Chronology:    Bargery Number Main Themes:
1825-29 267 Much faster travel brought by steam power
1830-34 378; 554 Unemployment and destitution of those associated with horses
1835-39 141; 199; 416; 626 Anticipated economic benefits of the railways
1840-44 549  
1845-49 306  
1860-64  473  
1865-69  545
Uncertain 202



End of the coaching era. (The train in the background looks very like one used on the Manchester and Liverpool)
Science Museum/Science Museum and Society Picture Library

The development of self-powered road vehicles was scuppered by the blocking tactics of the various road interests: turn-pike trusts; stage coach companies; and short distance passenger and freight carriers. (See under Steam Coaches). Their short-sightedness gave the more capital intensive and technically demanding railway system, the time needed to develop into a successful economic force.

Ordinary people could not afford to use stage coaches or the coaching inns many of which were exclusively for the benefit of stage coach passengers. Coachmen were disliked for their haughty attitude to other road users and their wild driving. The catastrophic collapse of the stage coach business was a cause for celebration.

When the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in 1830, there were 29 stage and mail coaches running daily between Liverpool and Manchester. The rail journey was more than twice as fast and little more than half the price (at second class rates) of the stagecoach journey. Within five months of the opening, only four coaches remained. A few years later, a coaching proprietor claimed that loss of customers to the new London-Birmingham railway forced him to take seven of his nine coaches out of service. The remaining passenger he said were "mostly people who are timid and do not like to go by railroad" and he feared that the number of timid people was rapidly declining.

In contrast to the stage coaches, country people valued stage wagons which were their only means of long distance travel, until the cost of railway travel came down to their level.

"When the poor had to travel they used the old-fashioned stage wagons, drawn by four, six, or even eight horses, which were chiefly used for the carriage of goods. They never moved out of a walk and were in charge of a carter who usually walked beside his team.
[E.W. Bovill, English country Life 1780-1830, 1959]

Stage wagons were used mainly for freight and quickly succumbed to competition from the railways. During 1830s a 'comic singer' called Paul Bedford made his own version of a song about the stage wagon trade.


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