Turnpike Trusts were set up in the early 18th Century to improve major highways; tolls were imposed on the users of the roads, the income being used to pay for the maintenance.
The " Royal Mail” was carried on these improved roads in specially designed and constructed vehicles “Mail Coaches”. They maintained an average speed of some ten miles per hour.
The vehicles and their guards were supplied by the Post Office with the teams of horses supplied by contractors.
Maintenance of time was very important and ; the Guards were provided with chronometers which were sealed before departure.
The coaches departed daily from the Post Office in the Strand at 8.00am, Monday to Saturday and half an hour later on Sundays.
Guards were also provided with Blunderbusses for protection and as part of their duties were expected to carry the mailbags forward using one of the horses, during bad weather (e.g. the vehicles being stuck in snow drifts or being held up by flooded rivers)
For an example of a typical journey let us take London to Manchester
The Horse contractor was W Chaplin & Company.
Northbound departed from “The Swan with Two Necks” in Lad Lane at 7.30 pm stopping at The General Post Office to pick up the mail at 8.00 pm Then onward through St Albans, Dunstable, Hockcliffe, Woburn (12.27 am), Stoke Goldington (1.45 am), Northampton (2.45 am) Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Derby, Ashbourne, Macclesfield arriving at Manchester at 3.00 pm. A journey of 191 miles, journey time 19 hours. The equivalent Stagecoach could take up to 24 hours.
The southbound vehicle left Manchester at 10.00 pm, passing through Stoke Goldington at about a quarter past midnight and arriving at London's General Post Office at 06.26 pm.
London to Liverpool (Woodside) - Horse contractor. B W Horne & Co.
Northbound departed from Golden Cross Inn, Charing Cross 7.30 p.m. and General Post Office at 8 p.m. Northward through Woburn 12.31 a.m. (4 minutes later than Manchester!) Stoke Goldington about 2a.m. and Northampton 3.37 a.m. - much later than the Manchester - was Northampton an “early breakfast” stop ? Then on through Lutterworth, Hinckley, Atherstone, Tamworth, Lichfield, Stafford, Nantwich, and Chester arriving at Birkenhead Woodside for Liverpool 5.54 p.m. The mails were then ferried across the River Mersey to Liverpool.
The southbound journey left Woodside 8.40 a.m. passing through Stoke Goldington about 30 minutes after midnight.
London to Halifax - horse contractor - B. W. Horne & Co.
Also left Golden Cross Inn at 7.30 p.m. and GPO at 8 p.m. and passed through Newport Pagnell 1.11 a.m. and Stoke Goldington about 30 minutes later. Then on through Northampton, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Chesterfield, Sheffield, and Huddersfield arriving at Halifax 4.05 p.m..
The southward journey left Halifax 10.45 a.m., passed through Stoke Goldington about 1.15 a.m. and arrived in London 6.47 a.m.