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Coaching and coach horns

The society welcomed Colin Pawson to the talk tonight. Colin presented a history of coaching and coach horns. Roads of the time, 16th century and on were essentially compacted earth. These became dust bowls in the summer and wet bogs in the winter. Coaches would have wheels 9 inches wide as a minimum so as not to cut up routes. Colin noted that roads were often as wide as one side of the M4, but they got smaller as the railway came in to use.

Thomas Telford and John MacAdam improved the state of the roads with new construction methods. In 1784 John Palmer, a theatre manager from Bath, introduced the first Royal Mail Coach. This took just 16 hours to travel from Bath to London. Horses would be changed every 8 to 12 miles. The coach could fit 4 passengers inside and several more on top. The mail coach would blow a horn when approaching a turnpike, the turnpike gate would then be opened for them without the need for the coach to stop.

Stage coaches would accommodate 4 passengers inside and up to 13 outside and it was not uncommon for people to fall off. Like the mail coach, each stage would see horses changed with a claim that in one case this could be done in just 47 seconds!