Long-Distance Travel

Before 1805, a 50-mile journey by coach would take 14 hours. By 1830, it took about 8 hours, though the Royal Mail Coach could do it in 5 hours. Before 1840, it was common for a 175-mile journey to take 10 days by private coach, but by that time, Royal Mail could make the journey in 16.5 hours. Generally, the Royal Mail could cover 100 miles in 11 hours and 200 miles in 26 hours.

Most roads were heavily rutted and often impassable. Toll roads were introduced in the 1600s to help pay for the cost of upkeeping the roads, but the technology wasn’t good enough to keep the roads in good condition. Tolls slowed down traffic and increased the cost of travel significantly.

Private carriage travel was slow but generally more comfortable, plus the owner sets their own timetable and is able to travel from door-to-door. Plus the carriage can be used at the destination. However, it is the most expensive option. Between food, accommodations, horse hire, staff expenses, tolls, etc., it was by far the most expensive form of travel and generally reserved only for the wealthy.

Royal Mail Coach was the fastest and most reliable form of carriage travel. The Royal Mail was introduced in 1784 to move mail faster across country. These coaches did not have to stop for tolls and all other coaches gave way for them, meaning they were the quickest on the road. It generally held only four passengers inside and then bags of mail in the boot and on top. However, it ran only between main cities, and tickets were expensive enough that only the gentry tended to use it.

Stage Coach was the most common form of long-distance travel. It was fairly reliable and offered more routes than the Royal Mail. However, it had to stop at all tolls and was more dangerous than other forms of coach travel because there were up to twelve passengers sitting atop the coach, making it very top-heavy; accidents were fairly common. This was the best option for the middle class and upper servants.

For anyone who couldn’t afford to pay for tickets had two options: walk or beg a ride off passing wagons. It was common for freight wagons to take on passengers if they had space, but travel was at a walking pace and uncomfortable (and smelly, depending on the cargo). If the lower class needed to travel (which wasn’t often), this was their mode of transportation.