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The Mail Coaches
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
In the seventeenth century a public Mail service was set up by Royal proclamation and Thomas Witherings a London merchant was given the task of organising regular services to run day and night along the great postal roads. The improvement in the roads in the 18/19th centuries heralded the era of the stage coach as discussed above. In the 1830s letters could be delivered the morning after posting in towns more than 120 miles from London.
Mail coaches were four-wheeled covered vehicles drawn by teams of four in seven to ten mile stages. They were painted scarlet, maroon and black; the guards wore scarlet uniforms and carried blunderbusses, pistols and a horn. They must have been quite a sight on the road.
They competed with private stage coaches for the booming passenger traffic.
Pigot’s Directory of 1830 records Post Offices at Docking, Heacham and Snettisham. Letters would arrive here from Lynn every morning at a quarter before 12 and were despatched each afternoon at a quarter to 2.
In 1836 a mail gig left Dersingham for Heacham at 11 every morning and returned to Lynn at 2 in the afternoon. The gig was a light two-wheeled vehicle drawn by one horse usually for two people. It was used by commuters and was the most common vehicle on the road.
By 1845 the mail cart arrived at Isaac Bunn’s at 8.30 each morning and left for Lynn at 6 each evening. Isaac Bunn’s store and post office was in the long cottage next to the garage in Chapel Road.
In 1874 we are told that letters are received through Lynn by mail cart at 6.50a.m and despatched for Lynn at 6.25 p.m.
By 1890 there were two deliveries at 5.30a.m.and another at 1p.m. The mail cart returned to Lynn at 2.15p.m and another at 6.30p.m.
So once we had arranged to travel to Lynn with one of the many carriers we could then journey on to London or to Norwich by Stage Coach. For instance The Union Coach left for London from the Crown Inn every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at half past seven. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays we could catch The Lord Nelson coach from The Globe at the same hour. It was a two day journey to London with an overnight stay in Cambridge.
If we wanted something less grand then Marsh and Swann’s waggons and vans left the Tuesday Market Place every night at 11 calling at Downham, Ely, and Cambridge on the way.
If Norwich was our destination then The Rising Sun coach from the Crown Tavern left every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at seven. Also The Union coach from Stamford called at The Globe and the Duke’s head on alternate days.
More detail will be added about specific businesses in the future.