Tag Archive | research

The Regency Post — A Pity We’ve Lost Letters

From an article published in The Beau Monde’s Quizzing Glass newsletter…

Posting a letter in Regency England was not as simple as walking down to the local post office and dropping off a stamped letter.  Prior to January 10, 1840, stamps did not exist.  Inked hand stamps applied to the letter indicated such information as whether it had been sent POSTPAID, UNPAID, PAID AT (city), PENNY POST, TOOLATE, 1dDUE or FREE, or what post office had collected the letter and what mileage it would cover.  The ‘letter box’ itself only came into use after 1794, and did not become compulsory until after 1811.  (The box consisted of a slit in the wall of the receiving house, which opened into a locked box.  Private boxes could be hired in some towns for as little as 1/2d per letter to 4d per letter.)

The letter itself differed from its modern form.  The letter usually comprised a single sheet (sometimes folded once in the middle to make a booklet-like page).  This was folded in thirds, then the ends were folded together, with one end tucked inside another.  Hot wax dripped onto the joining ends sealed the letter.  The address or direction would be written on the front and rarely went beyond Name, Town (or house name), County– occasionally, in London, a street might be indicated.

To save money, correspondents often wrote down the page, then turned it and wrote across their previous writing– thrifty souls would turn it yet again and write diagonally across everything else, producing a nearly illegible mess.  This was called crossing and recrossing one’s lines.  The postmaster receiving the letter would write on the envelope the postage due by whoever received the letter.

‘Posting a letter’ in the country meant sending it from one post town to another, where it could be collected.  After 1784, country areas had three deliveries and two collections, with deliveries sent out from London by horse messenger to the receiving houses.  The messenger then brought back any letters going to London.

Post offices operated as parcel depots, poste restante address (or post office boxes), and usually carried on some other business, such as serving as an inn.  Enterprising postmasters could and did charge for local delivery to non-post towns, villages, and even manor houses.

From 1801- 1808, England had numerous private posts to carry letters between towns and manor houses.  Rates could vary from 1/2d to 1d or more for delivery.  From 1808 on, local delivery standardized at 1d per letter and post towns began to use the stamp P.P. for Penny Post.  The private posts, however, tended to be notoriously slow and unreliable.  Postmasters often went bankrupt, ending their service.  Those to whom speed carried more importance than money kept to the old practice of sending letters via servants, by the Common Carriers or by private courier.

On Monday August 2, 1784, the Post began to change when John Palmer’s first Mail Coach left the Rummer Tavern in Bristol at four o’clock PM, carrying the mail and four passengers (which later became seven passenger, with four inside).  Palmer had long advocated postal reform and expansion.  Increases in commerce, industry and population demanded it.  After his friend William Pitt became Prime Minister, Palmer got authority to try his reform ideas.

Palmer’s Mail Coach reached Bath at five-twenty PM, and arrived in London at the Swan with Two Necks well before eight o’clock the next morning to deliver mail to the Chief Post Office in Lombard Street.  The coach had traveled 119 miles in under sixteen hours, an incredible feat.  Palmer received public acclaim and bureaucratic stone-walling, including a record of criticism which ran to three volumes of copperplate.  However, Palmer’s Mail Coaches began to take hold.

By 1811, approximately 220 mail coaches ran on regular schedules from London to various major cities.  These coaches used the post roads and cross post (post roads that did not pass through London), which could support the light, fast coaches.  The Post Office continued its custom of farming out the job of postmaster, and letters still had to make their own way between post towns.  Coffee houses, inns along these routes, and even carriage makers, held contracts to provide both horses at each stage, coaches and coachmen.

Coach hire rates were based on mileage, and varied from 2d to 4d per double-mile of the journey.  Mail coaches had the advantages of not having to pay tolls, which could be worth as much as six pounds to the contractor.  (In 1813, Parliament repealed the toll exemption for mail coaches with more than two wheels in Scotland and imposed a 1/2d tax letters carried in Scotland to compensate the carriers.)

The Post Office did use its own, scarlet-liveried employees as guards.  These men had to read and write to fill out their time sheets (Way-bills).  Each carried a timepiece set each evening before leaving the Chief Post Office at eight PM.  As compensation for sounding the horn at toll gates, seeing the mail safely to its destination and carrying out the unpleasant task of reporting the misbehavior of any sub-contracted coachmen, guards earned an excellent wage– half a guinea a week, plus sick pay and pension.  Tips were allowed and could average as much as 2/- a passenger.  As the Chief Superintendent of Mail from 1792 to 1817, Mr. Hasker also allowed his guards to carry personal goods and newspapers, provided this did not interfere with the mails.

Until the mid 1800’s, when rail began to take over, mail continued to be carried by Mail Coach on the best roads between major cities.  In rural areas, post went by cart, horseback and even by foot.  Private Penny Posts often tried to undercut the General Postal rates.  In 1805 when the minimum rate between post towns became 4d, the private post and some postmasters began an illegal Twopence Post, charging only 2d to carry a letter between two nearby post towns.  This was not fully resolved in all counties until 1840 and the standardized 1d stamp.


Rate are “Single Letter”, “Double Letter”, “Triple Letter” or “1 oz”

The d stands for “denarius” which means a penny, and comes from the Latin the Romans left behind; shillings are written out with a slash as in 1/ (1 shilling) or 1/2 (1 shilling and 2 pence).

Not exceeding 1 Post Stage                  2d    4d    6d    8d

1 – 2 Post Stages                                        3d    6d    9d    1/-

Above 2 Post Stages up to 80 mi      4d    8d    1/-   1/4

80 – 150 miles                                           5d    10d   1/3   1/8

Above 150 miles                                      6d    1/-   1/6   2/-

From/to London, to/from Edinburgh & to/from Dumfries, Cockburnspeth & intermediate places between them and Edinburgh

7d    1/2   1/9   2/4


Not exceeding 15 miles                       3d    6d    9d    1/-

15 – 30 miles                                            4d    8d    1/-   1/4

30 – 50 miles                                            5d    10d   1/3   1/8

50 – 80 miles                                           6d    1/-   1/6   2/-

80 – 120 miles                                         7d    1/2   1/9   2/4

120 – 170 miles                                       8d    1/4   2/-   2/8

170 – 230 miles                                       9d    1/6   2/3   3/-

230 – 300 miles                                      10d   1/8   2/6   3/4

every 100 miles thereafter                 +1d   +2d   +3d   +4d


Not exceeding 15 miles                      4d    8d    1/-   1/4

15 – 30 miles                                            5d    10d   1/3   1/8

30 – 50 miles                                           6d    1/-   1/6   2/-

50 – 80 miles                                           7d    1/2   1/9   2/4

80 – 120 miles                                         8d    1/4   2/-   2/8

120 – 170 miles                                     9d    1/6   2/3   3/-

170 – 230 miles                                   10d   1/8   2/6   3/4

230 – 300 miles                                   11d   1/10  2/9   3/8

every 100 miles thereafter           +1d   +2d   +3d   +4d

1812 GENERAL POSTAL RATES  (new mileage divisions)

Not exceeding 15 miles                     4d    8d    1/-   1/4

15 – 20 miles                                          5d    10d   1/3   1/8

20 – 30 miles                                         6d    1/-   1/6   2/-

30 – 50 miles                                         7d    1/2   1/9   2/4

50 – 80 miles                                          8d    1/4   2/-   2/8

80 – 120 miles                                       9d    1/6   2/3   3/-

120 – 170 miles                                  10d   1/8   2/6   3/4

170 – 230 miles                                  11d   1/10  2/9   3/8

230 – 300 miles                                     1/-   2/-   3/-   4/-

every 100 miles thereafter            +1d   +2d   +3d   +4d


London had had its own General Post with local delivery since 1635 when Charles I opened the Royal Mail.  In 1680, William Dockwra began his private Penny Post, named for the penny charge to mail any letter up to a pound.  Two years later, the government took over and continued operation of the Penny Post.  It comprised the cities of London and Westminster and the Borough of Southwark, covering letters received and delivered within ten miles, while the General Post serviced both London and the country side.

From 1680 to 1794, letters for London’s General Post had to be prepaid 1d.  This relaxed after 1794, with the condition that letters put into the Penny Post for delivery by the General Post still had to be prepaid.  Letters from the General Post for Penny Post delivery were charged 1d on delivery, plus the General Post charge.  In 1794, Parliament also lowered the weight limit to four ounces for any 1d letter.

The General Post and Penny Post remained separate organizations with their own letter carriers and receiving houses (a large number of which happened to be stationers’ shops).  The only point of exchange came at the Chief Post Office.

In 1792, Parliament gave letter carriers for the General Post uniforms of scarlet coats with blue lapels, a blue waistcoat and a tall hat with a golden band.  Walking back from a delivery, the carrier rang a large hand bell to indicate he could collect letters for an extra charge of 1d postage.  The letters went into the slit of a locked pouch for delivery to the Chief Post Office.

In 1794, London’s five post offices (Lime street, Westminster, St. Pauls, Temple and Bishopsgate) became two:  the Chief Office in Abchurch Lane, Lombard Street, and the Westminster Office in Gerrand Street, Soho.  All London mail now passed through the Chief Office.  In addition, service expanded to cover the seven rides surrounding London:  Mortlake, Woolwich, Woodford, Edmonton, Finchley, Brentford and Mitcham.

London post offered six collections (at 8, 10 and 12 AM; 2, 5 and 8 PM) and daily deliveries.  The clerk stamped letters received after seven o’clock PM with that time or a TOO LATE stamp, for the window closed at seven forty-five so that mail could be shorted and bagged by eight for the last collection.  The Chief Office charged an extra sixpence for such letters, with other receiving offices setting their own fee.  Letters received at the Chief Office on Lombard Street on Sunday were sorted and posted on Monday as there were no Sunday deliveries.

From the Post Office on Lombard Street, the blue and orange Mail Coaches departed every evening at eight.  Passengers assembled at various inns throughout London for departure at half past seven.  The coaches then stopped in Lombard Street to collect the mail and the guard, and departed London at eight PM.  Lombard Street became so congested that by 1795 the six Western Road coaches began to leave from the Gloucester Coffee House in Piccadilly at eight-thirty, with the guard and mail traveling to this point from the Post Office.

In 1812, Cary’s Itinerary listed 37 inns with stage and mail coach departures.  By 1815, this grew to 44, with inns having as few as 3 or as many as 35 coaches departing.  In 1815 alone, of the 20 coaches leaving the Angel Inn, St. Clement’s, Strand in London, five are daily post coaches and four are daily Royal Mail coaches.

The Bull and Mouth, Bull and Mouth Street, boasted the record of having thirty-five coaches departing, including the Royal Mail to Edinburgh, while the Swan with Two Necks, Lad Lane, listed the original Bath and Bristol coach, the Royal Mail to Bath, the Brighton Post Coach, and the Prince Regent coach to Dover and Paris.

POSTAL RATES – LONDON 1794  1801  1805 – 1831

Within Town Area                                      1d    1d    2d

Town to Country, or within Country 2d    2d    3d

Country to Town                                       1d    2d    3d

Town to General Post                              1d    1d    2d

Country area to General Post              1d    1d    2d

General Post delivered by P.P. in town     free  free  free

General Post delivered in Country    free  1d    2d


Since the post office’s beginning, its revenues went to the crown, which held the right to grant the privilege of signing a letter and having it posted for free.  This practice, known as franking, extended to both Houses of Parliament and certain officials.

In 1764, postal revenues were given to Parliament in return for the crown being able to submit a Civil List to award honors.  Thereafter, Parliament authorized Free Franking.  Letters were stamped FREE when franked.  Nearly everyone abused the privilege.  Most considered a stack of signed blank sheets from a Member of Parliament’s to be a common present after a short visit.  Franks could also be issued, by law, by certain public offices both in London and abroad.

To curb abuse, Parliament made forgery of franks a felony, punishable by transportation for seven years.  As of 1784, reforms required all franked letters to have the signature, as well as the place and date of posting written at the top by the person franking it.  Limits on the numbers of letters that could be franked were imposed, but how could a lowly postmaster tell an undersecretary not to frank more than ten letters a year?

During these years, 1780’s to early 1800’s, it became a hobby among some well-bred ladies to collect franking signatures from letters.  Rather the Regency equivalent of collecting autographs.  Some ladies strove for a broad collection, while others specialized in particular friends, MPs or relatives.

Prior to 1836, newspapers– and some other printed material such as charity letters and educational materials– could be also franked for free postage to postmasters by the six Clerks of the Road.  A tax of 4d had been imposed to cover the cost to handle newspapers.  However, publishers were not shy about franking their own newspapers.  Booksellers, after Parliament imposed higher postage rates in 1711, also wrote the names of Members of Parliament for free postage, with the approval of the postal Surveyors appointed in 1715, who administered function and facilities of the postal roads.

In addition to franking, from 1795, Parliament granted privileged rates to those serving in the Army, Navy and Militia, with no letter charged a rate higher than 1d.  Over the year, this extended to every branch of military service, including, in 1815, the soldiers and seamen employed by the East India Company.

While privileged rates continued for the armed services, all free franking was abolished with the introduction of the penny postage stamp in 1840, which marked the beginning of the modern post office as we know it.


The Postal History of Great Britain and Ireland (1980), R.M Willcocks & B. Jay  ISBN: 0-9502797

English Provincial Posts (1633-1840) (1978), Brian Austen  ISBN:  0-85033-266-4

England’s Postal History to 1840 (1975), R.M. Willcocks   ISBN: 0-9502797-1-4

British Postal Rates, 1635 to 1839, O.R. Sanford and Denis Salt   ISBN: 0-85377-021-2, The Postal History Society

United Kingdom Letter Rates 1657-1900 Inland & Overseas, C. Tabeart  ISBN:0-905222-58-X

Cary’s New Itinerary Great Roads (1815), John Cary

A More Expeditious Conveyance: A History of the Royal Mails (1984), Bevan Rider   ISBN: 0-85131-394-9

Horse Sense

Back a few years ago, I wrote this article for RWA’s Beau Monde’s newsletter. Since horse information doesn’t really go out of date, here it is again, for folks who need to write about horses.  Somewhat edited.

For those whose equine experience has been rather limited, this might offer some practical information you can use when your characters have to have some real horse sense.

General Horse Sense

The sexes of horses include: mare, stallion, gelding which is a castrated male horse.  Baby horses are called foals, with filly for a girl, and colt for a boy.  Horses usually mature between ages five to seven.

Horses are creatures of habit and herds.  Despite movies you may have seen, the herd is actually governed by a head mare.  The stallion is there to protect, she leads.

A horse would rather run from trouble than fight, and so a horse will only fight if it is cornered.  Horses are made into vicious animals only by abuse.

For a good source on horse behavior, I recommend Mind of the Horse by Henry Blake. It gives excellent information on a horse’s eyesight–which is designed to see long distances and up close for grazing, on how to read horse communication–which all occurs with nickers, ear positions, and posturing.

As creatures of habit, horses love to maintain the same pattern.  There are many stories of horses knowing the way home to the barn, of work horses doing the same work every day–even after they are retired.

Horses eat hay and grains, or what the English call “corn.”

Corn includes barley and oats.  Hays include oat hay, timothy.  They don’t feed much alfalfa in England, it’s a hay that grows wonderfully in the western states, but not so well in England. Horses do not eat straw–you hope not, at least. They are bedded down on straw.

Horses also come in all variants of brown, with true black and white being the rarest colors.  Horse colors sometimes have specialized names, such as: seal bay (a dark brown with black legs, tail and mane), liver chestnut (a dark red chestnut), roan (which can be blue or strawberry), dun (what we call buckskin in the States), and even piebald or skewbald (what we call paints).

Horses have four basic “gaits” or paces: the walk (a four beat movement), the trot (which is two beats), a canter (a three beat gait), and the gallop (four beats).

A fit horse can travel 25 – 100 miles in a day, at various paces.  The trick is to rest the horse with walking between.  It is possible to do more, but you will be putting stress on the horse, and could possibly damage him.

Speeds for horses vary, for it depends on the horses’ size, fitness, and what he is carrying.  A team of six horses pulling a light carriage will go faster and farther than a single horse pulling a very heavy wagon.  A good source for traveling times is to check mail coach times. 

Some useful terms to know include:  near side (left side), far side (right), hind quarters (back of the horse), forehand (front of the horse).

On a carriage, the leaders are the front team, and the wheelers are the back team.

Horses can be drive as a single horse, a pair, a four-in-hand (and that does mean holding all those reins in one hand), a team of six, a tandem (one horse in front of the other), or Unicorn style (three horses, one in the lead, two as wheelers).

English equipment also has its own vocabulary, and so it’s important to know the English words (rather than the western phrases).

To ride, you would use: saddle, girth, bridle, bit, and stirrups–which are made up of stirrup irons and stirrup leathers.  The back of the saddle is the cantle, the front is a pommel.  There’s no saddle horn on an English saddle.

Do keep in mind that riding styles have change over the last two hundred years.  Modern English riding comes from the forward seat, developed in the early 1900’s.  We ride with a shorter stirrup, leaning “forward” to go with the motion.  Riders of the 1800’s leaned back and rode with long stirrups that kept their seat in the saddle–even jockeys rode sitting down square on a horse’s back.  Studying sporting prints of the era will give you lots of information– but make sure the drawings are not caricatures.

In the stable the horse wears a headcollar (not a halter, as we call it in America).

A carriage horse is in harness, usually between carriage shafts.

The aides to control a horse include the legs, meaning the calves and heels.  Voice (cluck or whoa, not giddyup), hands, the whip and spur.  A hunting whip actually is a special design with a crook on the end to open gates, and whip points on the end you can change to actually use to control the hounds.  The whip is not actually used to whip the horse.

A lady will often use a whip to give commands to the horse on the ‘off’ side, since her legs hang down on the ‘near’ side.  The whip here is used to just tap the horses’ side.

Horses have been bred for specific function for centuries.  There are hundreds of breeds, but there are also some generic terms for horses used for specific purposes.

Hack – a city riding horse, can also be called a cob.

Hunter – a strong boned, good jumping horse.

Carriage Horse – a strong horse with showy action (not necessarily rideable, or a good ride).

Ladies’ Horse – a comfortable, smooth riding horse.

Now, how much would a good hunter or hack cost you in Regency England?

To put it into perspective, think of horses as cars–the more status, the more they cost.

John Tilbury of Mount Street in London offered a horse for rent at 12 guineas a month.  For 40 guineas, you could get two hunters and a servant.  (He also gave his name to a carriage he designed–the Tilbury.)

The average value of a coach horse in the Regency era was 20 pounds.  A hunter or race horse might go for anything from 20 pounds to 1,000 guineas.

On 5,000 a year, family could keep 22 servants, 10 horses, and three carriages–so long as they weren’t spending 1,000 guineas per race horse bought.

Carriages were even more expensive than horses.

In Northanger Abbey, Mr. Thorpe enthuses over his new curricle, boasting: ‘Curricle-hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing-board, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron work as good as new or better’ — and all for fifty guineas.

Chandros Leigh, a distant cousin of Jane Austen, obtained an estimate for a fashionable landau in 1829; the price of the basic carriage was 250 pounds, which included, ‘plate glass and mahogany shutters to the lights, and plated or brass bead to the leather, lined with best second cloth, cloth squabs, and worsted lace….

The ‘extras’ he ordered, including footman’s cushions, morocco sleeping cushions, steps, silk spring curtains, his crest on the door, embossed door handles and full plated lamps brought the cost to 417 pounds, 11 shillings and six pence, but he was given 60 pounds in exchange for his old carriage.

But what is the difference between a hack and a hunter, or a race horse?

Many of the modern horse breeds existed in the Regency.  General horse breed types include:

Ponies – less than 14.2 HH – often used by ladies in pony carts or carriages, or for packing goods — they’re smart, sturdy, good ‘doers’ (they get fat on very little food)

Cobs — Often a cross with TB and Pony — usually 13 – 15 HH – often a ‘hacking’ horse, or a light city riding horse.

Cold Blooded Horses – Draft horses.  Used mostly in farm work, and later in factories.

Warm Bloods – Often crosses of Hot Blood to cold Blood.  Used as carriage horses, and good military horses, for pulling cannon and what not.

Hot Bloods — Arabian and Thoroughbred.  Used for racing, and in general showing off.  Arabians were very exotic as they were hard to come by.  They tend to be smart, sturdy horses with great endurance.  When crossed with English mares, they produced tall, athletic horses which we’ve come to know as Thoroughbreds.

All Thoroughbreds trace back to three breed establishing stallions.

The Darley Arabian, Manak, came to England in 1703.  I actually lived in the house owned by the family who had imported him. They had a life-size portrait in the main hall.  The portrait seemed a little stiff, and that was because it was traced directly from the horse–after he had died.  He was quite a small horse, even by today’s standards of Arabians.

The Godolphin Barb came from Paris to England in 1738.  He was a gift from the Bey of Tuins to Louis XV, but he was ill-valued and ill-treated and sold off as a cart horse.  Eventually was sold to Lord Godolphin, who took him home to England and set about producing excellent race horses.

The Byerley Turk–most likely an Arabian–was a war-horse acquired by a Captain Byerley. 

These stallions produced, when crossed with English mares Matchem, Herod and Eclipse–racing stallions who can also be found in the ancestry of every Thoroughbred. 

The Racing World

Racing in the Regency was only for the very rich.  The Prince Regent’s racing stud farm came to cost him 30,000 pounds a year.

While racing can be traced back as far as English history goes, it’s modern form really comes out of the 1700’s.

In 1711, Queen Anne established regular race meetings at her park at Ascot.

Racing continued rather unorganized and unregulated.  Gentlemen organized races for themselves, often “matching” particular horses against each other.  By 1727 a regular Racing Almanac began to be printed.

Flat and jumping races were also held for women only.  Mrs. Bateman wrote in 1723, “Last week, Mrs. Aslibie arranged a flat race for women, and nine of that sex, mounted astride and dressed in short pants, jackets and jockey caps participated. They were striking to see, and there was a great crowd to watch them. The race was a very lively one; but I hold it indecent entertainment.”  This sort of attitude continued, but those women–such as the infamous Letty Lade–who did not care about their reputations rode and drove to please themselves, but they were the exception in the Regency world.

Around 1750, the Jockey Club comes into being, as a loose organization founded by gentlemen who regularly met at the Red Lion Inn at Newmarket. By 1758 the first regulation–for the weight of jockeys–was issued and the Jockey Club became responsible to the Crown for its organization.

In May of 1779, the first Derby was held.  Initially, it was called “The Oaks” after the name of the hunting Lodge in Surrey, owned by the then twenty-seven-year-old Edward Smith-Stanley, 12thEarl of Derby.  It became “The Derby” after the Earl won the coin toss to see whether the race would be named after him or Sir Charles Bunbury. Bunbury got his revenge in that his horse–Diomed–won the first Derby in 1780.

In 1791, the Jockey Club issued the “General Stud Book”, and by the early 1800’s Jockey Club stewards were at every racing meet.

In 1807, George III gave away the first gold cup at Royal Ascot. Also that year, Prince George quit racing after there was an accusation that his jockey, Sam Chiffney, was involved in dealings to fix a race.  The prince was never a good looser.

Racing meet sprang up– and still run–at Newmarket in April and October, York in May, Epsom, Ascot in  June, Goodwood, Doncaster, Warick, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Cheltenham, Bath, Worcester, and Newcastle.

Assize-week was the time for races, for it was when the gentry came into the chief town of the shire for trials, for selling harvest, and for races.

Steeplechasing–or what we know as races over fences–started off much slower and less organized than flat racing.

In the mid 1700’s, steeplechases were literally races between one church steeple to the next — over whatever lay in between.

By 1792 a race for 1,000 guineas was recorded near Melton Mowbray to Dalby Wood, covering about nine miles.  But it was not until the 1840’s that Steeplechases began to be held over organized courses.  They tend to remain informal races between individuals who want to try out their own hunters.

In both flat racing and Steeplechasing, do remember that England races clockwise–not counterclockwise as are horse races in the US.

But fox hunting is very similar to both the US and England.

In the Country: Hunting and Hacking

The record of the oldest English foxhunt dates back to mid 1600’s and the second Duke of Buckingham, who hunted the Bilsdale pack in Yorkshire dales.  November to March is fox hunting season.  It starts after the fall of the leaf…. it’s when the fields lie fallow. And it ends after the last frost and before the first planting.

Each hunt is composed of a Master– usually the man who owns the hounds.  The Master may employ “whipper-ins” to help keep the hounds together.  Hunting is informal in the 1700s–anyone can join in to follow the hounds (as in that wonderful scene from the movie Tom Jones when the Squire cannot resist the call of the huntsmen’s horns).  Those horns are actually signals to the other huntsmen and the pack as to where the fox is headed.

The Duke of Bedford’s hounds hunted actually stags until 1770’s.  But by 1780’s fox hunting took over in popularity. Enclosure Acts and reduction of forests mean less stag hunting.  And hare hunting was generally regarded as more a necessity of country life.

Hunt territories varied widely. The fifth Earl of Berkely hunted an area from Berkley Castle to Berkley Square, stretching 120 miles.  Most hounds were kept by rich individuals, and they often invited local farmers to hunt with them, for very often you depended on the locals allowing your hunt access over their farms—there’s still no way to predict which way a fox will run.

By 1810, there were only 24 subscription packs–or packs that you could pay to belong to and hunt, as opposed to requiring an invitation from the Master.  But this would double, so that by the mid 1800’s hunting became a more a matter of ‘subscribing’ in exchange for the right to hunt with the pack.

The golden age for hunting in Leichesterchire is 1810 – 1830.  This starts off with Hugo Meynell, who hunted his foxhounds from Quorn Hall in Leicstershire from 1753 to 1800.  His record run was 28 miles in two hours 15 minutes.

During this time, there’s as many as 300 hunters stabled in Melton Mowbray–with some gentlemen keeping up to 12 hunters.  You could hunt six days a week with the still famous packs–the Quorn, the Cottesmore, the Belvoir, the Pytchley.  Lord Sefton, Master of the Quorn from 1800-02, went through three horses a day–which is why you might need a dozen horses.

Ptychey’s record run was in 1802, when the pack covered 35 – 40 miles in four and a quarter hours. With horse medicine being about the same as for people–horses were bled after a long, tiring day.  So the life of a hunter could be a short, hard one.  In Warwickshire, a hunter might fetch 200 – 500 guineas.  But in Leichestershire, a hunter could cost up to 800 guineas

Wellington’s officers took to hunting in their regimental scarlet coats.  These started to be called hunting pink (the story goes that this was after the tailor Mr. Pink, but there’s no evidence this is true).  Each hunt, however, has its own colors–a color of leather boot tops, coat color and collar color and even button design.   It’s said that Brummell never hunted past the first field, for he hated to get his white-leather boot tops muddied.

Ladies were also found in the field.  Mrs. Tuner Farley hunted for 50 years. Lady Salisbury was master of the Hatfield Hunt from 1775 – 1819.  She hunted old and blind, in her sky blue habit, with a groom leading her horse and yelling at her to, “Jump, damn you, my lady.” From 1788 to 1840, Lord Darlington hunted his own hounds four days a week in Yorkshire and Durham, with his three daughters and his second wife, all in their scarlet habits.

But between late 1700’s to about mid 1800’s, when the jumping pommel was invented for the side-saddle, ladies were more the exception than the rule, and they were more likely to be advised to “ride to the meet and home again to work up an appetite.”

Traditionally, each hunt always has a designated meeting place–a gate, or an inn, or even a house.  You meet, the hunt cup is taken–folks drink to stave off the cold.  You might meet around 11 and hunt all day–or until it’s dark.  Bad weather does not stop hunting–wet weather means the scent will be high (so long as it’s not pouring).  Ice can be dangerous–that’s when you get broken necks and legs.

A hunt really is lots of standing around, with bits of galloping to and fro.  Trotting from cover to cover, hoping to draw a fox.  Some hunts kept tame foxes they could let go if the day’s sport proved too slow.  Some areas had to curtail their hunting to allow the fox population to come back.

Hunting was always viewed as a sport for everyone, but the reality was that it cost money to keep a pack of hounds and hunt them.  However, anyone could take a horse and follow, if the master allowed it, and some followed the hunt  in their carriages.

In Town: Hacks, Carriages and Hyde Park

Carriages for country and for town were generally quite different in build, for they served different purposes.

This was the pre-mass-production era–everything was custom built, or was bought second hand.  Because carriages were often built to the owner’s specifications, they often acquired the owner’s name–as in a Stanhope Gig.  One of the main places to have a carriage built was Longacre in London.

Types of carriages included:

The Phaeton – four-wheeled owner driven vehicle fitted with forward facing seats.

The Gig – two-wheeled vehicles (Whiskey), built to hold two.

The Curricle – which acted as the “gig” of the quality, and was built to hold two, sometimes with room for a goom behind.

A Town Coach – could be drawn by one or two horses (a pair).

Landau – held up to four people, and was drawn by a pair.

Barouche – could be drawn by a pair, or a team (four or six horses).  Had an option for a driver, or for post boys to ride and control the horses.

A “Drag” was a slang term for a gentleman’s private coach. It was built much like a mail coach, and often used for race meetings or other outdoor events as it height and roof seats created its own grandstand.

In 1808, Mr. Charles Buxon founded the Four Horse Club, its members drove barouche carriages and so was also called the Barouche or Whip club.

Another driving club was the Four-in-Hand Club.  The club assembled at George St., Hanover Square and drove to Salt Hill to the Windmill Inn.  The pace was never to exceed a trot.  Lord Barrymore could often be seen driving his matched grays, and he was also one of the founders of the Whip Club as well a member of the Four-in-Hand.

In 1805, smaller coaches came into use and in 1823 the first Hackney cabs came to London. It was not until 1830’s, however, that the Handsome Cabs–those single-horse vehicles we know from so many movies–appeared in London.

With a fashionable carriage you might go driving in Hyde Park at five PM, the fashionable hour.   You might hire a hack to be seen riding, if you could not afford a carriage. Ladies often drove ponies.

Handling the ribbons was not for the unskilled, or the timid.  To drive a single horse is to have around 1600 pounds of muscles in your two hands. You begin to see why men have the advantage in shoulder strength.

It takes a fine hand not to drag on the horse’s mouth and make them hard mouthed, and yet to control the team, and it’s quite an art to drive a horse up in to the bit so that it doesn’t slip behind your control.  It’s not at all like driving a car, for a horse is always thinking ahead to how to get its own way about what it wants to do.

To see some great carriage driving, look for three-day event Carriage driving.  Drivers have to perform through Dressage phase for movement, a cross-country phase (where you see the grooms clinging for life to the carriage), and an obstacle phase. 

Getting Around: Coaches and Stage Travel

Riding in a carriage is also very unlike riding in a car.  It’s a good step to climb up into a carriage.  And both carriage springs and road constructions were being developed during the Regency–and were not without problems.

Sylas Neville’s diary, dated 1771, recorded a stagecoach journey on the London to Newcastle stage.  To travel the 197 miles Stilton to Newcastle took him two days, traveling day and night at a speed of about four MPH.  The speed was restricted by the road conditions.

By the 1780’s, private post-chaises could cover the distance from Bath to London in 16 to 18 hours.  But the Royal Mail coaches were much slower–until John Palmer put a plan forward for a special coach.

Palmer’s improvements produced a mail coach that left the Rummer Tavern in Bath on August 2, 1784 at four PM, and arrived at the Swan with Two Necks in London, before eight AM the next morning. They traveled 119 miles in less than 16 hours, earning the coaches names such as The Quicksilver.

Up to 1820, most coach horses were changed every 10 – 11 miles.  Thereafter, to get better speeds, they opted for even less distances, changing about every six miles.

Average speed could vary between 4 MPH for a slow coach or up to 12 MPH for a fast one.  16 mile an hour tits would be a team of four to six high-strung, well fed horses, and a fast, light private carriage that would only ‘be sprung’ over a short distance.

Problems on the road included mud, ruts, cast shoes, lame horses, broken wheels, dust, collisions, snow drifts, overturns, runaways.  On the stage or mail, when going uphill you might even have to get out and walk up the hill to spare the horses.

 However, a good road could do well.  As Mr. Darcy says in Pride and Prejudice, “fifty miles of good road was ‘little more than half a day’s journey.’  And the roads were so good to Brighton that they were often used for setting speed records.

Now, you might not be able to travel the Brighton road today in a carriage–at least not with as they did in the Regency.  But there are other ways to gain valuable experience by going out to take a few riding lessons or even driving lessons–and nothing beats hands-on experience for color in a book.


The Ultimate Horse Book, Elwyn Hartley Edwards, Dorling Kindersley Horses and Horsemanship Through the Ages, Luigi Gianoli, Crown Publishers
Horse & Carriage; The Pageant of Hyde Park, JNP Watson|
A More Expeditious Conveyance; The Story of the Royal Mail Coaches, Bevan Rider
The Encylopedia of Carriage Driving,Sallie Walrond
The Elegant Carriage, Marilyn Watney
Fox Hunting, Jane Ridley
Hints on Driving, Captain C. Morley Knight
The Young Horsewoman’s Compendium of the Modern Art of Riding, Edward Stanley
Records of the Chase by “Cecil”
Nimrod’s Hunting Reminiscenses

Because it’s not always about the writing — an etymology of titles

This article first appeared in the Beau Monde’s newsletter, The Regency Reader, and since it sort of came up again, and since sometimes the writing is more about the research, here’s the information posted.

An Etymology of Titles
We tend to think of dukes and viscounts as having always been in the British nobility. In fact, these titles came into creation at specific dates, often as the result of royals looking to reward a favorite. English nobility grew as a result of the crown granting a “Patent” which stipulated the degree of the title and how it could devolve upon the title-holder’s descendant.

Knowing when a title was created can help understand its precedent. Two factors go into creating precedent: the rank of title, and the age of the title. The older a title, the more clout it carries. Therefore, a fourteenth marquess takes precedent over a fifth marquess, but not over any duke. For simplicity, let’s start at the crown and work our way through the English peerage by rank.

King (pre-conquest): In Old English the word was cyng or cing. The Saxon tribes who invaded Briton used this word for their leaders. In Saxon days, this did not denote a hereditary title, merely someone of high status and noble birth who could be elected to power. After 1066, when William of Normandy brought over his feudal notions of inherited power, King became an inherited title for the ruling monarch.

Queen (pre-conquest): The Old English equivalent to cyng is cwen. Again, we have a matching ancient Saxon title for a female ruler, or the consort of a king. England differs from much of the continent in that women can inherit the throne. This began in 1135, when Stephen inherited the throne through his mother, Adela, the daughter of William of Normandy.

Prince/Princess (1200’s): The Normans brought the Latin and French; from them, in the early 1200’s, comes this title. Until James I (1603-1625), only the king’s eldest son could call himself a prince. After James, all sons and daughters of the King or Queen became a prince/princess. Victoria (1837-1901) went on to extended the titles prince/princess to all children of the sons of the ruling monarch (all grandchildren of the monarch through the male line). The Windsors are now moving away from this tradition, opting for lesser titles for the queen’s grandchildren.

Prince of Wales (1338): Edward I conquered Wales in 1283, and his son Edward II, was born in Wales at Caernavon a year later, the first English ‘Prince of Wales.’ In 1338, Edward III made his son Duke of Cornwall, and would later confirm him Prince of Wales—a title that continues to this day.

Duke/Duchess (1338): This is an ancient title in European countries, coming from the Latin, dux, for leader. William of Normandy, the Conqueror, is often called William, Duke of Normandy. But, an Old English chronicle of 1066, gives him an older Saxon title, Wyllelm, earl of Normandize. In England, ‘Duke’ remained a foreign title until 1338 when Edward raised his son from Earl of Cornwall to Duke of Cornwall. Despite traditions of romantic fictions, duke remains a rare title.

Royal Dukes are those sons born to the ruling monarch. George IV’s brothers included the Royal Dukes: York (Frederick), Clarence (William), Kent (Edward), Sussex (Augustus), Cambridge (Adolphus), Cumberland (Ernest). The Prince Regent’s sister Mary also married William, Duke of Gloucester, who had inherited the royal title from his father, the younger brother of George III.

Other than the Royal Dukedoms, there are 26 noble dukedoms, including: Argyll, Atholl, Beaufort, Bucclench, Buckingham, Devonshire, Grafton, Hamilton, Leinster, Manchester, Marlborough, Montrose, Newcastle, Norfolk, Northumberland, Portland, Portsmouth, Queensbury, Richmond, Roxburghe, Rutland, St. Alhans, Somerset, Wellington. At birth, a duke’s eldest son takes on one of his father’s secondary title as a courtesy title. And a grandson then takes one of the third, lesser titles as a courtesy.

Marquess/Marchioness (1385): In 1385, Richard II created Robert de Vere–the Earl of Oxford–the Marquess of Dublin, thereby bringing the title into existence as a degree between Duke and Earl. The term comes from the Old French, marchis, for warden of the marches. The title wasn’t adopted into the Scottish peerage until the 15th century. As with a duke, the eldest son of a marquess takes on one of his father’s secondary, lesser title (if one exists) as a courtesy. Other sons and daughters are called Lord and Lady. This is a courtesy title, and so the title is attached to their given and family name.

Earl/Countess (pre-conquest): The Old English for someone of property is eon. This is as opposed to ceonl, someone without property. Earldoms are perhaps the oldest English title, dating back several hundred years before the conquest. After William came along with his conquest, earl became equal to the Norman “count.” William tried to force the title “count” on the Saxons, but the word caught on only with the earl’s wife, who still bears the title countess. As with duke and marquess, an earl’s eldest son takes on one of his father’s lesser titles as a courtesy title. Daughters are style Lady—such as Lady Elizabeth Dabney—and retain that title if they marry beneath them. Younger sons are mere Honorables (but that title is never mentioned in any verbal address).

Viscount/Vicountess (1440): In Old French the word is viconte, or in Latin vice comes–the deputy of a count. In 1440, Henry VI first granted the title to make John, Baron Beaumont, into Viscount Beaumont. However, the word had already been in use for almost a hundred years for an assistant to an earl—specifically for high sheriffs. There are no courtesy titles for any rank below earl, therefore the children of Viscounts are only known as “Honorables” (a style used only in writing and never in speech). And eldest sons of Scottish Viscounts are sometimes called The Master of (place name).

Baron/Baroness (late 1300’s): The word comes from the Latin for baro, meaning a man. Specifically, this meant a man who was not a vassal or servant. From the time of Henry III (1216 – 1272), the King’s barons were summoned to the Great Council. These were men who “were summoned by a writ to Parliament” or men of important, and often military, standing. (It was the ‘Great Barons’ who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215– primarily to make sure they kept their own rights.) Richard II (1377- 1400) started to created Barons by patent.

Baronet/Lady (1611): From the Latin for lesser baron. Historically, the term was applied to gentlemen summoned by Edward III (1327 – 1377) to the House of Lords (barons by writ, not by tenure). It also has been used to indicate barons of small holdings. The original term was Knight Baronet. The title did not come into formal existence until 1611. At that time, James I needed cash to hang onto Ulster, which the Irish wanted back. So James created a hereditary title, baronet, and The Red Hand of Ulster became their badge. Baronets of Scotland were created from 1625 until 1707, and Irish baronets were created until 1801, when acts of union passed respectively. A baronet is really not a member of nobility. He styles himself ‘Sir’ (no my lords here), and he does not hold a seat in the House of Lord. His wife is known as Lady (instead of Mrs.).

Knight/Dame (1000’s): Knight comes to us from the Old English cnihht or in Old French cnihta. It’s original meaning is for a boy military servant or follower. After the conquest, the word shows up to denote a man, usually of gentle birth, who has earned the title by serving at court and training for the right to bear military arms (and therefore earn higher rank by fighting for the crown). By 1386, we have Chaucer’s “verray parfit gentil knyght.” And by the sixteenth century, the title began to be awarded for personal merit or services to the country. Knights are not members of nobility. And the title cannot be inherited. The title is given to an individual. A knight is known as “Sir” and his wife is usually “Lady” or “Dame.” A woman can be granted this honor and is then named “Dame” in her own right, but her husbands remains a mere mister.

Listed by precedence, the British Orders of Knighthood include:
— Knights of the Order of the Garter (1349)
— Knights of the Thistle (1678) – exclusive to Scottish nobles
— Knights of St. Patrick (1788) – exclusive to Irish nobles
— Knights of the Bath (1399, revived in 1715)- first order conferred on commoners
— Knights of the Star of India (1861
— Knights of St. Michael and St. George (1818)
— Knights of the Indian Empire (1877)
— Knights of the Royal Victorian Order (1896)
— Knights of the British Empire (1917-1918)
— Knights Bachelor – a knight who is not a member of any particular knighthood

Edward III founded the “Poor Knights of the Order of the Garter.” It was a set group of 26 veterans of military service. Since Charles I the number has been fixed at 13 for the Royal Foundation and 5 for the Lower (now abolished), and a Governor. These men are military officers who are given, along with their title, apartments in Windsor Castle and small pensions. They are therefore known as Knights of Windsor. From 1797 to 1892, these Knights of Windsor could included naval officers. William IV officially made their title, Military Knights of Windsor.

A FINAL NOTE: For those Americans confused by the inconsistent “of” that is sometimes included in a title, this preposition indicates a title that takes its name from a territory. The Duke of Kent is a title associated with Kent, the land. The preposition is omitted in titles that originated with the family name, such as for Baron Beaumont. All existing dukedoms are territorial titles. And the preposition “of” is never used for viscounts.

The caveat to everything said here is that there are exceptions to almost everything. These are frequent enough to confuse, but rare enough to slip past the notice of most. Remember the notion of a monarch’s whim when creating titles—almost anything goes, but tradition is tradition because it is the most common method of doing anything. And you need good reasons to break that tradition. Particularly some of the traditions of nobility date back to before the conquest.

Oxford English Dictionary, Compact Edition, Oxford University Press, 1971
Titles and Forms of Address, Black Ltd., 1929 ed.
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Wordsworth Reference. 1970