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392 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 01
The rich commonly travelled in their own riages, with at least four horses. Cotton, the : tious poet, attempted to go from London to the l with a single pair, but found at Saint Albans thaw journey would be insupportably tedious, and ali his plan.* A coach and six is in our time never i except as part of some pageant. The frequent 1 tion therefore of such equipages in old books is 11' to mislead us. We attribute to magnificence ' was really the effect of a very disagreeable neces People, in the time of Charles the Second, travi with six horses, because with a smaller number i was great danger of sticking fast in the mire. were even six horses always sufficient. Vanbr in the succeeding generation, described with g humour the way in which a country gentle] newly chosen a member of Parliament, went I London. On that occasion all the exertions o beasts, two of which had been taken from the plo could not save the family coach from being embel in a quagmire.
Public carriages had recently been much impr( SM, During the years which immediately Cmhe" lowed the Restoration, a diligence ran tween London and Oxford in two days. The sengers slept at Beaconsfield. At length, in spring of 1669, a great and daring innovation attempted. It was announced that a vehicle, scribed as the Flying Coach, would perform the w journey between sunrise and sunset. This spi: undertaking was solemnly considered and sancti' by the Heads of the University, and appears to : excited the same sort of interest which is exr in our own time by the opening of a new rail The Vicechancellor, by a notice affixed in all p1 places, prescribed the hour and place of departure. The success of the experiment was complete. At six in the morning the carriage began to move from before the ancient front of All Souls College; and at seven in the evening the adventurous gentlemen who had run the first risk were safely deposited at their inn in London.* The emulation of the sister University was moved; and soon a diligence was set up which in one day carried passengers from Cambridge to the capital. At the close of the reign of Charles the Second, flying carriages ran thrice a week from London to the chief towns. But no stage coach, in— deed no stage waggon, appears to have proceeded further north than York, or further west than Exeter. The ordinary day’s journey of a flying coach was about fifty miles in the summer; but in winter, when the ways were bad and the nights long, little more than thirty. The Chester coach, the York coach, and the Exeter coach generally reached London in four days during the fine season, but at Christmas not till the sixth day. The passengers, six in number, were all seated in the carriage. For accidents were so frequent that it would have been most perilous to mount the roof. The ordinary fare was about twopence halfpenny a. mile in summer, and somewhat more in winter.1'
This mode of travelling, which by Englishmen of the present day would be regarded as insufl'erably slow, seemed to our ancestors wonderfully and indeed alarmingly rapid. In a work published a few months before the death of Charles the Second, the flying coaches are extolled as far superior to any similar vehicles ever known in the world. Their velocity is the subject of special commendation, and
' Anthony a Wood‘s Life of of stage coaches and waggons himself. at the end of the book, entitled
1' Chamberlayne’s State of Anglia: Metropolis. 1690. England, 1684. See also the list
is triumphantly contrasted with the sluggi: the continental posts. But with boasts 1 was mingled the sound of complaint and The interests of large classes had been uni affected by the establishment of the new i and, as usual, many persons were, from 1 pidity and obstinacy, disposed to clamour a innovation, simply because it was an innov was vehemently argued that this mode of 0 would be fatal to the breed of horses a1 noble art of horsemanship; that the Than had long been an important nursery 01 would cease to be the chief thoroughfare i don up to Windsor and down to Graves saddlers and spurriers would be ruined by i that numerous inns, at which mounted had been in the habit of stopping, would be and would no longer pay any rent; that carriages were too hot in summer and to winter; that the passengers were grievousl; by invalids and crying children; that the co times reached the inn so late that it was i to get supper, and sometimes started so ea was impossible to get breakfast. On thes it was gravely recommended that no pul should be permitted to have more than fo to start oftener than once a week, or to go 1 thirty miles a day. It was hoped that, if lation were adopted, all except the sick and would return to the old mode of travellir tions embodying such opinions as these sented to the King in council from sever nies of the City of London, from several towns, and from the justices of several We smile at these things. It is not impo: our descendants, when they read the histi opposition ofl'ered by cupidity and prejud
improvements of the nineteenth century, may smile in their turn.* ~
In spite of the attractions of the flying coaches, it was still usual for men who enjoyed health and vigour, and who were not encumbered by much baggage, to perform long journeys on horseback. If the traveller wished to move expeditiously he rode post. Fresh saddle horses and guides were to be procured at convenient distances along all the great lines of road. The charge was threepence a mile for each horse, and fourpence a stage for the guide. In this manner, when the ways were good, it was possible to travel, for a considerable time, as rapidly as by any conveyance known in England, till vehicles were propelled by steam. There were as yet no post chaises; nor could those who rode in their own coaches ordinarily procure a change of horses. The King, however, and the great officers of state were able to command relays. Thus Charles commonly went in one day from Whitehall to Newmarket, a distance of about fifty-five miles through a level country; and this was thought by his subjects a proof of great activity. Evelyn performed the same journey in company with the Lord Treasurer Clifford. The coach was drawn by six horses, which were changed at Bishop Stortford and again at Chesterford. The travellers reached Newmarket at night. Such a mode of conveyance seems to have been considered as a rare luxury confined to princes and ministersT ' '
" John Cresset’s Reasons for suppressing Stage Coaches, 1672. These reasons were afterwards inserted in a tract, entitled "‘The Grand Concern of England explained, 1673.” Cresset’s attack on stage coaches called forth
some answers which I have consuited.
1' Chamberlayne’s State of England, £684. North’s Examen, 105. ; Evelyn’s Diary, Oct. 9, [0. 1671.
Whatever might be the way in which a journey was performed, the travellers, unless they were numerous and well armed, ran considerable risk of being stopped and plundered. The mounted highwayman, a marauder known to our generation only from books, was to be found on every main road. The waste tracts which lay on the great I’Outes near London were especially haunted by plunderers of this class. Hounslow Heath, on the great Western Road, and Finchley Common, on the great Northern Road, were perhaps the most celebrated of these spots. The Cambridge scholars trembled when they approached Epping Forest, even in broad daylight. Seamen who had just been paid off at Chatham were often compelled to deliver their purses on Gadshill, celebrated near a hundred years earlier by the greatest of poets as the scene of the depredations of Falstaff. The public authorities seem to have been often at a loss how to deal with the plunderers. At one time it was announced in the Gazette, that several persons, who were strongly suspected of being highwayrnen, but against whom there was not sufficient evidence, would be paraded at Newgate in riding dresses: their horses would also be shown; and all gentlemen who had been robbed were invited to inspect this singular exhibition. On another occasion a pardon was publicly offered to a robber if he would give up some rough diamonds, of immense value, which he had taken when he stopped the Harwich mail. A short time after appeared another proclamation, warning the innkeepers that the eye of the government was upon them. Their criminal connivance, it was affirmed, enabled banditti to infest the roads with impunity. That these suspicions were not without foundation, is proved by the dying speeches of some penitent robbers of that age, who appear to have received from