Postillions


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    I know, I know, the picture isn't very clear - but this shows how postillions worked on post-chaises and other carriages. If you squint at the bright yellow carriage coming in from the right of this picture you can see that there are two men inside and two men on the back. There isn't in fact any coachman at all.

    The whole thing is being driven by two postillions. One on each pair of horses. The pair of horses nearest the carriage are called the 'wheelers' and the other pair are the leaders. In this picture we can see the postillion mounted on the grey leader, visible behind the small brown horse pulling the gig at the front of the picture.

    Sometimes a four horse carriage would be driven by a coachman and there would be a postillion mounted on one of the leaders.

    There were a number of ways one could travel by hired vehicle in Britain. You could buy a place in a stage or in the more expensive (and generally more reliable Mail coach) or you could travel 'post'.

    A post, or post chaise was a hired private vehicle for longer distances. It didn't have a coachman but rather a postillion who sat either on one of the horses, or on the cross bar to direct the team.

    Simond, a traveller to Britain describes the process, and the rate of Travel. Remembering he is currently on secondary roads travelling from Falmouth to Bath so the going is much slower and the inns, carriages and horses probably of secondary standard.

    "We left Falmouth this morning, in a post-chaise, fairly on our way to London. The country is an extensive moor, covered with furze, a low, thorny bush evergreen, browzed by a few goats and sheep; not a fourth part of the surface is inclosed and cultivated. The total absence of wool is particularly striking to us, who have just arrived from a world of forests. It gives, however, a vastness to the prospect, and opens distances of great beauty; hills behind hills, clothed in brown and green, in an endless undulating line. The roads very narrow, crooked, and dirty continually up and down. The horses we get are by no means good, and draw us with difficulty at the rate of five miles an hour. We change carriages as well as horses at every post-house; they are on four wheels, light and easy, and large enough for three persons. The post-boy sits on a cross bar of wood between the front springs, or rather rests against it. This is safer, and more convenient both for men and horses, but does not look well; and, as far as we have seen, English post-horses and postillions do not seem to deserve their reputation."

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