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British mail-coach services 1784-1850

Austen, Brian (1979) British mail-coach services 1784-1850. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.l1366e0i0jl9


The use by the Post Office of riders and carts for mail conveyance on main post routes was by c170 proving deficient as a means of distributing intelligence for an economy about to undergo sustained and rapid economic developments. The appearance of fast light stage-coaches on certain roads at this time however, provided the inspiration for John Palmer to advance his plan for a system of mail-coaches. Despite opposition, Palmer had in a period of less than two years established a network of mail-coach services which provided an economical and safe means of mail transit coupled with a premier form of public passenger conveyance. The speed and expansion of routes and facilities resulted initially in a rapid increase in the volume of letters, but this declined as postage rates increased to assist war financiers, and from 1812 stagnation set in. The number of mail-coaches was never large and at the height of the system in the mid 1830s only 300 vehicles were used in Great Britain and another 75 in Ireland, but their success stimulated coaching in general. By the min 1830s mail-coaching produced demand factors in the economy amounting to about £700,000 per annum in Great Britain and £120,000 in Ireland of which the agricultural sector received 70% of the benefit. Mail-coaches represented 9.5% of the public long distance coaching traffic at this period. The development of the railway network saw a rapid collapse of mail-coaching on the lines out of London from the late 1830s. Rail transit of mail increased costs at a time when revenue was reduced by the adoption in 1840 of uniform penny postage. Increased speed of transit, improved frequency of delivery and low rates of postage provided however an inestimable benefit to a society in the throes of an accelerating industrialisation which was to bring Britain to the pinnacle of economic power and world dominance in the late nineteenth century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1979 Brian Austen
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Supervisor: John, A. H. and Barker, T. C.

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