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Were road vehicles offering public scheduled stage carriage of passengers. London had its hackneys by the mid‐1620s, the first stage‐coach—to St Albans—was recorded in 1637, and services developed on the radial routes to the capital 1650–1715. By the late 1750s, the London‐based network was largely complete. Regular services between leading provincial centres developed only from the 1770s, apart from Bath, which had coaches from Exeter, Salisbury, and Oxford ‘in the season’ from the 1750s. Manchester was 80 hours from London in 1750, 27 in 1808, and around 20 in 1832. Passenger mileages grew at least tenfold 1770–1840, and in the peak year, 1836, there were around 10 million passenger journeys.

The industry originated with services run co‐operatively by owner‐drivers, using inns as their infrastructure. Debts led to innkeeper control, largely complete by 1750, and thereafter concentration grew, with large firms predominant in the London trade by the 1820s. Stage‐coaches collapsed precipitously in the 1840s and 1850s, relegated to feeder and link services, and to serving peripheral areas beyond the advancing tide of the railway.

Subjects: British History.

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