Stagecoaches were a form of horse-drawn passenger and mail transport that changed horses at coaching inns every ten to fifteen miles, thus allowing for large distances to be covered in a relatively short time.
There is evidence that a stagecoach was operating between Southampton and London as early as 1648, but it was not until the final quarter of the 18th century, with the establishment of a network of turnpike roads, that stagecoaches became a regular form of transport. The most popular early (from c.1770) form of coach was the ‘diligence’, a small carriage for three or four passengers with the emphasis on speed and comfort. In the 1780s they were replaced by mail coaches, which could match the diligences for speed and, because they carried armed guards, offered protection against highway robbers.
Southampton had numerous coaches connecting it with other towns and cities and many of the town’s hostelries, including the Dolphin, the Star and the Royal York, were coaching inns. The Star and the Dolphin still retain the arched entrances which allowed carriages access to the stables in the courtyard. A restored plaque on the front wall of the Star Hotel near the archway reads: “Coaches to London (Sundays excepted). Alresford Alton. Performs 10 hours.” This probably refers to Collyers Long Coach which left at 5 am for the Belle Savage Inn, Ludgate Hill.
In 1840 ten coaches a day left Southampton for London in addition to the Royal Mail coach, and twenty coaches a day connected it with other towns. One of the most famous Southampton coaches was the ‘Red Rover’ owned by Robert Gray. It operated daily between Southampton and London and on a good run it could complete the journey in less than eight hours.
After 1840, with the coming of the railways, stagecoach travel rapidly declined.

Red Rover Stagecoach

Image Unavailable

By Charles Hunt, 1837


see also


Further reading:
Georgian and Victorian Southampton, by A. J. Brown, p29-34. (HS/h)
The Stage-Coach System of South Hampshire, 1775-1851, by M. J. Freeman. (H/ln)


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