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Harrogate Story 





By Road 

In the year 1750, if a Harrogate man wished to travel in fair comfort, if only to Knaresborough, he had to own a saddle-horse, or he .might easily hire one from, say, the World's End, the Queen's Head or the Granby. The moorland track that led there had not yet been changed by Blind Jack Metcalfe into a good highway. At that time, a journey by any sort of carriage, in almost any part of the country, was always slow, and frequently came to a full stop in ruts or mire.

But when England took to manufacturing, raw material had to be got more quickly to factories and goods to customers, so Surveyors everywhere set about in good earnest the re-making of roads. Between 1752 and 1777, three Turnpike Roads that came into the township of Bilton-with-Harrogate were authorised by Acts of Parliament, and made or rather, re-made. These were the Skipton Turnpike leading west from High Harrogate; the Leeds Turnpike, going south from the Great Pillar (as it is called in the township accounts) that still stands near the Prince of Wales: and the Knaresborough and Boroughbridge Turnpike that ran north-eastwards. The township lanes (local highways other than turnpikes) were also largely re-made between 1780 and 1820, judging by the large quantities of road-making material listed in the township Surveyors' accounts. 

The old method of maintaining the roads was by every householder performing his statute duty: that is, he gave three days' free labour each year. By 1783, however, as a township Composition book shows, everyone but those who had horses and men, available chose to "compound" by money-payment instead of giving service. This highways rate was not a strict money-equivalent .of the labour, but was graded, more justly, according to the value of their house or holding. 

By the Statute, three days' labour was demanded to maintain the new Turnpike roads from every township through which they passed. The inhabitants of Bilton-with-Harrogate, finding themselves called on to perform the duty on no fewer than three separate Turnpikes, appealed to the Justices. After a great deal of trouble, they secured a judgment at a Special Sessions held at Knaresborough in 1786 freeing them entirely from service on the Leeds Turnpike and reducing that on the Skipton Turnpike to a day and a half, that on the Knaresborough and.Boroughbridge to one day. The remaining half-day was to be devoted to the township highways, "under the Direction and Inspection" (as the ruling puts it) "of the Surveyors thereof." The Otley Turnpike, leading west from the Great Pillar, existed already in 1774, but the township was at no time liable for Statute duty on it. 

The Turnpike introduced the new source of revenue from tolls collected from travellers at bars placed across the roads at strategic .points. The Harrogate Bar was in Skipton Road, where the name survives in a street and a church. Another was added later, near the Cairn, for the Ripon Road. Other local bars were at Buttersyke and Harewood, Killinghall, Grimbald Bridge and Flaxby. The tolls at these happen to have varied widely - from Id. to 8d - but from the many references to bars over a much wider area it appears that the normal charge was about 3d. To pass one bar, therefore, was no great matter, though money was worth a great deal more then than now. But on a long journey, the bars became an appreciable item in one's travelling expenses. For example, in 1836 those to Leeds and back cost 2s; to Green Hammerton, 1s 4d.; to Wakefield or Knottingley, 4s. 6d. 

The country-wide development of the turnpike roads multiplied the stage-coaches and enabled Harrogate, at the start of the nineteenth century, to have two or three thousand summer visitors. By 1823, we find the Telegraph calling daily on its way from Leeds to Newcastle, the Union and Tallyho! on their way to Ripon. By 1834 have been added The Mail, The Hero, The Times, The Courier and The Joint Stock. These call at Gascoigne's (County). Hattersley's (Prince of Wales), the Black Swan or the Wellington. In 1838, The Ruby and The Brilliant actually start from Binns' Hotel (Lancaster) in Cold Bath Road. 

By the 1820's, coach-builders had set up business here, becoming partners with the inn-holders and keepers of lodgings (then a very dignified term) in the prosperity of the town, and preparing the way for the energetic nineteenth century stonemasons and builders. These coach-builders made gigs and chaises, which were a popular means of conveyance for visitors on their excursions to Fountains, Brim-ham Rocks, Harewood, and so on. By 1820, there were four Posting Houses: the Crown, Granby, Dragon and Hattersley's. Besides these there were temporary livery-stables that appeared during the season where one could get a horse, gig or chaise, and with the last even a Post Boy who, quite possibly, in these lesser establishments, might be the proprietor himself, for the excessive charge of five shillings was sometimes made for his day's wages. 

The coach time-tables are given in the Hand-Books or Directories of the period, but there is no information about fares or, what is equally important to the traveller, the incidental expenses, Overseers' and Constables' accounts, however, provide a host of such details. In. 1773, before the war against France, an Overseer travelled to Leeds and back for 4s 6d, to Knaresborough and back for 1s. After Waterloo, the cost of travel (as of many other things) had risen; but prices then remained fairly stable till the Victorian period. During the time thus covered the charge was invariably 2s for the journeys to Knaresborough that township officers had so often to undertake. 

For the longer journeys, sufficient information can be extracted from Henry Peacock's accounts from 1825 to 1838. In one or other of his offices, Workhouse Master or Assistant Overseer, he went with paupers, sometimes far afield, to the township of their settlement, or brought his own paupers home. Most of his journeys were of twenty miles or less; but visits are recorded to Wakefield, Pontefract, Hull, Richmond, Appleby. Once, he went to Manchester, of course by coach, but from there (120 years. ago!) took the train to Wigan. In .the bill that he presented to the township on his return we find his coach fares, the cost of hiring a gig or taking a cab or an omnibus, and also charges for food, drink, and lodging. 

Peacock's many coach journeys to Leeds cost him, each way, 4s or 4s 6d as an Outside passenger, but. 6s (once even 7s 6d) when he became a privileged Inside. He was what coachmen and guards would no doubt call a good fare, for he invariably gave them a tip of at least 1s on each journey. This extra outlay was considered a legitimate expense: possibly the township bore in mind, his savings in paupers' maintenance. 

In 1832 he removed a pauper inmate from York Asylum to the one at Wakefield. York had just decided that it would no longer receive patients from the West Riding. 

His coach fares, with the tips (added. in brackets) that he considered as the coachman's due, were:- Harrogate to York, 5s. (6d.); York to Wakefield (with, of course, the pauper), 12s. (1s. 6d.); Wakefield to Leeds, 2s. 6d. (1s.); Leeds to Harrogate (by The Times), 4s. (1s.) 

The account he gives of another typical journey, one to Bradford in 1833, reads:- Coach Leeds 6s - Coachman 6d - Harwood 6d - Breakfast at Leeds 1s 9d - Waiter 3d - Coach to Bradford 2s. 6d - Mail Inside (that is, an inside seat in the mail-coach from Bradford to Leeds) 4s - Coachman 6d - Coach to Harrogate 4s - Coachman and Guard 1s - Harwood 6d. The two entries of Harwood refer to the inn there, not the bar, for a coach passenger had no toll to pay. 

The hire of a saddle-horse at this time seems to have depended on the particular circumstances. It. varied widely - from 5s to 10s a day. In 1794, before the rise in prices, an overseer had hired a horse at half-a-crown a day, but he then rated his own lost time at only 2s, But any sort of travelling that involved a horse brought with it the provision of hay and corn at the inns, and also the tipping of the ostler who by general custom .depended chiefly on these "wails" for his livelihood. And, if the hired conveyance broke down, one was apparently expected to meet small expenses at least. Peacock's account for a journey to Beverley in 1833 includes the item, "Borobridge wheel mending 1s 6d." 

Travel by chaise, the "genteelest " mode, rarely came within the scope of an Assistant Overseer: but the lawyers' bills have plenty of examples. John. Firth, Harrogate solicitor in 1825, accompanied his demand for re-imbursement from the township purse, for chaise-hire, with a semi-apology. "Post Boy, tolls and expense on serving the Magistrates and Solicitor - 15s. 6d - the Roads being very slippery and no Saddle-Horse could be obtained." 

A final main expense of the traveller, the charges at inns for meals and accommodation, can be got from the township officers' accounts only with difficulty: there is often an "etc." added to Dinner or Breakfast, which means probably not beer costing 2d a pint, but wine or spirits. From innkeepers' bills, that give details, it seems one might get a good dinner for 1s or little more. The cost of lodging, so far as it can be gathered, was surprisingly low. Lawyers' expenses at that time were not always a guide to the normal, even though "allowed by two JP's" as in 1835 when "10 days Lodging and Eating" at Sheffield cost £1 5s. But as in the same bill "Journeys to Knaresbro" were charged at the standard rate of 2s, these particular hotel expenses may be taken, perhaps, as reasonable, and typical. 

By Railway, River and Sea 

When Peacock went by train from Manchester to Wigan in 1832, he obtained a time-table of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway. No doubt he would show it with pride to his fellow-townsmen. They were to wait another sixteen years for the station intended to serve Harrogate, but at a discreet distance from it, that was to be built at Starbeck, and quite near the Workhouse. Incidentally, when the second thoughts wooden station was erected in the same year, much nearer the spa, it took its name from the Brunswick hotel, of which Peacock himself was to be the landlord. 

The time-table that he left among the township papers is concise and comprehensive, almost beyond belief. On one side of a single sheet, in a space measuring some eight inches by four, it gives a full list of fares and trains and very much else. There were two classes of train, and each contained two kinds of coach. First Class Trains had Four Inside coaches and the cheaper Six Inside. Second Class Trains had their Open Carriages, but also Glass Coaches for those who could travel more expensively. Passengers were allowed 60lb of luggage and were charged for excess at the rate of 3s. per cwt. The modern traveller may be a little envious when he reads: "The Company engages to transfer Passengers' Luggage, free of charge, from and to any Hackney Coach, Car, Omnibus or other Carriage employed by Passengers to convey them to and from the Railway Station; and no gratuity is allowed to be taken by any Guard, Porter, or other Servant of the Company." 

Regulations intended to secure not only the passengers' comfort but their good behaviour are quoted, supported by reasonable argument. "No smoking will be allowed in any of the First Class Carriages, even with the general consent of the Passengers present, as the annoyance would be experienced in a still greater degree by those who may occupy the same coach on the succeeding journey." The First Class Trains (the present-day expresses. but with no 3rd class) make one brief halt, but it is pointed out that this is only "for the purpose of oiling and examining the machinery; as the Directors are determined, by every means in their power, to prevent the practice of supplying liquor on the road." The Company does not regard its duty to its passengers as ending with the journey. The time-table includes a list of legal fares for hired vehicles at the terminus. A further note shows the link-up with road-travel: "Charge for conveyance of Four-wheeled Carriages, 20s. Two-wheeled, 15s" To think that Bradshaw grew out of this one sheet! 

A prospectus of 1834 is amongst the township papers, probably because of Peacock's then keen interest in moneymaking schemes. It was proposed to set up a "Joint-stock Company for conveying Goods by Water, betwixt the towns of Ripon, Boroughbridge, and the City of York." The scheme falls into place in the general pattern of events. Besides the busy road-building of the later eighteenth century, there were serious attempts to develop inland transport by water. River traffic got a fillip, and canals were constructed. Two parts of the Ure had already been linked by canal to provide a. navigable water-way between Boroughbridge and Ripon. For use on this canal, the new Company proposes to own two "Fly-boats, to be drawn by horses at six miles an hour." This service is to connect up with a steam-boat, also to be bought, plying between Boroughbridge and York. Both Flyboats and steamer will carry goods and passengers. It is not known whether the Fly-boats ever attained the speed optimistically suggested in the prospectus. About ten years later, this canal met the fate of so many others. It was acquired by a Railway Company, which discouraged its use. 

In fulfilling their age-old duty to see that the able-bodied were set to work. Overseers sometimes found jobs for their unemployed outside the township, and a few papers even suggest the possibility of assisted emigration. A receipt of 1791 is for the passage money (2.15) for a man, his wife and his family. The schooner Active (Patrick Drummond, Master) was to make the crossing from Hull to New York. A generation later, in the 1830's. serious unemployment in the West Riding towns made emigration quite popular. In a letter to Peacock in 1831, the agent of a Liverpool Shipping Company says that his company alone was shipping 500 people weekly to "New York and other parts of America." Unfortunately, he gives no details of costs, except to say that he will provide cheap lodgings in Liverpool, and supply emigrants with stores “lower than any other firm” - which is impressive, but hardly informative. It is not likely that Harrogate had much unemployment in this period. Its most profitable visitors came from the landed class, not, as yet, the manufacturing. For the rest, it was a farming community. 

An agent's circular of 1848 gives a picture of emigration conditions that were possibly a little better than those obtaining ten years before. The packet-ship Queen of the West was to sail from Liverpool to New Orleans that November. "Persons may work there all Winter and Spring at Great Wages, and then be ready to proceed up the Mississippi to Illinois or other Western States."Steerage is £3; Second Cabin, £3 10s.; children under 14, £2 10s. These fares include the provision for each passenger daily of  "a good supply of water " and 1lb of "bread stuff (bread, flour, oatmeal)" or 51b of potatoes. There is also promised - perhaps rather ominously – “Hospital Money, according to Act of Parliament." The emigrants themselves will have to obtain "other necessary Sea Stores (e.g., tea, coffee, sugar, butter, cheap cooking utensils, beds and bedding)." The Company has its own stores in Liverpool, where these supplies may be bought, and "Draughts at Sight," for £1 and upwards, may also be purchased, which will be cashed by the firm's branches in America. The path of the emigrant was being smoothed; but obviously a voyage to America in pre-Victorian days was not something to be undertaken lightly.





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