Sunday 15 January 2017

Going For A Ride

Having said something about vehicle taxation, it reminded me of an item on file on transport costs, probably inspired by a TV series set a couple of hundred years ago. It is one of my gripes that we do not understand the real costs of living all those years ago.


We are all very worried about our transport costs, personal, public, and those supplying our food and essentials.  But historically, even if oil prices do move up a good deal, they are very much cheaper than in the past.

When you look at the historical dramas on TV and see all the coaches, horses, and the rest, much of it is flights of fancy, for the vast majority of people it was all a lot simpler.  Basically, you walked, unless you were possessed of a good income.

If you look on the four in hand coach used for Stage or for private purposes, necessarily four horsepower and run down the potential costs they are very high.

A two or one horse rig would be for lighter and shorter distance work, and six horses is at State Coach levels or magnate display purposes.

So restate say 1830 prices at 2009 levels, by calculations that relate to labour costs rather than price comparisons of identifiable consumer products.

Cost of coach new: £250,000 or more.
Cost of horses:  £15,000 each, good quality horses cost a lot more than others.
Annual forage cost:  £5000 at least for four horses.
Annual maintenance:  £50,000, given the rate of contemporary wear and tear.
Labour costs for driver, guard, postillion, ostlers, and boys, plus stabling and incidentals, then probably up to £300,000 a year at least of probably more.

For that you would get 0-6 mph in five minutes.  You might need a full service (that is change of horses) at every 15-25 miles.

Commercial Operation Seat Prices for London-Bath (100 miles)
Inside - £1500; Outside rear - £1000; Outside top - £750
Partial refund for winter outside passengers freezing to death on journey.

Now for freight an example is a ten ton log going from a woodland to the boatyard for the shipwrights to make a mast would need a team of 16 heavy horses, plus a full complement of drivers, minders, and labourers and ten miles a day would be good going.  Try working the cost of that out in modern money.

A single horse and cart would cost much less than a stage coach, less than half, and need less support labour etc., but carries only as much as an average size van.

So why complain about motoring and transport costs today?

Because the future may become much more like the past.  At least we will have free compost deposits in the streets.


To think, how we all complain about car insurance........


  1. Many miles of Derbyshire footpaths show how most people travelled from place to place.

    Considering the rate of wear on modern walking boots I often wonder how our ancestors managed to keep their footwear in good repair. History must be full of cobblers.

    1. Yes it is, Mrs. Thatcher has a lot of cobblers in her ancestry.