Coaching inn

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Painting of the first Cock Hotel in Sutton, Surrey by Thomas Rowlandson in 1789. The Cock Hotel, 1789.jpg
Painting of the first Cock Hotel in Sutton, Surrey by Thomas Rowlandson in 1789.

The coaching inn (also coaching house or staging inn) was a vital part of Europe's inland transport infrastructure until the development of the railway, providing a resting point (layover) for people and horses. The inn served the needs of travellers, for food, drink, and rest. The attached stables, staffed by hostlers, cared for the horses, including changing a tired team for a fresh one. Coaching inns were used by private travellers in their coaches, the public riding stagecoaches between one town and another, and (in England at least) the mail coach. Just as with roadhouses in other countries, although many survive, and some still offer overnight accommodation, in general coaching inns have lost their original function and now operate as ordinary pubs.


Coaching inns stabled teams of horses for stagecoaches and mail coaches and replaced tired teams with fresh teams. In America, stage stations performed these functions. Traditionally English coaching inns were seven miles apart but this depended very much on the terrain. Some English towns had as many as ten such inns and rivalry between them was intense, not only for the income from the stagecoach operators but for the revenue for food and drink supplied to the passengers. Barnet, Hertfordshire still has an unusually high number of historic pubs along its high street due to its former position on the Great North Road from London to the North of England.

Historic inns

The George Inn, Southwark is the only galleried coaching inn to survive in London Thegeorgesouthwark.jpg
The George Inn, Southwark is the only galleried coaching inn to survive in London

There were many coaching inns in what is now central London. The only remaining one with the galleries to the bedrooms above is The George Inn, Southwark, owned by the National Trust and still run as a pub. Many have been demolished and plaques mark their location. The Nomura building close to the Museum of London on London Wall commemorates the "Bull and Mouth" Inn; Golden Cross House, opposite St Martin's in the Fields recalls the Golden Cross, Charing Cross coaching inn.

The Bear, Oxford, was founded in 1774 as The Jolly Trooper from the house of the stableman to the coaching inn, The Bear Inn, on the High Street. It acquired the name The Bear, and the history of the coaching inn, when The Bear Inn was converted into a private house in 1801. [3]

Those in Wales include the Black Boy Inn (built 1522) and the Groes Inn (1573). [4] The Black Lion in Cardigan (established 1105) is probably the oldest Welsh coaching inn. [5]

Cock and Bull

A pair of coaching inns along Watling Street in Stony Stratford are claimed to have given rise to the term "cock and bull stories". The claim is that stories by coach passengers would be further embellished as they passed between the two hostelries, "The Cock" and "The Bull", fuelled by ale and an interested audience. Hence any suspiciously elaborate tale would become a cock and bull story. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is where the phrase originated. [6] The phrase, first recorded in 1621, may instead be an allusion to Aesop's fables, with their incredible talking animals. [7]

Related Research Articles

Hotel Establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis

A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. Facilities provided inside a hotel room may range from a modest-quality mattress in a small room to large suites with bigger, higher-quality beds, a dresser, a refrigerator and other kitchen facilities, upholstered chairs, a flat screen television, and en-suite bathrooms. Small, lower-priced hotels may offer only the most basic guest services and facilities. Larger, higher-priced hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference and event facilities, tennis or basketball courts, gymnasium, restaurants, day spa, and social function services. Hotel rooms are usually numbered to allow guests to identify their room. Some boutique, high-end hotels have custom decorated rooms. Some hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. In Japan, capsule hotels provide a tiny room suitable only for sleeping and shared bathroom facilities.

Inn Establishment providing lodging, food and drink

Inns are generally establishments or buildings where travelers can seek lodging, and usually, food and drink. Inns are typically located in the country or along a highway; before the advent of motorized transportation they also provided accommodation for horses.

Pub Establishment that serves alcoholic drinks

A pub is an establishment licensed to serve alcoholic drinks for consumption on the premises. The term public house first appeared in the late 17th century, and was used to differentiate private houses from those which were, quite literally, open to the public as 'alehouses', 'taverns' and 'inns'. By Georgian times it had become common parlance, although taverns, as a distinct establishment, had largely ceased to exist by the beginning of the 19th century. Today, pubs have no strict definition, but CAMRA states a pub has four characteristics:

  1. is open to the public without membership or residency
  2. serves draught beer or cider without requiring food be consumed
  3. has at least one indoor area not laid out for meals
  4. allows drinks to be bought at a bar
Stagecoach Type of covered wagon

A stagecoach is a four-wheeled public transport coach used to carry paying passengers and light packages on journeys long enough to need a change of horses. It is strongly sprung and generally drawn by four horses.

Eaton Socon Human settlement in England

Eaton Socon is a community in south-west Cambridgeshire. Eaton Socon is a component of the town of St Neots, located on its south-west margin. Eaton Socon lies on the west side of the River Great Ouse, and is bounded on the west by the A1 road and on the south by the A428 road. On the north side Duloe Brook delineates the boundary with Eaton Ford, which is also part of St Neots.

Stony Stratford Town and civil parish in Milton Keynes, England

Stony Stratford is a constituent town of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. Historically it was a market town on the important route from London to Chester. It is also the name of a civil parish with a town council within the Borough of Milton Keynes. It is in the north-west corner of Milton Keynes, bordering Northamptonshire and separated from it by the River Great Ouse.

The Tabard

The Tabard was an inn in Southwark established in 1307 that stood on the east side of Borough High Street, at the road's intersection with the ancient thoroughfare to Canterbury and Dover. It was built for the Abbot of Hyde, who purchased the land to construct a place for himself and his ecclesiastical brethren to stay when on business in London.

The Angel, Islington Historic landmark in Islington, London,

The Angel, Islington, is a historic landmark and a series of buildings that have stood on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road in Islington, London, England. The land originally belonged to the Clerkenwell Priory and has had various properties built on it since the 16th century. An inn on the site was called the "Angel Inn" by 1614, and the crossing became generally known as "the Angel". The site was bisected by the New Road, which opened in 1756, and properties on the site have been rebuilt several times up to the 20th century. The corner site gave its name to Angel tube station, opened in 1901, and the surrounding Angel area of London.

Pub names

Pub names are used to identify and differentiate traditional drinking establishments. Many pubs are centuries old, and were named at a time when most of their customers were illiterate, but could recognise pub signs. The use of signage was not confined to drinking establishments. British pubs may be named after and depict anything from everyday objects, to sovereigns, aristocrats and landowners. Other names come from historic events, livery companies, occupations, sports, and craftsmen's guilds. One of the most common pub names is the Red Lion.

Cock and bull story

A cock and bull story is a fanciful, unlikely story.

Great North Road (Great Britain) Historic road between London and Edinburgh

The Great North Road was the main highway between England and Scotland from medieval times until the 20th century. It became a coaching route used by mail coaches travelling between London, York and Edinburgh. The modern A1 mainly parallels the route of the Great North Road. Coaching inns, many of which survive, were staging posts providing accommodation, stabling for horses and replacement mounts. Nowadays virtually no surviving coaching inns can be seen while driving on the A1, because the modern route bypasses the towns in which the inns are found.

The Bear, Oxford

The Bear is a pub in Oxford, England, that was founded in 1774 as The Jolly Trooper. It stands on the corner of Alfred Street and Blue Boar Street, opposite Bear Lane in the centre of Oxford, just north of Christ Church, on the site of St Edward's churchyard. It was converted from the early 17th century residence of the stableman (ostler) for the coaching inn, The Bear Inn, which was on the High Street, Oxford. When The Bear Inn was converted into private housing in 1801, The Jolly Trooper changed its name to The Bear. The documented history of the site on the High Street has been traced to 1241, when it had a dwelling house, later called Parn Hall, which burned down in 1421, with evidence of an inn, Le Tabard, in existence by 1432; so there is a claim, via associated history, that The Bear is one of the oldest pubs in Oxford. The Mitchells & Butlers pub, All Bar One on 124 High Street, along with the neighbouring shop, 123, now occupies the site of The Bear Inn on the High Street.

Coach (carriage) Large four-wheeled closed carriage

A coach is a large closed four-wheeled passenger-carrying vehicle or carriage usually drawn by two or more horses usually controlled by a coachman, a postilion, or occasionally both. A coach has doors in its sides and a front and a back seat inside. The driver has a seat in front raised up high to give good vision. It is often called a box, box seat or coach box. The word coach came into use in the 15th century and spread across Europe. There are a number of types of coaches depending on how the vehicle is to be used. In India it is called a Rath or रथ. Special breeds of horses, such as the now-extinct Yorkshire Coach Horse, were developed to pull the heavy coaches.

Kings Head Hotel, Monmouth

The King's Head Hotel is a hotel standing opposite the Shire Hall in Glyndŵr Street, Agincourt Square, Monmouth, Wales. It dates from the mid-17th century, and as one of the major inns in Monmouth was reputedly visited by Charles I of England in 1645. It has a fine black-and-white painted stone façade and became an important posting inn in the late 17th century, with a yard through an archway where visitors' horses could be stabled and where regular coach services called. In the 18th and 19th centuries, stagecoaches for London left from the inn. The range of buildings along Agincourt Street now includes the former Monmouth Bank and the County Club, while the inn itself is now part of the J D Wetherspoon pub chain. It is one of 24 buildings on the town's Heritage Trail and is a Grade II* listed building.

Stage station Place of rest provided for stagecoach travelers

A stage station or relay station, also known as a staging post, a posting station, or a stage stop, is a place where an exhausted horse or horses could be replaced by fresh animals. A long journey was much faster with no delay to rest horses.

Old White Horse Cellar

The Old White Horse Cellar also known as Hatchetts White Horse Cellar at No. 155 Piccadilly, was one of the best known coaching inns in England during the 18th and 19th centuries. The first mention of the White Horse Cellar is in 1720. It was originally located on the corner of Arlington Street, where the Ritz Hotel is now located. The first landlord, a man named Williams, named it in honor of the newly established House of Hanover, whose heraldic emblem featured a white horse. The White Horse rose to prominence under Abraham Hatchett who later moved it to the opposite side of the road on the corner of Albemarle Street, where it was known as "Hatchett’s Hotel and White Horse Cellar". The precise date of the move is not known, but was precipitated by the construction of the Bath Hotel, which was located on the corner of Piccadilly and Arlington as early as 1798. It was torn down in 1884 to make room for the Albemarle.

Swan with Two Necks, London

The Swan with Two Necks was a coaching inn in the City of London that, until the arrival of the railways, was one of the principal departure points for travel to the north of England from London. Its site was given over in the early 1860s to a goods and parcels depot for a firm of railway agents and carriers.

Bull and Mouth Inn

The Bull and Mouth Inn was a coaching inn in the City of London that dated from before the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was located between Bull and Mouth Street in the north and Angel Street in the south. It was once an important arrival and departure point for coaches from all over Britain, but particularly for the north of England and Scotland. It became the Queen's Hotel in 1830 but was demolished in 1887 or 1888 when new post office buildings were built in St Martin's Le Grand.

Post house (historical building)

A post house, posthouse, or posting house was a house or inn where horses were kept and could be rented or changed out. Postriders could also be hired to take travellers by carriage or coach and delivered mail and packages on a route, meeting up at various places according to a schedule. Routes included post roads. A postmaster was an individual from whom horses and/or riders known as postilions or "post-boys" who might help a coachman drive coaches could be hired. A postilion might also travel on a coach to take back his employer's horses. The postmaster would reside in the post house.

Dog & Bull Public house in south London, England

The Dog & Bull is a public house in Croydon, England. It is a Grade II Listed, 18th-century building with a 19th-century frontage in Surrey Street, on the site of a previous 12th- or 13th-century inn called The Bell.


  1. Charles Harper (1922), The Brighton Road, Cecil Palmer, pp. 158–159
  2. " - pubs Resources and Information". Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  3. Christopher Hibbert, ed. (1988). "Bear Inn". The Encyclopaedia of Oxford . Macmillan. pp. 35–36. ISBN   0-333-39917-X.
  4. "Hotels in North Wales - Dog Friendly Conwy Hotels - The Groes Inn". The Groes Inn. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  5. Archived April 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  6. "World Wide Words: Cock and bull story". World Wide Words. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  7. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 24 October 2015.


'The English Urban Inn 1560-1750', Alan Everitt, in Perspectives in English Urban History, ed. By Alan Everitt, Palgrave Macmillan (1973), ISBN   978-1-349-00577-2 I