Another long weekend in London. How it used to be travelled.

13 Dec


Where we live at present is on an old coaching route. It was certainly used for Royal Mail Coaches,before the railway came to the village, which it did early in it’s history. One half of our house had a tenant who was one of the first railway clerks ever in the locality. In the 1800s these mail coaches carried a guard who was armed with at least one musket. The police force (correct term for back then (it’s now “Service”)) was in it’s infancy and many travellers carried a pistol for protection.

1850s-peelers  1850s peelers.

On another recent round trip for pre-Christmas “Christmas” ,prior to family jetting off to the USA for the correctly timed event, I got thinking about the route that I used to travel to break up the monotony of continually driving from our previous  home to London area for work. Back then I used the A 5 , picking it up at Dunstable and right the way through to the outskirts of Cannock or Rugeley. That road was a direct main link between towns for Stage and Mail coaches.


Travelling at around 12 mph, it would take days to travel from London to Holyhead and Ireland beyond. I did some research and there were definite links between the original first buyer of our old house (built 1853) and the land agent who sold the land on behalf of the local miller, William Hill. The land agent owned a coaching Inn at Newcastle under Lyme which is still serving beer. I had originally thought that the Mail coaches which had passed by on the dirt road back then were heading for Llangollen but research says it was Chester as there were only two “roads” in existence towards the West and Wales.

mill-and-pool-early-1900s  The old corn mill, owned by William Hill. He sold the land on which our house(s) were built. A wealthy local blacksmith bought them and rented them out originally. He must have made his wealth from dealings with Lord Crewe and possibly carrying out farrier work on the mail coaches. He eventually owned several houses at nearby Woore and a handful more in our village.

coach-mail    A typical mail coach. The roads could become rutted and muddy. It must have been an uncomfortable way to travel. The old A5 was and is a straight road. Before safety cameras were installed, it was a known “fast” road, three lanes in places , back then. There were many accidents as it was still used long before the M1 came into being and is still used by many as an alternative, more scenic (?) route out of London.

In my research, I discovered a book of factual accounts of stage and mail coaching around the Shrewsbury area. There was one driver, my namesake, Richard Vickers, who was described as being very sobre (ahem….) , trustworthy and reliable. “A small man, needing to stand on several copper coins in order to see over a Stilton cheese!”  A most popular driver at a time when coach drivers were less than sobre, incurring many nasty coaching accidents including roll overs.

So, makes you thankful for the airbag bundle, seat belts and crush zones in the campervan. Not to mention the heating and comfy seats. As an old friend used to say, “comfort’s the thing.” I still have difficulty seeing over a stilton cheese though………..



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