Let’s Take a Trip, Regency-style

When I first began reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, I was intrigued by the world she created. Prior to reading her novels I never gave a thought to how people really lived in the early 1800s, even though I’ve always loved history, and studied English history, in particular.

The cover of my well-worn copy of Frederica

The cover of my well-worn copy of Frederica

There was something about her novels, though, that brought that world to life for me. One part of her Regency world that intrigued was the idea of travel. Reading Heyer’s novels, like Arabella, Regency Buck, and Sylvester, made me curious about how people traveled long distances, or even from one neighboring town to another. Heyer had a way of making travel sound both tedious and romantic. Her words painted a picture of just how boring and exciting, dangerous and uncomfortable it could be to ride in a cramped coach for hours with people you don’t know.

Illustration from The Country Gentleman magazine; April 1932 edition

Illustration from The Country Gentleman magazine; April 1932 edition

Over the years I’ve collected quite a few images of Regency-era coaching scenes. They help me visualize Heyer’s stories as I read them, and help me better describe coaching life as I write my own novels.

A 1908 postcard titled, Taking Up Passengers.

A 1908 postcard titled, Taking Up Passengers.

Below are some of my favorites images: they’re a series of coaching illustrations by artist Gilbert Wright that he produced between 1907 and 1911. I like them because of the little details Wright included in his paintings, like those boots in the first painting, titled Getting Ready.

And in the painting titled The Top of the Hill, he showed the passengers of the stage coach walking up the final approach to the hilltop; whether they did so to lighten the load or simply to get some exercise on a pleasant day, is a question left to our imaginations.

I’m happy to share my favorite images with you so that you, too, can “get a visual” of what it was like to travel in Regency England. I hope you enjoy them!

Getting Ready, by Gilbert Wright, 1911.

Getting Ready, by Gilbert Wright, 1911.

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Waiting for the Coach, by Gilbert Wright (1908)

Waiting for the Coach, by Gilbert Wright (1908)

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Two Gallants, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

Two Gallants, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

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The Start, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

The Start, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

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Detail of The Start showing a female passenger climbing up on the box, by Gilbert Wright

Detail of The Start showing a female passenger climbing up on the box, by Gilbert Wright

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A Heavy Storm, by Gilbert Wright, 1907

A Heavy Storm, by Gilbert Wright, 1907

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A Fresh Relay, by Gilbert Wright, 1911

A Fresh Relay, by Gilbert Wright, 1911

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The Top of the Hill, by Gilbert Wright (1907)

The Top of the Hill, by Gilbert Wright (1907)

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The Return to the Stables, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

The Return to the Stables, by Gilbert Wright (1911)

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Regency Carriages and Coaching

Coaching during the Regency was an important component of everyday life. Just as we rely on our cars today, carriages and carts were the means for transporting people in Regency times.

The London to Manchester Mail Coach by George Goodwin Kilburne

The London to Manchester Mail Coach by George Goodwin Kilburne

And they weren’t just utilitarian. Carriages told a story about their owners. They indicated an owner’s wealth or lack of it, whether the owner was frugal or a spend-thrift.

The Dress Carriage of Viscount Eversley in Hyde Park by Edwin Frederick Holt

The Dress Carriage of Viscount Eversley in Hyde Park by Edwin Frederick Holt

Your carriage identified you as a country bumpkin or a person of stature who could afford to display a family crest on a luxury-appointed carriage.

The London to York Coach by George Goodwin Kilburne

The London to York Coach by George Goodwin Kilburne

Hazel Mills just published a new blog post on Austen Variations about carriages and transport in Jane Austen’s time. I thought I was pretty well-versed about Regency carriages, but her posts opened my eyes to a never-before-thought-of possibility (look for the part about the donkeys). You can read her most recent post here.