Back to the past with Ed Grimsdale: Buckingham and the glories of coaching

The old Buckingham stagecoach PNL-140919-161138001
The old Buckingham stagecoach PNL-140919-161138001

Henry Robinson, Buckingham entrepreneur and its sometime mayor, created what was reputedly the fourth long distance regular coach service to London in the 17th century.

He may be able to claim that he invented sex tourism since he provided an integrated service for London gentleman.

Trolly Hall in Castle Street provided evening dinner, a floor-show in its theatre, followed by nocturnal delights on the top floor with Henry’s ladies of the night.

Before returning to London the next day, Henry’s paying guests might stroll to Castle Hill to play bowls at his club, or wander across town to North End where Henry’s Black Horse Inn (now a dental surgery) served great beer.

Perhaps, we have forgotten the impact of coaching, a marvel of its age, and the glories of its finest provision – akin to boarding a Concorde in the 20th century.

Here’s a lovely memorial published by the 19th century social scientist, Henry Mayhew: “In the old coaching days, the entrance into London was a sight no country in the world could parallel, and one of which the first impression was well calculated to astound the foreigner [or visitor from north Bucks!], who had been accustomed in his own country to travel along roads that were about as loose as soil and as furrowed with ruts as ploughed fields, and in mails, too, that were a cross between a fly waggon and an omnibus, and not nearly as rapid as hearses when returning from a funeral, and with horses harnessed to the unsightly vehicle with traces of rope, and a huge-booted driver continually shouting and swearing at the team.

“The entry to the metropolis, on the contrary, was over a roadway that was as hard as steel, and as level as water and upon which the patter of horses’ hoofs rang with an almost metallic sound. Then the coachman was often an English gentleman, and even some cases a person of rank, whilst the vehicle itself was a very model of lightness and elegance.

“The horses, too, were such thoroughbred animals as England alone could produce, and their entire leathern trappings as brightly polished as a dandy’s boots. In those days, even London people themselves were so delighted with the sight of the mails and fast coaches leaving town at night, that there was a large crowd invariably collected around the Angel at Islington, the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, and the Elephant and Castle across the water, at eight every evening, to see the riyal stages start into the country by their different routes.

“On the king’s birthday, too, the scene at these inns was assuredly as picturesque as it was entirely national.

“The exterior of the taverns were studded over with lights of many colours arranged in tasteful luminous lines, the sleek-coated blood horses were all newly harnessed, and the bright brass ornaments on their trappings glittered again in the glare of the illumination.

“The coachmen and guards were in unsullied scarlet coats worn for the first time that day; and there were gay rosettes of ribbons and bunches of flowers at each of the horse’s heads as well as in each of the coachmen’s buttonholes, wile the freshly painted mails were packed so thickly in front of the tavern door that the teams were all of a heap there; and the air kept resounding with the tinny wang of the post-horns of the newly arriving and departing vehicles.”