TRAVEL IN WALES (continued)

Contents of this section

The Post Office
Cost of meals at coaching inns
The Travelling Ladies

The Post Office

However, the Post Office was slow to change their route using the New Passage. The people of Swansea were petitioning about the frequent delay to the mail by continuing to use the New Passage ferry. The official records of the G.P.O. for the last 3 months of 1833 the mail had only arrived in Swansea on one day in five at the proper time;' which is by Post Office time 43 minutes after 7 o.c in the evening. Eventually the Post Office compromised and agreed to send the mail across the ferry by 'Government steamer'.

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Coach Fares

A coach guards' pay in the 1820s was around 10/- per week, and a coachman could earn 18s to £1. But tips from passengers could augment this salary. When the 'Sovereign' coach started covering the 115 miles between Bristol and London in 1827, the proprietor thought it proper 'that there should be no fees to coachmen and guards'. This was understandable, for the tradition of tipping added considerably to the cost of an already expensive mode of travel. A seat inside a mail coach at this time cost generally 5d a mile, and it was only 1d cheaper if one sat on the top of the coach exposed to the elements; stage coach fares were lower, and on some routes it was possible to ride outside for 2 1/2d a mile.

Wm Jay, landlord of the Talbot Arms in Swansea had an eye for the main chance, his 'neat and commodious caravan' travelled twice weekly to Neath and Merthyr, with four passengers inside and one on top. It left Swansea at 5 A.M. arrived at Neath 2 hrs later and eventually came to a halt at the 'Kings Arms' Merthyr at 2 P.M., having taken 9 hrs for a 30-mile journey. (3.3 miles an hour). Mr Jay regarded this as cheap travelling but it worked out 3 1/2d a mile for the inside passenger who paid a 9s fare. The outside passenger was charged 6/-. While the fare from Swansea to Neath was 3/- inside and 2/- outside.
The journey was not for those with sensitive stomachs, for crates of fresh fish from Swansea market were humped aboard for the supply of Neath and Merthyr.

There were however in the 1850s attempts to wage a price war; at one time the coach ran from Brecon to London for only £2.10 for an inside seat and £1.5.0 for an outside seat. The shadow of the railway was looming and before long the halcyon days of coach travel were coming to a close.

Cost of meals at coaching inns

In the 1850s dinner was about 3/- according to some receipted bills. The use of a room cost 10/-. One typical bill for a Cardiff Commercial Inn and Posting House was as follows:

Dinner 3/6 But the customer also had to pay
Ale 6d Waiter 2/-
Brandy 1/- Chamber Maid 2/-
Room 10/- Porter 1/-
Soda 6d Post Boy 4/-

Many towns had designated pick up points, mostly at inns and hostelries. Here a night's lodging with meals and liquid refreshment could be found. In the early years of the 19th century newly acquired wealth among the middle classes prompted some intrepid travellers to make their journeys for pleasure just to see the country.

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The Travelling Ladies

Two such travellers were a mother and daughter who lived in Norfolk and during the summer of 1827 made a journey through Wales. They travelled mainly by coach. The trip started in London and led by way of Bath, Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Hereford. From Ross-on-Wye they travelled by boat to Monmouth.

After a sleepless night in Chepstow where they were troubled by insects. They hired a 4 wheeled cart drawn by one horse and described the road as particularly hilly and rough on the way to Raglan. They were charged 13/- for the 13 miles. 'It is 9 miles from Raglan to Abergavenny', the lady writes in her diary,' and for that we paid 5/- each for inside places on the Mail that runs from Gloucester to Milford Haven'.

Four Wheeled CarriageThe following day they set off from Abergavenny for Newport without any breakfast in the Mail, a distance of 12 miles for which they paid 9/- ea. -The Angel Inn Newport is large but we had a dirty disagreeable close bedchamber. At 0ne o'clock we took the Mail for Cardiff 12 miles and we paid 6/- ea. They walked around Cardiff and visited Llandaff cathedral- 'the village is very prettily situated but consists of only a few cottages- the Bishop comes here only to receive his money and then gives a sermon, he lives elsewhere': the lady wrote in her journal.

Next day they hired a gig to go to see Caerphilly Castle- this cost 12/- for 7 miles plus turnpike toll 6d + horse 6d.

After a visit to Methyr Tydfil where they remarked on the whitened cottages-coated with lime, even the roofs. There is coal there that burns so cleanly that there is no smoke so that their chimnies (sic) are whitened and continue like the outside walls.

At 5 PM., they left Cardiff in the 'Regulator' coach and arrived at Neath at 10.30, a distance of 30 miles (a speed of about 5.5 miles an hour).

Neath was described as extremely dirty, few good houses - the children looked ingrained with dirt- the women carry on their heads their mob caps white and not tied under the chin-round beavor(sic) hats-bare foot but pretty featured, dark eyes.....and wear bed gowns of wool and cotton manufacture- in general they can speak English and are very civil-every Saturday all the furniture is taken out of the cottage for to whiten the inside walls and then the cleansing concludes with whitening the outside, their rooms are stuck full of pewter plates or blue and white ones in a row with little pictures and trays all to make them look smart....the cottagers border their floors all round with lime put on by glue so as to imitate flowers.

Sunday they took the (Brecon) coach to Swansea, leaving at 10.30 AM. arriving at 12 o.c......Morriston a rising village chiefly inhabited by miners whose houses all dazzling white look very pretty at different elevations up the hills...
Swansea on the Tawe a large and populous commercial port, navigable for ships of great burthen....the streets are long, very wide and flat paved (?) and gas lighted. The Mackworth Arms is of so superior a class to the one we left at Neath that we seemed suddenly to have jumped from a cottage to a palace.... we saw the little village of Oystermouth a short distance off where many of the Swansea people go and spend a day-it is but 5 miles off and for those who cannot walk there is a coach. At 6 o.c we went to church and heard Mr Huson who took a great deal of pains but had an unpleasant voice and a Methodistical twang.

We went to the Mumbles in a coach called the Pilot fare 1/6 there which with two and to bring us back again cost 6 shillings, the distance is 5 miles and the road is circuitous on the west side of the bay.

The good ladies continued their tour of Wales, mainly in stagecoaches running on regular routes but sometimes in vehicles they hired to visit special locations. They even made the ascent of Cader Idris on ponies a journey that took some 5 hours.
At Aberystwyth they saw the covered meat market where butter and eggs were also to be had. 'Women stand with their baskets offering mutton at 7d (per lb?) lamb @ 6d, veal at 5d.'

At Machynlleth...'during our dinner a blind Harper came and played us many Welsh airs - his touch was delicate and the tone agreeable but not so forcible as I have heard in England and he did not sweep the strings- a Harper was at the inn in Dolgelly-these humble musicians begin to play on the outside of the room, often sitting on the stairs- so you admit them or not as you please; they attend different inns'.

Our design today was to walk to Festiniog where there was a very fine cascade...we got back by 3 o.c and ate heartily of salmon and veal cutlets, the former excellent from this river. There are fine slate quarries in the neighbourhood-the slates after being nicely squared are sent down the river in boats to the estuary of the sea about 8 miles off. The harper plays at our meals and this evening 3 parties arrived, so the harper is stationed in the hall to usher them in.

We ordered a post chaise and went to Carnarvon a distance of 13 miles...the wind was very high and the rain came down so violently so that we passed Snowdon without seeing any part of its summit...
.... On our way we saw a number of women carrying luggage, which they do in this country by a strap passing over the forehead like Newhaven fisherwomen near Edinburgh. We drove to the Hotel which appears a very superior house and fronts the sea...brown bread is laid at dinner we met with it first at Bedd Gelert, it is very good but not like ours in Norfolk made of meal, but of brown flour- all the inns bake at home and brew and seem to have everything in their own family- you may have London Porter (beer) if you wish it.... common people eat oaten cakes.

There are daily from this Hotel 3 coaches to Bangor, 1 at 6 in the morning and the Mail at 6 in the evening...we shall avail ourselves of a coach from this place at 11 o.c in the forenoon.

It is market day in Bangor and we understand all butchers meat is sold alike in price by every one and the Clerk of the market sees it weighed-veal 4d, mutton 6d, lamb 5_ d, bacon 8d & 9d, butter 8d per lb, duck 1/6. The countrywomen bring their butter and fowls in baskets and stand or either sit on the pavement but the butchery is under cover. There are hot and cold baths. We went to Bangor in a coach called the 'Pilot', which sets up at the Albion Hotel. It was recommended that we go to the 'Penrhyn Arms' and we were forced to hire two porters to carry our baggage three quarters of a mile to that Hotel.

Next morning anxious to see the bridge across the Menai Strait we walked two and a quarter miles and then we crossed over - 1 penny is charged to foot passengers.

After having walked 7 or 8 miles I found my tea very comfortable, whilst a beautiful military band was playing before the house and 3 peacocks strutted about. Penrhyn Arms Hotel make up 30 beds, has 13 female servants and both waiters and maids are engaged for the whole year tho' for the winter months there is very little employment for them. There are 15 sitting rooms.

Continuing their journey the intrepid ladies arrived at Llanrwst where they stayed at the Eagle inn which offered a large dining room looking into the market place-but the street seemed uninhabited except for the females who sat in their doorways knitting stockings (they will knit a pair in a day and a half)-they knit for Welsh shopkeepers who sell them elsewhere wholesale-these stocks are thin and very different from those they knit for their own wear...we saw a row of women with their tubs by the side of the river washing and having their boiler behind them over a peat fire-they rinse in the river and dry on the hedges. Here the women wore long cloaks over one shoulder and under the other, tied in front with their child carried within.

On and on they journeyed in every means of carriage and coach that was available, across northeast Wales till they reached home in Norfolk after covering 1000 miles between the 30th of May and July 24th 1827.

The lady concluded her journey with a rundown of the merits of the various inns they had stayed in. As follows:

Cardiff - good cooking
Swansea - reasonable
Dolgelly - has an appendage with good room
Tan-y-Bwlch - a new and superior inn clean
Beddgelert - civil people and superior cooking
Bangor - not clean and inconveniently placed
Conway - very neat and commodious, cheap
Llanwrst - unpretending-excellent fare
Capel Curig - clean but not comfortable
Chirk - humble and noisy inn, clean bed


Specifically - the Mackworth Arms kept by Mr Jones in Swansea was described as a 'clean good inn'. The Ship inn in Neath was 'humble, dirty and dear'. The Cardiff Arms in Cardiff - clean but the attendance was bad.

(for more information on "
The History of Modern Coinage in Gt. Britain", please click here)

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