Linda is a fellow Wild Rose Press Author who has a short story in the Love Letter Series.
The Fastest Travel in
Two Hundred Years Ago England
If you wanted to get somewhere fast in Regency England, you took the mail coach.
Charged with the timely delivery of the mail, the mail coaches provided their few passengers with a faster, less crowded and cleaner ride than private stagecoaches, although more expensive.
Britain's first mail delivery system, created in 1635, used mounted riders traveling between different "posts", where the postmaster collected his local mail and sent his own on. The system was slow, inefficient and highwaymen found the solitary riders easy targets.
By the late 1700's,
needed a better method. In
1784, John Palmer, a Britain
theater owner, suggested employing coaches like the ones used to transport
acting troupes. At first, the government ridiculed his idea. But with the
blessing of the Prime Minister, William Pitt, Palmer funded an experimental run
between Bath Bristol and . The trip took sixteen hours. The
previous time was up to thirty-eight hours. Convinced, the government
authorized more routes and rewarded Palmer with the office of Surveyor and
Comptroller General of the Post Office. London
The original coaches carried four inside passengers, a driver, and the Post Office guard, who rode outside in the back with the mail box. Later, the coach added three more outside passengers, one beside the driver and two behind him. Private contractors supplied the original coaches, but by the early 1800's the Post Office had acquired its own fleet of vehicles painted with a distinctive black and scarlet livery. Travel times were about 7-8 miles in summer, and 5-6 miles in winter, although as roads improved, rates improved to about ten miles per hour.
The primary requirement of the mail coach was speed. They almost always traveled at night when the roads were less crowded. They also had the right of way. When the guard blew his post horn to signal the mail coach's approach, other vehicles on the road had to move aside, turnpike toll takers had to let them pass through without stopping or pay a fine, and the mail had to be ready at the post stops. Sometimes the coach didn't stop at all and the guard would toss the mail off and grab the deliveries from the waiting postmaster.
Speed did not equate to comfort. Roads were rough and the coaches ran in all weathers, making travel unpleasant, especially for those riding outside. Passengers often had to disembark to lighten the load when the vehicle went up a steep hill. On the plus side, mail coach travel was safer than on private stagecoaches. The guard defended the mail with a blunderbuss and two pistols. As a result, mail coaches suffered fewer highwaymen attacks than private stagecoaches, although some did occur.
With its scarlet and black livery and the sound of the post horn ringing over the countryside, the mail coach reigned supreme until the advent of the railroads in the 1830's. The government shut down the last
mail coach route in
1846, although services continued in the countryside for a few more years. London
In An Inheritance for the Birds, my Regency comedy novella, the hero travels from
to Somersetshire by
mail coach. He sits outside all night and the coach passes through a summer
downpour. By the time he reaches his destination and meets the heroine, he is
not a happy camper. And then he encounters the birds… London
Make the ducks happy and win an estate!
Mr. Christopher "Kit" Winnington can't believe the letter from his late great-aunt's solicitor. In order to inherit her estate, he must win a contest against her companion, Miss Angela Stratton. Whoever makes his great-aunt's pet ducks happy wins.
A contest: What a cork-brained idea. This Miss Stratton is probably a sly spinster who camouflaged her grasping nature from his good-natured relative. There is no way he will let the estate go to a usurper.
Angela never expected her former employer to name her in her will. Most likely, this Mr. Winnington is a trumped-up jackanapes who expects her to give up without a fight. Well, she is made of sterner stuff.
The ducks quack in avian bliss while Kit and Angela dance a duet of desire as they do their utmost to make the ducks--and themselves--happy.
Yawning, he shut the door behind him. Enough ducks and prickly ladies for one day. After dropping his satchel by the bed, he dragged off his clothes and draped them over the chair back. He dug a nightshirt from the valise and donned the garment before he blew out both candles.
Bates had already drawn back the bedclothes. The counterpane was soft under Kit's palm, and covered a featherbed. He grinned. By any chance, had they used the down from the pet ducks to stuff the mattress and pillows?
After tying the bed curtains back, he settled into the soft cocoon and laced his fingers behind his head. Tomorrow, he would have it out with Miss Stratton about the steward's residence, but that was tomorrow. He fluffed up his pillow and turned onto his side…
A bundle of flapping, squawking feathers exploded from the depths of the covers and attacked him. Throwing his arms over his head for protection, Kit fell out of bed. He scrambled to his feet and bolted for the door, the thrashing, quacking explosion battering him. A serrated knife edge scraped over his upper arm. "Ow!" Batting at the avian attacker with one hand, he groped for the latch with the other.
The door swung open. Miss Stratton, her candle flame flickering, dashed into the chamber. "Esmeralda, you stop that right now!"
The feathered windstorm quacked once more and, in a graceful arc, fluttered to the floor.
Kit lowered his arms and gave a mental groan. A duck. He should have known.
An Inheritance for the Birds, part of the Love Letters series, available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and other places ebooks are sold.
Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!