Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Hackney Coach & Waterman

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Loretta reports:

Some time ago, while researching a London-set story, I was astonished to discover how many hackney coach stands existed during the early 19th century.  Which leads us to another lost occupation—the hackney coach waterman.

The following excerpt is from my much-loved, hard-to-find Pyne’s British Costume (originally published 1805 as The Costume of Great Britain), a book I cited a while back in my post about London’s Dustmen.  Hackney coachmen, who drove individuals to specific destinations, mainly in London, are not to be confused with stage coachmen, who traveled the King’s highways according to preset routes and schedules.
Hackney coaches appear upon the stand for hire, at seven o’clock in the morning in summer, and at eight in winter: twelve hundred are allowed to be kept in London and its vicinity, and each is numbered.  The prices of fare are regulated; and no coachman can refuse to carry passengers for any distance short of ten miles, however stormy the weather, or however the horses may be fatigued.  A certain number are reserved to relieve those that have been employed during the day, which are called night coaches, and they attend at their stands till sun-rise.  Public houses are kept open during the night for the accommodation of the coachmen.  The figure represented upon this plate is employed as waterman to the stand, who is licensed, and wears a badge with his number engraved thereon: his business is to feed and water the horses, and to open the door for the passengers, that the driver may remain upon his box: he also has charge of the coaches during the time that the coachmen take their meals.

The office for licensing hackney coaches was erected in the year 1696, under the direction of commissioners; they have a code of regulations, which subjects the drivers to penalties for extortion, carelessness, rude behaviour, &c. by which the public is much benefitted; as the mode of redress is rendered simple and expeditious.


jdtreelines said...

The Hackney Carriage Office still exists and still regulates all of London's Black Taxis. Quite a few 19th century taxi stands complete with their green rest huts can still be found on London streets. Also many of the regulations are still in force today - a cabbie may not refuse a fare for a journey of less than a certain distance, the cabs are all numbered, as are the cabbies, although they now display Photo ID cards rather than the old numbered discs. It is even said that the regulation requiring them to carry food for their horse is still in force - but that may be just an urban myth

Alexa Adams said...

I had no notion the industry was so well-regulated! This answers many of the questions I have long had regarding the safety of ladies hiring a hackney coach. Thanks!

Julianne Donaldson said...

Very helpful information. Thanks for posting!

John Chapman said...

My understanding is that the requirement for hackeny carriages (taxis) to carry a bale of hay for his horse has never been removed. There's also another odd law in that a hackey driver may urinate on his nearside wheel but not on the offside since that exposed him to the view of more people.

Jacki, in Wisconsin said...

Thanks for the reference to Pyne's "British Costumes." After reading your post, I searched, I found, I bought and it arrived today. What a treasure!

LorettaChase said...

JD treelines, I thought I had taken some pictures of the green huts, but I can't find them. If I do, I'll post more on this subject. John Chapman, I didn't know about those rules--clearly, I need to explore this subject further. Alexa & Julianne, I'm glad you find this as interesting as I do! Jacki--definitely a treasure!

Anonymous said...

Can someone discuss what the cost of hiring a hackney carriage ride might be? Like, how much to hire a ride across town? Or how much to hire it for a full day?

In addition - what did it cost in its own day and what does that money roughly translate into in our own day?

LorettaChase said...

The first link in the post will take you to the guidebook listing prices for hackney coaches. Several other tourist guides, for different years, are available at Google Books. To translate monetary value (it's complicated) try http://eh.net/hmit/

Cordelia Ferrera said...

I was in London a week ago, at Heathrow airport. I wanted to go to a destination in Harlington - not far from the airport - but was told when I reached the head of the taxi queue that no one would take me there because there isn't a place to stop the cab without getting a fine. Were the drivers allowed to refuse me as a fare because I was out at Heathrow (maybe not in city limits)?

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