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The Holyhead Road_ The Mail-coach Road to Dublin. Vol. 1

The Holyhead Road_ The Mail-coach Road to Dublin. Vol. 1
Title: The Holyhead Road_ The Mail-coach Road to Dublin. Vol. 1
Release Date: 2019-01-11
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


THE “WONDER,” LONDON AND SHREWSBURY COACH.       From a Print after J. Pollard.


By Charles G. Harper
Author of “The Brighton Road,” “The Portsmouth Road,” “The Dover Road,” “The Bath Road,” “The Exeter Road,” “The Great North Road,” and “The Norwich Road
Illustrated by the Author, and from Old-Time Prints and Pictures
London: Chapman & Hall
ltd. 1902
[All rights reserved]



“The olden days of travelling, now to returnno more, in which distance could not bevanquished without toil”—those are the daysmourned by Ruskin, who had little better acquaintancewith them than afforded by his childishjourneys, when his father, a prosperous wine-merchant,travelled the country in a carriage witha certain degree of style. Regrets are, under suchcircumstances, easily to be understood, just as werethose of the old coach-proprietors, innkeepers,coachmen, postboys, and all who depended uponroad-travel for their existence; but few amongtravellers who lived in the days when the changewas made from road to rail had feelings of thatkind, else railways would not have proved soimmediately successful. It has been left for alater era to discover the charm and rosy glamourof old road-faring days, a charm not greatlyinsisted upon in the literature of those times,which, instead of being rich in praise of theroad, is fruitful in accounts of the miseriesviiiof travel. Pepys, on the Portsmouth Road in1668, fearful of losing his way at night, ashad often happened to him before; Thoresby, in1714 and later years, on the Great North Road,thanking God that he had reached home safely;Horace Walpole, on the Brighton Road in 1749,finding the roads almost impassable, therefore,and reasonably enough, “a great damper ofcuriosity”; Arthur Young for years exhaustingthe vocabulary of abuse on roads in general;and Jeffrey in 1831, at Grantham, lookingdismally forward to being snowed up at AlconburyHill—these are a few instances, among many,which go to prove, if proof were necessary, thattravelling was regarded then as a wholly unmitigatedevil.

But, quite apart from such considerations,there is a charm clinging about the bygone andthe out-of-date wholly lacking in things contemporary.The Romans who constructed andtravelled along their roads could not find in themthe interest we discover, and the old posting-housesand inns frequented by our grandfathersmust have seemed to them as matter-of-fact as wenow think our own railway hotels. It is, indeed,just BECAUSE the old roads and the waysideinns are superseded by the rail and the modernhotel, and because they are altogether removedfrom the everyday vulgarity of use and competition,that they have assumed their romantic aspect,ixtogether with that which now surrounds the slowand inconvenient coaches and the harmful unnecessaryhighwayman, long since become genuineantiques and puppets for the historical novelistto play with.

The Holyhead Road, in its long course towardsthe Irish Sea, holds much of this old romance,and not a little of a newer sort. Cities whosehistory goes back to the era of the Saxons whofirst gave this highway the name of “WatlingStreet,” lie along these many miles; and othercities and towns there are whose fame andfortunes are of entirely modern growth. Somehave decayed, more have sprung into vigorouslife, and, in answer to the demand that arose, ahundred years ago, for improved roads, the oldhighway itself was remodelled, in the days thatare already become distant.

But better than the cities and towns andvillages along these two hundred and sixty milesis the scenery, ranging from the quiet pastoralbeauties of the Home Counties to the rocks andtorrents, the mountains and valleys of NorthWales. This road and its story are a veryepitome of our island’s scenery and history.History of the larger sort—that tells of thesetting up and the putting down of Kings andPrinces—has marched in footprints of blooddown the road, and left a trail of fire andashes; but it may well be thought, with one whoxhas written the history of the English people,that the doings of such are not all the story:that the village church, the mill by the riverside,the drowsy old town, “the tolls of the market-place,the brasses of its burghers in the church,the names of its streets, the lingering memoryof its guilds, the mace of its mayor, tell usmore of the past of England than the spire ofSarum or the martyrdom of Canterbury.”

April 1902.

List of Illustrations

The “Wonder,” London and Shrewsbury Coach. (From a Print after J. Pollard) Frontispiece
Sketch-map of the Holyhead Road and the Watling Street xix
Yard of the “Bull and Mouth,” St. Martin’s-le-Grand. (From an old Print) 13
“Tally-ho” and “Independent Tally-ho,” London and Birmingham Coaches, nearing London, 1828. (From a Print after J. Pollard) 25
The “Angel,” Islington. Mail Coaches and Illuminations on Night of the King’s Birthday, 1812. (From a Print after J. Pollard) 41
Highgate Archway and the Turnpike Gate, 1823. (From an Old Print) 45
Highgate Archway: Mail Coach nearing London. (From a Print after J. Pollard) 51
The “Woodman,” Finchley, 1834: Coventry and Birmingham Coach passing. (From a Print after J. Pollard) 55
Highgate Village, 1826. (From an Old Print) 59
xiiThe Old Road, Barnet 67
The Old Road, Ridge Hill 99
The Great Snowstorm, Dec. 26th, 1836. The Liverpool Mail passing Two Ladies snowed up on Ridge Hill in their Chariot, without Horses, the Postboy having ridden to St. Albans for fresh ones. (From a Print after J. Pollard) 103
St. Albans Cathedral 109
St. Peter’s Street and Town Hall, St. Albans, 1826. (From an Old Print) 117
Dunstable Downs 147
The “White Horse,” Hockliffe 153
The Great Snowstorm, Dec. 26th, 1836. The Birmingham Mail fast in the Snow, with little chance of a speedy release: the Guard proceeding to London with the Letter-bags. (From a Print after J. Pollard) 159
Stony Stratford 173
Daventry Market-place 235
Dunchurch 255
Ford’s Hospital 275
The Old “King’s Head,” Coventry. (From a Print after Rowlandson) 295
Coventry, from Windmill Hill. (After J. M. W. Turner, R.A.) 299
xiiiThe Liverpool Mail, 1836. (From a Print after J. Pollard) 309
Vignette: Ogilby’s Dimensurator Title Page
Preface vii
List of Illustrations xi
The Holyhead Road: Ogilby’s Survey 1
Clark’s Steam Carriage, 1832. (From an Old Print) 33
The New Highgate Archway 48
James Ripley, Ostler of the “Red Lion” 76
Hadley Green: Winter 80
South Minims 92
London Colney 101
Entrance to St. Albans 105
Market-place, St. Albans 114
The “George” 120
The “Fighting Cocks” 123
St. Michael’s 129
Mad Tom in Bedlam 132
Mad Tom at Liberty 133
Redbourne Church 134
Redbourne 135
Dunstable Priory Church 144
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