses over time. Included are links to specific makes of carriages, which lead to more detailed information or definition about that type, ie. landau, barouche, mail coach, phaeton, etc. In some instances, images accompany the pages. (Click on reference, then carriage). Update: Something seems to be wrong with the first link to the carriage database. I shall update this post as soon as I find the link again. This link to A Catalogue of Horse drawn vehicles 1896 catalogue of E. S. Annison, Coach Builder, of Hull, features drawings of his carriages and their latest design (late 19th century). Internet Archive provides a downloadable PDF book with images, Carriages and Coaches: their history and their evolution, fully illustrated with reproductions from old prints, contemporary drawings and photographs (1912). This entry in Carriages in Indopediais contemporary and provides links to definitions and information.

Mail Coach, 1827

The Georgian Index features an excellent page on Carriages and their Parts. Highways and Horses, Athol Maudslay, 1888 is an illustrated Google book that discusses carriages and transportation during the Victorian period in great detail. On the fronticepiece, Mr. Maudslay writes :

Share/Bookmark// More about the topic on this blog:

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Another book review so soon on this blog? Well, yes. This book from Shire Publications, Victorian and Edwardian Horse Cabs by Trevor May, is short, just 32 pages long, but it  is filled with many facts and rare images of interest to lovers of history. In Jane Austen’s day most people walked to work, town, church, and market square, or to their neighbors. Six miles was not considered an undue distance to travel by foot one way. The gentry were another breed. They either owned their own carriages or hired a public horse cab. These equipages were available as early as the 1620′s.

Hackneys, or public carriages for hire made their first significant appearance in the early 17th century. By 1694, these vehicles had increased to such a number that a body of Hackney Coach Commissioners was established in London. The commissioners dealt out licences, which was a bit of a joke, for a mere four inspectors were responsible for over 1,000 vehicles.

Hackney Coach 1680

Most of these licensed hackney coaches were purchased second hand. All that an enterprising person needed to establish his own hackney coach business was enough money for a used carriage and three horses, two that worked in rotation, and one that could be used as a replacement in case of injury or illness. The death of a horse could lead to a cab owner’s financial ruin. Another important ingredient was housing for the horses.

Hackney Coach 1800. Image @Wikimedia Commons

By, 1823, the lighter horse cabs began to replace cumbersome hackney coaches in great quantity, and by the mid 1830′s, the hansom cab set the new standard for modern horse cabs. Aloysius Hansom, an architect, designed the first carriage. When Hansom went bankrupt through poor investments, John Chapman took over, designing an even lighter, more efficient cab, one whose framework did not strike the horses on their backs or sides whenever a carriage ran over an obstacle in the road.

Hansom Cab

Commercial cab firms tended to be small, even as late as 1892. Only one or two proprietors provided a large number or variety of equipages, like Alfred Pargetter, whose concern advertised removal carriages, cabs, and funeral coaches for hire. While cabs were licensed, their drivers were not and the road could present a dangerous obstacle course. The video clip below shows how adroitly horses and carriages managed to avoid each other with seemingly few rules (mostly towards the end of the clip). Notice how some lucky individual horses pulled relatively light loads compared to other horses forced to pull heavy carts.

These two video clips, one from 1903 and the other from 1896 (unbelievable!) show the end of an era, for by 1914, motorized vehicles were rapidly replacing the horse-drawn cart.

I recommend this book to anyone with an insatiable appetite for a pictorial history on a particular topic. Trevor May is an expert on the Victorian era, and he has managed to squeeze more information about horse-drawn cabs in this short book (more a thick pamphlet) than I have read before. The images are simply splendid.

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apsley house

“The last time! a going! gone.”
“Auctioneer.

“Down! down! derry down!”
“Public.

A toll-gate was moved in 1721 from Piccadilly, near Berkeley Street and the present location of the Ritz Hotel, to the west end of Hyde Park in London. It was a real barrier, its gates stretching across the road, and the area was illuminated by a dozen oil lamps before the age of gas. (London, Vol 1, Charles Knight) After passing through the toll, the first building travelers encountered was “Number One”, London, or Apsley House. The residence was named after Baron Apsley, who built the house in 1771. Its most famous and recognizable resident was The Duke Of Wellington. Hyde Park Corner tollgate was one of the busiest tollgates in London, and remained active until 1825, when it was dismantled piece by piece and sold.

Hyde Park Corner, 1822, Charles Cranmer Jr

Sir,
I have taken the liberty of enclosing you a representation of a scene which took place at Hyde-park-corner last Tuesday, October 4th, being no less than the public sale of the toll-house, and all the materials enumerated in the accompanying catalogue. If you were not present, the drawing I have sent may interest you as a view of the old toll-house and the last scene of its eventful history. You are at liberty to make what use of it you please. The sale commenced at one o’clock, the auctioneer stood under the arch before the door of the house one the north side of Piccadilly. Several carriage folks and equestrians, unconscious of the removal of the toll, stopped to pay, whilst the drivers of others passed through knowingly, with a look of satisfaction at their liberation from the accustomed restriction at that place. The poor dismantled house without a turnpike man, seemed “almost afraid to know itself”—”Othello’s occupation was gone.” By this time, if the conditions of the auction have been attended to, not a vestige is left on the spot. I have thought this event would interest a mind like yours, which permits not any change in the history of improvement, or of places full of old associations, to take place without record.

I remain, sir,
Yours, &c.
A CONSTANT READER.

sale of hyde park corner toll gate

These entries come from the October 4th Every-Day Book by William Hone, 1825-26,. The following account relates the dismantling of the property:

The sale by auction of the “toll-houses” on the north and south side of the road, with the “weighing machine,” and lamp-posts at Hyde-park-corner, was effected by Mr. Abbott, the estate agent and appraiser, by order of the trustees of the roads. They were sold for building materials; the north toll-house was in five lots, the south in five other lots; the gates, rails posts, and inscription boards were in five more lots; and the engine-house was also in five lots. At the same time, the weighing machine and toll-houses at Jenny’s Whim bridge were sold in seven lots; and the toll-house near the bun-house at Chelsea, with lamp posts on the road, were likewise sold in seven lots. The whole are entirely cleared away, to the relief of thousands of persons resident in these neighbourhoods. It is too much to expect every thing vexatious to disappear at once; this is a very good beginning, and if there be truth in the old saying, we may expect “a good ending.”

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“Riding Through the Ridings”: Random Sketches of Yorkshire Coaching Inns was written and illustrated in 1947 by Joseph Appleyard. An unpublished book, it has found a home online through his son, David. The illustrations fit so well with my recent posts for post boys and the postal mail, that I was eager to share them with you,with Mr. Appleyard’s kind permission.
The George Inn York Joseph Appleyard

The website contains the full transcript and most of the illustrations for “Riding through the Ridings”, whose foreword by Major J. Fairfax-Blakeborough M.C. is telling:
Post-Boys Joseph Appleyard

Some of us are old enough to have talked with the last of the drivers of stage coaches, with post-boys and quaint old ostlers, who could recall the music of the fast-trotting horses and the note on the guard’s horn. Such have heard at first hand of all the bustle there was when the four steaming horses were to be speedily changed, relieved by others standing in readiness for the next stage. More there are who remember the long rows of stables, loose-boxes, saddle rooms and post-boy’s quarters — unused and maybe derelict — in the spacious yards of the old coaching inns. These have also lived to see the end of coach-horse breeding in Yorkshire and the passing of the fairs in the country, at which hundreds of animals were yearly bought to horse the coaches in various parts of the country. Later, in pre-motor days, the best carriage-horses were sold in large numbers at these same Yorkshire fairs; to buyers from all over the world. The horse fairs as they declined, were the swan song of the long ranges of stabling, which were an essential adjunct and integral part of every coaching inn. All this formed the last remaining links with the spacious, leisurely, picturesque coaching-days.

Picking up the mail

Picking up the mail

Major Fairfax-Blakeboroughsums up the illustrations nicely:

The beautifully executed illustrations in this book are marked by their accuracy in technique and detail — no easy achievement in view of the distinctive dress, horse, harness and so forth, which belonged to those days and to a great extent passed with them. Contemporary literature is pregnant with references to the particular care and pride those who played their part in the coaching era took with regard to all these details and how the young sons of patrician families, did not consider their education complete until they could tool a four-in-hand and dress the part with such meticulous exactness that they were mistaken for professional coachmen. The fascinating illustration on the succeeding pages emphasise more than any other of the previous volumes dealing with the epoch, the poetry and romance surrounding it and the important part the old posting houses plated in the life of the nation and as the very hub of their own immediate area.

coach Horse, Joseph Appleyard 1947

coach Horse, Joseph Appleyard 1947

The site also offers a short biography of the artist (1908-1960), and contains photographs, published works, sketches, drawings, book illustrations and newspaper articles of his life and career.

Joe Appleyard attended local evening classes at Leeds School of Art where his fondness of animals gave rise to his interest in Romany and Circus life. He worked full time in window display and general advertising, and painted the scenery of Airedale, Wharfedale and Washburn Valleys in his spare time. Appleyard first began showing his paintings at the Leeds City Art Gallery in 1934, and by 1947 had exhibited over two hundred different works. He co-founded Otley Arts Club, and today his sketchbooks are in a permanent collection at Leeds Art Gallery. His St Leger and racehorse portraits and studies are in a permanent collection at Doncaster Art Gallery.

A light post horse, Joseph Appleyard

A light post horse, Joseph Appleyard

Joe Appleyard, Self portrait, age 26

Joe Appleyard, Self portrait, age 26

David Appleyard writes about designing a website for his father:

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, has three large oil paintings on permanent display, now well restored to remove fifty years of nicotine. The nicotine would not have bothered Joe for he liked his Three Castles cigarettes and as his self-portrait shows political correctness was not an issue in those days! Some twelve years ago I tried to publish “Riding through the Ridings”. My efforts were unsuccessful and the project lay dormant until 1999 when I decided to “publish” it on the Internet. With access to Joe’s remarkably good records the site has grown and showcases more than 200 examples of his work as my tribute to a wonderful father and talented artist.

To see the rest of the illustrations and read the book, click on this link: Joseph Appleyard, Author or type http://www.josephappleyard.co.uk

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brighton westallBrighton as It Is 1836 has been posted electronically online. A fascinating tour guide, it offers many peeks into a world that is long gone. Most interesting is this page that lists the fares for hiring a sedan chair, bathing machine, pleasure boats, and carriages. One may also find the subscription to the reading room and circulating library. The book is only 108 pages long and a must read for those who are fascinated with Brighton during this period.

Rates for hiring public conveyances

Rates for hiring public conveyances

Update: Compared to the prices of hiring a guide (sedan) chair in Bath in 1806, there was very little difference:

Bath guide chairs, John Feltham, 1806

Bath guide chairs, John Feltham, 1806

Letter of the learned W. Clarke, selected from Nichols’ Anecdotes (p. 6-7):

“July 22, 1736

“We are now sunning ourselves upon the beach at Brighthelmstone, and observing what a tempting figure this island must have made formerly in the eyes of those gentlemen who were pleased to civilize and subdue us. The place is really pleasant; I have seen nothing in its way that outdoes it: such a tract of sea, such regions of corn, and such an extent of fine carpet, that gives your eye command of it all. – But then the mischief is, that we have little conversation besides the clamor nauticus, which is here a sort of treble to the splashing of the waves against the cliffs. My morning business is, bathing in the sea, and then buying fish; the evening is, riding out for air, viewing the remains of old Saxon camps, and counting the ships in the road, and the boats that are trawling. Sometimes we give the imagination leave to expatiate a little-fancy that you are coming down, and that we intend to dine one day next week at Dieppe, in Normandy; the price is already fixed, and the wine lodging there tolerably good. But though we build these castles in the air, I assure you we live here almost under ground. I fancy the architects here usually take the altitude of the Inhabitants, and lose not an inch between the head and the ceiling, and then dropping a step or two below the surface, the second story, is finished something under twelve feet. I suppose this was a necessary precaution against storms, that a man should not be blown out of his bed into New England, Barbary, or God knows where. But as the lodgings are low, they are cheap: `we have two parlours, two bed chambers, pantry ‘ &c. for five shillings per week: and if you really will come down’ you need not fear a bed of proper dimensions. And then the coast is safe, the cannons all covered with rust and grass, the ships moored no enemy apprehended. Come and see…

Bathing machine in Brighton, Vanity Fair

Bathing machine in Brighton, Vanity Fair

Also from the book (p. 8 )

Public attention was first directed to the spot by a treatise of Dr. Russell on the advantages of Sea-bathing, which he successfully recommended in scrophulous and glandular complaints. It was he, too, who caused the valuable chalybeate spring to the West of the town to be enclosed, prior to the erection of the present building. His successor, Dr. Rhellan, continued to add to the reputation of Brighton by publishing a Natural History of the town in 1761.

We now arrive at a period when the increasing popularity of the place was to receive a new stimulus from the presence of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George the Fourth. His first visit was in the summer of the year 1782, when the Prince resided with his Royal relatives, the late Duke and Duchess of Cumberland. He afterwards usually passed the summer and autumnal months at a mansion on the Steyne, then the property of the Lord of the Manor, which, after it had undergone several alterations, he finally purchased in 1814; and shortly after pulled it down to make room for the present Pavilion.

My other posts about Brighton, Transportation, and Seaside Resorts:

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The Dorrits in Venice

The Dorrits in Venice

In Little Dorrit, Mr. William Dorrit followed an age old tradition when he decided to take his family on a Grand Tour of the Continent in order to educate them and expose them to the sights and monuments that influenced Western Civilization. Through Mrs. General, he introduced lessons of deportment and elocution to his children. Amy, who was the least willing to leave, made sure that the Plornishes and Maggy were well-provided for before the family departed.

Pam Ferris as Mrs. General

Pam Ferris as Mrs. General

The Grand Tour took more than a year because transportation before the advent of the railway was slow. Itineraries varied, although Paris and Rome were favorite destinations. Before the Napoleonic Wars, young gentlemen were expected to go on a 1-2 year Grand Tour with a tutor. The results were often mixed. (Click on this link to read my post on the topic.) Some heirs returned with souvenirs and their heads stuffed with knowledge, and others frittered their time away, or worse, lost their fortune at the gaming tables. Travels to the Continent ceased during the Peninsular Wars, but picked up again as soon as Napoleon was defeated. As the 19th century progressed, more and more women began to travel abroad with their families and/or chaperones. The Grand Tour began to make inroads with the rising middle class, as well as with Americans, and survives to this day in the form of a “world tour,” with (typically) recent college graduates and retirees taking several months to a year traveling.

The Dorrits likely departed England from Dover and landed at Calais, the same route as today’s  Chunnel. In the early 19th century, the short voyage across the English Channel was fraught with danger. People risked seasickness or a shipwreck should a sudden storm appear. It took three days to make the journey from Dover to Paris.  Lodging would have been provided by inns along the way, hotels, friends of the family, or, as in the case of the Dorrits, a convent or monastery set up for the purpose of putting guests up for the night. It was at such a lodging that the Dorrits met Rigaud, who was traveling with the newly married Gowan and a concerned and downhearted Pet. Much to Amy’s distress, the Frenchman took an inordinate interest in her as well. As the Dorrits crossed the Swiss Alps towards Italy, Amy was seen to be the only member of the family to appreciate the natural wonders of her surroundings or to show genuine curiosity.

Map of a modern grand tour

Map of a modern grand tour

After the St. Bernard Pass, the Dorrits would have encountered Turin before journeying on to Venice.

Henry Gowan, William Dorrit, and Rigaud at their lodging

Henry Gowan, William Dorrit, and Rigaud at their lodging

It was traditional for Grand Tour visitors to remain for several months in a major destination city, as the Dorrits did in Venice. Visitors did not carry a great deal of cash, for fear of robbery, but brought letters of credit that they would present at the nearest bank. Unlike other cities in Western Europe, Venice had been an independent maritime state for over a thousand years. Its wealthy merchants had created a sumptuous city that was influenced culturally and artistically by the East. Saint Mark’s Basilica is one of the most recognizable and beautiful examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. The city’s watery setting also made it unique and unforgettable. In a letter written on a grand tour in 1932, the author reveals that little had changed in Venice in over a century, or indeed through today:

Journeying by gondola

Journeying by gondola

I suppose most people think that one cannot go anywhere in Venice except by gondola. That is not so at all. There are sidewalks and narrow streets and alleys that lead all over the city. The small canals from 15 to 40 feet wide are traversed by gondolas and sometimes small motorboats. The houses rise directly from the water’s edge in many cases. Thus along the Grand Canal the front steps lead right into the water where private or public gondolas are waiting — taxis, you know. Some of these palaces are very beautiful. Each has tall mooring posts, decorated with the family arms or gay stripesGrand Tour 1932

Mrs. Merdle and William Dorrit in Venice

Mrs. Merdle and William Dorrit in Venice

Spoiler Alert for those who have not read the book: William Dorrit was never able to escape the influence of 23 years in the Marshalsea, and on the evening of his death in Venice he imagined he was back in prison again. Of his children, only Amy remained humble and true to herself throughout the journey. Although it was evident that she deeply appreciated her beautiful surroundings, she never stopped missing England or the friends she had left behind.

Missed an episode on Masterpiece Classic? You can watch past episodes online until early May at this link.

Fanny visits the museum

Fanny visits the museum

More About the Grand Tour

My other Little Dorrit Reviews:

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Bianconi Coach

Bianconi Coach

Have you ever heard of Charles Bianconi? The Irish probably have: Bianconi revolutionized public transport in Ireland in the early 19th century. An immigrant in 1802 from Costa Masnaga, Italy, he founded a network of coaching routes  that covered Ireland from Belfast to Cork from a terminus that began at the Hearn Hotel in County Tipperary on July 6th in 1815. The first Bianconi carriage was a two-wheel horse drawn cart that carried three or four passengers.  The new venture, known as the  Bianconi Coach Service for private passengers,  made the 30-year-old immigrant the ” King” of the Irish roads.

Charles Bianconi

Charles Bianconi

Bianconi quickly expanded his fleet  to 900 horses and  67 coaches.

Travel on one of these “Bians” as they were to become known, cost one-penny farthing a mile. Such demand was there for his transport that over the next 30 years a huge network of communications were established, with Clonmel, Co Tipperary as its hub. Huge employment was also now created from this growing transport business. The year 1833 saw the “long car” go into production from his coach building premises in Clonmel which enabled him to carry up to twenty passengers, plus cargo and mail deliveries for both  British and Irish Post Offices. Here in Thurles, his depot was situated in O`Shea`s Hotel which today trades as McLoughneys, a ladies clothing boutique. The stables where he fed and changed his horses between journeys still exists, relatively unchanged, to this very day and  are situated at the rear of Ryan’s Jewellers shop, Liberty Square, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.The advent of railway in 1834 brought home to Bianconi the realisation that his coaching business had now only a limited future. He immediately began to buy shares in the different rail lines as they were being built. He began to sell his coaches and long carts to his employees who had worked for him. – Thurles Information

Bianconi Coaches in front of the Hearn Inn

Bianconi Coaches in front of the Hearn Hotel

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