Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Regency Public Transportation

It seems hard to imagine a world where there are no buses, or trains or planes, doesn’t it? A trip from England to North America could take a very long time on a sail ship. A trip from London to Dover, a scant 50 miles, just over a hundred clicks to you Canadians and Europeans, took all day by carriage. I can recall in my teens popping down to Dover and back from the outskirts of London for a meal of Dover sole.

It also took a good few days to get to Gretna Green in Scotland, in case any of you were thinking of eloping, apparently the roads were very bad. You can read a little about this in my novel "No Regrets" coming out in November.

So the rich people had those gorgeous carriages we looked at on Monday, but what about the regular folk, the farmers and business men, the maids going home to visit their families. Well there were several kinds of vehicles.

The mail coach was one way to get around. They did not take a great many passengers. Their job was to deliver the mail. But they did have room for inside and on top and they were really the fastest mode of public transport because they had set routs, set times for arrival and departure and they did not have to stop at the toll gates, if you remember from Monday.

Mail coaches were painted maroon below and black above with red wheels and undercarriage. The royal arms appear on the door and the royal monogram is on each side below the driver’s box. The stars of the senior orders of chivalry (#159) were painted on the four upper quarters, garter, thistle, bath, and St. Patrick. The mail locker carried the route designation on the back, with the coach number on either side. Mail coaches carried at most seven passengers – four inside, one next to the coachman, and two on a roof bench just behind the coachman. The passengers’ limited luggage was stored in the compartment below the driver. The guard sat at the back (#160) in a single seat lined with bearskin for warmth. It was deliberately fastened to the coach with iron rods that transmit every bump and sway, so no guard would become so comfortable that he fell asleep.

There were also private companies that ran stagecoaches. These were also quite efficient by the Regency, when the roads were in a much better state of repair than they had been in earlier Georgian times. It was collecting money at the tollgates that made this possible. Stage coaches also kept to schedule, though they moved slower than the mail, in part because they had to stop at every tollgate, in part because they were more heavily loaded than a mail coach, in part because they were extremely top-heavy and prone to overturning if they cornered too fast, but mostly because they usually stopped for the night – stages often had financial ties to coaching inns, so only express coaches ran at night. This stagecoach is going up a steep incline, so all the passengers have to get out and walk

However, these were only the main roads. There were still lots of cart-tracks and country lanes with ruts in the hot weather and muddy quagmires deep enough to swallow a carriage in the rainy weather. And once in a while there was snow to contend with. My story, Christmas Masquerade, involves a heroine stuck in the snow. I may have mentioned that before, but you know this blog is about me and I am a writer, so live with it. (that was me been Miss Snark for a sentence.)

Other forms of public transportation were hackney carriages, used only in Town and primarily in London. Of course, you could still call a sedan chair. This would have suited some of the older generation. Can you imagine having to carry people around in a box. Looks a bit too much like a coffin for me.

In the country, there were wagons on which you could buy a seat. Not very comfortable, but not very expensive either. This is a freight waggon in the snow. Look at the little lantern on the side. Great headlights!

Some people who lived on the coast might catch a ship to make their journey to England.

Well, I’ve run out of time, and we have only scratched the surface. But I hope you had fun on our Ramble.

Seen you Monday. I think I will do some timelines as an added bonus, but not sure about my theme. I will think about it on the weekend, unless you have a request. No promises, mind you. It depends what I have access to.