Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, taken from original sources, Volume II

Ashton, John


CHAPTER XXXVI: Carriages, Etc.


CHAPTER XXXVI: Carriages, Etc.




AMONG the many places swept away, and yet which many of us well remember, is Smithfield, where both cattle and horses were sold; and Ward gives a very amusing account of the horse sales there. ' From thence we proceeded to the Rails, where Country Carters stood Arm'd with their Long Whips, to keep their Teams (upon Sale in a due Decorum,) who were drawn up into the most sightly order with their fore feet Mounted on a Dunghill, and their Heads dress'd up to as much advantage as an Inns of Court Sempstress, or the Mistress of a Boarding School: Some with their Manes Frizzled up, to make 'em appear high Wither'd, that they look'd as Fierce as one of Hungess's Wild Boars. Others with their Manes Plaited, as if they had been ridden by the Nightmare: And the fellows that attended 'em made as uncouth Figures as the Monsters in the Tempest; amongst these Cattel, here and there, was the Conductor of a Dung Cart, in his Dirty Surplice, wrangling about the Price of a Beast, as a wary Purchaser; and that he ought not to be deceived in the Goodness of the Creature, he must see him stand three fair Pulls at a Post, to which the Poor Jade is ty'd, that he may exert his Strength, and shew the Clown his excellencies; for which he strokes him on the Head, or claps him on the Buttocks, to recompence his Labour.

'We went a little further, and there we saw a parcel of Ragged Rapscallions, mounted upon Scrubbed Tits, scowring


about the Rounds, some Trotting, some Galloping, some Pacing, and others Stumbling.

'Pray friend, said I, what are those Eagle Look'd Fellows in their Narrow Brimm'd White Beavers, Jockeys Coats, a Spur in one Heel, and Bended Sticks in their Hands, that are so busily peeping into every Horses Mouth? . . . Those Blades, says my friend, are a Subtle Sort of Smithfield Foxes, called Horse Coursers, who Swear every Morning by the Bridle, that they will not, from any Man, suffer a Knavish trick, or ever do an Honest one. They are a sort of English Jews, that never deal with any Man but they Cheat him; and have a rare Faculty of Swearing a Man out of his Senses, Lying him out of his Reason, and Cozening him out of his Money; If they have a Horse to sell that is Stone Blind, they'll call a Hundred Gods to Witness he can see as well as you can. If he be downright Lame, they will use all the Asseverations that the Devil can assist 'em with, that it is nothing but a Spring Halt; and if he be Twenty Years old, they'll Swear he comes but Seven next Grass, if they find the Buyer has not Judgment enough to discover the Contrary.'

This horse market was of importance to the metropolis, which was supplied from the country fairs, from which the horses came up in droves. 'A Set of Geldings and Mares, just from a Journey to be sold Cheap.' So many were wanted for riding, carriages, and draught purposes. Horsestealing was a crime so extremely prevalent, that it is difficult to take up a paper that does not contain an advertisement respecting a lost or stolen horse.

Some of the inland traffic was still done by means of pack-horses. 'These give Notice to all Gentlemen or others that have occasion to send Goods, or travel from London to Exeter or Plymouth, or from Exeter and Plymouth, or any parts of Cornwall or Devonshire to London; that they may be accommodated for Expedition by Pack Horse Carriage, who set out from the Cross Keys Inn in Wood Street London every Saturday, and from the Mermaid Inn in Exon every Monday. Perform'd, if God permit, by Ebenezer Brookes.' But there were also waggons, which, by


the divine permission, started for every town of note in England.

Stage coaches ran to most of the towns; and we may judge of the time they took over their journeys, Gloucester, 82 miles, in one day, and Hereford, 134 miles, in one day and a half. Their fares may be somewhat approximately guessed at: Bath, 16s.; Bristol, 15s. to 18s. ; and Gosport, 9s. Steele gives an amusing description in the Spectator (No. 132) of stage-coach travelling: how the captain was subdued by the good plain sense of Ephraim the Quaker. 'We can not help it, Friend, I say; if thou wilt, we must hear thee.... To speak indiscreetly what we are obliged to hear, by being hasped up with thee in this publick Vehicle is in some degree assaulting on the high road.' The captain took the rebuke in good part, and thorough good-fellowship prevailed. ' Faith, Friend, I thank thee: I should have been a little impertinent if thou hadst not reprimanded me.'

In 'A Step to the Bath' we get an insight into stagecoach travelling. 'Enquiring of the Tapster what Company I was like to have, he said more he believ'd than I desir'd; for there was four Places taken just after I went, and three of the Passengers were in the House, and to Lye there that Night; the other was for a Merchant of Bristol. Then asking what those in the House were, he told me two Gentlewomen and their Maid Servant, who were just going to Supper. Whereupon I bid him go and give my Service to 'em, and tell 'em I was to Travel with 'em to morrow, and should take it as a great favour, if they would please to Honour me so far, as to admit me of their Company, for I was alone. The Fellow brought word they desir'd me to walk in, and they should be very glad of mine.... Supper being ended, they call'd for a Bill, which was presently brought; out I lugg'd and was going to Discharge, but they begg'd my Pardon, and would by no means suffer me; telling me that I must submit to the Rule that is generally observ'd in Travelling, for the Major of either Sex to Treat the Minor.'

They breakfasted at Colebrook, dined at Reading, and then drained the merchant's bottle of 'Right Nants'; after


which one of the ladies told a story. They stopped at Theale to taste Old Mother Cleanly's bottled ale and plum cake; then the merchant told a story; and the day's journey terminated at Newbury. There they supped, and grumbled loudly at the bill. 'For a brace of Midling Trouts they charged us but a Leash of Crowns, Six Shillings for a Shoulder of Mutton and a Plate of Gerkins, Three and Sixpence for Six Rowles, and three Nipperkins of Belch; and two Shillings more for Whip in drinking our. Healths. Their Wine indeed was good, so was their price; and in a Bill of two pound four Shillings, they made a mistake but of Nine; I ask'd what Countrey-man my Landlord was? answer was made, Full North; and Faith 'twas very Evident, for he had put the Yorkshire most damnably upon us.'

Next morning one of the ladies presented them with a pot of chocolate of her own preparing; they refilled the merchant's bottle, and started, beguiling the way with stories. Came to Marlborough, where the road was so bad that the brandy bottle was broken; and there they breakfasted. They seem to have dined at Calne or Chippenham, complaining bitterly of the roads, the last portion of which was got over at the rate of two miles in three hours. Here they stopped at a famous house, where 'there was more Coaches and Waggons drawn up before her Gate, than Hacks in Palace Yard, during the Session of Parliament, or Term Time. All her Entertainment is Loins of Mutton or Rabbits; and she makes more Broth in a day than all the Chop Houses in Castle Alley in a Week.'

'Having Din'd, we proceeded on our Journey, but with a great deal of difficulty; for the Road was so Rocky, Unlevel, and Narrow in some places, that I am persuaded the Alps are to be passed with less Danger,' and they finally reached Bath that evening.

The roads were bad almost everywhere, and no one travelled more than they could help. The coaches were heavy and strong, to stand the fearful wear and tear; but, to the passengers, a journey was simply the time spent in torture. Even in London the stones jolted terribly. Says Ward 'When our Stratford Tub by the assistance of its


Carrionly Tits of different Colours, had outrun the Smoothness of the Road, and enter'd upon London stones, with as frightful a rumbling as an empty Hay Cart, our Leathern Conveniency being bound in the Braces to its good Behaviour, had no more Sway than a Funeral Herse, or a Country Waggon; That we were jumbled about like so many Pease in a Child's Rattle, running at every Kennel Jolt a great hazard of a Dislocation: This we endured till we were brought within White Chappel Bars, where we lighted from our stubborn Caravan with our Elbows and Shoulders as Black and Blew as a Rural Man that has been under the pinches of an angry Fairy.'

Posthouses were at convenient stages all over the kingdom, and the postmaster was bound to provide horses for all comers, either to ride or drive. His duties and tariffs were as follows:-

'The Post Master is obliged to receive of every Person, Riding Post with Horses and Guide, thus 3d. per Mile for each Horse Hire and 4d. per Stage for a Guide.

'And no Person carrying a Bundle that doth not exceed 80 lbs. Averdupoise, shall be charged for it.

'If through the default of the Post Master, any Person Riding Post shall fail of being furnished, he shall forfeit 5£. Or if the Post Master cannot, or do not furnish any Person with Horses for Riding Post, then they are at Liberty to provide Horses for themselves; but no Horses to be seized without the Owner's Consent.

'The other way that Gentlemen commonly Travel is in Stage Coaches, which is from about 2d. Farthing to 3d. per Mile. The Flying Coach is a Stage Coach, that is drawn by 6 Horses, and will sometimes run 90 or 100 English Miles on one day.

'It may also be noted that Carriage by Waggon or Pack Horses, is about 5 Shillings for carrying 112 Pound Weight 100 Miles; and so in proportion; though 'tis something cheaper in the Summer than Winter.' [1] 

The hackney coach was a very useful institution, in spite of all said against it. We have read Ward's description of the bumping he had in one; in another part of the London


Spy he says: 'Would you have me, said I, undergo the Punishment of a Coach again, when you Know I was so great a Sufferer by the last, that it made my Bones rattle in my Skin, and has brought as many Pains about me, as if troubled with the Rheumatism. That was a Country Coach, says he, and only fit for the Road; but London Coaches are hung more loose, to prevent your being Jolted by the roughness of the pavement.'

The ordinary hackney coaches do not seem to have been provided with glasses. 'For want of Glasses to our Coach, having drawn up our Tin Sashes, pink'd like the bottom of a

Cullender, that the Air might pass thro' the holes, and defend us from Stifling.'

By the 5 & 6 Will. and Mary, cap. 22, the number of hackney coaches was fixed at 700, and a tax was imposed of 4£. per annum each, 1£. to be paid every quarter day, besides a fine of 50£. for their first licence for 21 years; and 8£. per annum on stage coaches.

To look after these hackney carriages there were five commissioners, at a salary each of 200£., and their office was in Surrey Street, Strand. The fares were not very heavy, even taking the difference of the value of money into consideration, and the fact that they had two horses.


For one day of 12 Hours10-
For One Hour16
For every hour after the first1-
From any of the Inns of Court to any part of St. James's or City of Westminster, except beyond Tuttle Street1-
From the Inns of Court, or thereabouts, to the Royal ExchangeI-
From any of the Inns of Court, to the Tower, Aldgate, Bishopsgate Street or thereabouts16

And the same Rates back again, or to any Place of the like Distance. And, if any Coachman shall refuse to go at, or exact more, for Hire, than the Rates hereby limited, he shall for every such Offence forfeit 40 Shillings.

In the number of coaches was increased to 800 by the 9 Anne, cap. 23, which also provided that they were to pay five shillings weekly, and were to go a mile and a half for one shilling, two miles for one shilling and sixpence, above two miles two shillings, and greater distances in the same proportion.

The hackney coachmen petitioned against the tax, and said they were willing to pay the old one. One petition was entitled 'Some Reasons most humbly Offered to the Consideration of the Right Honourable the House of LORDS and the Honourable the House of Commons; by all the 700 Hackney Coachmen and their Widows to Enable them to pay the Great Tax laid upon them;' and another was 'The Hackney Coachmen's case. Humbly presented to the Right Honourable House of Commons with a proposal to raise for her Majesty 200,000£. per annum.' This was proposed, very coolly, to be done by laying a tax on all coaches and carriages not licensed, on passengers going by stage coaches, and on goods carried by waggons and packhorses.

The coaches were numbered, although I can only find one notice of it: 'So that, rather than to stand a Vapulation, one of them took Notice of his Number;' [2]  and the coachmen were noted for their incivility. Of course they did not come from a very high class, and the habits and language of the lower class of that time were extremely coarse. 'We discharged our Grumbling Coachman, who Mutter'd heavily, according to their old Custome, for t'other Sixpence; till at last moving us a little beyond our Patience, we gave an Angry Positive Denial to his Unreasonable Importunities; for we found, like the rest of his Fraternity, he had taken up the Miserly Immoral rule, viz. Never to be Satisfied.'



Gay gently hints at their incivility :-

If Wheels bar up the Road, where Streets are Crost,

With gentle Words the Coachman's Ear accost:

He ne'er the Threat, or harsh Command obeys,

But with Contempt the spatter'd Shoe surveys.

And, according to him, they were not only surly but pugnacious.

Now Oaths grow loud, with Coaches, Coaches jar,

And the smart Blow provokes the sturdy War;

From the high Box they whirl the Thong around,

And with the twining Lash their Shins resound:

Their Rage ferments, more dang'rous Wounds they try,

And the Blood gushes down their painful Eye.

And now on Foot the frowning Warriors light,

And with their pond'rous Fists renew the Fight;

Blow answers Blow, their Cheeks are 'smeared with Blood

'Till down they fall, and grappling, roll in Mud.


State coaches were very handsome, being elaborately painted, carved, and gilt, a fine coach and many servants being indispensable to a person of rank.

But even in that age of luxuriously appointed equipages everyone was astonished at the magnificence of that of the


Venetian ambassador. Luttrell notes it on May 20, : 'Yesterday the Venetian ambassadors made their publick entry thro' this citty to Somerset House in great state and splendour, their Coach of State embroidered with gold, and the richest that ever was seen in England: they had two with 8 horses, and eight with 6 horses, trimm'd very fine with ribbons, 48 footmen in blew velvet cover'd with gold lace, 24 gentlemen and pages on horseback, with feathers in their hats.' And the novelty does not seem to have worn off, for, four years afterwards, Swift writes to Stella: 'This evening I saw the Venetian Ambassador coming from his first public audience. His coach is the most monstrous, huge, fine, rich, gilt thing that ever I saw.' He also writes her, Feb. 6, : 'Nothing has made so great a noise as one Kelson's Chariot, that cost nine hundred and thirty Pounds, the finest was ever seen. The rabble huzzaed him as much as they did Prince Eugene.'

Anybody with any pretension to wealth and fashion drove six horses, as says Mrs. Plotwell [3]  : 'I must have Six Horses in my Coach, four are fit for those that have a Charge of Children, you and I shall never have any;' and Lucinda tells Sir Toby Doubtful [2 ] : 'You'll at least keep Six Horses Sir Toby, for I wou'd not make a Tour in High Park with less for the World; for me thinks a pair looks like a Hackney.' The coachman, however, did not drive all six, one of the leaders being always ridden by a postilion. These carriage horses were heavy, long-tailed Flemish ones, and naturally went at a sedate and sober trot.

It was not everyone that could afford six, or even four, horses, so there were lighter vehicles, as the chariot, the calash, and the chaize or chaise. The latter was adapted for one or two horses, and sometimes was highly ornamented. 'A very fine CHAIZE, very well Carved, gilded and painted, and lined with blue Velvet, and a very good HORSE for it, are to be sold together, or apart &c.-The Horse is also a very good HORSE for the Saddle.'

'A very fine pair of young Stone Horses, and a very neat Chaize, well Carved, gilt and painted, and lined with Scarlet,


and but little the worse for useing to be sold.' 'A Curious 4 Wheel Shaze, Crane Neck'd, little the worse for wearing, it is to be used with one or 2 Horses, and there is a fine Harness for one Horse, and a Reputable Sumpture Laopard Covering.'

The ordinary chaises, however, were much plainer, and they were built strongly, to stand the strain of bad pavements and roads; but it is probable that very few were put to such a severe test as the following: ' At the Greyhound Inn in West Smithfield is to be sold a Two Wheel Chaise, with a Pair of Horses well match'd: It has run over a Bank and a Ditch 5 Foot High; and likewise through a deep Pit within the Ring at Hide Park, in the presence of several Persons of Quality; which are very satisfied it cannot be overturn'd with fair Driving. It is to be Lett for 7s. 6d. a Day, with some Abatement for a longer Time.'

There should be a history attaching to the following advertisement: 'Whereas, upon the 10th of Octob. last, a Gentleman brought a Calash and one Horse, to the Duke of Grafton's Head at Hide Park Corner, and on the 20th of the same Month fetched away the Horse, but left the Calash as a pawn for what was due for the same. If the Owner will come and pay what is due, he may have his Calash again, else it will be appraised and sold in 10 days time.' The innkeeper had waited six months before he advertised.

Here is another curious advertisement connected with coaches. 'Lost the 26th of February, about 9 a Clock at Night, between the Angel and Crown Tavern in Threadneedle Street, and the end of Bucklers Berry, the side Door of a Chariot, Painted Coffee Colour, with a Round Cypher in the Pannel, Lin'd with White Cloath embos'd with Red, having a Glass in one Frame, and White Canvas in another, with Red Strings to both Frames. Whosoever hath taken it up are desir'd to bring it to Mr. Jacob's a Coachmaker at the corner of St. Mary Ax near London Wall, where they shall receive 30s. Reward if all be brought with it; or if offer'd to be Pawn'd or Sold, desire it may be stop'd and notice given, or if already Pawn'd or Sold, their money again.'

In very many advertisements of the sale of second-hand carriages, it is mentioned that the glasses are complete. One


would imagine from this that glass was dear, but it was not particularly so. 'These are to give notice to all Persons that have occasions for Coach Glasses, or Glasses for Sash Windows, that they may be furnished with all sorts, at half the prises they were formerly sold for.' And it goes on to say that 12 inches square was 2s. 6d., and increased up to 22 inches, nearly at the rate of 6d. per inch, or 8s. 6d.; 23 inches was 10s. 6d., and so on at about 2s. 6d. per inch to 28 inches, which was 20s., until it culminated at 36 inches square for £ 2 10s. If this, really, was half the previous cost, and if we reckon the difference in the value of money then and now perhaps some economical people would think twice before having a broken glass repaired.

There were also a 'Chasse maree Coach,' and a 'Curtin Coach for Six People.'

They used to take nice little drives, too, in these clumsy old carriages-but they took their time over the journey. Thoresby's 'kind friend Mr. Boulter, brought his chariot from Chelsea, purposely to carry him to see Hampton Court.' They started about eleven, and, 'having passed through the City, we passed the Gravel Pits,1 and had a clear air (whither the Consumptive are sent by the physicians) and delicate pleasant Country to Acton and Brentford; the Duke of Somerset's Seat at Sion House looked most charmingly, and was the first time I had observed the lime trees in the avenues cut in a pyramidal form, even to a great distance from the palace, which looked very Noble; thence through Thistleworth and Twitnam, a very pleasant road.' After their visit to Hampton, they stopped for the night at Richmond Wells, returning next day via Kew, Mortlake, Putney, and Wandsworth.

His friend Boulter, on another occasion, 'took me in his Coach to Hampstead, where we dined with his mother; and after viewing that pleasant town, and taking a view of the Country from the Hill beyond it, we took a tour to Highgate, Mussel Hill and other Country villages, and a pleasant Country, and returned by Islington and Newington home again.'



There was a mechanical curiosity which appeared in and of which the following is an advertisement. 'An Invention of a wonderful Chariot, in which Persons may travel several Miles an Hour, without the assistance of Horses, and Measure the Miles as they go; it turns or goes back; having the Praise of all Persons of Quality, and ingenious Men that have seen it. Note that it is convenient for any Gentleman that is incapable of walking thro' lameness, to ride about his Park or Garden, without damaging his Tarris-Walks or Grass-Plats. The Invention is so highly approv'd that there is one already bespoke by a Person of Quality, which is to go on four Wheels, and swing in the Nature of a large Coach; which according to a modest Computation, will travel at the Rate of 7 or 8 Miles an Hour. If any Person of Quality is desirous to use them with Horses, they may either travel as far again in a Day as they can with another Coach, or can go as far with a Pair of Horses, as the Coaches hitherto in Use can with 6. Note that such as are bespoke for Parks or Gardens only, will come very reasonable, others at proportionable Prices.'

It was the fashion to use a mourning coach all the time mourning was worn, and this rendered it incumbent upon people to possess such a vehicle: consequently they were frequently advertised for sale-'At Mr. Harrison's, Coach Maker, in the Broadway, Westminster, is a Mourning Coach and Harness, never used, with a whole Fore Glass, and two Door Glasses, and all other Materials (the Person being deceased); also a Mourning Chariot, being little used, with all Materials likewise, and a Leather Body Coach, being very fashionable with a Coafoay Lining and 4 Glasses, and several sorts of Shazesses, at very reasonable Rates.'

The reins were not of leather, but of worsted, and sometimes of gay colours. Pepys, on that memorable May Day in when he started his pretty gilt coach, and had the horses' manes and tails tied with red ribbons, had 'green reins, that people did mightily look upon us.' French harness seems to have been most fashionable, although there is 'a pair of fine new Rumpee Town Harness' advertised; and hammer-cloths were used on the coach-boxes. A


singular industry sprang up-that of stealing these hammercloths. 'Lost off a Gentleman's Coach Box a Crimson Coffoy Hammer Cloth, with 2 yellow Laces about it.' ' Lost off a Gentleman's Coach Box, a Blue Hammer Cloth, trimm'd with a Gold colour'd Lace that is almost turn'd yellow.' 'Lost a Red Shag Hammock Cloth, with white Silk Lace round it, embroider'd with white and blue, and 3 Bulls Heads and a Squirrel for the Coat of Arms.'

The sedan chair was a conveyance that was getting into vogue in Anne's reign. Taking its name from the town of Sedan in France, it was first used in England in , and in London in .

In an Act (9 Anne, c. 23) was passed licensing 200

public sedan chairs at ten shillings each yearly, and their fare was settled at 1s. per mile. Next year, another Act (10 Anne, c. 19) was passed, licensing 100 more, but keeping the fares unaltered.

Like coaches, their adornment was indicative of the wealth and position of their owners-although, perhaps, none ever came up to Anne's royal present.' 'The Queen has made a present of a chair value 8000£[4]  to the King of Prussia, which is ordered for Berlin.' Still they were highly ornamental, as the following, which was the property of Sir Joseph Williamson, deceased, will show. 'A Cedan (or


Chair) lin'd with Crimson Velvet, trim'd with Gold and Silver, and a new Mourning Chair &c.'

The prefix 'Sedan' was seldom used, and these conveyances were generally termed 'Chairs.' That they were considered somewhat of a novelty in Anne's reign is evidenced by that line of Gay's, 'Nor late invented Chairs perplex'd the way,' and also by the fact that then the public chairs were first licensed, and the number, a very small one, regulated.

They were not particularly comfortable, as the Marquis of Hazard describes [5] : 'Hey, let my three Footmen wait with my Chair there-the Rascals have come such a high trot-they've jolted me worse than a Hackney Coach-and I am in as much disorder as if I had not been drest to day.' And they were sometimes dangerous too.

Or, box'd within the Chair, contemn the Street,

And trust their Safety to another's Feet.

The drunken Chairman in the Kennel Spurns,

The Glasses shatters, and his Charge o'erturns.

Gay evidently did not like either chairs or chairmen, for he warns his reader thus :

Let not the Chairman with assuming Stride,

Press near the Wall, and rudely thrust thy Side:

The Laws have set him Bounds; his servile Feet

Should ne'er encroach where Posts defend the Street.

Yet who the Footman's Arrogance can quell,

Whose Flambeau gilds the Sashes of Pell Mell ?

When in long Rank a Train of Torches flame,

To light the Midnight Visits of the Dame?

Others, perhaps, by happier Guidance led,

May where the Chairman rests, with Safety tread;

When e'er I pass, their Poles, unseen below,

Make my Knee tremble with the jarring Blow.


[1] British Curiosities in Nature and Art, 1713.

[2] London Spy.

[3] The Beau's Duel, Mrs. Centlivre.

[2 ] Love's Contrivance, Mrs. Centlivre.

[4] Luttrell's Diary, Dec. 10, 1709.

[5] The Gamester.