Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Treasure those Memories … part 8 … History of Road and Train Travel …


 Perhaps I should add in here … that in the early 1800s … it would take 40 hours from London to reach … St Ives, Penzance or Carbis Bay …

 


 … so the arrival of the railways most definitely shortened the journey time … as my ninety year old ‘Ward Lock + Co’ guide book states – it can be done comfortably by train in six and a half hours.

 

 

Cover image from
Daniel Defoe's travels


In those early days of the 1800s … we’d have travelled by coach, possibly unsprung, with lots of stops at coaching inns for vittling, changing of horses.  Henry VIII (early 1500s) had established a network of Posting Inns for his mail to be delivered wherever he happened to be.

 

 



Sign at Whiddon
Down, Devon
There is a ‘line of posts’ in the west country – where the King’s courier could get fresh horses … Henry never made it to Penzance – but his daughter Elizabeth I would have known about the town at the time of the Spanish Armada – 1588.

 

 

The roads, or tracks more like, would have been really terrible – as we were still using those constructed by the Romans fifteen hundred years earlier.  The Romans never conquered Cornwall … but spread their wings, or more pertinently milestones, into the county.

 

 

John Metcalf


Just an interesting historical snippet in here – John Metcalf (1717 – 1810), who became Britain’s first professional road builder – emerged during the Industrial Revolution.

 




Believe it or not he was blind from the age of 6 … but had an eventful life, living to the ripe old age of 92 …

 

 

Statue of Metcalf in
Knaresborough, with
a Viameter
(Surveyor's Wheel)

… at age 77 he walked from Knaresborough to York, over 17 miles, where he related his life’s work, in a detailed account, to his publisher.

 

 

We in the 20th century almost always drove  … but occasionally I’d get the night sleeper from Paddington, London to Penzance.



 

Exeter St David's railway station
Early on my grandparents would drive up from Carbis Bay to Exeter and meet us halfway … we’d either drive down and us kids would be shoved out to continue our journey whichever way!

 

 

Or on one occasion my brother and I were shipped (trained) off from Woking to Exeter … I was guardian! – and had a ten shilling note or two sewn into the hem of my skirt – for emergencies. 


 

Ten Shilling note - I'd forgotten
about these ... 
We had our tickets and fodder … the only snag being that the train was packed jammed full of sailors – so I upped (walked) us both to the first class carriage – much to the bemusement of the ticket collector.  I’m not sure if I had to pay extra – anyway … it was more peaceful and in those days you were left alone.

 

Another time I’d been over in France with some of my mother’s first husband’s family at their huge rambling holiday house in the Pyrenees – I must have been 14 … my father came to Heathrow airport to pick me up … and as our own home was being revamped, we’d decamped for our long summer holidays to the south coast of Cornwall – rented a place … took the cats … and had a lovely time.

 

This is the most western
Ordnance Survey map of
Great Britain

 The problem was I ended up coming back on the August bank holiday Monday … nightmare traffic – my father, always the prescient one, had every ordinance survey map possible from Heathrow to Cornwall … and immediately said – right let’s not go on any main roads. 

 

Well, being the good Girl Guide I was back then … we trundled our way down every nook and cranny that the maps would allow us.  It took 10 hours! 

  

We used all the backroads, including ones with grass growing in their middle – it was fun for me … my poor Dad – must have suffered bum ache!

 

Kinsol Trestle - Vancouver Island

One last bit of nonsense … I can be so dumb at times … it had never occurred to me that our original rail viaducts would have been made from wood … similar to the ones I saw in Canada – but which weren’t in operation.  The particular one near where I was staying on Vancouver Island was the Kinsol Trestle …

 


Carbis Bay viaduct
… here they were rapidly rebuilt using stone: this one at Carbis Bay station – could be used by travellers or ‘important people’ at the time of the G7 Summit in June.:(11th – 13th June 2021).

 

The Eden Project - part of the 'showing off' bit
of the G7 Summit

Travelling blog time over … Easter is a-coming … actually I’m rather enjoying the gentler times without rushing here there and everywhere – but I will enjoy being free again.

 

Have a peaceful Easter weekend … and good luck to all the A-Zers …

 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

40 comments:

Sandra Cox said...

Another fascinating post.
And John Metcalf...Wow. How impressive and how inspirational is that? Thanks for sharing.
Take special care.

Elephant's Child said...

Echoing Sandra Cox. John Metcalf capitalised determination didn't he? I remember car trips with my parents - main roads were avoided as a point of principle. As were 'regulated' camp sites.
Thank you for this series and have a wonderful, peaceful Easter.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Another 'blitzer' of a post, Hilary! Lots to enjoy here, some memories triggered of taking the 'scenic routes' with dear ol' dad!!! YAM xx

Anabel Marsh said...

That must have been some journey you took with your father along all the tiny roads. Poor man must have been exhausted!

Hels said...

Royals, nobles and leading churchmen always had their biographies written in detail, but ordinary workers did not. So good on John Metcalf! I am delighted Britain’s first professional road builder related his life’s work to his publisher.

Liz A. said...

I was reading a historical fiction story where the characters were commenting how much quicker it was to get to Paris than it had been 10 years before. I imagine the pace of getting places made people's heads spin back in the 1800s.

Joanne said...

Planes, trains, and automobiles. Travel is quite fascinating - time and distance - trying to conquer miles. I loved this history and your poor dad. No doubt the proverbial "are we there yet?" got shushed. "You'll know it when we are there." Fun memories. Thanks for sharing.

Vallypee said...

A lovely post, Hilary! I loved your story about your back roads return to London. We loved those off the beaten tracks adventures too. As for trains, they are my favourites!

Pradeep Nair said...

The evolution of transport - roads and trains - is always fascinating, Hilary. It's the bedrock of civilization, in a sense, is it not?
That little trivia about John Metcalf is interesting. How people overcome their limitations!

Keith's Ramblings said...

Your memories and snippets of interesting facts just keep coming! From the ten-bob note to the backroad journey, another delightful chapter Hilary.

Jemima Pett said...

I've really enjoyed this travel series. And I took the 'milk train' from Bristol down to Penzance in the early 70s, which was also the sleeper from London (or possibly from Edinburgh). I always thought sleepers were so glamorous, until I spent my first night awake in one - and that was when the rolling stock was smoother!

My main memory was waiting somewhere with the sound of the waves very close to the track. I peered out into the dim darkness and discovered we were stopped at Dawlish station - one of my favourite bits of railway line. My aunt moved to Dawlish in the late 70s but I never went by train to see her... by that time Dad had a car, and anyway they had moved to Dorset.

My brother's family still regularly holiday in Cornwall. :)

Mason Canyon said...

Hilary, I always find your post so fascinating, filled with wonderful history and intriguing events. Thanks so much for sharing. Hope you have a wonderful Easter holiday. Stay safe my friend.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sandra – thank you … I was pleased to find out about John Metcalf – amazing man. Led to me quickly read up on other similar things …

@ EC – thank you – incredible man …what can be done if determined, as you so wisely confirm. We certainly tried to avoid the crowds on the roads – I would always leave really early. We never used camp sites – but having three grandparents made that unnecessary … my mother’s first husband’s parents included here. In fact we usually never travelled at bank holidays … except this time … my poor Dad!

@ Yam – thank you … it’s been fun writing these up and including a lot of history – and then the memories … and that scenic route was just follow the map and hope!

@ Anabel – yes I’m certain he was shattered at the end of it … especially as he’d had to come to collect me first … but it’s a good remembrance …

@ Hels – Metcalf was one amazing character … I rather wish there was a modern biography on him … he sounds quite extraordinarily special.

@ Liz – I’d agree with you … travelling changed so quickly once the train arrived, and once ships had engines … and now with all the developments – it is still amazing.

@ Joanne – it is quite extraordinary if we spend a little time reflecting on how much change has happened in 200 years … and gosh how much more comfortable it is today!

I was map reading – so I knew we weren’t anywhere near where we needed to get to! Never had to ask that question … I expect when we travelled to the Lake District from Surrey – that question was very regularly asked … three of us in the back seat!

@ Val – thank you … that journey was memorable and taking me back to those days before I drove. The little lanes were always wonderful weren’t they and so much more fun.
We hardly went by train – only from Woking to London and back … but obviously it was used occasionally. I’ve started using the trains more … but prefer to have the flexibility of a car – and I don’t have the luxury of owning a canal barge!

@ Pradeep – so much evolution and invention has occurred since the early 1800s – it has to be the bedrock of civilisation … mind you, thinking of the Romans, they used their feet to travel places – as too the silk road travellers. But always horses, and mules were used to help along the way …

Delighted you enjoyed the snippet about John Metcalf – amazing man. Yes … we humans really can overcome our limitations with determination …

@ Keith – oh there’s lots more there … and I’d forgotten about the ten bob note … thank goodness I had a look for something else – which brought that elderly remembrance to the fore. While the back-road journey was a wonderful one to have experienced …

@ Jemima – thank you … yes the milk train was there too – I never had problems with sleeping on a train – but I was travelling from terminus to terminus … and I’m a good sleeper.
The Dawlish part is a wonderful journey to travel along … and I’m glad they’ve been able to repair the line after its stormy collapse. What a pity you couldn’t experience this bit of the journey … but going by car with the family was easier – especially if you were only travelling from Dorset!
My brother and his wife have lots of friends still in Cornwall … and I admit I’d regularly go back if circumstances were different. I might feel a bit different after the G7 summit and the Covid after effects on the house prices. I feel for the locals …

@ Mason – thanks so much – delighted you enjoy being here and are happy with my eclectic mix of thoughts … my mind wanders around!

Thanks so much to you all – I’m enjoying writing this series – so am happy to see and appreciate your comments … Have peaceful Easter weekends – all the best - Hilary

Natalie Aguirre said...

Such an interesting post. It's amazing to think how train and cars (and airplanes) changed our lives so much and made us so much more mobile.

Jacqui Murray said...

It always fascinates me to hear through you how history evolves. And happy April Fool's Day!

Dan said...

Great travel stories. I love both of the viaduct images. Stone definitely holds up better, but the wooden ones that supported the railways drive from coasts to the middle over here, were amazing engineering feats.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Good morning Esteemed Historian and Raconteur Hilary! A very entertaining post. I am sure that most of your readers, like me were travelling along with you. The thought of ten shilling notes sown into your skirt had me chuckling! I hope you carried a small pair of scissors to cut the thread if you needed to tap into the reserves. We are all so accustomed to the speed of travel today it is interesting to contemplate just how long it took before the era of the train. I have only travelled in a sleeping car once and I must confess that it was not the most comfortable slumber I ever had. It was from Québec City to Toronto, and I had a meeting to attend shortly after arrival. I suspect I was half asleep! Enjoy the weekend coming up. I hope you have fair weather to get outside and enjoy the spring air. Hugs from Ontario. David

Deborah Weber said...

I've really enjoyed this series Hilary - what precious memories. The idea of emergency money sewn into your hem delights me. My mother used to say it was important when going out to have "mad" money. I thought it meant having extra cash to do something mad and fun. She meant if you were on a date you should always have money to get yourself home if your partner made you mad.

Rhodesia said...

What an interesting man John Metcalf is and even more amazing that he was blind. Great post as always. Sorry, I am not keeping up with blogs very well at present, the garden is taking over my life with the change of weather!! Keep safe Diane

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Natalie – thank you … it does amaze me how far technologically we have come … I enjoy reminding us all about how incredible the human race is …

@ Jacqui – thank you … I’m delighted you enjoy hearing about ‘my take’ on simple aspects of our history …
Yes – it is April Fool’s Day isn’t it … I haven’t come across it thankfully!

@ Dan – I knew you’d love the train side of this post and those two viaducts … and yes stone definitely is much better – but the wooden ones started us off.
The Canadian and American railway stories and how they were originally built … again a lot of history there …

@ David – lovely to see you and thanks so much for the ‘thumbs up’ – it’s fun remembering back to those early days of my life and finding other snippets of history …
I’m sure if my ten bob note was needed – I’d have found a way in via my hem … and who’d have not believed that poor kid (me), with her younger brother?!
I’ve always travelled well wherever I am – I sleep well … I’m just lucky. I went on the Rocky Mountaineer over the Rockies – slept well there too … but it was very late 20th century. I hope your meeting went well, despite your lack of sleep …
It is going to be freezing!! Even down here in the south … but I’m off to that younger brother for an Easter lunch – so that’ll be a lovely change.

@ Deborah – thank you … I’m happy to read you’ve been enjoying this series – it’s been fun writing it up and then adding in the historical elements.
Your mother’s idea makes absolute sense … I’m thankful I never had to use that hidden money!

@ Diane – absolutely no worry re coming over … I know things are different – your garden must be so wonderful … and so satisfying for you … but equally always delighted to see you here and enjoying the post.
Isn’t John Metcalf incredible to find out about … astounding man … I’d love to read a biography about him … but I don’t think one has been written.

Thanks to you all for visiting and being here to comment – I appreciate them all – have a peaceful Easter - Hilary

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Fantastic post

retirementreflections said...

Walking 17 miles (in one shot) at age 77 has my complete respect.
These are such interesting histories, Hilary. I greatly appreciate you sharing them with us.

Anonymous said...

Not quite the same but your mention of wooden viaducts reminded me of the wooden roller coasters we still had at amusement parks. What a rough ride, but so much fun! They tore down the last one a few years ago at the one near me so they could put up a more "modern" one.

DMS said...

How interesting! Amazing to think about how much faster travel has become in the last 100 years. Trains, better roads, faster cars etc. Loved all the facts and tidbits you included in your post. So interesting! Happy weekend!
~Jess

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jo-Anne – thank you …

@ Donna – I know 17 miles or more – I’m sure it wasn’t in one shot … but anyway travelling that far in those days – is quite extraordinary and like you, also has my respect.
I’m just glad you’re enjoying the snippets … I’m happy writing them up …

@ Elsie – well that’s a good reason to comment your thoughts on wooden skeletons … it just hadn’t occurred to me.

@ Jess – yes … it always amazes me how far we’ve come in our developments to make life easier – and now what’s next … I wonder. Delighted you’re interested when you read the odds and ends I write up …

Thanks so much to you all – have a peaceful weekend - Hilary

Mike said...

Canada has some great and scenic railway trips. (and expensive) Maybe one day we might get up there.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You are surrounded by so much rich history. I really appreciate you sharing some of it with us through your blog. I tend to romanticize the past at times, and have thought of the travels of yesteryear as being grand adventures. Silly me! Those slow ultra-lengthy trips must've been grueling and exhausting. I believe I'll stick with modern transportation. :)

It's cool that you've made so many trips by train. I guess in Europe, that's pretty much the norm. I've never taken a train trip, but I may get to do that yet. My cousin (whose husband died a few weeks before Mike did) and I are planning to take some kind of trip together once the pandemic is under control. Could be a train trip! She and I are both open to the idea.

Take care, sweet lady, and Happy Easter!

diedre Knight said...

A blind road builder? Fascinating! I love the statue of Metcalf with the large Surveyor’s wheel. Interesting, a map entitled “Land’s End,” I grew up on a street named the same. Taking the cats on holiday is exactly something I would do – if I still had cats. How enjoyable those summers must have been for you!
Have a lovely Easter!

Steve said...

Happy Easter and all the best.

Nilanjana Bose said...

Happy Easter Hilary! Train travel is my favourite. Staple of my childhood...Still sneak in a train trip whenever I can.

Inger said...

How I would have loved to travel the backroads, enjoying the pretty countryside. And how your love for Cornwall shines through in these posts. Happy Easter, my friend.

troutbirder said...

I'm hoping that Pres. Biden's plan for repairing and improving America's infrastructure is enacted into law that will include railroads roads and bridges hopefully passing against the Republicans opposition

Sue Bursztynski said...

What a fascinating history of travel, including your own memories! I do have to say that roads which were still around after 1500 years must have been special, even if they were not fit for the later transport,

Steve said...

Very Interesting post do have a great and sunny Easter, regards from Manchester.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mike – yes Canada is stunning … I’ve only been twice … but I’d love to see more. Travel is expensive … unless ‘roughing’ it … which I don’t like doing!

@ Susan – thanks such much … yes we have lots of history here – well certainly some of the trips of yesteryear were grand adventures – but I don’t come from that background. Yet when I was a kid we were lucky to travel … now nearly everyone can do it … but like you I’d rather travel in comfort.
Travelling here – is a choice … road or train – and we mostly did car in the early years … but now with the traffic I think I might decide the train or air might be better … but while we’re in the pandemic I’ll stick with not travelling.
Oooh – I hope you get to take that trip with your cousin … it sounds a lovely idea … something to look forward to – once you’re free and easily able to do so. The States has many wonderful places to see … probably easier by train too.

@ Diedre – yes … it was extraordinary to find out about Metcalf … and I love that statue of him with his ‘Viameter’ – quite extraordinary chap.
That Land’s End map is from 1961 … so it is well used. It really is land’s end, Cornwall, England … next land would be Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada …
We did have wonderful holidays … we were very lucky in that way – that was the only time we took the cats away – I guess if the house was there, someone would make sure they were safe – and my father carried on working a lot of the time.

@ Steve – thank you for both your Easter thoughts …

@ Nila – thank you … yes I can believe many used the train a great deal – especially in larger countries than little old England. I’m sort of ambivalent about a train trip – the intercity ones are useful to take today … but enjoy yours …

@ Inger – oh yes the lanes were really special … the countryside was always gorgeous to watch as I drove along. Thank you – Cornwall is in my heart …

@ Ray – I hope all our politics gets sorted out fairly for everyone in our countries … thanks for visiting …

@ Sue – yes … you’re right – roads that are still around after 1,500 years are special – the Romans had a habit of being direct … so very straight. Just wear and tear really – but good foundations for future roads … which lots of our modern ones sit on the old Roman roads …

Thanks so much to you all for visiting … brings back lots of other memories for me to mull over during this quiet time … all the best - Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

I find it fascinating to think of how far people used to travel back in the days on no cars or trains or planes...
And to walk 17 miles at 77, while blind! People are amazing :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Deniz - John Metcalf sounds an amazing person - quite extraordinary ... and we really owe him a great deal. Travel by cart or barge in places ... I know I couldn't walk 17 miles today ... even on a tarmac road. Incredible man - and yes people care amazing. Cheers - Hilary

Erica/Erika said...

Trains and train tracks are recently in my radar, Hilary. By accident we discovered railway tracks at the end of a trail at Goldstream park on Easter weekend. I see you know first hand about the Kinsol Trestle. A favourite place for us to hike, ten minutes from my daughter’s house. It sounds like you also lived near the Kinsol Trestle. And, yes, made from wood. I love your phrase “gentler times.” A fun and interesting post. I enjoy your addition of the photos.xx

Deborah Barker said...

Oh wow! John Metcalf blind from aged 6! I am reading backwards - i.e. going through from number 9 to wherever it takes me Ha ha! Loving your memories and amazed at all the information you manage to gather along the way. brilliant, Hilary :-) X

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Erica – I saw you’d been to Goldstream Park … one of the places I never managed to visit – it’s quite a long way up the Malahat … which I didn’t enjoy driving that much! Yes the Kinsol Trestle I went to on occasions – a magnificent setting … and so interesting history-wise. I was up in Cobble Hill – on a farm outside of Duncan …
Thanks so pleased you enjoyed the photos … brings things to life a little more easily sometimes …

@ Deborah – I know the John Metcalf story is quite extraordinary. Thanks for reading through all the posts – appreciate you looking.
I’m enjoying adding in snippets of history and remembrances from earlier days … makes it more interesting for me at least!

Thanks so much – great to see the two of you and thanks for commenting … cheers Hilary