A History of Horse Drawn Cabs
My Peel ancestors were cab owners and drivers in Dublin between the 1860s and the first decade of the twentieth century when horse-drawn cabs were giving way increasingly to motorised cabs. But what exactly were cabs and how did they evolve?
Cabs were a form of horsed vehicle with two or four wheels for carrying passengers. Originally, hackney coaches, quite often the unwanted coaches of aristocratic families and still bearing their coats of arms, were used to carry people on short journeys from place to place, operated out of inn yards. In 1638 an entrepreneur named Captain Baily had the brainwave of parking them at stands in the street. Baily placed his four hackney coaches at the Maypole in the Strand, established a fare schedule for trips to different parts of London, and dressed his drivers in livery so that they would be easily recognisable to customers.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the cabriolet de place, invented about 1660 by Nicholas Sauvage, was introduced into London from Paris. The first eight licensed cabs (this shortening was adopted as early as 1825) appeared on the London Streets in 1823. These cabs stood for hire in Portland Street, were painted yellow, and numbered twelve in all. This limit was soon removed as their popularity increased rapidly.The cabriolet which had superseded the old hackney coach was in its turn supplanted by a new kind of cab invented by a Mr Boulnois. In this vehicle the occupants faced one another and the driver sat on top. Finally in 1836 a larger cab, a cheaper imitation of the Brougham, came into use. The Clarence four-wheeler was only an improvement of this design.
As a rival to the four-wheeled Growler the Hansom was invented by Joseph Aloysius Hansom, born in York, England in 1803. His father was a joiner and Joseph became his apprentice but soon left to become an architect. He patented his plans for a safety cab in 1834. The vehicle which Disraeli called the 'the gondola of London' consisted originally of a square framework on two wheels with a 71/2 foot diameter. Its good speed, due largely to its lightness, its spruce appearance and pleasant bounding motion made it a popular means of transport with many. Hansom's invention did not make him a rich man, it only brought him about £300 and he died, in 1882, in London in straightened circumstances.
"Hailing a car" is another term for hailing a cab. We think of the the word car as a modern word, a 'motor car', but the word car has been in use for at least four centuries as a term used for various types of horse-drawn carriages. By the end of the 19th century, however, the word car usually meant one of three things: a streetcar, railway car or, in Ireland, a two-wheeled vehicle drawn by one horse.The "jaunting car" was Dublin's predominant cab vehicle. It seems to have originated in the early 1800's as the "noddy", essentially a low-slung farm cart with seats. By the end of the century it had evolved into a charming but somewhat dangerous conveyance with two back-to-back bench seats facing out to each side. Despite its small size the car could accommodate up to four passengers sitting with their legs hanging over the sides. Its ability to carry this number of people on two wheels was the chief advantage of the design. Footboards helped keep the passengers in place, and sometimes a hinged bar running across their laps served as a crude seatbelt. Nevertheless, riders were in constant danger of being thrown off at sharp corners. The jaunting car was also called an Irish or Dublin car and sometimes an "outside" car (possibly because the passengers' legs hung outside the vehicle). James Joyce, in Ulysses also refers to them as "hackney cars", hackney being an old word meaning "for hire". As with cab vehicles in other cities, the Dublin jaunting cars were licensed and numbered. Some jaunting cars had rubber tyres, so apart from the noise made by horse's hooves, the most noise they made was the jingling of harness bells. The harness bells on the rubber-tired jaunting car were probably a safety feature designed to alert pedestrians and other drivers. When the first rubber-tired horse cabs went into service in London about 1880 they ran so quietly that harness bells were introduced to remedy this problem. The jaunting car did not monopolise the Dublin cab trade. Its advantages were lightness and speed (unless loaded down with four passengers) but it was uncomfortable to ride on, especially in cold or wet weather, and it did not have much room for luggage. If you had a lot of luggage, or if you wanted to stay dry in the rain, or if you didn't want to risk being thrown off on a sharp corner, you would hire the larger, slower and more comfortable four-wheeled "Growler". June 16th in Dublin is "Bloomsday", named in honour of Leopold and/or Molly Bloom, two of the principle characters in James Joyce's novel Ulysses. Ulysses was first published in 1922 and is set in Dublin during 16 June 1904 and it records the musings of Leopold, Molly and various other characters as they ponder their own existances and react to the sights, sounds and smells of the city around them and to the people they meet on their travels. Joyce's narrative is full of impressions of life in the Dublin of 1904. At one point, Bloom meditates on the life of drifting cabbies passing the "hazard", defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "a cab-stand (in Ireland)". The origins of the word hazard are not given, but cab stands were certainly traffic hazards since they occupied a large part of their street with cabs pulling in and out and customers approaching from all directions. Curious the life of drifting cabbies. All weathers, all places, time or set down, no will of their own. Voglio e non. Like to give them an odd cigarette. Sociable. Shout a few syllables as they pass. The cabs on Dublin's "hazards" were all horse cabs. Motor cars were still a rarity in the Dublin of 1904: A bed in those days was as rare as a motorcar is now. Back in the Eighteenth Century "set down" was a hackney coach term meaning to unload passengers at the completion of a trip. "Set down" in this sense appears in the 1739 edition of Joe Miller's Jests, for example. Gradually "set down" came to mean the trip itself: "for sixpence one may have a set down, as it is called, of a mile and a half, and a tumble down into the bargain".
In Dublin as in London, the usual method of hailing a cab was to whistle for it. If you weren't a "professional whistler" you could buy a special cab whistle. One whistle blast was the signal for a London four-wheeler, while two blasts summoned a Hansom. Presumably similar signals were used in Dublin for jaunting cars and four-wheelers.The first recorded cabmen's shelter was put up in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859. Liverpool, England, had one ten years later, built of brick and extremely bulky, giving rise to some traffic congestion. London did not get one until 1875. By providing accommodation for drivers on the stands, these shelters did much to encourage them not to seek shelter between fares in public houses. In Dublin, cabmen's shelters stood in what is now O'Connell Street, Pearse Street and near Butt Bridge offering some protection from the weather, as well as coffee and buns. In London the rules governing the use of shelters were as follows and I doubt if the rules concerning Dublin shelters were much different:- The Rules stated that:
1. This Shelter is for Cab-Drivers solely
2. The Drivers of the first two cabs on the rank are not to enter the Shelter (to ensure that there were always cabs available for hire)
3. No bad language
4. Attendant in charge is authorised to sell tea, coffee, bread and butter to drivers using the Shelter only, at prices as per tariff
5. The Attendant is instructed to see that the above Rules are strictly kept
The Attendant was also required to cook any food the drivers brought in and the charge for this was half a penny. Some publications also supplied magazines and newspapers to the shelters.
Watermen were London cab stand officials who ensured that cab horses had enough water to drink. Originally, the watermen seem to have been hangers-on who fetched buckets of water from the nearest pump, or did other services for hackney coachmen and their passengers in exchange for tips. By 1850 the waterman had become a quasi-police official charged not only with supplying water, but also with keeping order on the stands and administering punishments after disturbances. Ironically, the watermen were paid by the cab drivers themselves from a compulsory fee of one penny for each time they came onto the stand, and a further half penny each time they were hired from it.By 1860, watermen had been absorbed into the police force and were not only paid a regular wage of fifteen shillings a week, but were also issued with uniforms. Cab laws also required drivers to stay close enough to their cabs to keep control of their horses and there was no allowance for meal breaks or calls of nature. Because of this a tradition sprang up in London that, in moments of need, cab drivers were legally entitled to urinate against a cab wheel while parked on a stand. Jaunting car drivers were sometimes called "carmen" but a more common name for them was "jarvey". This word dates back to the 17th or 18th century, when jarvey was the term used for a London hackney coachman. The term's origin is obscure. One explanation links the word jarvey to St. Gervais given that the saint's symbol was a whip. The Oxford English Dictionary states that jarvey derives from a coachman named Jarvis who was hanged. By the 1880's "jarvey" had passed out of fashion and was replaced by the more familiar "cabby", but it remained popular in Ireland. Joyce uses the word over twenty times in Ulysses. The word "Jehu" was another nickname for cab drivers, a biblical reference, taken from the second book of Kings, chapter 9, verse 20:
"The driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously."
Dublin cabbies were noted for their sharp tongues. On wet days they wrapped up in heavy overcoats or oilskins. Despite the shelters provided, alcoholism amongst them was quite common. By ten o'clock at night most drivers were heavily under the influence and usually it was up to the horse to eventually find the way home.Drivers were strictly disciplined. In 1904 in Dublin, 1,194 were prosecuted for various offences including 'improperly feeding beast', 'driving to public danger', 'not having steps and footboard turned up while disengaged' and 'interior of vehicle dirty'.
Cabs and cars had the same scale of fares: -By Distance or Setdown - For a drive for one or more persons, nor returning with Hirer, for each statute mile going, 6d. Drivers may charge 1s for first mile or fraction of a mile going, when hiring shall terminate between 10pm and 9am or at any hour when there are two or more persons. Driver to bring back Hirer for a fare of 3d per mile returning at any hour. By Time - For the first ten minutes 6d. Between the hours of 10pm and 9am to be increased to 1s.
In 1904 in Dublin, 175 umbrellas, one gold ring and many coats and rugs were left behind in Dublin cabs, and five gold half-sovereigns were received by (honest) drivers in mistake for silver coins. In 1903 there were 766 cabs in Dublin the following year it had decreased to 656. But horse-drawn cabs remained on Dublin's streets until well into the 20th century, when they were eventually replaced by motor vehicles. Soon after the turn of the century the shelters' days were numbered, too. The need for a shelter from the elements decreased as drivers could find sanctuary in their cars. The first horseless cab, the Bersey electric-powered vehicle, appeared in 1897, followed by the first internal combustion engine cab in 1903. The last horse drawn cab in London was licensed in 1947.
Suggested sources for further reading –
Victorian and Edwardian Horse Cabsby Trevor May. Shire Publications. ISBN No - 07478 0430 3
Discovering Horse-drawn Vehicles by D.J. Smith. Shire Publications.ISBN No - 074780208 4
MAIL AND STAGE COACH TRAVEL
Up to the early 18th century, many journeys in Ireland were made on horse back on 'bridle routes' for the tracks not only led in a bee line up and down hills but also ran across sandy inlets of the sea when uncovered at low tide. This haphazard process became more organised in the 1600s with the division of the land into counties and the setting up of local government authorities in Ireland (Grand Juries) who were responsible for upkeep of the roads. In many cases, however, planned improvements were chiefly for the benefit of the land owners on the Juries rather than the public. Later, main arterial roads passed into the control of Turnpike Trusts which levied tolls from the users of their highways.
In 1777 the old road from Sligo to Boyle, Co Roscommon over the Curlew Mountains was found to be too steep for wheeled vehicles so a new road was contructed. It passed from Sligo to Ballysadare via Cloverhill instead of going by Oakfield and then on to Collooney to Knockbeg to Heathfield to Earlsfield to Ballymote. From Ballymote it passed through Battlefield and over the Curlew Mountains by a far less arduous route for the horses.
The mail coach road from Collooney to Boyle, by Tubberscanavan and Ballinafad, was constructed about the beginning of the nineteenth century. Prior to this, the old road went through Drumfin and crossed a ford at Behy and went on to Tawnagh.
In 1802, MacParlan in his 'Statistical Survey of County Sligo' wrote that "ten miles of a mail coach road, very broad and level, and directed towards Boyle so as to avoid hills, are already made; the remainder of the line to Boyle is presented and paid for. The mail coach undertakers, after it is finished, will no doubt vie in contracting for keeping horses and every accommodation for running a mail coach from Dublin to Sligo."
By 1800 the road network in Ireland comprised some 10,000 miles and organised services had become firmly established. Between 1815 and 1836 John McAdam was responsible for a road making revolution. He invented a whole new concept of road making - putting a new surface on the roads. This surface was simply base of compacted broken stone under a drainable surface. The difference from the old rut-ridden muddy quagmires was phenomenal - these new roads were said to have been 'macadamised'.
Up to 1817 the main Dublin to Sligo road passed right by the Royal Hotel in Boyle, Co Roscommon. In that year the road was diverted via Abbeytown, passing by Boyle Abbey and away from the town centre.
There were still risks in travelling by coach as the Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim newspapers report:-
2 December 1826 - Mail Coach delayed at Mullingar - breaks wheel
8 January 1828 - "...The Sligo mail coach was upset."
1 January 1829 - "In consequence of the flooded state of the road between Sligo and Boyle (in some places to the depth of five feet), notice was given that the Dublin mail would start every morning at 11:00am to make up for the time lost in taking a circuitous route."
4 February 1831 - scarce news to report from Dublin owing to the late arrival of four mail coaches owing to heavy falls of snow.
3 August 1831 - The mail coach was upset again "Mr Peter O'Connor slightly hurt."
February 1836 - Mail coach was upset again and several lives lost
April 1836 - A similar occurrance.
And so on, and so on...
To try and counteract reluctance to travel it was announced in 1833 that the fare to Dublin would be reduced to thirty shillings.
Statistics presented in 1845 by Noblett St Ledger (surname pronounced Sellenger) to the Sligo Grand Jury included the following on mail coach routes:-
"There are also 31 miles of mail coach road from Sligo to Ballina, averaging one shilling one and a half pence per perch and 22 miles of same from Sligo to Boyle, at three shillings three pence per perch, and 18 miles from Sligo to Derry at one shilling one and a half pence per perch..."
In the relief works of the 1840s many roads were constructed or improved.
In the 1880s, Wood-Martin in his History of Sligo, wrote:-
"The Sligo to Boyle mail coach road (at one time the greatest thoroughfare in the county), was, towards the end of the nineteenth century, for a considerable part of its length, almost deserted owing to the traffic being diverted by the railway."
THE POST OFFICE...
Mail delivery in Ireland dates back to 1638, when 'The Deputy Postmaster to Foreign Parts' Evan Vaughan organised post stages from Dublin to Belfast, Coleraine, Derry, Sligo, Galway and Cork.
The setting up of the General Post Office in 1710 led to the introduction of postal services to the main towns in Great Britain and Ireland. Until mail coaches were introduced in 1789, mail in Britain and Ireland was usually carried by 'post boys' who provided their own horses. These Mail Coaches, carrying both mail and passengers, ran along the main routes and were met by riders who brought the post to and from towns not directly served by the coaches. Privately operated stage coaches supplemented and competed with the mail coach services and, together, they established a pattern of routes which has endured.
Mail was expensive and had to be collected after a conveyance fee was paid at the post office by the addressee. The following is the cost of a single letter going any distance within Great Britain in 1808:-
Up to: 15 miles...4 pence; 30 miles...5 pence; 50 miles...6 pence; 80 miles...7 pence; 120 miles...8 pence; 170 miles...9 pence; 230 miles...10 pence; 300 miles...11 pence; 400 miles...1 shilling; 500 miles...1 shilling and 1 pence.
In 1827, the Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette listed the new rates for postage:-
Within 7 Irish miles - 2d; between 95 and 120 miles - 10d
In 1840 Rowland Hill reformed the postal service by introducing postage stamps so that the sender paid for the postage. He understood that if people could be encouraged to exchange letters, postal charges could be greatly reduced.
Toward the end of the great mail-coach era, novellist Anthony Trollope served as a travelling inspector in the employ of the Post-Office.
From 1855 to 1994, mail was transported by rail on special mail carriages, where postal staff sorted the mail as the train travelled through the night, stopping at stations across the country. In a major modernisation project in 1994, Letter Post in the Republic of Ireland has gone back to being transported by road.
CHARLES BIANCONI - KING OF THE IRISH ROADS...
The year 1815 marked the inauguration of the first horse-car service by Charles Bianconi ("the king of the Irish roads"). Bianconi was an Italian immigrant, having been born in 1786 in Tregolo, near Como. He came up with the idea of a car service to link towns.
On 6th July 1815 when the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the carriage-tax had flooded the market with cheap horses and cars he started to run a One-Horse Cart between Clonmel and Cahir which extended to Thurles, Limerick and Waterford charging one penny per mile. His cars spread throughout the West and South of Ireland, and by 1825 the carts were also delivering mail and were covering 1,170 miles a day. The carts came to be known locally as "BAINS".
In 1832, Bianconi began running a car from Longford to Sligo in connection with the canal boat from Dublin to Mullingar. The use of boats on rivers dates from ancient times, however, this form of transport was often hindered the by the presence of mills with their weirs and demands for water. This resulted in a long history of argument and controversy. In 1715 the Irish Parliament took steps to encourage inland navigation, but it was not until 1779 (after a disastrous first attempt a decade earlier) that the first 12-mile section of the Grand Canal was opened.
In January 1824, the 'Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette' carried an advertisement for the Royal Canal - Dublin to Boyle by water and then by caravan to Sligo.
In 1849, Bianconi bought out the other proprietors and became the sole possessor of vehicular traffic to Sligo. In 1864 receipts from passengers and freight totalled 40,000 pounds and the service covered nearly four thousand miles of road. Wisely, he refused to oppose the establishment of the railways, instead taking shares in some of them. Retiring in 1865, he sold his business on liberal terms to his agents and employees and passed the rest of his long life at his estate near Cashel, where he died in September 1875.
Bianconi had his own factory where he built his coaches. Some of the coaches were two wheeler coaches but from 1833 onwards he mostly built 4 wheeler coaches which were called long cars.
DUBLIN: In 1810 the Sligo mail from Dublin left every night at 7:45pm from the 'Royal Mail Coach Office, Hibernian Hotel, 40 Dawson Street'. The Bianconi coach left Co. Dublin at five minutes to six in the morning. His car business was based in the yard of what is now Hearn's Hotel, Parnell Street.
LONGFORD: The archway at the side of Cullens, Longford was once the entrance to the yard where the Bianconi coaches would change horses on the Dublin to Sligo mail coach run.
LEITRIM: Stopped at three post-offices in Dromod, Drumsna and Jamestown. In 1824, the Royal Mail Coach from Dublin to Sligo passed through Drumsna at 10:20am. That from Sligo to Dublin passed through Drumsna at 3:30pm.
CASTLEBAR: In the 1830's a mail coach left Sligo left Sligo at 9:45 each morning, travelling through Ballisodare, Skreen, Dromore West, Easkey, Enniscrone and Ballina and arriving in Castlebar at 5:30 in the evening. A return coach left Castlebar at 7:00 in the morning and arrived in Sligo at 2:45 in the afternoon. The average speed was eight miles per hour. In the 1840's there was a Bianconi car on the route on Saturdays. In 1863 the driver was Tom Fitzgerald, described as an able handler and charming story teller.
BOYLE: The Mail Coach stopped at the bottom of 'Green hill' (i.e. the hill which leads up towards the Church of Ireland, now called Green Street) in Boyle to have extra horses yoked to enable it to climb the hill. From Dublin, the coach entered Boyle via Primrose Hill, now The Crescent, and left it via Green Street and Green Hill continuing on past the Church of Ireland and onto the Curliew Mountains to Sligo. Passengers were set down and taken up at the arch of the Royal Hotel, built in 1782. Green Street Website :- http://homepage.eircom.net/~greenst/index.html
1824 DUBLIN-SLIGO-DUBLIN MAIL COACH SCEDULE...
In May 1826, the 'Roscommon and Leitrim Gazette' stated that from 1 June 1826 the day coach will start at 5AM for Dublin and arrive at 7PM.
In Co Sligo, Bianconi had offices at Ballard, Dromard Parish; Camcuill, Kilmacshalgan Parishes (Sligo-Ballina Route) and Linen Hall Street/Corcorans Mall, Sligo Town; Knocknagroagh, Kilmorgan Parish (Sligo-Dublin Route).
In Co Roscommon Bianconi had offices at Bridge Street, Boyle Town (Sligo-Dublin Route); Cashel and Bellanagare, Kilcorky Parish and at Main Street, Roscommon Town.
THE COACHES THEMSELVES...
Royal Mail coaches were built to Post Office specifications. Taking these specifics into account, the special coaches for the Royal Mail were then built by London carriage maker John Besant with his own patented design. When Besant died in 1791, his partner John Vidler continued to produce the light, agile mail-coaches with only minor modifications until 1835. Since the coaches were built to tight specifications and standards, interchangeability of parts proved to be a boon for repairs, both on the road and at the coach-builder's shop.
The mail-coach was constructed primarily of ash framing with deal side-panels and a mahogany floor. The side panels were covered in leather and then painted. The under-carriage was ash; felloes were beech or ash; and the wheel spokes were oak. The pole was made of ash, as were the luggage and the mail box frames.
The coach body measured 10 feet 8 inches long, from the bottom of the footboard to the end of the mail box. Its height from the ground to the top of the door was 7 feet 2 inches, and the width of the track was 5 feet 1 inch. Inside, the 4-passenger compartment measured a cramped 43-1/2 inches wide and 42-1/2 inches from top of seat to roof top. Legroom was a compressing 18-1/2 inches. The fore wheels were 42 inches in diameter and the rear ones 54 inches.
The wooden body was heavily painted to make it proof against water and mud, hence the culture of 'coach painting' and building that developed as an art form. Fifty coats of paint would not be unusual. There is a high ground clearance to move over and through the potholes and ditches of the earthen roads. The front wheels are smaller than the rear set to allow for effective steering as the wheels can pass under the overhang of the carriage. The driver is high up to allow a good view and to keep out of the mud, stones and dust that gets thrown up by the horses and wheels. The passengers all have travel rugs to keep warm.
The front boot of the coach held passenger luggage and the rear boot held the mailbags. Access to this mail compartment was through a locked trap door below the guard's feet. The guard's seat was situated above the mail box and fastened to an iron perch. A padlocked wooden case was attached behind the passenger compartment and held the guard's blunderbuss. The coachman's seat rested above the luggage box, unsprung, to avoid the possibility of his being too comfortable on a journey and falling asleep. A metal skid-pad (often called a shoe or slipper) was fastened to a chain attached to the undercarriage. When the occasion arose, this was placed beneath the rear wheel to prevent the coach from rolling too fast down steep declines in the road The interior of the coach had a drab fawn-coloured fabric and lace lining with double crimson stripes and matching carpet. The cushions were stuffed with the best horsehair, oilcloth was fitted to the bottom of the coach and door kick-panels, and there were two pockets made of drab fawn fabric on each door.
The Mail Coach clock was brass bound in a mahogany case. The case had an inset carrying handle to the top and a brass back which was locked on the underside. This was to make sure that the timekeeping wasn't adjusted during a journey. The guard was required at certain stages of his journey to hand the locked timepiece to the local postmaster, the time being entered on the guard's waybill. The stagecoach's had been running for many years but the period from 1825 were their heyday when 'Wonder' ran as the first timed stagecoach from London to Shrewsbury. The increasing railway network saw the stagecoaches decline rapidly until 1845 saw very little passenger activity.
William Wregg is recorded as working at 17, Shaftesbury Place and at Aldersgate Street as a watchmaker. F. Wregg, presumably his son, his recorded at the same addresses in 1849.
The body was painted in understated but elegant style; first in blue and orange, then--for most of its life--the mail coach sported the combination of maroon lower body and door panels, set off against black upper body and boots. The undercarriage and wheels were a highly contrasting Post-Office red. Although there were exceptions, this was pretty much the standard paint scheme for the Royal Mail. On each door, the Royal cypher was emblazoned in color between the two words Royal and Mail in gilt outlined in black. On the maroon panel just below the window, the destination town was lettered in the same style. The reigning monarch's initials were painted in gilt on each side of the luggage boot, and the coach's number was emblazoned on the mail boot. The Stars of the Garter and Thistle were painted on the near side of the upper body, and the Bath and St. Patrick signet on the offside. 11 inch brass lamps, fastened to each side, set off the elegant appearance like a pair of fashionable earrings, and gave it a truly aristocratic bearing.
An armed guard and coachman who each carried a blunderbuss and a brace of pistols protected the Royal Mail and passengers from highwaymen, and also acted as the hornblower alerting people to the arrival of the Mail. The mail-coach guards were required to read and write in order to complete the time-sheet or way bill and they carried a time-piece set each evening before leaving the General Post-Office. The guards also served as mechanics, and in England were trained at Besant & Vidler's yard in Millbank to handle simple breakdowns. By postal regulations, Guards must have a wrench, cord chain, wheel clips, shackle perch bolt, drift pin, nails, screwdriver, worms and screws, and also a double or long spreading bar. This repair kit was stowed in the front boot of the coach.
The team of horses could be changed for another in a matter of minutes, the fastest time recorded was for a James Selby who changed a team in 47.2 seconds in 1888. Each fresh team of 4 horses for the mail were ready harnessed for quick change, which usually took about 3 minutes.
At each Post Office the Post Master would greet the coach, as it was in Post Office regulations that that an officer of the Post Office must be present to receive the Royal Mail - at whatever time and by whatever method of transport.
THE STAGE COACH...
The public Stage Coach was modified in order to cram on more roof seats. They were pulled by two, four or even six horses and weighed approximately 1.25 tons without passengers and were painted black with scarlet wheels and undercarriage and each route had its own number. The old Irish stage coaches were cumbrous vehicles and as the roads were rough and gradients at first entirely disregarded, the horses had to be choses more for strength than speed. In about 1790 a new stage coach was advertised to begin running between Dublin and Sligo. Included in the advertisement was the following reassurance that it "was lined with copper, and therefore completely bullet-proof."
In 1812 there was only one stage coach travelling between Sligo and Belfast, viz. the Dublin and Derry mail.
The extra cost of riding the Royal Mail carried the benefits of somewhat cleaner coaches and a slightly better class of people than those riding normal stages or wagons. Mail-coach passengers were virtually guaranteed not to experience the many vulgarities of stage-coaches, which often carried up to 15 or more passengers inside and out and had the unpleasant habit of tipping over, often with fatal consequences. One coachman on the Manchester stage stopped at an inn to let two inside passengers out, and as he was remounting his box, the horses set off at full gallop, causing the coach to overturn injuring many of the passengers. Upon investigation, it was found that the coach was carrying 23 passengers instead of the already overburdening 18 (plus luggage) listed on the way-bill. Mathematical error was no excuse, and the coachman was dismissed.
Drunken coachmen were another hazard which could be more easily avoided by booking a seat on the Royal Mail, although there was no guarantee. The mail-coach also smelled better. Its passengers were more likely to be spared the obnoxious scents of pungent urine and vomit, soiled children, stale and musty carpeting; plus assorted vermin hitching a ride with the great unwashed of the stage-coach set.
STAND AND DELIVER...
Aside from pickpockets, few robbers actually exercised their job descriptions at inns. Although they did size-up stage and private coach customers who might like to donate to the widders and orphans fund a little farther down the road, mail-coach robbery was not a spur of the moment undertaking for them. The speed of mail-coaches put a single robber at an extreme disadvantage. In this case, two or more robbers would spring into action and, juggling their job responsibilities, attempt to get the drop on coachman and guard while halting the horses and liberate the mail. This took a lot of practice and was best performed in a sober state of mind.
The Irish had already solved this sticky problem; sometimes robbing mail-coaches by setting up road blocks and attacking them in groups of up to a dozen or more.
Robbery was not so much career selection; but more a matter of economic survival. Numerous highwaymen (and a few ladies) were former servants who had been turned-off when their masters were forced to downsize due to heavy taxes; while others were soldiers returning from war, who could not find employment in the increasingly industrialized England which was replacing manual labour with machines. This is not to excuse their behavior, but only to put it in perspective.
There were 'stages' along the routes for the convenience of the passengers and for the changing and watering of the horses. These stages were every eight miles on each side of the road. As well as these, along the roads were sign boards inviting travellers to many roadside inns. One of these was in Ballinafad on the Sligo side of the Curlew Mountains and stated:-
"Friends, slip in and take a gill,
'Twill serve to help you up the hill."
Michael Walsh of Cloghogue near Castlebaldwin, Co Sligo owned a stage on the Mail Coach Road. The house was a two-storied thatched building with eight rooms. The stables could accommodate sixteen horses.
Specific inns were scheduled horse changing stops for the Royal Mail and pit-stops for passengers, who could stretch their legs for a few minutes, exercise their bowels and, perhaps, get a quick meal of dubious, yet multi-textured nature. In his Letters from England, published in 1807, Robert Southey gives a wonderful description of the hustle and bustle at a coaching inn: "The perpetual stir and bustle of this inn is as surprising as it is wearisome. Doors opening and shutting, bells ringing, voices calling to the waiter from every quarter, while he cries 'coming,' to one room, and hurries away to another. Everybody is in a hurry here; either they are going off in packets, and are hastening their preparations to embark; or they have just arrived, and are impatient to be on the road homeward. Every now-and-then a carriage rattles up to the door with a rapidity which makes the very house shake. The man who cleans the boots is running in one direction, the barber with his powder-bag in another; here goes the barber's boy with his hot water and razors; there comes the clean linen from the washer-woman; and the hall is full of porters and sailors bringing in luggage, or bearing it away; now you hear a horn blow because the post is coming in, and in the middle of the night you are awakened by another because it is going out. Nothing is done in England without noise, and yet noise is the only thing they forget in the bill!" The accommodations were nothing to write home about but they were, nevertheless, welcome after long hours on the road in close company with some people you might otherwise cross the street to avoid. My 7x Great Grandfather, Edmund Rowlatt, was an Aleseller. He and his family lived at Carrowkeel, Tawnagh Parish, Co Sligo and are listed on the 1749 Diocese of Elphin Census. Carrowkeel was and still is situated on the main Sligo to Dublin road - very convenient for both local and passing trade! I'm not sure what Edmund's Grandfather, another Edmund/Edward Rowlatt - a Church of England clergyman - would have said about his grandson's occupation, though! Bits and Bobs... On 15 August 1925, horse-drawn cabs were taken off the streets of Bradford, Yorkshire, England. ack. Freeman's Journal of 15 October 1764 - A gentleman passing through Patrick's Well Lane was chance splashed by a Hackney coach horse; upon which the humane Gentleman drew his sword; and ran the Beast through the body, of which it instantly expired, the coachman followed the Gentleman and found out his name; and marked a writ against him for 18l damage which he is obliged to pay. Freeman's Journal of December 20 1764 - In the evening a Hackney Chaisman drove his horse and chaise into the watering place in Barrack St, but going out too far, they were carried away by the rapidity of the current, and both the man and the horse were unfortunately drowned. An oral examination originally devised, in the latter part of Queen Victoria's reign, was designed for the illiterate standing in front of serving police officers, dealing with an area six miles in diameter from Charing Cross, London. As the candidate progressed he would earn reductions for his next appearance, until efficiency was achieved and the applicant was considered capable of navigating a cab around London. The present day London cab owes its origins to the old Thames water men who plyed for hire as far back as Anglo-Saxon times. The right to ply for hire on the Thames was granted by Royal Charter, this had to be confirmed by each succeeding Monarch. The right of the City of London to govern the Thames was granted by Richard I in 1193, it was confirmed by Richard II in 1393 giving control of the river from the Medway up stream to Staines.The first use of the word hackney was used in a Patent issued by Richard II in 1396, which read: "There shall be taken for the hire of a hakenie from Suthwuk (Southwark) in London to Rochester 12d; from Rochester to Canterbury 12d; and from Canterbury to Dover 6d and from town to town according to the rayte of 12d and number of miles". The name 'hackney' refers to a breed of high stepping horse that could be hired from hackneymen's stables, which were set at intervals along the route from London to various Towns. These stables became known as hackney stages and later when coaches became the main form of travel they became stage coaches.With the introduction of coaches into England during the rein of Elizabeth I, it soon became the natural form of passenger carrying transport. The first recorded use of a hackney coach appears in 1588 when Elizabeth I attended a thanksgiving service at St. Paul's Cathedral following the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The use of the coach was well established by the beginning of the 17th century. Opposition to the hackney coach failed to stem them, a Bill was placed before Parliament against the outrageous hackney coaches in 1614, and defeated on 7th May that year. Captain Bailey a retired mariner established a rank for six hackney coaches at the Maypole in the Strand London in 1643. With the coming of the Commonwealth and Oliver Cromwell an Act of Parliament became Law on 24th June that year, granting licenses to 200 hackney coaches to ply for hire on the streets of London. This was the foundation of the licensed London Hackney cab. Following the restoration of Charles II, Parliament passed another Hackney Carriage Act in 1662, fixed to run for a term of 17 years. In 1685 The Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London passed an Act of Common Council which could only give the hackney coachmen the right to ply for hire in the City of London. Then in 1694 Parliament needing money to carry on the War against the French passed another Act that licensed the hackney coachmen once more. In 1828 Frederick Gye asked the Hackney Coach Commissioners to license 300 coaches and cabriolets. The Commissioners replied that the existing Law did not permit them to License more than 1,200 coaches and cabs and that the full quota had been taken up. They also pointed out that to put 300 coaches and cabs on the road would require capital of 66,000 pounds. Gye was at this time the Member of Parliament for Chippenham, a few years earlier he had won 30,000 pounds in a lottery, for which he had the contract to print the tickets! Gye asked his friend and Parliamentary colleague to help him obtain the License, his friend being non other than the Iron Duke', The Duke of Wellington, the Prime Minister. In an 1831 Act of Parliament that came into effect in 1833, quashed the quota and opened the streets of London to all. From the 17th century until the present, through the age of the Hansom cab, and the early Motor Cab. For the first 200 years cabs were licensed by the Corporation of London, then 150 years ago authority was passed to the Metropolitan Police. This year the licensing authority will once again become a civic authority with the creation of the Greater London Authority in July. over 350 years of service to the people of London and continual Parliamentary control of London's hackney carriages. The first horseless cab, the Bersey electric-powered vehicle, appeared in 1897, followed by the first internal combustion engine cab in 1903.Motor cabs appeared in London later than in other European cities because of the 12 mph speed limit. This was raised to 20 mph in 1903, when London still had more than 11,000 horse drawn cabs. Within 10 years the number had fallen to less than 2,000. The number of motorised cabs, however, rose to almost 100 in 1906 and there are now over 19,000 on the roads. The last horse drawn cab was licensed in 1947.