Regency Roads

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    Brief History and Description

    From the seventeenth century there was a marked increase in wheeled traffic on British Roads and virtually every part of the country became connected by regular carrying services. However where possible people used water transport such as rivers, sea, or in the mid-late eighteenth century, canals. The roads were rutted, muddy quagmires at times almost impassable. You can imagine the difficulties horses must have had dragging heavyloads through these muddy, unsealed roads. It was much more efficient and often faster to send them by water, also much heavier cargoes could be sent.

    The Turnpike Trust was the principle means for road improvement in the eighteenth century. These trusts fixed gates across roads and charged tolls to road users that was for the upkeep of the roads. The picture to the left is of the Oxford Gate As there was no actual surface to the roads even the pike roads were still not very good, although admittedly better maintained than the non-pike roads. By 1770 there were some 15,000 miles of roads covered by Turnpike Trusts in England and Wales, however a journey from London to Cambridge at this time still took two days to complete.

    Between 1815 and 1836 there was a road making revolution and it was brought by John MacAdam. He invented a whole new concept of road making - putting a new surface on the roads. This surface was simply base of compacted broken stone under drainable surface. The difference from the old rut-ridden muddy quagmires was phenomenal - these new roads were said to have been 'macadamised'.

    These macadamised roads made a startling difference, journey from Cambridge to London which in 1750 had taken two days, only took 7 hours by 1820. Coaches could now be built lighter and were known to travel at the alarming speeds of 10 miles per hour including stoppages. Stage lengths were from 5 to 15 miles depending on the type of country but it only took one to two minutes for a coach to change horses on the road. Passengers were let out at set inns along the route for breaks which were between 10 and 25 minutes. You can find out more about the history of coaching or Mail coaches also other links from those pages on coaching generally.

    There was a coaching boom in from around 1810 to 1830 and some 3,000 coaches took to the roads during this period mostly to transport people. It was still more efficient and cheaper to send goods by canal. The coaches never really took over from the canals for transporting bulk freight, and then in the late 1820's early 1830's came the boom in railroads which took over on the freight transport from Canals. You can read a litte about the early development of Steam Engines during this period.

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