Fans of Jane Austen’s fiction are familiar with the rising middle class, successful and enterprising tradesmen, upward mobility through marriage, the fragility of life (especially for fishermen, sailors and child-bearing women), and the difficulties of road travel. All these topics are touched upon in a short biography of Mr. Edward Innes, a successful baker and property man.
In this image, Mr. Innes is dressed as a gentleman, and is followed by a companion, Mr. James Cooper. As his position rose in life, his sensibilities must have become quite delicate, for as he passes a woman carrying a basket, Mr. Innes shields his face and nose from the offending stench that must have emanated from her basket.
Mr. Innes, if this account is to be believed, was a nonpareil, covering the distance to London in his carriage at the unheard of speed of 50 miles per day.
The progenitors of Mr Innes were farmers in the neighbourhood of Glencorse, but his father was a baker, and had his shop at one time at the head of the Fleshmarket Close. Latterly, the shop having been let without his knowledge to a higher bidder, he removed to his son’s property situated betwixt Marling and Niddfy’s Wynds. In his younger years, the old man was usually styled the handsome baker from his exquisite symmetry, and he was not less fortunate in his choice of a pretty woman for his wife. Isabella, or Bell Gordon, had been married to the captain of a vessel, who was drowned at sea only a few weeks after. The young widow then only in her eighteenth year, happening to be on a visit at the house of her brother in law, Mr Syme ,ship builder, Leith; the handsome baker was introduced to her acquaintance, and the result was a speedy union. Besides a daughter by her first husband, Mrs Innes had eight children, of whom the subject of our notice was the second eldest.
Mr Edward Innes, after serving his apprenticeship with his father, commenced as a baker on his own account in the High Street. In addition to his good fortune in business, he acquired considerable property by his wife, a Miss Wright of Edinburgh, by whom he had several children. Mr Innes kept a horse and gig, an equipage rather unusual for a tradesman in his day; and what was considered remarkable at that time, he drove to London on one occasion, accompanied by his wife, in eight days, a distance averaging fifty miles a day. The circumstance was much talked o,f and taking into account the then state of the roads, the performance was really one of no ordinary magnitude. – A series of original portraits and caricature etchings, Volume 2, Part 2 (Google eBook), John Kay, 1838, p 284.
Note: Considering the poor road conditions of the day, carriage horses averaged from 2-4 miles per hour; at breakneck speed, they could achieve a remarkable 6 miles per hour, but horses that pulled a carriage could keep up this pace for only a short distance. Thus Mr. Innes and his wife spent long hours on the road (10-12 per day) and had their horses frequently changed at stops along the way.
Other posts on this topic:
- Travel During the Regency Period
- Snow Sports and Winter Transportation in the Regency era
- The Postal Service in 18th Century Britain: Post Roads and Post Boys
- Coach Travel in the 19th Century: Bianconi Coaches in Ireland
- 18th Century Road and Coach Improvements
- Mrs. Smith, A Portrait of a Regency Woman from the Rising Merchant Class …