Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Following a suggestion from Jen Kloester, author of Georgette Heyer's Regency World, I have just laid my hands on a copy of Paterson's Roads, which is a wonderful little book.

Paterson's Roads describes itself as "a new and accurate description of all the direct and principal cross roads in England and Wales." It lists all the cities, towns and "remarkable villages" in the country, arranged by the roads a traveller must take to get to each of them. My copy is of the 11th edition, from 1796. It cost three shillings when new (sewn but unbound), but I had to pay a little more than that. However, as a research tool it will be, I think, invaluable.

Suppose we wished to post down to Cheltenham from London. What route should we take, and where would we change horses?

Looking up Cheltenham in the index, we establish that it is in Gloucestershire, that market day is Thursday, and that the route is given on page 93. Turning to page 93 we discover that the route is only given from Northlech (Northleach), but the route to Northlech is on page 82.

The route gives the various villages through which we pass, with mileage between each, and cumulative mileage. Post-towns or stages are given in italics, principal towns in capitals. Combining the details on the two pages, our route, which starts from the Tyburn Turnpike (now Marble Arch) looks like this:

To Bayswater, Mid.-1
Kensington Gravel-Pits12
Shepherd's Bush
Gerard's Cross, Bucks.520
Low Water427
High Wycombe229
West Wycombe231
Stoken Church, Oxf.536
Wheatley Bridge48
At 48¾ l, to Wheatley149
Shotover Hill352
Northlech, Glo.980
At ½ Mile from Frogmill turn to the r. to Dowdeswell88½

I'm not sure whether we would use the stage at Dowdeswell if we were finishing our journey at Cheltenham, but in any case this journey involves six changes, which would presumably have been at roughly two-hour intervals, making this more than a day's journey in all but the best conditions.

Paterson's Roads also gives an account of the "remarkable seats" that are near the road. On the way to Cheltenham we would pass two dozen such places including Bulstrode House and Park, owned by the Duke of Portland; Headington-House, home of W. Jackson Esq; and even West Wycombe Church, "on the tower of which is a Ball that will contain six People, and may be seen from a little beyond Beaconsfield".

A quick look at Abe suggests that there are a number of later editions available - particularly the 18th, from 1828. The 1808 edition is apparently available on CD-ROM from GenFair.

No traveller should be without a copy.


Gabriele C. said...

Now you have to get a nice barouche landau, or a horse suitable for a gentleman, for your are not going to make that tour by a modern car, are you? :-)

Stephen said...

At this time of year it would need to be a solidly-built coach, with plenty off rugs, and hot bricks at every stage. I might allow three days, putting up at High Wycombe and Burford, rather than trying to get to Oxford in a day.

Jan Jones said...

Stephen, dear, why on earth would one WANT to go to Cheltenham from London?

PS: Just looked up prices. Rather more than 3/- indeed. i'm inclined to go for the CD version myself.

Stephen said...

I was lucky enough to get mine on eBay for a little less than the going rate on Abe. Rather than GenFair, you could go directly to Archive CD Books for the CD-ROM of the 1808 edition, and you will no doubt find dozens of other must-have research items to put on your Christmas list.

Kate Hardy said...

Be warned, don't start on Pigot's or White's directories.

They are addictive. (But probably cheaper than Paterson's. Now I'm going to have to trot over to Abe. You are a bad influence.)