I’m going to London soon for a meeting with my agent and publisher. These days the train takes around two to three hours from either Preston or Manchester, which is significantly shorter than the ten hour journey described below by Charles Tiplady, who worked as a printer and bookseller in Blackburn in the 19th Century, and who kept a diary for many years.
He talks about being nearly bewildered by the tremendous hustle and bustle of Euston Square and the number of cabs, buses and chaises that were waiting there to convey passengers across London.
These days the trains are diesel/electric and there are no horse drawn cabs any more, but in other ways it seems that not much has changed in the last 150 years or so. It’s still a great adventure to travel from Blackburn to the ‘Greatest City in the World’.
May-June. Some particulars of a Journey to London, May 24th to June 3rd, 1844. The proprietors of the London and Birmingham Railway having agreed to allow a holiday trip at a low rate, I availed myself of the opportunity of once more visiting London, in company with Thomas Whittaker and John Bell. The fare up and down was £2, and it cost about 5s. to Manchester, and 5s. from thence on our return.
“The weather being remarkably fine, we started from Blackburn at 3 o’clock on Friday, and took the rail from Bolton to Manchester, where we remained all night, at No.6, Leaver-street, Piccadilly. The same evening we visited my brother Lomax’s family, and found all in good health. At 10 minutes to 8 on Saturday we started for London; the day throughout was very clear and hot. On the road I noticed a great want of rain, especially northwards; but as we drew nearer the Metropolis, the lack of moisture did not appear so excessive. Nothing of moment transpired on our route up. Refreshments were provided at the Queen’s Hotel, Birmingham, and at a place named Wolverton; the first was a very dear place, the latter moderate; but dear or cheap, the travellers, amounting to some hundreds, appeared to be too glad to obtain any refreshment after the fatigues of an 150 miles journey to dispute the price of the viands.
After leaving Wolverton, we proceeded at a quick rate to London. The scenery in the immediate vicinity of the line was picturesque; the trees were in full leaf, and, generally speaking, vegetation was in full vigour, except for the want of rain. We arrived safely in the ‘greatest City in the World’ in the afternoon at 6, and in landing in the Station Yard at Euston Square were nearly bewildered by the tremendous bustle and hurry apparently going forward. No sooner had the giant Steam Engine ceased his herculean labour of dragging from 800 to 1,000 human beings a distance of 200 miles and safely deposited them in the Station House, than were to be seen some scores of Cabs, Chaises, and Buses, waiting to convey the motley group of strangers to the extremest ends of the four corners of the Metropolis. To a man who had never been informed of the extent of the place it might have seemed that all the spare vehicles of London had congregated there especially for the occasion. He will, however, be marvellously soon undeceived, for let him take which route he may into the City, he will pass, or meet hundreds of every description of conveyance from the aristocratic Chariot to the humbler Dog-cart.”