Moving around: roads, rivers, canals and railways
The period we are considering saw the most dramatic changes in methods of transport ever seen in Britain, but even in 1700 people and goods were moving around over quite long distances. People either walked, rode horses or travelled by coach while goods were carried by packhorses, carts and waggons for short distances for local distribution or by river boat to reach a wider market. London, the seat of government and the commercial heart of the nation, was then, as now, the focus of major routes. Coastal as well as international shipping brought supplies into the port of London, while John Ogilby’s road atlas, the Britannia of 1675, portrays a web of eleven major routes centring on the capital. Some of these roads had been improved, but others were ill-maintained and often impassable in winter. Rivers, too, had been improved in the course of the seventeenth century, but navigation was often hindered by weirs for conserving fish stocks or supplying water for mills. Nevertheless, by 1700 in England and Wales only Dartmoor, Salisbury Plain and parts of the Weald, the Northamptonshire uplands, the Pennine chain and the central Welsh mountains were more than 15 miles from the sea or navigable rivers. Ports developed at the seaward ends of these rivers so that goods could proceed onward by coastal shipping.
Roads and tracks
The country was crossed by a network of tracks and roads, many of ancient origin, which were utilised for horse traffic and driving cattle. Many of these tracks centred on villages and farmsteads, giving access to their fields and upland grazing. Others covered long distances and a well-established carrier network existed by 1700. In the Pennines a system of packhorse