Yesterday I had a “day at leisure”, as they say, in Hull – that’s Kingston upon Hull, to give it its full name, in Yorkshire. I visited several museums, and I think my favourite was the Streetlife Transport Museum. For within this marvellous place I was able to experience riding in a mail coach from 1810 (many of which were still on the road in Sam’s time). It’s not a real one but a faithful reproduction, and they have rigged it rather like those flight simulators at fairgrounds, so you sit inside and it jolts around realistically. My photos are poor, as the light was – appropriately enough – low, but you might get the idea from these two (that’s the laden rear of the coach, and then the interior, with two bench seats facing each other):
The first thing I noticed – and I was in there alone – was how snug it was. Now imagine it with four adults, knees meeting in the middle, being rocked and thrown about. Thankfully this was before the days of the large hooped skirts, but still – not much room. The windows were shuttered during the hours of darkness, making it even more claustrophobic, and it was certainly a rough ride. There was no heater, and one small lamp, being buffeted around and its dancing light no doubt contributing to any feelings of travel nausea. The interior was lined with red velvet, which sounds lovely until you think about how the horsehair cushions and lining pads would have been generously infested with lice and worse. If you ever get a chance to see the opening scenes of the original “Poldark” series, you will see Ross returning to his Cornish home in just such a conveyance – and very uncomfortable it looks too. I was certainly glad to disembark after only three minutes – but if you’re ever in Hull, it’s a must-try.