Why Did Journey Times Improve Between 1750-1840?
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You can see from these results that the speed of coaches didn’t really improve until 1760 where it had increased greatly before 1780. It was nearly 5 times the speed before 1720 that it was by 1840 this shows us how much they did improve. The question know is how?
However this improvement in journey times did not happen to all roads, turnpikes could not afford to improve minor roads they would not make enough profits therefore it was only the main roads which got improved.
Why did roads need to improve in 1750? In the early 18th century the statute labour system was not supplying Britain with good quality roads. With the population increase the roads were being used more than ever before. With the increase of agriculture and the growth of industry farmers and factory owners need to transport goods to a wider market. Britain need to transport raw materials such as coal iron clay lime and wool. Increased materials traded form abroad meant better roads were needed for the economy to grow.
Roads before the coaching age were in a bad state because the method of repairing and building roads didn’t work. People were expected to give there time to repair local roads but this work was unpaid which made many reluctant. Parishioners who earned upwards of 50 had to give carts, workers, horses and other materials but they just sent there oldest workers there worst horses and there worst carts to work on the roads. There was also no experience in road building so the roads were not made or repaired properly.
Turnpikes were the answer to this problem. They charged a toll for people to use the road which they had built and then they used these profits to improve the roads. They built these roads by advertising for investors and when sufficient money was collected an act from parliament had to be taken. When this was received a clerk, treasurer and surveyors with engineering experience were employed to build and run the road. The stretch of road had two gates placed at each end and a toll house where the toll keeper who would collect the toll would live.
Turnpikes could make roads for the short term but to make strong durable long lasting roads you needed engineers. A few of the great road engineersimprovers were Macadam Metcalf and Telford. John Metcalf was one of the most extraordinary road builders because he was blinded by small pox when he was six and built his roads by touch alone. He had a well organised system for everything to run smoothly. For instance he made a gravel pit near the road. He believed that roads should have good foundations and a gently curved surface to allow water to drain off. He was renowned for the road he built across marsh land (Huddersfield -Manchester 1782) with heather as foundations.
John Loudon Macadam only started making roads when he was 60 after he returned from America and started it as a hobby. He didn’t believe that strong foundations were the key to roads this made him popular with the turnpikes because it was cheaper to make roads without foundations. However this meant that roads would need more repairing in the future. Macadam made his surfaces out of small chippings that knitted together to make a smooth surface. This made travel faster and more comfortable. He also believed in good drainage. In 1815 he was appointed surveyor general of Bristol’s roads.
Thomas Telford started life as a stone mason. As well as roads he built canals docks over 1200 bridges and overt 1500km of excellent roads. In contrast to Macadam’s view Telford believed that foundations were the key to roads. Telford built many roads in Scotland but his greatest achievement was the 500km long road from London to Holyhead, parts of which are still in use today as part of the A5.
With better and better roads the coaching industry was born and grew. The royal mail was also set up to provide a postal service which greatly helped communications around the 18th century. Regular coach services started in the 17th century and by the 18th century they were common. Macadam’s surfaces made long journey by coach possible. In the 1820’s and 1830’s there were over 3000 daily coach services operating in Britain. Half of these services began or ended their journey in London. To maintain each and every coach 50 horses 10men and guards were needed. These coaches were called stage coaches because they went In stages form 1 inn to the next. At every inn new horses were fitted as the passengers took refreshment. Coaches travelled in the night as well as the day with lamps to light the way. Coaches also carried parcels ands news papers. They could also tell good news coaches brought the news of the victory at the battle of Waterloo to the people of Britain.
The royal mail was set up in 1720 by Ralph Allen of Bath when he was granted the right by government to run a postal service using post boys on horses. In 1784 on the 2nd of August John Palmer got a contract to let his coaches carry mail. These coaches were guarded by an armed guard, who carried a blunderbuss to deter highwaymen and a horn to let the turnpike know he was coming. This was because the mail coaches were allowed through without paying the toll. They were faster because they did not carry people on the roof and they did not have to stop for the turnpikes, they were also safer because they did not carry people on the roof.
In my opinion the most important factor to why journey times improved was the turnpikes they turned the churned up mud tracks into usable roads and if they had not started building these roads there would have been no need for the great engineers because there would not have been any roads for them to work on or any people to employ them. Without decent roads people would not have spent time designing coaches and this industry would not of grown. But if there was decent roads in the first place made by the government for instance, there would not have been a reason for the turnpikes so this is also an important factor when we consider why journey time improved.