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TODMORDEN'S COACHING DAYS

 

 

Todmorden was just a small collection of cottages, the church, the White Hart, and the odd shop. The river was free to run as and where it liked when in flood, and the ground was marshy and covered thickly with trees. With the introduction of the Turnpike Trusts to the area, efforts were made to clear the trees and build new roads along the valley bottoms. There was a slow beginning in Todmorden, mainly due to the reluctance of local people to invest in the schemes. However, by 1800 work was well under way to link Todmorden to the large towns at each end of the valleys. This achievment hailed the beginning of the coaching days and consequently the development of Todmorden itself.

One of the early tenants of the Golden Lion, Todmorden, was Mr. David Cawthorn, and he became one of the principal promoters of a regular coach service between Halifax and Manchester, his house being ideally situated on the turnpike road in the centre of the village. In 1810 David Cawthorn decided he could improve his business no end if he could persuade the General Post Office in London to allow a Royal Mail Coach through Todmorden, using his inn as a staging place and post office.

 

 

He invited the Trustees of the Halifax, Burnley and Littleborough Turnpike Roads to a meeting at the inn to look at the documents relating to a proposal to run a mail coach from Liverpool through Chorley and Blackburn to Burnley. The General Post Office management were refusing to allow the coach to continue on from Burnley, through Todmorden and Hebden Bridge to Halifax, because the roads were in poor repair or too narrow. The meeting resolved to make haste and improve the roads so as to remove the objections of the General Post Office. Mr. Cawthorn never saw his dream come true, as the mail coach didn't reach Todmorden until 1821.

 

However, a Committee of Gentlemen, led by Mr. Cawthorn, began to operate a passenger service using one stage coach from Halifax through Todmorden to Manchester. The coach ran twice a week on market days – Tuesdays and Fridays – returning the same day. The wool manufacturers and cotton spinners used the service to go to the markets in Halifax and Manchester respectively.

Painting by James Pollard

 

After Edward Blomley, later known as "Owd Neddy", succeeded Mr. Cawthorn as landlord at the Golden Lion, the service expanded. It became a daily service with two coaches running, the Perseverance and the Shuttle. In 1821 the roads were much improved and the Royal Mail coaches arrived in Todmorden. The Golden Lion became an important staging place and also the town's post office.

 

The mail coaches were all standard. The upper part of the carriage was black while the doors and lower panels were maroon. The wheels were bright red. The Royal Coat of Arms was engraved on the doors along with the logo of the Royal Mail, and the name of the towns at the start and end of the journey. The only post office employee would be the guard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was heavily armed with two pistols and a blunderbuss. He had an official uniform of a black hat and a bright red coat with blue lapels.

 

The lead offside horse was usually white or grey to provide greater visibility to oncoming traffic at night.

The guard sounded a horn to warn other road users to keep out of the way and to signal to toll-keepers to let the coach through. It was the law of the land that mail coaches had the right of way above all other road users, including the militia. As the coach travelled through towns or villages where it was not due to stop, the guard would throw out the bags of letters to the postmaster. At the same time, the guard would snatch from him the outgoing bags of mail . If a coach was not actually stopping at a stage but merely wanted a fresh team of horses, then just five minutes were allocated for the change and so the guard would blow the 'change horses' call on the post-horn to warn the inn-keeper to prepare the horses. The best ostlers on these mail routes could change a team of 4 horses in less than 3 minutes.

 

The Mail Coach seated four passengers inside. Later the post office realized that three more passengers could be accommodated with ease behind the coachman so seats were added on top. The charge for a seat inside the coach was 5d. Per mile, and the charge for an outsider was 2.5 d. per mile. These fees were paid to the innkeepers at the various stages of the journey. The journey could get quite rough in places and the passengers had to get out and walk if the coach was going up a steep hill in order to save straining the horses.

By now the woods had virtually disappeared and there were open fields and spaces in Todmorden. The coach from Halifax could be spotted as it came through Millwood over a mile away. Then there would be great excitement as the ostlers and lads gathered outside the inn to await the coach. The Golden Lion became a most lively and interesting place whenever a coach was arriving or leaving. The coach, with its rattle of wheels, sharp cracks of the whip, and loud blasts of the horn to herald its arrival would bring out the crowds, anxious to hear news of other places and to stare at the gentlemen alighting. It maybe made them feel part of a busier world than they really were. Old Mr. Blomley would be standing in the doorway, whip in hand, directing the stable men. He always wore knee breeches, drab leggings and a broad brimmed hat.

 

The coach would arrive and then the horses were detached from the vehicle and led off, steaming, to be cooled and washed down before being fed and bedded down. The passengers would alight and repair to the inn for sustenance. The servants at the inn were run off their feet in attending to the visitors. Everything, inside and outside, was hustle and bustle.

 

Then the words “Gentlemen, take your places” was heard, and it would be back on board with a full stomache and a fresh team of horses, Edmund Blomley back in position on his doorstep to wave goodbye.

There were so many horses stabled at Todmorden that additional stabling was needed and one of these was at top of Meadow Lane behind Pall Mall, despite there being stabling for more than 40 horses and almost as many carriages at the back of the Golden Lion.

Owd Neddy employed very many ostlers and stable lads. The man who drove Shuttle was known as Shuttle Jack. He later worked in the stables and gathered a lot of lads from the surrounding hilltops to help him. John and Edward Greenwood, sons of William of Birks Mill, and John Greenwood of Swineshead, called Old Swinesbod, came down to the valley, enticed by the horses and stables. It was a very popular occupation for the young sons of the hill farmers, and once bitten by the horse bug they tended to stay a long time. John and Edward Greenwood became drivers and John later went to Rochdale to live, continuing his job for many years. There was a man named William Marshall who came from out of town to be an ostler. He wore yellow boots. He married a local servant girl and later became a horse vet at Gauxholme. He was totally unqualified for this work, but knew so much about horses and their ailments that he was quite successful.

 

The coaches weren't just for taking merchants to market, or for carrying the Royal Mail. The Golden Lion operated a service to Blackpool, a sea side resort on the west coast of Lancashire where the air was renowned for its health giving properties. People had started to go on holiday.

Blackpool

 

Travelling on the coaches was always regarded as perilous. Should two coaches from rival owners be on the same stretch of road, it was accepted they would race. They would tear along the road at great speed, two abreast, jostling for position, to the discomfort and danger of the passengers and beasts alike.

 

Coaches were normally advertised to travel at 10 to 12 miles an hour "God willing", whilst others did it whether God was willing or not. There were frequent accidents. Wheels would fall off, or the carriage might overturn on the tight corners, and passengers and baggage would spill out across the road. It was quite usual for those who were travelling to Blackpool or similar to make their wills before setting off!

On one occasion the Perseverance and passengers had a narrow escape between Summit Inn and Littleborough. There was a large thorn hedge on the road side. The driver, James Blomley, accidentally dropped the reins. The horses took fright and off they went full speed ahead. As the coach neared the edge of the road, the passengers had all but decided to make a jump for it. The women screamed and the situation was becoming desperate. In the crisis, the driver slipped down behind the coach, and in danger of his life, he sprang forward and had the good fortune to catch the broken rein and bring the horses to a stand still. The passengers immediately made a collection for the driver as a reward for his bravery.

A more serious accident happened on the road through Knowlwood, near the Guerning Dog beerhouse. A wheel came off the coach and the passengers were scattered over the road amidst great confusion.

The coaching days lasted a very short time. Their demise came with the building of the railway in about 1841, when a different sort of coach came in to being. There were still several horse drivers living in Todmorden in 1841, noteably: Joseph Gill, John Helliwell, James Pickles and William Jackson.

 

Extracted from the History, Directory and Gazeteer of Lancashire 1824/25 by Edward Baines

 

COACHES FROM THE GOLDEN LION INN

 

Hebden Bridge & Halifax, The Perseverance, every evening at 7 o'clock. Manchester , The Perseverance , Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8am. Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7-30am. and Sundays at 9-30am.

Manchester ,The Market Coach, Mondays 2pm.Tuesdays 5am. Wednesdays

5-30am.

Burnley, Blackburn, Preston, Lytham and Blackpool during the bathing season, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7am.

Wakefield , a coach every Friday morning at 5 o'clock.

 

Extracted from White's History, Gazeteer and Directory of the

West Riding of Yorkshire 1837

COACHES FROM THE GOLDEN LION INN

Blackpool, Shuttle, daily during the season

Halifax, Shuttle, daily

Manchester, Perseverance, daily

Manchester and Leeds, Defiance

Halifax, Market Coaches, Saturdays

Wakefield, Market Coaches, Fridays.

 

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