Horses for Hire: Travel Over Land in the 19th Century

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Highlighting Historical Romance today presents the brilliant Jude Knight’s research into nineteenth-century travel over land.

Land travel in Regency England required negotiating rough roads and weather on foot, or on an animal or a vehicle pulled by an animal. Anyone with the money could purchase a seat on a stage coach, or even the mail coach if speed was more important than comfort.

More money would get you a post chaise – a hired carriage that took you from the inn where you hired it as far as the owning company agreed to go. With your post chaise, you also got one or more post riders who worked for the owning company, who rode the horses or maybe alongside the horses, and took the post chaise back when you’d finished it.

Wealthy travelers preferred the convenience of their own carriage. Not only were private carriages likely to be better sprung and better fitted out with every convenience, but on a long trip, the travelers wouldn’t have to change carriages when reaching the boundaries of a hire company’s territory.

inn Author's Blog Highlighting History With all three types of traveler on the road, a staggering number of horses were needed to keep them moving. Each team could manage perhaps 10 or 15 miles before tiring, depending on terrain and conditions, and then the carriage would need to stop and have the team replaced with a fresh one.

At the height of the period, an inn on a popular route might have up to 2,000 horses available for hire or being boarded on behalf of wealthy travelers who preferred their own horses and could afford to send them on ahead for a planned journey.

Even the wealthy, would only do this for a shortplanned journey. If the rich person intended to travel 300 miles and wanted a fresh team of – say – four horses at each stop, he’d need something like 80 to 100 carriage horses to send ahead, with at least one groom per team. And given the need for working horses to rest both during the journey and after, he’d need to dispatch the furthest set three weeks to a month before he began his journey.

Or he could travel slowly, averaging 20 hours a day, so that the horses didn’t tire. Ten miles in the morning and ten in the evening? It would be a nice way to see the country.

Cabriolet_PSF-300x169 Author's Blog Highlighting History Most people, though, rented horses. They’d take a team for the next post, and then change. The team would be rested and then hitched to a carriage going the other way, to be returned to their home stable.

In my new release, The Realm of Silence, Gil and Susan travel up the Great North Road from Cambridge to Edinburgh, using her cabriolet phaeton carriage and hired teams of two horses, changed often so they could keep up their speed.

Excerpt from The Realm of Silence

She didn’t wait but gave the horses a light flick to get them moving, and Gil mounted and followed, easily catching up with the cabriolet-phaeton. It was a sweet equipage: four wheels with the body suspended low between them on elliptical springs. The calash top was down, but could be raised to shelter the driver and whoever was with her. The main seat would take two with ease, and three if none were large. Another seat behind allowed room for a groom, but currently had luggage strapped to it. Gil rather approved of the dark blue paint with the thin gold stripe, and the cheerful red hubs to the black wheels made him smile. Typical Susan to add style to practicality.

Had the elderly groom chosen the two horses? If so, he had done well. They responded sensitively to Susan’s hand on the reins, as she threaded her way through the early morning traffic. The horse Moffat had selected was up to Gil’s weight and had an easy motion that would easily eat the miles between here and the next change. Gil could only hope for as suitable a mount at the other inns along the way.

The traffic thinned as they left the town, crossing the bridge into the country. Gil held his horse to the rear of the cabriolet-phaeton, giving silent thanks for the rain in the night that had laid the dust. He had little hope that staying out of Susan’s sight would lessen her ire.

He would not revisit, even in his own mind, his reasons for insisting on escorting her. He’d spent long enough in the night cross-examining himself. Duty was reason enough, and the rest was irrelevant. Any manwould understand that he could not let a female relative of his oldest friends wander the roads of England on her own. A female would not understand the duty a man had to his friends. And The Goddess—her appeal in no way dimmed today by the carriage coat covering her curves—was very much a female.

It was true that, for twenty-seven years, since she was a child of ten and he a mere two years older, he’d been prepared to move heaven and earth to be near her. It was also true that his heart lightened as he rode further from the confrontation in Essex. Not relevant. He was her brothers’ friend and her cousin’s, and therefore he would keep her from harm and help rescue her daughter.

And avoid spending too much time close to her, as he had for the past nineteen years. She had made her opinion more than clear since his brother’s villainy had prevented him from courting her. His longing for her was no less hopeless today than it was yesterday.


They changed horses at Huntingdon. Susan ignored Gil and waved away the ale that he sent with a pot girl. He didn’t bother to approach her, but in Alconbury he ordered coffee and a large slice of pie, and took it to where she waited for the new team to be hitched. He knew for a fact she had not eaten today, for he had abandoned his own breakfast to join her when she’d rushed straight for the stable on waking.

“Eat and drink. You will not serve your daughter by falling ill before you reach her.”

Her eyes shot sparks at him and she pressed her lips together until they whitened. Her pride and her common sense warred, and common sense won. She took the pie in one hand and the mug in the other. She even, as he turned away, managed to choke out a short, “Thank you.”

Gil acknowledged the thanks with a nod and returned to his horse, where a maid waited with his own refreshments. He made sure, too, that Susan’s groom Lyons was looked after. The old man needed fuel to keep up the pace they’d been able to set so far, travelling roads in good repair with only light traffic. Particularly since he seemed to harbouring an ague.

As soon as the fresh horses were in the traces, The Goddess was anxious to be off again. They’d have one more change before Stamford, which he expected to reach by three of the clock. Good. The runaways had a a strong head start. Perhaps today they could make up some of that lead.


At the third change, Gil brought Susan another ale. “A fresh brewing, Mrs Cunningham. Quite palatable.”

Susan’s initial irritation at his arrogance had worn itself out in the hours since they left Cambridge. Whatever his motives for barging into her affairs and trying to take over, he was here, and could make himself useful. She took the earthenware mug with a smile and her thanks, hiding her amusement at the wary sidelong look he gave her.

“After Stamford, I would like to travel on for as long as we have the light,” she told him.

He nodded, laconic as ever.

“If we divide tasks, we can accomplish our questioning more quickly,” she added. “At Stamford, will you question the stable hands while I speak to the innkeeper?” That garnered another nod.

“If you ride with me in the carriage, we can discuss our strategy.” It would be a tight fit. Gil was a large man, and Lyons was broad, if not tall. Still, they could move some luggage so that Lyons could go up behind. But Gil was shaking his head.

“No room. And your man won’t last half an hour on the footman’s perch. He should be retired, Goddess.”

“Don’t call me that!” He had made her childhood a misery with that nickname. One long summer of it, anyway. At ten, she had still worn the ridiculous name her parents had bestowed. Not just Athene, though that would have been bad enough. Joan Athene Boadicea. Long before that summer, her brothers had picked up on the initials and dubbed her Jab. But then Gil, a newcomer to the neighbouring estate, came home from school with Susan’s brothers, her cousin Rede and two other boys. Gil dubbed her ‘The Goddess’, and it had quickly become Jab The Goddess. She’d been forced to take stern measures to win back the space to be herself, adopting a version of her mother’s name and refusing to answer to any other.

She glared at him. To be fair, he had not been part of the tormenting; had even tried to stop it. But she had never forgotten it was his mocking remark that set it off.

the-realm-of-silence-small-200x300 Author's Blog Highlighting History About The Realm of Silence

(Book 3 in the Golden Redepennings series)

Rescue her daughter, destroy her dragons, defeat his demons, go back to his lonely life. How hard can it be?

“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved…  the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.” George Eliot

When Susan Cunningham’s daughter disappears from school, her pleasant life as a fashionable, dashing, and respectable widow is shattered. Amy is reported to be chasing a French spy up the Great North Road, and when Susan sets out in pursuit she is forced to accept help from the last person she wants: her childhood friend and adult nemesis, Gil Rutledge.

Gil Rutledge has loved Susan since she was ten and he a boy of twelve. He is determined to oblige her by rescuing her daughter. And if close proximity allows them to rekindle their old friendship, even better. He has no right to ask for more.

Gil and Susan must overcome danger, mystery, ghosts from the past, and their own pride before their journey is complete.

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Jude-Knight-200x300 Author's Blog Highlighting History About the Author

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19thCentury. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.



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