Forging Money in the Regency- the sad case of John Binstead, 1815

On June 26, 1815, a young man from Sussex, John Binstead, entered a hosiery shop in Friday Street, Cheapside. Binstead was not alone; he had a companion, who was watching events from the back of the shop. Binstead examined the stock of socks, boots, gloves and coats. The owner, Robert Romanis explained that Binstead ‘came to my house, and purchased some goods from William Must, a person in my shop’- many London retailers, even upmarket ones like Romanis, lived on the premises, and the shop/warehouse/ home distinction was less clear in the regency than today. The goods cost £4 7 shillings and Binstead offered a banknote for £10, drawn on the Chichester bank of Ridge, Murray and Ridge, known as the Chichester Old Bank.

Until recently, paying with paper was common in our society, but in 1815 this apparently inoffensive habit was relatively new. This type of transaction was still quite novel in Regency England. Paper had replaced gold for transactions through an act of parliament of 1797 which took Britain off the gold standard and obligated more people to use paper.

A genuine banknote; could be forged with materials found in city street

The problem was its authenticity. Was it a forgery? Mr Romanis would have done a rapid calculation in his head. On the plus side, this was a learned young gentleman, who was spending his ‘money’ at the most upmarket hosier in Cheapside, who sold to both individuals and trade, including the East India Company. Most utterers of forged notes were women, who would appear at grocers or haberdashers and try to charm their way into having their notes accepted in exchange for small items and change in real currency. The other argument in his favour was that this was a £10 note. The poor could not be seen with them without creating instant and justified suspicion, but the large denomination notes were different. Most forgeries were £1 or £2 notes, which criminals actually preferred.

This crowning argument was when one of Romanis’s assistants whispered in his ear that he knew one of the gentlemen, presumably the one lingering in the background. The transaction was completed. Binstead was asked to endorse the cheque and provide ID by writing his name and address on the back of the piece of paper. He did so by adding a lie ‘Henderson, 16, Great Portland-street’- a prestigious address, deliberately chosen to create confidence

What did Romanis receive for his physical goods?  It was a mostly handwritten piece of paper with these reassuring words on.

“N. e, 1765,  Chichester Old Bank.

“I Promise to pay the bearer, on demand, Ten Pounds, here, or at Messrs. William, S. Fry, and Sons, bankers, London, value received. Chichester , the 16th day of February, 1815.

The fact that the cheque was drawn on a provincial bank would not have been a problem, as the cheque could be redeemed in London by a partner bank, in this case Fry’s . Romanis went there the next morning and was told that it was a forgery. One of its servants said this at the Old Bailey Trial.

WILLIAM DINMORE . I belong to the house of Fry and Co. bankers. The Chichester Old Bank notes are paid at our house. Mr. Murray signs notes for the house drawn upon us. The signature of this note is not his signature. This is not a Chichester note.

Romanis then visited Great Portland Street, and every other London street with the word ‘Portland in it’, but with highly predictable results.

Romanis then accompanied Thomas Fogg, a marshal man of the City of London to Arundel in Sussex where they tracked down Binstead to a local inn. He admitted his guilt and threw himself on to their mercy. It is not clear how they tracked him down; it seems to have been connected to the fact that the other person was known to the shop assistant; this is perhaps why they went to Arundel to find him rather than Chichester.

Binstead was not a typical forger and utterer of banknotes. For a start, he did both of the crimes himself and secondly, made no attempt to defend himself against a capital crime. The most remarkable difference was his method of making the notes. Forgeries were produced by criminal gangs who only needed the most basic of engraving tool to make a banknote. The equipment and the paper could be bought in any street. Sometimes individuals could make banknotes in their own homes by scratching out an outline on a piece of tin. Binstead had gone one step further and actually drawn the notes – he was a drawing teacher by trade, and a gifted one too, as he had fooled the Star Inn Gosport to take one, as well as Robert Romanis. He had made the monochrome note with a camel hair brush and some pencils. He admitted to making about £100 worth of notes (not necessarily of £10; notes could be drawn for any amount) and uttering them successfully.

He was sentenced to hang.  He was now on death row, awaiting his verdict. He still had reason to hope. Most death penalties, for any crime stood a good chance of not being carried out. He had been totally cooperative; he took the police officer to Chichester to showed him the brushes that he had used to draw his money. Five respectable witnesses had given Binstead a most excellent character for honesty, sobriety, and integrity, and the Chichester bankers Mr Ridge himself asked for mercy, because of Binstead’s  youth and good character.

From 13 September to 26 November he waited and hoped. On the next day the man whose trial came after his, John Elmes, who had passed a £10 note in London around the same time had his death penalty reduced to twenty-one years transportation. Binstead, however, was sentenced to be hanged until dead outside Newgate Prison. In the terminology of the Georgian Bloody code, it was to be a ‘simple execution’

A Newgate hanging

Why had he been selected? Well, there was no more invidious property crime that subverting the currency- technically it was treason. In 1815 there was a relatively low number of 58 executions in England and Wales (1814-74; 1816- 83). There were six for forgery and four for uttering, so currency crime made up 17% of all executions. Extreme deterrence was needed now and then, and Binstead fitted the bill. He was both an utterer and a forger. His accomplice had never been caught, and Binstead may have been deemed uncooperative in tracking him down. He had also made a lot of banknotes, and showed promising signs of getting away with it. He was too clever to be allowed to live.

Poor Binstead must have suffered. His defence at the trial was that he did not know they were forged, a comment completely contrary to everything else he said and did. He must have been crumbling. His failure to grass up Mr Jordane would have saved his own neck, and one plausible answer was that he simply did not know where Jordane was.

Cotton in action- the man in white, appropriately

He had eight days to wait for his hanging and during that time he came under the scrutiny of the gaol’s ‘ordinary’ (resident chaplain) Horace Cotton ( more about him here and below ). Cotton’s task was to help the condemned man’s launch into eternity to be as respectable as possible. This would start with a bloodcurdling sermon about the wages of sin the day before and then the chance to die well, with humility and resignation and without the fear of death. Binstead passed the test, spending the final night in prayer and contemplation with the house robber who was condemned with him. His only request that, after death, that his hands might not be applied to persons who came to be rubbed for the wen’ – a skin disease.

On December 5, 1815, Binstead was hanged outside the debtor’s gate at Newgate, cleanly and efficiently, but certainly a victim of the inconsistent and vengeful system that punished randomly and viciously because it could do nothing else.

A Protest against the Death penalty for forgery, signed by the hangman, Jack Ketch, produced by William Hone

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Please consider my two books on the Georgian and Victorian Era

The Dark Days of Georgian Britain– a political and social history of the Regency. More details here

Passengers – a social history of Britain 1780-1840 told through travel, transport, roads and hospitality. More details here

A Criminal Pub in Regency London-the Blue Lion, Grey’s Inn Road.

 

Was the Blue Lion, Grey’s Inn Road, known by the locals as the Blue Cat because of the utterly unconvincing inn sign, 1 the worst pub in late Georgian London?  Well, the short answer seems to be no- it was the third worst. In 1816, the House of Commons, increasingly panicked by the state of law and order in the metropolis, organised an investigation and took evidence from William Fielding, Justice of the Peace and father of Henry Fielding the author and crime fighter. The subject was the most criminal public houses in London in the last twenty years. The Blue Lion was one of the contenders- the Dog and Duck, and the Temple of Apollo had dishonourable mentions, but the Lion was third, and it was especially mentioned that it had been a terrible place for more than twenty years.

We know that this is not an exaggeration, although we have to rely on the memoirs of a criminal confidence trickster to prove it. In around 1798, it was the haunt of James Hardy Vaux, an ultra confident minor criminal who spent his evenings silently watching the immoral lower classes plot and carouse. He was fifteen. Hundreds dated their ruin from this pub, said Vaux. It was full of ‘thieves, sharpers and other desperate characters with their doxies’. He sat in the corner smoking a pipe and listened to their increasingly understandable criminal conversation, but not interacting with them.  Later he wrote a book based on his interactions with criminals; the fact that we know the criminal slang of the late Georgian era is down to the inhabitants of this famous public house and the unusual literacy of the criminal Vaux.2

Details (Amazon)

A little like today, it was the immediate environs of the pub that were the most dangerous, not the inside of the building itself. Violent robberies could not be committed without risk on the people in the pub; it was the unwary street traveller who was the main victim. Prostitutes worked inside and outside the pub, but mostly outside. Stolen goods could be fenced in any low public house, but there were plenty of pawn shops in Holborn that would take luxury goods, no questions asked. The Blue Lion may have been a refuge for criminals, but the crime spilt out elsewhere, all over Georgian London. The pub was a home to criminals rather than a home for crime.

 Another set of specialised thieves made the Lion their home now and then. One Sunday in 1812, the criminal Joseph Naples made a note in his diary;

Went Look out at Blue Ln. &c. did not go out Jack Bill & Tom Drunk the reason as Ben said for not going out.

A ‘look out’ was  a search to spot burials, and there was indeed a burial ground next to the Blue Lion, St Andrews graveyard. Naples and his friends were cold hearted grave robbers and would have felt at home in their local hostelry, although, as their diary shows, they robbed corpses from many places in their manor.

So fencing, robbery, and prostitution were the top three crimes, but the boundaries were fluid because the same people were committing all of them, and much of the action would take place in one of the passages and dead ends around the pub. This is where the Reverend Harris was frisked, mobbed and robbed by prostitutes at 7pm on an evening in mid November 1817. It had been dark for two hours, and the reverend took a shortcut through the most insalubrious part of London. Two ladies of the night pushed him into an alley and he gave them sixpence each to leave home alone. Now knowing now that he had more than a shilling on him, they followed him, embraced him again to have a feel of his financial assets and robbed him of bank notes and seventeen shillings in silver.

The silver would have been very welcome, but the banknotes would need experts to dispose of them- they would have been drawn by an individual who would have noted the number and could cancel it quickly, and/or would have contained the name of people who endorsed it later, creating an unfortunate paper trial for anybody trying to use them. The girls probably did not have the connections to deal with the notes themselves, but they would not have had to look too far for criminal expertise. It may not have been in the Blue Lion; there were lots of other places.

On a non-sensationalist note, it must be remembered that hundreds, if not thousands of people would have negotiated these streets without being attacked. My research noted six robberies in the decade 1811-1820-not really a crime wave. Our first victim, the reverend Harris, hailed from Battlebridge, which may sound like a rustic village in Kent or Sussex, but it was the old name for King’s Cross, and he would have known of where he walked, and the streets of Battlebridge were certainly no safer.

The Blue Lion is on Grey’s Inn Road, next to the burial ground

The area around the Blue Lion was perhaps more dangerous than average, however. There were fields nearby, and the passages were easily blocked at both ends, making ambush and robbery quite easy. Three seemed to have been the magic number when it came to robbery. When law stationer William Carr walked past the pub at eleven in the evening on a November night in 1822, he was accosted by a man and two women who stole a handkerchief (value 5 shilling)   and then ran away into the fields. Rather than put his loss down to experience, he chased them. This was a mistake;

Bell’s Weekly Messenger   November 10, 1822

This was clearly a set up. Mr Carr was naïve, but sensible enough to call the local police patrol, who found the unimaginative thieves in the next-but- one nearest public house to the scene of the crime.

So, footpads like these infested the area. They were little like highwayman, but without the myths that attached to them; lacking a horse as a fast getaway, and not being able to exploit the fact that their potential victims were confined in a metal box, instead their method was to use extreme violence to scare the victim into submission and make them think twice about any subsequent appeal to the authorities. When both murder and robbery could attract the same death sentence, this brutality made perfect sense.

It is clear that many crimes would not have been recorded because of the robbers’ threats or the fatalistic belief that the authorities would not retrieve their goods. Often it was better to advertise in the newspaper.

Some other examples; in 1810, Mr William Hill, poulterer, was robbed at double gunpoint by two ‘stout Irishman’ with a pistol to his mouth and left ear – ‘he gave them all the cash he had and they made off’ said the Star (20.10. 1810). Sensible man!. In 1813 a ‘Heniker  Bantley’ was brought up for robbing a Mr Hall of a gold watch, gold chain, gold seal, silver snuff box and silver spectacles.  He had two criminal compatriots to avoid it being a fair fight.

The area was also a base for house thieves; one event it in 1814 gives an usual insight into their modus operandi by listing their equipment.

2 July 1814 Public Ledger and Advertiser.

Our next robbery victim was the only one who actually visited the pub. Mr J Brockwell, a legal clerk had been there since 11pm and walked home in the fields towards Bagnigge Wells, believing that he was the only person who knew that he had £200 pounds in his coat. The favoured numbered of three footpads beat him up, took his money and left him for nearly dead.

This was not the end of the story. A week later, a group of drunken women turned up at  Mr Kirks Ham and Beef Shop in Bath Street and throw loads amount of gold and silver coins around. The constable was called and some stolen notes were found in their pockets, with a note endorsed by a William Goodwin. This paper trail led the authorities to the original robbery of Mr Brockwell. These notes should have been processed through a criminal network rather than stuffed in the pockets of the locals. Popping into the Lion did not seem to occur to them.

The only known case of crime inside the pub was in 1822 when a man called Marsden, was found guilty of buying four forged one pound notes for twenty-five shilling in coin. This was a far more serious crime than fencing, and one which attracted the death penalty, which was the sentence in this case. It was probably never carried out- it hasn’t been checked- as these overinflated, then commuted draconian sentences were part of the grotesque pantomime of Georgian justice, holding people in fear of a system that was cruel but deliberately inconsistent, so the poor knew where the power lay.

The same year saw the beginning of the end for the Bloody Code of draconian punishments and the end of the Georgian crime wave. The truth is that things had been slowly getting better anyway. When William Fielding complained about the Blue Lion in 1816 he was looking backwards. The state was now investigating in places that were left alone twenty years earlier.  The same Mr Read of the Hatton Garden Police who helped Mr Carr must have been keeping an eye on the pub. A month earlier, Read had visited the pub and arrested seven women for soliciting outside the Blue Lion; a remarkable four claimed to be called Sarah.  The criminal still had places to hide, and the Blue Lion was a more popular place than most, but now that the state was chasing them, it was more difficult to be notorious.  

1 Thornbury, G. W (1881)   Old and New London

2 Vaux,  J.D           A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language ( 1819)

Please consider my books on the Georgian and Victorian Era

The Dark Days of Georgian Britain– a political and social history of the Regency. More details here

Passengers – a social history of Britain 1780-1840 told through travel, transport, roads and hospitality. More details here

Radical Victorians – the clue is in the title, but it concentrates on reformers who remained mostly unappreciated in their life time

Voices of the Georgian Age– the social history of 1720-1820 Britain told through the stories of 17 very different individuals. Amazon link

Your 1816 Stagecoach Journey, part two; when it all goes to plan…

James Hobson (twitter @about1816)

Coaching at its best, but not as it was very often

Your journey today will be uneventful; there will be no accidents, deaths or injuries; but remember the word ‘travel’ comes from ‘travail’, so your journey is still going to be hard work. The only uncertainty is how much, and that depends, partly on your good organisation, and partly on external events. Like life, really.

Your journey has begun; you ducked at the exit to the coaching inn yard, and you are on way.  It will be smooth and comfortable if you are leaving from London, because the roads have been improved, largely by private enterprise desiring a profit. There will be toll roads throughout your journey and you will have to stop; you are not the Royal Mail stagecoach and will not expect the gates to be open when you arrive. On this occasion all the tolls are passed without incident; that is not always the case. (This will be in part three)

Are you scared of highway robbers? Is there a gun in your pocket? It’s probably not necessary. It was never a good idea even twenty years ago when there were robbers lurking outside of London. Waving a gun about in a crowded metal box was rarely a good move. If there is a robbery, hand everything over and curse yourself for not leaving valuables at home. Dying for money was a mistake; most people knew it.  Don’t be like Scrub, a comic character in a well known play by George Farquhar, who begged his assailants to ‘take my life, but spare all I have’

How fast are you travelling? In the well resourced streets of London, perhaps ten miles an hour. On the better roads, westward to Bath or on the Great North road to Edinburgh   (up to York) perhaps seven or eight.  In other places, who knows? If travelling in Ireland, then you might want to reconsider that weapon you rejected earlier.

You will pull in at a coaching house every fifteen miles or so, because the four horses are now exhausted and cannot do any more. It is the weakness of the horse, ideally suited for hard agricultural work and lesser loads (your stagecoach, unladen, may weigh two tons), that put the ‘stage’ in stagecoach.  If treated properly, your horse will do the return leg and then rest for twenty-four hours. They can work for three years before the effort sends them to the knackers yard at best, or the food chain at worst. You can afford to ride the stagecoach, so you will not have bought ‘knackers pork’ from the butcher in the slum. You will help to kill the horse, but you will not eat him.

Unless it is a stop for food, you will stay in your place while the horses are changed. Somebody has checked the vehicle and oiled the places where parts move.  The wheels will not fall off today, although you may think that it would be much better if somebody actually travelling on the coach checked its safety, rather than a minion from the inn. This is not an age of health and safety.

If you stop for no apparent reason on the road, then the driver and guard will be ‘on the fiddle’. They would stop, pick up a road passenger and pocket the money themselves. They will even stop the lone pedestrian and tout for business on the off chance. This was usually called ‘shouldering’. New passengers would normally go on the roof; any laws about overcrowding would be ignored. Indeed all rules are ignored…but that is another story.

You biggest immediate problem is social embarrassment. Are you going to talk these strangers, and worse, are they going to talk to you? This is not a modern train; there is no scope to walk away; it is no coincidence that the first trains had no corridors, and like stagecoaches, the only escape was to throw yourself out on to the hard ground, which would be an overaction- most of the time

The only thing possible is the one thing not desirable- talking. You only have this problem if you are inside of course.  You have less than four feet of personal space in your seat; you legs are not touching the people on the other side, but they nearly are. Taking out a newspaper would make you unpopular, and so would anything else that would while the time away. You can read a book on the 1816 stagecoach. The roads are improving and the coaches are sprung, so read away, if you wish; but the journey is long. There will be an initial silence, but then there will be talking. Small talk is good, but it takes no time; big talk is dangerous; do not tell people any personal details and do not mention money.

The Sussex Advertiser of March 1800 made a joke out of a common truth;

In the end, you would probably give in. The Gentlemen’s Magazine of  1795 admitted as much;

It hath been remarked that travellers in a stagecoach show very little inclination to be sociable for the first ten or twenty or twenty miles and seldom begin to grow good company till towards the end of the journey.

It was like a marriage; you were stuck with it until death (at the time; divorces needed Acts of Parliament) and you got used to it.

What to talk about? What you can see outside the window, if it has been covered. You driver may know the names of all the aristocratic houses on the route; or you may consult your Cary’s  Itinerary.

Cary's New Itinerary: Or an Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads, Both  ... - John Cary - 1817 | Wales england, Itinerary, Greatful

If people had jobs, they could talk about that, unless it was a vulgar job, or you were a gentleman or woman who found paid work of any kind beyond the pale . You could gossip about the people who have left the stage…but don’t tell them anything about your money, family, politics or religion.

You could talk about the weather.

How is the weather, by the way? People fear the damp and draughts more than heat; the windows may be nailed shut.  People also feared sudden changes of temperature; but draughts were needed to keep bad air at bay. The conundrum remained unsolved. If it is stuffy, you could simply smash the window with your cane; a glazier would charge you three shillings to fix it at the next town, which would be less that the cost of your breakfast and nothing compared to the one to two pounds on the fare.

Coaching inns had roaring fires not to be cosy, chocolate-boxy and attractive, but because the incoming passengers were damp, tired and had lungs full of fetid air.

Are you on top? Then these rules do not apply. You are possibly not facing anybody; you will not see many faces.  If it is a July afternoon, you will see the English countryside slide by, both earth and sky and pleasant fields and villages, and you will remember this once in a lifetime experience forever, when the countless horrible journeys in wind and rain will be forgotten. You will feel the turning of corners if you are up top, because the centre of gravity is high. The centre of gravity is high because the luggage is on the top and side, not the bottom. Nobody wants they luggage dirtied, do they?

Which is worse ‘up top’- wind or rain? Possibly wind; you could put your umbrella up in the rain, but the drag of the moving stagecoach will intensify the effort of holding it. Your umbrella is useless in simultaneous wind and rain; put it up, and your umbrella will be in the sky, as will you if you do not let go.

Your bottom will hurt. Only the driver and his companion has a sprung and upholstered seat. Hold tight onto a rail until muscles are tortured and you wish that your only problem was  strained conversations with vulgar strangers.

It’s time to stop to eat and drink.  A drink might beer a beer, a spiced rum and beer drink called purl, a brandy, a tea or a coffee. Food will be an expensive lottery.

If quick snacks are needed there will be beer, bread, and cheese and prices will be random and possibly exorbitant. The butter may be rancid, the rum and water mostly water, and the cream and buttermilk very far from pasteurized. If you are staying longer, a roast will be offered, or part of one, and the slowest person there deputed to carve it; there would have been a cheap hot soup beforehand that wasted even more time, and the driver may well have been bribed to call out ‘All is Ready!’ before the appointed time. The roast will go back in its case for a second, or perhaps third, party to buy it. (More about the inn here)

Your driver and guard are now leaving you. They will want a tip; you have, of course, remembered to fill your pocket with sixpences and shillings? The sixpences ensure service at the inn, and the shillings avoid the deep sarcasm of the driver; he may spit on your sixpence to make it grow.

Should have given him shilling in the first place.

It grows dark. There are lights on a stagecoach, but they are on the front, to light to road head, as you would wish. An English stagecoach inn awaits.

Have you arrived in London? Then read this, and be afraid!

Part one of the story here. Part three here

This blog is inspired by my book, Passengers -Life in Britain in the Stagecoach Era. My blog about the book here. Publisher’s details here. Amazon ( Kindle and hardback here)

My other books

A Social History of the Regency– The Dark Days of Georgian Britain

Also:

The Executioners of Charles I ; an unusual biography of Oliver Cromwell; a beginners guide to the English Civil War

Your 1816 Stagecoach Journey, part one; before the wheels move.

Not normally as bad as this

By James Hobson (@about1816 on twitter)

It is 1816. You are going on a journey by stagecoach. What will it be like?

Firstly, consult your Travellers Oracle guidebook or consult your local paper. All stagecoaches leave early yours leaves comparatively late-7am- it is better to be there at 6.50am at the very latest. This will enable you to get a seat, which is taken on a first come- first served basis.  Some people may put a coat down to reserve a place, but you can safely ignore it in theory, but you may find it prudent to look around first to make sure the coat does not belong to somebody who might threaten you.  This rule may not apply to the seat next to the driver.

You will have booked your ticket in advance; even when the railways arrived and you could buy a ticket on the spot, they were still sold at ‘booking offices’. You will have checked in your luggage. You will have made two lists of the contents, put one in the trunk and kept one on you. If you  had  to take  any valuables on to the stagecoach , they would be hidden. Those gold-rimmed glasses you like so much?- best to leave them at home, although the highway robber had more or less been defeated by 1816; but  it is still best not to advertise your wealth to the other passengers. You do not know who they are. More of that later.

If you are ‘inside’ of a six seater stagecoach, you will choose one of the corners. This is because the carriage wall will provide a measure of extra  cushioned support, and you will be rubbing up against (and this is not a metaphor) only one person instead of two. Once established in your place and moving, nobody would take your seat.

In 1816, you single fare ‘inside’ (say, London to Manchester) would cost you 2 guineas. When you get to Manchester you might meet whole weaving families for whom this is four week’s wages. If you are paying half the price and going ‘up top’, the difference in seating is not so great. The most  favoured seat is the one next to the driver – ‘Jehu’- and some stagecoach enthusiasts actively seek out the seat so that they can speak to the driver and pretend to be driving the coach. Stagecoach nerds might try to use bribery and intimidation to get the seat. It is best to avoid it. It’s the most dangerous seat on the coach if there is an accident.

Where the classes met, and the proletarian is the master

Who will be on this coach with you? Well. Coach travel is far too expensive for most people, but that is less of a guarantee of gentility that you think.  You have no idea who will be sharing your metal box. It depends a little where you are going, and when.

Are you travelling to Brighton, Oxford or Cambridge? Expect to see more skilled artisans around Brighton in the summer, servicing the luxury industries. There will be student types going to the two great universities; some may be rebels and want on travel on top, and the quality of discourse will be higher. Or it may not.

There may be servants; mostly domestics and nannies. They will not have paid their own fare. Their masters and mistresses would have hired a private carriage and would be leaving two hours later.  Very, very few of the unaccompanied females will be of the genteel class. If they are travelling alone, their brother or father will be at the other end waiting for them.

What’s the best it could be? It could be a businessman, possible a nonconformist or Quaker, a quiet middle class family visiting relatives, a fourteen year old  boy going to his public school, and  a pious curate.

What’s the worst it could be?  A sailor on his way to, or from, Deal, Portsmouth or Dover, who will swear, threaten violence and try to avoid his fare (or all three);a fat and talkative travelling salesman in the middle seat so he can crush two people, a servant with a howling baby, and a rosy faced landlord with a  horrible cough that will be your companion all day.

Your driver and guard will be the only guaranteed members of the working class on the stagecoach. My god, they fancy themselves. You may be a vicar, businessman or large tenant farmer, but today Jehu and his assistant are in charge.  The social order is turned on his head. The driver has the local and technical knowledge to get you home in one piece. He has  the whip hand, literally and metaphorically.

They will have been drinking; but you yourself may have had a purl – a warming mixture of beer, gin, nutmeg and sugar before the journey. There was no such thing as ‘wine o clock’ in the Regency; hopefully   they will not be drunk and incapable; if they are, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it except abandon your journey.

You could bring a book or newspaper so you don’t have to talk to anybody. If you are in London, you could already have a newspaper under your arm at 7am; outside the Home Counties it would have to be yesterday’s paper. Coaches now were now better sprung and the roads around London were much better than elsewhere, but it was too cramped to read a paper.  A book would be possible, but not enjoyable.

Your coach would probably look impressive. You are part of a highly efficient industry that knows about branding and marketing. It will have an appropriate name which will not have been chosen by accident.  A major war has just been won, so expect   Nelson, Waterloo,   and Wellington, but also expect a coach that honoured the allies- the Blucher. Unlike future generations and future wars, the people did not believe they done it all on their own.  Speed is a  popular theme- it might be the Greyhound, the Comet or the Rocket, or a fast bird – Hawk , Eagle or Swallow, or just general niceness- the Hope or the Good Intent.

Now you get on board. It is an eight foot climb to the top. You will either receive no help or a crude push, but you will not be told to mind because the Quality does not go on top anyway.  At least it will be clean, which it will not be when you get off. If you are ‘inside’, you do not need a step, so you will be offered one.

Its 7 a.m now. Have you left? If the coach is full, then certainly.  It’s a busy yard, and money has been spent on advertising that stresses punctuality.  A generation earlier the timetables would have said ‘God willing’ or  d.v ( deo volente)  but people were a bit more ‘sophisticated’ now. As it clatters out of the stable yard, you will approach the arched gateway, which would have been built forty years earlier when coaches were smaller. DUCK !  

Part two of the story is here.

If you liked this blog, then please consider my book on Georgian and Victorian Stagecoaches and ALL aspects of social history that went with them. My blog here. Publishers details here.

Hardback, kindle and kobo available

My other regency book, The Dark Days of Georgian Britain, is here

My other books are about Oliver Cromwell