Saturday, February 11, 2012

Special Guest- Linda Banche

Linda is a fellow Wild Rose Press Author who has a short story in the Love Letter Series.

The Fastest Travel in England, Two Hundred Years Ago

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, Britain needed a better method. In 1784, John Palmer, a Bath 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 Bristol and London. 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.

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 London mail coach route in 1846, although services continued in the countryside for a few more years.

In An Inheritance for the Birds, my Regency comedy novella, the hero travels from London 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…

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,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
Interesting blog. I didn't realize that passengers could ride on a mail coach. What a great excerpt. I could just imagine that happening. In the dead of night it would scare the hell out of any one.



Linda Banche said...

Hi Margaret. I guess as long as a coach carried the mail, people might as well go along, too.

Thanks for your kind words. I love ducks, but they can bite.

Joyce Henderson said...


I'm sending this on to my fellow writer friends who write historical England. Good information, and the excerpt is super. I knew passengers could book limited seating on mail coaches, as they did in the States, but I didn't know the times it took to travel from point 'a' to point 'b'.

I'm glancing out the window at the seven chickens roaming the backyard that my daughter has. Dirty little buggers, but the fresh eggs are wonderful.

Now, if they could only rid the lawn of the gopher colony from their underground 'condos'...

Allison Knight said...

What a great post, Linda.
It also gave me any idea for another
book, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart. My other WIP aren't very happy about it. (grinning) They want their stories finished first.

I've printed the blog to save the info. Thanks again.

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Joyce.

You like chickens and I like ducks, but I don't have ducks in my yard. As for your gopher colony, turkeys come to my back yard and leave their decorations. Big birds, big decorations, which I have to clean up. Oh, well, nothing is perfect. *g*

You're welcome, Allison. Wherever you can get an idea is good. Your other WIPSs will survive. You'll get back to them. *g*