Friday, 6 January 2006

I have been rooting around in Paterson's Roads some more. The 14th edition, from 1808, has a number of improvements over the 11th. Paterson particularly points out that it has been
arranged upon a new and more convenient Plan: so that the Routes and the Seats relating to them are brought under the Eye in the same page.
I am more taken by the fact that he now gives the names of the coaching inn or inns at the various post towns. I also welcome Paterson's collaboration with the Post Office, which has led to the inclusion of a table of principal towns, giving the time of arrival and departure of the mail.

Since the mail was the fastest service on the roads, by plotting the time of the mail along a route we can get some idea of the shortest possible journey times. Unfortunately the one detail that Paterson leaves out is the time the mails arrive and depart from London. No matter, revisiting the journey to Cheltenham we can get some idea of what went on. Here are the times given by Paterson:

Post Townarrivaldeparture
Southall10 p.m.4 a.m.
Uxbridge10-40 p.m.3-50 a.m.
WycombeMidnight1 a.m.
Stoken Church1-30 a.m.11-20 p.m.
Tetsworth2-20 a.m.11 p.m.
Oxford4 a.m.10 p.m.
Witney6 a.m.7 p.m.
Burford7 a.m.6 p.m.
Frogmill10 a.m.5 p.m.
Cheltenham11 a.m.4 p.m.

I would guess that the post left London an hour before it arrived in Southall, and arrived back an hour after leaving there on the inbound journey, giving a journey time of 14 hours out and 13 hours back. For that speed of service you would have paid 8d for a letter consisting of a single sheet of paper.

Paterson also provides a table which can be used to calculate the cost of a pair of post horses for any distance from 5 to 20 miles, at rates of from 12d to 18d per mile. Posting down to Cheltenham by the route given in my earlier post would cost between £4-12s-6d and £6-18s-9d for horses alone if one started at Tyburn Turnpike. Add to that the cost of refreshment along the way, and the various emoluments that you would need to furnish to postillions and inn servants, and long-distance travel starts looking an expensive proposition.


Heather-Joy Garrett said...

Dear Sir

I am fascinated by your purchase and wish to obtain one for my own use at the earliest possible opportunity.

I also wish to contratulate you on the apparent success of your venture into fiction.

I also have to apologise for my forward daughter who has forced herself into your notice. She has not yet come out and I feel will benefit from more schooling before she does after her current escapade. Another governess will have to be interviewed I fear!

A Budding Debutante said...

I would love to test your timetable and costings by travelling there myself Sir, but I fear it may endanger my reputation, especially with the Patronesses. However, it is delightful to know how public transport works, and furthurs my research on my plan to escape to Oxford, where I shall set up home with a friend, and write novels and keep cats.

Stephen said...

I put a link to Archive CD books into the comment on my other Paterson's Roads post - They seem to be very quick. For some inexplicable reason they seem to have a large number of books from 1791. I may have to think about setting a novel then just to make use of things like The Universal Directory of Great Britain.

As for Miss Garrett, all I can say is that writing novels and keeping cats is hardly the most tonnish of occupations, although it will probably preserve her from the worst of the rakes.

[Wanders off regretting lack of moustache to twirl - twirling sidewhiskers just doesn't have the same impact.]

Irate Mama said...

Will be looking up the CD in order to send my errant daughter to a Bath Seminary having discovered her reading lewd Classical books and Shelley. I would simply be failing in my duty if I allowed her to become a bluestocking.

1791 was a good year I look forward to reading your novel set then.