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The Life of Thomas Telford
Chapter II. Early Modes of Conveyance


Such being the ancient state of the roads, the only practicable modes of travelling were on foot and on horseback. The poor walked and the rich rode. Kings rode and Queens rode. Judges rode circuit in jack-boots. Gentlemen rode and robbers rode. The Bar sometimes walked and sometimes rode. Chaucer's ride to Canterbury will be remembered as long as the English language lasts. Hooker rode to London on a hard-paced nag, that he might be in time to preach his first sermon at St. Paul's. Ladies rode on pillions, holding on by the gentleman or the serving-man mounted before.

Shakespeare incidentally describes the ancient style of travelling among the humbler classes in his 'Henry IV.'*[1]

The Party, afterwards set upon by Falstaff and his companions, bound from Rochester to London, were up by two in the morning, expecting to perform the journey of thirty miles by close of day, and to get to town "in time to go to bed with a candle." Two are carriers, one of whom has "a gammon of bacon and two razes of ginger, to be delivered as far as Charing Cross;" the other has his panniers full of turkeys. There is also a franklin of Kent, and another, "a kind of auditor," probably a tax-collector, with several more, forming in all a company of eight or ten, who travel together for mutual protection. Their robbery on Gad's Hill, as painted by Shakespeare, is but a picture, by no means exaggerated, of the adventures and dangers of the road at the time of which he wrote.

Distinguished personages sometimes rode in horse-litters; but riding on horseback was generally preferred. Queen Elizabeth made most of her journeys in this way,*[2] and when she went into the City she rode on a pillion behind her Lord Chancellor. The Queen, however, was at length provided with a coach, which must have been a very remarkable machine. This royal vehicle is said to have been one of the first coaches used in England, and it was introduced by the Queen's own coachman, one Boomen, a Dutchman. It was little better than a cart without springs, the body resting solid upon the axles. Taking the bad roads and ill-paved streets into account, it must have been an excessively painful means of conveyance. At one of the first audiences which the Queen gave to the French ambassador in 1568, she feelingly described to him "the aching pains she was suffering in consequence of having been knocked about in a coach which had been driven a little too fast, only a few days before."*[3]

Such coaches were at first only used on state occasions. The roads, even in the immediate neighbourhood of London, were so bad and so narrow that the vehicles could not be taken into the country. But, as the roads became improved, the fashion of using them spread. When the aristocracy removed from the City to the western parts of the metropolis, they could be better accommodated, and in course of time they became gradually adopted. They were still, however, neither more nor less than waggons, and, indeed, were called by that name; but wherever they went they excited great wonder. It is related of "that valyant knyght Sir Harry Sidney," that on a certain day in the year 1583 he entered Shrewsbury in his waggon, "with his Trompeter blowynge, verey joyfull to behold and see."*[4]

From this time the use of coaches gradually spread, more particularly amongst the nobility, superseding the horse-litters which had till then been used for the conveyance of ladies and others unable to bear the fatigue of riding on horseback. The first carriages were heavy and lumbering: and upon the execrable roads of the time they went pitching over the stones and into the ruts, with the pole dipping and rising like a ship in a rolling sea. That they had no springs, is clear enough from the statement of Taylor, the water-poet--who deplored the introduction of carriages as a national calamity--that in the paved streets of London men and women were "tossed, tumbled, rumbled, and jumbled about in them." Although the road from London to Dover, along the old Roman Watling-street, was then one of the best in England, the French household of Queen Henrietta, when they were sent forth from the palace of Charles I., occupied four tedious days before they reached Dover.

But it was only a few of the main roads leading from the metropolis that were practicable for coaches; and on the occasion of a royal progress, or the visit of a lord-lieutenant, there was a general turn out of labourers and masons to mend the ways and render the bridges at least temporarily secure. Of one of Queen Elizabeth's journeys it is said:-- "It was marvellous for ease and expedition, for such is the perfect evenness of the new highway that Her Majesty left the coach only once, while the hinds and the folk of a base sort lifted it on with their poles."

Sussex long continued impracticable for coach travelling at certain seasons. As late as 1708, Prince George of Denmark had the greatest difficulty in making his way to Petworth to meet Charles VI. of Spain. "The last nine miles of the way," says the reporter, "cost us six hours to conquer them." One of the couriers in attendance complained that during fourteen hours he never once alighted, except when the coach overturned, or stuck in the mud.

When the judges, usually old men and bad riders, took to going the circuit in their coaches, juries were often kept waiting until their lordships could be dug out of a bog or hauled out of a slough by the aid of plough-horses. In the seventeenth century, scarcely a Quarter Session passed without presentments from the grand jury against certain districts on account of the bad state of the roads, and many were the fines which the judges imposed upon them as a set-off against their bruises and other damages while on circuit.

For a long time the roads continued barely practicable for wheeled vehicles of the rudest sort, though Fynes Morison (writing in the time of James I.) gives an account of "carryers, who have long covered waggons, in which they carry passengers from place to place; but this kind of journeying," he says, "is so tedious, by reason they must take waggon very early and come very late to their innes, that none but women and people of inferior condition travel in this sort."


The Old Stage Waggon.

The waggons of which Morison wrote, made only from ten to fifteen miles in a long summer's day; that is, supposing them not to have broken down by pitching over the boulders laid along the road, or stuck fast in a quagmire, when they had to wait for the arrival of the next team of horses to help to drag them out. The waggon, however, continued to be adopted as a popular mode of travelling until late in the eighteenth century; and Hogarth's picture illustrating the practice will be remembered, of the cassocked parson on his lean horse, attending his daughter newly alighted from the York waggon.

A curious description of the state of the Great North Road, in the time of Charles II., is to be found in a tract published in 1675 by Thomas Mace, one of the clerks of Trinity College, Cambridge. The writer there addressed himself to the King, partly in prose and partly in verse; complaining greatly of the "wayes, which are so grossly foul and bad;" and suggesting various remedies. He pointed out that much ground "is now spoiled and trampled down in all wide roads, where coaches and carts take liberty to pick and chuse for their best advantages; besides, such sprawling and straggling of coaches and carts utterly confound the road in all wide places, so that it is not only unpleasurable, but extreme perplexin and cumbersome both to themselves and all horse travellers." It would thus appear that the country on either side of the road was as yet entirely unenclosed.

But Mace's principal complaint was of the "innumerable controversies, quarrellings, and disturbances" caused by the packhorse-men, in their struggles as to which convoy should pass along the cleaner parts of the road. From what he states, it would seem that these "disturbances, daily committed by uncivil, refractory, and rude Russian-like rake-shames, in contesting for the way, too often proved mortal, and certainly were of very bad consequences to many." He recommended a quick and prompt punishment in all such cases. "No man," said he, "should be pestered by giving the way (sometimes) to hundreds of pack-horses, panniers, whifflers (i.e. paltry fellows), coaches, waggons, wains, carts, or whatsoever others, which continually are very grievous to weary and loaden travellers; but more especially near the city and upon a market day, when, a man having travelled a long and tedious journey, his horse well nigh spent, shall sometimes be compelled to cross out of his way twenty times in one mile's riding, by the irregularity and peevish crossness of such-like whifflers and market women; yea, although their panniers be clearly empty, they will stoutly contend for the way with weary travellers, be they never so many, or almost of what quality soever." "Nay," said he further, "I have often known many travellers, and myself very often, to have been necessitated to stand stock still behind a standing cart or waggon, on most beastly and unsufferable deep wet wayes, to the great endangering of our horses, and neglect of important business: nor durst we adventure to stirr (for most imminent danger of those deep rutts, and unreasonable ridges) till it has pleased Mister Garter to jog on, which we have taken very kindly."

Mr. Mace's plan of road reform was not extravagant. He mainly urged that only two good tracks should be maintained, and the road be not allowed to spread out into as many as half-a-dozen very bad ones, presenting high ridges and deep ruts, full of big stones, and many quagmires. Breaking out into verse, he said --

"First let the wayes be regularly brought
To artificial form, and truly wrought;
So that we can suppose them firmly mended,
And in all parts the work well ended,
That not a stone's amiss; but all compleat,
All lying smooth, round, firm, and wondrous neat."

After a good deal more in the same strain, he concluded--

"There's only one thing yet worth thinking on
which is, to put this work in execution."*[5]

But we shall find that more than a hundred years passed before the roads throughout England were placed in a more satisfactory state than they were in the time of Mr. Mace.

The introduction of stage-coaches about the middle of the seventeenth century formed a new era in the history of travelling by road. At first they were only a better sort of waggon, and confined to the more practicable highways near London. Their pace did not exceed four miles an hour, and the jolting of the unfortunate passengers conveyed in them must have been very hard to bear. It used to be said of their drivers that they were "seldom sober, never Civil, and always late."

The first mention of coaches for public accommodation is made by Sir William Dugdale in his Diary, from which it appears that a Coventry coach was on the road in 1659. But probably the first coaches, or rather waggons, were run between London and Dover, as one of the most practicable routes for the purpose. M. Sobriere, a French man of letters, who landed at Dover on his way to London in the time of Charles II., alludes to the existence of a stagecoach, but it seems to have had no charms for him, as the following passage will show: "That I might not," he says, "take post or be obliged to use the stage-coach, I went from Dover to London in a waggon. I was drawn by six horses, one before another, and driven by a waggoner, who walked by the side of it. He was clothed in black, and appointed in all things like another St. George. He had a brave montrero on his head and was a merry fellow, fancied he made a figure, and seemed mightily pleased with himself."

Shortly after, coaches seem to have been running as far north as Preston in Lancashire, as appears by a letter from one Edward Parker to his father, dated November, 1663, in which he says, "I got to London on Saturday last; but my journey was noe ways pleasant, being forced to ride in the boote all the waye. Ye company yt came up with mee were persons of greate quality, as knights and ladyes. My journey's expense was 30s. This traval hath soe indisposed mee, yt I am resolved never to ride up againe in ye coatch."*[6]

These vehicles must, however, have considerably increased, as we find a popular agitation was got up against them. The Londoners nicknamed them "hell-carts;" pamphlets were written recommending their abolition; and attempts were even made to have them suppressed by Act of Parliament.

Thoresby occasionally alludes to stage-coaches in his Diary, speaking of one that ran between Hull and York in 1679, from which latter place he had to proceed by Leeds in the usual way on horseback. This Hull vehicle did not run in winter, because of the state of the roads; stagecoaches being usually laid up in that season like ships during Arctic frosts.*[7]

Afterwards, when a coach was put on between York and Leeds, it performed the journey of twenty-four miles in eight hours;*[8] but the road was so bad and dangerous that the travellers were accustomed to get out and walk the greater part of the way.

Thoresby often waxes eloquent upon the subject of his manifold deliverances from the dangers of travelling by coach. He was especially thankful when he had passed the ferry over the Trent in journeying between Leeds and London, having on several occasions narrowly escaped drowning there. Once, on his journey to London, some showers fell, which "raised the washes upon the road near Ware to that height that passengers from London that were upon that road swam, and a poor higgler was drowned, which prevented me travelling for many hours; yet towards evening we adventured with some country people, who conducted us over the meadows, whereby we missed the deepest of the Wash at Cheshunt, though we rode to the saddle-skirts for a considerable way, but got safe to Waltham Cross, where we lodged."*[9] On another occasion Thoresby was detained four days at Stamford by the state of the roads, and was only extricated from his position by a company of fourteen members of the House of Commons travelling towards London, who took him into their convoy, and set out on their way southward attended by competent guides. When the "waters were out," as the saying went, the country became closed, the roads being simply impassable. During the Civil Wars eight hundred horse were taken prisoners while sticking in the mud.*[10] When rain fell, pedestrians, horsemen, and coaches alike came to a standstill until the roads dried again and enabled the wayfarers to proceed. Thus we read of two travellers stopped by the rains within a few miles of Oxford, who found it impossible to accomplish their journey in consequence of the waters that covered the country thereabout.

A curious account has been preserved of the journey of an Irish Viceroy across North Wales towards Dublin in 1685. The roads were so horrible that instead of the Viceroy being borne along in his coach, the coach itself had to be borne after him the greater part of the way. He was five hours in travelling between St. Asaph and Conway, a distance of only fourteen miles. Between Conway and Beaumaris he was forced to walk, while his wife was borne along in a litter. The carriages were usually taken to pieces at Conway and carried on the shoulders of stout Welsh peasants to be embarked at the Straits of Menai.

The introduction of stage-coaches, like every other public improvement, was at first regarded with prejudice, and had considerable obloquy to encounter. In a curious book published in 1673, entitled 'The Grand Concern of England Explained in several Proposals to Parliament,'*[11] stagecoaches and caravans were denounced as among the greatest evils that had happened to the kingdom, Being alike mischievous to the public, destructive to trade, and prejudicial to the landed interest. It was alleged that travelling by coach was calculated to destroy the breed of horses, and make men careless of good horsemanship,--that it hindered the training of watermen and seamen, and interfered with the public resources. The reasons given are curious. It was said that those who were accustomed to travel in coaches became weary and listless when they rode a few miles, and were unwilling to get on horseback --"not being able to endure frost, snow, or rain, or to lodge in the fields;" that to save their clothes and keep themselves clean and dry, people rode in coaches, and thus contracted an idle habit of body; that this was ruinous to trade, for that "most gentlemen, before they travelled in coaches, used to ride with swords, belts, pistols, holsters, portmanteaus, and hat-cases, which, in these coaches, they have little or no occasion for: for, when they rode on horseback, they rode in one suit and carried another to wear when they camp to their journey's end, or lay by the way; but in coaches a silk suit and an Indian gown, with a sash, silk stockings, and beaver-hats, men ride in, and carry no other with them, because they escape the wet and dirt, which on horseback they cannot avoid; whereas, in two or three journeys on horseback, these clothes and hats were wont to be spoiled; which done, they were forced to have new very often, and that increased the consumption of the manufactures and the employment of the manufacturers; which travelling in coaches doth in no way do."*[12] The writer of the same protest against coaches gives some idea of the extent of travelling by them in those days; for to show the gigantic nature of the evil he was contending against, he averred that between London and the three principal towns of York, Chester, and Exeter, not fewer than eighteen persons, making the journey in five days, travelled by them weekly the coaches running thrice in the week), and a like number back; "which come, in the whole, to eighteen hundred and seventy-two in the year." Another great nuisance, the writer alleged, which flowed from the establishment of the stage-coaches, was, that not only did the gentlemen from the country come to London in them oftener than they need, but their ladies either came with them or quickly followed them. "And when they are there they must be in the mode, have all the new fashions, buy all their clothes there, and go to plays, balls, and treats, where they get such a habit of jollity and a love to gaiety and pleasure, that nothing afterwards in the country will serve them , if ever they should fix their minds to live there again; but they must have all from London, whatever it costs."

Then there were the grievous discomforts of stage-coach travelling, to be set against the more noble method of travelling by horseback, as of yore. "What advantage is it to men's health," says the writer, waxing wroth, "to be called out of their beds into these coaches, an hour before day in the morning; to be hurried in them from place to place, till one hour, two, or three within night; insomuch that, after sitting all day in the summer-time stifled with heat and choked with dust, or in the winter-time starving and freezing with cold or choked with filthy fogs, they are often brought into their inns by torchlight, when it is too late to sit up to get a supper; and next morning they are forced into the coach so early that they can get no breakfast? What addition is this to men's health or business to ride all day with strangers, oftentimes sick, antient, diseased persons, or young children crying; to whose humours they are obliged to be subject, forced to bear with, and many times are poisoned with their nasty scents and crippled by the crowd of boxes and bundles? Is it for a man's health to travel with tired jades, to be laid fast in the foul ways and forced to wade up to the knees in mire; afterwards sit in the cold till teams of horses can be sent to pull the coach out? Is it for their health to travel in rotten coaches and to have their tackle, perch, or axle-tree broken, and then to wait three or four hours (sometimes half a day) to have them mended, and then to travel all night to make good their stage? Is it for a man's pleasure, or advantageous to his health and business, to travel with a mixed company that he knows not how to converse with; to be affronted by the rudeness of a surly, dogged, cursing, ill-natured coachman; necessitated to lodge or bait at the worst inn on the road, where there is no accommodation fit for gentlemen; and this merely because the owners of the inns and the coachmen are agreed together to cheat the guests?" Hence the writer loudly called for the immediate suppression of stagecoaches as a great nuisance and crying evil.

Travelling by coach was in early times a very deliberate affair. Time was of less consequence than safety, and coaches were advertised to start "God willing," and "about" such and such an hour "as shall seem good" to the majority of the passengers. The difference of a day in the journey from London to York was a small matter, and Thoresby was even accustomed to leave the coach and go in search of fossil shells in the fields on either side the road while making the journey between the two places. The long coach "put up" at sun-down, and "slept on the road." Whether the coach was to proceed or to stop at some favourite inn, was determined by the vote of the passengers, who usually appointed a chairman at the beginning of the journey.

In 1700, York was a week distant from London, and Tunbridge Wells, now reached in an hour, was two days. Salisbury and Oxford were also each a two days journey, Dover was three days, and Exeter five. The Fly coach from London to Exeter slept at the latter place the fifth night from town; the coach proceeding next morning to Axminster, where it breakfasted, and there a woman Barber "shaved the coach."*[13]

Between London and Edinburgh, as late as 1763, a fortnight was consumed, the coach only starting once a month.*[14] The risk of breaks-down in driving over the execrable roads may be inferred from the circumstance that every coach carried with it a box of carpenter's tools, and the hatchets were occasionally used in lopping off the branches of trees overhanging the road and obstructing the travellers' progress.

Some fastidious persons, disliking the slow travelling, as well as the promiscuous company which they ran the risk of encountering in the stage, were accustomed to advertise for partners in a postchaise, to share the charges and lessen the dangers of the road; and, indeed, to a sensitive person anything must have been preferable to the misery of travelling by the Canterbury stage, as thus described by a contemporary writer:--

"On both sides squeez'd, how highly was I blest, Between two plump old women to be presst! A corp'ral fierce, a nurse, a child that cry'd, And a fat landlord, filled the other side. Scarce dawns the morning ere the cumbrous load Boils roughly rumbling o'er the rugged road: One old wife coughs and wheezes in my ears, Loud scolds the other, and the soldier swears; Sour unconcocted breath escapes 'mine host,' The sick'ning child returns his milk and toast!"

When Samuel Johnson was taken by his mother to London in 1712, to have him touched by Queen Anne for "the evil," he relates,--

"We went in the stage-coach and returned in the waggon, as my mother said, because my cough was violent; but the hope of saving a few shillings was no slight motive.... She sewed two guineas in her petticoat lest she should be robbed.... We were troublesome to the passengers; but to suffer such inconveniences in the stage-coach was common in those days to parsons in much higher rank."

Mr. Pennant has left us the following account of his journey in the Chester stage to London in 1789-40: "The first day," says he, "with much labour, we got from Chester to Whitchurch, twenty miles; the second day to the 'Welsh Harp;' the third, to Coventry; the fourth, to Northampton; the fifth, to Dunstable; and, as a wondrous effort, on the last, to London, before the commencement of night. The strain and labour of six good horses, sometimes eight, drew us through the sloughs of Mireden and many other places. We were constantly out two hours before day, and as late at night, and in the depth of winter proportionally later. The single gentlemen, then a hardy race, equipped in jackboots and trowsers, up to their middle, rode post through thick and thin, and, guarded against the mire, defied the frequent stumble and fall, arose and pursued their journey with alacrity; while, in these days, their enervated posterity sleep away their rapid journeys in easy chaises, fitted for the conveyance of the soft inhabitants of Sybaris."

No wonder, therefore, that a great deal of the travelling of the country continued to be performed on horseback, this being by far the pleasantest as well as most expeditious mode of journeying. On his marriage-day, Dr. Johnson rode from Birmingham to Derby with his Tetty, taking the opportunity of the journey to give his bride her first lesson in marital discipline. At a later period James Watt rode from Glasgow to London, when proceeding thither to learn the art of mathematical instrument making.

And it was a cheap and pleasant method of travelling when the weather was fine. The usual practice was, to buy a horse at the beginning of such a journey, and to sell the animal at the end of it. Dr. Skene, of Aberdeen, travelled from London to Edinburgh in 1753, being nineteen days on the road, the whole expenses of the journey amounting to only four guineas. The mare on which he rode, cost him eight guineas in London, and he sold her for the same price on his arrival in Edinburgh.

Nearly all the commercial gentlemen rode their own horses, carrying their samples and luggage in two bags at the saddle-bow; and hence their appellation of Riders or Bagmen. For safety's sake, they usually journeyed in company; for the dangers of travelling were not confined merely to the ruggedness of the roads. The highways were infested by troops of robbers and vagabonds who lived by plunder. Turpin and Bradshaw beset the Great North Road; Duval, Macheath, Maclean, and hundreds of notorious highwaymen infested Hounslow Heath, Finchley Common, Shooter's Hill, and all the approaches to the metropolis. A very common sight then, was a gibbet erected by the roadside, with the skeleton of some malefactor hanging from it in chains; and " Hangman's-lanes" were especially numerous in the neighbourhood of London.*[15] It was considered most unsafe to travel after dark, and when the first "night coach" was started, the risk was thought too great, and it was not patronised.


The Night Coach

Travellers armed themselves on setting out upon a journey as if they were going to battle, and a blunderbuss was considered as indispensable for a coachman as a whip. Dorsetshire and Hampshire, like most other counties, were beset with gangs of highwaymen; and when the Grand Duke Cosmo set out from Dorchester to travel to London in 1669, he was "convoyed by a great many horse-soldiers belonging to the militia of the county, to secure him from robbers."*[16]

Thoresby, in his Diary, alludes with awe to his having passed safely "the great common where Sir Ralph Wharton slew the highwayman," and he also makes special mention of Stonegate Hole, "a notorious robbing place" near Grantham. Like every other traveller, that good man carried loaded pistols in his bags, and on one occasion he was thrown into great consternation near Topcliffe, in Yorkshire, on missing them, believing that they had been abstracted by some designing rogues at the inn where he had last slept.*[17] No wonder that, before setting out on a journey in those days, men were accustomed to make their wills.

When Mrs. Calderwood, of Coltness, travelled from Edinburgh to London in 1756, she relates in her Diary that she travelled in her own postchaise, attended by John Rattray, her stout serving man, on horseback, with pistols at his holsters, and a good broad sword by his side. The lady had also with her in the carriage a case of pistols, for use upon an emergency. Robberies were then of frequent occurrence in the neighbourhood of Bawtry, in Yorkshire; and one day a suspicious-looking character, whom they took to be a highwayman, made his appearance; but "John Rattray talking about powder and ball to the postboy, and showing his whanger, the fellow made off" Mrs. Calderwood started from Edinburgh on the 3rd of June, when the roads were dry and the weather was fine, and she reached London on the evening of the 10th, which was considered a rapid journey in those days.

The danger, however, from footpads and highwaymen was not greatest in remote country places, but in and about the metropolis itself. The proprietors of Bellsize House and gardens, in the Hampstead-road, then one of the principal places of amusement, had the way to London patrolled during the season by twelve "lusty fellows;" and Sadler's Wells, Vauxhall, and Ranelagh advertised similar advantages. Foot passengers proceeding towards Kensington and Paddington in the evening, would wait until a sufficiently numerous band had collected to set footpads at defiance, and then they started in company at known intervals, of which a bell gave due warning. Carriages were stopped in broad daylight in Hyde Park, and even in Piccadilly itself, and pistols presented at the breasts of fashionable people, who were called upon to deliver up their purses. Horace Walpole relates a number of curious instances of this sort, he himself having been robbed in broad day, with Lord Eglinton, Sir Thomas Robinson, Lady Albemarle, and many more. A curious robbery of the Portsmouth mail, in 1757, illustrates the imperfect postal communication of the period. The boy who carried the post had dismounted at Hammersmith, about three miles from Hyde Park Corner, and called for beer, when some thieves took the opportunity of cutting the mail-bag from off the horse's crupper and got away undiscovered!

The means adopted for the transport of merchandise were as tedious and difficult as those ordinarily employed for the conveyance of passengers. Corn and wool were sent to market on horses' backs,*[18] manure was carried to the fields in panniers, and fuel was conveyed from the moss or the forest in the same way. During the winter months, the markets were inaccessible; and while in some localities the supplies of food were distressingly deficient, in others the superabundance actually rotted from the impossibility of consuming it or of transporting it to places where it was needed. The little coal used in the southern counties was principally sea-borne, though pack-horses occasionally carried coal inland for the supply of the blacksmiths' forges. When Wollaton Hall was built by John of Padua for Sir Francis Willoughby in 1580, the stone was all brought on horses' backs from Ancaster, in Lincolnshire, thirty-five miles distant, and they loaded back with coal, which was taken in exchange for the stone.


The Pack-horse Convoy

The little trade which existed between one part of the kingdom and another was carried on by means of packhorses, along roads little better than bridle-paths. These horses travelled in lines, with the bales or panniers strapped across their backs. The foremost horse bore a bell or a collar of bells, and was hence called the "bell-horse." He was selected because of his sagacity; and by the tinkling of the bells he carried, the movements of his followers were regulated. The bells also gave notice of the approach of the convoy to those who might be advancing from the opposite direction. This was a matter of some importance, as in many parts of the path there was not room for two loaded horses to pass each other, and quarrels and fights between the drivers of the pack-horse trains were frequent as to which of the meeting convoys was to pass down into the dirt and allow the other to pass along the bridleway. The pack-horses not only carried merchandise but passengers, and at certain times scholars proceeding to and from Oxford and Cambridge. When Smollett went from Glasgow to London, he travelled partly on pack-horse, partly by waggon, and partly on foot; and the adventures which he described as having befallen Roderick Random are supposed to have been drawn in a great measure from his own experiences during; the journey.

A cross-country merchandise traffic gradually sprang up between the northern counties, since become pre-eminently the manufacturing districts of England; and long lines of pack-horses laden with bales of wool and cotton traversed the hill ranges which divide Yorkshire from Lancashire. Whitaker says that as late as 1753 the roads near Leeds consisted of a narrow hollow way little wider than a ditch, barely allowing of the passage of a vehicle drawn in a single line; this deep narrow road being flanked by an elevated causeway covered with flags or boulder stones. When travellers encountered each other on this narrow track, they often tried to wear out each other's patience rather than descend into the dirt alongside. The raw wool and bale goods of the district were nearly all carried along these flagged ways on the backs of single horses; and it is difficult to imagine the delay, the toil, and the perils by which the conduct of the traffic was attended. On horseback before daybreak and long after nightfall, these hardy sons of trade pursued their object with the spirit and intrepidity of foxhunters; and the boldest of their country neighbours had no reason to despise either their horsemanship or their courage.*[19] The Manchester trade was carried on in the same way. The chapmen used to keep gangs of pack-horses, which accompanied them to all the principal towns, bearing their goods in packs, which they sold to their customers, bringing back sheep's wool and other raw materials of manufacture.

The only records of this long-superseded mode of communication are now to be traced on the signboards of wayside public-houses. Many of the old roads still exist in Yorkshire and Lancashire; but all that remains of the former traffic is the pack-horse still painted on village sign-boards -- things as retentive of odd bygone facts as the picture-writing of the ancient Mexicans.*[20]

Footnotes for Chapter II.

*[1] King Henry the Fourth (Part I.), Act II. Scene 1.

*[2] Part of the riding road along which the Queen was accustomed to pass on horseback between her palaces at Greenwich and Eltham is still in existence, a little to the south of Morden College, Blackheath. It winds irregularly through the fields, broad in some places, and narrow in others. Probably it is very little different from what it was when used as a royal road. It is now very appropriately termed "Muddy Lane."

*[3] 'Depeches de La Mothe Fenelon,' 8vo., 1858. Vol. i. p. 27.

*[4] Nichols's ' Progresses,' vol. ii., 309.

*[5] The title of Mace's tract (British Museum) is "The Profit, Conveniency, and Pleasure for the whole nation: being a short rational Discourse lately presented to his Majesty concerning the Highways of England: their badness, the causes thereof, the reasons of these causes, the impossibility of ever having them well mended according to the old way of mending: but may most certainly be done, and for ever so maintained (according to this NEW WAY) substantially and with very much ease, &c., &c. Printed for the public good in the year 1675."

*[6] See Archaelogia, xx., pp. 443-76.

*[7] "4th May, 1714. Morning: we dined at Grantham, had the annual solemnity (this being the first time the coach passed the road in May), and the coachman and horses being decked with ribbons and flowers, the town music and young people in couples before us; we lodged at Stamford, a scurvy, dear town. 5th May: had other passengers, which, though females, were more chargeable with wine and brandy than the former part of the journey, wherein we had neither; but the next day we gave them leave to treat themselves." --Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. ii., 207.

*[8] "May 22, 1708. At York. Rose between three and four, the coach being hasted by Captain Crome (whose company we had) upon the Queen's business, that we got to Leeds by noon; blessed be God for mercies to me and my poor family."--Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. ii., 7.

*[9] Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. i.,295.

*[10] Waylen's 'Marlborough.'

*[11] Reprinted in the 'Harleian Miscellany,' vol. viii., p. 547. supposed to have been written by one John Gressot, of the Charterhouse.

*[12] There were other publications of the time as absurd (viewed by the light of the present day) as Gressot's. Thus, "A Country Tradesman," addressing the public in 1678, in a pamphlet entitled 'The Ancient Trades decayed, repaired again,--wherein are declared the several abuses that have utterly impaired all the ancient trades in the Kingdom,' urges that the chief cause of the evil had been the setting up of Stage-coaches some twenty years before. Besides the reasons for suppressing; them set forth in the treatise referred to in the text, he says, "Were it not' for them (the Stage-coaches), there would be more Wine, Beer, and Ale, drunk in the Inns than is now, which would be a means to augment the King's Custom and Excise. Furthermore they hinder the breed of horses in this kingdom [the same argument was used against Railways], because many would be necessitated to keep a good horse that keeps none now. Seeing, then, that there are few that are gainers by them, and that they are against the common and general good of the Nation, and are only a conveniency to some that have occasion to go to London, who might still have the same wages as before these coaches were in use, therefore there is good reason they should be suppressed. Not but that it may be lawful to hire a coach upon occasion, but that it should be unlawful only to keep a coach that should go long journeys constantly, from one stage or place to another, upon certain days of the week as they do now"-- p. 27.

*[13] Roberts's 'Social History of the Southern Counties,' p. 494. Little more than a century ago, we find the following advertisement of a Newcastle flying coach:-- "May 9, 1734.--A coach will set out towards the end of next week for London, or any place on the road. To be performed in nine days,--being three days sooner than any other coach that travels the road; for which purpose eight stout horses are stationed at proper distances."

*[14] In 1710 a Manchester manufacturer taking his family up to London, hired a coach for the whole way, which, in the then state of the roads, must have made it a journey of probably eight or ten days. And, in 1742, the system of travelling had so little improved, that a lady, wanting to come with her niece from Worcester to Manchester, wrote to a friend in the latter place to send her a hired coach, because the man knew the road, having brought from thence a family some time before."--Aikin's 'Manchester.'

*[15] Lord Campbell mentions the remarkable circumstance that Popham, afterwards Lord Chief Justice in the reign of Elizabeth, took to the road in early life, and robbed travellers on Gad's Hill. Highway robbery could not, however, have been considered a very ignominious pursuit at that time, as during Popham's youth a statute was made by which, on a first conviction for robbery, a peer of the realm or lord of parliament was entitled to have benefit of clergy, "though he cannot read!" What is still more extraordinary is, that Popham is supposed to have continued in his course as 'a highwayman even after he was called to the Bar. This seems to have been quite notorious, for when he was made Serjeant the wags reported that he served up some wine destined for an Alderman of London, which he had intercepted on its way from Southampton.--Aubrey, iii., 492.--Campbell's 'Chief Justices,' i., 210.

*[16] Travels of Cosmo the Third, Grand Duke of Tuscany,' p. 147.

*[17] "It is as common a custom, as a cunning policie in thieves, to place chamberlains in such great inns where cloathiers and graziers do lye; and by their large bribes to infect others, who were not of their own preferring; who noting your purses when you draw them, they'l gripe your cloak-bags, and feel the weight, and so inform the master thieves of what they think, and not those alone, but the Host himself is oft as base as they, if it be left in charge with them all night; he to his roaring guests either gives item, or shews the purse itself, who spend liberally, in hope of a speedie recruit." See 'A Brief yet Notable Discovery of Housebreakers,' &c., 1659. See also 'Street Robberies Considered; a Warning for Housekeepers,' 1676; 'Hanging not Punishment Enough,' 1701; &c.

*[18] The food of London was then principally brought to town in panniers. The population being comparatively small, the feeding of London was still practicable in this way; besides, the city always possessed the great advantage of the Thames, which secured a supply of food by sea. In 'The Grand Concern of England Explained,' it is stated that the hay, straw, beans, peas, and oats, used in London, were principally raised within a circuit of twenty miles of the metropolis; but large quantities were also brought from Henley-on-thames and other western parts, as well as from below Gravesend, by water; and many ships laden with beans came from Hull, and with oats from Lynn and Boston.

*[19] 'Loides and Elmete, by T.D. Whitaker, LL.D., 1816, p. 81. Notwithstanding its dangers, Dr. Whitaker seems to have been of opinion that the old mode of travelling was even safer than that which immediately followed it; "Under the old state of roads and manners," he says, "it was impossible that more than one death could happen at once; what, by any possibility, could take place analogous to a race betwixt two stage-coaches, in which the lives of thirty or forty distressed and helpless individuals are at the mercy of two intoxicated brutes?"

*[20] In the curious collection of old coins at the Guildhall there are several halfpenny tokens issued by the proprietors of inns bearing the sign of the pack-horse, Some of these would indicate that packhorses were kept for hire. We append a couple of illustrations of these curious old coins.


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