Mail Coach to London
Before the arrival of the railways getting from point A to point B wasn't easy. Walking was probably the most common form of travel for most people, travelling by horse was for those who could afford it but the more fortunate would travel by Mail Coach.
The Mail Coach came into being in the late 18th century. Until 1794 all mail was delivered countrywide on horseback, in that year the first mailcoach was was inaugurated on the London to Bath route. The first Lincoln mailcoach began running in 1801. Stagecoaches ran from the early 17th but, generally, they were not as comfortable, lacking in any suspension, a journey from Manchester to London would take four and a half days, as the mailcoaches and were often owned by the landlord/proprietor of the inns from which they operated.
The period from 1810 to 1830 was the "Golden Age" of coach travel, road surfaces had improved and coaches could attain average speeds of 12 mph, a much faster journey than previously.
This is a record of the Journey by mail coach from Lincoln to London, before the arrival of the railway:
"Leaving Lincoln by the mail at 2 p.m., supping at Peterborough at 9, the traveller, after composing himself for an uneasy slumber about Yaxley Barracks (from whence the waters of Whittlesea Mere might be seen shimmering in the moonlight), grumbling through a weary night at the obstinate legs of his opposite neighbour, and sorely pinched in the small of the back, was only delivered, cold and cross, at the Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street, about 5 the next morning. He had then the choice of going to bed, with feet like ice, in a fireless room, opening out on an open-air gallery (where a box was fixed for the barber to shave travellers), or of sulking in a fusty coffee-room till the waiters were astir and the world was aired." - The Lincoln Pocket Guide, Sir Charles H J Anderson.
Fifteen hours to London may seem slow to us today but in the 1840s it must have been quite rapid. People made their wills before they were "received into the York stage-coach, which performed the journey to London (if God permitted) in four days."
In 1786 the cost of a coach from Lincoln to London via Newark, Grantham, Stamford, etc. was £1 11s 6d (£1.58) for inside passengers and 15s 9d (£0.79) for the less fortunate on the outside. To put the price into perspective, in 1797 an agricultural labourer earned £30.03 per annum and surgeons £174.95 per annum.
Mail coaches continued into the 1840s but the arrival about this time of the railways spelled the end of this "romantic" form of travel.