London in the Time of the Stuarts

By Walter Besant | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
COACHES

THE seventeenth century witnessed the invention of the stage I coach, and therefore the improvement of the roads. The horse litter was still used in the first half of the century. Marie de Medici, when she visited her daughter Henrietta in 1638, entered London in a litter. In 1640 Evelyn travelled in a litter from Bath to Wootton with his father, who was suffering from a dropsy, which killed him. The first stage coach was a waggon. A service of waggons was established between London and Liverpool; there were waggons also between London and York, and between London and other towns. M. de Sorbière, visiting London in the reign of Charles II., says that rather than use the stage coach he travelled in a waggon drawn by a team of six horses. Therefore the Dover stage coach had already begun to run, and it was not thought more convenient than the waggon. Probably it was more liable to be upset. In 1663 one Edward Parker of Preston wrote to his father saying that he had got to London in safety on the coach, riding in the boot; that the company was good, "Knightes and Ladyes," but the journey tedious.

Coaches at first had no springs, so that the occupants were tossed about. "Men and women are so tossed, tumbled, jumbled, and rumbled."

Stow attributes the introduction of coaches into England to one Guilliam Boonen, a Dutchman, who became the Queen's coachman in 1564. He is wrong about the introduction of coaches, but he is, right in saying that within the next twenty years there grew up a great trade in coachbuilding, to the jealousy of the watermen.

"Coaches and sedans (quoth the waterman), they deserve both to be thrown into the Theames, and but for stopping the channell I would they were, for I am sure where I was woont to have eight or tenne fares in a morning now scarce get two in a whole day: our wives and children at home are readie to pine, and some of us are faine for meanes to take other professions upon us."

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