Coaching inns

In 1827 there were four Coaching Inns in Alnwick: The White Swan on Bondgate, the Black Swan on Narrowgate and the Angel and the Star on Fenkle Street. A journey to Edinburgh would take seven hours, and to London would take two days.

When the mail service between Edinburgh and London was first introduced in 1784 it had taken three nights and two days to cover the whole distance. The timing was later improved by introducing shorter stages, but from the beginning the speed of the service was seen as a great achievement (at the beginning of the 18th century stage coaches had been taking thirteen days). Lord Campbell wrote about travelling from Edinburgh to London in 1798:

A journey to London was in those days considered a very formidable undertaking. I was to perform it by the mail-coach, which had been recently established, and was supposed to travel with marvellous velocity, taking only three nights and two days for the whole distance from Edinburgh to London. But this speed was thought to be highly dangerous to the head, independently of all the perils of an overturn, and stories were told of men and women, who, having reached London with such celerity, died suddenly of an affection of the brain. My family and friends were seriously alarmed for me, and advised me at all events to stay a day at York to recruit myself“.

Alnwick in 1827 was about five hours from Newcastle, four hours from Berwick and more than two hours from Morpeth. Things changed with the coming of the railway. The last mail coach from Newcastle to Edinburgh ran on July 5th, 1847. The North British Railway opened the next day, and the Alnwick branch line opened in 1850. In 1854 the fast train from Alnwick to Newcastle took about an hour, stopping at Bilton (Alnmouth) and Morpeth. The slow train (stopping at Warkworth, Acklington, Killingworth, and others) took about two hours. The fastest train from Alnwick to Berwick took about an hour (stopping at Bilton) and the slowest (stopping at Longhoughton, Christon Bank, Beal, Tweedmouth, and others) took about two hours.

These are the arrivals and departures of Alnwick coaches in 1827, before the arrival of the railway:

TimeInnCoachArrival / Departure
7:00 a.m.White SwanMailArrives from the south. It left the Queen’s Head in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle at 3:18 this morning, and called at Morpeth at 5:00 a.m. Any passenger travelling all the way from London to Edinburgh would have left at 8:00 a.m. the day before yesterday, and will arrive at 2:00 this afternoon. After 7:00 in the morning, any letters arriving in Alnwick from the south could be collected from the postmaster, William Carr, at the Post Office in the Market Place.
8:00 a.m.AngelWonderLeaves for Edinburgh. It will arrive at 3:00 this afternoon.
10:30 a.m.StarDespatchArrives from Berwick. It left the Salmon Inn at 6:00 this morning.
10:30 a.m.Black SwanNorthumberlandLeaves for Berwick. at will arrive at 4:45 this afternoon.
11:00 a.m.White SwanUnionArrives from Newcastle. It left the Turf Hotel in Collingwood Street at 6:30 this morning, and stopped at Morpeth at 8:30. It will continue to Berwick.
12:30 p.m.White SwanDefenceArrives from Morpeth. It left at 8:00.
3:00 p.m.Black SwanNorthumberlandArrives from Newcastle. It left the Rose and Crown in the Bigg Market at 10:00 and called at Morpeth at 12:30.
4:00 p.m.White SwanDefenceLeaves for Berwick. It will arrive at the Hen and Chickens at 8:00 this evening.
4:00 p.m.StarDespatchLeaves for Berwick. It will arrive at the Salmon Inn at 8:00 this evening
5:15 p.m.White SwanMailArrives from Berwick. After 5:15 p.m. any letters arriving from the north could be collected from the postmaster, William Carr, at the Post Office in the Market Place.
6:00 p.m.White SwanUnionLeft Berwick at 1:00. It will reach Newcastle at 10:30. On different days the Union uses the King’s Arms, the Hen and Chickens or the Red Lion in Berwick,
9:00 p.m.AngelWonderArrives from Morpeth. It left at 5:45.

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