Hackney Carriages

We are always reading about people driving around London in a Hackney carriage so I thought it might be interesting to look at them a little more closely.

Of course we are all aware of the licences in taxis or cabs as we call them today. In the Regency they were hackney carriages or coaches. And they were equally rule-bound, believe it or not.

An Ordinance for the Regulation of Hackney-Coachmen in London and the places adjacent" was approved by Parliament in 1654, to remedy what it described as the "many Inconveniences [that] do daily arise by reason of the late increase and great irregularity of Hackney Coaches and Hackney Coachmen in London, Westminster and the places thereabouts". The first hackney-carriage licences date from 1662.

Over the years rules and regulations were added as were the number of licences. By my count there were 1000 licenced Hackney coaches and another 500 chariots supplemented by an unknown number of one-horse chaises. However I'm not known for my math, so if this number is important to you I suggest you go to original sources.

By the way, a London Hackney or Cab licence is a highly sought after item, even today.

Now where was I. Yes rules and Regs. They covered such things as the number of passengers according the the size of the hackney (always with the allowance of one servant riding outside), the size of the horses (not below 14 hands. There were fines for abusive language (I wouldn't mind seeing some of those dished out in shopping malls) and fines for extortion - as in extortionate fares.

I thought this rules rather interesting!

Obligation to go.
And they shall be compellable on every day, and at any hour of the night, although they may have been out twelve hours, to go with any person or persons desirous of hiring them, and no more than the regular fare allowed on such occasions.

It appears that our forefathers were just as careless with their umbrellas and other property as we are on trains today, for this following rule also appears.

How Property Left in Coaches or Chariots is to be disposed of.
The drivers of hackney coaches, wherein any property is left, shalt carry each property, in the state in which it was found, within four days, to the Hackney-coach office, and deposit the same with one of the clerks, under a penalty not exceeding 20l.

I have not included all of the detail but you can find it in New Picture of London, Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand; by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819 along with a list of major Hackney Stands throughout London.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Regency Public Transportation

It seems hard to imagine a world where there are no buses, or trains or planes, doesn’t it? A trip from England to North America could take a very long time on a sail ship. A trip from London to Dover, a scant 50 miles, just over a hundred clicks to you Canadians and Europeans, took all day by carriage. I can recall in my teens popping down to Dover and back from the outskirts of London for a meal of Dover sole.

It also took a good few days to get to Gretna Green in Scotland, in case any of you were thinking of eloping, apparently the roads were very bad. You can read a little about this in my novel "No Regrets" coming out in November.

So the rich people had those gorgeous carriages we looked at on Monday, but what about the regular folk, the farmers and business men, the maids going home to visit their families. Well there were several kinds of vehicles.

The mail coach was one way to get around. They did not take a great many passengers. Their job was to deliver the mail. But they did have room for inside and on top and they were really the fastest mode of public transport because they had set routs, set times for arrival and departure and they did not have to stop at the toll gates, if you remember from Monday.

Mail coaches were painted maroon below and black above with red wheels and undercarriage. The royal arms appear on the door and the royal monogram is on each side below the driver’s box. The stars of the senior orders of chivalry (#159) were painted on the four upper quarters, garter, thistle, bath, and St. Patrick. The mail locker carried the route designation on the back, with the coach number on either side. Mail coaches carried at most seven passengers – four inside, one next to the coachman, and two on a roof bench just behind the coachman. The passengers’ limited luggage was stored in the compartment below the driver. The guard sat at the back (#160) in a single seat lined with bearskin for warmth. It was deliberately fastened to the coach with iron rods that transmit every bump and sway, so no guard would become so comfortable that he fell asleep.

There were also private companies that ran stagecoaches. These were also quite efficient by the Regency, when the roads were in a much better state of repair than they had been in earlier Georgian times. It was collecting money at the tollgates that made this possible. Stage coaches also kept to schedule, though they moved slower than the mail, in part because they had to stop at every tollgate, in part because they were more heavily loaded than a mail coach, in part because they were extremely top-heavy and prone to overturning if they cornered too fast, but mostly because they usually stopped for the night – stages often had financial ties to coaching inns, so only express coaches ran at night. This stagecoach is going up a steep incline, so all the passengers have to get out and walk

However, these were only the main roads. There were still lots of cart-tracks and country lanes with ruts in the hot weather and muddy quagmires deep enough to swallow a carriage in the rainy weather. And once in a while there was snow to contend with. My story, Christmas Masquerade, involves a heroine stuck in the snow. I may have mentioned that before, but you know this blog is about me and I am a writer, so live with it. (that was me been Miss Snark for a sentence.)

Other forms of public transportation were hackney carriages, used only in Town and primarily in London. Of course, you could still call a sedan chair. This would have suited some of the older generation. Can you imagine having to carry people around in a box. Looks a bit too much like a coffin for me.

In the country, there were wagons on which you could buy a seat. Not very comfortable, but not very expensive either. This is a freight waggon in the snow. Look at the little lantern on the side. Great headlights!

Some people who lived on the coast might catch a ship to make their journey to England.

Well, I’ve run out of time, and we have only scratched the surface. But I hope you had fun on our Ramble.

Seen you Monday. I think I will do some timelines as an added bonus, but not sure about my theme. I will think about it on the weekend, unless you have a request. No promises, mind you. It depends what I have access to.