Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paris-London Steam Packet

Thursday, July 7, 2011
Loretta reports:

Years of researching Regency era stories made me familiar with England's coaching roads, along which the mails sped.  To get to France, one generally traveled the road to Dover.  From there, sailing packets crossed the Channel to Calais, France, a distance of approximately 30 miles.

Though I knew my hero and heroine in 1835 would travel under steam power,  I hadn’t realized, until I studied travel guides for the period, that it was possible to go from Calais to London by boat.
The route by the London Steam Boats from the Tower Stairs, is less expensive, and, during the summer months, preferred by many. Those who are not subject to sea-sickness, will find this route, in fine weather, a most delightful voyage ; the vast variety of objects it affords, the crowds of shipping through which you imperceptibly glide, castles, barges, trees, in short, every object calculated to excite admiration and heighten enjoyment, present themselves, during your passage through the Thames. The Steam Company usually print monthly lists, stating the time of their leaving both London and Calais . . . In favourable weather, the passage is made in about twelve hours, but sometimes they are from sixteen to eighteen; the fare for best cabin passengers, is 33s.; fore cabin, 1£. 2s. 6d.; refreshment may be had on board at the following prices: breakfast consisting of cold meat, eggs, tea and coffee, 2s. dinner of plain roast and boiled, with vegetables, &c. 2s.; tea, 1s.; bottled porter, 1s.; wine, spirits, &c. equally reasonable, and of the first quality; there are beds on board, and every accommodation for ladies . . . Gentlemen who prefer travelling in white hats, will do well to wear either a hat cover, or a travelling cap, whilst on board the packets, as the smoke from the funnel of the vessel will discolour it.
__ Francis Coghlan, A guide to France, explaining every form and expense from London to Paris, 1830.

Print illustration:  The steam ship President in gale, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Photo:  Detail of an image from the Illustrated London News (10 May 1851), a cutaway of a packet ship, displayed at the Smithsonian; photo courtesy me.


Joanna said...

I have read that it was possible to sail directly from London. It occurs in Martin Chuzzlewit when Jonas is trying to flee the country and boards a boat for The Netherlands (I think) before he is apprehended.

Susan Omine said...

Thank you so much for your posts, Ms. Chase. I'm working on my first two historicals and this site is both inspiring and so helpful in terms of guiding my research.
(And I'm so looking forward to reading 'Silk is for Seduction'! You are one of my absolute favorites!)

Charles Bazalgette said...

Who would travel in a white hat on a coal-fired steamer I wonder!

Louise Partain said...

@Charles Bazalgette I agree with you. Most Londoners who had little money to spend on garments preferred dark clothes for that reason. In fact, I would say that wearing a white hat indicates stupidity or wealth or both.

Thank you, Loretta, for more hints of the research that is required for period writing. I just got Silk Is For Seduction and look forward to reading it next on my TBR pile.

LorettaChase said...

Joanna, it's been a while since I've read Martin Chuzzlewit, but that detail was something I'd obviously failed to notice. Susan, thank you! I love it when history inspires. Charles & Louise, I do agree about white hats. Either there's a lack of common sense or way too much money. And Louise, I do hope you enjoy the book.

Juliet Burns said...

Though I don't post often, I'm a HUGE fan and just picked up SILK FOR SEDUCTION --can't wait to devour it!
One of my fave romance movies is called FIRELIGHT (Sophie Marceau)and I THINK it shows the H/h traveling from France to London on a steamer packet about the same time your story takes place. But I could be wrong...

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