Tag Archive | Coaching Inns

“A few words on Coaching Inns” and Conclusion

dust jacket

The following post is the twenty-seventh and final of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is replete with commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

“…And now a few words on the Coaching Inns”

Dr. Samuel Johnson

Dr. Samuel Johnson

“There is no private house,” said Johnson—it was in the Old Chapel House inn in Oxfordshire, on the Birmingham Road, that he gave vent to the profundity—“there is no place,” he said, at which people can enjoy themselves as well as at a capital tavern like this. Let there be ever so great a plenty of good things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that every guest should be easy, in the nature of things it cannot be. There must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious to entertain his friends; these in their turn are anxious to be agreeable to him, and to no one but a very impudent dog can as freely command what is in another man’s house as if it were his own. Whereas at a tavern there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome, and the more noise you make the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are. No servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. No, sir; there is nothing which has been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

Lamenting the loss of the “finest examples of this hospitable sort of architecture”

Hear, hear! say I; but while on the subject of inns may remark that I have been much disappointed in my ramblings; in truth began some six years too late from this point of view. For in that interval the country has been deprived of many of its finest examples of this hospitable sort of architecture. Of those fine examples—few and far between—which still remain, many are now sinking into a state of irremediable disrepair—witness the great inn at Stilton for one—and will in the near fulness of time doubtless be improved altogether off the face of the earth.

george inn norton st philip

The George Inn, Norton St. Philip (near Bath)

At Norton St. Philip, then, in Somersetshire, seven miles south-east of Bath, there still stands in the George Inn, a half-timbered, fifteenth century house, of the finest possible type. Monmouth passed the night of June 26th, 1685 at this George…At Glastonbury, in the same county, an inn of the same name—the George—with front one splendid mass of panelling, pierced where necessary for windows, the finest piece of domestic work in one of the most entrancing towns in England from an antiquary’s point of view, dates from the fourth Edward; while, to go further afield for a fine specimen of a different period, at Scole in Suffolk, the White Hart, erected in 1655 by John Peck, merchant, of Norwich, still retains some fine carving, and had till the end of the last century an enormous sign containing many figures—Diana and Actaeon, Charon, Cerberus, and sundry other worthies, carved in wood by Fairchild, at a cost of 1057 pounds.


The George & Pilgrim Hotel, Glastonbury


If a minor measure of success attends my enterprize I shall be content—content, that is to say, if I have caught some flavour of the romance of the Great Roads of England from the time when the Flying Machine of Charles the Second’s age lumbered out of the Belle Savage Yard, up to the day when the Holyhead Mail via Shrewsbury, timed at eleven miles an hour, was our fathers’ wonder, and the pride of this perfect road— “Mr. Bicknell’s spicy team of greys.”


The Scole Inn, Suffolk (formerly White Hart)


Stairs at the Scole Inn


 Index to all the posts in this series

1: The Bath Road: The (True) Legend of the Berkshire Lady

2: The Bath Road: Littlecote and Wild William Darrell

3: The Bath Road: Lacock Abbey

4: The Bath Road: The Bear Inn at Devizes and the “Pictorial Chronicler of the Regency”

5: The Exeter Road: Flying Machines, Muddy Roads and Well-Mannered Highwaymen

6: The Exeter Road: A Foolish Coachman, a Dreadful Snowstorm and a Romance

7: The Exeter Road in 1823: A Myriad of Changes in Fifty Years

8: The Exeter Road: Basingstoke, Andover and Salisbury and the Events They Witnessed

9: The Exeter Road: The Weyhill Fair, Amesbury Abbey and the Extraordinary Duchess of Queensberry

10: The Exeter Road: Stonehenge, Dorchester and the Sad Story of the Monmouth Uprising

11: The Portsmouth Road: Royal Road or Road of Assassination?

12: The Brighton Road: “The Most Nearly Perfect, and Certainly the Most Fashionable of All”

13: The Dover Road: “Rich crowds of historical figures”

14: The Dover Road: Blackheath and Dartford

15: The Dover Road: Rochester and Charles Dickens

16: The Dover Road: William Clements, Gentleman Coachman

17: The York Road: Hadley Green, Barnet

18: The York Road: Enfield Chase and the Gunpowder Treason Plot

19: The York Road: The Stamford Regent Faces the Peril of a Flood

20: The York Road: The Inns at Stilton

21: The Holyhead Road: The Gunpowder Treason Plot

22: The Holyhead Road: Three Notable Coaching Accidents

23: The Holyhead Road: Old Lal the Legless Man and His Extraordinary Flying Machine

24: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part I)

25: The Holyhead Road: The Coachmen “More Celebrated Even Than the Most Celebrated of Their Rivals” (Part II)

26: Flying Machines and Waggons and What It Was Like To Travel in Them

27: “A few words on Coaching Inns” and Conclusion

Regan Walker: To Tame the Wind

The Coaching Inn—Tonbridge

Around the end of the Georgian period (1714 to 1830), the population of Tonbridge in Kent in Southeast England numbered about two thousand. It was a main stop for stagecoaches travelling from London to Hastings and Rye and was used as a staging post for the mail coaches, where horses could be changed and passengers provided with food.

Stage coach

The coaches the travelers rode in during the early eighteenth century were heavy, lumbering vehicles devoid of springs. They were generally covered with dull black leather, studded with nails and the frames and wheels picked out with red. The windows were covered with boards or sometimes with leather curtains. Pastor Moritz, who came to England in 1782, found a coach of this description still upon the roads, and having a taste for fresh air and sunshine he complained of a fellow traveller, a farmer “who seemed anxious to shun the light and so shut up every window he could come at.” It was not the light to which the farmer objected—no one in England minded light—but they did object to the air that came through the window. This was considered prejudicial to health.

Mail coach, London to Birmingham, 18th century

Mail coach, London to Birmingham, 18th century

Though the carriage or coach ride had to be jarring, the countryside in Essex would have been beautiful.

Countryside in Sussex

Countryside in Sussex

In To Tame the Wind, set in 1782, the hero and heroine flee London (and her French pirate father) for Rye via carriage, which is how the upper classes most frequently traveled (though some Englishmen might prefer to travel on horseback). It would take them two days from London with an overnight in Tonbridge.

The roads were very rough and they would be jostled around in what was essentially a padded box. In Sussex the roads were often impassable in winter. Fortunately, my hero and heroine traveled in summer.

Once they arrived in Tonbridge, they stayed at the Rose and Crown, a coaching inn open for business then and still serving travelers today. Located on High Street, it is just down from the Ivy Public House.

Rose & Crown, Tonbridge

Rose & Crown, Tonbridge

The original Rose and Crown inn was a Tudor house built in the 16th century. The front and porch display alterations made some two centuries later. Thus, as my hero and heroine saw it, the inn was a fine timber-framed building with an impressive brick façade. According to its current owner, it still features “many oak beams and Jacobean panels” inside.

 Rose & Crown sign

At the sign of the Rose and Crown, one could find a comfortable bed and a hot meal. It was known in the Stuart Court, to Roundheads and Cavaliers, to the diary writers John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys and to all the travellers who passed on their way to Rye, Hastings or “the Wells” in the wasteland to the south.

While a traveller had his choice of inns, he had to choose carefully. There were the grand establishments, the posting houses, such as the Rose and Crown, which entertained the quality who posted in their own carriages. Such inns might accommodate a riding gentleman if his servants accompanied him. Some of these inns accepted passengers from the mail-coach, some did not; but they would not to take in passengers from a common stage. Those people had to go to the inns that catered to them.

Even in good inns it was not unusual for strangers to share rooms or even beds, as my hero, Captain Powell tells the heroine. This was regarded in much the same way as the sharing of a ship’s cabin in later times.

On the whole, English coaching inns were good. Arthur Young, who had travelled through the length and breadth of England, described them as “neat inns, well-dressed and clean people keeping them, good furniture and refreshing civility.

About To Tame the Wind

ReganWalker_ToTametheWind - 800px copyParis 1782…AN INNOCENT IS TAKEN

All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell’s schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear… her.


The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire’s father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.


About the Author

Regan Walker profile pic 2014 copyBestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits were encouraged. One of her professors suggested a career in law, and she took that path. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown.” Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” Each of her novels features real history and real historic figures. And, of course, adventure and love.

Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, who she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

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