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Title: An Old Coachman's Chatter with some Practical Remarks on Driving
Author: Corbett, Edward
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected
without note. Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have
been retained as printed. Words printed in italics are noted with
underscores: _italics_.


    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.    M&N. Hanhart imp.
                   WYLE COP. SHREWSBURY. A MINUTE TO 12.]



AN OLD COACHMAN'S CHATTER

WITH SOME

Practical Remarks on Driving.

BY

A SEMI-PROFESSIONAL,

EDWARD CORBETT,

_Colonel late Shropshire Militia_.


_With Eight full-page Illustrations on Stone, by_

JOHN STURGESS.


LONDON:
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.

1890.

[_The right of Translation and all other rights reserved._]



TO

MY QUONDAM PASSENGERS

OF

DAYS GONE BY

I Venture to Dedicate this Volume,

THANKING THEM FOR THEIR FORMER SUPPORT

AND

HOPING FOR THEIR KIND PATRONAGE

OF

THIS LITTLE BOOK.



CONTENTS.

                                                                   PAGE

  INTRODUCTION                                                        1

  CHAPTER I.
  THE ROYAL MAILS                                                     9

  CHAPTER II.
  THE ROYAL MAILS (_continued_)                                      25

  CHAPTER III.
  ACCIDENTS                                                          48

  CHAPTER IV.
  COMBATING WITH SNOW, FOGS, AND FLOODS                              65

  CHAPTER V.
  NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN                                          75

  CHAPTER VI.
  HORSES                                                             80

  CHAPTER VII.
  THE ROADS                                                          96

  CHAPTER VIII.
  A SCIENTIFIC CHAPTER                                              104

  CHAPTER IX.
  A NOTE ON THE HORN                                                120

  CHAPTER X.
  THE HOLYHEAD ROAD                                                 125

  CHAPTER XI.
  THE BRIGHTON ROAD                                                 140

  CHAPTER XII.
  EARLY DAYS                                                        152

  CHAPTER XIII.
  OLD TIMES                                                         162

  CHAPTER XIV.
  COACHMEN: WHERE DID THEY COME FROM                                169

  CHAPTER XV.
  GUARDS                                                            186

  CHAPTER XVI.
  WHERE DID THEY ALL GO TO?                                         192

  CHAPTER XVII.
  SOME CHARACTERS                                                   196

  CHAPTER XVIII.
  MONOTONY                                                          205

  CHAPTER XIX.
  TANDEM                                                            209

  CHAPTER XX.
  THE CONVICT SHIP                                                  224

  CHAPTER XXI.
  DRIVING                                                           235

  CHAPTER XXII.
  DRIVING (_continued_)                                             253

  CHAPTER XXIII.
  THE END OF THE JOURNEY                                            278

  APPENDIX                                                      285-308



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

_ON STONE_

BY JOHN STURGESS.


   I. WYLE COP, SHREWSBURY, "A MINUTE BEFORE TWELVE"   _Frontispiece._

  II. HORSES IN A HEAP, LEADER DOWN, WHEELERS
      FALLING OVER HIM                           _to face page_    50

 III. WENT OVER BANK AND HEDGE                         "           52

  IV. OBSTRUCTION ON THE BRIDGE                        "          120

   V. GALLOPED THE FIVE MILE STAGE IN EIGHTEEN MINUTES "          130

  VI. EXTRA PAIR OF HORSES FOR FAST COACHES FOR
      STEEP ASCENTS                                    "          172

 VII. ONCE MORE RUNNING A STEEPLECHASE                 "          244

VIII. WE MET THE LOOSE HORSE TEARING DOWN THE HILL     "          246


_ON WOOD._

THE EXTRA COACH AT CHRISTMAS                           "          233


DIAGRAMS.

  I. A NEAT MEETING                                    "          248

 II. A MUFFISH MEETING                                 "          248

III. DOWN HILL                                         "          254

 IV. A SUDDEN EMERGENCY                                "          254

  V. THE TEAM EXTENDED                                 "          256

 VI. THE TEAM GATHERED                                 "          256



AN OLD COACHMAN'S CHATTER,

WITH SOME REMARKS ON DRIVING.



INTRODUCTION.


I think it is Dr. Johnson who has somewhere remarked, that "everyone
who writes a book should either help men to enjoy life or to endure
it."

Whether these few pages will have the former effect I know not, but if
they only help to dispel _ennui_ for an hour or two, they will not
have been written quite in vain, and, at any rate, I trust they will
not be found so unendurable as to be unceremoniously thrown out of the
railway carriage window, or behind the fire.

Though several books on the same subject have been already published,
I entertain a hope that this may not prove "one too many," as the
interest taken in coaching, so far from diminishing, would appear to
be increasing, judging by the number of coaches running out of London
and other places, some even facing the inclemency of winter in the
love for the road. The number of private drags also never was so
large. "Nimrod" put it at twenty to thirty in the early part of the
century. It must be nearly four times that now.

I have not the vanity to suppose that I can contribute anything more
racy or better told than much that has gone before, but having engaged
in coaching as a matter of business, and in partnership with business
men, when and where coaches were the only means of public travelling,
and having driven professionally for upwards of four years, I have had
the opportunity of looking behind the scenes, and have had experiences
which cannot have fallen to the lot of most gentlemen coachmen, and
certainly will fall to the lot of no others again.

I lay no claim to literary merit, nor will what I offer savour much of
the sensational or perhaps of novelty; but this I can say, that it is
all drawn from personal knowledge, and that, with the exception of one
old friend, who has had great experience on some of the best coaches
in England, I am indebted to no one for my facts, which has not been
the case in all which has been published, judging from some
inaccuracies I have met with. To mention only one, which, if
considered for a moment, is so improbable, not to say impossible, that
it surely must be a misprint.

In "Highways and Horses" we are told that the fare for one passenger
by mails was eight shillings outside and twelve inside for a hundred
miles. Why, this is less than Parliamentary trains! It would have been
impossible to have horsed coaches at such prices. The real rate was
from fourpence to fivepence per mile inside, and from twopence to
threepence outside for that distance. The highest fares were charged
by the mails and fast day coaches, the heavy night coaches having to
be content with the lower rate.

The reader will observe that I do not confine myself to what were
called, _par excellence_, "the palmy days of coaching," but have
brought it down to a period twenty years later, when the coaches,
though comparatively few, were still running in considerable numbers
in out-of-the-way districts, upon the old lines, and by those who had
learned their business in those palmy days. The pace was not generally
so great, judged by the number of miles to the hour, but, taking into
consideration the great inferiority of the roads, there was little or
no falling off. Indeed, I doubt whether over some roads, eight miles
an hour was not harder to accomplish than ten had been over the better
roads. Of course, as in earlier days, the work was unequally done,
sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes indifferent.

If these pages should happen to fall into the hands of any of the many
thousand passengers I have had the pleasure of driving, and on whom I
hope Father Time has laid benevolent hands, perhaps some of them may
recognize scenes which they themselves experienced; and to others
memory may bring back the recollection of happy wanderings, thereby
causing renewed pleasure. For, as the poet says:

    "When time, which steals our hours away,
      Shall steal our pleasures too,
    The memory of the past shall stay,
      And half our joys renew."

In the remarks on driving, I do not profess to have written a treatise
or to have by any means exhausted the subject--that, indeed, were hard
to do; a coachman should be always learning;--they are the result of
having carefully watched old and experienced hands, together with such
instructions as they gave me, followed up by long and continuous
practice. I know that some, whose opinions are entitled to the
greatest respect, hold different views upon some points; but, at any
rate, whether others agree with me or not, they will see, from the
examples I have given, that I have practical reasons for all that I
advance.

I should like to add that these pages were in MS. previously to the
publication of the seventh volume of the Badminton Library, and,
indeed, I have not yet had the pleasure of reading it; therefore, if I
have enunciated doctrines the same as are there given, I cannot be
accused of plagiarism. I have felt compelled to make this statement on
account of the very high authority of the writers in that book, and
when we agree, I shall experience the satisfaction of knowing that I
travel in good company.

I have been led on by my subject to spread my wings, and fly to
southern latitudes; indeed, I have ventured, like Mr. Cook, to take my
readers a personally-conducted tour round the world, I will not say
exactly in search of knowledge, though, to most, what I have
introduced them to must be an unknown world. So fast, indeed, has the
world travelled in the last half century, that it has now become
ancient history, indeed, sufficiently out of date to afford interest
to an antiquary.


"_Seated on the old mail-coach, we needed no evidence out of ourselves
to indicate the velocity. The vital experience of the glad animal
sensibilities made doubts impossible. We heard our speed, we saw it,
we felt it as a thrilling; and this speed was not the product of blind
insensate agencies that had no sympathy to give, but was incarnated in
the fiery eyeballs of the noblest among brutes, in his dilated
nostril, spasmodic muscles, and thunder-beating hoofs._"--DE QUINCEY.



AN

OLD COACHMAN'S CHATTER,

WITH SOME REMARKS ON DRIVING.



"GOING DOWN WITH VICTORY.

"_The absolute perfection of all the appointments, their strength,
their brilliant cleanliness, their beautiful simplicity, but more than
all the royal magnificence of the horses were, what might first have
fixed the attention. On any night the spectacle was beautiful. But the
night before us is a night of victory, and, behold, to the ordinary
display what a heart-shaking addition! Horses, men, carriages, all are
dressed in laurels and flowers, oak-leaves and ribbons. The guards as
officially His Majesty's servants, and such coachmen as are within the
privilege of the Post Office, wear the royal liveries of course, and
on this evening exposed to view without upper coats. Such costume, and
the laurels in their hats dilate their hearts by giving them a
personal connection with the great news. One heart, one pride, one
glory, connects every man by the transcendent bond of his national
blood. The spectators, numerous beyond precedent, express their
sympathy with these fervent feelings by continual hurrahs. Every
moment are shouted aloud by the Post-Office servants and summoned to
draw up the great ancestral names of cities known to history through a
thousand years--Lincoln, Winchester, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Oxford,
Bristol, Manchester, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth,
Stirling, Aberdeen--expressing the grandeur of the Empire by the
antiquity of its towns, and the grandeur of the mail establishment by
the diffusive radiation of its separate missions. Every moment you
hear the thunder of lids locked down upon the mail-bags. That sound to
each individual mail is the signal for drawing off which is the finest
part of the entire spectacle. Then come the horses into play. Horses!
can these be horses that bound off with the action and gestures of
leopards? What stir! what ferment! what a thundering of wheels! what a
trampling of hoofs! what a sounding of trumpets! what farewell cheers!
what peals of congratulation, connecting the name of the particular
mail, 'Liverpool for ever,' with the name of the particular Victory,
'Salamanca for ever,' The consciousness that all night long, and all
the next day, perhaps even longer, many of these mails like fire
racing along a train of gunpowder, will be kindling at every instant
new successions of burning joy, has an obscure effect of multiplying
the victory itself_"--THOMAS DE QUINCEY, _The English Mail-Coach_.



CHAPTER I.

THE ROYAL MAILS.


It is not within the scope of a book on coaching to go behind the time
when mail bags were conveyed on wheels, and the coaches became public
conveyances, carrying passengers as well as mail bags.

The first mail coach was put on the road between Bristol and London in
the year 1784, and it is worthy of remark that it was originated by a
man who had previously had no practical knowledge of either post
office or road work. In this respect, curiously enough, the same
remark applies to what became so very large a business in the Sister
Isle, as to be quite a national institution. In the former case Mr.
Palmer, to whose energy and perseverance the mail coach owed its
existence, was by profession a theatrical manager, whilst the
inaugurator of the Irish car business, which grew to such large
dimensions as to employ more than a thousand horses, was a pedlar,
neither of which businesses would appear to lead to horse and road
work.

Bianconi's cars involuntary bring to my mind a recipe given me many
years ago by one of his foremen for preventing crib-biting in horses.
It would hardly pass muster with the Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals, but he declared it was always effective if applied
in the first instance. It was to nip off a very small piece from the
tip of the horse's tongue. I never tried it, but can quite understand
why it was a cure, as horses almost invariably commence the vice by
licking the manger, and this process rendered the tongue so tender as
to put a summary end to this preliminary proceeding.

But this by the way. Before, however, carrying the history of the
mails further, I am tempted to introduce the reader to an account of a
highway robbery of mail bags, which occurred in Yorkshire in the year
1798, and which shows that the change in the way of conveying the
mails was not commenced before it was wanted.

The following letter from the Post-office in York, gives a full and
graphic account of the circumstance.

    "POST-OFFICE, YORK,

    _February 22nd, 1798_.

    "SIR,--I am sorry to acquaint you that the post-boy coming from
    Selby to this city, was robbed of his mail, between six and seven
    o'clock this evening. About three miles this side Selby, he was
    accosted by a man on foot with a gun in his hand, who asked him if
    he was the post-boy, and at the same time seizing hold of the
    bridle. Without waiting for any answer, he told the boy he must
    immediately unstrap the mail and give it to him, pointing the
    muzzle of the gun at him whilst he did it. When he had given up
    the mail, the boy begged he would not hurt him, to which the man
    replied, 'He need not be afraid,' and at the same time pulled the
    bridle from the horse's head. The horse immediately galloped off
    with the boy who had never dismounted. He was a stout man dressed
    in a drab jacket and had the appearance of a heckler. The boy was
    too much frightened to make any other remark upon his person, and
    says he was totally unknown to him.

    "The mail contained bags for Howden and London, Howden and York,
    and Selby and York. I have informed the surveyors of the robbery,
    and have forwarded handbills this night to be distributed in the
    country, and will take care to insert it in the first paper
    published here. Waiting your further instructions, I remain with
    respect, Sir,

    "Your Obliged and Obedient Humble Servant,

    "THOS. OLDFIELD."

Although two hundred pounds' reward was offered nothing more was ever
found out about this transaction for about eighty years, when the
missing bag was discovered in a very unexpected manner, which is so
well described in a notice contained in the _Daily Telegraph_
newspaper of August 24th, 1876, that I cannot do better than give
their account. After describing the nature of the robbery it goes on
to say, "So the matter rested for nearly eighty years, and it would
probably have been altogether forgotten but for a strange discovery
which was made a few days ago. As an old wayside public-house,
standing by the side of the high road near Selby, in a district known
as Churchhill, was being pulled down, the workmen found in the roof a
worn and rotten coat, a southwester hat, and a mail bag marked Selby.
This led to further search, and we are told that in digging fresh
foundations on the site of the old hostel, a large number of skeletons
were found, buried at a small distance beneath the surface. There can
be no doubt that in what were affectionately known as 'good old
times,' strange scenes occurred at road-side inns, especially on the
great roads running north and west from London. The highwaymen of
those days were a sort of local Robin Hood, and were only too often on
best of terms with the innkeepers. Nothing, indeed, is more likely
than for the relic of the highwayman's plunder to be brought to light
from out of the mouldering thatch of an old wayside inn. The
unearthing of the skeletons is a more serious matter, and looks as if
the Selby hostel had, as many old houses have, a dark history of its
own."

The existence of the skeletons was, however, accounted for by
archæologists in a more natural, if less sensational manner. They
arrived at the conclusion that the spot had been the site of a very
old Christian burial ground, whence called Churchhill; and this
opinion would appear to be borne out by the fact of the skeletons
having been encased in a very primitive sort of coffin, consisting of
nothing more than the trunk of a tree, which had been sawn asunder and
hollowed out to receive the body, the two halves being afterwards
closed together again. If they had been the victims of foul play, they
would probably have been buried without any coffins at all.

The old mail bag, after some dispute about ownership, came into the
possession of the Post-Office, and is to be seen in the library of
that establishment at the present time.

Like all other new inventions, the change in the manner of conveying
the mails was not without its adversaries, and among the different
objections raised one was that it would lead to bloodshed. These
objectors, who were, I suppose, the humanitarians of the day, grounded
their argument on the fact that the post-boys were so helplessly in
the power of the highwaymen, that they made no attempt to defend the
property in their charge, but only thought of saving their own lives
and limbs; and it is clearly shown by the case adduced that this is
what did happen upon such meetings, and small blame to the boys
either. But they went on to prophesy, which is not a safe thing to do.
They said that when the bags were in the charge of two men, coachman
and guard, well armed, they would be obliged to show fight, which
would lead to carnage. It was rather a Quaker sort of argument, but,
perhaps, it was "Friends" who employed it.

Possibly the change did not all at once put a stop to the attentions
of the gentlemen of the road, but as I have not found in the archives
at the General Post-Office--which are very complete--any records of an
attack upon the mail coaches, we may infer that none of any moment
did occur. At any rate, the scheme seems to have met with popular
approval, judging by two cuttings I have seen from newspapers of the
period, which I introduce as conveying the public opinion of the time.

The first is dated January 19th, 1784, and says, "Within these last few
days Ministers have had several meetings with the Postmaster-General,
Secretary, and other officers of the General Post-Office, on the
subject of the regulation of mails, which is to make a branch of the
Budget this year. It is proposed that instead of the mail-cart, there
shall be established carriages in the nature of stage coaches, in the
boot of which the mail shall be carried, and in the inside four
passengers. The advantages proposed from this regulation are various.
The passengers will defray the whole expense of the conveyance. The
progress of the post will be considerably quicker, as the coach is to
wait but a certain time in every place, and the time to be marked on
the messenger's express, that there be no intermediate delay. The
parcels which are now transmitted from one place to another by the
common stage coaches and diligences, to the injury of the revenue,
will by a restriction be confined to the mail coaches, and, indeed,
the public will prefer the security of the General Post-Office to that
of the private man; for the same reason of safety, persons will prefer
travelling in these carriages, as measures are to be taken to prevent
robbery. The plan is expected to produce a great deal of money, as
well as to afford facility and security to correspondence. It will
give a decisive blow to the common stages, and in so far will hurt the
late tax, but that loss will be amply recompensed. The plan is the
production of Mr. Palmer, manager of the Bath Theatre, and he has been
present at the conference on the subject."

The other cutting is of the same year, and says: "A scheme is on foot,
and will be put in execution on Monday se'ennight, to send by a post
coach from the Post-office at eight o'clock in the evening, letters
for Bath, Bristol, Bradford, Calne, Chippenham, Colnbrook, Devizes,
Henley, Hounslow, Maidenhead, Marlborough, Melksham, Nettlebed,
Newbury, Ramsbury, Reading, Trowbridge, Wallingford, and Windsor. The
coach is also to carry passengers."

As will be seen from these extracts the Post-office must have made a
very good bargain, as they only paid one penny a mile to the horse
contractors, which must have been considerably less than the cost of
the boys, carts, and horses. Who found the coaches is not stated, but,
in later years, though contracted for by the Post-office, they were
paid for by the coach proprietors. At any rate, the fares paid by the
passengers, of whom only four were carried, must have been very high,
for the coach had to pay to the exchequer a mileage duty of one penny,
thereby taking away all that was given by the Post-office for the
conveyance of the letters.

There are no records to show in what order of rotation the different
mail coaches came into existence; but I know that the one to
Shrewsbury commenced running in 1785, and many others must have been
put on the roads about that time, as I find that in 1786, no less than
twenty left London every evening, besides seven that were at work in
different parts of England. The work, however, appears to have, been
very imperfectly performed. The coaches must at first have been
cumbersome.

In the year 1786, the coach to Norwich, _viâ_ Newmarket, weighed 21
cwt. 2 qrs., and one to the same place, _viâ_ Colchester, weighed 18
cwt., which, however, must have been well constructed, as those
coaches were known to have carried as many as twenty-two passengers.
There was also what was called a caravan, or three-bodied coach, _via_
Ipswich, carrying twelve inside, weighing 21 cwt. 3 qrs., and is
stated to have followed the horses very well indeed.

In November, 1786, Bezant's patent coach was first submitted to the
post-office, and was first used on the coach roads in the spring of
1787. Previously the mail coaches were very heavy and badly
constructed, and made of such inferior materials that accidents were
general and of daily occurrence, so much so that the public became
afraid to venture their lives in them.

The general establishment of mail coaches took place in the spring of
1788. The terms on which Mr. Bezant, the patentee of the patent
coaches supplied then, was that he engaged to provide and keep them in
constant and thorough repair at two pence halfpenny the double mile.
At first, from want of system, these coaches were often sent on their
journeys without being greased, and generally even without being
washed and cleaned, with the result that seldom a day passed that a
coach wheel did not fire.

As the business became more and more matured, spare coaches were put
on the roads, so that each one on arriving in London should have two
complete days for repair. This increased the number of coaches to
nearly double. As each came into London it was sent to the factory at
Millbank, nearly five miles off, to be cleaned, greased, and examined,
for which the charge of one shilling was to be paid for each coach,
and this price included the drawing of the coach to Millbank and back.

Before this arrangement was made, it was nothing unusual for
passengers to be kept waiting for a couple of hours, whilst some
repairs were being done, which were only discovered to be necessary
just as the coach was about to start, and then the work was naturally
done in such a hasty manner that the coach started in far from good
condition.

The coach masters objected to this payment of one shilling for drawing
and cleaning, and stated that if it was enforced they would require
threepence per mile instead of one penny, which would have made a
difference of twenty thousand pounds a year to the post-office
revenue. In the end an agreement was made with the patentee, and the
post-office paid the bills.

In 1791, Mr. Bezant, who was an engineer from Henley-on-Thames, died,
and the business fell into the hands of Mr. Vidler, his partner, and
in the following year there were one hundred and twenty of those
coaches in use on the mail roads. Their weight was from 16 cwt. to 16
cwt. 2 qrs.

I have not been able to find any time-bills for this early stage of
the work, and do not, therefore, know at what pace the mail coaches
were expected to travel, but, judging from the rather unique
instruction issued to a guard in the year 1796, great pace on the road
was not desired. Perhaps, however, this omission is not important, as
the time of arrival at the journey's end must have depended very much
upon how many accidents were experienced on the road. It reminds me of
the coachman on the Dover road, who, on being asked by a passenger
what time he arrived in London, replied, "That the proper hour was six
o'clock, but that he had been every hour of the four-and-twenty after
it."

    INSTRUCTIONS TO A GUARD GIVEN IN 1796.

    "You remember you are to go down with the coach to Weymouth, and
    come up with the last Tuesday afternoon. Take care that they do
    not drive fast, make long stops or get drunk. I have told you this
    all before."

The following letter addressed in the same year to one of the horse
contractors throws some light upon the way in which the work was done.

    "Some time since, hearing that your harness was in a very unfit
    state to do duty, I sent you a set, as is the custom of the office
    to supply contractors whose harness and reins are bad, when they
    do not attend to the representatives of the office. The harness
    cost fourteen guineas, but, as they had been used a few times with
    the 'King's Royal,' Weymouth, you will only be charged twelve for
    them."

Who would have supposed that from so unpromising a beginning there
should have developed the most perfect system of road travelling which
the world has ever seen? Verily, it goes to prove the truth of the old
adage that "practice makes perfect."

This same year, on 11th May, the Liverpool and Hull mail coach was
stopped by a pressgang outside Liverpool. A rather serious affray took
place, but no mischief was done. The Mayor of Liverpool was
communicated with, and asked to give such instructions to the
lieutenant of the gang as would prevent any further molestation.
Probably, the pressgang saw some passengers on the mail which they
supposed to be seafaring men, but it goes to show that the relative
positions and rights of the different branches of His Majesty's
service were not well understood. However this might have been, it
appears that the guards and coachmen of the mails were capable of
exerting their rights of free passage along the road to, at least,
their full extent. In July, 1796, three gentlemen were riding on
horseback, when the Liverpool and Manchester mail coach came up behind
them. It would appear that they did not attempt to get out of the way,
whereupon the coachman is stated to have used his whip to one of them,
and the guard pulled another off his horse, and then brought out his
firearm, and threatened to shoot them. According to the guard's
statement the gentleman, without speaking a word, stopped the horses
of the coach by laying hold of the reins, and nearly overturned it.
The coachman flogged the gentleman and his horse; the guard got down
and begged them to be off, and when they were going to strike him he
threatened to shoot them, upon which they let them go. After a full
inquiry from passengers, etc., it was found that the guard's statement
was false, and he was instantly dismissed, as was also the coachman.

From the following instructions given in 1796, to a contractor, asking
how the coachman should act under certain circumstances, it appears
that passengers were apt to be very inconsiderate and difficult to
manage in those days, as they continued to be later on.

"Stick to your bill, and never mind what passengers say respecting
waiting over time. Is it not the fault of the landlord to keep them so
long? Some day, when you have waited a considerable time, say five or
eight minutes longer than is allowed by the bill, drive away and leave
them behind, only take care that you have a witness that you called
them out two or three times. Then let them get forward how they can."

This is much more consideration than was generally shown in later
years.

I was once driving a mail when I had a Yankee gentleman for one of the
outside passengers, who was disposed to give trouble in this way, and
after being nearly left behind once or twice, he told me that I was
bound to give him five minutes at every change of horses. I told him I
would not give him two if I could help it, and would leave him behind
as soon as look at him. I guess he was smarter in his movements for
the rest of the journey.

The following instructions, issued to the guards in the same year,
seem to point to their having delivered single letters as they passed
through the villages, but I certainly never saw such a thing done in
later years. In all the towns there were probably post-offices, though
such things were then few and far between, not as they are now, in
every village.

"You are not to stop at any place to leave letters, etc., but to blow
your horn to give the people notice that you have got letters for
them; therefore, if they do not choose to come out to receive them,
don't you get down from your dickey, but take them on, and bring them
back with you on your next journey. You are ordered by your
instructions to blow your horn when you pass through a town or
village. Be careful to perform this duty, or I shall be obliged to
punish you."

In the months of January and February, 1795, the whole country was
visited by most serious storms and floods. It is described in the
post-office minutes as "dreadful;" great holes were made in the roads,
and many accidents happened through both coachman and guard being
chucked from their boxes, and frequently coaches arrived having lost
the guard from that cause. Many bridges were washed away all over the
country, of which three alone were between Doncaster and Ferrybridge.
The mail coach between Edinburgh and Newcastle took a day longer than
usual to do the journey. Nearly all the coaches that attempted to
perform their journeys had to take circuitous routes on account of
floods. Bridges were washed away, roads rendered impassable by great
holes in them, and, in Scotland and the north of England, blocked by
snow. In the south, a fast thaw set in, which suddenly changed to
intense cold, leaving roads simply sheets of ice. Through the combined
exertions of the postmasters, a large number of whom were also mail
contractors, many of the roads were cleared sufficiently to admit of
the coaches running, but it was months before the mails began to
arrive with punctuality, and many mail coach routes had to be altered
on account of the roads and bridges not being repaired. This was
owing, in most instances, to the road commissioners and local
authorities failing to come to settlement in supplying the money for
the work to be done, and in many instances the Postmaster-General was
compelled to indict them for neglecting to put the road in good
repair. The guards suffered very much from the intense cold and
dampness, and many were allowed, in addition to the half-guinea per
week wages, a further half-guinea, as, on account of their having no
passengers to carry, they received no "vails." All their doctors'
bills were paid, and the following are but a few of the many guards
who received rewards for the manner in which they performed their
duty.

John Rees, guard from Swansea to Bristol, who, in consequence of the
waters being so rapid, was obliged to proceed by horse, when near
Bridgend, was up to his shoulders, and in that condition, in the
night, did not wait to change his clothes, but proceeded on his duty;
was awarded one guinea.

Thomas Sweatman, guard to the Chester mail, was obliged to alight from
his mail box at Hockliffe to fix the bars and put on some traces, up
to his hips in water in the middle of the night, after which it froze
severely, and he came in that condition to London; awarded half a
guinea.

John Jelfs rode all the way from Cirencester to Oxford, and Oxford to
Cirencester through snow and water, the coach not being able to
proceed; awarded five shillings.

To our modern notions, the post-office authorities hardly erred on the
side of liberality, but half a guinea was thought much more of in
those days.



CHAPTER II.

THE ROYAL MAILS (_continued_).


By the beginning of the new century the mail coach system appears to
have begun to settle into its place pretty well. Mr. Vidler had the
contract for the coaches, which he continued to hold for at least a
quarter of a century, and appears to have brought much spirit to bear
upon the work.

In the year 1820 he was evidently engaged in making experiments with
the view of making the coaches run lighter after the horses, and also
to test their stability. He writes to Mr. Johnson, the Superintendent
of mail coaches, May 15, saying, "As below, I send you the particulars
of an experiment made this morning with a mail coach with the five
hundredweight in the three different positions," and he accompanied
this letter with cards, of which I give an exact copy.

            POST COACH.                         MAIL.

  77 lbs. to remove with 5 cwt. on    |  70 lbs. to remove with 5
  front wheels.                       |  cwt. on front wheels.
                                      |
  74 lbs. to remove with 5 cwt. on    |  65 lbs. to remove with 5
  hind wheels.                        |  cwt. on hind wheels.
                                      |
  68 lbs. to remove with 5 cwt. in    |  61 lbs. to remove with 5
  centre of the coach.                |  cwt. in centre of coach.


            MAIL.                               BALLOON.

  56 lbs. suspended over a pulley     |  It required 60 lbs. to move
  moved the mail on a horizontal      |  the Balloon.
  plane.                              |
                                      |
  Weight 18 cwt. 20 lbs.              |  Weight 18 cwt. 1 qr. 19 lbs.
                                      |
  Fore wheels 3 feet 8 inches.        |  Fore wheels 3 feet 6 inches.
                                      |
  Hind wheels 4 feet 6 inches.        |  Hind wheels 4 feet 10 inches.
                                      |
  The fore wheel raised on a block,   |  The fore wheel of the Balloon
  stood at 26 inches without          |  would only stand at 17.
  upsetting.                          |
                                      |  The hind at 16-1/2.

  DOUBLE-BODIED COACH WITH FORE AND HIND BOOT.

  Weight 14 cwt.

  Fore wheels 3 feet 8 inches.

  Hind wheels 4 feet 6 inches.

  28 lbs. suspended over a pulley moved this coach on a horizontal
  plane.

  The fore and hind wheels raised on blocks at 31 inches did not
  upset the coach.

  It required only 35 lbs. to move this coach with 5 cwt. in front
  boot.

  32 lbs. to move it with 5 cwt. in the hind boot.

  33-1/4 lbs. to move it with 5 cwt. in the centre of the body.

I confess I am not expert enough to quite understand all this, but I
have been induced to place it before the reader, as it occupies little
space, and may be of interest to those who have a practical
acquaintance with mechanics. I am equally at a loss to say what sort
of conveyance the Balloon or the Double-bodied Coach were.

The Postmaster-General, and those under him, appear to have always
been ready to listen to any proposals or suggestions made to them for
the improvement of coaches, even if, as in the case below, they were
not very promising.

In the year 1811, the Rev. Mr. Milton tried to persuade the
Postmaster-General to adopt a system of broad wheels to save the
roads, and got it adopted by a Reading coach; but, as might be
expected, it was found to add immensely to the draught, and is
described as being the only coach which distressed the horses. The
rev. gentleman must have been a commissioner of some turnpike trust,
and had imbibed such a predilection for broad wheels for the sake of
the roads, that he resembled the tanner, who affirmed that "there was
nothing like leather."

Even without the wheels being broad, the difference between square
tires and round tires is enormous. This was brought to my notice very
strongly one summer when the round tires which were worn out were
replaced by square ones. The difference to the horses in the draught
was considerable, but it was most striking when going down hill, where
the change made the difference of a notch or two in the brake.

But, without having broad wheels, coaches were by far the best
customers the roads had. They paid large sums of money, and really
benefited the roads, rather than injured them. A road is more easily
kept in repair when it has a variety of traffic over it. When, as is
commonly the case now, it is nearly all single horse work, the wheels
and the horses always keep to the same tracks, and the new metal
requires constant raking to prevent the road getting into ruts;
whereas, with a variety in the traffic, the stone settles with little
trouble.

Probably little or no alteration took place in the build of the mail
coaches during Mr. Vidler's contract, but at the expiration of it the
telegraph spring, the same as was at work under the other coaches, was
substituted for what was termed the mail coach spring, which had
hitherto been in use as the hind spring. This alteration had the
desirable effect of shortening the perch, which was favourable to
draught, and, at the same time, it let down the body, which was of a
square build, lower down between the springs, which added to the
stability. The same axles and wheels were continued, only that the
tires, instead of being put on in "stocks," were like those on other
coach wheels fastened on in one circle.

As late, however, as the year 1839, the post-office authorities did
not appear to be quite satisfied, as an enquiry was instituted; but I
cannot find that any change of much value was suggested, and certainly
none was the outcome of the enquiry. A Mr. J. M'Neil, in his evidence,
said that there was no reason why, if the front part of the carriage
was upon telegraph springs, the hind part should not be upon C
springs. This, no doubt, would check the swing attendant upon the C
spring, but might give a rather rude shock to the telegraph spring in
doing so.

Four years later I find that the sum of thirty shillings was allowed
for "drawing the pattern of a coach." The plan, however, was not
forthcoming.

The following statement shows how large the business of the mail coach
department had become by the year 1834, just half a century after its
establishment. In England alone the number of miles travelled daily by
mail coaches was 16,262. The amount of expense for forwarding the
mails was £56,334; amount of mail guards' wages £6,743; the number of
them employed was 247; the number of roads on which the coachman acted
as guard was 34; the number of roads on which the patent coaches were
used was 63, and on which not used was 51. The patent coaches,
therefore, seem to have been brought into use slowly.

  MILEAGE WARRANTS (October, 1834).

   3 at 1d.
   1 at 1-1/4d.
  34 at 1-1/2d.
  42 at 2d.
   4 at 3d.
   1 at 3-1/2d.
   1 at 4d.
   3 paid yearly sums.
   1 received no pay.

Perhaps I shall find no better place than this for introducing the
reader more intimately to the mail guards. It will be seen that their
numbers were very considerable, and as they had exceedingly onerous
and responsible duties to perform (and that sometimes at the risk of
their lives), and were the servants of the post-office, it would
naturally have been expected that they should have been well paid. All
that they received, however, from the post-office was ten shillings
and sixpence a week and one suit of clothes, in addition to which they
were entitled to a superannuation allowance of seven shillings a week,
and frequently received assistance in illness. For the rest they had
to trust to the tips given to them by the passengers, and I think it
speaks well for the liberality of the travelling public that they were
satisfied with their places; for having post-office duty to perform in
every town they passed through, they could have had little opportunity
to confer any benefits upon them.

On the subject of fees, too, their employers blew hot and cold. At one
time, as has been observed, they made them an allowance for the loss
of "vails"; and at another, as will be seen by the accompanying
letter, the practice was condemned. A complaint had been received from
a passenger respecting fees to coachmen and guards; but the letter
will speak for itself.

"I have the honour of your letter, to which I beg leave to observe
that neither coachman nor guard should claim anything of 'vails' as a
right, having ten and sixpence per week each; but the custom too much
prevailed of giving generally each a shilling at the end of the
ground, but as a courtesy, not a right; and it is the absolute order
of the office that they shall not use a word beyond solicitation. This
is particularly strong to the guard, for, indeed, over the coachman we
have not much power; but if he drives less than thirty miles, as your
first did, they should think themselves well content with sixpence
from each passenger." It goes on to say that the guard was suspended
for his conduct.

I don't know how far coachmen were contented with sixpence in those
days; but I know that so small a sum, if offered, would have given
little satisfaction in later years, if not returned with thanks.

It will still be in the recollection of a good many that in the early
days of railways the mail bags were only forwarded by a certain number
of trains, which were called mail trains, and were in charge of a
post-office guard. They may also call to mind that there used to be
attached to those trains some carriages a good deal resembling the old
mail coaches, and constructed to carry only four passengers in each
compartment. So difficult is it to break altogether with old
associations.

The guards were then placed on what was termed the treasury list, and
their salary was raised to seventy pounds a year and upwards.

Before I pass on from the subject of the guards, I should like to put
once again before the reader the onerous and, indeed, dangerous nature
of their duties, and the admirable and faithful way in which they
performed them. Among other reports of the same nature I have selected
the following, which occurred in November, 1836:--

"The guard, Rands, a very old servant, on the Ludlow and Worcester
line, states the coach and passengers were left at a place called
Newnham, in consequence of the water being too deep for the coach to
travel. I took the mail on horseback until I could procure a post
chaise to convey the bags to meet the mail for London. This lost one
hour and fourteen minutes, but only forty-five minutes' delay on the
arrival in London."

Out of their very moderate pay, those of them working out of London,
and in Ireland, were called upon to pay the sum of six shillings and
sixpence quarterly to the armourer for cleaning arms, but in the
country they looked after their own. How far these were kept in
serviceable order I have no means of knowing, but judging from a very
strange and melancholy accident which occurred in Ireland, those in
charge of the armourers appear to have been kept in very fit condition
for use, indeed, if not rather too much so. The report says, "As the
Sligo mail was preparing to start from Ballina, the guard, Samuel
Middleton, was in the act of closing the lid of his arm chest, when,
unfortunately, a blunderbuss exploded, one of the balls from which
entered the side of a poor countryman, name Terence M'Donagh, and
caused his instant death." If this had occurred now, I suppose, by
some reasoning peculiarly Hibernian, this accident would have been
laid at Mr. Balfour's door.

As has been shown by the mileage warrant the remuneration paid to the
coach proprietors for horsing the mails was, with the exception of two
or three cases, always very small. How they contrived to make any
profit out of it, with at first only four passengers, is to me a
mystery. I can only suppose that the fares charged to the passengers
were very high. As the roads improved, and the conveyances were made
more comfortable and commodious, three outside passengers were allowed
to be carried, and the pace being accelerated, no doubt many of the
mails had a pretty good time of it till the roads were sufficiently
improved for the fast day coaches to commence running. Up to this time
the only competition they experienced was that of the slow and heavy
night coaches, and all the "_élite_" who did not object to pay
well for the improved accommodation, travelled by the mails, which
were performing their journeys at a good speed considering the then
condition of the roads.

In the year 1811, according to a table in the edition of "Patterson's
Roads," published in that year, the mail from London to Chester and
Holyhead, which started from the General Post-Office at eight o'clock
on Monday evening, arrived at Chester at twenty-five minutes past
twelve on the morning of the following Wednesday, thus taking about
twenty-eight hours and a half to perform a journey of one hundred and
eighty miles. The "Bristol" occupied fifteen hours and three-quarters
on her journey of one hundred and twenty miles, whilst that to
Shrewsbury, which at that time ran by Uxbridge and Oxford, consumed
twenty-three hours in accomplishing the distance of one hundred and
sixty-two miles, and, as Nimrod remarked in his article on the Road,
"Perhaps, an hour after her time by Shrewsbury clock." This shows a
speed of nearly eight miles an hour, which, if kept, was very
creditable work; but upon this we see that Nimrod casts a doubt, and
he adds "The betting were not ten to one that she had not been
overturned on the road."

By the year 1825, some considerable acceleration had taken place. The
Shrewsbury mail, which had then become the more important Holyhead
mail, performed the journey to Shrewsbury in twenty hours and a half,
and was again accelerated in the following year, but to how great an
extent I have no knowledge. I only know that a few years later the
time allowed was reduced to sixteen hours and a quarter, and she was
due at Holyhead about the same time as, a few years previously, she
had reached Shrewsbury, or twenty-eight hours from London; and thus,
owing in a great degree to the admirable efficiency of Mr. Telford's
road-making, surpassing by six hours the opinion expressed by him in
the year 1830, that the mail ought to go to Holyhead in thirty-four
hours. The remuneration paid to the horse contractors was, with very
few exceptions, always very small, as the table already introduced
shows.

Notwithstanding all the improvements in the mails, however, when the
fast day coaches became their rivals, they more and more lost their
good customers and then began the complaints about the small amount
paid by the post-office. So much, indeed, did this competition tell,
that when the Shrewsbury mail became the Holyhead, and changed its
route from the Oxford road to that through Coventry, the contractors
would accept no less than a shilling a mile, fearing the opposition
they would have to meet by those who had lost the mail on the other
road. It was, however, largely reduced afterwards, but to what extent
I have not ascertained; and again, upon an acceleration in 1826, it
was increased to fourpence, with the proviso that if it shared less
than four pounds a mile per month during the ensuing year, the price
should be raised to fivepence.

The Chester mail also obtained a rise to sixpence at the same time, as
it did not earn four pounds a mile; doubtless in consequence of its
having ceased to carry the Holyhead traffic.

The dissatisfaction of the contractors, appears to have continued,
and, indeed, became more intense as the coaches improved and
multiplied, till at last a committee of the House of Commons was
appointed to investigate the circumstances, which, however, I should
have thought were not very far to seek; but at any rate, it elicited
some good, sound, common sense from Mr. Johnson, the superintendent of
mail coaches.

He was of opinion that anything under fivepence a mile was too little,
and that mail coaches which received less than that were decidedly
underpaid. Still the competition was so great that persons were
generally found to undertake the contract for less; but he did not
desire to bring forward persons to take it at less than threepence a
mile, as it would be injurious to them if they excited that sort of
opposition. He considered that a dividend of four pounds a mile a
month was sufficient to cover loss, but with scarcely sufficient
profit. Indeed, fast coaches ought to share five, and I can quite bear
him out in this.

He was, evidently, a very sensible, practical man, and knew that
innkeepers would be found to horse mails for almost nothing, merely
for the sake of the prestige which attached to them, the increased
custom they brought to the bar, and old rivalry, which was often
exceedingly strong, and he preferred to pay a fair sum to be sure and
keep responsible men.

He considered that mails, on account of the limited number of
passengers, worked at a disadvantage when opposed by other coaches;
and no doubt he was right, because if a coach carrying fifteen or
sixteen passengers was nearly empty to-day, it would be remunerated by
a full load to-morrow; whereas, the mail with only seven, when full,
could not be reimbursed by one good load. It required to be pretty
evenly loaded every day to make it pay.

He said a majority of our mail coaches are not earning what is
considered the minimum remuneration for a public carriage.

He considered that to run toll free and duty free was sufficient to
secure them against competition, but, curiously enough, this never
seems to have been tried, for though the roads were compelled to let
the mails run without paying toll, the Chancellor of the Exchequer
always claimed the mileage duty, which was twopence a mile. There was
also a duty of five pounds for the stage-coach licence, or what was
termed the plates, which they were obliged to carry. The mails,
however, were excused from carrying the plates, as it was said His
Majesty's mails ought not to be disfigured; but whether they enjoyed
the more substantial benefit of having the five pounds remitted I have
not been able to ascertain.

As time went on, and fast coaches increased, Mr. Johnson must have
been at his wit's end to know how to get the mail bags carried. Mail
carts appear to have been an expensive luxury, as they cost a shilling
a mile, and he could generally do better with the coach proprietors.

In some cases there was so much difficulty in filling up stages that
it was repeatedly necessary to send orders that if no horses were to
be found to take the coach over a certain stage, to forward it by post
horses.

The Norwich mail, through Newmarket, received eightpence a mile, of
which two hundred pounds seems to have been advanced to help the
proprietors out of difficulties, and to induce them to go on at all;
but that mail was very strongly opposed by an excellent day coach, the
"Norwich Telegraph," from the "Golden Cross," Charing Cross.

So little at this time was the post-office work valued where it
interfered with the hours or increased the pace, that a night coach on
the same Norwich road as the mail declined to compete, and it was
suggested, but not carried out, to put a guard upon a coach, making a
contract with him to carry the letters, giving them some advantage for
so doing, which would make it worth their while; and a coach at one
time was employed to carry the bags between Alton and Gosport, which
were brought to the former place by the Poole mail.

It did not, however, meet with Mr. Johnson's approval. He says, "I
think that the use of coaches in that way goes directly to destroy the
regular mail coach system. I think that if any coach from London to
Manchester were to be allowed to carry ten outsides, it never would
arrive within an hour of the present mail coach, from the interruption
which is occasioned by the number of outside passengers, not to speak
of the insecurity of the bags."

No doubt he was quite right, as a rule; but if he lived to witness the
"Telegraph" coach perform with regularity that journey of one hundred
and eighty-six miles in eighteen hours, he would have confessed that
there might be exceptions to the rule.

He says, speaking generally of the system, with a justifiable spice of
_esprit de corps_, "I think we should look to the general result of
the mail coach system, and that we should provide the best expedient
we can for cases of difficulty. If we employed such coaches we could
not prevent the parties from writing Royal Mail Coach upon them, and
writing Royal Mail Coach Office upon all their establishments in the
towns where they reside; all of which would go very much to destroy
the distinction by which the present mail coaches greatly depend, and
we should consider that after the mail coach system has supplied all
the uses of the post-office, it is still valuable as a national
system. It originally set the example of that travelling which is so
much admired, not only at home, but even throughout Europe, and I hope
continues to set an example now. I am persuaded that the manner in
which the stage coaches have been accelerated arose entirely from
their desire to rival the mails upon their old plan, and they now try
to keep as close to them as they can, though, in all long distances,
they are certainly very far behind. Persons of the first distinction
travel by the mail coaches. I don't mean amateur whips, but persons
who depend upon the regularity, security, and comfort of the mail
coach, and being less likely to meet with disagreeable passengers."

He adds, "I am not aware of any coach that goes as fast as the mail
for a hundred and fifty miles, not even the 'Wonder,' and if some days
as fast, they are able, whenever they think proper, to relax their
speed, which the mail, being under contract, cannot do."

The keen competition between the mails and other coaches is well
emphasized by a letter written by Mr. Spencer, the coach proprietor at
Holyhead, to Mr. Chaplin in London, complaining that as the "Nimrod"
had commenced running through to Holyhead, they were obliged to carry
passengers at lower fares, and saying that he had by that night's mail
booked a lady through to London, inside, for four pounds; and from my
own experience, I can quite believe this, as some of the ladies of the
Principality are like Mrs. Gilpin, who, though on pleasure bent, had a
frugal mind.

When I was driving the "Snowdonian" upon one up journey, upon looking
at the "way-bill," as I left Dolgelly, I perceived that there was a
lady booked, to be taken up a mile or two out of the town, to go a
short distance, the fare for which was three shillings and sixpence
"_to pay_." She took her place in the coach in due course, and having
alighted at her destination, I demanded her fare from her, upon which
she assured me that she could only pay half-a-crown, as she had no
more money with her. I told her that I was responsible for the full
fare, and that she really must pay it; and when she saw that I was
determined to have no nonsense about it, she asked me if I could give
her change for a sovereign, to which I replied, "Yes, or two, if you
like;" whereupon, she opened her purse and exposed to my delighted
eyes two or three shiners.

But to show how serious was the reduction made by the Holyhead mail,
it will be sufficient to say that the fares by the Edinburgh mail,
which ran a distance of only one hundred and thirty miles more, were
eleven guineas and a half inside, and seven and a half outside: a full
way-bill amounting to sixty-eight guineas and a half. Now this, with
fees to coachmen, guards, and porters, would make a journey to the
northern capital from the southern one cost about fourteen pounds for
an inside passenger, and about ten for one travelling outside, and it
occupied forty hours.

The distance may now be performed in nine hours and at a cost of two
pounds, or less by Parliamentary train.

We have seen the mail bags no heavier than could be carried by a boy
riding a pony, but before the railway system commenced they had
increased to such an extent that some mail coaches could carry no
more, and, in two cases, they required to be subsidised. For some time
the "Greyhound," Shrewsbury coach, was paid every Saturday night for
two outside places to Birmingham, in consideration of their carrying
two mail bags as far as that town on account of the number of
newspapers; and when that coach ceased running the Holyhead mail was
paid for outside places to enable them to dispense with that number of
passengers, and find the extra space required for these bags. The
Dover mail also received assistance in the form of an extra coach once
a week for the foreign, or what were called the black bags, as they
were dressed with tar to render them waterproof.

With this before me I cannot help asking myself whether it was not
somewhat of a leap in the dark to reduce the postage at one bound from
the existing high rates to one penny. If the railways had not been
constructed with the celerity they were, there must have been great
difficulty and increased expenses in conveying the mails, as it would
have been impossible for the mail coaches to carry them and passengers
as well. I suppose, however, we must conclude that Sir Rowland Hill
had, with great foresight, and much consideration, assured himself
that such would be the case with the railways, and that he might
safely trust to their rapid development and co-operation for carrying
out his great project. Though the result might not have been equally
clear to others as to himself, he was only like the great engineer,
George Stephenson, who, when examined before a Committee of the House
of Commons, for the sake of humouring the distrust and nervousness of
his interrogators, placed the speed at which he expected the trains to
travel at ten miles an hour, though, at the same time he quite
reckoned upon, at least, double that speed.


The mail coaches working out of London had a gala day every year. On
the King's birthday they all paraded, spick and span, with the coaches
new or else freshly painted and varnished, the coachmen and guards
wearing their new scarlet liveries, picked teams with new harness, and
rosettes in their heads: blue and orange ones in old George the
Third's day; but the orange, for some cause or other, was changed to
red in the succeeding reign. In this form they formed up and paraded
through several of the principal thoroughfares at the West End,
returning to their respective yards preparatory to the serious
business of the night.

It was a very pretty pageant, but there was another scene connected
with them, and which, to my mind, was quite, if not more interesting,
which could be witnessed every week-day evening in St. Martin's-le-Grand,
between the hours of half-past seven and eight. Soon after the former
hour all the mail coaches--with the exception of seven or eight, which
left London by the western roads, and received their bags at the
"White Horse Cellar," or "Gloucester Coffee-house," to which places
they were taken in mail carts--began to arrive at the General
Post-Office to receive their bags. They turned into the yard, through
the gateway nearest to Cheapside, and took up their places behind the
building in a space which has been very much encroached upon since by
buildings, and, as eight o'clock struck, they were to be seen emerging
through the lower gateway, and turning off on their respective routes,
spreading out like a sky rocket as they advanced into the country.

During the long days in summer they turned out nearly as smart as upon
the Royal birthday, but on a dark, stormy blustering evening in
December or January, when snow or rain were falling steadily, there
was an appearance of business, and very serious business about them.
The scarlet coats were obscured from view by the somewhat elaborate
upper coats which have been elsewhere described; and there was a
feeling of serious reality about the whole thing, not unlike that
which comes over one upon seeing a ship start on a long voyage, or a
regiment embarking for foreign service. One felt that they would
probably meet with more or less difficulty, or, at any rate, that
there was an arduous task before them. The horses would be changed,
the coachmen would be changed, the guards would be changed, probably
there would be a considerable change in the passengers, but the wheels
roll on for ever, or, at any rate, till they arrive at their journey's
end, which, in some cases, would extend not only through that night,
but continue till darkness again returned, when the same work went on
through another night, and in two or three instances was not concluded
till the sun was again high in the heavens; and so admirably was the
service performed that the betting was long odds in favour of each
coach reaching its destination at the correct time.

They had to contend not only with climatic influences, but sometimes
the malice of man placed stumbling-blocks in their way. The same
diabolical spirit which induces men at the present time to place
obstructions across the permanent way of railways, led some miscreants
in November, 1815, to place several gates at night right across the
road near Warrington, which caused the guard of the Leicester mail to
get down ten times to remove them, and, but for the moonlight, would
have caused serious accidents, and a cart was also fixed across the
road. Gates were also, on a subsequent occasion, placed on the road
near Stockton to catch the Chester mail. The perpetrators of these
wanton outrages do not appear to have been discovered, or they would
doubtless have met with their deserts, as the Postmaster-General was
armed with large powers for protecting and preventing delay to the
mails. Among other convictions for interrupting the free passage of
the mails, one toll-gate man near Henley is recorded to have been
fined fifty shillings, and also different carters in sums up to thirty
shillings. An innkeeper was liable to the forfeiture of his licence
for such an offence.

The most trying time for the coachmen and guards were the two first
hours on the road. After that, few vehicles were moving about, but up
to that time a large number of all sorts, many of which were without
lights, were in motion, and not only was a very careful look-out by
the former necessary, but the latter had often, especially on thick
nights, to make a free use of his horn to avoid collisions. The roads
for the first ten miles out of town, as far as Barnet to the north and
Hounslow to the west, might, when the days were not at their longest,
be said to be a blaze of light. Between the down mails leaving London
and the day coaches arriving, none with less than three lamps, and
many with five, and some even with six, it was a bad look-out for
travellers who drove horses that were frightened at lights. Indeed, I
have known some persons very nervous on this subject. They seemed to
think that because the strong light dazzled them, it must have the
same effect upon the coachman's eyes; and, when I have been driving a
coach very strongly lighted, I have known men to leave the road and
drive into a field to get out of my way. The presence of a number of
coaches carrying powerful lights, and going both ways, probably does
have the tendency of throwing small carriages without lamps into the
shade, and so making it more difficult to see them. An aspiring
costermonger, trying to thread his way with his donkey and cart among
the numerous other vehicles, might be overlooked without much
difficulty among such a brilliant company.



CHAPTER III.

ACCIDENTS.


I have sometimes been asked, when I was driving coaches, whether I had
ever had an accident, to which I was able to reply for a good many
years, that, though I had been very near several, I had been fortunate
enough to steer clear of them. I had experienced different things
which might easily have ended in an accident, such as a leader's rein
breaking, the bit falling out of a wheel horse's mouth, a fore wheel
coming off, and similar things, but had always managed to pull up
without coming to grief. The case of the wheel might have been
attended with very serious consequences if we had been going fast at
the time, but fortunately it occurred just when I had pulled up to go
slowly round a corner.

At last, however, it did come, and I think I may say "with a
vengeance," though it was not accompanied with any loss of life or
limb, or indeed any very serious consequences. It occurred when I was
working the Aberystwith and Caernarvon "Snowdonian." A pole chain
broke when descending a rather steep fall of ground, which caused the
coach to approach the off-side of the road, and, as the lamps threw
their light very high, I did not see a large stone, commonly called in
the parlance of the road, "a waggoner," until it was close under the
roller bolt, and immediately afterwards the fore wheel struck it with
such violence that the concussion threw the box passenger and myself
off the box. He was thrown clear of the coach, whilst I was pitched
over the wheelers' heads, but, alighting upon the leaders' backs, was
quietly let down to the ground between them. This, mercifully, laid me
what the sailors call "fore and aft," and consequently the coach was
able to pass over without touching me, and beyond a broken arm, I was
little the worse. The horses galloped on for a few hundred yards, and
then ran the off-side wheels up the hedgebank, upsetting the coach
into the road.

This was somewhat of a lesson to me, for perhaps I had got the horses
into the habit of going rather too fast down the falls of ground, of
which there were several in the stage, but if I had not made play
there, it would have been impossible to keep time. We were horsed by
one of the hotel proprietors in Caernarvon, and it was certainly the
worst team I ever drove. Underbred to start with, and, though our pace
was not fast, yet from age and other infirmities too slow for it even
such as it was.

Nevertheless, time was bound to be kept somehow, as we not
unfrequently carried passengers who wanted to proceed from Caernarvon
by the up mail train, and there was not much time to spare.

There was one thing I never would do, and that was to call upon good
horses, the property of one proprietor, to fetch up time lost by the
bad ones belonging to another.

I have previously alluded to being near accidents in consequence of a
broken rein, and when I was driving the Aberystwith and Kington
"Cambrian" I had a very near shave indeed from that cause. We had just
commenced the descent of Radnor forest on the up journey, and I had
begun to "shove 'em along a bit," when the near lead rein broke, and,
consequently, the leaders got, to use a nautical phrase, athwart the
wheelers. Of course, I tightened the brake at once, and was able to
bring the coach to a standstill before any harm was done, as the pole
held, and the horses were quiet, but another yard or two more and the
coach must have gone over, as the leaders were already jammed in
between the wheelers and a high hedgebank, with their heads turned the
wrong way.

    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.    M&N. Hanhart imp.
                   HORSES IN A HEAP. LEADER DOWN, WHEELERS FALLING
                   OVER HIM.]

Perhaps some reader may say, "What a shame it was to use such reins,
they ought not to be able to break;" and of course they ought not, but
horsekeepers were not the most reliable of men, and no coachman could
possibly find time to examine the harness at every stage. If leading
reins could be cut out of one length of leather, there would be very
few or no breakages, but as they are obliged to be made of several
lengths sewn together, they are liable to break, as they get old, from
the stitches becoming rotten. Nevertheless such things ought not to
happen, but as I knew they would, I always carried about me two short
straps the same width as the reins, one about two inches long, with a
buckle at both ends, and the other with a buckle at one end and a
billet at the other, so that a breakage would be easily repaired at
whatever part it might occur.

I have twice had three out of the four horses in a heap, from a leader
coming down and the two wheelers falling over him; but in such a case
as this there is very little danger if the coachman has the presence
of mind not to leave his box till there is sufficient strength at the
horses' heads to prevent them jumping up and starting off frightened.

These, and a few others which have come to the front in connection
with other subjects, are all the accidents and close shaves which I
have experienced as a coachman; and when I call to mind the many
thousand miles I have driven, over some very indifferent roads, with
heavy loads, at all hours, in all weathers, and with all sorts of
"_cattle_," I think I may consider myself fortunate. But then I
was insured in the "Railway Passengers' Insurance Company," and
recommend all other coachmen to do the same.

So much for my own experiences. Now for a few which have been gone
through by others.

    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.    M&N. Hanhart imp.
                   WENT OVER BANK & HEDGE.]

All those which have resulted from climatic influences will be
introduced in connection with their respective causes, but I will
venture to present to the reader others which, from one cause or
another, possess more or less a character of their own, and are
distinguished either by extraordinary escapes, great recklessness, or
some other remarkable feature. The first I shall notice is
distinguished by the singularity of the escapes, and I cannot convey
the circumstances connected with it better than by giving the report
of the inspector upon the accident which occurred to the Gloucester
and Caermarthen mail on December 19, 1835. He says:--

"It appears from the tracks of the wheels, which are still visible,
owing to the frost setting in immediately after the accident, that
about a hundred yards before the cart was met, the mail was in the
middle of the road, leaving room on either side for the cart to pass,
and at this distance the cart was seen to be on the wrong side of the
road. The coachman called out in the usual way when the carter crossed
to his near side of the road, and had the coachman gone to his near
side, no accident would have occurred; but, by the tracks of the
wheels, it is quite clear that the coachman took the off-side of the
road in a sort of sweep, when the leaders coming in front of the cart,
and not being able to pass, went over the bank and hedge, the latter
being low; and then the wheelers followed in as regular a manner as if
they had been going down a street, and all the four wheels of the
coach went on the bank straight forward and went down the precipice in
this manner for some short distance before the mail went over, which
it did on the right side, and turned over four times before it was
stopped by coming against an oak tree. But for this impediment to its
progress it would have turned over again and fallen into a river. The
pole was broken at both ends, and the perch and hind springs were
broken. The fore boot was left in its progress; the mail box was
dashed to atoms, and the luggage and bags strewed in all directions. A
tin box containing valuable deeds was broken, and the deeds scattered
in all directions, but have been all recovered, and are safe in
Colonel Gwynne's possession, to whom they belong. When the coach came
against the tree it was on its wheels. Colonel Gwynne caused it to be
chained and locked to the tree till the inspector should see it. The
distance from the road to the tree is eighty-seven feet. The
passengers were Colonel Gwynne on the box, Mr. D. Jones, Mr. Edwards,
and Mr. Kenrick on the roof, and Mr. Lloyd Harris and Mr. Church
inside. Colonel Gwynne jumped off when he saw the leaders going over
the bank, as did Edward Jenkins the coachman and Compton the guard.
The latter was somewhat stunned at first, but all escaped with slight
hurt.

"Mr. D. Jones was found about half-way down the precipice, bleeding
much, having received several cuts about the head and face, and was a
good deal bruised and in a senseless state. Mr. Harris, when the coach
came in contact with the tree, was forced through the part from which
the boot had been separated, and fell into the river. He remembers
nothing of the accident except feeling cold when in the river, from
which, somehow or other, he got out and went to a farmhouse near,
where he was found in a senseless state. He has a severe cut on the
upper lip, but both he and Mr. Jones are recovering rapidly. Mr.
Kenrick was not hurt in the least. The accident appears to have been
one of the most extraordinary ever heard of, and the escape of the
passengers with their lives most miraculous. The coachman's conduct
seems to have been most censurable. He is reported by the guard and
passengers to have driven the whole of the way most irregularly. He
was remonstrated with by them, but, as has been seen, with no effect.
One of the passengers thought he was drunk, but the guard says he did
not observe it, but that he only heard him speak once. The horses were
so little injured that they were at work the next day in their usual
places."

The coachman was afterwards brought before the magistrates, when he
pleaded guilty to negligence and being on the wrong side of the road,
and was fined five pounds.

On 13th January, 1836, when the Falmouth and Exeter mail was about
three miles from Okehampton, the coachman drove against a heap of
stones which had been placed too far out from the off-side of the
road, and the concussion was so great that both himself and the guard
were thrown off. The horses, finding themselves under no control,
immediately went off at a smart pace, and, although they had three
sharp turns to take, and a hill to go down, actually arrived at the
Okehampton turnpike gate without the slightest accident. There was one
gentleman inside, who was not aware that anything was amiss, but
merely thought the coachman was driving too fast. Perhaps the despised
turnpike gate prevented a serious accident in this case.

In July, 1839, the Ipswich mail, when arriving at Colchester, the
coachman Flack, as is usual, threw down the reins and got down when no
horsekeeper was at the horses' heads, and they galloped off till the
near leader fell and broke his neck, which stopped them. Probably this
accident would not have occurred if the coach had been fitted with a
brake, which the coachman ought to put on tight before leaving his
box.

An old friend of mine writes me, "One night I was a passenger in the
Glasgow mail, driven by Captain Baynton, and felt rather uneasy when I
found we were racing with the Edinburgh mail for the Stamford Hill
toll-gate. The consequence was, we cannoned in the gate, and a most
awful crash ensued, killing two wheel horses and seriously injuring
the other two. It is needless to say that Billy Chaplin never allowed
the captain to take the Glasgow mail out of the yard again." Anything
more reckless than this could not possibly be. Not only were they
racing down hill, but the gate was too narrow to admit of both coaches
going through abreast; consequently, unless the nerve of one of the
coachmen gave way before it was too late, so as to make him decline
the contest in time, a smash was inevitable. Neither had they the
excuse that they were driving opposition coaches.

On September 29th, 1835, when the coachman of the Ipswich mail was
getting into his seat at the "Swan with Two Necks" yard in Lad Lane,
the horses suddenly started off, knocking down the man who was
attending at their heads, and throwing the coachman off the steps.
They then proceeded at a rapid pace into Cheapside, when the coach,
catching the hind part of the Poole mail, the concussion was so great
that it threw the coachman of that mail from his box with such
violence that he was taken up senseless, and was carried to the
hospital in a dangerous state. The horses of the Ipswich mail,
continuing their speed, ran the pole into the iron railings of the
area of Mr. Ripling's house, which breaking, fortunately set the
leaders at liberty, when the wheel horses were soon stopped without
doing any further damage.

To anyone who remembers the situation of the yard of the "Swan with
Two Necks," it will be a matter of surprise how four horses, entirely
left to their own guidance, could possibly steer the coach clear of
the different corners between it and Cheapside.

The following is an instance of a coach absolutely rolling over.

The "Liverpool Express," when near Chalk Hill on her journey to
London, though not a particularly fast coach, was going at a great
pace, as the stage was only four miles, and she was making time for a
long stage to follow. Somehow or another she got on the rock, which is
easily done with a coach heavily loaded on the roof if the wheel
horses are not poled up even, or not the right length, and the coach
is kept too much on the side of the road.

Though I have elsewhere said a good deal on the subject of pole
chains, I have been induced to make a practical application here for
the benefit of any young coachmen who may be disposed to spring their
teams on a nice piece of flat ground. But to return to the "Express."

It was a very old coach, and the transom plate was so much worn as to
have become round, and she rolled over, killing one passenger and
severely injuring two more. "They were thrown off like a man sowing
wheat broadcast," says my informant. One passenger brought an action
against the proprietors and recovered heavy damages, though they tried
to saddle it on the coachman's driving too fast; but the jury laid it
to the bad state of the transom plate, and gave damages accordingly.

The following accident, like many others, is one which ought not to
have happened at all, and it appears to me that, after all the
investigation which took place, the saddle was put upon the back of
the wrong horse. However, I will give the Post-office minute upon the
occasion:--

"London and Worcester mail coach accident caused through carrying an
extra passenger on the box, July 9th, 1838.

"As the mail coach was entering Broadway, the horses ran away; when
the leading reins breaking, the coach was drawn against a post, and
the pole and splinter bar were broken. Fortunately, the coach did not
overturn. The reason for the horses taking fright could not be
ascertained, but the guard stated that the book-keeper at Oxford had
insisted on placing an extra passenger on the box seat with the
coachman, who had declared since the accident that, if the extra
passenger had not been on the box seat, he would have been enabled to
stop the horses.

"An order was issued that the book-keeper and coachman were to be
summoned, with the intent of punishing them both with the utmost
rigour of the law; as regards the coachman for allowing an extra
person to ride with him, and the book-keeper for insisting that the
coachman (who was in a manner obliged to obey his orders) should carry
the passenger on the seat with him.

"The inspector found, when applying for the summons, that he could
only proceed against the coachman. The case was heard before the
magistrates at Oxford, when the coachman was fined in the penalty of
fifty shillings and costs."

The question was raised as to asking the contractor to dismiss the
coachman, but the opinion of the Postmaster-General was that the
punishment had fallen on the wrong man, and he would, therefore, not
insist upon his dismissal.

I should have supposed that, in such a case as this, the guard would
have had power to summarily prevent an extra passenger being carried.
If he had not that power he surely ought to have had it, and if he did
possess it, and did not exercise it, he alone was to blame. But, after
all, it is difficult to understand how the presence of a third person
on the box could have contributed to the breaking of the reins, which
was the ultimate cause of the accident.

Amongst the other old institutions and customs which I have raked up
from the dust-heap of time, is the law of Deodand, and I will now, by
means of an accident, give a practical insight into the working of it.

As the Holyhead mail was one day galloping down a sharp pitch in the
road at Shenley, three boys on their way to school, as was a not
uncommon practice with boys in those days, tried which of them could
run across the road nearest to the horses' heads of the coach. Two of
them got across in time and escaped without harm, but the third, being
foolhardy, tried to return; the lamentable result of which was that
the near side leading bar struck him and knocked him down, causing the
mail to run over him, and he was killed on the spot.

A coroner's inquest was held, before which the coachman had to appear,
but no blame was attached to him, although a deodand of one sovereign
was levied on the coach.

The law appears to have worked hardly in this case. If any one was to
blame, it must have been the coachman, and it was rather rough on the
proprietors to fine them indirectly for an accident over which they
could have no control.

There was a coach from Cambridge to London, called the "Star," what
was called an up and down coach; that is, leaving Cambridge in the
morning, and returning again in the evening, from the "Belle Sauvage,"
Ludgate Hill, which was driven by Joe Walton, a very steady, good
coachman, but which, nevertheless, met with a very serious and
expensive accident.

Sir St. Vincent Cotton, well known afterwards on the Brighton road,
whenever he travelled by the "Star," was allowed by Mr. Nelson, the
London proprietor, to waggon it, and it was considered a great piece
of condescension on the part of old Joe to give up the ribbons to
anyone; but the baronet was a first-rate amateur, and a liberal
tipper, so he waived the etiquette. On one of these occasions the
"Star" was a little behind time, and St. Vincent was making it up by
springing the team a little too freely, which set the coach on the
rock, and old Joe becoming nervous, seized hold of the near side reins
and thus threw her over. Calloway, the jockey, who was on the coach,
had his leg broken, and the accident altogether cost the proprietors
nearly two thousand pounds. Sir St. Vincent was unable to assist them
much, as he was hard-up at the time.

Probably the fact of the coach being driven by an amateur was not
without its effect upon the costs, as, whether he was to blame or not,
a jury would not be unlikely to arrive at the conclusion that he was
the wrong man in the wrong place.

And now I will wind up this formidable chapter of accidents with one
which indicates that the palmy days were passing away, and as it is
always somewhat painful to witness the decay of anything one has been
fond of, I will draw the veil over the decadence of a system which
arrived nearer to perfection than any other road travelling that was
ever seen in the world. Sufficient to say that my own experience on a
journey during that winter on the Holyhead mail quite confirms the
description given of the state of the horses and harness.

I was on the box of the mail one night in the month of January in that
winter, when I saw the old short Tommy, which had lain so long on the
shelf, reproduced, to enable time to be kept, and in one place there
lay by the side of the road the carcase of a horse which had fallen in
the up mail. Perhaps it was not very much to be wondered at that the
proprietors should be unwilling to go to the expense of buying fresh
horses at such a time, but they carried their prudence so far that it
partook of cruelty.

The mail coach minute of the General Post-Office says: "Collision
between the Holyhead mail coach and the Manchester mail coach, 29
June, 1838, at Dirty House Hill, between Weedon and Foster's Booth."

"Both coachmen were in fault. The Holyhead coach had no lamps, and the
explanation of their absence was that 28th June of that year was the
Coronation Day of our beloved Queen, and the crowd was so great in
Birmingham that, in paying attention to getting the horses through the
streets, and having lost considerable time in so doing, in the hurry
to get the coach off again, the guard did not ascertain if the lamps
were with the coach or not. The Manchester coach, at the time of the
accident, was attempting, when climbing the hill, to pass the Carlisle
mail coach, and was ascending on the wrong side of the road. The
horses dashed into each other, with the result that one of the wheel
horses of the Holyhead mail, belonging to Mr. Wilson, of Daventry, was
killed, and the others injured, one of the leaders seriously. The
harness was old, and snapped like chips, or more serious would have
been the consequences. In fact, the horse killed was old and worn-out,
otherwise, the sudden concussion might have deprived the passengers of
life, and, probably, more horses would have been killed. As it was
difficult to decide which of the two coachmen was most in the wrong,
it was left to the two coachmasters to arrange affairs between
themselves."

How the Holyhead, the Manchester, and the Carlisle mails ever got
together on the same road I am unable to say, but can only suppose
that the railway being open at that time from Liverpool and Manchester
to Birmingham, the bags were in some way handed over to them for
conveyance as far as was possible, and were then consigned at the
terminus at Birmingham to their respective mail coaches; but, even
then, I should have thought that the weight of the bags could not have
been sufficient to necessitate a separate coach for each place.



CHAPTER IV.

COMBATING WITH SNOW, FOGS, AND FLOODS.


How vividly do these words recall the many wet and snowy journeys
which I have experienced, both as coachman and passenger, in years
gone by, and, strange as it may appear to most people now-a-days, with
no unpleasurable associations, though no doubt it was rather trying at
the time. Snowstorms, in particular, were very detrimental to
coachmen's eyes, particularly when accompanied with high winds. A good
look out forward could on no account be relaxed, and that placed the
eyes in such a position as was most favourable for the large flakes to
fall into them. One coachman on the Holyhead mail, I forget his name,
lost his sight from the effects of a snowstorm in the pass of Nant
Francon, but probably his eyes had already been weakened by previous
experiences of the same nature. I don't think my own have even quite
recovered the effects of three winters over the base of Cader Idris.

But, notwithstanding all the bad weather I have been exposed to, I
cannot call to mind having ever been wet through outside a coach; but
then I always took care to be well protected by coats, and all other
contrivances for withstanding it. I have, however, seen a
fellow-passenger, when he dismounted from a coach at the end of an
eighty miles' journey, performed in soaking rain, whose boots were as
full of water from the rain having run down him, as if he had just
walked through a brook.

I never had the misfortune of being regularly snowed up, though I have
had some experience of snowdrifts. One of the winters that I drove the
"Harkaway" was accompanied by a good deal of snow, and the road for
part of the journey, which ran over high and exposed ground, became
drifted up, preventing the coach running for two days.

On the third, however, as a slight thaw had set in, it was determined
to try and force a way through, especially as the road surveyor had
sent some men to clear away the snow. As far as the coach road was
concerned, however, these men might nearly as well have stayed at
home, as they had confined their attention to letting off the water
where it had melted, and when the coach arrived at the spot the drifts
remained very much as they had been. Under these circumstances,
instead of the proverbial three courses there were only two offered to
us--namely, to "go at it or go home." I chose the former alternative,
and, catching the horses fast by the head, sent them at the first
drift with such a will, that, between the force of the pace and a
struggle or two besides, the coach was landed about half way through,
when it stuck fast. The workmen now came to our assistance, and dug us
out, and I had then only to do the same at the other two drifts, and
we managed to catch a train at Machynlleth, though not the right one,
as it had taken us two hours to cover a distance of one mile and a
half.

Though I have always been fortunate enough to keep clear of dangerous
floods, I did so once only by a detour of seven miles, thereby
lengthening the day's drive to one hundred, and this reminds me of a
rather droll request that was once made to me.

I was driving my drag with a party going to a picnic, and in the
course of the drive we had to ford a river which had risen very
considerably from the rains of the previous night. When we had got
about half-way across, the water had become deep enough to rise a foot
or so up the leaders' sides, and the spray was dashing over their
backs. Of course, there was nothing to be done except to push on, but
a lady called to me from behind, begging me either to turn round, or
else put her down. If I had acceded to her last request, she would
have met with a cool reception!

Notwithstanding all that was done by the great improvement made in
roads, together with the superior class of horses employed and the
general excellence of the coachmen, nothing could be effected to
prevent loss of time or accidents occurring through severe snows,
floods, and fogs, and the mail-bags were from these causes delayed,
although, as we have already seen, almost superhuman efforts were made
by the guards to get them through the stoppages.

Neither were the Postmaster-General and his subordinates wanting in
using all the means in their power, whether by expenditure of money or
in any other way, to secure the safety and punctuality of the mails.
The expenses incurred during serious snows, in paying for the removal
of the snow or for extra horses to the coaches, were considerable. In
one heavy snowstorm the sum of one hundred and ninety pounds was paid
for these purposes, and for another the cost was one hundred and
sixty.

At one time the attention of the Postmaster-General was called to a
snow-plough, and the following circular was issued in December, 1836,
to the postmasters: "I send you some copies of a description of
snow-plough, which has been used with great advantage in former
seasons for the purpose of forcing a passage through the snow, and I
have to request that you will communicate with the magistrates,
commissioners, trustees, and surveyors of roads, or other influential
persons, urging their co-operation in endeavouring to remove the
impediments to the progress of the mails. The Postmaster-General
relies on all possible efforts being made by yourself and others to
secure this important object, and I would suggest whether, among other
methods, the passage of the mail coaches through the snow might not be
facilitated by placing them on sledges." Whether any pattern of
snow-plough or sledge accompanied this missive is not clear, but,
judging from some correspondence on the subject, I should fancy there
was.

Nothing appears to have been done with either implement, and, indeed,
it is not very likely that they would have been popular with the horse
contractors. If the snow-ploughs had succeeded in clearing a space
sufficient to permit of the passage of a coach, it would probably have
left the road in a very heavy state, and I should doubt whether in the
climate of this country sledges would have been found of much use. Our
frosts are seldom intense enough, and too frequently accompanied with
thaws, to allow of the surface being in a fit state for their use for
sufficient length of time to make it worth while adapting the coaches
to them. If sledges had been brought into general use, probably a good
many proprietors would have followed the example set them by one of
their number, who, when the coachman had succeeded by great exertions
in getting his coach through the snow, said to him, "Why don't you
stick her?" and, strange to relate, she did stick in a drift on the
next journey.

Dense fogs, although not altogether stopping the traffic on the roads,
were more conducive to accidents than heavy snows, which did
absolutely prohibit progress. In the latter case, at the worst,
conveyances were reduced to a complete standstill, and there was an
end of it for the time; but if the fog was of such a density as to be
capable of being cut with a knife and fork an attempt must be made.
Though we hear from time to time of all traffic being stopped in the
streets of the metropolis, I never recollect to have known of coaches
being quite reduced to that state of helplessness; and, here again,
the Postmaster-General is found providing what remedy he could. In
November, 1835, he ordered links to be prepared, but with the
assistance of those, even if carried by men on horseback, only very
slow progress could have been effected. It is one of the greatest
evils attendant on a fog that it renders lamps useless, and very much
circumscribes the light thrown by a link.

If the fog was not very thick indeed, it was possible, though it might
be attended by some little risk, to keep going pretty well, but when
it became so dense as to hide the horses from the coachman's view
there would be no travelling beyond a foot's pace. One could keep
pushing along pretty well, as I recollect having done myself when
driving a mail, and time had to be kept if at all possible, as long as
the hedges could be distinguished, though I hardly knew how soon my
leaders would be in the middle of a lot of loose horses which I could
not see, but distinctly hear clattering along just in front of us.

Notwithstanding all the care that could be taken, accidents were the
inevitable result of the attempts made to keep going, of which I will
now give one or two instances, though they were not of a serious
nature.

On December 3rd, 1839, the Gloucester and Stroud mails, which ran for
a long distance over the same ground, were both drawn off the road and
upset in a thick fog, and within a few days of this occurrence the
Edinburgh mail was overturned into a ditch, owing to the fog being so
thick that the coachman could not see his horses.

But floods were most to be dreaded. As has been shown, though fogs and
snowstorms were great hindrances to locomotion, and the cause of a
vast amount of inconvenience and expense, they were seldom attended
with loss of life, whereas sad records of fatal issues are to be found
in connection with floods, to a few of which I will call the reader's
attention.

On September 11th, 1829, when the Birmingham and Liverpool mail
reached Smallwood Bridge, it turned out that the bridge had been blown
up by the force of the water, and the coachman, not being aware of it,
the coach was precipitated into the river. The guard was washed down
under a remaining arch. The coachman caught hold of a stump and saved
himself. Of the three inside passengers, one being a slender, active
young man, managed to get out by breaking the glass of the window, and
helped to save the guard. The two others sunk to the bottom with one
of the horses, and nothing could be seen but water.

Strange to say, however, the bags were eventually recovered, when the
letters were carefully spread out to dry, and were, most of them,
eventually delivered in tolerable condition. Some few fragments are to
be seen now at the General Post-Office.

Moreton, the guard, was washed down about two hundreds yards, when he
caught hold of a tree, and remained there up to his neck in water for
an hour before he was rescued.

A most serious flood took place near Newport Pagnel, in November,
1823, though, fortunately, not attended with any fatal consequences,
though the stoppage of traffic was very great.

The report to the General Post-Office was, "Owing to a sudden rise in
the waters near Newport Pagnel, two mails, six coaches, and a van were
unable to proceed on their journeys, and, but for the hospitality of
Mr. R. Walker, brick-maker, the passengers, amounting to upwards of
sixty persons, would have been exposed during the tempestuous night to
all the severities of the season. He most kindly opened his doors, and
generously offered to the passengers and horses every assistance and
comfort in his power; turning his own horses out of the stables to
afford shelter to those of the mails."

On February 9th, 1831, the Milford Haven mail met with a most serious
accident.

The following is the report of the inspector, which, though rather
involved, affords a graphic account of the circumstances, and I think
I cannot do better than give it in his words. He says, "About two
o'clock in the morning, when crossing a small bridge near the river
Towy, about six miles from Caermarthen, on the London road between
Caermarthen and Llandilo, owing to the heavy falls of snow and rain on
the mountains and a rapid thaw afterwards, which caused the river to
overflow the bridge and high road, the morning also being very dark,
and the rain falling heavily, the coach was overtaken by the flood,
and before the coachman was aware of it, the water rose to such a
height in a few minutes that the four horses were unfortunately
drowned, and all on the coach would undoubtedly have shared the same
fate but for the meritorious conduct of a passenger named John Cressy
(a servant in the employ of Sir Richard Phillips), who swam through
the flood for about one hundred yards, and secured some boats, which
he brought to their assistance, just as the water had reached the top
of the coach, and by this means all the passengers, together with
coachman, guard, and mails, were saved. John Cressy was awarded
fifteen pounds by the Postmaster-General for his gallant conduct."

Some years after this, but I have not got the date, a somewhat similar
accident happened on the down journey of the Gloucester and
Aberystwith mail. The water had flooded the road at Lugwardine to a
considerable depth, and one of the arches of the bridge had collapsed;
the result of which was that coach, horses, passengers, and all were
precipitated into the water, and were with great difficulty rescued,
and though no life was lost at the time, one passenger, a Mr.
Hardwick, died afterwards from being so long immersed in the water.



CHAPTER V.

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.


There can be but few left now who are able to call to mind that the
style of coaches which now run in the summer months from the "White
Horse Cellars," and traverse the different roads out of London, were
to a great extent anticipated more than fifty years ago. But so it is,
and I have a vivid recollection of having seen, in the years 1837 or
38, a remarkably well-appointed coach start from the "Cellars," which
created quite a crowd of people, even in those days when coaches were
as common as blackberries. It was named the "Taglioni," after a
favourite _danseuse_ of those days, and ran to Windsor and back in the
day. It was painted blue, with a red undercarriage, the family colours
of Lord Chesterfield, who horsed it, in conjunction with Count d'Orsay
and Prince Bathyani. Young Brackenbury was the professional coachman,
for, though his Lordship and his brother proprietors drove very
frequently, they kept a curate to do the work when they had other
things to do which they liked better. Brackenbury used to wear a most
_récherché_ blue scarf, with "Taglioni" embroidered on it by the
Countess's own hands.

His Lordship had the credit of being a very good coachman, as will be
seen from the few lines I venture to produce, which appeared in one of
the sporting periodicals of that time:--

    "See Chesterfield advance with steady hand,
    Swish at a rasper and in safety land,
    Who sits his horse so well, or at a race,
    Drives four in hand with greater skill or grace."

No doubt, the "Taglioni" did take her share in the ordinary business
of a public conveyance, and not, as in the present day, of carrying
only parties on "pleasure bent," but it had a certain spice of the toy
about it; and I should think did not much exercise the minds of Pears
or Shepherd, who each had a coach on the same road. As a boy, I had an
eye for a coach, and remember, as well as I remember old Keat's birch,
seeing those two coaches pass through Eton. Shepherd's was a true blue
coach, and travelled on the maxim of "Certain, though slow." Pears
drove a coach painted chocolate with red undercarriage, and was
altogether a smarter turn-out than the gentle Shepherd, and travelled
somewhat faster, but, I believe, ran little chance of being run in for
furious driving.

Whilst I stand in fancy upon the classic ground of Eton, there arises
before my sight a pageant, which for better or worse has now, like so
many other antique customs, passed away never to be revived. I suppose
this is a necessary accompaniment of the progress of the age, and that
"Montem" could hardly have been carried on in the days of the boiling
kettle. It would have been as easy to get blood out of a stone as
_salt_ from a rushing train; besides which the present facilities
of locomotion would have brought together an exceedingly miscellaneous
gathering at Salt Hill, to say the least of it.

Still it was a unique institution, and contained in it a very kindly
feeling--that of giving a little start in the world to a youth who had
attained the top rung of the college ladder, and was entering upon his
university career.

Most of the ways and doings of old Eton have found plenty of
chroniclers. The institution in the library is never forgotten. The
birch and the block always come in for their fair share of comment,
but the triennial festival of "Montem" has, so far as I am aware, not
received anything like the same amount of attention; and as I acted a
part in two of them, both in blue and red, I will venture to intrude
upon the patience of the reader whilst I make a short digression,
emboldened thereto by the fact that Eton customs have already been
handled, as well as the ribbons, in a book on coaching.

Well, then, "Montem" was celebrated every third year. The day's work
began by four boys, selected for the purpose and gaily habited,
starting off by two and two, early in the morning, to scour the
principal roads in the neighbourhood, and gather donations in
money--called for the occasion "_Salt_"--from all the travellers
they met with. By this means a nice sum was collected, which was
given to the senior boy on the foundation upon his leaving the college
for the University of Cambridge. At a later hour, about ten o'clock,
the whole school assembled in the college square. The sixth form, if I
recollect rightly, wore fancy dresses, representing some classical or
historical characters, and attended by one or two pages, selected from
the lower boys, and also wearing fancy dresses. The fifth form wore a
rather heterogeneous dress, a mixture of military and civil. It
consisted of a red coat and white trousers, with a sword and sash,
surmounted by a cocked hat, from which was fluttering in the wind a
feather, such as was worn by a Field-Marshal or a General Officer,
according to the taste of the wearer, or in what he could get. The
lower boys were dressed in blue jackets and white trousers, each
carrying in his hand a white wand, in length about six or seven feet,
and in the procession were mixed alternately with the semi-military
fifth form.

In this formation they marched round the quadrangle of the college,
upon debouching from which a somewhat strange scene ensued. The
wearers of the red coats drew their swords and began hacking
vigorously at the wands, which were held out by their owners for the
purpose of being cut to pieces. The swords, however, were so blunt
that more wands owed their destruction to the hands of the blue boys
than the swords of the red. The work of destruction being
accomplished, the whole fell in again and marched to Salt Hill, where
dinners were provided for them by their different houses; and dinner
being ended, they returned to college as they liked.

The two hotels at Salt Hill are, I believe, now converted to other
uses, and the dwellers there would be as much astonished to see a
"Montem," as one of the hundred and odd mails and coaches which passed
their doors in those days.



CHAPTER VI.

HORSES.


A book about coaching would be very incomplete without touching on the
subject of horses, as they were like the main spring of a watch: the
coach could not go without them.

Of course, a very large number of horses were employed in the coaches,
and I can remember that many people feared that, if coaches ceased to
run, the number and quality of the horses bred in the country would
deteriorate, in consequence of this demand for them falling off; but
that, like most prognostications of the same sort, has proved to be
unfounded, and I should think the number of horses at the present time
employed in public conveyances, must exceed considerably what it was
in the days of road travelling.

However that may be, no doubt very large numbers were kept by the
different coach proprietors, both in town and country, at the head of
which stood Mr. Chaplin, with about thirteen hundred; and a very large
capital was invested in the business, though probably not so large as
might be supposed by the uninitiated; for, judging by my own
experience, I should say that the price of horses used for that
purpose has been over-stated. Nimrod, who was no doubt a very
competent authority on the subject, at the time he wrote his article
in the _Quarterly Review_,[1] puts the average price at twenty-five
pounds, with about thirty pounds for those working out of London; but
I think those prices are rather high.

          [1] _Quarterly Review_ for 1832, vol. 48, pages 346-375.

This statement may appear erroneous to those who would judge by the
sums now obtained for the horses which have been running in the summer
coaches out of London in the present day; but the two businesses have
little in common, except that the coaches go on wheels and are drawn
by horses. Six months' work on a coach, loaded as they used to be,
would take more out of the horses employed in them than would two
years in the coaches which look so pretty at Hatchett's on a fine
summer morning, and no one could have afforded to give high prices for
what wore out so quickly; not but that horses increased in value for
the work required of them as they became seasoned to it; but, again,
some wore out in the seasoning. Many horses, doubtless, were bought at
the price of twenty-five pounds, and perhaps in some cases a little
over, though those were exceptional cases, and for myself, I can say
that I never found it necessary to exceed that sum; but in drawing the
average, we must not leave out of the calculation the large number of
horses which found their way into coaches in consequence of the
infirmity of their tempers, and, I may add, of the bad management they
had been subjected to.

If a horse, though from no fault of his own, ran away with the
parson's or lawyer's "four-wheeler," he was immediately offered to the
nearest coach proprietor. If another kicked a commercial traveller out
of his buggy, he was at once offered to the coach proprietor. If a
gentleman's carriage-horse took to any bad habit, which rendered him
unfit for his work, or unpleasant to the coachman to drive, he also
was offered to the coach proprietor; and I once came into possession
of a very good horse at the price of ten pounds from this last cause.
He had taken to jibbing, probably because he had a very light mouth,
which caused him to resent the bearing rein, and was offered to me for
the above-named sum, at which I immediately closed. The coachman
brought him to my stable in time for him to be harnessed and take his
place in the team going out that evening, and he stayed to witness the
start, quite expecting, I make no doubt, to see some fun. I put him at
lead, by the side of a very good horse, though, by the by, he had
brought a coach to grief when placed alongside of the pole. Of course,
there was no bearing rein, and he only just stood for a moment till
the bars began to rattle against his houghs, when he started off with
a bound and a hop, and never gave the slightest trouble.

Horses also got into coaches in consequence of unsoundnesses, which,
though little or no detriment to them for work, reduced their market
value very considerably; and I once became possessed, for the sum of
eighteen pounds, of a very fine horse, nearly thorough-bred, and only
five years old, because he had become a roarer, and which had been
bought as a hunter for one hundred guineas only a short time
previously; but though he ran over a nine-mile stage with some very
heavy hills upon it, having no weight on his back, he never made the
slightest noise. There are other causes of unsoundness, such as
crib-biting, which are no detriment to a coach-horse, though lowering
their value in the market.

Then, again, if a horse fell and chipped his knees, whether it arose
from any fault or not, he was, as a general rule, sold out of a
gentleman's stable; and I once picked up an excellent horse merely for
fear he should break his knees. He was a very well-made animal, with
the exception that he turned his toes in. He was the property of a
clergyman, who must have known little or nothing about horses, and, I
suppose, some knowing friend who thought he _did_ know must have
alarmed him by telling him that the horse was certain to come down
with such a pair of forelegs; so, to save a greater loss, a horse
worth thirty pounds at least came into my possession for twenty. So
far from falling, he was a safe goer, both in saddle and harness.

The instances to which I have alluded may be classed perhaps more as
shortcomings and failings than vice, but to those must be added many
whose tempers were apparently incorrigible, and they could only be put
in a coach, as those who travelled post would not put up with them.

Just one word _en passant_ on that mode of travelling, as it must be
quite unknown to the majority of people now living; but, as one who
can recollect it, I venture to say that a well-built comfortable
carriage with four post-horses was the perfection of travelling. It is
not to be denied that it took a day or two to get over the same
distance as is now travelled by a train in a few hours, but the inns
on the road were good, generally afforded comfortable accommodation,
the cooking was also good, and the wine very fair, of which it was
usual to order a bottle for the "good of the house." Some of them had
a special character for what were called sleeping-houses, and
travellers would continue their journey for an extra stage for the
purpose of reaching one of these houses for the night. The attention
paid to posting travellers was very great. Upon the carriage stopping
at the door, the entrance was perceived to be lined by the hostess,
waiters, chambermaids, etc., and the universal question was, "Will you
please to alight?" If they elected to proceed, the cry was immediately
raised, "First and second turns out," and in a minute would be seen
approaching two mounted postboys, with two other men leading the hand
horses, and in about three minutes they were off again, dashing along
at about nine miles an hour. If, however, the day's journey was ended,
the dusk of evening was exchanged for a comfortable private
sitting-room with a bright fire--no public rooms in those days. At the
time appointed a comfortable dinner would be served, the _piece de
resistance_ being very commonly placed on the table by the host
himself. Indeed, one of the great recommendations of the inns of those
days was that the host and hostess interested _themselves_ in the
comfort of their guests. If we add to this the fact that at the
beginning of the journey you were taken from your own door, and at the
end of it landed at your own or a friend's door, without the
experiences of a crowded railway station, there may be something to be
said in favour of it.

I can imagine I hear someone say, "Oh, yes, it might have been
pleasant enough for those swells who could afford to pay for four
horses, but how about the smaller fry who were obliged to be contented
with the modest pair?" Well, I must confess that the odd mile or two
an hour did make a difference, and posting in a travelling carriage
packed with all its boxes, and containing four or five persons about
it, such, in fact, as was called by the postboys a "_bounder_, having
everything except the kitchen grate," was often, especially in winter,
not unattended with discomfort and tediousness. How well can I
recollect, when quite a child, at the end of a day's travelling of
seventy or eighty miles on a winter's day, when twilight was fast
sinking into darkness, envying the people who I could see through the
windows of the houses, sitting round a blazing fire! And, indeed, the
blacksmith, blowing up the fire on his hearth and making the sparks
fly from the iron by the blows administered by his brawny arms,
possessed much attraction. This, however, was quite made up for on the
down journey later in the year. This, indeed, was unalloyed delight.
After having been "cribbed, cabined, and confined" in London for five
months, with nothing more nearly approaching to the country than Hyde
Park and Kensington Gardens (and in those days there was not a
flower-bed in either of them), when one emerged from the suburbs,
which was sooner done in those days than now, and the eye beheld the
fields and green hedges, made brilliant by wild flowers, it seemed a
very Elysium; and to hold in one's hand a posy of dog-roses was bliss
itself, even though they had received a peppering of road dust. I have
always loved a dog-rose since, and shall continue to do so as long as
I live. The longest summer day was hardly long enough for taking in
such happiness. No amount of railway travelling will ever leave behind
such happy reminiscences of childhood. Then, again, there was time and
opportunity for other things, which can never be the case in railway
travelling; amongst which was the childish pleasure of being fitted
with a new straw hat whilst the horses were being changed at
Dunstable. It was not all _couleur de rose_, neither was it all labour
and sorrow. Like all other things in this world, it had its lights and
shades.

Perhaps it may be urged against this that there is no time for such a
mode of travelling now. It may be so, but, as a nearly worn-out old
roadster, it strikes me there may be too much haste for comfort. It
was undeniably slow and expensive, though it may be doubted whether
people generally spent more money in travelling than they do now. The
facilities offered by railways cause the present generation to move
about a great deal more freely than did their ancestors.

But all this is skirting, and I must return to the scent, which was, I
think, very much the sort of horses which we coachmen had to drive.
They were, indeed, often a very queer lot, but they had to be driven,
and were driven. Of course, four of this sort were not put all
together; there were always one or two steady ones among them. But
even if they had been, and all had determined to do wrong, it is most
improbable that all would have gone wrong in the same way, and one
could have been played off against another. This is one great
advantage in four. In single harness, if the horse takes to bad ways,
you have the whole team against you, but that is, as I have said, very
unlikely with four. Perhaps this may account for the old saying that
"half the coachmen were killed out of gigs."

When I got a horse that was very troublesome, I always found that
doubling him, that is, making him run his stage double, brought him to
his senses in the course of a week or two. Some may say it was not
right to risk the lives and limbs of the passengers, by using unruly
horses, but, practically, very little danger was incurred. I will not
say that no accidents ever occurred from this cause, but they were
very rare. If an accident should have happened, and a life been lost
from that cause, the old law of "deodand" would have touched up the
proprietor's pockets severely; besides which, horses of this
description were only entrusted to the hands of well-tried men.

Notwithstanding all this, however, accidents did occasionally happen
from this cause, and sometimes of a very serious nature, one or two of
which I will now produce. The first was an exceedingly calamitous one,
and I think I cannot do better than use the words of a friend of mine,
who was an eye-witness to the scene, as they will be more likely to
convey a full idea of the horrible appearance presented by the mingled
heap of injured human beings and horses, with the coach on the top of
them, than anything I can say at second hand. He says: "I was staying
at the 'White Horse,' at Hockliffe, for a few days, and on the first
night I was disturbed by a man knocking at the front door and
shouting, 'Get up, the "Greyhound" is overturned and all the
passengers are killed.' Upon hearing of this terrific slaughter," he
proceeds to say, "I got up, and with others started to the scene of
the catastrophe, which was about a mile and a half distant, opposite
to a large mansion called 'Battleden House,' then the residence of Sir
G. P. Turner, and there we found a mass of human beings and horses all
of a heap. The coachman was under the coach with his leg broken, many
of the passengers dangerously injured, and two horses had legs broken.
It was a shocking sight to witness, and melancholy to hear the
squealing of horses, and the passengers moaning."

After all, however, it was found that there was not so much damage
done here to the passengers as would have been expected. None were
killed, nor any so seriously injured but that they were able to be
conveyed to their destinations in a few days.

The cause of the accident originated in the near side wheeler
accomplishing what she had tried to do many times before, viz., kick
over the pole, which broke, when, of course, all control was lost, and
the coach was overturned into the ravine where it was found.

In the other case no injury was sustained by anyone except the culprit
himself, who must have been an exceedingly violent brute.

In October, 1839, when near Maidenhead a horse in the Bristol mail
kicked so violently that he broke the pole-hook and harness, and put
out his own shoulder in his fall.

Blind horses, again, found their way into coaches, and, if high
mettled ones, performed very good work. The worst of them was, that
they became too knowing about the corners, and when at wheel, where
they were generally driven (though in Ireland I have had both leaders
blind), if the coachman was not on the look out for it, might hang him
into one. Some however, were very bold, and high couraged. I recollect
one which ran in the lead of the "Greyhound" out of Shrewsbury, of
this sort. He was so handsome a horse, that, if he had been all right,
he would have commanded at least a hundred guineas for a gentleman's
carriage, but being blind, of course, was only fit for a coach. One
day, when I was travelling by that coach, and was as usual driving, he
quite won my heart by the high couraged manner in which he elbowed his
way through the large droves of cattle which were being driven along
the road from Shrewsbury fair.

The reader will now understand how it came to pass that the average
value of coach-horses was so low, as these blemished, unsound, and
vicious ones never cost more than fifteen pounds, and very often not
much above half that sum. I once purchased a good mare for the very
modest figure of twenty-five shillings. It may be asked, how was it
possible to buy a horse fit to run a coach, or indeed do any fast
work, for such a sum? to which I reply, that she had only one place
where she could possibly be utilized, and that at the time she came
into my possession coaches were continually being supplanted by
railways, and therefore there was very little demand for such as her.
She had neither size nor form for a wheeler, even if she would have
condescended to go there, and only of use on one side at lead, I
forget which, and I suppose would very promptly have made fragments of
any carriage behind her in single harness. She was, however, a real
good leader where she chose to go, and I drove her in a match team of
chestnuts for a considerable time. I bought her with confidence, as I
had frequently driven her in another coach previously.

Talking of only going on one side, I do not think coachmen always
consider this enough. There is a theory with many gentlemen, and their
coachmen, that the sides should be changed frequently; but with hard
work, such as that in a coach, horses do their work better and easier
to themselves by always going in the same place. At one time I was
horsing a coach, and driving one side, as it was called, another
coachman driving the other; and, consequently, we both drove the same
horses over some stages. He said to me, "That in one of my teams, one
leader could not go up to the other." I asked him on which side he
drove him. He replied, "I put him on the off side, because I can get
at him better there." I said, "You try the near side," which was where
I always drove him, "and you will not want to get at him." Of course,
if a horse begins to hang to one side, it has become time to change
him.

The vices which most commonly brought horses into coaches were jibbing
and kicking. I do not recollect to have ever known a case of either of
them being thoroughly eradicated, though they were sufficiently kept
under to render them of little moment; but they were liable to return
if a fresh hand took hold of them, especially if he showed any signs
of indecision. It is astonishing how soon horses find out a change of
hand.

The great thing to attend to with jibbers is not to keep them
standing. If they have time to plant themselves they will give
trouble; but if the coachman is up and off at once, they will
generally start.

With kickers at wheel I never found two or three good punishments over
the ears to fail in bringing them into subjection, or, at any rate,
sufficiently so, though a "ventilated" front boot might occasionally
be the result. With a road coach, however, this did not much signify.
A leader might be harder to tame, as he cannot be got at in the same
way. I have heard it said of some one that he was so excellent a whip
that he could hit a fly on a leader's ear. I can only say I never saw
it done. But if a leader will not stand still to kick, he can be
driven; kick and keep going doesn't much matter.

In justice to the horses, however, it must be said that they are not
the only ones to blame. No small number of them are rendered vicious,
or unsteady, by mismanagement, and irremediable mischief is not
unfrequently produced from quite unexpected causes. To give one
instance: I am convinced that many a leader is set kicking by the
pole-chains being too slack.

I fancy I hear someone say, "What on earth have the pole-chains to do
with the leaders?" Well, I will try and show how intimately they are
connected.

When pulling up or going down-hill, the wheel horses must come back
towards the coach sufficiently to tighten the pole-chains. They will
thus be nearer the coach, or further off, by just that number of
inches. Then, as the leaders' reins are held in the same place as the
wheelers', they must also come back by the same number of inches,
which may, in the case of very slack pole-chains, be sufficient to
allow the bars to fall upon the leaders' houghs, which is a fertile
source of kicking; and it is a very true saying that a horse which has
once kicked in harness is never to be trusted again.

For a large number of jibbers I believe the bearing rein to be
responsible. But, after all, horses are queer creatures. They have as
many fads and fancies as men and women. Some will kick for being
touched in one spot, and some in another. I drove a leader for some
time who was easily set kicking by the bar touching him above his
houghs; but upon lengthening his traces by two or three holes, so as
to let the bar fall below the hough, in case it should touch him, he
was quite contented. And, again, some horses will kick when touched by
a low pole, others by a high one.

Coupling reins also are frequently so arranged as to be a cause of
discomfort to horses. It is manifest that when one horse carries his
head high, and his partner low, the coupling rein of the former should
be above that of the latter; and, again, if one horse tosses his head,
and his coupling rein is the under one, he must cause much annoyance
to the other, especially if he has a light mouth.

Parliament has now passed a Bill for the purpose of regulating the
traffic in horseflesh. Such an Act, if it had been placed on the
Statute Book, and had resulted in creating a demand for horseflesh for
food, would have been a great boon to stage coachmen formerly, as they
would not have been called upon to wear out the old horses. It would
have paid the proprietors better to put them up to feed when they
became stale, and fatten them for the market. It would also have
prevented much suffering to horses.

And now, if any reader is astonished at the price of horses, if he has
never heard of a less price for a set of harness than sixty guineas,
he will be incredulous when I mention the cost of that generally used
with coaches. Eighteen pounds was the top price usually given, and I
have driven with well-shaped and good-looking harness which only cost
sixteen. Indeed, at Walsall, which was the chief emporium for
low-priced harness, if two or three sets were taken at the same time,
they could be had for eleven pounds each. Collars were not included.

Of course, such harness as this did not last long, and, perhaps, was
not the cheapest in the long run; though I doubt whether the leather
was not better then than it is now, being all tanned with oak bark.



CHAPTER VII.

THE ROADS.


As the railways are dependent upon the excellence of the permanent way
for the pace at which they can travel, so were coaches indebted to the
good state of the roads for the great speed at which they were able to
perform their journeys by day and night; and it may be safely said,
without fear of contradiction, that in no other country had they been
brought so near to perfection, although a good deal of improvement
still remained to be done, and would have been effected if the railway
era had been postponed for another decade. Everything that could be
thought of to lighten the draught was being adopted. Not only were
hills cut down and valleys filled up, but on one hill on the Holyhead
road, between Dunstable and Brickhill, a tram of granite had been laid
on one side of the road to render the draught lighter to carriages
ascending the hill, though it had been very greatly eased by a deep
cutting through the chalk. I was one day travelling up by the
"Wonder," and when going up this hill, Harry Liley, who was driving,
although it was a hard frost, put the wheels upon the tram to show me
what a help it was to the horses. If it was of so much benefit when
the frost had hardened the road, what must it have been when the road
was soft? If these trams had become general, they would have saved the
extra pair of horses which used to be frequently employed to pull the
fast coaches up the worst ascents. Notwithstanding all that had been
done on the main roads, there remained miles and miles of cross roads
which were traversed by coaches at high speed, where little had been
effected in the way of lowering hills, and it was then that the
greatest care and skill were required to ensure the safety of heavily
loaded coaches.

It must be recollected that up to quite the latter end of the great
coaching days no patent breaks were in use. They were not invented
till about the year 1835, and were very slow in coming into use. I
knew a case of the Post-Office authorities refusing their sanction for
the proprietors to have one attached to a mail coach at their own
expense, because they thought it would break the contract with the
coachmaker, and I can quite imagine that the breaks were no favourites
of those who miled the coaches, as there was not only the original
cost, but the use of one has a considerable influence in wearing out
the hind wheels.

I had on one occasion undertaken to horse a coach over a stage, when
the coach was supplied by one of the proprietors, and to save his hind
wheels he wanted to omit the break. I immediately said, that no horse
of mine would be put to a coach which was sent out without a break, as
I believed them to be a great security against accidents. I have known
of one instance, however, where, a break caused an accident instead of
preventing it, but then the hind wheels must have been in a shameful
condition, as they both broke upon its application.

I really think that wheel horses held back better in the days before
breaks came into use than they do now. It was then necessary to take a
hill in time, as it was called, which meant going slowly over the
brow, and about half-way down it; and horses were, by this means,
better educated in holding than they are now, when it is not generally
necessary even to slacken the pace at all, as the pressure upon the
horses can be regulated by the break. This is also an enormous help to
a fast coach, even if it did not render the use of the skid almost
unnecessary.

I was once talking this subject over with little Bob Leek, who, from
having driven the "Hirondelle" for some years, was a very competent
judge, and I remarked that I thought a break was worth a mile an hour
to a coach. He replied, he thought it was worth two, and I have little
doubt he was right over hilly roads, such as some which the
"Hirondelle" travelled over.

It was to the system of turnpike trusts, now unfortunately no more,
that this country is indebted for the general excellence of its roads,
and against which I never heard more than two objections raised. One,
that it was very unpleasant and annoying to be obliged to stop at the
toll bars and pull out the money when the fingers were cold, and the
other, that it was a very expensive method of collecting money. The
first of these objections, I think, may be passed over in silence. It,
no doubt, is unpleasant to do anything which requires the use of the
fingers when they are cold, but surely that should not be held to be
sufficient reason for putting an end to a system which in the main
worked well. To the second a plea of guilty must be returned; but with
mitigating circumstances. Indeed, there was no necessity for it at
all, if the trustees had carried out their work well.

The "pikers," as they were called, did, no doubt, make a good living
out of the business, but so do most middlemen, and they need not have
been permitted to make an exorbitant profit. But before going further,
perhaps, I had better explain what a "piker" is, as they, like the
dodo, no longer exist. Well, then, they were a class of men who leased
the turnpike tolls, each of them generally taking all the gates in a
larger or smaller district. Sam Weller said they were "Misanthropes
who levied tolls on mankind;" but, as a general rule, these men did
not collect themselves, but employed others to do it, who resided in
the houses. Of course, these "pikers," like other people, thought
their first duty was to themselves, and they usually put their heads
together previous to the lettings of the gates, and agreed to divide
the spoils amicably, instead of bidding against one another. There was
nothing, however, to prevent the trustees putting in collectors, the
same as the pikers did, and by that means find out the real value of
the tolls, and at the same time keep Mr. Piker up to the scratch.
This, indeed, was often done, but when it was omitted, great losses
were incurred, as I have found to my own advantage.

The tolls were not levied under the General Turnpike Act of
Parliament, but under local Acts, and it was usual to insert in these
local Acts a clause compelling coaches to pay toll both going and
returning, even if drawn by the same horses. This, I think, was a
decided hardship, but it was generally mitigated by the pikers
allowing them to pay for only three horses instead of four, making six
a day instead of eight, and this led to a contest which I once had
with a piker.

At the first gate, a short distance out of Machynlleth, the lessee of
it refused this concession to the "Harkaway" coach; therefore, when
the day arrived for the annual letting, my partner and myself outbid
him and took the gate, putting in a collector, and at the end of the
year, after paying for the collecting, we had fifty pounds to divide
between us. Now, I think I have shown that if proper care was taken by
the trustees, no necessity existed, on this score, for abandoning the
turnpike system, for in this one example they gratuitously threw away
at least sixty pounds a year, which ought to have been available for
repairing the roads.

In another trust on the same road, the trustees tried to be a little
too sharp. As I have already said, the tolls were levied under local
Acts, and in this case, the special clause relating to coaches had
been, either intentionally or inadvertently, omitted, and we
consequently claimed that the coach should, like all other
conveyances, be exempted from paying if returning with the same
horses. The trustees, however, contended that a public conveyance was
liable to pay both ways, independently of a special clause to that
effect. The question was referred to counsel's opinion, which was
given in favour of the coach, and this so exasperated the trustees
that they proceeded in hot haste to erect a new toll-gate to catch it
after the change of horses.

In their hurry, however, they forgot that there were yet three months
before the annual letting of the gates, and they found themselves face
to face with the difficulty that no one could be persuaded to become a
lessee for that short period.

In this dilemma, we coach proprietors stepped in, and, _faute de
mieux_, were accepted as lessees, the result being that, instead of
paying the toll at the end of the three months, we retired from the
business with a profit of thirty shillings, after paying the expenses
of collecting.

On the day following, the stables were changed to the other side of
the gate, and the coach ran through free with a ticket from the
previous one.

These seem small things to write about, but they afforded some
interest and amusement at the time, and may be worth mentioning as
being a sample of the life.

The turnpike system, no doubt, like all other human inventions, had
its defects, but to it we are indebted for the excellence of our
internal communications; and I cannot help thinking that it was unjust
both to the bondholders and the ratepayers to allow it to die out.
Though the former were fairly liable to the diminished value of their
property caused by the rivalry of the railways, they, or those before
them, had honestly lent their money upon the understanding that the
Acts of Parliament would be renewed from time to time, and it was
little short of robbery to allow them to expire. Hardships, no doubt,
did exist in some districts from the excessive number of the toll
gates, especially in Wales, where it was no uncommon thing to be
called upon to pay at three gates in a distance of ten or twelve
miles.

This was found so burdensome that it produced the Rebecca riots in
South Wales, which led to the passing of an excellent Act for that
part of the Principality, and if that Act had been extended to North
Wales and England, the turnpike gates would, most probably, have been
standing at the present day, and I know not who would have been losers
by it, except the doctors and the timber merchants and other hauliers.
At any rate, the cost of repairing the roads fell on those who enjoyed
the benefit. The system, on the whole, worked well, and might easily
have been made to work better, and I entertain no doubt, indeed, I
know it, that large numbers of those who clamoured against it, would
now recall it if possible. If it was expensive to collect the tolls,
it appears to be impossible to collect a wheel and van tax.

It is easier to destroy than to build up, and I only hope that, after
the same length of trial, it may not be found that it would have been
wiser if we had remained contented with the old form of county
government, which had done its work so well for a great number of
years.

Since the above was penned the South Wales Turnpike Act has expired,
thereby saddling £25,000 a year upon those who do not use the roads,
instead of upon those who do. Where is Rebecca now?



CHAPTER VIII.

A SCIENTIFIC CHAPTER.


I had intended to conclude my remarks on the subject of the mail
coaches, but have been induced to invest in another chapter by an
ingenious proposal which was brought to the notice of the
Postmaster-General in the year 1807. If it led to no results, at any
rate it shows that there were those who took a keen interest in the
subject.

    [Illustration]

The Rev. W. Milton, Rector of Heckfield, Hartford Bridge--the same
reverend gentleman whose acquaintance we have previously made as the
advocate of broad wheels--invented a coach, which he claimed would
prevent overturns and breakdowns. The body of it was this shape, which
I give as it appears in the minutes on the subject, still preserved at
the General Post-Office. It is certainly singularly deficient in
graceful curves, and I can only suppose that it is meant to indicate
the manner in which the luggage box was placed. At any rate, we are
told that the coach was so constructed that nearly all the luggage was
carried in a box below the body of the carriage, which was not higher
than usual; but the appearance of the coach was deemed heavy, and as
the load was low, it was thought that the draught would be heavier
than the coaches then in use. Many coaches which loaded heavily with
luggage were already furnished with a receptacle for it denominated
the "slide," which was fixed under the hind axle, and thus, no doubt,
did add considerably to the draught; but to remedy this, as we shall
see, Mr. Milton makes use of unusually high wheels.

To prevent breakdowns the coach was fitted with idle wheels on each
side of the luggage box, with their periphery below the floor, and
each as near as was requisite to its respective active wheel. These
idle wheels were ready, in case of breakdowns on either side, to catch
the falling carriage, and instantly to continue its previous velocity,
till the coachman could pull up the horses. The bottom of the luggage
box was fourteen inches from the ground, and the idle wheel five or
six inches. The following extracts will convey a better idea of the
value of the invention. It evidently received a practical trial:--

"Mr. Ward, the coachman, soon found what he might venture, and he took
the coach accordingly over such ground as would most assuredly have
caused an overturn of any stage-coach with its usual load. This was
repeatedly done in the presence of six insides and ten outsides,
besides the coachman. Seven parts, perhaps, in ten of the load, which
was nearly three tons, lay on the hind wheels. These, by the
patentee's directions, were six feet high, and with no dishing, and,
as he deemed, sufficiently strong. They did not fail; but it was the
opinion of Mr. Thomas Ward, and all the practical men on the spot,
that they were not such as could show the principle of safety as to
dangerous and side-long ground up to its full extent. As it was,
however, any common coach would have gone over at fifty different
places during the stage which this coach took without the least
symptom of overturning. A linch-pin of one of the hind wheels was
taken out. The coach went on, and presently off came the wheel, and
down dropped the carriage about seven inches on a small idle wheel,
which immediately continued the motion without the least inconvenience
to the outside passengers or puzzle to the horses, and the shock was
not greater than what was produced by taking over a stone in the
night, and, if it had been required, the coach might have been taken
five or six miles by means of the idle wheel; and Mr. Thomas Ward very
confidently thinks these two circumstances of safety would invariably
attend any stage-coach so constructed."

So confident was the reverend patentee that he wrote the following
challenge: "I have no fear that either science or practice can
effectually controvert the following remark: Supposing, in a
stage-coach as at present, that the centre of gravity be four feet
above the main axle, and the width on the ground the same in two
cases, then the higher the wheels the greater will be the danger of an
overturn from an equal cause. It is not so with me, for the higher the
wheels the deeper may the luggage box be, so that the antidote follows
the growth of the danger; and here, from the full conviction I have of
its truth, I wish to offer the following opinion: Let seven or eight
parts in ten of the total load be within the hind wheels, and let them
be at least six feet high, on horizontal cylindric arms, by this
disposition, compared against the present, more than one horse in
forty would be saved or spared, for the goodness of the draught would
come out even through the intricacy of the medium, the fore-carriage;
but in many coaches the door at the middle of the side does not permit
so advantageous a hind wheel, and that at the expense just mentioned."

The invention was not accepted by the Postmaster-General, although it
was, to some extent, admitted to combine a principle of safety with
the celerity required in mail carriages. The cost, however, of such a
change in the mail coaches would have been very heavy, which, no
doubt, had a good deal to do with its rejection.

The fact, however, is that these inventions were not wanted, clever as
they might have been and effective where required. The mail coaches
were not called upon to travel over "dangerous and side-long ground,"
but upon fairly good roads at the worst, for which the coaches, as
then constructed, possessed quite sufficient stability, and the idle
wheels, however great the security they would have imparted to
heavily-loaded stage-coaches, were not required on the mails, where
the sustaining power was so great in proportion to the comparatively
light loads which they carried, that a broken axle was unknown among
them, and it was impossible for a wheel to come off with Mr. Vidler's
axle and boxes; and, of course, the idle wheels must have added to the
weight.

Although these patent-safety coaches were rejected by the Post-office,
they did find favour in one or two quarters. One worked for some time
between London and Stroudwater, and several were in use in Reading, as
the following certificate will prove:--

    "We, the proprietors of the Reading coaches, beg leave thus
    jointly to inform our friends and the public that we have each of
    us, during the last five weeks, tried the Rev. W. Milton's
    patent-safety coach, built by Brown and Day. We are fully
    persuaded that its draught will be as fair as that of any coach on
    the road, and have such a conviction of the safety of its
    principles, that we have no doubt that we shall be induced to put
    them on as early as shall be convenient to every coach we have.

    "Signed,

    "WILLIAMS & CO., Coachmasters, London and Reading;

    "E. EDWARDS, Coachmaster, Reading;

    "J. MOODY, Coachmaster, London."

It is very disappointing that no drawing appears to have been
preserved showing what these coaches looked like when they stood up
upon their wheels; but evidently the patent parts were capable of
being applied to the ordinary coaches, as is proved by the following
portion of an advertisement:--

"Any particulars regarding these coaches and the application of the
principles of it to stage-coaches at present in use may be had by
applying to Brown and Day, Coachmakers, Reading." And again they say,
"The safety of the plan depends upon the union of the two principles.
The same charge will be made for the application of the luggage box or
idle wheels, where either may be required separately, as for the two
together."

The Postmaster-General appears to have been fortunate in the number of
his counsellors, but, judging by the following suggestion, it would
have required a very great multitude to produce wisdom. Indeed, a more
objectionable change could hardly have been thought of.

By a memorandum at the General Post-Office, it appears that in
February, 1831, the Rev. W. C. Fenton, of Doncaster, made a suggestion
that postilions should be substituted for the coachmen. The suggestion
was rejected, as it was considered that the change of postilions would
necessarily be much more frequent than the change of coachmen, and
therefore the chances of delays would be greatly multiplied. It was
also thought that, were such a mode of driving adopted, it would be
the means of raising the fares, and the mails would again require
support. Many of the coachmen drove from forty to fifty miles without
a change. The Postmaster-General, Duke of Richmond, considered the
horses had enough to do without carrying additional weight.

The horses would not only have had the weight of an extra man to share
among them, but they would have had to carry both men in a way best
calculated to distress them. The easiest way for a horse to move a
weight is by his draught, the worst when placed upon his back.

Then again there was the difficulty of who was to pay the postilions.
They must have been changed at every stage, and I should think the
passengers, although in those days pretty well accustomed to giving
fees of one sort or another, would have objected to being _kicked_ by
two postboys at the end of every stage.

I can fancy I hear one of the uninitiated exclaim, "I should think
they would object to such treatment as that at any time," but, in the
language of the road, the word _kicking_ had no brutal signification
attached to it--it only meant asking the passengers for their fees,
and the word _shelling_ was often used to express the same process in
less objectionable language. The word was understood something in the
way that an Irishman uses the word _kilt_, which the following
anecdote will explain:--

An English gentleman had rented some shooting in Ireland, and had gone
over to enjoy the sport. On the morning after his arrival, having
engaged a lot of boys to beat for him, he started off to look for
game, but before he had gone very far, after firing a shot, he heard a
great commotion and chatter among the boys. Thereupon he called out to
them to ask if anything was the matter, to which the answer he
received was, "Nothing your 'anour,' only you've kilt a boy." I need
hardly say, that, being a stranger to the country, he was very much
alarmed till he reached the spot where the boys were assembled, when
he discovered, to his infinite relief, that the word "kilt" conveyed
no mortal signification in that country.

I will venture to give a few more instances of the propositions made
to the Postmaster-General. Some were certainly ingenious, but he very
wisely could not be induced to give up a system which had been well
proved, for what at the best, and however clever in itself, was
untried.

On September 14th, 1816, Mr. Peter M'Kenzie of Paddington offered to
construct a steam engine to run on rails at the rate of fifteen miles
an hour. He asserted that the mountains of Wales or any other part of
the United Kingdom would not impede its velocity. To enable him to
build a small model he asked that a hundred and fifty or two hundred
pounds might be advanced to him. As may be supposed this was refused
him, and the plan was abandoned. This gentleman also claimed that in
1802 the idea of printing newspapers by steam first originated with
him.

Mr. John England, writing from Aberdeen in August, 1820, wants the
department to adopt a travelling carriage or machine, which was
impelled by means of the expansion and contraction of compound fluids.
The machine was stated to weigh about 90 lbs. The plan was not
entertained. Again, in the year 1832 the same person submitted an
improved machine worked on the same principle, but, as may be
imagined, it met with no better result than the first.

In the next suggestion we appear to be approaching the present railway
system, but I should suppose that he intended laying his rails by the
side of the turnpike roads.

Mr. Thomas Gray, writing from Brussels in November, 1821, suggests
steam coaches on iron rails. In support of it, he stated that the
journey to Edinburgh would be done in half the time taken by the mail
coaches, and that the expense of laying the iron rails would be more
than covered by the extra passengers that could be carried in the
additional coaches which could be run.

This also met with a cold reception, and no doubt appeared at the time
to be simply speculative, yet the light of time compels us to take a
different view, and to recognize in it the germs of a great invention.

Mr. James Rondeen, of Lambeth, on June 3rd, 1823, submitted a scheme
to convey the mails by engines consuming their own smoke, of four or
six-horse power, which would cost from two hundred and fifty to three
hundred pounds each, and impel a coach at the rate of from fifteen to
twenty miles an hour. He estimated that there were two hundred and
eighty coaches running daily from London and on the cross roads, the
work of which, if his scheme was adopted, would be performed by
eighty-two engines. This scheme was considered an extraordinary one,
but the condition of its acceptance imposed by the inventor could not
be complied with.

I should gather from what is said here, that Mr. Rondeen's plan was of
the nature of a traction engine to run upon the existing turnpike
roads, and, if I am right, the Postmaster-General of that day had a
better opinion of that mode of progression than of the system of
rails. No doubt, several descriptions of traction engines were tried,
but none succeeded, and I have heard of surveyors of turnpike roads
laying such extra thick coverings of stone on the roads as to clog the
engine wheels; but however this may be, experience has proved that
they are not capable of much pace, however useful they may be found
for slow traffic.

A Mr. Knight, in January, 1822, suggested an elevated road or railway.
The carriage was to be slung from the road on rails above, and two
men, suspended in it at the bottom, would turn machinery to propel it
along the groove or railway. After the idea had been talked over by
Mr. Knight with the head of the mail coach department, the latter was
satisfied that it would be of no use to the Post-office.

A Mr. Elmes of Regent Street, in October, 1823, offered to convey the
mails to any part of the United Kingdom at the rate of from fifteen to
seventeen miles an hour, by means of a mechanical carriage, which
could be worked by horses or not. He stated that his contrivance would
reduce the cost of conveyance to about a quarter of that then
incurred. It need hardly be said that this proposal was too indefinite
to be entertained.

On the 25th of November, 1826, a Mr. Thorold, of Great Milton,
Norfolk, suggested the application of steam to mail coaches for
propelling them on turnpike roads. This plan appears to have been
considered feasible, as it is recorded that the plan was not adopted,
as it was considered best to wait until the idea was _seen_ in
practice.

On April 27, 1826, a Mr. Cadogan Williams submitted a plan for the
rapid conveyance of mails by means of tubes. The outline of his plan
was this: That a square of cast-iron or brick be laid from one stage
to another, with its extremities communicating with vaults of
sufficient magnitude for the purpose; one vault having an
air-evaporating apparatus, and the other a condensing, such as is used
to blow iron furnaces worked by steam power. At the neck of the tube
joining the condensing apparatus should be two stoppers, on the
principle of those that are used in beer cocks. Between the stoppers
should be a door for putting in the box of letters. On closing it the
stoppers should be turned, and the condensed air would exert itself in
the box and produce its rapid movement. This was certainly very
ingenious, if somewhat complicated. At any rate, he was informed that
his plan was not applicable to the purposes of the department.

And now comes a really wonderful proposal. A Mr. Slade, on May 14,
1827, offered to convey the mails at the rate of a mile a minute; but
he appears not to have been of a very communicative disposition, as he
did not state by what means this very high rate of speed was to be
obtained, but he estimated the cost for carrying out his plan at two
thousand pounds a mile. As may be supposed, this was considered too
visionary and costly to be enquired into further.

And now I have got what I think will raise a smile. It will hardly be
believed, but so it was, that a Royal Engineer--an officer, I
suppose--suggested that the mails should be conveyed by means of
shells and cannon. His idea was to enclose the letters in shells and
then fire them to the next stage, three miles distant, and then to the
next stage, and so on to the end of the journey. He said a good
bombardier could drop the shell within a few feet of the spot where
the next one was stationed.

As early as the year 1811 a trial was made of a drag, or break,
apparently a good deal resembling the breaks now so generally applied
to wheels. In that year a drag, as it was then called, was introduced
by a Mr. Simpson to the Post-office authorities, and was tried on the
Brighton and Worcester mails; but the advantages claimed for it by the
patentee were not borne out in practice. The advantages claimed were
that in case of the reins or pole breaking, or horses running away,
the drag could be at once applied by the guard without leaving his
seat, as it was put in action by a lever or shaft affixed to the body
of the coach, and worked by hand. It does not appear, however, to have
possessed sufficient attractions for it to be brought into general
use, as nothing more is heard of it. In the year 1811 I don't suppose
there was much to be feared from horses running away!

Before quite taking leave of science I will venture to touch upon a
subject which, if not exactly science, is nearly related to it. At any
rate, it can only be solved, if at all, through the medium of science.
I can fancy I hear some votary of science exclaim with some
indignation, "What is this doughty question which is to puzzle
science?" To this I can only answer that if science has or can solve
it satisfactorily, I humbly beg its pardon for doubting its powers.
Well, the subject I am raising is expressed by the word _Traction_.
Traction, I mean, as connected with pace. What is the difference in
power required to move a given load at ten miles an hour and at five
miles an hour? I have somewhere seen it argued as if it was the same,
and that therefore the horses must suffer greatly over the latter part
of a stage, supposing that their powers were less and the weight to be
drawn remained the same. Of course, the weight does in one sense
continue the same, but every coachman who has had any experience in
driving will have observed how much longer time it requires to pull up
a coach going at a high speed than one at a slow pace; which of itself
proves that after the coach is once set in motion and has acquired a
fast pace, the exertion required to keep it going is considerably
reduced. Without for a moment forgetting the cardinal truth that "it
is the pace which kills," it is quite apparent that the disease and
the remedy, to some extent at least, travel together. Another fact
which can be attested by all old stage coachmen, and which goes
strongly to prove how much reduced the draught is by pace, is that
four light horses can get a load up a steep pitch at a gallop which
they would be quite incapable of surmounting at a walk.

Then there is another item which adds to the complexity, which is
this--that the greater the weight, the longer the time required for
pulling up. It would seem, therefore, as if a heavy weight, to a
certain extent, assisted its own propulsion. The same circumstances
are observed on the railways, and, probably, from the hardness of the
metal on which their wheels run, it is still more apparent than on a
road. I was once travelling for a short distance upon a locomotive
engine without a train behind it, and upon asking the driver how long
it would take to bring his engine to a standstill, he said, "I could
stop it almost immediately now, but it would be very different with a
long train behind her." Probably there are few coachmen who have
driven any great number, of miles through whose brain this question
has never trotted, but without arriving at any solution of it. At any
rate, I confess my own ignorance, and only throw down the question at
the feet of science after the custom of the ages of chivalry, when the
herald threw down the gauntlet into the midst of the assembled
knights, to be picked up by the best man.

The following narrative will convey some idea of the force of velocity
which appertains to the wheels of a coach travelling at a high
speed:--

As the "Mazeppa" coach was proceeding on her journey from Monmouth to
Gloucester, when descending a hill about three miles from the former
place at a fast pace, the tire of the near hind wheel came off, and
the impetus was so great that it caused it to pass the coach and run
on for nearly half a mile, thus proving that the power required to
draw a carriage when it has attained much speed must be very much
diminished. It only requires to be kept moving.



CHAPTER IX.

A NOTE ON THE HORN.


Many guards on the day coaches carried key bugles, on which some of
them were able to play exceedingly well, and helped to while away many
a half hour on the journey; but on the mails and night coaches, the
former especially, straight horns were employed. Formerly these were
all made of tin, hence the "yard of tin," but in later years a good
many copper or brass ones came into use, and a few, in quite late
years, adopted a twisted horn without keys, much like the infantry
field bugle used in the army.

    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.    M&N. Hanhart imp.
                   OBSTRUCTION ON THE BRIDGE.]

These horns, of whichever sort, were generally efficacious in warning
carts, carriages, or other vehicles to get out of the way, but were of
little avail against the worst obstruction met with on the roads. At
that time all the sheep, cattle and pigs which travelled from one part
of the country to another were obliged to make use of the highways,
and though the drovers were possessed of marvellous skill in avoiding
the turnpike roads on account of the tolls, nevertheless large droves
and flocks were not unfrequently met with, and were the cause of
considerable delay, and also sometimes of altercation. I was once
forcing my way through a large drove of cattle, rather more
unceremoniously than the drover approved of, when he threw his heavy
stick at my head, and only narrowly missed it; and here perhaps it
will not be out of place to introduce a few cases which exhibit the
danger incurred by coaches from the presence of cattle and sheep,
whether in droves and flocks or straying on the roads.

On November 7th, 1789, the Preston and Carlisle mail, after changing
horses at Garstang, when about three miles on the road to Preston, in
crossing a bridge over the Lancaster and Preston canal, encountered
some drove cattle in the road, when the coach was coming down the
bridge, which is a declivity, and the coachman pulled his horses too
much to the off-side of the road to avoid the cattle, and the off
wheels ran up the bank and upset the coach. Nobody seems to have been
injured.

A curious accident happened to the Devonport mail _en route_ to Bath,
on November 7th, 1839. The guard's report says: "A short distance from
New House, a bullock straying on the road became frightened at the
light of the lamps, and attempted to leap the hedge, but falling back
against the leaders, the horses all sprung across the road, and
running the coach into the hedge, threw the coachman off the box, and
the wheels passed over him." He, the guard, then proceeds to say that
he only lost one hour and a half's time, but gives no account of what
became of the coachman. His whole thoughts appear to have been
concentrated on his business, and he reminds one of the anecdote about
the trainer and the old woman.

As a string of race-horses were out at exercise one morning, one of
them bolted and came into collision with some obstacle which threw him
down, seriously injuring him, and killing the lad who was riding him.
The unfortunate lad was soon removed, and the trainer was lamenting
over the horse when he was accosted by an old woman, who happened to
be passing by at the time, and began to condole with him on the
accident. He replied, "Ah! it is a bad job, indeed, I am afraid he
will never be able to run for another race;" but, says she, "How's the
poor boy?" "Oh! drat the boy, he's dead," was the answer.

Sheep were sometimes the cause of accidents. On January 10th, 1840,
when the London and Hull mail was within a mile of Peterborough, the
horses shied at a flock of sheep, and ran the coach into a ditch six
feet deep, overturning it, and causing three hours' loss of time.

And now, having indulged in a stave on the guards' horns, perhaps the
coachmen's whips may feel themselves neglected if I have no word to
say about them, and on this subject it must be admitted that rather
different opinions prevailed. _Tot homines tot sententiæ._ Some
preferred, I think most professionals did, a stiff crop and a light
thong, but others, especially amateurs, were in favour of a supple
stick with a heavier thong. The latter are no doubt easier to manage
in a high wind, and can also be caught up with greater facility; but,
in my humble opinion, the former are far preferable for general use, a
supple stick and a heavy thong being insufferable in wet weather.

In the selection of a whip it is easy to observe whether the person
selecting is an old hand or not. If he is he will pick out a crop
without knots, or with as few as possible, whereas the tyro is nearly
sure to take the knotty one. The large knots, of course, tend to keep
the thong, when caught, from slipping down towards the hand, but it
ought to be caught tight enough to stay in its proper place without
them, and sticks always break first at the knots.

Some people are now in favour of long crops. I fancy a cricketer might
as well demand a bat of extra length. In old days W. and T. Ward, who
were by odds the best whipmakers, never thought of turning out whips
with crops of greater length than five feet two or three inches to the
holder, and most were not quite so long. Beyond this length it becomes
almost impossible to obtain a good balance. A very long stick must be
top heavy, and I will defy anyone to use a long top heavy whip as
effectually as one that is of a more handy length.

Even when the cattle were good, and but little whip was required,
thongs soon became rotten from the sweat of the horses and the rain,
and to avoid the frequent necessity for new ones, what were called
"three quarters and middles" were made, which coachmen were generally
able to splice on for themselves. Thongs also wear out more quickly if
they are not kept supple, for which purpose a dressing of two-thirds
hog's lard and one-third bees wax will be found very efficacious.



CHAPTER X.

THE HOLYHEAD ROAD.


I have endeavoured to show in a previous chapter, on the subject of
coachmen, with what rapidity the carrying business of the country
increased and multiplied, but, perhaps, this may be better elucidated
by taking some particular road and district, and devoting a separate
chapter to the subject; and probably no better road can be selected
for this purpose than that from London to Holyhead, which, judging
from the amount of money and care expended upon it, one may naturally
conclude was better adapted for great speed than any other, and this,
I believe, really was the case. Some particular portions of other
roads might have been better--for instance, the Hartford Bridge
flats--and as great, or possibly still greater pace accomplished; but
for the distance over which this road extended, no other could vie
with it; and I will venture to say, that on no other were an equal
average number of miles of fast work performed; and we must recollect
that it is one thing to go very fast for a short distance, but another
to keep that pace up for the distance of from one hundred miles and
upwards. Well, then, if we take this road, and make Birmingham, the
most important town on the road, a sort of centre of a district, we
shall obtain a pretty good insight into the subject.

The metropolis of the Midlands has always been celebrated for its
public spirit, and it has nowhere been made more conspicuous than in
the way it met the demand for good coaches.

In the year 1823, I find there were twenty-three coaches advertised in
_Aris's Gazette_ (which was the principal medium of advertisement
at that time in the Midlands) to run out of Birmingham to all parts of
the country, though no doubt there were others, for it would appear
that some inns, from which coaches ran, did not avail themselves of
that medium of publicity. Probably, therefore, after making all
allowances, we shall not err much in putting the total number at
thirty.

Four years later, in 1827, the number of those advertised had risen to
no less than thirty-eight, and making the same allowance for those not
advertised, the total can hardly be placed at less than forty-five, an
increase of fifteen in four years. From this time the number was
steadily added to, till by the year 1835, which may be called the
culminating point (making allowances for those not advertised, of
which three occur to my memory at once--namely, the "Rocket" night,
and "Triumph" day coaches, through Oxford and Henley to London, and
the "Erin-go-bragh" from Liverpool, driven by Tolly, all three horsed
by Mr. Waddle from the "Hen and Chickens," in New Street), there must
have been at least sixty. During these years also the pace had not
been neglected, as several of these new coaches travelled at great
speed, and the pace of those of older standing had been increased. In
the year 1826, considerable stimulus was given to speed by a great
acceleration in the time of the Holyhead mail. About which time the
"Union" commenced to perform the journey from Shrewsbury to London,
through Birmingham and Oxford, in four hours less time. The "Oxonian"
also, over the same ground, was accelerated five hours.

It will tend to exhibit the great keenness with which the competition
was carried on, if I here introduce two advertisements which appeared
in the newspapers during this period.

In the month of June, 1834, the following advertisement appeared in
_Aris's Gazette_:--

"The 'Greyhound,' only carrying passengers and small parcels, leaves
Birmingham at a quarter past nine in the evening, arriving in London
at a quarter to eight on the following morning. This coach has an
imperial on the roof to prevent luggage being placed there, and
passengers' luggage must be sent to the office in time to be forwarded
by the 'Economist.'"

An attempt was at one time made to light this coach with gas, but the
practice was, I believe, discontinued. Unless it proved of very great
benefit in the power of light, it had certainly one great drawback,
which was that the necessary apparatus occupied the whole front boot,
causing that receptacle to be altogether useless for the carriage of
parcels.

Again, in July, 1835, the following advertisement appeared in the
_Shrewsbury Chronicle_:--

"Isaac Taylor, ever grateful for the distinguished support he has
received from the public, announces a new and elegant fast day coach
to London, called the 'Stag,' every morning at a quarter before five,
arriving at the 'Bull and Mouth,' opposite the General Post-Office, at
seven the same evening. I. T. has been induced to commence running the
'Stag' to prevent the celebrated 'Wonder' being in any way injured by
racing, or at all interfered with in the regularity which has been
hitherto observed in that coach."

It will be observed here, that the "Stag" was advertised to run the
distance of one hundred and fifty-four miles in fourteen hours and a
quarter. Whether this pace was really intended to be always maintained
may perhaps be doubtful. Probably it depended a good deal on the
amount of racing with the "Nimrod," but of this more will be heard
presently. For the present, however, we will retrace our steps for a
few years, and take a journey or two with the "Tally-hoes," and go
more into particulars than has yet been the case.

Previously to the great improvement which I have denoted in the night
travelling, a great advance had been established in the day work by
the three "Tally-hoes." These coaches were put on the road about the
year 1823, and were among the fastest coaches in England. Why all
three bore the same name I never heard, and cannot understand, unless
it were with the view of intensifying the keenness of the opposition,
which, as they were all on the road at the same time, was very great.
I suppose, however, that it was found to create inconvenience in
practice, as they were soon supplied with distinctive titles--one
being designated the "Independent Tally-ho," another the "Eclipse
Tally-ho," and the other the "Patent Tally-ho." They were timed at ten
miles an hour, but when racing, as was frequently the case, were not
particular to a mile or two, and, of course, went much faster. Indeed,
on the recurrence of what may be called the coach festival, May 1st,
they more than once covered the distance, one hundred and eight miles,
under seven hours. The "Independent Tally-ho," started from London
from the "Golden Cross," Charing Cross, horsed by Horne as far as
Colney, and driven by Andrew Morris to Dunstable, where the box was
filled by an old friend of mine, to whom I am indebted for assistance
in compiling this book, but whose name I am not at liberty to mention,
who also horsed it as far as Stoney Stratford. Out of Birmingham it
started from the "Nelson," horsed by Radenhurst, and driven to
Daventry and back by Harry Tresslove, who was an excellent waggoner,
and always galloped the five-mile stage between Dunchurch and the
"Black Dog" in eighteen minutes. The road was straight, hard, and
flat, and ran between a splendid avenue of trees--perhaps some of the
finest elms in the world--the property of Lord John Scott. The stage
was horsed by the landlord of the "Bell," at Dunchurch, who could
afford to do the work well, as he reaped the benefit of the coach
breakfasting at his house on the up journey, and dining there on the
down one.

The "Eclipse Tally-ho" was horsed out of Ludlow on one side by Mrs.
Mountain, from the "Saracen's Head," Snow Hill, and consequently
sometimes called "Mountain's Tally-ho," and on the other side by
Chaplin, from the "Swan with Two Necks," Lad Lane, as far as Colney,
and driven by Tom Boyce, who also horsed it over twenty-five miles of
the lower ground. It was horsed out of Birmingham by Waddle.

    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.    M&N. Hanhart imp.
                   GALLOPED THE FIVE MILE STAGE, IN EIGHTEEN MINUTES.]

The "Patent Tally-ho" ran from the "Belle Sauvage," Ludgate Hill, and
horsed by Robert Nelson as far as South Mimms, and was driven out of
London by old Bob Flack, who also horsed twenty-five miles of the
lower ground.

It will be observed that a change had come over coaching, in that the
coachmen were covering a good many stages of the lower ground.
Probably this arose partly from the innkeepers, now that the
opposition had become so exceedingly keen, not caring for the
business, and also partly from the great change which had taken place
in their social position and character. They were become quite a
different class of persons to what they had been a generation before,
and, indeed, such might be expected to be the case, as the occupation
was one which brought them into contact with gentlemen, and it was
entirely their own faults if they derived no benefit from such
association. The pace, in consequence of the severe competition, had
also become so severe that the old style of coachman, who had been
accustomed to take it easy, and stop at most of the roadside inns he
passed, and got half-seas over before arriving at the end of the
journey, could no longer be employed, and their places had to be
filled with an altogether different class of men. Indeed, it was no
longer the disgusting work, in which he was most esteemed who could
hit the hardest, and had for its supporters only the lower grades of
society, but had become one which no gentleman need be ashamed to be
occupied in, or have lost his self-respect by embracing; and,
doubtless, if coaching had not been supplanted by railways, the press
of competition, which is felt by all classes, would have induced more
of them to turn their attention to it.

In new countries, such as our colonies, what a man's employment is, so
long as it is honest and respectable, goes for little or nothing,
provided he is a gentleman in every sense of the word. He may drive a
bullock dray in the morning, and associate with the _élite_ in the
evening--at least, so it was when I knew Australia a "long time
ago," which would appear to be a better system than our own more
exclusive one. Probably, however, it would be impossible to carry it
out in an old and wealthy country like that in which we live.

The dust kicked up by the Tally-hoes was not long laid in Birmingham
before the three Shrewsbury coaches came bustling through the town on
their journey to London. Of these the "Wonder" probably had the most
world-wide fame of any coach in England. It set the fashion of day
coaches running long distances, and was the first ever established to
cover much above one hundred miles in a day, the distance from London
to Shrewsbury being one hundred and fifty-four; and it was unrivalled
in its punctuality. It was horsed by Sherman out of London, from the
"Bull and Mouth" to St. Albans, to which place he worked most of his
coaches on that road, though he extended the distance in the case of
one Birmingham night coach for some time as far as Daventry, a
distance of seventy-four miles. Whether this was done because he
considered it too good a thing to part with, or that it was so poor a
concern that no one would join him in it, I do not know. The "Wonder"
was driven out of London by Wood as far as Redbourn, from whence Harry
Liley worked till he met John Wilcox, when they both turned back; and
between Birmingham to Shrewsbury, Sam Hayward occupied the box. I need
hardly say that on such a coach, which was the pride of the road, they
were all first-rate artists.

The "Wonder" was allowed to enjoy the fruits of its enterprise, and to
go on its way unmolested for several years; but by the year 1830, or
thereabouts, its success as a good loading coach tempted opposition,
and the "Nimrod" was called into existence. It started from London on
alternate days from the "Bull Inn," Holborn, and the "Belle Sauvage,"
Ludgate Hill, horsed from the former by Horne, and from the latter by
R. Nelson, and worked by them, side by side, to Redbourn, and driven
by my old friend already mentioned on the "Independent Tally-ho," who
drove it to near Stoney Stratford and back, making a drive of one
hundred miles a day. On one occasion, in consequence of the up coach
being delayed by a broken pole, he was obliged to drive on till he met
it below Daventry, which lengthened the day's work to about one
hundred and seventy miles without a rest.

This distance is, I think, one of the longest ever driven at one time.
Mr. Kenyon has been known to drive the "Wonder" the whole journey from
London to Shrewsbury, which is nearly equal; but I fancy it has seldom
if ever been exceeded, except by the memorable drive of Captain
Barclay, who undertook for a bet to drive two hundred, and won it. But
to return to the "Nimrod."

The opposition of these two coaches was, as one would have thought,
fierce enough, but it was not sufficient to satisfy the wounded
feelings of the "Wonder" proprietors, who were indignant at anyone
presuming to oppose the coach of which they were so justly proud.
After a few years, therefore, the "Stag" was ushered in by the glowing
advertisement I have given in a previous page. It was started to run a
little in front of the "Nimrod," which was followed by the "Wonder,"
and was therefore pretty well nursed. The orders given to the "Nimrod"
coachman were, if the "Wonder" pressed to keep first, which caused him
of course to run into the "Stag," and then, as may well be imagined,
the racing became somewhat exciting, and the "Wonder," we may rely
upon it, did not always act up to the pacific course laid down for her
in the advertisement, and the result was that the three coaches
sometimes arrived all together at the "Peacock" at Islington two hours
before time. Perhaps the greatest wonder would have been if a coachman
had been found who would not have joined in the fun when it was going
on under his eyes.

When the proprietors found they could not kill one another by racing,
they tried the suicidal plan of cutting down fares, which were
reduced, between London and Birmingham, from two pounds eight
shillings inside to thirty shillings, and outside from thirty
shillings to one pound. This, coupled with the wear and tear of horse
flesh caused by the pace, was, of course, ruinous, and one of them
told me that he lost fifteen hundred pounds in a little over twelve
months by it. Why an agreement could not have been come to whereby the
coaches should have run at different times seems to be a puzzle. One
would have supposed that it would have answered better for them to
have set out with an hour or two between them, which would have
afforded better accommodation to the public. I can only imagine one
reason which actuated them, which is, that every traveller would have
taken the first coach as long as there was room for him in it, for
fear of the others being full, and so the first would have had an
undue advantage, and little or nothing might have been left for the
last.

There was also another fast night coach between London and Birmingham,
called the "Emerald," driven out of the latter place by Harry Lee,
whose complexion was of a very peculiar colour, almost resembling that
of a bullock's liver, the fruit of strong potations of "early purl" or
"dog's nose," taken after the exertions of the night and before going
to roost.

Besides all the coaches I have named, the Oxford road was not
neglected. The well-known "Tantivy" commenced running over it between
Birmingham and London about the year 1832, and must have proved
successful, for in 1835 the same proprietors put on another fast day
coach, called the "Courier," to start at a quarter before seven in the
morning, and precede the old-established coach, which started two
hours later.

There was also a third road between the great Metropolis and that of
the Midlands which ran through Warwick, Banbury, and Buckingham, and
which was traversed by the Birmingham mail, and, if I recollect right,
also by a night coach called the "Crown Prince."

It was not, however, on the London roads only that coaches increased
and multiplied, for in the year 1834 the "Fairtrader" commenced
running to Liverpool, and three other new coaches were advertised in
other directions--namely, the "Red Rover" to Brecon, the "Beehive" to
Manchester, and the "Criterion" to Chester.

At this time, there was also an exceedingly keen opposition between
Birmingham and Derby. One of the coaches was horsed and driven by
Captain Baring, and the other was horsed by Stovin and driven by
Captain Douglas, who has been already mentioned as piloting the
Sheffield mail. He was a most determined fellow, and stood at nothing.
Indeed, the animosity between these two Jehus was quite alarming when
they encountered one another, and at last became so intense that they
resorted to the dangerous expedient of crossing one another, which, on
one occasion, caused Douglas to run into Baring's coach, thereby
causing a smash and bruising several passengers, but very fortunately
none were seriously injured. This is the only instance I ever knew of
coachmen driving opposition coaches entertaining a personal animosity
for one another.

And now we have arrived at the last coach which was put on the road
between London and Birmingham. In the year 1837 a very fast day mail
was started to run to Birmingham and to go on to Crewe, where it
transferred mails and passengers to the railway for conveyance to
Liverpool, and was largely patronised by Irish M.P.'s, as it ran in
connection with the packet to the Sister Isle, and booked through.
Half a dozen of those notables of the day could frequently be seen
travelling by her at one time. It was timed at twelve miles an hour.
It was horsed by Sherman of the "Bull and Mouth" out of London, and
was driven by H. Liley, who had long experience on the "Wonder" over
the lower ground. At Redbourn, he was replaced on the box by my
before-mentioned friend as having driven both the "Independent
Tally-ho" and afterwards the "Nimrod," and he drove till he met the up
coach tooled by Jonathan Morris, when they changed, each one returning
to the place from which he started, and it was taken into Birmingham
by T. Liley, a brother of Harry. He had previously driven the "Eclipse
Tally-ho," and Jonathan Morris had had his experience upon the
"Hibernia," already mentioned as running between Liverpool and
Cheltenham. He was pitted on that coach against Jordan, who drove the
"Hirondelle," and was noted as a "butcher," but was possessed of great
strength and had adamantine nerve, and only a first rate practitioner
had a chance with him. Jonathan was quite a different class of
coachman, and saved his stock as well as the pace and load would allow
him, and I have myself seen him trot by Jordan in ascending the Wyle
Cop in Shrewsbury, when the latter had nearly flogged his horses to a
standstill. Perhaps I should add, in fairness to Jordan, that, though
he had a beautiful team, it was composed of light horses, and that the
other coach was drawn by horses possessing more size and power for
enabling them to get a load up a steep ascent. I have been particular
in giving the antecedents of these coachmen, as, of course, they were
picked out as especially qualified for the great pace at which this
mail was timed, and it was a feather in their caps. Indeed, it may be
said that, as at that time the end of coaching was within measurable
distance, they represented "the survival of the fittest."

About this time the Postmaster-General started several day mails
besides the one just mentioned. There was one on the Brighton road,
and one between Birmingham and Shrewsbury, which left the Holyhead
road at Shiffnal, and, passing through Ironbridge, joined it again
about four miles from Shrewsbury, and probably there were others of
which I have no cognizance.



CHAPTER XI.

THE BRIGHTON ROAD.


So much has already been written about the Brighton road that,
perhaps, it may seem presumptuous in me to re-open the subject, but as
I have noticed the Birmingham road, I will venture to dwell very
shortly upon the Brighton one, as they may be said to have been the
antithesis to each other, much in the same way as now the business of
the southern railways differs from that of what are called by way of
distinction the heavy lines. No observant person can, I think, arrive
in London from the south and drive through town straight to one of the
large railway stations in the north, without being struck with the
difference of the traffic. So it was in the coaching days; on one road
business was paramount, on the other a little time for pleasure could
be indulged in. I do not mean to say that they carried on the old
practice of throwing away ten minutes or a quarter of an hour at each
change of horses; far from it. The work was admirably done, but it had
not about it the severe utilitarianism which was the prevailing
feature with the other. The horses on the northern road showed, as a
rule, more blood, and the coaches gave the idea of their having been
built with a view to carrying loads at a high rate of speed. Nothing
seemed wanting to ensure pace with safety, whilst, at the same time,
there was nothing to lead anyone to suppose for a moment that they
were anything but stage coaches.

On the other hand, on the road to the fashionable watering-place, some
of the coaches, from the small amount of lettering upon them, and
bright pole chains, might at first sight have been mistaken for
private drags.

Notwithstanding all this pace, it must not be supposed that a journey
by one of those fast coaches on the northern road was a hurried,
uncomfortable day's work, with no time to eat a comfortable meal. On
the contrary, though only twenty-five minutes were allowed for dinner,
so much assistance was generally given in waiters to carve and wait
upon the passengers, that a by no means bad dinner could be made in
the allotted time; and to show that the food was not otherwise than
palatable, I may instance the case of a medical gentleman residing at
Brickhill (I think), but, at any rate, in the town where the up
"Wonder" dined, who, whenever possible, went in with the passengers
and made his dinner with them.

I will now venture on a few circumstances and anecdotes connected with
the Brighton road, which may help to portray the differences I have
been describing in the two roads; but, before doing so, I should like
to remark that anyone writing at this time on the subject is liable to
make mistakes, as those coaches in some cases changed hands, as, for
instance, at one time the "Age" was the property of and driven by Mr.
Stevenson, and at a later period was in the possession of Sir St.
Vincent Cotton. Of this coach it has been written by Nimrod that "Mr.
Stevenson had arrived at perfection in his art and had introduced the
phenomenon of refinement into a stage coach." I never happened to see
this coach in his time, but can well remember Sir St. Vincent Cotton
on the box of his neat brown coach, with bright pole chains. A friend
of mine says, "Well I remember Harry Stevenson, with his beautiful
team, starting from the 'White Horse Cellars,' and calling for his box
passenger at the United Service Club, and from thence to the 'Elephant
and Castle,' the final stop before departure for Brighton, and his
guard, George Carrington, who was the essence of neatness and
politeness to his passengers."

This coach was for a short time driven by Sackville Gwynne, who ran
through all his property, and died in Liverpool, where he was driving
a cab.

It would be tedious to enumerate half the coaches, nearly thirty in
number, which ran out of Brighton every day, and many of them the best
looking turns-out in the kingdom. A few as specimens will suffice.
First and foremost came the "Times," starting at seven in the morning,
arriving at Charing Cross at twelve, and returning to Brighton at two,
driven by Sam Goodman. Bob Brackenbury, a first-rate amateur whip at
that time, used to drive from Brighton to Sam Goodman's farm, a
distance of eleven miles, and back again in the evening. Then there
was the "Dart," another up and down coach, driven by Bob Snow, a
first-rate artist. Some may even now remember his rubicund face, which
he had just helped to colour with a pint of sherry after his dinner,
as he mounted his box like a workman, when returning from the "Spread
Eagle," Gracechurch Street, with his faultless drab great-coat, and a
bale of white muslin round his neck; and such top boots! The "Elephant
and Castle" was his first stopping-place, to meet the West End branch
coach; and here he always replenished his inner man with a glass of
hot brandy and water with a spoonful of ground ginger in it, as he
said, to assist his digestion. After he started from there, it was
woe-betide the poor horse that offended him before he reached Reigate,
where the "Dart" stopped for dinner, and in those days the city
merchants and stockbrokers knew how to take care of themselves. His
only opponent was the "Item," driven by Charles Newman, who was always
wretchedly horsed, and could not come near him.

Another well known face on this road was that of John Willan, who,
after having lost a good fortune on the turf, started the "Arrow,"
which was also horsed by Horne and Sam Goodman. This coach was mostly
supported by the _élite_ of the sporting world. The turn-out was
altogether most unique.

The late Duke of Beaufort had some horses at work on this road at one
time. He horsed a coach called the "Quicksilver," and Bob Pointer was
the coachman (one of the best waggoners in England). He drove till he
met Charley Harker half way, and then turned back. One very fine day
the Duke went, as was not unusual, with some friends to see the
"Quicksilver" start from the Red Office, and there found our friend
Bob, not in the most upright position, just about to take hold of the
ribbons from the off-wheeler's back. As soon as his Grace saw how
matters stood he took them out of his hands, and drove up till he met
the other coach, which he drove back, and after kicking the passengers
handed the money to Bob, telling him not to let him see him in that
state again. The warning, however, was not attended to for long, for,
although the best of coachmen, he was a very wet 'un.


I will now ask the reader to fancy himself for a moment transported by
the touch of Columbine's wand into the Midlands, and set down in the
fashionable town of Cheltenham, which, fifty years ago, was justly
famed for its fast and well-appointed coaches, as well as for its
health-giving waters. Though situated far inland it was, like
Brighton, very much dependent on the same element for its prosperity,
and was frequented by much the same class of people, though the
efficacy of the waters at one place depended upon external, and at the
other upon internal application. Still they resembled one another in
drawing together a society of persons who had little or no occupation
except that of either bathing in or drinking the water.

The High Street of Cheltenham presents now a very different aspect to
what it did at the time I am writing about, when the seats on the
sunny side were occupied by visitors looking at the coaches passing to
and fro or turning into the "Plough" yard. It was a sight worth coming
for to see those well-horsed coaches. There were, first, the London
coaches arriving: the "Magnet," driven by Jemmy Witherington, and the
"Berkely Hunt," with Frank Martindale on the box, who was always the
pink of neatness--indeed, as he once said to me a good many years
afterwards, "You know, I was a bit of a dandy in those days."

Then there was also the London day mail with four greys, running
alternately to the "Plough" and "Queen's Hotel," and later on in the
day the "Hirondelle," driven by Finch, a rather wet soul, and the
"Hibernia," arrived from Liverpool, both of which coaches are
incidentally mentioned in another chapter, and were two of the fastest
in England. Besides them, there were others running to Bath, Bristol,
Leamington, Birmingham, and other places, and by the time all these
had been inspected, it was time to think of dinner.

And now, having already made this chapter something of a "fugitive
piece," I will, for the second time, make use of the fairy wand, and
by one of its miraculous touches translate us back again to the
Brighton road, which, being the one on which so many amateurs have
become professionals, may be not inappropriately called the border
land between them, and, therefore, as rather pointed out for
considering the difference between them. Of course, in one sense, the
demarcation is as plain as the nose on one's face. The man who drives
for pay is a professional, at any rate for a time; but the question I
would now raise is not that, but one more likely to prove an apple of
discord--I mean what allowance should be made between them in
estimating their proficiency in driving. What might be good for one
might be decidedly under the mark for the other. To more fully explain
my meaning, I will take a strong case. Sir St. Vincent Cotton, as is
well known, drove professionally for some years on the Brighton road
after having been acknowledged to be a first-rate amateur, and the
question is, how soon after taking to the box professionally could he
have been expected to pass muster with the professionals? Perhaps some
will say that he was quite as good a coachman before as after he took
to the bench professionally. No doubt his is a strong case, and I only
give it as one in point; but, for myself, I very much doubt whether,
even in those _coachy_ days, it was possible for a man to get
sufficient practice, only as an amateur, to make him equal to one who
drove professionally.

Doubtless, among the professionals there were men who never with any
amount of practice became good coachmen; but then we must remember
that in all classes and conditions of men some are to be found who,
from indolence or taking no pride in their work, never even reach
mediocrity, whilst others are too conceited to learn; but these were
in a small minority, and in driving, as in all other crafts, practice
makes perfect. If it confers no other benefit, it must strengthen the
muscles, and, no doubt, imparts a handiness, readiness, and resource
which nothing else can produce. The difference is, perhaps, oftener to
be observed in the whip hand than the rein one. A well-practised
professional with a pair of sluggish leaders will make every cut tell,
and then bring the thong up to his hand without staring about to see
where the wind had blown it to; whereas, it would too often be the
case with an amateur that, for want of having had sufficient practice,
half his cuts fell flat, and not unfrequently, especially on a windy
or wet day, he will get hung up in some part of the harness or in the
pole chains, or possibly even round the stock of the wheel.

It is not only in the art of driving that this difference is to be met
with, but it extends to huntsmen and jockeys. In neither of these
occupations does a gentleman attain to sufficient proficiency to be
called more than a good amateur, which implies that he is not equal to
a professional, or at any rate to a good one. Now, why is this? Surely
not because he was born a gentleman, and is, therefore, disqualified
by nature. Still less, because education has unfitted him. No--it is
simply because he does not give up his time to it, but only follows it
as a recreation. Cricket might, perhaps, at first sight, contradict
this rule, but in truth, I believe it only tends to confirm it. The
gentlemen are able to hold their own with the players, but then,
whilst the cricket season lasts, they work as hard as the
professionals.

To come to the point, then, how soon after taking to the bench
professionally ought an amateur to cease to claim any indulgence in
criticism? I do not, of course, mean a muff, whose natural inaptitude
might render him proof against any amount of practice, but one called
"a good amateur whip;" and, probably, it would not be erring much to
say that a period of from one to two years, with sixty to eighty miles
of driving a day, including a fair share of night work, is sufficient
to land him at the top of the profession, if the _gift_ is in
him.

Talking of the "gift," reminds me of a conversation which once took
place between the late Mr. J. Taylor, who kept the "Lion" yard in
Shrewsbury, and the well known "Chester Billy." They had been talking
on the subject of driving, and the latter finished it by saying,
"Well, master, it is a gift," to which the other replied, "It is,
Billy, and it's a pity you never got it." I need hardly say, the old
man turned away rather disgusted, and, no doubt, with the firm
conviction that his master was no judge.

Perhaps, in opposition to what I have said, I may be directed to some
instances where very fine samples of driving have been executed by
gentlemen. I will only mention two of them. The first took place in
times long ago, and is thus described by Nimrod. "Perhaps one of the
finest specimens of good coachmanship was performed by Sir Felix Agar.
He made a bet, which he won, that he would drive his own four horses
in hand up Grosvenor Place, down the passage into Tattersall's yard,
around the pillar which stands in the centre of it, and back again
into Grosvenor Place, without either of the horses going at a slower
pace than trot." So long a time has expired since this feat was
performed, and all spectators have passed away, that it is impossible
to criticise it in any way. Many, however, must be still alive who
remember the old Tattersall's, and they will be able to appreciate the
difficulty of the task.

The other is quite of a recent date, only occurring last summer, and
was performed by my friend, Mr. Pryce Hamilton, who was the victor in
the obstacle competition. Not having seen this, I am unable to say
anything about it, but make no doubt that those who laid out the
course did not err on the side of leniency to the coachmen, and that
it was a feat of no easy performance. But, then, these things are
hardly tests of every day coachmanship. No doubt they require very
neat handling of the reins, but, of course, the horses have
individually the best of manners, and the teams are as hardy as it is
possible to make them; but if the whip had been wanted in Tattersall's
yard, perhaps Sir Felix might have lost his bet.

Perhaps, it may be thought by some that the time I have stated is an
unnecessarily long apprenticeship. It may be for some, but for myself,
I can answer that, whether from natural stupidity or not, it was no
more than I required. Driving, if by that is understood a perfect
knowledge of the art, is, like most other things, a plant of slow
growth, and, to any one who has given much thought and attention to
it, it is surprising how long he finds something to learn. For myself,
although I had done many hundreds of miles of spare work for different
coachmen, and out of different yards, with the approval of the
proprietors, I did not find that I had been able to overcome
shortcomings and defects, of which I was conscious, till I had driven
regularly for three summers, and, perhaps, even then many remained of
which I was unconscious.

If there are any who think there is no difference between amateur and
professional coachmen, I would ask them why there was not one of the
owners of the "Old Times" put up to drive the justly celebrated match
instead of Selby?



CHAPTER XII.

EARLY DAYS.


Though it is rather a singular coincidence that my earliest
experiences should be laid in the same neighbourhood as has been more
than once mentioned by the late Mr. Birch Reynardson in "Down the
Road," if the incidents are different, I suppose it will not signify
much if the road is the same.

I have no recollection that we ever did actually drive opposition to
one another, but it is not impossible that we may have done so, as I
was in the habit of driving the "Royal Oak," which he mentions as
running opposition to the "Nettle," on which coach he frequently
handled the ribbons. However this may be, I can recollect well that he
bore the character of a good, powerful coachman, and I only hope I may
be able to approach him at all in my powers of description.

His spirited narratives carry one's thoughts back to scenes of a
kindred nature, after a lapse of half a century, nearly as fresh as if
it were only yesterday. For, reader, I am another old coachman, having
driven one coach ninety-three miles a-day during one summer, and have
worked another about fifteen thousand miles a-year for three years,
besides others for myself, or for other coachmen.

I well recollect the "yard of tin"; indeed, when a youth, I possessed
one, and flattered myself I could blow it pretty well. Such, indeed,
was my passion for the road, that I was not satisfied till I could
perform every feat performed by coachmen or guards. To pass from the
back of the coach to the front, or _vice versa_, was sometimes
accomplished by guards, and, of course, I must do the same, creeping
between the hind wheel and the body, whilst the coach was proceeding
at the rate of ten miles an hour. This was not a very easy
performance, but to get up and down whilst the coach was in motion was
not at all difficult, and doing this once led to my being mistaken for
a professional guard.

I was travelling through North Wales, from Oswestry to Bangor, by a
pair-horse coach, which, of course, did not aspire to much pace, and,
as the day was wet, the road was heavy, which brought the two-horse
power to a walk up some of the hills, slight as Mr. Telford's
engineering skill had made them. Upon these occasions I got down to
walk, and as my pace was faster than that of the horses, I was part
way down the next hill before they overtook me, when, motioning to the
coachman not to pull up, I returned to my seat by his side, and after
having done this once or twice he said, "I beg your pardon, sir, but
were you ever a guard on any coach?"

It is somewhat strange that Mr. Reynardson and I should both have good
reason for remembering the Llanymynech toll-bar, but its existence was
nearly being impressed on my mind by a far more serious accident than
killing poor piggy.

Many years ago, about the year 1836, before I had the honour of
wearing His Majesty's uniform, I used to indulge my love of driving by
starting from my father's house, about three miles from Welshpool,
about five o'clock in the morning, and walking to that town for the
pleasure of driving the "Royal Oak" coach, which started at six, and
returning the same day by the down coach. Thereby getting a drive of
about eighty miles, and the pace was fast, especially if the "Nettle"
was supposed to be near, for we knew by experience that it followed
very quickly; so there was pretty well enough of practice to be had.

On one of these mornings, when we were about two miles on our journey,
Harry Booth, the coachman, who was sitting by my side, whistled to the
horses, which started them off beyond my powers of holding them. I
said, "For goodness' sake be quiet," when he coolly replied, "I
thought you wanted to drive." Fortunately, however, they came back to
me after going a short distance, and we completed the nine miles to
Llanymynech in thirty-five minutes from the start.

This was, perhaps, a rather rough way of learning to drive, and
something like throwing a fellow into deep water to teach him to swim.
At any rate, it taught me to gallop, and a coachman who could not do
that was of little use on a good many coaches in those days.

This, however, is a digression, as it was on the return journey of
that day that I nearly came to grief at the Llanymynech toll-bar. It
occurred in this way--

The "Royal Oak" did not carry a guard, and Tom Loader, the coachman,
having resigned his seat to me when the coaches met, had retired to
the one usually occupied by that functionary. As, however, he was not
accustomed to guard's work, he was deficient in the activity necessary
for slipping the skid pan under the wheel whilst the coach was in
motion, and when he tried to do so at the top of Llanymynech hill he
failed in the attempt. Consequently, we got over the brow of the hill
without the wheel being locked, and, as there were no patent breaks in
those days, there was nothing for it but a gallop, as the wheel horses
were unable to hold the big load of passengers and luggage, and, of
course, the lurches of the coach became considerable, to say the least
of it. The turnpike gate, which was at the bottom of the hill, was
rather a narrow one, and a collision seemed not altogether improbable,
when, just as the leaders reached the gate, the passenger sitting on
the roof seat behind me became so much alarmed that he seized hold of
my right arm, thereby rendering any use of the whip impossible if it
had been necessary, which, fortunately, it was not, as the coach was
then in a safe direction, though rather too near the off-side
gate-post to be pleasant. If the whip had been wanted to make the
off-wheel horse pull us clear of the post I was helpless, and a
collision would have been attended with an awful smash, as we were
going at the rate of a mile in five minutes at the time. Killing the
pig would have been nothing to it.

Whilst on the subject of toll gates I am reminded that I did on one
occasion break one all to pieces, and, though chronologically out of
place here, I am tempted to introduce it.

It occurred many years subsequently to the affair at Llanymynech, when
I was residing at Aberystwith, and, as often happened whilst there, I
was working the Shrewsbury and Aberystwith mail between the latter
place and Newtown for one of the regular coachmen, who wanted a few
days' rest. One morning on the down journey, on our reaching the toll
gate at Caersws, the gatekeeper threw it open to allow the mail to
pass, but, as he did not throw it sufficiently far back to hold in the
catch, the high wind blew it back again, causing it to come in contact
with the stock of the near fore wheel. Of course, it was too late to
pull up, but, fortunately, the gate was old and very rotten, and
doubled up with the collision. It was broken all to pieces, but, with
the exception of a few slight cuts on the horses from splinters of
wood, no injury was sustained. The toll-bar man was disposed to give
some trouble, but little Rhodes, the post-office guard (for it was one
of the last mails that carried them), shut him up with the remark that
the penalty for delaying the mails was fifty pounds.

Before taking leave of the subject of racing, such as was carried on
by the "Royal Oak" and "Nettle" coaches, I am induced to make a few
remarks about it. Perhaps, some one on reading what I have said, may
be disposed to exclaim, "how dangerous it must have been!" and,
indeed, Mr. Reynardson says in "Down the Road," speaking of these
coaches, "they were often too fast to be quite safe, as I sometimes
used to fancy." To this, the result of his practical experience, I
will not demur, suffice it to say that, though I have known a coachman
of the "Royal Oak" fined for furious driving, I never knew a case of
one scattering his passengers. Of course, it was not altogether
unaccompanied by danger, but, judging by results, it could not have
been very serious, as the accidents which occurred from it were not
greater than were produced by other causes. Indeed, there are some
reasons why they may have been less. When coaches were running strong
opposition, everything, horses, coaches, and harness, were all of the
very best, and none but real "artists" could be placed upon the box.
(I think I hear a whisper that sometimes boys got there.) They were,
therefore, secure from any accident caused, as was sometimes the case,
by carelessness and penuriousness, which, to my own knowledge, have
been productive of some very serious ones, as I shall show.

About twenty-five years ago, during one summer, two accidents occurred
on the road between Dolgelly and Caernarvon, which might easily have
been prevented--one of which was accompanied by serious loss of life,
and which was to be attributed entirely to the use of old worn-out
coaches and harness, or inferior coachmen and horses, such as, if the
pace had been greater, no one would have ventured to employ. To the
other accident there was a rather comic side, though not, perhaps,
exactly to the sufferer. The coach was upset a few miles from
Barmouth, on the road to Harlech, and the coachman's shoulder was
dislocated; whereupon, a medical practitioner, who was passing at the
time, mistaking the injury for a fracture, splintered it up. This
treatment, of course, did not tend to mend matters, and the shoulder
continued so painful that upon arriving at Caernarvon another surgeon
was called in, who perceived the real nature of the injury, and
reduced the dislocation.

Then, again, as a fact, there was not so often, as may be supposed, a
neck-and-neck race with two coaches galloping alongside of each other.
Such things did occur at times, when the road was wide enough to admit
of it; but much oftener the coachmen did not try to give one another
the "_go-bye_," except when the leading one was called upon to stop to
pick up or put down a passenger, or for any other purpose. It was
understood that on those occasions, if the opposition was close
behind, the one which stopped should pull to his own side of the road,
leaving space to pass. Then the other one, getting in front, would
"_spring 'em_" to try, if possible, to complete his next change of
horses and be off again without being passed.

No coachman, who knew his business, or was not utterly reckless, would
think of racing down hill, though occasionally, no doubt, they did
take liberties at the top of a hill and come to grief. There could,
however, be no danger in trying to pass when ascending a hill, and
then was the opportunity for the coachman with the lightest load or
strongest team to challenge his opponent. Of course, the leading one
would not give his rival the road if he could help it, and I have had
my near-side leader's bar rattling against his off-side hind wheel
before he would give me room to pass; but there was no danger involved
in that, as, being on the ascent, I could have pulled up at any
moment.

As to there being any danger in merely galloping a coach, I am sure
there is not, even at a high speed, provided the wheel horses are well
matched in stride, the team well put together, and kept well in hand,
and when there is sufficient draught to keep the leaders' traces
tight. This will be apparent from the fact that, however much a coach
may have been lurching previously, as soon as the leaders commence
drawing, she becomes perfectly steady. Of course with the pole chains
too slack there would be danger.

Then, again, the build of the coach has a good deal to do with it. For
very fast work, coaches were generally kept what was called near the
ground. Those which were built by Shackleford, of Cheltenham, for the
"Hirondelle," which raced with the "Hibernia," between that town and
Liverpool, at a pace as great if not greater than any coaches in
England, were contracted to be made so that the roof should not exceed
a certain height from the ground. I forget now what the exact
measurement was, but it was some inches less than the general build,
and to enable this to be done the perch was slightly bent.

The "Hibernia" coaches also, which were supplied by Williams, of
Bristol, were admirably adapted for the work they had to perform,
being low and remarkably steady, but heavier than those of their
opponent. Indeed, Williams's coaches were not favourites with coachmen
on account of their weight, but as they were generally contracted for
by the mile, those were most profitable to the contractor that
required the least repairs. I have heard of a coachman complaining to
Mr. Williams about the weight of his coaches, to which the laconic
answer was a five-shilling piece, and "Don't you bother about that."

These two coaches always made the first of May a day for more than
ordinary racing, and performed the journey on those occasions at a
very accelerated pace. I am afraid, at this distance of time, to say
exactly by how much the time was shortened, but certainly by two or
three hours, and as the ordinary time was twelve hours and a half to
cover the distance of one hundred and thirty-three miles, the pace
must have been very severe.

On one of these annual festivals there was a lady travelling inside
the "Hirondelle," and one of the proprietors, thinking she might be
alarmed at the terrific pace the coach was going at, offered to "post
her" the remainder of the journey without extra charge. She, however,
was quite equal to the occasion, and replied that she was much obliged
by the offer, but that she liked going fast. This showed well, not
only for her nerve, but also that the driving was good, and that the
coachmen "made their play" judiciously.



CHAPTER XIII.

OLD TIMES.


It may seem strange to those who have never had any experience of road
travelling, that the memory of hours spent in journeys, when the
passengers by public conveyances had only the choice between passing a
whole day, and still more, a night, exposed to all the vicissitudes of
the British climate, or else in what, compared even to a third-class
carriage on a railway, was little better than a box upon wheels,
should conjure up reminiscences of happy hours passed under
circumstances which must naturally appear to those who have never
tried it, absolutely insufferable. Such, however, I believe to be the
case, and I very much doubt whether anything like the same
affectionate reminiscences will linger about the present luxurious
mode of travelling.

At the present age, in consequence of the generally increased luxury,
there has arisen an impatience of discomfort unknown to previous
generations. Whether this arises from the fact that journeys are now
so soon accomplished that one never feels it necessary to try and make
the best of it, and affords no opportunity for a trial of pluck and
endurance, dear to the heart of an Englishman, I know not; but that
there is something deeply seated in human nature, which takes delight
in recounting what it has gone through in the way of suffering is
certain; or, perhaps, it may be that there was something which
addressed itself to the love of sport, innate to man, in travelling
behind four horses. This point I will not venture to decide. Certain
it is that coaching has always been supposed to be nearly related to
sporting. In the daytime, especially in fine weather, there is
something very exhilarating in passing quickly through the air, and
hearing the rapid steps of four horses on the hard road; and then
there was, at least by day, just time enough, even on the fastest
coaches, to run into the bar occasionally, whilst the horses were
being changed, to have a glass of brown sherry, and exchange a word
and a laugh with the pretty barmaid--for they were all pretty! At any
rate, these things helped to break the monotony of the journey. Again,
if the traveller desired to become acquainted with the country he was
passing through, he could be in no better place for seeing it than on
the outside of a coach, which by passing through the towns on the
route afforded a much better idea of what they were like in
architecture and other things, than by only skirting them, as must
necessarily be the case on a railway. I often fancy that entering a
town from a railway station is something like sneaking into a house by
the back door. Night travelling, no doubt, had its serious drawbacks,
but they were, to some extent at least, alleviated by a stoppage of
sufficient time to get a good supper, such as would warm up the
cockles of the heart, and enable the passengers to start again warm,
and with a fresh stock of pluck to endure what they could not cure. At
any rate, they knew no better.

I tell my grandson that he loses twelve hours of his holidays from
Eton now, since he does not have what I look back upon as a downright
jolly night. Instead of not leaving college till the morning of
breaking up as at present, the "Rocket" coach of the old days, from
London to Birmingham and Shrewsbury, used on the previous evening to
come to Slough empty, where it arrived about seven o'clock, and at
which place we boys who were going long journeys in that direction
were allowed to join it; and right well we filled it, inside and out,
though the latter was the most coveted position, as being thought more
manly. I recollect on my second journey home, though it was the
Christmas holidays, my anxious parents having secured an inside place
for me, I exchanged it with another boy, "without receiving the
difference," so that I might not travel inside, and after that I was
left to my own choice.

As it was known some days before what the load would be composed of on
those nights, an extra good supper was provided at Oxford, to which we
did ample justice, and, as the coach was pretty much at our service on
that occasion, there was time to enjoy ourselves thoroughly, which we
did to our hearts' content, and started off again warm and comfortable
and as "jolly as sand-boys," though I must admit we did know what cold
feet were before arriving at Birmingham about eight o'clock on the
following morning. That, however, coach travellers expected, and
would, perhaps, have been rather disappointed without it.

On these nights the coach used to be so heavily loaded with luggage
that things were hung to the lamp-irons, and everything else that
could be pressed into the service, and on one sharp, frosty night some
small articles were slung under the hind axle, amongst which was a
basket of fish; unfortunately, this had been allowed to hang so low
down that it came in contact with the hard, frosty road, and when the
place was reached where it was to be delivered, nothing could be found
but the basket with the bottom out, the cod and oysters having been
scattered on the road.

The "Rocket" was not so fast a coach as its name might imply, and old
Rook, who drove one side between Birmingham and Shrewsbury, though a
good coachman of the old school, was not very particular to ten
minutes or so, but would sometimes stop and take a little pleasure on
the road; and I well remember passing through Bilson when a bull was
being baited on a piece of open ground between the houses, and close
to the roadside, and he pulled up to watch the operations for some
time. There was a story told of him, that he had a friend who was a
pig dealer, whose business frequently caused him to be walking in the
same direction as the coach, and if there was room he would give him a
lift. One day he came up with his friend walking at his very best
pace, when, as usual, he offered him a ride, to which he replied, "No
thank you, old fellow, not to-day; I am in a hurry, and can't while."

I cannot say that the return journey carries with it the same
pleasurable recollections, even after this distance of time. The
"Triumph" coach by which it was performed, was a night one between
Shrewsbury and Birmingham, and travelled by day above the latter town,
but as it had only a pair of horses up to there it was a very slow
affair, starting from Shrewsbury at eleven o'clock at night, and not
arriving at Birmingham before six on the following morning. To send a
boy back to school on a two-horse power, which consumed seven hours in
covering forty-four miles, seems rather like "adding insult to
injury." The only amusement we could by any possibility indulge in was
when we came to a turnpike gate, when the collector was sleepy and
slow in opening it, to cry out "Fire!" as loud as we could to alarm
him. We found that the cry of "Murder!" had no effect.

My recollection also reminds me that we did not always travel home by
the "Rocket." One Easter holidays three of us started from Eton to
post to London in one of the old yellow post-chaises, when soon after
passing Slough, the demon of mischief taking possession of us, we
determined to have some fun on the road, for which purpose we changed
half-a-crown into coppers, and using them as missiles, made a stealthy
attack upon the shop windows as we drove along. This fun lasted very
well till after changing horses at Hounslow, but upon passing through
Brentford, whether we had become too bold and careless, or whether the
inhabitants of that town were a sharper race, I don't know, but we all
of a sudden found ourselves the object of much interest to them, and a
man running out of a shop, seized hold of our horses' heads, and
calling us all the young blackguards he could think of, presented his
little account for broken glass, etc., etc. I need hardly say that
this was immediately settled without haggling, and telling the
post-boy to make the best of his way, we soon left the town of
Brentford, and further hostile attention on the part of its
inhabitants, behind us.

In the previous generation a case occurred when a journey home from
Eton was performed on a much grander scale than that which I have just
recorded, and as it was of necessity performed by road, may not be
inappropriately introduced in this place.

The then Bishop of Worcester, Dr. Cornwall, had two sons at Eton, and
on a certain Election Monday they started to go home to their paternal
mansion at Diddlesbury, situate in Corvedale in the county of Salop,
where the Bishop resided a good deal of his time. The family temper
was of rather a hasty nature, and something occurred after the young
gentlemen had proceeded a certain distance on the journey which
stirred up this hereditary failing, the altercation becoming so strong
that they parted company, each one ordering out a post-chaise and four
for his own individual use; and it ended in first of all one of them
arriving at his destination in a post-chaise and four from Ludlow,
followed in about a quarter-of-an-hour by the other brother in a
similar conveyance. Report does not say how the Right Rev. father
received his sons, but if he had a spice of the family temper, he
probably gave them a "_mauvais quart d'heure_" as the Frenchman
says. At any rate, one thing is certain, that it would puzzle the
picturesque little town of Ludlow at the present time to turn out
"_two fours_" without a long warning.



CHAPTER XIV.

COACHMEN: WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?


Coachmen, as they used to be, are now nearly, or quite, lost to sight,
and it is difficult to describe them. Most of the descriptions given
of them have been, more or less, caricatures; still, from the time of
Tony Weller, they have been a rather peculiar people, although that
character, as depicted by Dickens, was more in keeping with a previous
generation, and even highly coloured for that, and as unlike what they
were in the palmy days of coaching as were two men I saw at Hatchetts
a summer or two ago, dressed in such great-coats as were never seen
down any road, and with such hats upon their heads as, I should think,
never made their appearance anywhere, unless it was on the stage. They
were a sort of Gog and Magog of the road.

The coachman of the fastest and best days, which really lasted for a
comparatively small number of years, was better educated, and was
rarely slangy in his dress, which was well suited to his avocation,
and, except in winter, would not generally attract attention. At that
season, however, he did require to be well protected against weather,
for he had to face all sorts, and that for nearly a whole day or night
at a time. On one journey the rain might fall incessantly, on another
our changeable climate would produce clear weather accompanied by
intense frost, whilst on the following day there might be a driving
snow, the wind blowing the flakes into the eyes till it was almost
impossible to see the road.

Now all these alternations of weather had to be taken into account,
and, I believe, the art of resisting them had well-nigh reached
perfection; therefore, with the dread before my eyes of wearying some
of my readers, I am tempted to enter with some minuteness into the
subject, as, judging from the garments now usually worn, the art is
lost in the present day. It was a well established fact that two
moderately thick coats gave more warmth and kept out wet better than
one which was very thick, and besides which, a very thick coat becomes
insufferably heavy after being out many hours in the rain.

Indeed, a great change had taken place in the dress of coachmen. As
the pace increased, and better bred horses were employed, and greater
activity was required in the coachmen, the cumbersome old great-coat,
with innumerable capes, had to make room for garments which interfered
less with the movements of the wearer. I need hardly say to those who
have had much experience, that there is no hope of keeping dry and
warm if the neck is not secured by an ample upper neckcloth; for,
tying up this part of the body not only excludes the wet and cold, but
also has the effect of keeping in the natural heat of the body.
Nothing chills worse than a cold draught passing up the sleeves and
coming out at the neck, and to prevent this what were called
coachman's cuffs were employed. These consisted of a piece of cloth
about six inches in length, which buttoned over the sleeve of the
ordinary coat, and when over these were added, first, a strong cloth
coat, and over that a waterproof cape with sleeves, and ample enough
to spread well over the apron, no wet and little cold could penetrate.
Protected in this way, and with a relay of dry woollen gloves and
whips, a not unpleasant day might be spent on the coach box even when
the elements were unpropitious.

When a man is cased in all these clothes, he can hardly help being a
little stiff in his movements, and this imparted a peculiar gait which
betrayed the occupation. The left hand also generally acted as a tell
tale, as the rounded position in which the wrist was necessarily held
during many hours of the day could not be altogether thrown off at
other times. It was not uncommon for guards in the fast day coaches to
wear red coats, not the post-office guard's livery, as I have seen at
Hatchett's, but an ordinary hunting coat.

As roads improved pace increased, and fast day coaches gradually
appeared, notably the three "Tallyhoes" between Birmingham and London,
distinguished from one another by the words "Eclipse," "Patent," and
"Independent;" also the "York House," Bath, and the "Berkely Hunt,"
Cheltenham.

It was not, however, till about the year 1825 that the "Wonder"
commenced running between Shrewsbury and London, a distance of one
hundred and fifty-four miles, and it ceased running the whole journey
through in the year 1840 or 1841. And this having been the first coach
which attempted to cover so long a journey in one day, it marks with
sufficient accuracy the time during which coaching was at its zenith.
Of course, there were many fast and good coaches running after this
date; but subsequent to the year 1842, most of the roads, taking their
start from the Metropolis, were, more or less, pressed upon by
railways, and the coaches were either taken off altogether, or else
the distance run was curtailed. We may therefore put down about
twenty-five years as the period during which the coaches covered the
roads, though many equally good ones continued to run in Scotland,
Wales, and other remote places for many years later.

    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.    M&N. Hanhart imp.
                   EXTRA PAIR OF HORSES FOR FAST COACHES, FOR STEEP
                   ASCENTS.]

During this quarter of a century the fun was fast, not to say furious,
and with such rapidity did coaches increase and multiply, that it is a
wonder how the demand for coachmen was satisfied, for to become one
fit to be entrusted with a fast coach, and one which loaded heavily,
necessitates no little practice.

From whence then was this demand supplied? Principally, I believe,
like that in other trades, on the hereditary principle. It was no
uncommon thing for old coachmen to have several sons at work; but, as
the box of a good day coach was a lucrative post, a considerable
number of men were gradually attracted to it from superior positions
in life. The value of a "drive" differed very much, according to the
loading of the coach, distance driven, whether single or double
journey, or whether the passengers were what was called "_good
cloth_," or the contrary; but one which did not bring in twenty
shillings a day was not thought much of, and some were worth double.

This may appear a large remuneration to be received for a day's work,
seldom occupying more than nine or ten hours; but I know it is not
overstated, as I have not only been told it by others, but have myself
fingered forty-five shillings in one day. Perhaps, however, I should
add that I was then driving as much as ninety-three miles a day, and
had no guard.

There were also other sources from which money was made, and from
which coachmen driving slow coaches were enabled to make amends for
the inferior quality of their passengers; and, indeed, in quite old
days, the best wheel of the coach was often his. The late Mr. Jobson,
who for many years kept the "Talbot Hotel" in Shrewsbury, and horsed
the "Nimrod," which ran opposition to the "Wonder," had previously
driven the "Prince of Wales" coach between that town and Birmingham,
during which time he had the opportunity of buying up the guineas,
when they were called in by the Mint, at a trifle under their standard
value, and being able to dispose of them at their full price he
realised a handsome profit.

Again, fish was not an unusual article to be made the subject of
trading, and I once was tempted to embark in this business myself,
but, as the sequel will show, not with satisfactory results. When I
was driving the "Snowdonian," I was frequently asked by friends and
acquaintances on the road to bring some fish from Caernarvon, as the
towns through which I passed were badly supplied with it.
Accordingly, one morning, hearing that a good catch of fish had been
brought in, I invested, before starting, in forty pounds of very nice
small salmon at sixpence a pound, with the expectation of obliging
friends, and at the same time making some profit for my trouble.
However, I was soon undeceived. As I went from place to place I
announced with a feeling of much complacency that I had got the
long-wanted article, but in most cases the answer was that they did
not want salmon--any other fish would have been acceptable.
Consequently, when I arrived at the end of my journey, I found that
more than half was left in hand. Pickled salmon was the standard dish
on my table for a fortnight. It was my first and last appearance in
the character of a fishmonger. I tried no other sort of fish, as I
thought they were too dainty if they could not eat salmon. But perhaps
I have digressed too far, and will return to where coachmen sprang
from in the required numbers.

I once sat by the side of a Captain Douglas, who had seen service in
the Peninsular war, and was then driving the Birmingham and Sheffield
mail out of the former town, and a quiet, nice coachman he was. He had
a long stage of sixteen miles to Lichfield, and brought his team in
fresh at the end of it.

From the officer coachman I come to the private. He was named Marsh,
and had served at Waterloo with the 14th Regiment, and after leaving
the army, had driven a coach between Maidstone and London for many
years. When I first became acquainted with him, he had, like a good
many others, followed the receding tide to the west, and was driving
one side of the Aberystwith and Shrewsbury mail, between the former
place and Newtown, during which time I occasionally worked for him;
but, like an old soldier, he was always, if possible, ready for duty.
It is curious enough that I first came across him on a Waterloo day,
when he modestly remarked, upon the subject being alluded to, "I
happened to be there." I had lost sight of him for some years, till I
observed a notice of him in the _World_ newspaper of July 11th, 1888.
It occurred in a short account of Lord Albemarle, and mentioned the
interest he took in "the old soldier Matty Marsh, private 14th Foot,
who was wounded at Waterloo, witnessed the funerals of Wellington and
Napoleon, drove a coach from Maidstone for many years, and recently
died at the advanced age of ninety-four years." I never heard him
allude to either of the funerals, and don't very well see how he could
have been at that of Napoleon's; but so far as I know, he may have
attended both.

A few postboys were elevated to the "bench," notably little Dick
Vickers, of the Holyhead mail; but few of them were equal to the task,
and, indeed, some of them could not even handle four-horse reins
sufficiently well for black work, and consequently the night coachmen
were occasionally pressed into this service, much to their dislike,
and this once led to a rather droll scene. A gentleman, who had taken
to professional coach driving, found himself one day let in for the
job of driving a hearse, and, of course, was obliged to get himself up
for the occasion something like a mute, when catching sight of himself
in a glass, he was so much struck with his personal appearance, that
he remarked, "Well, if only some of my family could see me now, I
wonder what they _would_ say?"

Indeed, it is difficult to determine from what ranks and professions
the large body of coachmen required in those days was not recruited. I
suppose few would have looked among the list of publishers for one,
but, nevertheless, one, at any rate, from that business was drawn into
the service of the road, not having been successful in the former
trade. A letter from an old friend of mine, also a coachman, will, I
think, interest or amuse some readers, and will show that he possessed
a considerable amount of grim humour, as well as some acuteness in
business.

"Many years ago," says my friend, "I took up my residence for a short
time at the 'Kentish Hotel' in Tunbridge Wells--the best hotel there,
and at that time there were very few houses built upon the Common.
After stopping there some time, the season ended, and the exodus of
visitors had commenced, I took the box seat on Stockdale's coach. I
must tell you he had been a large publisher in Piccadilly, but failed,
and then took to the road, this being the first coach he had driven,
and being part proprietor. He was an exceedingly good amateur whip,
but still, not a first-rate artist, as he would try to make you
believe.

"A short time before we started, a lady with her maid, who had been
stopping in the hotel, sent her luggage to be placed on the coach, and
upon Stockdale seeing it, he said to the porter, 'How many passengers,
Tom?' 'Two, sir,' says Tom. 'Scale it, Tom,' says he, which he
immediately did. When twelve shillings was demanded for extra luggage,
the lady said, 'I never paid it before, and have taken two inside
places.' 'You see, _ma'ame_,' says he, 'I horse this coach over
Maramscote hill, and I cannot carry your luggage for nothing; you will
bring the kitchen range next time if you have nothing to pay.'

"Having seated myself very comfortably on the box seat, our friend
Stockdale and myself lit our cigars, going at a fair pace till we were
descending Maramscote hill, the skid-pan being on the wheel. The wheel
horses did not step well together, and we rocked very considerably,
which led me to observe he had better be careful, or he would put the
passengers down to count them. Upon this he turned round to me,
looking daggers, and asked me to look what was painted on the board at
the side of the hill, and looking, I read, '_Dry rubbish may be
thrown here_.' You may be sure I did not offer any more advice for
the remainder of the stage; but our _contretemps_ soon cooled
down, and when we were changing horses, 'I say, governor!' says he,
'forget the dry rubbish, and come in and take a little cold brandy and
water. It's the only place I ever go into on the road, for it's the
only place where you can escape being poisoned.' After our refreshment
we went at a very jolly pace, having Robert Nelson's horses, which
were first-rate, and soon arrived at the Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill,
where we found a great bustle of coaches, and luggage just come by
other coaches, arriving from different parts of the country, and
porters were calling out, 'Any passengers for Leeds "Courier," "Hope,"
"Halifax,"'" etc., etc.

It was not only necessary that a coachman should be able to drive
well, which required time and practice to acquire, but, what was of
nearly equal importance, he had to learn how to get his coach quick
through the country. Indeed, his was a position of no small
responsibility, for he had the lives and limbs of the passengers in
his hands, and as, when was sometimes the case with a strong
opposition, his orders were simply "_be first_" his was no very
enviable situation. When he could do all this with the minimum of wear
and tear of the stock, he was a very valuable man to his employers.

As a rule, I think they were fairly careful of the stock, though
certainly on slow coaches, when a little time lost could be recovered
without much difficulty, the horses by no means always reaped the full
benefit of the time allowed them. This, however, it must with justice
be admitted, was not altogether the fault of the coachmen. The
proprietors were too prone to encourage delay for the custom it
brought to the "bar," and if a coachman was heard to decline the offer
of a glass of sherry or brandy and water from his box passenger, he
might expect black looks.

Of course, with the fastest coaches, such delays were impossible,
neither could the coachman find time to pull up and patronize the
house of a friend, as was frequently done by his brethren on the
slower drags.

I have heard of the late Mr. Isaac Taylor, of Shrewsbury, when he
wanted to select from among his coachmen one fitted for a fast coach,
adopting the following plan: One of his coaches was driven by a man
who he knew to be coachman enough for the job, but he was not so sure
about his power of getting through the country. He, therefore, one
day, quietly seated himself inside this man's coach, and after a time
his doubts were confirmed, for on pulling up at a roadside inn, the
landlady, without observing him, said to the coachman, "Mr. So-and-So,
how will you have your eggs done to-day? Shall they be poached or
boiled?" I need hardly add, he remained on the slow coach.

A smart coachman usually took his place in changing horses, and it is
quite possible, as I know from experience, having been timed by a box
passenger, to effect the change in one minute and a half, with only
one horse-keeper, assisted by coachman and guard; but to do this, each
one must know his own place; they must not be tumbling over one
another. The best drill I ever knew for this purpose was as follows:
As the coach gradually stopped, the guard got down, and ran forward to
unhook the near leader's outside trace, and then drew the near lead
rein through the territs, after which he changed the near wheel horse,
and finished by running the near lead rein. The horse-keeper, on the
off-side, unhooked the remaining lead traces, uncoupled the wheel
horses, and changed the off-side one. The coachman, getting down from
his box as fast as he could, finished changing the leaders. The horses
had, of course, previous to the arrival of the coach, been properly
placed; one wheeler on each side of the road, and the leaders coupled.

This, of course, could only be carried out when the team was pretty
quiet to "put to," for with queer tempered ones, all sorts of dodges
had to be resorted to, attended sometimes with considerable loss of
time.

Occasionally, it would be necessary to run a leader's rein the first
thing, and then the coachman had to bustle up to his box as quick as
he could, trusting to the horse-keeper and guard to get the traces
hooked as best they might. Again, some wheelers could not bear to be
poled up till after the coach was started. Horse-keepers were often
exceedingly smart at this sort of work, though they varied a good
deal, so much so, that it was no uncommon thing for "queer ones" to
start better from one end of the stage than the other.

These said horse-keepers were a rough lot, and no great wonder, for
they had rough work to do. They were frequently expected to attend to
eight horses, four out and four in, every day, or to take charge of
six, with eight out and eight in, during the course of the day. But,
what was worse than the work, they constantly had vicious horses to
attend to, and such as it was dangerous to approach in the stall. To
meet this difficulty, I have known a long cord used, with one end
fastened to the head collar, and the other made fast to the
stall-post, by which the horse could be pulled back far enough to
enable the horse-keeper to keep clear of his heels whilst entering the
stall. I was once travelling at night, when, upon arriving at the end
of a stage, the coachman said to the horsekeeper, "Mind what you are
about with that horse," pointing to a fresh one, "he bit a piece out
of a man just before starting." It struck me as not a very enviable
position to be left, in the middle of a dark night, to look
single-handed after four dirty horses, and one of them a "savage."

But to return to changing horses, for it was an item of the very
greatest importance in fast work. It was necessary at times to use a
twitch with kickers, or to strap up one foreleg, though I have known
this latter insufficient to keep the hind feet on the ground, and was
once compelled to "Rarey" a mare before she would suffer herself to be
put to the coach. She was, from some cause or another, the worst
tempered horse I ever met with. When I first knew her, she was the
property of a gentleman residing at Dolgelly, but her temper was so
violent and untractable, that she had got the better of one or two
breakers, and the ostler at the "Wynnstay Arms" at Machynlleth, having
undertaken to conquer her, she had been taken there for that purpose.

It happened that I had promised to drive, a day or two afterwards, for
another coachman, who wanted a rest, and as his coach did not start
till after I had arrived with the "Harkaway" from Barmouth, and was
back again in time for my return coach, I was able to oblige him,
little thinking what I had undertaken.

On looking over the team before mounting my box, what should I espy
but this very animal at off-lead. "Oh," says I, "then this is the way
you are going to be broken? Well, we shall see how we can agree." And
taking up the reins, I mounted the box. Cautioning the horse-keeper
not to touch her, but to keep alongside the other leader through the
archway out of the inn yard, and to be sure and make him carry his bar
well, we started, the hitherto unmanageable mare giving very little
trouble, and, after a few more journeys in the coach, she was
considered to have finished her education, and returned home.

I suppose, however, that she was not much to the taste of her owner,
as she was very soon purchased, for a small sum, by my partner, Mr. E.
Jones, of the "Ship Hotel," Dolgelly, and put to run in the
"Harkaway." I drove her for many months, and considered that she was
quite subdued, though it was always necessary to strap up a foreleg
when putting her to the coach, and she was always nasty in the stable.
All of a sudden, however, as spring came on, she returned to her old
tricks, and thought so little of having a leg strapped up, that she
kicked her bar over the top of the coach, and was so violent that it
was impossible to "put her to." I determined, therefore, to "Rarey"
her, so, getting a long rope, and fastening it to the foreleg which
was not strapped, and passing it over her withers, I gradually pulled
her down, and, after the most approved "Rarey" fashion, sat upon her.
After a few minutes, I allowed her to get up, but she seemed still to
be very light behind, so I put her into her place at near-lead, all
the while keeping a strain upon the rope, and so kept her peaceable
whilst the traces were hooked, the rein run, etc. Then, handing over
the rope to the guard, I got into my place, when it became, "Let 'em
go, and take care of yourselves." The brute went right enough for
about a couple of hundred yards, when all of a sudden, she ran her
head into the near-side hedge, and set to kicking in earnest; but as
this movement exposed her flank, I was soon able to make it too hot
for her, and she finished the stage to Dolgelly quietly. I drove her
again the next day, but she continued so violent that, as we carried a
great many ladies and children at that time of year, she was taken
away for fear of alarming them, especially as some parts of the road
were not of the safest.



CHAPTER XV.

GUARDS.


The guard of the olden day was generally exceedingly quick in putting
on the skid and taking it off, which with fast coaches travelling
hilly roads, before the patent break was in use, was of first-rate
importance. Most of them were able to do the former without entirely
stopping the coach, but only a very few could unskid without the
coachman pulling up and backing his horses. It required a man of
unusual strength and activity to unskid whilst the coach was in
motion, as it was necessary for him to twist the wheel back out of the
pan with the right hand, and at the same moment to seize the chain
with the left, and hang it to the hook on the coach, and these
skid-pans were not a very light weight.

Probably few of my readers will know the manner in which wheels were
dragged in a frost, therefore I will try and explain it here. It is
manifest that the usual way of doing it would have been not only
useless, but absolutely mischievous, as it would have had a tendency
to pull the hind part of the coach into the side of the road when it
was slippery. The method adopted, therefore, was to tie a strong chain
round the felloe of the wheel, in such a position that it pressed upon
the ground and broke up the surface sufficiently to get a good hold on
it. This chain was then fastened to the safety hook.

Guards were frequently obliged to work very long hours, as it was
usually the case that, on coaches running long distances, one of them
would cover the ground driven over by four coachmen. In severe weather
this was naturally very trying, consequently, they did not work every
day. For instance, the "Wonder," from Shrewsbury to London, a distance
of one hundred and fifty-four miles, had three guards, each of whom
worked two double journeys and then rested for one. The object of
these men going the whole journey no doubt was that there should be no
break in the parcel department, which might have caused delay or loss.

Talking of the "Wonder" reminds me that, fast as it travelled, the
proprietors had intended doing better. The late Mr. Taylor, who horsed
it out of Shrewsbury, told me that it had been in contemplation to
expedite it so as to perform the journey in thirteen hours instead of
sixteen, and that, to enable this pace to be kept up, the stages would
have been limited to six miles each, and the coach was not to stop to
pick up passengers, or for any other business, except at the changes.
This idea, however, was abandoned when it was seen that the railways
would certainly obtain possession of the traffic.

I question whether the public would have been satisfied with the
proposed arrangement. They would have complained very much of being
obliged to go two or three miles to get on to the coach when it passed
their own doors. But really that part of the plan was hardly
necessary. Horsed as the "Wonder" was, and travelling over such a
first-rate road, it would not have puzzled it much to do twelve miles
an hour; but then every stage exceeding seven miles must have been
divided.

Some guards were quite natty with their parcels and luggage. I was one
day, when driving the Aberystwith and Shrewsbury mail, amused with Jem
Large, who was one of the guards on it at the time, and perhaps the
best to get a coach through a country that I ever drove. He had, as
usual, before leaving Shrewsbury, packed the front boot so carefully
that he could lay his hand upon everything in it even in the dark.
When, however, the mail arrived at Welshpool, it was found necessary
to change the coach, and as Jem was occupied with Post-office
business, he was unable to attend to the front boot, and,
consequently, what he had placed at the top of one was promptly
consigned to the bottom of the other. When we reached Caersws a
passenger left us, and Jem opened the boot to take out his
portmanteau; but what did he see? Instead of what he wanted being at
the top, it was now at the bottom, and with many groans and anathemas
he began to dive in pursuit of it, and as he disappeared further and
further the language which I heard from under my feet became more and
more pointed, till at last it became quite unparliamentary, even for
the present day.

The situation of guard was a very responsible one also in a pecuniary
point of view, as he had the power of defrauding his employer to a
very considerable extent, and the temptation to do so was enhanced by
the pace the coach travelled at; more especially was this the case
when the opposition was keen, and I fear it was sometimes too strong
to be resisted.

To obviate this he always carried with him a "way-bill," and the
theory was that it was compared by the book-keeper with the number of
passengers on the coach at each stage. It often happened, however,
that by the time the parcels had been given in and compared with the
way-bill, the horses were changed and the coach was off again without
the passengers having been counted, and thus having afforded
opportunities for what was called "shouldering," that is, pocketing a
passenger's fare, or "swallowing him," as it was sometimes
denominated.

Everything had to be done at the "change," as there was no convenience
for the guard to go over his parcels, as is done in a van on the
railways. By the bye, I wonder what John Ash would have thought of
himself if he had got down from the back of the "Wonder" with a pencil
behind his ear?

To a certain extent, what were termed "shorts" were allowed, as it was
customary for all passengers' fares not exceeding two shillings to be
the perquisite of the coachman and guard on coaches, and of the latter
only on mails, as he was the servant of the proprietors, carrying the
way-bill and having charge of the parcels. The Post-office guard was
occupied with his bags; but his was a rather anomalous position,
receiving only the munificent sum of ten shillings and sixpence a week
from the Post-Office, and being supposed to eke out a living by fees
from the passengers, to whom he had little or no time to attend. Of
quite late years, however, this was corrected, and the few who were
then employed were more liberally dealt with. They received as much
as seventy pounds a year from the Post-Office; but then they were not
supposed to take fees from the passengers, or, at any rate, not to ask
for them. So much was this system of "shorts" an acknowledged thing,
that I have had two shillings handed to me by the book-keeper as I was
getting on to my box, with the following remark, "I took it from him,
thinking he might fork out something more when he gets down." These
perquisites, however, were not altogether untaxed, as coachmen were
expected to subsidize the wages of the horse-keepers to the amount of
one shilling a week, and sometimes more.

Talking of parcels brings to my mind a rather comical scene I once
witnessed. It so happened that one day I came across one of the
"Tourist" coaches, running between Caernarvon and Dolgelly, which had
pulled up at a wayside inn about thirteen miles from Tan-y-bwlch. I
was attracted by the coachman, whose name was, if I recollect rightly,
Roberts, intently studying the address on a small parcel. It evidently
caused him great trouble to decipher it, as he first turned it up, and
then he turned it down, but neither right side up nor wrong side up
could he satisfy himself, and, at last, looking up and seeing me, he
came for assistance out of his difficulties, saying he was not a very
good scholar. When I looked at the address, I said, "You should have
left this at Tan-y-bwlch." "Well, dear me," said he, "that was a bad
job; indeed, it is doctor's stuff."



CHAPTER XVI.

WHERE DID THEY ALL GO TO?


Having indicated to some extent the sources from which the great
demand for coachmen were supplied, I will venture to dwell, for a
moment, and not without feelings of regret, on the subject of their no
less rapid disappearance from the scene. It will, I am aware, have
little or no interest to many: well, then, let them skip it; but some
there may be, into whose hands this little volume finds its way, who
have sufficient remembrance of old days to be interested in it, and,
at any rate, it shall not occupy much space.

It is always a melancholy thing to see any class of men suddenly
deprived of their means of subsistence from no fault of their own. It
is very easy to say that if one trade fails another must be found, and
to some political economists this appears to be a sufficient solution
of the difficulty, but it by no means has that effect on the
sufferers. A man who has thoroughly learned one handicraft, can very
seldom become a proficient in any others; and it is always the
inferior workmen who are left out in the cold. Driving, like other
trades, was not learned without much practice, and does not fit a man
for any other business. Where, then, did they vanish to?

The guards could, and I believe did, to a large extent, find
employment on the railways in the same capacity, and, probably, some
coachmen also; but this could not absorb all, or, indeed, any very
large proportion of them. His means of subsistence consisted in his
power of driving horses. He could not drive a steam engine. It is
difficult to say where they all dispersed to. A considerable number,
no doubt, found employment upon omnibuses in London and other large
towns; but that was a sorry life, indeed, like slavery compared to
freedom, to one who had been accustomed to the cheery work on a coach.

Many of those who had had the good fortune to drive good paying
coaches, and had been thrifty, invested their savings in inns, and, in
some cases, in hotels of some importance. A few, some of whom I have
previously mentioned, followed the receding tide, and obtained drives
upon summer coaches. One who could horse a stage was pretty sure of
getting a drive on one of them, as there was frequently some
difficulty in finding people to cover the middle ground. Some few took
to farming, but I cannot call to mind anyone who prospered as an
agriculturist.

I fear the larger part died off rapidly. They were never a long-lived
class of men. Strange as it may sound, the natural healthiness of the
employment tended to shorten their lives. The constant passing through
the air promoted great appetites, which, for the most part were fully
gratified, and this, together with insufficient exercise, produced
disease. I have known some who took a good walk before or after the
day's drive, who lived to a hale old age, but too many seemed to think
that the driving was sufficient exercise, though it could only have
been very bad teams that made it so; worse than were put to coaches of
late years.

Joe Wall, who drove the Manchester "Telegraph" out of London, used to
take his exercise in a very aristocratic manner, as he always kept
one, and sometimes two hunters, at Hockliffe, where he left the coach,
and enjoyed his love for sport, as well as getting healthy exercise,
and occupying the time which would otherwise have hung heavy on his
hands, and possibly might have led him into mischief. This, however,
had its drawbacks, and, on one occasion, was very near leading to a
difficulty of no small magnitude. He had, as usual, been out hunting,
and had, unfortunately, experienced a bad fall, which incapacitated
him from driving the return coach, and, at first, it seemed as if it
could not find its way to London that evening, for it was not every
one, even though he might call himself a coachman, who was capable of
driving a coach at the pace at which the "Telegraph" was timed, on a
dark winter's evening, along a road crowded with so large a number of
vehicles of all descriptions as would be the case on one approaching
the metropolis. As good luck, however, would have it, an efficient
substitute turned up in the shape of a very able and experienced hand,
who had driven equally fast coaches. A few became horse-dealers, and I
knew one who was for many years the highly-valued stud-groom to the
late Sir W. W. Wynn, but, if I ever heard it, I have quite forgotten
what coach it was that Simpson drove. I believe he was a good
coachman, but he had the misfortune, though by no fault of his own, to
capsize the hound van, nearly killing that prince of huntsmen, John
Walker.

I once knew a guard who had previously followed the occupation of
clown in a circus. His experience there had made him active enough for
anything, but he and the coachman did not, I fancy, get on very well
together, as the latter used sometimes to speak of him in derision as
"my fool."



CHAPTER XVII.

SOME CHARACTERS.


There was a great character who drove out of Machynlleth at that time.
His name was David Lloyd, and he worked the mail between that place
and Dolgelly round by Towyn and the coast. When he came to a certain
long fall of ground, he would put his team into a gallop, and then,
taking a small twisted horn, which he slung in a strap over his
shoulder, would blow almost without ceasing, especially when it was
dusk, as was more or less the case during a considerable part of the
year, and, as his right hand was fully occupied with the horn, if he
wanted to take a pull at the reins he made use of his foot.

It was dark for the greater part of the year before he reached the end
of the journey, and, as his sight was not very good at night, he would
sometimes say to his box passenger, "If you please, sir, will you tell
me what is coming towards us." Perhaps the passenger after looking,
would say "A cart," to which David would reply, "Then I was get out of
his way;" but if the answer was "A gig," or "A carriage," he would
say, "Then he was get out of my way," and would keep straight on.

Dolgelly at that time contained a few boon companions, some of whom
were rather given to practical joking. One morning there happened to
be on the box seat one of these gentlemen, and when they had proceeded
a few miles on the road, he pulled a pill-box out of his pocket and
took some of the pills. Upon seeing this, David said to him, "If you
please, sir, what have you got there?" He replied, "Only a few pills,
which I find very beneficial after a hard night." "Well, indeed," says
David, "I had a rather heavy night; was you please give me some of
them?" "All right," says he, "hold out your hand," when he poured
several pills into it; and upon David asking how many he was to take,
he said, "Take them all," which he did; and the sequel was, that he
drove his coach to Machynlleth, but another man brought it back in the
evening.

For two summers, when I was driving the Aberystwith and Kington
"Cambrian," I had Ben Haslam as guard, who was also something of a
character, and quite one of the old coachmen. He had driven for many
years out of London on different coaches, and, like a good many
others, had followed the receding tide, and had got down to
Herefordshire, where coaches lingered for several years, and then on
to Wales, where, at that time, railways had not penetrated.

He was full of anecdotes connected with the road, and towards autumn,
when the down loads were usually very light, I would sometimes get him
to sit by me on the box that he might enliven the way with some of
them.

He had one story which amused me, of the only really crusty coachman I
ever heard of. They were, as a rule, very cheery, genial spirits, and,
indeed, had not much cause to be otherwise. There were few pleasanter
lives. They were generally made a great deal of, indeed, perhaps
rather too much so at times, although, as a body, they bore their
honours becomingly. Between the patronage they received from the
gentlemen and the deference shown them by the horse-keepers and
others, it is hardly to be wondered at if sometimes their heads were a
little turned, and they became rather too big for their boots. There
was a story told of one, who was rather cheeky, giving great offence
to a parson, who was his box passenger, by saying that he was not
going to drive the next day, but should send his curate. They were,
however, not very unfrequently taken down a peg by a lick from the
rough side of a crusty proprietor's tongue; but on the whole, they
were, as Tony Weller said, "priviledged indiwiduals."

But to return to the crusty coachman. His name was Spooner, and he
drove out of Oxford, and, though often causing trouble with the
passengers by his want of urbanity, he was too valuable a servant to
get rid of. As was not so very unusual with him, he had been lately
called to account for some want of civility to a passenger, whereupon
he announced his determination never to speak to one of them again,
and he kept his word, till one day, a gentleman who was going to
travel by his coach, asked him some question, but after repeating it
several times and eliciting no reply, turned to the proprietor, who
was in the office, saying, "Your coachman is so surly, he won't answer
a single question I put to him." The proprietor asked him what he
meant by not answering the gentleman, to which he replied, "If I do
speak to him he will only complain, like that other fool did the other
day."

On another occasion his whole coach was occupied by musicians, coming
to play at a ball at Oxford, and, as he did not expect very good pay
from them, he was not in the best of tempers. It happened that at the
last change of horses before arriving at Oxford, a boy, who had been
sent with a fresh horse, was returning by the coach, and, as every
seat was occupied, he sat upon the footboard by the bandmaster's feet,
and after they had gone a short distance, pulled a Jew's harp out of
his pocket and began to play upon it. Upon this the bandmaster asked
the boy to allow him to try what he could do with it, saying, "He
could play a good many instruments, but had never tried a Jew's harp."
The new instrument proved too much for him, whereupon old Spooner
looked at him with scorn and contempt, and said, "You are a pretty
sort of a man for a bandmaster, and cannot play a Jew's harp."

He also narrated how, when the Great Western Railway was opened over
only certain lengths, and coaches were employed over the other ground,
some of those were conveyed certain distances on trucks, and the
coachmen travelled in their respective coaches. Of course they did not
overflow with affection for their rivals, and the way they tried to
annoy them was by getting out of their coaches and applying the breaks
to the wheels of the trucks.

This reminds me of how very slow all those connected with coaches, as
also those who took a warm interest in them, were to realize the fact
that their occupation was fast leaving them, and that the railways
would, before many years, have entirely superseded the old system of
travelling.

We were not, however, the only people who were somewhat sceptical on
the subject, though with us, no doubt, the wish was father to the
thought; but the _Times_ newspaper, whilst admitting the financial
success of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, warned investors
against speculative imitation, saying, "Where there are good roads and
convenient coaches, it would be a mistake to alter existing
arrangements."

Every little failure of the railways raised our spirits and gave
strength to the hope that they would fail, as all attempts to utilize
steam upon ordinary roads had hitherto done. At first, they were
unable to keep time in frosty weather, as the driving-wheels kept
turning round and round on the same spot of the slippery rail.

In the beginning of January, in the year 1838, I was travelling down
to Shrewsbury by the Holyhead mail. It was the first night of the long
frost and snow-up of that winter, which continued for two months, and
the roads were so much blocked up with snow, that for a few days the
coachmen and guards held a sort of wake at Dunchurch. On the night I
travelled down the frost set in exceedingly sharp, and the only up
mail that kept time was the Holyhead, which had come by road the whole
distance through North Wales. The other mails, whose bags had been
brought to Birmingham by what was then called the Grand Junction
Railway, were after time, as the trains could make but slow progress
on the slippery rails. The coachman and I, two silly creatures as we
were, made ourselves happy with the conviction that railways must
always be a failure for fast work, and that the coaching business was
not in such great danger after all. No doubt this opinion was
entertained by a good many others, and led to losses, by inducing some
coach proprietors to oppose the railways instead of coming to terms
with them.

It was on this journey, if I recollect rightly, that I had my last
experience of that conveyance, long since quite lost to sight, and now
nearly so to memory, that perhaps I may be pardoned if I linger for a
few moments to raise it, or its ghost, before the eyes of the present
generation, especially as I have seen some not very accurate
descriptions of them.

The old hackney coach, though frousty and damp, was generally roomy
and easy, as it had nearly always commenced its career in gentlemen's
service, and had consequently been built by one of the best
coachmakers of the day, and so far was decidedly better than the
modern "bounder." It carried about it a character of decayed
respectability, not to say grandeur, and upon entering one of them it
was not impossible for a gentleman to be greeted by his own
quarterings upon the panel. They were as ramshackling looking things
as could be imagined, with occasionally, wheels of different colours,
and the horses and coachman, together with his clothes, seemed made to
match.

But to return to coaches proper again: one called the "Dart" used to
run between Oxford and London, driven by a coachman who was commonly
known by the name of "Black Will;" and one fine morning the box seat
was occupied by an Oxford Don, who thought he would enjoy the air on
his journey. After they had gone a short distance he addressed our
friend Black Will, saying, "Are you the coachman they call Black
Will?" His answer was, "Blackguards call me Black Will, but gentlemen
call me Mr. Walters." It is needless to say that this shut up the Don
for the remainder of the journey.

Dick Dicas drove the "Cambrian" between Llangollen and Dolgelly for
several years, and one day it so happened that among the outside
passengers there was a ventriloquist. As they drove along the road a
man was seen walking leisurely across a field in the direction of the
coach, when the ventriloquist threw his voice so as to make it appear
that he was calling to it to stop. Of course, Dick pulled up, thinking
he had got another passenger; but as he did not quicken his pace, he
began to get impatient, for he was not a Job under any circumstances,
and called out to him to "Come on," and "Do you suppose I can wait
here all day for you?" At last, as he approached nearer, he said,
"What do you want with me?" when friend Dick answered, "Why, you
called me to stop." "I did nothing of the sort," replied the man in
the field. "I tell you you did," said Dick, waxing warmer. "Well, I'm
not coming with you, anyhow," said the leisurely man; whereupon there
was nothing left for Dick to do but to drive on, not in the best of
tempers, as may be supposed. Whether he ever knew of the trick played
upon him I do not remember to have heard, but if he did find it out in
time, I suspect he made it hot for the ventriloquist.

At one time Cambridge could boast of a clever poet as a coachman. Tom
Cross was his name, and he drove the Lynn coach from the "Golden
Cross," Charing Cross. He wrote "The Conflagration of Rome," and "Paul
before Nero," and some wags among the undergraduates said the idea was
given him by the fat from the bacon he was frying in the garret
igniting. But be that as it may, they were very clever compositions. I
fancy it was this man who published the first book on coaching which
has appeared in print.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MONOTONY.


I have sometimes been asked if I did not find it very monotonous to be
always travelling the same road day after day. Some might have found
it so, but I never did. There was never wanting something to break
through the monotony. One was brought into contact with fresh
passengers every journey, and constantly some fresh incident arose.
Indeed, on many roads the scenery alone would beguile the time. In
leafy England there are few roads on which there is not something to
admire even if other parts are devoid of attraction, and with the real
lover of scenery, the eye does not easily tire of looking at the same
picture. I must admit that I have been especially favoured in this
respect, as my drives lay through some of the most lovely scenery in
Wales, notably the valley of the Mawddach, so eulogistically spoken of
by the late Judge Talfourd; and also the magnificent scenery of
Snowdonia. I can never forget the remarkable reflection in the water
with which I was once favoured at Port Madoc, on the down journey from
Caernarvon to Aberystwith. As we passed over the embankment and
bridge, which at that place unite the counties of Caernarvon and
Merioneth, the whole of the mountain range for many miles round,
including Snowdon and the remarkable peak-shaped Cnicht, together with
many other mountains, whose names I cannot now call to mind, were
reflected in the clear water of the estuary, which was then at full
tide, as clearly as they could have been in a mirror. It was a sight
not to be erased from memory.

Then, again, he was a fortunate man who drove seventy or eighty miles
a day, who had no horse to deal with which would not pretty
effectually banish _ennui_ for one stage. Again, the coach was
the bringer of the news of the day, and, moreover, never stayed long
enough in one place but that it was always "welcome in and welcome
out," and this brings to my mind a rather amusing incident--at least,
it was good fun to one side--which occurred at a contested election a
good many years ago.

On the occasion of a warmly-contested election for Montgomeryshire, in
the year 1862, I had been to Welshpool to vote for my friend Mr. C. W.
W. Wynn, and when, on my down journey, I arrived at Machynlleth, there
being no electric telegraph, great anxiety was felt to know the state
of the poll. This I gave them as far as it was known when I left
Welshpool, but the returns from some of the strongest Conservative
districts not having then been received, it was very far from
perfection. However, it being favourable to the other side, they
jumped at it, and it was not my business to undeceive them; so in
their flush of confidence and the height of their happiness, they
backed their man freely. The next morning, when I returned with my up
coach, the final result of the poll was known, which was in favour of
the Conservatives, and they had only to pay and look pleased, which,
to their credit, I believe they did very good-humouredly.

I think I have now shown that if there is monotony in always driving
the same road, it may, at any rate, be monotony with variations, and a
strong opposition at once scattered it all to the winds, as one day
one would be in front, and on another the other one.

Night driving had always a strong fascination for me. The sensation of
always, as it were, driving into darkness, not knowing what would
appear next, kept up the zest of the thing. I do not mean to say that
I was in love with poking along in a dark night with only two
indifferent lamps; but having time to keep, and plenty of light, I did
enjoy. No fast coach could be said to be efficiently lighted without
five lamps--two on each side and one under the footboard. The best
lamps for throwing a strong light forward which I ever used, were made
by Messrs. Kay and Johnson, of Edinburgh. They were what were
designated "Argand burners," and being constructed strong and without
unnecessary ornament, were sold to stage coachmen for four pounds ten
shillings the pair. As they only threw their light nearly straight
ahead, they required to be supplemented, except upon very wide, good
roads, by other lamps placed lower down on the coach, which threw a
strong light to the side; and with them, and one under the footboard,
if there were no fog, the darkest night could be set at defiance. I
always-used the best sperm oil, as I found that colza oil had a
tendency to become thick from the shaking of the coach, which caused
the brightness of the light to become dimmed.

At night, also, a coachman must depend upon his hands to tell him how
his horses are working, and as he may never see some of the teams by
daylight at all, his left hand is all he has got to rely upon to
inform him how the horse-keepers are doing their duty by the stock,
and whether they are doing well or not.



CHAPTER XIX.

TANDEM.


I have never been very much of a tandem driver, for having been
entered upon stage coaches, and driven them for a good many hundred
miles before getting hold of a tandem, I must confess I rather looked
down upon it, and regarded it somewhat in the light of a toy.

The first time of my embarking in one I felt like the proverbial tin
kettle to the dog's tail. There was no weight behind the horses to
bring them to their collars, and they appeared to be almost drawing by
my hands, like the Yankee trotters. Of course, that sensation went off
after a little practice, and, though it is a team that requires
careful handling, it is one exceedingly well adapted for heavy roads,
as there is great strength of horse power in proportion to the load
which is usually placed behind them. This not only enables one to
ascend steep hills with ease, but also greatly facilitates the
descent, as it is almost impossible to place a sufficient load upon
only two wheels to overpower the shaft horse. It was in the act of
descending hills that most coach accidents happened, by the load
overpowering the wheel horses; and, of course, the load on a tandem
cart can never be top heavy, which was another fertile source of
accidents to coaches.

When I first tried my hand at tandem I was quartered at Chatham, and
being cut off from the coaches I had been accustomed to drive, my
hands itched for the double reins, and I condescended to the hitherto
despised tandem; but upon my first attempt, I soon found myself
brought up with the leader on one side a small tree and the wheeler on
the other. Rather a humiliating position for one who thought himself a
coachman! At that time, however, I little realized how much practice
is required to master the science of driving, though I must confess
that something short of that ought to have kept me clear of the tree.

This brings to my recollection a scene which occurred during the time
I was quartered in that garrison, which throws some light on the
manners and customs of military life half a century ago.

It so happened, as also occurred to Mr. Pickwick and his friends on
another occasion, that a ball was held at the Assembly Rooms in
Rochester, and a good sprinkling of officers from the barracks were
present, among which I counted one. When the small hours of the
morning were reached, and it was time to return home, another officer
and I, each in full uniform, jumped on the boxes of two of what were
then termed "dicky chaises," and raced nearly as fast as the old
screws could gallop along the streets of Rochester and Chatham up to
the barracks; and upon our arriving there the gates were thrown open,
and we did not finish our race till we reached the officers' quarters.

It was, however, in the Australian colonies that I did most of my
tandem driving, and as the roads in those new countries were often, to
say the least of it, imperfectly made, and houses were few and far
between, causing a journey of sixty or seventy miles in the day to be
sometimes necessary, I found it a team by no means to be despised.

It was early in the year of 1840 that I landed at Hobart Town (now
abbreviated to Hobart), from the good ship "Layton," of five hundred
tons burden, after a voyage of nearly five months, which had brought
out four hundred convicts, who were in those days sent out under a
small military guard; and it was not long after finding myself on
terra firma before the old craving took possession of me, nor long
after that before it was gratified, as already a good foundation had
been laid.

A dear old brother officer, many years dead, who had gone out with a
previous guard, had had a tandem cart built; and he also supplied
leader and harness, I finding wheeler and coachman, as he did not care
for driving; so I think I had the best of it. However, both were
satisfied, which is not always the case.

In that lovely island, then called Van Diemen's Land, but now
Tasmania, there were many miles of roads as good as any to be found in
England, constructed by convict labour, and admirably engineered over
the hills. Indeed, the greater part of the one hundred and twenty
miles between Hobart and Launceston was good enough for almost any
pace, as I can vouch for from having driven the whole distance both
ways.

I was not, however, allowed to remain in that delightful island for
long, but was sent away with a detachment of two companies to the
colony then called Swan River, but now changed to West Australia; and
there we bid adieu to roads such as are generally understood by that
word. All that was ever done there at that time was to cut off the
trees, when they were in great numbers, about a foot from the ground;
so anyone may imagine how the horses stumbled over one stump and the
wheels bounded over another. In other places, where the trees were few
and the bush thin, nothing was done unless it were what was called
"blazing," which consisted of cutting off a piece of bark from some of
the trees to indicate what was meant to be a road; but in many parts
nothing at all had been done, and the traveller had nothing to show
him the road except a few wheel marks, and was obliged to thread his
way between the trees as best he could. Even in the settlements there
was no attempt at macadam.

These were just the circumstances to show off a tandem to the best
advantage and for finding out its merits, which I soon had an
opportunity of doing, as an agricultural gathering was to be held at a
place called York, about eighty miles from the capital, Perth, where
we were quartered.

My old friend and I determined to make a start for the scene of
festivity. The tandem cart, which had come with us, was looked over,
and the harness rubbed up; but the difficulty was how to get horsed,
as we had none of our own at that time. However, without very much
trouble we engaged two of some sort, though one of them turned out to
be as much plague as profit, as the sequel will show. He was in the
lead, and for a good while we were quite unable to make him budge an
inch in the right direction. At last we saddled him, and my companion
mounting, armed with a good stick, began to lay about him so
vigorously that the brute made off fast enough; but his rider was so
intent on keeping him moving that he quite forgot to look what
direction he was going in, and led the way off the road into the bush,
though, indeed, there was little difference between them. I was almost
falling off my box from laughter, much less was I able to make myself
heard to recall him into the road. At last, however, the direction was
changed and the road regained, but I don't think I have ever laughed
so much before or since, so ridiculous was the scene.

Well, we managed to get as far as the first settlement on the road,
about ten miles, where a good many others, all riding, had collected
from different parts, and were bound to the same destination; and here
we met with a Good Samaritan indeed, in the shape of a friend who had
settled in the colony, and was riding a very nice quiet mare, which he
most kindly exchanged with us for our leader. The only drawback to
this arrangement was that she was followed by a foal at her heels,
which every now and then would pass between the leader and wheeler,
and it was as much as I could do to avoid injuring it.

We travelled pretty comfortably, however, in this manner for a good
many miles till it became dark, when it was necessary to light the
lamps, as there remained some miles to be covered before arriving at
the end of the day's journey; the delay at starting having thrown us
behind time.

If it was difficult to thread the way among the stumps and avoid
running over the foal in the daylight, I leave the reader to judge
what it was after dark; sufficient to say that we jumped and bumped
first over one stump and then over another, the horses continually
blundering over them as well. However, all's well that ends well, and
we reached the journey's end at last for that day. A solitary hostelry
it was in the midst of the bush, miles distant from any other
habitation, generally little used, but on the present occasion full to
overflowing. As we approached the house in the dark, voices as of
quarrelling reached our ears, for it so happened that a certain naval
officer, who was not usually given to falling out, but who, like many
others of his craft, was safer "aloft" than on a horse's back, had
just ridden up at a sharp pace to the house, and the landlord,
appearing at the door with a light at the same moment, made the horse
stop short, which caused the rider to be deposited on the ground, and
he, thinking it had been done intentionally, was very wrathful; mine
host, also becoming heated, made use of the words that had caught my
ears as I drove up, which were, "If the gentleman wants a game of
fives, I am his man." After a few minutes, however, peacemakers
appeared upon the scene, explanations took place, and harmony was
restored.

The house was so crowded that none but those who had taken the
precaution to bespeak beds beforehand could get them, and, of those, I
will not venture to say how many slept in the same one. The rest of us
had to deposit our carcases where we could, and I got possession of a
sofa, in what I suppose must be called the coffee-room, where I lay
down and went to sleep, but only for a very short time, as the bugs,
the most voracious I ever met with, nearly pulled me off it. I then
tried the floor, but with, if possible, worse results, so, like the
man in the song of the "Cork Leg," "I soon got up and was off again."

By this time I had had enough of the inside of the house, and
therefore betook myself out of it, where I found some natives in their
small tents made of bark, and gathering some wood and getting a light
from them, I soon had a fire, and lying down by it, with the driving
cushion for a pillow, passed the rest of the night in peace and
comfort. Probably by this time a railway has been constructed through
this country, and for all I know a grand company hotel may have taken
the place of the old "Half-way House" in the bush.

These said natives always went about in those days, and probably do
now--though perhaps civilization and Bryant and May may have rendered
it unnecessary--well provided with a light; and it was the usual
thing, when meeting them in the bush, to see one or two women carrying
what was termed a fire stick, which consisted of two pieces of bark
placed together, and of such a nature that it kept alight for a
considerable length of time; nor, indeed, to anyone who had witnessed
the labour it was to them to strike a light in their primitive
fashion, would this carefulness of the household fire excite any
wonder. I will endeavour to explain how they did it.

As was my frequent custom, I was passing a few days in the bush,
hunting kangaroos, and the first evening upon arriving at our camping
ground, we told the native, who was accompanying us as guide, that he
must strike a light, but he replied, "No, white fellow make fire." We
said, "Black fellow have no fire to-night if he no make it;" and after
a good deal of persuasion he was prevailed upon to set to work, which
he did in the following manner:--

First, he cut a sort of reed which grew upon a shrub, which went by
the name of the black boy, bringing one end to a point. He then got a
flat piece of stick, about a foot in length, in the middle of which he
made a small hole, just large enough to hold the pointed end of the
reed. Then after heaping a small quantity of the dryest old leaves he
could find upon the flat stick, he inserted the point of the reed into
the hole in it in an upright position, then holding the stick firm by
sitting down and putting his feet upon it, he commenced to rub the
reed backwards and forwards between his hands so energetically that in
the space of about ten minutes or less, some smoke made its
appearance, which was very soon followed by fire. It was certainly an
ingenious way of striking a light, but decidedly laborious, and very
primitive even in comparison with the old tinder-box and matches,
which I can recollect as the only means the _civilized_ world had
of obtaining a light.

Like other savages living in fine climates, where food could be
obtained with little labour, they were naturally indolent, of which I
had an amusing instance on one occasion.

I was walking one very hot summer clay along what, by courtesy, was
called a street in Perth, which--though laid out with the view of
being at some future time, and now probably is, a wide and handsome
thoroughfare--consisted at that time of deep sand, when, from a native
sitting basking in the sunshine on the opposite side, I was accosted
in a plaintive tone with the words, "White fellow, money give it 'em."
I pulled some small coin out of my pocket, and held it out in my hand
for him to fetch, but instead of exerting himself to get up, he said,
"Oh, white fellow bring it 'em." After this length of time I cannot
charge my memory with what the result was, but suppose he had to fetch
it.

It is much to the credit of the settlers in this colony that these
children of nature had, at that time, and I dare say it is the same
now, been always kindly treated, and so far from the advent of the
white man being the signal for the diminution of the dusky one, the
Aborigines, in some parts of the colony at the time I am speaking of,
were actually increasing in numbers. Especially was this the case with
the tribe which lived round Perth, and it was accounted for in this
way.

They had a rough and ready way of maintaining the balance of power
among themselves, which was that upon the death of a man in one tribe,
one of his relations speared one belonging to some other adjoining
tribe to keep the balance even, and as what was called the Perth tribe
was supposed to be under the protection of the whites, they were left
pretty much unmolested in this way.

Though averse to anything like labour, some of them made fairly good
shepherds, but the same man was not allowed by his tribe to work
continuously. I heard of a case in which one man regularly served a
settler in the capacity of shepherd for six months in the year; that
is to say, he worked for three months, after which he went away for
the same length of time, sending another to fill his place; at the
expiration of which time he returned to his charge for another three
months. If he had taken service permanently, his tribe would have
speared him, so jealous were they of their liberty, and, like many
others better instructed, rejecting the good things within their
reach.

I have made a long digression, which I hope has not wearied the
reader, and it is time to return to the solitary hostelry in the bush,
which was the only one at that time where any accommodation could be
obtained for the whole journey between Perth and York.

At an early hour of the morning all the guests at the "Half-way House"
were astir, comparing notes of their nocturnal experiences, and
getting breakfast; and when in due time a start was effected, there
was a goodly cavalcade, we two being the only ones on wheels. Riding
is the universal mode of traversing the bush.

At the "Half-way House" we had met with the man from whom we had hired
our horses, and he changed with us, giving us the one he was riding,
so that we were enabled to return the mare and foal to our kind
benefactor, and we reached our destination the same day without any
further adventures.

We had been kindly asked to stay at the house of a settler close to
the settlement for two or three days, and he received us with that
true and genuine hospitality which so universally distinguished the
residents in all parts of Australia, and nowhere more than in the
colony I am now writing about. Of course, the accommodation they could
offer was not particularly commodious, but the welcome was warm, and
nothing that could be obtained, and no trouble that could be taken,
were considered too much to make the guests comfortable.

Though accommodation was always made in the house for the guests,
there were sometimes no stables, and the horses were obliged to be
tethered in the bush near the house, and, consequently, no one ever
thought of going from home without having a tether rope coiled round
his horse's neck. Of course, in so sparsely populated a district,
houses were few and far between, and, consequently, there was but
little society, though a matter of twenty miles or so would not deter
one resident from visiting another; and as news was scarce in these
backwoods, anyone coming from the more accessible parts, and therefore
a bearer of news, especially if it emanated from the "Old Country,"
was very acceptable.

As I remarked before, however, occasionally, at the less busy times of
the year, one settler would ride over to pay a visit to a neighbour
fifteen or twenty miles distant, and having arrived at his
destination, after removing the saddle and bridle, and tethering his
horse, would offer himself at the house, where he was certain of
finding a hearty welcome.

There was a story told of one having done this who, after enjoying
himself till well on in the night, and having been rather powerfully
refreshed, thinking it time to return home, replaced the saddle and
bridle upon his horse, but forgot all about the tether rope, and,
consequently, continued riding round and round in a circle, whilst he
most complacently thought he was pursuing his homeward journey.

After partaking of our good friend's hospitality for two or three
days, we retraced our steps to Perth, without anything occurring
worthy of note; but fully convinced, by experience, of the peculiar
adaptability of tandem for travelling over bush roads. It would hardly
be possible to use a four-wheel carriage under such circumstances.

In those out-of-the-way places people cannot be very particular, and
are obliged to improvise things as best they can. On one occasion,
when visiting a friend in the bush, I came across two others, who were
driving an unusual team. I can only designate it as an "inverted
pick-axe." It consisted of a horse, as usual, in the shafts of a
dog-cart, with two abreast in front of him. Upon remarking on the
peculiarity of the turn-out, and asking how it answered, I was told
that the team was not very handy. The cause of this did not require
much time to discover, for there were no coupling reins to the
leaders, who were only kept together, like G O horses in a plough, by
a single strap. With the help of some strong string I rigged out
coupling reins, and they went on their way rejoicing.

The danger commonly alleged against tandem is that the leader can turn
round and face you. I never had this happen to me, but fancy it is
little to be dreaded if the coachman will not loose his thong, but
keep it caught up ready to administer a good dose of double thong over
the horse's face as soon as he comes within reach. If worst comes to
worst, however, a two-wheeled conveyance is able to turn on its own
ground, and follow the horses, even if it is in the wrong direction.



CHAPTER XX.

THE CONVICT SHIP.


In the last chapter the reader was casually introduced to a convict
ship, and as it is now about half a century since they became
obsolete, it may not be altogether without interest to some readers to
have a short account of them from one who can say _quorum pars
fui_. I will therefore venture upon a short digression, which,
though it introduces a subject foreign to the one which this little
book professes to treat upon, nevertheless may yet bring a coach upon
the stage when least expected.

Probably to the mind of some readers the very name of a convict ship
will conjure up all sorts of horrors, culminating in a surprise, the
capture of the ship by the convicts, and in all who resisted them
being thrown overboard.

Well, at any rate, no such thing occurred on board the "Layton," nor
did it ever on board any vessel carrying male convicts; though I have
heard that such a thing did happen once to one conveying women, which
having no military guard on board, the crew intrigued with the
prisoners and carried the ship into some port on the South American
coast.

The convicts were under the immediate charge of a naval surgeon, and,
as I have already mentioned in the last chapter, he was supported by a
small military guard. When first brought on board every man had irons
on his legs, but upon the ship getting to sea, these were gradually
knocked off as the surgeon considered could be done with safety.

One-third of the guard were always on duty on the poop of the ship,
with their muskets (it was in the time of old "Brown Bess," with flint
locks) loaded, and placed in a rack ready to hand; and to prevent any
sudden rush to attack them, a strong wooden barricade was erected just
abaft the mainmast, about seven feet high, with no opening through it
except a small, low door in each gangway, just large enough to admit
of one person passing through in a stooping posture.

With very few exceptions, the convicts gave no trouble. They had a
saying among themselves that they were patriots, who left their
country for their country's good; and an opportunity occurred during
the voyage for some of them to do good service, which greatly improved
their condition upon landing.

As is not very unfrequently the case in that latitude, when off the
Cape de Verd Islands, the ship was caught in a violent squall, when
the chief mate, who was in charge of the deck, "luffed up," and had
commenced to take in sail, till the skipper appeared on the scene,
who, without giving himself sufficient time to consider, immediately
put the ship before the wind. By this action the sails, which were
being reefed, were refilled suddenly, with the result of several of
the masts and spars being carried away; and the saddest thing was that
several of the crew, who were aloft at the time, went overboard with
the rigging, and three poor fellows were drowned, notwithstanding all
that could be done to save them.

I believe sailors recognize two ways of acting under these
circumstances: the one what the mate did, to reduce sail; the other
what the captain did, to run before the wind. As a land-lubber, I give
no opinion between them; but a mixture of the two cannot help being
fatal, as was the case with us. Never shall I forget the crash, crash,
crash, of the falling masts. If, however, the skipper made a mistake
this time, he showed himself quite equal to the occasion at a
subsequent period of the voyage.

He and I were pacing the poop together, when suddenly the cabin-boy
came up and whispered something to him which I did not catch, but
which had the effect of making him scuttle at double-quick time. In
about a quarter of an hour he returned, saying, "What do you think I
was wanted for?" Of course, I answered, "I do not know." "Why," he
replied, "they had set fire to a cask of spirits in the lazaret."
"What on earth did you do?" I said. "Well," says he, "I sat upon the
bunghole." This move on his part had the effect of excluding the air,
and, consequently, of extinguishing the fire. It was a quick, smart
thing to do, and saved what would have been an awful catastrophe--a
ship on fire at sea, with about five hundred souls on board, and not
boat accommodation enough for one hundred.

At the end of nearly a five months' voyage we found ourselves sailing
up the beautiful Storm Bay, and never did land appear so lovely to my
eyes before. The anchor was soon let down in the river Derwent, and
the convict ship lay with her living freight off Hobart Town.

It is wonderful how time passes on board ship where there is nothing
to mark it, and in this case the only break we had to the daily
routine was occasional tiffs between the surgeon and the skipper. The
former was anxious to get to the end of the voyage as quickly as
possible, as he received ten shillings a head for all the prisoners
that landed alive, and was sorely put out when every effort was not
made to keep the old tub moving. The skipper, on the other hand, being
paid by the month, preferred his comfort, and was fond of making all
snug for the night in rough weather, and turning in, whilst we
soldiers looked on with patience, if not contentment, for, as was the
usual custom, we had received an advance of four months' pay upon
leaving England, and didn't much care about landing till some more had
become due. It is poor fun to go on shore with an empty pocket.

I believe it was unfortunate for the convicts that the system of
transportation was obliged to be abandoned, as any of them in those
new countries were able to return to an honest life if they really
chose to do so, which, in an old and thickly populated country like
England, is a very difficult thing to do. At the time I am writing
about, the system of assigned servants was in practice, and though it
was liable to much abuse, and was largely abused, still it had this
advantage, that it admitted of their return to ordinary life long
before their sentences had expired.

The system though, as I think, good in itself was shamefully
administered, especially in the earliest years of the colony. At that
time any free man or woman who had settled in the colony was not only
entitled to a convict servant or servants, but could have any prisoner
they liked, and this naturally led to the grossest abuses, of which
the following is an example:--

Some men in England managed to find out that on a certain night, one
of the mail coaches (and here comes in the coach) was to carry a large
amount of bullion, which they concluded would be placed in the front
boot of the coach, as the safest place, and in this they were not
disappointed. They then secured the four inside places for that night,
and whilst on the journey set to work to make a way into the boot and
abstract the coin. Upon arriving at the end of the journey they
immediately handed this over to their wives, who were in readiness to
receive it, and straightway made off with it. The men were taken up,
tried and convicted of the robbery, and sentenced to transportation.
Soon after they landed in the new country they were assigned to their
respective wives as servants, and, as is said in the children's story
books, "lived very happily ever after."

Such a glaring case as this of course could hardly occur a second
time, but sufficient care was never taken to see that convicts were
only assigned to those masters whose character and position warranted
it. At last, like many other things, good in themselves, it was
abandoned altogether, instead of the trouble being taken to administer
it properly.

There was one institution I must mention connected with convict life,
as I suppose it was quite peculiar to Van Diemen's Land. A penal
settlement was established for those who committed offences after
their arrival in the colony, situated on a small peninsula called Port
Arthur, and separated from the mainland by a very narrow isthmus.

Across this, called Eagle Hawk Neck, there was placed a line of savage
dogs, each one chained to a kennel with just sufficient length of
chain to prevent anyone passing through the cordon without being
seized, and at the same time short enough to prevent the dogs fighting
each other.[2]

          [2] Two works giving a vivid picture of convict life in
          Australia have appeared--_The Broad Arrow_, and _For the
          Term of his Natural Life_, by the late Marcus Clarke.

What strides have been made since then! Whether greater by sea or land
appears doubtful; but one thing is certain--that the last forty years
has produced more change on both elements than the previous hundred.
In the year 1772 Captain Cook started on his voyage of discovery in a
vessel of four hundred and sixty tons--about the same size as those
that were in use at the time I have treated of; and I need not remind
the reader of the immense growth in the size of ships since then. The
time consumed in going from one part of the world to another has also
been altered in a no less remarkable manner.

If to those who, at the present day, would shrink from trusting their
lives and comforts for a long voyage to any vessel of less than three
or four thousand tons, a ship of only five hundred tons, such as I
have already mentioned, seems uncomfortable, if not hazardous, what
will they say when I mention that the vessel on board of which I
returned to England measured only two hundred and eight tons--probably
about the same size as the largest boat carried on board some of the
leviathan steamers of the present day.

But, however hazardous they may think it, I believe that so far from
any extra danger being incurred from sailing in these small ships, it
was not only as safe, but, judging from the accounts we read of the
damage sustained by these monsters of the deep in heavy weather, the
balance may be in favour of the smaller craft. They were so buoyant
that they rose with the waves instead of going through them, and, like
the little "Eudora," in which I made the homeward voyage, were like a
duck upon the water.

In my own case, the small size of the ship had a special advantage, as
I was allowed to take the wheel whenever I liked, which could hardly
have been the case in a large one; and really the steering her over
the grand waves in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in half a gale of
wind was not very much inferior to driving a racing coach.

One day, however, I was let in for rather more than I bargained for.
It was blowing an increasingly heavy gale off Cape Horn, such as it
knows how to blow in that part of the world in winter, and the hands
were all aloft taking in sail, when the skipper turned to me and said,
"I wish you would take the wheel and send the man forward, as I want
more strength aloft." Thus the whole crew were in the rigging, and if
by any mistake I had allowed the sail they were reefing to fill, they
must have been carried overboard with it.

It may seem rather a happy-go-lucky way of sending a ship to sea, for
the crew to be so short-handed as to make it necessary to call in the
aid of a passenger in such an emergency, but those were the
"pre-Plimsoll days," and before ships' masters and other officers were
subjected to examinations. In one ship on board which I sailed, the
owner was overheard to say to a friend who had accompanied him on
board, "With such a captain and such a mate, I only wonder the ship
ever comes home safe again."

If we return to the other element we shall see that though
improvements had taken place, to some extent, as early as the
beginning of this century, still little had been effected before the
year 1820. From that date great improvements were made in everything
connected with road travelling, so much so, that we in England
congratulated ourselves that it had pretty well arrived at perfection,
when, lo and behold! a new power asserted itself, and produced such a
metamorphosis that few persons not exceeding fifty years of age have
ever taken a long road journey in their lives. Road travelling is as
much a thing of the past as "pigtails," and if it were not for the few
coaches running in the summer from Hatchett's and other places in
London, the shape of such a thing would be forgotten by most people.
As it is, those give but a slight notion of what a long coach used to
look like when commencing its journey of 150 or 200 miles.

It would be looked upon as a curiosity if one was placed in the Baker
Street Bazaar, or some other suitable site, loaded as they used to be.
Probably there are not twenty of us now living who have put one of
these loads on with our own hands, or would have any idea of how to
build it up.

    [Illustration: THE EXTRA COACH AT CHRISTMAS.]

The loads, especially about Christmas, on the night coaches used to be
"prodigious," as Dominie Samson would have said. An inexperienced eye
would almost expect the coach to collapse under them when the load was
of such dimensions that the ordinary luggage strap was not long enough
to span the pile, but had to be supplemented with what was called a
lengthening strap, which consisted of a strap about four feet long,
with a buckle at one end, and the whole length perforated with holes.

Nothing saved them but their admirable construction, which combined
the greatest strength with moderate weight; those built to carry the
heaviest loads seldom exceeding a ton or twenty-two hundredweight, and
the perch being short was favourable to draught. For a great many
years they were nearly all perch coaches, as it was pretty well the
universal opinion that under-spring coaches were not so steady or well
calculated for heavy loads and high speed.

This opinion, however, was in later years considerably modified, and
most coachmen that I was acquainted with had arrived at a conclusion
favourable to the under-spring build. I can say this for them, that
the fastest work I ever did was on one of them, and also that the
heaviest load I ever drove was on another of that description; and I
cannot but "speak well of the bridges which carried me safe over," for
they performed their journeys admirably. They certainly possess the
advantage of weighing two or three hundredweight less, and, from the
splinter-bar being higher, the line of draught from the wheel horses'
collars to the roller bolts is straighter. Though they are lighter,
they lose nothing in strength when originally so constructed; but I
would not recommend anyone to convert a perch coach, as I once did so
with the result that the front boot came away from the body.



CHAPTER XXI.

DRIVING.


Those who aspire to distinction on the coach box now-a-days, are
deprived of two great helps, perhaps the two greatest helps, which
were enjoyed by their predecessors--I mean example and practice.

As a lad I always, when travelling, got the box seat, if possible, and
never took my eyes off the coachman's hands; the consequence was that
when I became old enough to be trusted with the ribbons, I naturally
fell into the form which I had noticed in them, and then followed the
second help, which was the opportunity of driving sixty to eighty
miles a day.

    "Easy the lesson of the youthful train,
    When instinct prompts and when example guides."

It is very difficult to explain clearly the motions of the hands in
shooting or fishing, and it is no easier to do so in driving. A few
hours of careful observation are of more value to a beginner than a
great deal of instruction. If he starts in a bad form it is long odds
against his ever getting out of it.

I have heard opinions broached by young men of the present day which
would not have found favour fifty years ago, and, though I will not
venture to say that no changes have taken place for the better since
then, I would call to mind the fact, that as driving was then the real
business of life to thousands, and that coachmen at that time had a
much more extensive practice than can be obtained now, the presumption
is that they were likely to have found out the right way to go to
work. Indeed, there were _artists_ in those days--men who would
drive any brute that could be harnessed, and could get any load
through the country at almost any pace and in all weathers, by night
or day.

But before going further on this subject, perhaps it will be better to
lay a foundation.

Before horses can be driven satisfactorily they must be properly put
together, and to this end everyone who aspires to be a coachman should
have a practical knowledge of how his team should be harnessed and
"put to the coach." It has been truly remarked that horses well put
together are half driven.

Now, first, for a few faults, one of the greatest of which, and one
not very uncommon, is to have the pole chains too slack. If they are
hooked so that there is no strain upon them when the traces are tight,
they are slack enough, and more than that is bad, as it takes away the
power of the horses over the coach and of the coachman over the
horses, and has oftener than generally supposed been the cause of a
kicking bout, as I have endeavoured to show in a previous chapter.

The London "'bus men" do have their pole chains very slack, and they
are right, because their horses are continually falling upon the
slippery streets, and it gives them room to struggle and get up again
with little danger of breaking the pole; but this does not apply to
road work, and there, if the pace is very fast, it is dangerous from
its tendency to make the coach rock.

I am always puzzled when I see coachmen driving with the present
fashion of long coupling reins. What good can they see in them? Here
again the 'bus men, who I suppose set the example, have reason on
their side. They sometimes require to alter a coupling rein on the
journey, and, from being able to reach the buckle from their seat, can
do so at any stopping, without help from the conductor, who is engaged
with the passengers; but this can never be necessary with a
gentleman's drag or a coach. In the one case there is the groom, and
in the other, the guard, to do what is required--that is to say, in
the latter case, if there is time to do anything at all, for I
recollect on one occasion having to drive an eleven mile stage in an
hour, when the horsekeeper had carelessly reversed the reins by
putting the leading draught one's inside and the coupling reins
outside, but the pace was too good to alter. It appears to me that the
long coupling reins only add to the weight, which is necessarily
considerable, without conferring any benefit, and, indeed, when, as I
have seen them, they are so long that the buckle touches the left
hand, they can hardly be unattended with danger.

When I first learned driving scarcely anyone thought of going without
bearing reins, they were considered by all, except a few who were
looked upon as innovators, to be as necessary as the traces. Their
utility, however, soon began to be questioned, and they rapidly came
into disuse in the coaches, and no doubt horses do work easier to
themselves without them, especially with heavy loads and fast pace.
Still they are of use occasionally, and I have employed a slack one to
the cheek of the bit when a horse has a trick of throwing out his head
and snatching at his reins, and so making it impossible to prevent his
rein slipping through the fingers, which should never occur.

I believe that bearing reins may also be useful, and indeed a security
(though as a general rule I hate them) when, as is the fashion now, a
pair of high-bred powerful horses are put to draw a Victoria or some
other very light carriage, for doubtless a bit does act more
powerfully when accompanied by a bearing rein than without one.

I dare say I shall be thought very old fashioned, but I do not think
that horses do generally go as pleasantly to the coachman with such
very light weights behind them, as when there is weight enough to make
them feel their collars. A team, to go pleasantly, should have a load
proportioned to its power, so that they may have something to pull at
besides the coachman's hand. It must be admitted also in their favour,
that bearing reins do prevent wheel horses rubbing and scratching
their bridles against the pole chains when standing still.

Like many other old established institutions, they continued to have
their advocates for a long time, and by some very competent judges
bearing reins were considered necessary for safety, as will appear
from the anecdote I am about to narrate. When they were first being
dispensed with, Ned Cracknell, who drove a Birmingham day coach called
the "Triumph," left them off. Upon the coach arriving at Hounslow one
day, who should be standing there but Mr. Chaplin, commonly known as
Billy Chaplin, the proprietor out of London, and before Cracknell had
time to get on his box, though they were very quick in changing at
Hounslow, he observed that there were no bearing reins, and only
snaffle bits in the horses' mouths, whereupon he called out, "Hallo,
Mr. Cracknell, what monkey tricks are these you are playing? If you
don't put on the curb bits and the bearing reins, you don't take the
'Triumph' coach out of the 'Swan with Two Necks' again." Probably he
was quite right about the snaffle bits, as the following instance will
show:--

Seven mail coaches used to leave the "White Horse Cellars" every
evening, and at one time there was a great rivalry between the
Devonport mail, commonly called the "Quicksilver," driven by Captain
Davies, and the Stroud mail, driven by Harry Downs, a broken-down
gentleman, for here I may remark, though it is a fact well known to
most people, that in those days it was no uncommon thing to see
well-bred men driving stage-coaches. But to return. As the Stroud mail
with four bright bays, and the "Quicksilver" with four bright
chestnuts, were racing at a very merry pace, our friend Harry's bays,
having only snaffle bits, bolted across Turnham Green, which would
probably be a feat incapable of accomplishment now, and an old friend
of mine, who was travelling by it, and by the bye a very good coachman
himself, says, "I experienced a very unsmooth journey until we reached
the road again, and by that time the 'Quicksilver' was through
Brentford."

Of late years there has sprung up a fancy that blinkers are not only
unnecessary, but absolutely an evil, and a good deal of newspaper
correspondence has been the result, without going very far towards
elucidating the subject. So far as I am able to understand the
controversy, the opponents of blinkers consider they have proved their
case when they tell us that horses, when accustomed to it, are not
frightened by seeing the carriage behind them, and that therefore
there can be no danger in going without them. That horses can be used
to seeing the carriage behind them without taking fright, there can be
no doubt, but that by no means ends the question. Those on the other
side say, and with truth, that in double harness, when the bridles are
without blinkers, one horse does occasionally, either from tossing his
head or some other cause, injure the eye of the other one by striking
it with the cheek of the bit. A well-fitting blinker is no discomfort
to a horse, and I think I can bring forward a case which will go very
far to prove that they may be of great use.

One evening when I was driving the "Harkaway" coach on the down
journey, when within about a mile from Dolgelly, as we rounded a
sharpish corner of the road, the leaders caught sight of some boards
which had been left, very improperly, on the near side of the road,
and were so much frightened at the sight that they bolted right across
to the other side of the road, and, that being rather narrow, it was
as much as I could do to prevent the coach running into the off-side
hedge, which would most certainly have ended in a spill, and probably
have been attended with very disastrous consequences, for, as was
usual in summer, there was a good load of passengers and luggage.

We must recollect that a horse, from the position of his eye, has the
power of seeing a long way behind him, which is necessary to his
safety in a wild state, as he depends very largely for defence upon
his heels; consequently, any object which alarms him continues in
sight for a long time, and in the case I have just mentioned, I am
certain that if they could have seen the object of their terror
another moment, nothing I could have done would have saved an
accident.

Perhaps I shall be told that if these horses had never been driven in
blinkers they would not have shied at the boards; to which I can only
answer that saddle horses which have never had their sight restricted
in their lives are by no means free from the fault of shying. As I
have already remarked, a well-fitting blinker can cause no discomfort
to a horse, as it presses upon and rubs no part of the head, and, to
say the least of it, they may be a great safeguard against accidents.

With regard to those other parts of the harness now more or less
disused, what shall be said? Well, a good deal will depend upon
circumstances. Where there is no bearing rein a crupper may not be
necessary upon level roads if the pads are well shaped; but if they
are not, or the road is hilly, those on the wheel horses may work
forward and wound the withers. With leaders this is less likely to
occur, for their reins run in a straight line through the pad territs;
but the reins, taking a turn from the wheel pad territs up to the
coachman's hand, have a tendency to work those pads forward.

I have used a light pad for leaders made without a tree, which is what
I like best for them, and which, from fitting closer to the horses'
backs, hardly can work forward, and they are less likely to rub the
withers if they do; but probably this make would not be strong enough
for wheel harness except upon level ground, where there is very little
holding back. I must confess that I do hold to the old lines,

    "Here's to the arm which can hold 'em when gone,
      Still to a gallop inclined, sir;
    Heads in the front without bearing reins on,
      And tails with no cruppers behind, sir."

Without wheel pads the coachman must lose power immensely. He has not
only lost the leverage caused by the change of direction of the reins
from the pads to his hand, but he can hardly have his horses so well
in hand but that he will require to shorten his reins through his left
hand if, from any cause, he wants to get a stronger pull upon his
horses; and this, in my humble opinion, is inadmissible in really good
driving, except upon very rare exceptions.

I fear I shall meet with a good deal of dissent to this statement, and
can fancy that already I hear some one saying that it is impossible.
Doubtless it is not easy, and requires much practice, more, perhaps,
than can fall to the lot of most men now-a-days; but that it is
possible I know, as I think I can make out clearly at a future time.

Half a century ago I do not remember ever to have seen leading reins
run anywhere except over the heads of the wheel horses, between the
ears.

Perhaps it was rather rough on the wheel horses to keep their heads up
with the bearing rein, and then put the weight of a pulling leader's
rein on the top of it; but there is a good deal to be said in favour
of head territs, and when horses are allowed to carry their heads as
low as they like, the principal objection to them is removed; and they
certainly help to keep the leading reins higher, and therefore less
likely to be caught under a leader's tail, which sets some horses
kicking, and, at any rate, interferes with the running of the rein.
When leading reins are run through the throat latch, they are very
easily caught by the tail, and when this is done, the best thing I
have found to keep the rein clear of a kicking leader is to pass both
leading reins through a ring, and then run the kicker's rein through
the inside of the wheeler's throat latch. I have seen the leader's
rein run through the outside of his bar, but fancy the other method is
better.

    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.
                   M&N. Hanhart imp. ONCE MORE RUNNING A STEEPLE
                   CHASE.]

Occasionally a wheel horse will make himself exceedingly objectionable
to the one in front of him by tossing his head, and I once had a case
of this sort so bad that the leader's mouth had no peace. I ran the
rein direct from his pad to the wheel hame territ, and concord was at
once established.

Before leaving the subject of the ribbons, perhaps I may as well touch
upon the subject of "pinning them." Shall they be pinned or shall they
not be pinned? It is not a subject of so much interest now as it used
to be, since, whether on a private drag or a modern coach, there is
generally time enough to buckle and unbuckle; but in former days this
was not always the case, for in very fast work there was not a moment
to spare. Is then the practice of going without the buckle dangerous
or not? Nimrod, in his article in the _Quarterly Review_ denounced it,
calling it a "mere piece of affectation." A Postmaster-General also
denounced the practice as being the cause of accidents. Of course, if
the reins are short, which they ought not to be, there is the danger
of their being drawn through the hand, but the plan I have adopted in
such a case has been to tie a knot in the end of the rein, so that it
was impossible for it to slip out of my hand.

And now, having quoted two high authorities in favour of pinning, I
will cite the same number of instances which tend to favour the other
side of the question. The first occurred to the Gloucester and
Aberystwith mail about forty years ago when on its down-journey, and
was a rather curious incident. When the mail changed horses at
Torrington, just as it was starting, the leaders, both old
steeplechasers, named Blue Bonnet and Cleanthus, sprang off with such
force as to break the pole-hook, and, of course, took the swinging
bars with them, and the leading reins went through the coachman's hand
with the rapidity of lightning. Fortunately, however, these were not
buckled, and the horses got off clear, perhaps indulging in the idea
that they were once more running a steeplechase, and so they continued
their career till they arrived at the toll-gate at Stoke Edith, which,
trying to jump, they broke into atoms, at the same time clearing
themselves of most of the harness, indeed, all except the bridles and
collars, and were found some time afterwards grazing quietly by the
side of the road. Now if the reins had been buckled it would have been
impossible for the coachman to unbuckle them quick enough to allow the
horses to get clear off, and an accident of a very serious nature
would most likely have happened, as, it being an election day, the
mail was very heavily loaded with passengers and luggage.

    [Illustration: J. Sturgess del. et lith.    M&N. Hanhart imp.
                   MET THE LOOSE HORSE TEARING DOWN THE HILL.]

The other case occurred to a coach which we put on in summer between
Dolgelly and Machynlleth as a sort of auxiliary to the "Harkaway." It
was only a three-horse power, and one morning on the up journey the
leader was so alarmed by a dog running and barking at him that he
sprang round suddenly, and the bar very fortunately twisted out of the
pole-hook as he did so; and Jack Andrews, who was driving, not having
buckled his reins, had only got to let them run through his fingers to
release him entirely from the coach. As I was following with the
"Harkaway" about half a mile behind, I was astonished to meet the
loose horse tearing down the hill towards us, terrified by the bar
banging about his houghs and the reins dangling at his heels, I feared
I should shortly come upon a smash, which certainly must have been the
case if the horse had not been able to go away clear of the coach. And
now, gentle readers, I leave you to take your choice, premising that,
for myself, I lean to unpinned ribbons.

Perhaps it may not be generally known now that, long years ago, in the
days of the slow and heavy, it was the custom to use what was called
"the short wheel rein;" that is, they were just long enough to hook
upon the finger. In those days, also, coachmen did not catch their
whips, only giving the thong a few turns round the crop at the upper
ferrule.

Having now, I think, said enough on the subject of harness, we are
ready to proceed to mounting the box.

Nimrod has somewhere said that a good coachman could almost be
perceived by the manner in which he put his gloves on, or words to
that effect; but without going so far as that, I believe the way in
which he mounts his box is no bad criterion. How different to see a
practised hand approach his team with confidence, and the almost
mechanical way in which he handles the reins, from the hesitation and
fumbling so often apparent in a tyro. Let us picture him to ourselves
as he approaches his horses, how easily he catches his whip, the crop
held well up so as not to run the chance of the thong being entangled
in the wheeler's ears, and there are no festoons of the thong. Then
taking hold with the left hand of the leading reins, nearly up at the
territs, beginning with the near side, he gives them a pull sufficient
to satisfy himself that no impediment exists to their free running,
and passes them to the centre finger of the right hand; after which,
doing the same with the wheel reins, he places them on the forefinger
of the right hand, in which position they are ready to be transferred
to the left hand, only reversing the fingers. This will prevent any
necessity for sorting the reins after having mounted the box, and thus
enabling him to start without a moment's delay. The other two fingers
should be tightly pressed upon the reins to prevent them slipping.

I should not have entered into all this minutiæ if I had not seen, on
one or two occasions, the reins divided by placing one finger between
the two nearside reins, and the other between the off-side ones. Then
there is another form to be equally deprecated, which, though seldom
seen in double reins, is far too common with those driving a pair, or
in single harness. I mean the thumb pressed down upon the reins and
pointing to the front, a position which must inevitably pin the elbow
to the side, and be destructive of all strength.

    [Illustration: A NEAT MEETING.]

    [Illustration: A MUFFISH MEETING.]

But I have seen what is even worse. I once beheld a gentleman
performing in Hyde Park, who, finding himself seriously incommoded
with the slack of his reins, stretched out his right hand over the
left, seizing the reins in front of it, and then, like sailors hauling
a rope hand over hand, proceeding to pass his left hand to the front
and take hold of them in front of the right hand. I have frequently
seen this manoeuvre practised by coachmen driving one, or a pair,
but only this once did I see the trick played on a four-horse box, and
I should think, when it was completed, that the reins must have very
much resembled a pack of cards well shuffled, and admirably calculated
to land the coach in a ditch after dark.

If there is leisure for looking carefully over each horse before
starting, the strain upon the reins, as previously recommended, is not
necessary, but when every moment of time is of importance, that is
quite impossible, and especially is it so at night, but for all
practical purposes it will generally be found sufficient; and to try
and point my moral, I will mention what happened to one of the best
coachmen I ever saw handle the ribbons.

One evening, after dark, Charles Tustin, with the up Aberystwith and
Shrewsbury mail, as he was driving out of Newtown, found when he
wanted to turn at the end of the first street, that the near wheel
draught rein would not run, and consequently the coach came in
collision with the corner shop.

Now if he had taken a pull at his reins, as I have ventured to
recommend, and as I have little doubt he usually did, he would have
found out that the horsekeeper had carelessly fastened the rein in
question between the hame and the collar. He was too good a coachman
not to make the least of an accident, and no harm happened to anything
except the glass in the shop window.

There is, however, one exception to this rule, which is that some
horses are so exceedingly nervous that if they find out when the
coachman is mounting his box, they are immediately all over the road,
and these must be humoured.

It is very important that the reins should be so arranged in the right
hand before leaving the ground that they can be transferred to the
left in working order immediately upon placing both feet on the
footboard, for some horses will brook no delay; and if the coachman is
not at once in a position to say, "Let 'em go, and take care of
yourselves," almost before he is seated, there may be a jibbing bout,
or a mess of some sort. With some teams it is, or at any rate used to
be

    "If you will not when you may,
    When you will you shall have nay."

I had at one time a leader of so nervous a temperament, though very
good tempered, that, having to pull up to take up a passenger in the
street just after leaving the inn yard, and where a brass band was
playing, he reared so high, that in his descent he fell clean over his
partner, but, as he had no vice, no injury was sustained except some
slight breakages to the harness.

On being "put to" on one occasion he so alarmed the box passenger that
he took only one step from the footboard to "terra firma," and if he
had not been nearly as quick in getting back he must have been left
behind, as it was my taking up the reins and mounting the box which
started the horse off in his capers.

With such horses as these, when the rein is run and the inside trace
hooked, it is time to be off, and the horsekeeper must hook the other
as best he can, but if the coachman is not smart with his reins he
cannot do it.

I hope I shall not weary the reader with these digressions, and make
him exclaim, "What an egotistical old ass he is," but as I do not
pretend to say that no improvements have taken place in the art of
driving during the last forty or fifty years, I am endeavouring to
enforce my recommendations with facts which have occurred to myself or
those I have known.



CHAPTER XXII.

DRIVING.


Well, the ideal coachman is now on his box, and I hope with straight
knees, feet close together, and well out in front of him, shoulders
well thrown back, and arms hanging naturally, and without any effort,
to his sides. The left arm should be straight or nearly so, and hand
lightly resting against the outside of the left thigh, with the wrist
slightly rounded and the thumb a little turned up; that is to say,
when the horses are drawing. The difference between his hand when in
this position and when the elbow is bent and the hand brought up
towards the body, should be just the difference between slack and
tight pole-chains. When more power is wanted the hand will be raised
and the wrist turned so as to bring the back of the hand to the front.
This will throw the elbow a little forward, which will add greatly to
the strength of the arm, and by this time the right hand would most
probably have taken hold of the off-side reins, which of itself lends
much to the power of the other.

I fear I may have made myself but imperfectly understood, but perhaps
the accompanying sketches may assist in explaining what I mean.

The reins, by right, should never be allowed to slip through the
fingers. It looks bad, to say the least of it, to see a coachman
shortening them, and, at night especially, is not safe.

I know that this is not easy to do, and perhaps impossible to most
amateurs, as it requires constant practice to give the necessary
strength to the fingers, and the difficulty is much enhanced by well
cleaned reins, especially if they are thin.

I know that many good coachmen differ with me as to the position of
the left arm, and, like a dear old friend of mine, and good coachman,
now no more, say that a straight arm is not neat. For myself I am
unable to see the want of neatness in it; but even if there is I
cannot consent to sacrifice strength, and I am convinced that no man
can, under all circumstances, be thoroughly powerful on his box, who
drives habitually with a bent arm.

With the fear of being called egotistical before my eyes, I will again
endeavour to enforce what I have advanced by a case in point.

One afternoon on the down journey with the "Harkaway," when within
about a mile from Dolgelly, the skid-pan, though nearly a new one,
broke off at the neck, and the force of the jerk upon the safety hook
broke that also. The whole weight of the load consequently, and it was
a bumper, came immediately upon the necks of the wheel horses,
naturally somewhat startling them; and if I had lost hold of their
heads for a second, they would most likely have been frightened, and
refused to hold, when there would have been nothing but galloping for
it, but by having the left arm in the position I have endeavoured to
explain, I was enabled at the same moment to apply the brake, and keep
a firm hold of the horses' heads.

    [Illustration: DOWN HILL.]

    [Illustration: A SUDDEN EMERGENCY.]

It is from driving with a bent arm that one hears people say they
cannot work their own brakes. If I had been in that form on the
occasion I have mentioned, I must first of all have used the right
hand to shorten the reins through the left, before I could have
employed it to put on the brake. As it was, the wheelers landed the
coach down the hill without serious difficulty, though one of them was
only four years old, and by no means a strong holder.

I cannot understand how any coachman can like to have his brake worked
for him. The want of it differs so much from day to day, depending
upon the load, the state of the road and other causes, that nothing
but his own left hand can tell him how to work it. I am sure I should
have been impossible to please. It is a most invaluable thing when
properly used, but is very liable to be abused. Few things are more
aggravating than to see it so applied as to cause horses to draw down
hill, as I have often witnessed. The change from drawing to holding
back, brings fresh muscles into play, and must therefore be a great
relief to horses, as we know the change from up hill to down, and vice
versa, is to us when walking.

Before leaving the subject of reins, which may be called the "key of
the position," I would venture to raise my voice against what is too
often done, which is to pass the right hand across to pull the near
side reins. Hands across is very proper in a country dance, but a
little of it goes a long way in driving. It is more honoured in the
breach than in the observance.

If the team is well "put together" and the reins are properly held in
the left hand, the wrist should be sufficiently supple to lift a near
wheel horse nearly off his legs.

It is a good test that all is as it should be if, upon pulling up to
unskid, the wheelers will back the coach off the skid-pan without any
difficulty. Of course, the right hand must be used to the off-side
reins, which itself is a help to the left, but no shortening of the
reins through the fingers of the left hand should be wanted, and to
reach the right hand out to grasp the reins in front of the left, as I
have seen done, is absolutely insufferable.

    [Illustration: THE TEAM EXTENDED.]

    [Illustration: THE TEAM GATHERED.]

I was once talking on this subject to Charles Tustin, with whose name
I have already taken liberties, when he remarked that a coachman
should take up his reins at the beginning of a stage, and never have
to alter them in his left hand till he throws them down at the end of
it. Some drivers I have seen appear to think it a sign of a light hand
to be constantly fiddling with the reins. I believe it is more a sign
of a fidgeting hand, and I am quite sure, from experience, that
hot-tempered horses settle down much better without it. The less their
mouths are meddled with the better.

There is one use, however, to which the right hand may sometimes be
applied, which is to take hold of the near lead rein and loop it up
under the left thumb upon turning a sharp corner to the left, and also
if a near wheel horse throws himself against the pole in going down
hill or pulling up, to do the same with his rein. From the position a
horse in this posture has placed his pad territs in, the rein will
naturally become slack and useless, and by shortening it in the way I
have described, the left arm resumes its power, and, what is of nearly
as much importance, the right is free to use the whip, which will
probably be wanted at such a crisis.

One hint may not be out of place here as it may not have occurred to
some, and that is, when bringing up the right hand to take hold of the
off-side reins, not to reach forward with it, but to bring it up just
touching the left, and to seize the reins immediately below that hand.
The right hand can then be passed along the reins as far as is
necessary, placing a finger to separate the lead and wheel, when
either can be pulled separately as may be required.

This may seem to some so small a thing, as not to be worth bothering
about, but it is by attending to minutiæ that the accomplished
coachman is made; neither is it of such very small importance, as I
have known a coach upset for want of its being attended to, and it is
especially necessary at night when everything is done by feel.

Old Griffie Williams, as honest a fellow as ever lived, but not the
most accomplished of coachmen, who for many summers partly horsed and
drove the "Tourist" coach between Aberystwith and Dolgelly, when
descending a hill on his up journey, wanted to pull his horses out of
the near side of the road, and, reaching forward too far with his
right hand, he took up the near wheel rein together with the off-side
ones. Of course, the more he pulled at the reins the harder he pulled
the near wheeler towards the near side of the road, and it ended in
the wheels running up the hedge bank, and putting the coach on its
side into the road.

Fortunately he was, as usual, going slowly, and very little harm was
done to anyone. Upon my asking him afterwards how he came to scatter
his passengers, he replied, "Inteed, I was put them down as nice as
was go to bed."

Young coachmen may possibly mistake the weight inseparable from
four-horse reins from having got them too tight, but upon looking they
may see that the curb-chains are slack, and if that is the case the
reins are not too tight. It is not desirable to hold horses too hard,
but if a lot of slack is out a coachman is helpless if a horse falls
or anything else goes wrong. Moreover, horses generally go better for
being well held together. A coachman driving a coach, such as they
used to be, who loosed his horses' heads, was generally soon brought
to the use of his whip, whilst the same horses, well held together,
would be fresh at the end of their stage.

I can now call to mind an instance of this. About half a century ago
it was a common lounge in Shrewsbury for those whose time was not
fully occupied, to collect at the top of the Wyle Cop, where the "Lion
Hotel" was situated, to see the "Hirondelle" and "Hibernia," Liverpool
and Cheltenham coaches, come up the hill, and perhaps sometimes a bet
might be made as to which would be first, for they did a good deal of
racing. Of course, I never let the opportunity slip when I was in that
ancient borough of forming one of this number.

The late Mr. Isaac Taylor had, at that time, a team of chestnuts as
good as could be put to a coach working in the "Hirondelle" on the
down side between Shrewsbury and Leighton, a stage of about eight
miles. Little Bob Leek, a very clever coachman, used to drive the up
side from Shrewsbury, and Jordan, a very powerful man, the down side.
When they met they changed coaches, each returning over his own
ground, which he drove double. Shrewsbury was, I believe, the correct
place for the coaches to meet at, but, as the opposition was keen, it
depended on the racing whether they met in Shrewsbury or a few miles
on either side of it; and I have seen this same team driven by Jordan,
and when he was hard at work with his whip to get up the hill, ascend
it another day when driven by Bob Leek with ease, and he sitting on
his box as if he had nothing to do. And, strange as it may appear to
some, I believe one of the best tests that can be applied to a
coachman is that he should appear to do nothing. I suppose, however,
that this rule applies to most other crafts, for what a man does well
he does easily to himself, and one who is always hard at work may be
set down as a muff. I know from experience that this rule applies to
steering a ship. If a helmsman is seen to be constantly at work with
the wheel, it is a sure proof that he is not a good hand at it. Just
the movement of a spoke or two occasionally is generally enough in the
hands of a good helmsman.

And now I will bring the subject of driving to an end by giving a few
hints, which, though simple in themselves, and probably known to many
of my readers, may not have suggested themselves to some modern
coachmen, for the simple reason that they have never felt the want of
them, but which were well known to those coachmen whose business it
was to get a coach through a country with all sorts of cattle, and
when every little dodge was a help.

One of the commonest evils which befell coachmen was to deal with
jibbers, they caused the loss of so much time. A kicker, especially if
a well-bred one, would kick and keep going too, but a jibber sometimes
stuck to the same ground if not got off with the first attempt. As a
rule, flogging is of no use, though I have a few times in my life
succeeded in making it too hot for them; and, of course, with three
good starters one wheeler may be dragged on if he does not lie down.
Sometimes, however, a whole team was not to be trusted.

I was once travelling from Aberystwith to Oswestry by the "Engineer"
coach, and, as usual, was working, when, upon nearing Machynlleth,
Wigram, the coachman, said to me, "You will find the next a good team,
but they are all jibbers." I asked him if any one of them was a better
starter than the others, to which he replied, "Well, perhaps the off
wheeler is a little." The hint was sufficient, and as soon as I was on
the box I laid the whip quietly over the off wheeler before trying to
start the others, and then immediately pulling the leaders across to
the near side, and at the same time speaking to them, the start was
effected without any trouble.

Perhaps it may be thought by some that this was no very great test, as
the horses were always what was called "running home," that is, they
had always their own stable at each end of the stage. At the risk,
therefore, of tiring the reader and being accused of egotism, I will
venture to mention one other case where there was no assistance from
that cause; and as a failure to start makes a fellow look foolish,
there can be no harm in impressing upon the minds of young coachmen
what will, in nine cases out of ten, save them from being placed in
such a situation.

I was quartered with my regiment, the 72nd Highlanders, in the Royal
Barracks, Dublin, so many years ago that the Garrison Steeplechases
were run off at Maynooth instead of Punchestown as at present, and we
had got up a regimental drag for the occasion, of which I was
waggoner. As we were starting to return home, the off wheeler jibbed,
much to the delight of the Paddies, who had come there for a day's
"divarshun," and had some fun in them in those days. Of course, a
small crowd was fast collected, and everyone was giving advice and
wanting to help, the old Irishman's remedy of lighting a fire under
him not being forgotten. I made everyone stand clear, and would not
allow anybody to touch a horse, and then, after giving them a minute
or two to settle down, I laid the whip lightly over the near wheeler,
and then pulling the leaders across to the off side, spoke to them,
and we were off in a jiffy. The pulling the leaders across is very
important, as it greatly facilitates the draught.

There is also another good result which frequently follows the pulling
of the leaders across in case of a jibbing wheeler, which is, that as
he will probably have only placed his legs with the view of resisting
forward motion, a sudden rough lateral bump of the pole may disconcert
his plans and render it necessary for him to move his feet, in which
case he is more than half conquered, unless, indeed, he lies down,
which the coachman should be too quick to permit.

I think I have already remarked that flogging makes flogging,
especially if the horses' heads are loosed too much. It adds, no
doubt, somewhat to the labour of the coachman, but for all that he
should always keep a good hold of his horses' heads, and a pull of the
reins and then giving back again I have often found more efficacious
than a good deal of whip. This movement used sometimes to be called by
the uncomplimentary name of the "Blackguard's Snatch," but, in spite
of an ugly name, it often had salutary results, and with a weak team,
heavy load, and time to keep, a coachman could not afford to despise
anything.

I have known sluggish leaders very much astonished when hit on the
inside. Having only been accustomed to the punishment coming from the
outside, they do not know what to make of it when coming from another
quarter. It is not difficult to hit the near leader from behind the
off pretty sharply, but it is by no means easy to do the same on the
other side. It requires the elbow to be well raised, and the back of
the hand turned well downwards, for, of course, the thong must be sent
under the bars. If done well these are very neat hits.

Very hard-pulling leaders are often easier brought back by sending the
other one well up to them than by pulling at them. I have had a raking
leader, irritated by a very slow partner, try to bolt, and by hitting
his partner have brought him back directly; but he must be "hit sly,"
so as to make no noise with the whip. The same thing will occur when a
hard-pulling leader has a harder puller put alongside him--he comes
back at once.

With two leaders of unequal strength it is a good plan to cross the
inside traces. It is an assistance to the weaker one, and tends to
keep the coach straight.

Check reins are often of use to bring these sort of horses together,
and I have, with a very hard puller, had a long one from his nose-band
back to the pole-hook.

Lastly, what about kickers, which were, perhaps, the most numerous of
all the reprobates that found their way into coaches. I have known a
short stick placed between the bottom of the collar and the horse's
jaws so as to keep the head raised, in which position he cannot kick
badly; but I never used one myself, as I never knew a good dose or two
of counter irritation over the ears fail to make a sufficient cure of
a wheel horse to enable him to be driven, and a little kicking by a
leader does not so much signify if he will keep moving at the same
time.

There was an old saying, "Point your leaders and shoot your wheelers,"
which, perhaps, some of the younger generation may not have heard. It
does not very often require to be put in practice, especially at the
present time, as it is only really necessary in awkward turns, such as
the "Swan with Two Necks," in Lad Lane, in former days, and, more
recently, the "Belle Vue" yard at Aberystwith. Of course, there were
many more, but these two will suffice as specimens of what I mean. The
latter I have known a coachman of long experience fail to get into, in
consequence, as I suppose, of his not observing this precept.

To get into this yard two turns had to be taken in a very limited
space. The first was to the left, into a street just about wide enough
for two coaches to pass, and as soon as the coach and horses were
straight after completing this turn, it was time to point the leaders
to the right for the narrow entrance to the yard, and if that
operation was not accompanied by a shoot of the wheelers to the left,
the off hind wheel would not pass clear of the gate post.

This "shoot" is a momentary thing, and should be done by a twist of
the left wrist. If the right hand is called in to assist it looks bad.
More like a man playing the harp than driving four horses, and,
moreover, it is wanted to the off-side reins at the same time.

If the turns are in the contrary direction, of course the manipulation
of the reins must be done with the right hand.

The "point and shoot" would be a great assistance at an "obstacle
contest."

While on the subject of turns, perhaps I may be allowed to offer
another small hint, which, though stale news to many, may be a useful
wrinkle for others. It is a good plan, when rounding a sharp corner
with a top-heavy load, to make the turn so as to place the outside
wheels as much as possible on the crest of the road. This can be
effected, if the angle is to the left, by keeping near to the off-side
of the road as you approach the bend, and then making a rather short
turn so as to hug the near side hedge, by which means the outside
wheels will be placed on the highest part of the road, just when the
coach most requires the support, and this also gives the coachman more
freedom in case of his meeting any vehicle in the middle of the turn.
Should the angle be to the right instead of the left, the principle is
just the same.

There yet remain two or three other subjects connected with driving,
which, though of comparatively little importance in the present day,
must, nevertheless, be taken into account in the making of a perfect
"waggoner:" these are the power of using the whip and a capacity to
judge of pace.

We commonly hear a man called a good whip, thereby meaning a good
coachman; but the fact is that comparatively few coachmen in the
present day use their whips really well, for the simple reason that
they are not called upon to do so. Still the necessity might arise,
and then the power of doing so might save an accident. At any rate, a
man who can only use one arm is but half a coachman.

From what I have said on previous occasions, it will not, I think, be
supposed that I am an advocate for "hitting 'em all round," but in
days of yore no man could be considered really safe who was not able
to hit when necessary, and to hit hard.

I received an early lesson on this subject when I was at work on the
Birmingham and Manchester Express, taking a lesson from Wood, who was
my first mentor. There was at off wheel what was called a
"stiff-necked one" that no pulling at was able to turn if he took it
into his head to resist, and I was helplessly approaching a coal cart,
when Wood said, "Why don't you hit him?" I obeyed the hint with so
satisfactory a result, that I have never since forgotten it, and have
to thank it for getting me out of accidents, one of which at once
recurs to my memory, and may perhaps tend to impress it on the minds
of others.

I was driving a coach on the Dover Road, and as we were ascending
Shooter's Hill a four-horse posting job appeared coming towards us at
a good pace, when, upon pulling the reins to draw to the near side of
the road, I found that the off wheel horse refused to obey them, and
persistently hung to the off side. The posting job was coming nearer
with rapid strides. The reins were evidently useless, and it was a
matter for the whip, whether I could hit hard enough. If I could not,
nothing remained but to pull up, and ignominiously beckon to the
postboys to pass on the wrong side.

However, I dropped into him with such effect that he became in as
great a hurry to cross the road as the proverbial duck before thunder.
But perhaps this old road joke may convey no meaning to many in the
present day, so I may as well explain.

It was a favourite conundrum, when some ducks hurried across the road
under the leaders' noses, and apparently at the imminent risk of their
lives, "Why do ducks cross the road before thunder?" Do you give it
up? Because they want to get to the other side.

Perhaps I may be permitted here to introduce another old road story. A
boy in charge of a sow and pigs was asked by a passenger the following
question: "I say, my boy, whose pigs are those?" _Boy._ "Why, that old
sow's." _Querist._ "I don't mean that, you stupid boy. I want to know
who's the master of them." _Boy._ "Oh, the maister of 'em? why, that
little sandy 'un. He's a deuce of a pig to fight."

But to return to ducks for just one minute. It is commonly said that
it is impossible to run over a duck, and in truth, clumsy as they
appear to be on their legs, it is very nearly so, though I did once
accomplish the feat. I was driving fast round a rather sharp turn in
the road, when I suddenly found myself in the middle of them, and one
was unable to waddle off quick enough to save his life.

Then, again, to be a judge of pace, although of little importance now,
should form part of a coachman's education. If a gentleman driving his
private drag thinks he is going at the rate of twelve miles an hour
when he is only going nine, it amuses him and hurts no one, neither is
it very essential for those who drive the modern coaches from
Hatchett's and other places. They, with few exceptions, only run by
day, so that the coachman can consult his watch at every milestone if
he likes, and the horsing is so admirable and the loading so light
that he can experience no difficulty in picking up some lost time. In
the old days, however, it was very different. If only five minutes
were lost, it was often difficult to recover it with full loads and
heavy roads, and, perhaps, weak teams. Moreover, at night the
time-piece could only be seen at the different changes, and then, if
the coachman was no judge of pace, he might easily find at the end of
a ten miles' stage that he had lost five or ten minutes.

To be a good judge of pace requires experience, as the pace that
horses appear to be going is very deceptive. When the draught is heavy
horses step short, and, though their legs move as rapidly as usual,
time is being lost, or at best only kept with difficulty; whilst, on
another day, when circumstances are different, load lighter and road
hard, the horses step out, and the result is that over the same stage
and with the same team, instead of losing time it is hardly possible
to throw it away.

Again at night horses always seem to be going faster than they really
are, and perhaps this may have had something to do with the idea that
horses go better by night than day, so happily explained, as Mr.
Reynoldson tells us, by Billy Williams, who said it was because the
driver had had his dinner.

Apropos of Billy Williams, I may relate an anecdote of him, which I
had from undeniable authority, but which I do not think is generally
known.

His Honour, as he was called, the late Honourable Thomas Kenyon, used
not unfrequently to ask him, or some other coachman, to spend a day or
two at Pradoe, and he also made a practice of driving his own drag to
Chester races on the Cup day. On one of these occasions it happened
that Billy was at Pradoe, and was to accompany the party to Chester.
The day being hot, and His Honour thinking that Billy, whose get up
was always breeches and top boots, would be more comfortable in
lighter clothing, made him a present of a pair of white trousers, such
as were commonly worn by gentlemen of that period. Billy having
received them, went to put them on, and returned looking quite smart
and cool. It turned out, however, afterwards, that he had only worn
them over his usual garments!

There remains one other item to mention, which, though not absolutely
a part of driving, is yet of so much importance that without it all
knowledge may fail at an important crisis.

Nerve is the article I mean, or what may be called the next door to
it, that confidence which is begotten of practice. An inferior
coachman with this is generally safer than one who is his superior in
neatness and knowledge, but without this gift. When a man's nerve
fails him, he loses his head, and then he is unable to make use of any
knowledge he possesses, whereas, one with nerve and strength would
pull through a difficulty and save an accident. Nerve, no doubt, is
largely constitutional, but it is capable of being very much
strengthened by use and practice.

But of all things to try nerve commend me to the locomotive engine.

Though I had driven coaches for many years under all imaginable
circumstances, and my nerve had never failed me, I must confess that I
never thoroughly understood what it meant till I had had the
experience of a ride on a locomotive engine. To find myself travelling
at a high speed, without there being the slightest power of guidance,
caused a sensation I had never experienced before.

All that the engine-driver could have done, if a pointsman had made a
mistake, was to try and stop the engine before it ran into anything
else; whereas, on a road, when the driver has the power of guiding as
well as stopping, if he is unable quite to accomplish the latter he
may do so sufficiently to enable him to escape a collision.

To explain my meaning I will shortly narrate what has happened to
myself.

I was driving rather fast over a nice level length of road, and was
overtaking a waggon drawn by three or four horses. The waggoner very
properly pulled to his own side of the road, and anticipating no
difficulty I kept on at the pace I was previously going, but just as
my leaders arrived within a short distance of the waggon, the horses
overpowered the waggoner and crossed the road immediately in front of
them. To stop the coach was impossible, but I was just able to check
the pace sufficiently to enable me to pull across to the near side of
the road, and pass on the wrong side.

In the case of a railway there would be no such chance. There they
could only stop, or have an accident. One gets used to everything
after a time, and, I suppose, if I had been an engine-driver, I should
become so accustomed to this as to think nothing of it; but, as it
was, I never felt so helpless. I cannot conceive a greater trial of
nerve than to be driving at the rate of twenty miles an hour, or more,
among a labyrinth of rails, and entirely dependent on other people for
safety.

It is not very long ago since I saw in a newspaper an account of a
pointsman being found dead in his box!

I am reminded of the hackneyed saying of an old coachman in the early
days of railways: "If a coach is upset," he said, "why, there you are;
but if an accident happens to a railway train, where are you?"

It is now upwards of twenty years since the last time I handled
four-horse reins, and more than fifty-five since the first time, and I
am not going to say that no improvements have taken place during that
long period of time. Possibly some may have been found, but I must
confess that those I have heard of do not appear to me to come into
that category.

It is a common reply to those who stand up for old systems that they
were slow. That, at any rate, can hardly be alleged in the present
case, for, though I admire the very smart thing done by poor Selby
between London and Brighton, I think, when we consider the fast work
habitually done in coaches in days of yore, and still more on the
first of May and other special occasions, it must be admitted that the
pace has, to say the least, not increased. Indeed, allowing for
stoppages, taking up and putting down passengers, which lost many
minutes in a journey, and the heavy loads carried, by neither of which
was the "Old Times" troubled, I think the Brighton feat, good as it
was, has often been surpassed. The three Birmingham Tally-ho's
generally had a spurt on the first of May, and more than once
performed the journey of a hundred and eight miles under seven
hours--the best record, I believe, in existence.

Pace, however, at last, is a relative thing, and eight or nine miles
an hour on one road may be really as fast as twelve or thirteen on
another. I can safely say that, though I have driven some fast coaches
in my time, I never had a day of harder work to keep time than in
doing eighty miles in ten hours. What with one weak team in the early
part of the journey, hilly roads, a heavy load, and frequent delays
for changing passengers and luggage, the last stage of nine miles had
to be covered in forty-two minutes to bring us in to time and catch
the train.

Before finally bidding adieu to the subject of driving, it may perhaps
be allowed me to say a few words about harness and the fitting of it.
Of course it hardly needs saying that a coachman _ought_ to be
familiar with every strap and buckle of it, though this intimate
knowledge may be dispensed with by those who only drive their own
teams, and are always waited on by one or two good and experienced
servants. Indeed, from what I witnessed in Hyde Park several years
ago, I have had my suspicions whether these same servants are not
sometimes utilised on early mornings in training the teams, and
putting them straight for the masters' driving in the afternoon. I
once saw a drag brought round to the right at the Magazine without the
gentleman in charge of the box touching the off-side reins with his
right hand at all; and I fail to see how this could have been
accomplished unless the horses were as well trained to it as circus
steeds.

Still, however perfect these men may be as gentlemen's servants, their
experience has not generally led them to attend very closely to the
exact fitting of the harness--the collars particularly--which used
often to be the plague of their lives to stage coachmen, and even
might give trouble to a gentleman, if driving an extended tour. A few
hints, therefore, from an old hand may perhaps not be thrown away.
With horses freshly put into harness their shoulders are always liable
to be rubbed, and they require the greatest care and attention; and
one thing should always be insisted on in these cases, which is to
wash the shoulders with cold water after work, and to leave the
collars on till they have become quite dry again. But if care is
necessary in the case of gentlemen's work, what must have been that
required with coach horses--especially if running over long stages,
with heavy loads and in hot weather. Of course, a good deal depended
upon the care of the horse-keeper; but nothing he could do had any
chance of keeping the shoulders sound if the collars "_wobbled_"
which they certainly always will do if the least light can be seen
between the collar and the upper part of the horse's neck. Then,
again, it is most important for the collar to be the right length to
suit the individual horse. One which carries his head high will
require a longer one in proportion than one which carries it low,
because the former position of the head has the effect of causing the
windpipe to protrude. On stage-coach work we never cared so much about
the weight of the collar as the fitting, and offering a fairly broad
surface to the pressure. Two or three pounds extra weight in a collar
is nothing compared to the comfortable fitting of it, as we ourselves
know to be the case with half-a-pound or so when walking a long
distance in strong boots.

If a wound should appear, after all the care that can be taken, a
paste made of fullers' earth with some weak salt and water will nearly
always effect a cure, if the collar is properly chambered, so as to
remove all pressure from the part. In case of a shoulder showing a
disposition to gall, I always carried in the hind boot two or three
small pads, which I could strap on to the collar, so as to remove the
pressure temporarily till it could be chambered; and any gentleman
embarking on a driving tour would find this to be a good precaution to
take, especially if he is going into out-of-the-way districts.


I will conclude in the words of Horace--

    "Si quid noviste rectius istis,
    Candidus imperti: si non his utere mecum."



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE END OF THE JOURNEY.


And now, ladies and gentlemen, "I leave you here," and trust I have
given you no cause for complaint on the score of either civility or
politeness to my passengers. I fear that in some places the road may
have been heavy and the pace slow. Perhaps it may be thought that the
style is incoherent, to which I can only say that such is usually the
character of chatter; and if I have written anything which has
afforded some interest or amusement, my most ardent hopes are
satisfied.

The tale I have told has, in one sense, been told before, but so many
fresh phases and incidents were so constantly turning up in the old
mode of travelling, that it is not necessarily a twice-told tale.
Probably the first idea of most readers upon closing the book will be,
"How thankful I am that my lot was not cast in the days of my father
or grandfather;" and this naturally leads to the reflection that when
the busy wit of man had not produced so many inventions for evading
the minor ills of life, the first idea was to endure them; but now,
when fresh schemes of all sorts and descriptions are being propounded
every day to render life easy, it is to cure them; and if this does
not go to the length of making artificial wants, no doubt it is the
wisest course to adopt.

To the old hand, however, who has not forgotten his early experiences,
this eagerness to escape all hardship may seem to savour of softness
and effeminacy, but I make no doubt that, though not called forth as
it used to be in the days of yore, there still exists in the youth and
manhood of Old England the same pluck and power of endurance when duty
calls, as there ever was; and that as long as we continue to cherish
our old field sports and games, we are not in much danger of losing
them.

It were folly to stand up for road travelling as against the greater
convenience of railways; still, I confess to a lingering feeling of
regret that what was brought to such a state of perfection should have
so completely vanished, and I think I cannot express these feelings
better than by a short anecdote.

Many years ago, when hunting with the late Sir W. W. Wynn's hounds,
when they had the advantage of the guidance of John Walker, I asked
him which pack, whether the large or small, showed the best sport and
killed the most foxes. His answer was, "Well, I really think the large
pack does kill most foxes and give the best sport altogether, but _I
like the little ones_." And if asked which is the best mode of
travelling, whether by road or rail, I must confess that, as a
travelling machine for conveying us from one part of the country to
another, the railway is the best both for safety, speed, and economy;
but having said this, I am constrained to make the same sort of
reservation as was made by John Walker, and say, "_I like the
coaches_."

Most noticeable of all, perhaps, was the plucky effort made in 1837 to
revive the favourite "Red Rover" coach between London and Manchester,
which had been discontinued upon the opening of the London and
Birmingham and the Grand Junction Railways. It was "the last charge of
the Old Guard," and shared the same fate. It may be interesting,
however, to append a copy of this singular notice--one more evidence
of the reluctance of Englishmen to be beaten, even at long odds. The
very date at foot is significant, for the enterprise was embarked on
in the teeth of the approaching winter.

    THE RED ROVER REËSTABLISHED

    THROUGHOUT TO MANCHESTER.

    Bull and Mouth Inn.

    It is with much satisfaction that the Proprietors of the RED
    ROVER oach are enabled to announce its

    REËSTABLISHMENT

    as a direct conveyance THROUGHOUT BETWEEN LONDON AND MANCHESTER,
    and that the arrangements will be the same as those which before
    obtained for it such entire and general approval.

    In this effort the Proprietors anxiously hope that the public will
    recognize and appreciate the desire to supply an accommodation
    which will require and deserve the patronage and support of the
    large and busy community on that line of road.

    The RED ROVER will start every evening, at a quarter before
    seven, by way of

    COVENTRY          STAFFORD                    MACCLESFIELD
    BIRMINGHAM        NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYNE           AND
    WALSALL           CONGLETON                   STOCKPORT


    and perform the journey _in the time which before gave such
    general satisfaction_.

    [Symbol: Pointing hand] It will also start from the "Moseley
    Arms" Hotel, MANCHESTER, for LONDON, every evening, at nine
    o'clock.

    EDWARD SHERMAN           )  _Joint_
    JOHN WEATHERALD and Co.  )  _Proprietors_.

    _LONDON_,

    _October 28, 1837_.

An old song may come in here:--

    "The road, the road, the turnpike road,
    The hard, the brown, the smooth, the broad,
    Without a mark, without a bend,
    Horses 'gainst horses on it contend.
    Men laugh at the gates, they bilk the tolls,
    Or stop and pay like honest souls.
    I'm on the road, I'm on the road,
    I'm never so blithe as when abroad
    With the hills above and the vales below,
    And merry wheresoe'er I go.
    If the Opposition appear in sight,
    What matter, what matter, we'll set that all right."

In the introduction I ventured to point out some inaccuracies which I
had observed in a statement made upon the subject of coach fares, and
as it is probably one which few remember anything about, I give a
statement of what would be about the profit and loss of a month's
working of a coach for a hundred miles.

  RECEIPTS.

  A Full Load on the Way-bill both ways.   £      s.  d.
   8 inside passengers                       15   0   0
  14 outside                                 25   4   0
  Parcels                                     1   0   0
                                            -----------
                                           £ 41   4   0
                                            -----------
  Month's receipts                          988  16   0
  Deduct expenses                           113  14   0
                                            -----------
                                           £875   2   0
                                            -----------

  PAYMENTS.

             Daily
                                           £      s.  d.
  15 toll-gates, at 3s.[3]                    2   5   0
  Hire of coach, per mile 2-1/2d.             1   0  10
  Mileage duty, 2d.[4]                        0   6   8
  Washing and oiling coaches                  0   2   0
                                            -----------
                                              4   8   6
                                            -----------
  For 4 weeks                               106   4   0

            Monthly.
  8 road booking-offices                   £  4   0   0
  2 end booking-offices                       2   0   0
  Making Share bills                          1   0   0
  Oil and trimming lamps, say                 0  10   0
                                            -----------
                      Total                £113  14   0
                                            -----------

          [3] It was usual for coaches to come to terms with the
          pikers to pay for three horses instead of four.

          [4] There had also to be paid £5 licence duty yearly when
          the plates were taken out.

This makes £8 15s. to be divided per mile, which, of course, would
give a very handsome profit; but full loading could not be expected
every day, and if it was reduced to half loads, it would not be such a
very fat concern.

The cost of each horse was usually put at 17s. 6d. a week, including
blacksmith, and that, supposing a man to cover a ten-mile stage for
which eight horses would be ample if not running on Sundays, would
cost £7 a week, or £28 a month, leaving, at about half loading, say
£20 profit. But from this has to be deducted saddler, veterinary
surgeon, and wear and tear, the two latter of which depend, to a
certain extent, on circumstances over which he has not much control,
as it depends upon such things as sickness in the stables and
accidents.



[_APPENDIX._]

His Majesty's Mails.

    [Illustration: V. R.]



G. P. O.



APPENDIX.


  LIST OF MAIL COACHES WHICH WORKED OUT OF LONDON.

               { Hounslow,             } From the
               { Maidenhead,           } "Spread Eagle,"
               { Reading,              } Gracechurch Street,
  Bath,        { Newbury,              } and
    through    {                       } "Swan with Two
               { Hungerford,           } Necks,"
               { Marlborough,          } Lad Lane.
               { Devizes,              }

               { Aylesbury,            }
               { Bicester,             } From the
  Birmingham,  {                       } "King's Arms,"
    through    { Banbury,              } Holborn Bridge.
               { Leamington,           }
               { Warwick,              }

               { Croydon,              }
  Brighton,    { Reigate,              } From the
    through    { Crawley,              } "Blossoms Inn,"
               { Cuckfield,            } Lawrence Lane.

               { Hounslow,             }
               { Reading,              } From the
  Bristol,     { Newbury,              } "Swan with Two
    through    { Marlborough,          } Necks,"
               { Calne,                } Lad Lane.
               { Chippenham,           }
               { Bath,                 }

  Carlisle--_See Glasgow_.

               { Barnet,               }
               { St. Albans,           }
               { Dunstable,            }
               { Northampton,          }
  Chester,     { Hinckley,             } From the
    through    { Atherstone,           } "Golden Cross,"
               { Lichfield,            } Charing Cross.
               { Stafford,             }
               { Nantwich,             }
               { Tarporley,            }

               { Hounslow,             }
               { Bagshot,              }
               { Basingstoke,          }
               { Andover,              }
  Devonport,   { Salisbury;            } From the
    through    { Sherborne;            } "Swan with Two
               { Chard,                } Necks,"
               { Honiton,              } Lad Lane.
               { Exeter                }

               { Dartford,             } From the
               { Rochester,            } "Swan with Two
  Dover,       { Sittingbourne,        } Necks,"
     through.  { Faversham,            } Lad Lane.
               { Canterbury,           }

               { Ware,                 }
               { Buntingford,          }
               { Royston,              }
               { Caxton,               } From the
  Edinburgh,   { Huntingdon,           } "Bull and Mouth,"
    through    { Grantham              } St. Martin's-le-Grand.
               { Newark                }
               { Doncaster             }
               { Ferry Bridge,         }
               { York,                 }
               { Northallerton,        }
               { Darlington,           }
               { Durham,               }
               { Newcastle,            }
               { Alnwick,              }
               { Berwick,              }
               { Dunbar,               }
               { Haddington,           }

               { Basingstoke,          }
               { Andover,              }
               { Salisbury,            }
  Exeter,      { Blandford,            } From the
    through    { Dorchester,           } "Bull and Mouth,"
               { Bridport,             } St Martin's-le-Grand.
               { Axminster,            }
               { Honiton,              }

               { Barnet,               }
               { Hatfield,             }
               { Baldock,              }
               { Biggleswade,          }
               { Stilton,              }
               { Stamford              } From the
  Glasgow,     { Grantham,             } "Bull and Mouth,"
    through    { Newark,               } St Martin's-le-Grand.
               { Doncaster,            }
               { Wetherby,             }
               { Boroughbridge,        }
               { Greta Bridge,         }
               { Appleby,              }
               { Carlisle,             }

               { Hounslow,             }
               { Maidenhead,           } From the
  Gloucester,  { Henley,               } "Cross Keys,"
    through    { Nettlebed,            } Wood Street,
               { Oxford                } and
               { Witney,               } "Golden Cross,"
               { Burford,              } Charing Cross.
               { Cheltenham,           }

               { Barnet,               } From the
               { Woburn,               } "Swan with Two
               { Newport-Pagnel,       } Necks,"
  Halifax,     { Market Harborough,    } Lad Lane,
    through    { Nottingham,           } and
               { Sheffield,            } "Bull and Mouth,"
               { Huddersfield,         } St. Martin's-le-Grand.

               {                       } From the
               {                       } "Golden Cross,"
  Hastings,    { Farnborough,          } Charing Cross.
    through    { Tunbridge,            } and "Bolt in Tun,"
               { Lamberhurst,          } Fleet Street.

               { Barnet,               }
               { St. Albans,           }
               { Coventry,             } From the
  Holyhead,    { Birmingham,           } "Swan with Two
    through    { Wolverhampton,        } Necks,
               { Shrewsbury,           } Lad Lane.
               { Oswestry,             }
               { North Wales,          }

               { Barnet,               }
               { Hertford,             }
               { Biggleswade,          } From the
               { Stilton,              } "Spread Eagle,"
  Hull,        { Peterborough,         } Gracechurch Street,
    through    { Folkingham,           } and
               { Lincoln,              } "Swan with Two
               { Brigg,                } Necks,"
               { Across the Humber to  } Lad Lane.
               { Kingston-upon-Hull    }

               { Barnet,               }
               { Bedford,              }
  Leeds,       { Higham Ferrers,       } From the
    through    { Kettering,            } "Bull and Mouth,"
               { Nottingham,           } St. Martin's-le-Grand.
               { Sheffield,            }
               { Wakefield,            }

               { Barnet,               }
               { St. Albans,           } From the
               { Coventry,             } "Swan with Two
  Liverpool,   { Lichfield,            } Necks,"
    through    { Newcastle-u-Lyne,     } Lad Lane.
               { Knutsford,            }
               { Warrington,           }

               { Caxton,               } From the
  Louth, by    { Peterborough,         } "Bell and Crown,"
  Boston,      { Deeping,              } Holborn, and
    through    { Spalding,             } "Saracen's Head,"
               { Spilsby,              } Skinner Street.

               { Barnet,               }
               { St. Albans,           }
               { Dunstable,            }
               { Northampton,          } From the
  Manchester,  { Market Harborough,    } "Swan with Two
    through    { Leicester,            } Necks,"
               { Derby,                } Lad Lane.
               { Ashbourne,            }
               { Congleton,            }
               { Macclesfield,         }

               { Ilford,               }
  Norwich,     { Romford,              }
  by Ipswich,  { Brentwood,            } From the
    through    { Chelmsford,           } "Spread Eagle,"
               { Witham                } Gracechurch Street.
               { Colchester,           }

  Norwich, by  { Epping,               } From the
  Newmarket,   { Bury St. Edmunds,     } "Belle Sauvage,"
    through    { Thetford,             } Ludgate Hill.

               { Kingston,             } From the
  Portsmouth,  { Esher,                } "White Horse,"
    through    { Guildford,            } Fetter Lane and
               { Godalming,            } "Bolt in Tun,"
               { Petersfield,          } Fleet Street.

               { Hounslow,             } From the
               { Staines,              } "Swan with Two
  Southampton  { Bagshot               } Necks,"
  and Poole,   { Alton,                } Lad Lane, and
    through    { Alresford             } "Bell and Crown,"
               { Winchester,           } Holborn.

                                       } From the
               {Hounslow,              } "Cross Keys,"
  Stroud,      { Henley,               } Wood Street,
    through    { Abingdon,             } and the "Swan
               { Faringdon,            } with Two Necks,"
               { Cirencester,          } Lad Lane.

               { Lynn,                 } From the
  Wells        { Ely,                  } "Swan with Two
  (Norfolk),   { Cambridge,            } Necks,"
    through    { Royston,              } Lad Lane.
               { Ware,                 }

               { Uxbridge,             }
               { Beaconsfield,         }
               { High Wycombe,         }
               { Oxford,               } From the
  Worcester,   { Woodstock,            } "Bull and Mouth,"
    through    { Chipping Norton,      } St. Martin's-le-Grand.
               { Moreton-in-Marsh,     }
               { Evesham,              }
               { Pershore,             }

               { Romford,              }
               { Chelmsford,           }
               { Witham,               } From the
  Yarmouth,    { Colchester,           } "White Horse,"
    through    { Ipswich,              } Fetter Lane.
               { Saxmundham,           }
               { Lowestoft,            }

So much for the main arteries, but the account would
hardly be complete without showing how the more remote
and out-of-the-way districts were provided for. I will, therefore,
add the routes of a few mails which might be considered
as prolongations of some of those already mentioned, but
they were worked under fresh contracts and with fresh
coaches.

South Wales was served by three--one from Bristol and
two from Gloucester, as shown below:--

                   { New Passage Ferry,
                   { Newport,
  Bristol to       { Cardiff,
  Milford Haven,   { Cowbridge,
  by               { Neath,
                   { Caermarthen.

                   { Ross,
                   { Monmouth,
  Gloucester to    { Abergavenny,
  Milford Haven,   { Brecon,
  by               { Llandovery,
                   { Caermarthen,
                   { Haverfordwest.

  Gloucester to Aberystwith, by Ross, Hereford, Kington, Rhayader,
  and Dyffryn Castle.

The Gloucester and Milford was, I think, driven out of Gloucester at
one time by Jack Andrews, a very good coachman, and over the lower
ground there was a man of the name of Jones. I may, perhaps, be told
that that is not a very distinguishing mark of a man in those parts,
perhaps it is not, but if the name failed to convey a knowledge of who
he was, he, at any rate, possessed one very characteristic feature
which was that he always drove without gloves whatever might be the
state of the weather. If he saw his box passenger beating his hands
against his body or going through any other process with the vain hope
of restoring the circulation into his well-nigh frozen fingers, his
delight was to hold out his gloveless hand and say, "Indeed, now there
is a hand that never wore a glove."

And this recalls to my memory another anecdote which was told me a
great many years ago, and which, though it refers to the other
extremities, may not be inappropriately introduced here. It appertains
to a very well known character already mentioned, the well known Billy
Williams, often spoken of as Chester Billy. I am aware that tales are
sometimes engrafted on remarkable characters which are also told of
others, still I believe I shall not be doing a wrong to any one if I
tell this as "'twas told to me," of our old friend Billy. At any rate,
it is too good to be lost, so here it is.

On one very cold winter morning it happened that Billy had a box
passenger who was stamping his feet on the footboard in the vain
attempt to restore the circulation of the blood, which led Billy to
remark, "Your feet seem cold this morning, sir," to which the
gentleman answered, "I should think they were, are not yours?" "No,"
says Billy, "they're not;" adding, "I expect you wash 'em." "Wash
them," says the passenger, "of course I do, don't you?" "No," was the
reply, "I should think not, I _iles_ 'em."

The Manchester mail was also prolonged to Carlisle, though the direct
Carlisle mail went by a rather shorter route, but then the populous
district on the west coast had to be provided for. It travelled
through Preston, Lancaster, Kendal and Penrith. This was, over some of
the ground at any rate, one of the fastest mails in England.

Again, in addition to these, which may be said to have had their
origin in London, there existed a considerable number of what were
called "cross country mails," some of which ran long distances and at
high speed, connecting together many important districts. A few of
them I will mention, beginning with the Bristol and Liverpool, which
was a very fast one.

                   { Aust Passage Ferry,
  Bristol to       { Monmouth,
  Liverpool,       { Hereford,
  by               { Shrewsbury,
                   { Chester,
                   { Woodside Ferry.

                   { Bath,
  Bristol to       { Tetbury,
  Oxford,          { Cirencester,
  by               { Fairford,
                   { Faringdon.

                   { Warrington,
                   { Manchester,
  Liverpool        { Rochdale,
  to               { Halifax,
  Hull,            { Bradford,
  by               { Leeds,
                   { Tadcaster,
                   { York.

  Bristol          { Gloucester,
  to               { Wincanton,
  Birmingham,      { Droitwich,
  by               { Bromsgrove.

  Birmingham       { Lichfield,
  to               { Derby,
  Sheffield, by    { Chesterfield.

And no doubt there were several others in one part of the country or
another, but I have been unable to meet with any regular list of them,
though it is very unlikely that such a road as that between Bristol
and Exeter by Taunton, for example, should have been left out. This
road certainly had a fast coach on it. The "Royal Exeter" ran from
Cheltenham to Exeter through Gloucester and Bristol, driven between
Cheltenham and Bristol at one time by Capt. Probyn, and afterwards by
William Small. It was a fast coach, stopping for dinner at Nisblete's,
at Bristol, and then proceeding on its journey to Exeter.

Then, again, there was a populous and important district through the
Staffordshire Potteries, from Birmingham to Liverpool and Manchester,
which must have been provided for somehow, but it is not impossible
that this may have been effected by the bags being conveyed to
Lichfield by the Sheffield, and then transferred to the down Liverpool
and Chester mails.

There were also running short distances what were called third class
mails, which carried twelve passengers, and the coachman was in charge
of the bags. On one of them which ran between Shrewsbury and Newtown I
did a good deal of my early practice.

And now, having given a list, more or less perfect, of the mails which
traversed England and Wales, perhaps a few words on the subject of the
pace at which they travelled may not be without interest.

After singling out the London and Birmingham day mail, which was timed
at twelve miles an hour, it is impossible to say, at the present date,
which was the fastest coach. That the "Quicksilver" was the fastest
mail, I have no doubt, though I believe the palm has been disputed by
the Bristol, and perhaps some others; for if a passenger asked a
coachman which was the fastest, he was very likely to be told that the
one he was travelling in was. I cannot, however, believe that any of
these claims could have been supported by facts. "_Cui bono?_" We
can see at a glance why the Devonport should be pushed along as fast
as possible, because the journey was a long one; but the distance to
Bristol was only one hundred and twenty miles, and whether the mail
arrived there at eight or nine o'clock in the morning would have been
thought little of in those days, but in a journey of two hundred and
twenty-seven miles half a mile an hour makes an appreciable
difference. It would seem reasonable, therefore, that the longer mails
should have been accelerated as much as possible, and so I believe it
really was the case, and that the Holyhead was, after the
"Quicksilver," the fastest out of London. At any rate, I know that,
when travelling by it, we always passed all the other mails going the
same road, and that included a considerable number, as the north road
and the Holyhead were synonymous as far as Barnet, and, moreover, the
Post-Office was likely to have screwed up these two mails the
tightest, as one carried the Irish bags and the other had the
correspondence of an important dockyard and naval station.

To single out the fastest coach would be still more impossible. The
"Wonder" had a world-wide reputation, which was well deserved, both
for the pace and regularity with which she travelled and the admirable
manner in which she was appointed in every way; but what gave that
coach its preponderating name was the fact of its being the first
which undertook to be a day coach over a distance much exceeding one
hundred and twenty miles. The Manchester Telegraph must have surpassed
the "Wonder" in pace, and, certainly, when we consider the difference
of the roads and the hills by which she was opposed in her journey
through Derbyshire, had the most difficult task to accomplish; and,
again, the "Hirondelle" was timed to go the journey of one hundred and
thirty-three miles between Cheltenham and Liverpool in twelve hours
and a half, which is a higher rate of speed than the "Wonder," which
was allowed fifteen and a half hours to cover the one hundred and
fifty-four miles between London and Shrewsbury, and on a far superior
road.

I have been induced to enter into this subject because one sometimes
now-a-days meets with people who appear to have a somewhat hazy idea
about it, and talk glibly of twelve miles an hour as if it was nothing
so very great after all. Well, I am not going to deny that it can be
done, because I know that it has been effected by the Birmingham day
mail, as already stated, and I have also been told by an old inspector
of mails that in the latter days they did contrive to screw some
Scotch mails up to that speed; but I am sure I can safely say that no
mail or stage-coach ever was timed at even eleven miles an hour during
the main coaching days, however much faster they might have gone when
racing or on special occasions, though I believe it would have been
attempted, at any rate, if road travelling had not been put an end to
by the railways.

Twelve miles an hour is very great work to accomplish. Why, when
stoppages of all sorts are allowed for, it means thirteen miles, and
that means galloping for the greater part of the way.

  Though the subjoined List is not comprehensive, nor indeed
  absolutely accurate, it may be worth inserting, as conveying a fair
  idea of what coaches ran.

  PRINCIPAL NIGHT MAILS                   SOME NOTED DAY COACHES
                              Time
                              (including
                              stoppages)
  Miles from                  of Mail
  London.      TO              h.  m.

  110-1/2 BATH                 11  0    { "Beaufort Hunt," "York
                                        { House," "White Hart."

   50     BEDFORD                       "Times."

  119     BIRMINGHAM           11 56    { "Tally-Ho," "Tantivy,"
                                        { "Greyhound," "Economist,"
                                        { "Rocket," "Eclipse,"
                                        { "Triumph," "Crown Prince,"
                                        { "Emerald," "Albion," "Day,"
                                        { etc.

          BRECON                        "Red Rover."

   53     BRIGHTON                      { "Red  Rover," "Times,"
                                        { "Age," "Quicksilver,"
                                        { "Pearl," "Dart," "Arrow,"
                                        { "Vivid."

  121     BRISTOL              11 45    { "Prince of Wales," "Monarch,"
                                        { "Regulator."

   50     CAMBRIDGE                     "Star."

   95     Cheltenham (_see below_)      { "Berkeley Hunt," "Rival,"
                                        { "Magnet," "Favourite."

  181     CHESTER                       "Criterion."

  217-1/2 DEVONPORT            23 45    "Quicksilver."

   71     DOVER

  176     EXETER               19  0    { "Telegraph" (165 miles)
                                        { 17 hours; "Defiance"
                                        { (168 miles), 19 hours;
                                        { "Nonpareil," "Herald."

  111     GLOUCESTER           11 55

  195-1/2 HALIFAX              20  5    "Hope."

   68     HASTINGS

  135     HEREFORD                      "Champion," "Tiger."

  259     HOLYHEAD             26 55

  172-1/2 HULL                 18 12

  197     LEEDS                21  0    "Courier," "Rockingham.'

  201-1/2 LIVERPOOL            20 50    { "Umpire," "Fair Trader,"
                                        { "Express," "Erin-go-bragh."

  148     LOUTH                16  0

   99     LYNN                 10 33

  185     MANCHESTER           19  0    { Telegraph" (186 miles),
                                        { 18 hours 15 minutes,
                                        { "Beehive", "Estafette,"
                                        { "Peveril of the Peak,"
                                        { "Cobourg," "Red Rover."

  129     MONMOUTH                      "Mazeppa," "Royal Forester."

  113-1/2 NORWICH
          _viâ_
          IPSWICH              11 38    "Shannon."

  117-1/2 NORWICH
          _viâ_
          NEWMARKET            13  0    "Phenomenon."

  106     POOLE                         "Phoenix."

   73     PORTSMOUTH                    { "Diligence," "Regulator,"
                                        { "Hero."

  158     SHREWSBURY                    { "Wonder," 15 hours 45
                                        { minutes; "Nimrod," "Stag,"
                                        { "Union," "Oxonian."

          SOUTHAMPTON                   "Star."

  105     STROUD               12  9

  195     WETHERBY
          (Glasgow Mail)       20 36

  128     WEYMOUTH                      "King's Royal."

   23     WINDSOR                       "Taglioni."

  114     WORCESTER            12 20

  197     YORK
          (Edinburgh Mail)     20 54    "Wellington."

   30     LIVERPOOL AND PRESTON

  129-1/2 EDINBURGH AND
          ABERDEEN                      { "Defiance" (12 hrs.
                                        { 10 min., including
                                        { 30 min. Ferry).

          CHELTENHAM AND
          LIVERPOOL                     { "Hirondelle," "Hibernia"
                                        { (see above).

          SHREWSBURY AND                { "ROYAL OAK," "NETTLE,"
          WELSHPOOL                     { "ENGINEER."
          AND ABERYSTWITH

  NOTES.

  The fastest coaches were the "Defiance" (Edinburgh and Aberdeen),
  the "Wonder" (Shrewsbury and London), for which alone 150 horses
  were kept, and the mail from Liverpool to Preston. The next fastest
  were the Holyhead, Exeter, and Scotch mails, and those to Bath and
  Bristol (which last ones did not stop for meals on the road). The
  slowest is the Stroud mail, but formerly was the Worcester mail,
  which used to be most frequently overturned of any. The Hastings and
  Brighton mails had only two horses. For some reason or other, with
  which I am not acquainted, the Liverpool mail, and, I believe, the
  Halifax also, though leaving London at the same time as the others,
  had a day coach on the up journey, arriving at St. Martin's-le-Grand
  about 7 p.m. One of the Birmingham coaches was lighted by gas for a
  time, as far back as 1834. A coach running every day between London
  and Birmingham paid annually for toll-gates the sum of £1,428. The
  double miles of the mails travelling reached at one time 6,619 a
  journey.



SCOTCH AND IRISH MAILS.


It is interesting to compare the running of the Edinburgh and Glasgow
coaches out of London. Both left St. Martin's at the same hour, but by
a different road. At Alconbury (65 miles out of London) the two
coaches must have frequently been in sight of each other on a
moonlight night--if punctual a bare four minutes divided them (not a
yokel in that part of Huntingdonshire but could discuss the merits of
the rival whips)--and at Grantham (108 miles out) they probably
transferred some mail bags picked up upon their different roads.

At Doncaster (159 miles from London) less than a quarter of an hour
divided the two vehicles after travelling all through the night and
portion of the following day, a feat successfully performed that would
make the hair of a modern South-Eastern Railway guard stand upon end.
Indeed, tradition says that the up and down coaches nearly always
"crossed" within a few yards of the same bridge. Even that northern
metropolis, Newcastle, was treated with scant ceremony; as soon as
fresh horses were attached and the mail bags exchanged, the coach went
forward without pause, the next "stop and examine coach" after York
being at Belford (near Berwick-upon-Tweed).

With the Edinburgh coach there were three halts only upon the road for
refreshments, and these were liable to curtailment in heavy weather
when any minutes had been lost on the way--at the ordinary stages the
changes of horses being sometimes made in less than a minute.

The Glasgow coach, though over a considerably more uneven road, was
slightly the quicker of the two, the rival distances by road being
almost identical. This coach was not encumbered with heavy bags for
the Highlands, and had the additional stimulus for the first dozen
miles or so out of London of racing the Holyhead mail through Barnet.
This celebrated mail made its "first stop" (other than for change of
horses) at Birmingham, its second at Shrewsbury, its third at Corwen,
and its fourth at Bangor. The speed of this mail was no less than nine
and three-quarters miles an hour, or over ten miles if stoppages are
taken into account.

At Shrewsbury five minutes only were allowed for refreshments, and the
timing of this coach was so close that it was due there one minute
before the beautiful, varied, and sonorous clocks of that proud
borough struck the hour of noon (11.59 a.m.). At Wolverhampton it was
timed to arrive also at one minute past the hour (9.1 a.m.), while the
timepieces of the guards were checked once or twice on the road by
special clocks, and the discrepancy, if any, taken note of in writing.

Another notable piece of "good running" was shown by the rival mails
to Caermarthen, which reached there from town the following evening.
The Gloucester coach arrived at eight o'clock (224 miles), and was
followed at only half-an-hour's interval by the Bristol (238 miles)
coming by a different road the whole journey, and having often to face
a rough sea when transferring its passengers at Aust Passage, near
Chepstow. This last mail was one of the quickest of all out of London;
as far as Bristol it was expedited in 1837 to run at the speed of ten
miles and three furlongs an hour, prior to which time it had to cede
the palm to the celebrated Falmouth (or, as it was often miscalled,
Devonport--confusing it with the Plymouth coach) Quicksilver mail. No
doubt a higher speed still would have been attained in the winter
months had these coaches not to include so much night work in their
running.

It is very difficult, unless precise dates are attached, to give now
the absolute distances travelled. Each year roads were straightened
out and bends removed, gradients modified, or minor deviations to
towns of less importance struck out. A list of such accelerations will
be found in Mogg's edition of Paterson and of the principal ordinary
routes traversed in Paterson, Leigh, or Cary.

What prospects the Coventry bicycle might have had _before_ the
arrival of the telegraph and railway epoch it is difficult to
conjecture; but its speed must then have placed it in the first rank
of means of locomotion.



1837. Scotch Mails. DOWN.

  TO THURSO VIÂ EDINBURGH.

  Miles _St. Martin's-le-Grand._            p.m.  --
          LONDON                      dep.  8. 0 night
  12-1/2  Waltham Cross               arr.  9.25  --
  22      Ware                         "   10.26  --
  35-1/4  Buckland                     "   11.52  --
                                            a.m.
  45-1/2  Arrington                    "   12.57  --
  60      HUNTINGDON                   "    2.30  --
  65-1/4  Alconbury Hill               "    3. 3  --
  72-1/4  Stilton                      "    3.45  --
  87      STAMFORD                     "    5.15  --
  95      Stretton                     "    6. 3 day
  108-1/2 GRANTHAM                  { arr.  7.23  --
                                    { dep.  8. 3  --
  115-3/4 Long Bennington             arr.  8.53  --
  122-1/4 NEWARK                       "    9.30  --
  132-3/4 Scarthing Moor               "   10.34  --
  145-1/2 Barnby Moor                  "   11.49  --
                                            p.m.
  155-1/4 Rossington Bridge            "   12.47  --
  159-1/2 DONCASTER                    "    1.12  --
  166-1/4 Askerne                      "    1.55  --
  179-3/4 Selby                        "    3.21  --
  194     YORK                      { arr.  4.54  --
                                    { dep.  5.34  --
  207-1/4 Easingwold                  arr.  6.54 night
  218     Thirsk                       "    7.58  --
  227     NORTHALLERTON                "    8.52  --
  243     DARLINGTON                   "   10.28  --
                                            a.m.
  261-1/2 DURHAM                       "   12.23  --
  276     NEWCASTLE-                { arr.  1.50  --
            ON-TYNE                 { dep.  1.53  --
  290-1/2 Morpeth                     arr.  3.22  --
  300-1/2 Felton                       "    4.23  --
  309-3/4 ALNWICK                      "    5.17  --
  324-1/2 BELFORD                   { arr.  6.47 day
                                    { dep.  7.17  --
  339-3/4 BERWICK-ON-TWEED            arr.  8.47  --
  353-1/2 Houndswood                   "    0. 9  --
  369-1/4 Dunbar                       "   11.41  --
                                            p.m.
  380-1/4 Haddington                   "   12.45  --
  397-1/4 EDINBURGH G.P.O.             "    2.23  --
    (_Time on road_ 42 h. 23 m. _The quickest train
    time the journey has been performed in was on
    August 31, 1888, when the King's Cross train
    arrived in_ 7h. 27m.)
  444     Perth                       arr.  9. 0 night
  466     Dundee                       "   11.15  --
                                            a.m.
  534     Aberdeen                     "    6.22 day
                                            p.m.  --
  641     Iverness                     "    8. 6 night
                                            a.m.
  783     Thurso                       "    8.10 day


  TO GLASGOW.

  Miles. _St. Martin's-le-Grand._           p.m.

          LONDON                      dep.  8. 0 night
  11-1/4  Barnet                      arr.  9.18  --
  25-1/4  Welwyn                       "   10.46  --
                                            a.m.
  37-1/2  Baldock                      "   12. 6  --
  46-3/4  Caldecot                     "    1. 2  --
  55-1/4  Eaton                        "    1.55  --
  65-3/4  Alconbury Church             "    2.59  --
  75-1/4  Stilton                      "    3.56  --
  90      STAMFORD                     "    5.28  --
  98      Stretton                     "    6.18 day
  111-1/2 GRANTHAM                  { arr.  7.40  --
                                    { dep.  8.20  --
  117-1/2 Foston                      arr.  8.56  --
  125-1/2 NEWARK                       "    9.44  --
  138-1/2 Ollerton                     "   11. 3  --
  143     Worksop                      "   11.52  --
                                            p.m.
  151-1/2 Bagley                       "   12.40  --
  159-3/4 DONCASTER                    "    1.26  --
  174-1/4 Pontefract                   "    2.53  --
    [asterism]  _Change for_ LEEDS _and_ WAKEFIELD.
  184-1/4 Aberford                    arr.  3.52  --
    [asterism] _Change for_ BRADFORD.
  191-3/4 WETHERBY.                 { arr.  4.36  --
                                    { dep.  5.11  --
    [asterism] _Change here for_ YORK.
  204     Boroughbridge               arr.  6.23 night
  216     Leeming                      "    7.35  --
  227     Catterick Bridge             "    8.41  --
  236     Foxhall                      "    9.35  --
  240-1/2 Greta Bridge                 "   10. 2  --
  250-1/2 New Spital                   "   11.10  --
                                            a.m.
  260     Brough                       "   12.15  --
  268     APPLEBY                      "    1. 7  --
  282     PENRITH                      "    2.28  --
  293     Hesketh                      "    3.23  --
          _Manchester Mail_                 3.0 p.m.,
          reaches
          _Carlisle G.P.O._                 4.48 a.m.
  303     CARLISLE G.P.O.           { arr.  4.17  --
                                    { dep.  5. 0  --
  312-3/4 Gretna                      arr.  5.55  --
  322     Ecclefechan                  "    6.48 day
  332-3/4 Dunwoodie                    "    7.49  --
  342-1/2 Beattock Bridge              "    8.42  --
  361     Abington                     "   10.26  --
  370     Douglas Mill                 "   11.18  --
  376     Lesmahagow Bar.              "  bags dropped.
                                            p.m.
  387-1/4 Hamilton                     "   12.57  --
  397-3/4 GLASGOW G.P.O.               "    2. 0  --

    (_Time on road, 42 hours._)



1837. Irish Mails. DOWN.


  TO KINGSTOWN VIÂ HOLYHEAD.

  Miles. _St. Martin's-le-Grand._           p.m.
          LONDON                      dep.  8. 0 night
  11-1/4  Harriet                     arr.  ----  --
  20-1/2  St. Albans                   "    ----  --
  24-1/2  Redbourne                    "   10.44  --
  33-1/2  DUNSTABLE                    "    ----  --
                                            a.m.
  42-1/4  Brickhill                    "   12.32  --
  51-1/4  Stony Stratford              "    1.26  --
  59      Towcester                    "    2.12  --
  71-1/4  Daventry                     "    3.25  --
  79      Dunchurch                    "    4.11  --
  90-1/4  COVENTRY                     "    5.18  --
  108-1/2 BIRMINGHAM                { arr.  7. 8 day
                                    { dep.  7.43  --
  116-1/2 Wednesbury                  arr.  8.28  --
  122     WOLVERHAMPTON                "    9. 1  --
  134-1/2 Shiffnal                     "   10.14  --
  142-1/4 Heygate Junction.            "   10.59  --
  144-1/2 Wellington                   "   11.20  --
  152-1/2 SHREWSBURY                { arr. 11.59  --
                                            p.m.
                                    { dep. 12. 4  --
  161     Netcliffe                   arr. 12.52  --
  170-1/2 OSWESTRY                     "    1.45  --
  176-1/4 Chirk                        "    ----  --
  183     LLANGOLLEN                   "    2.57  --
  193-1/4 CORWEN                    { arr.  3.57  --
                                    { dep.  4.25  --
  199-1/2 Tynant                      arr.  5. 1  --
  206-1/4 Cernioge                     "    5.39  --
  213-1/2 "New Stables"                "    6.21 night
  220-3/4 Capel Curig                  "    7. 2  --
  228-1/4 Tyn-y-maes                   "    7.46  --
          BANGOR                    { arr.  8.20  --
                                    { dep.  8.25  --
          Anglesea Ferry              arr.  8.43  --
  _Here cross the Menai Straits at night by ferry until
  the opening of Telford's Suspension Bridge, in 1826._
          Mona Inn                    arr.  9.43  --
  259     Holyhead Post Office      { arr. 10.55  --
                                    { dep.
  323     Kingstown                   arr.
  327     Dublin                       "
  (_Time on journey,  h.  m. Present time on journey,  h.  m._)

    [asterism] _It may be curious to note that the present train
    mail service is under the liability of a penalty of £1 14s. for
    each minute it is after time through any avoidable cause._


  TO WATERFORD (P) VIÂ GLOUCESTER AND MILFORD.

  Miles.                                   p.m.
          LONDON                      dep. 8. 0 night
  12-1/4  Hounslow                    arr. 9.20  --
  19-3/4  Colnbrook                    "   ----  --
  23-3/4  Slough                       "   ----  --
  29      Maidenhead                   "  11. 8  --
  38-1/4  Henley-on-Thames             "   ----  --
  43      Nettlebed                    "   ----  --
                                           a.m.
  61-1/4  OXFORD                    { arr. 2.38  --
                                    { dep. ----  --
  72-3/4  Witney                      arr. 3.58  --
  80      Burford                      "   ----  --
  89-3/4  Northleach                   "   5.43  --
  97-1/4  Andoverford                  "   ---- day
  102-3/4 CHELTENHAM                { arr. 7. 3  --
                                    { dep. ----  --
  112     GLOUCESTER                { arr. 8. 0  --
                                    { dep. ----  --
  129     Ross                        arr.10. 8  --
  139     MONMOUTH                     "  11.11  --
                                           p.m.
  156     Abergavenny                  "  12.53  --
  176     BRECON                       "   3. 1  --
  197     Llandovery                   "   5.22  --
  224     CARMARTHEN                   "   8. 0 night
          Haverfordwest                "
          HUBBERSTON                   "

    [asterism] _Compare the quicker relative time to Carmarthen made
    by the Bristol mail immediately following, notwithstanding having
    to cross the Bristol Channel._


  TO WATERFORD (P) VIÂ BRISTOL AND PEMBROKE.

  Miles _St. Martin's-le-Grand._           p.m.
          LONDON                      dep. 8. 0 night
  12-1/4  Hounslow                    arr. 9.12  --
  29      Maidenhead                   "  10.50  --
          READING                      "   ----  --
                                           a.m.
  59      Newbury                      "   1.41  --
          Marlborough                  "   ----  --
  90      CALNE                        "   4.49  --
          Chippenham                   "   ----  --
  109     BATH                         "   6.32 day
  122     BRISTOL                   { arr. 7.45  --
                                    { dep. ----  --
  134     New Passage Ferry           arr. 9.12  --
          NEWPORT                      "   ----  --
                                           p.m.
  166     CARDIFF                      "  12.53  --
          Cowbridge                    "   ----  --
          Neath                        "   ----  --
  211     Swansea                      "   5.18  --
  238     CARMARTHEN                   "   8.31 night
                                           a.m.
  273     Hobbs Point                  "  12.34  --
          Pembroke                     "   1. 9  --



Western and Foreign Mails.--1837.--Up and Down.


                           Falmouth        Exeter     Devonport
                           Mail.[5]        Mail.      Mail.

  ST. MARTIN'S-LE-GRAND    dep.  8. 0 p.m.  8. 0 p.m.   8. 0 p.m.
   12 Hounslow             arr.  ----       ----        9.12
   19 Staines               "    ----       9.56       ----
   23   Slough              "    ----       ----       ----
   29   Maidenhead          "    ----       ----       10.40
   58   Newbury             "    ----       ----        1.53 a.m.
   77   Marlborough         "    ----       ----        3.43
   91   Devizes             "    ----       ----        5. 6
  109   BATH                "    ----       ----        7. 0
  149   Bridgewater         "    ----       ----       11.30
  160   TAUNTON             "    ----       ----       12.35 p.m.
  180   Collumpton          "    ----       ----        2.42
   29 Bagshot               "   10.47 p.m.  ----       ----
   67 Andover               "    2.20 a.m.  2.42 a.m.  ----
   84   SALISBURY           "    ----       4.27       ----
  126   Yeovil              "    ----       8.53       ----
  143   Chard               "    ----      11. 0       ----
   80   Amesbury            "    3.39       ----       ----
  125 Ilchester             "    7.50       ----       ----
        Honiton             "   11. 0      12.31 p.m.  ----
        EXETER           { arr. 12.34 p.m.  2.12        3.57
                         { dep. 12.44       ----       ----
  210 Newton               arr.  ----                   6.33
  218 Totnes                "    ----                   7.25
  190   Ashburton           "    2.41                  ----
  214   PLYMOUTH            "    5. 5                  ----
        DEVONPORT        { arr.  5.14                  10. 5
                         { dep. ----                   ----
  234   Liskeard           arr.  7.55
  246   Lostwithiel         "    9.12
  254   St. Austell         "   10.20
  268   TRURO               "   11.55
  279   FALMOUTH            "    1. 5 a.m.

  _Naval Station for the departure of the foreign packets._

  Miles from London:--HONITON, via Amesbury, 154; via Salisbury, 156.
  EXETER, via Amesbury, 170; via Salisbury, 173; via, Taunton, 193.
  DEVONPORT, via Amesbury, 216; via Taunton, 243.

  _Packet arrives from abroad._
    FALMOUTH               dep.  1.45 a.m.
    TRURO                  arr.  2.55
    St. Austell             "    4.29
    Lostwithiel             "    5.36
    Liskeard                "    6.52
    DEVONPORT            { arr.  ----
                         { dep.  9.30       4.45 a.m.
    PLYMOUTH               dep.  ----       ----
    Ashburton               "   12. 3 p.m.  ----
  Totnes                    "    ----       7.30
  Newton                    "    ----       8.25
    EXETER               { arr.  2. 0       ----       ----
                         { dep.  2.20      11.50 p.m. 10.15
    Honiton                dep.  4. 4       1.27 a.m.  ----
  Ilchester                 "    6.49       ----       ----
  Amesbury                  "   11. 0       ----       ----
    Chard                   "    ----       2.55       ----
    Yeovil                  "    ----       4.30       ----
    SALISBURY               "    ----       8.50       ----
  Andover                   "   12.19 a.m. 11. 0       ----
  Bagshot                   "    4. 2       ----       ----
    Collumpton              "    ----       ----      11.38
    TAUNTON                 "    ----       ----       1.37 p.m.
    Bridgewater             "    ----       ----       2.52
    BATH                    "    ----       ----       7.30
    Devizes                 "    ----       ----       9.24
    Marlborough             "    ----       ----      10.49
    Newbury                 "    ----       ----      12.42 a.m.
    Maidenhead              "    ----       ----       3.44
    Slough                  "    ----       ----       ----
  Staines                   "    ----       3.46 p.m.  ----
  Hounslow                  "    ----       ----       5.26
  ST. MARTIN'S-LE-GRAND    arr.  6.50       5.42       6.40

          NOTES.--Greenwich time throughout. The mails left London
          one hour earlier (at 7.0 p.m.) on Sundays. The Falmouth
          (nicknamed the "Quicksilver") mail averaged over 10 miles an
          hour between London and Devonport.

          [5] NOTE. The Falmouth mail was allowed 25 minutes stoppage
          at Ilminster (8.58 a.m. to 9.23), notwithstanding which it
          travelled between London and Exeter at the average speed of
          10 miles and 2 furlongs an hour.


    SIMMONS & BOTTEN,
    Printers,
    LONDON, E.C.





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