This is a truly amazing book, and its compilation must have involved a huge amount of work. It reveals just how sophisticated the inland transport system of Britain was in the pre-railway age. Apart from scores of Stage Coach services to major centres, there is hardly a town of any size which did not have at least a weekly Carriers Cart or Waggon to and from London, and some had two or three. Add to these canal barges and coasting vessels, and one begins to see how commerce blossomed in Britain during the Industrial Revolution. Stage Coaches at 3d. per mile, were for the wealthy, but it was possible for poorer people to negotiate with Bargees, Carriers and Coasting Skippers for transport, particularly as company was often welcome on a long journey.
There is an old story concerning a down-at heel actor, who having completed a booking in Leeds, needed to get to Liverpool for his next engagement. A few pence, and “a drink” secured passage on a Leeds Liverpool Canal barge, but the Bargee had to call out his cargo at each lock, so that the appropriate toll could be paid. “Four tons of coal, two tons of manure and a actor” was the cry. When this had happened half a dozen times the affronted thespian approached the Bargee “I say, my dear fellow, do you think that I might appear a little higher up The Bill?”
Look up a destination town, and a simple code indicates the type of conveyance available, the day of the week and time of day for departure, and the inn, receiving office or wharf of departure. The publication also includes the fares charged by Hackney Carriages, Watermen and the few remaining Chairmen. “Hackney Carriage, Strand to Rotherhithe Church 2s-6d. Oars, from London Bridge to Rotherhithe Church Stairs, 0-6d, skulls 0-3d.” Getting around London was not cheap, but it was certainly cheaper by water. A fascinating window on the past and raw material for several research projects.