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georgian transport
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Ermine Street (which became Kingsland Road around 1745) was one of the main thoroughfares into and out of London at the start of the eighteenth century. Like all roads it was maintained by the local parishioners. As well as the traffic of horseriders, coaches and pedestrians, an increase in goods wagons, which were wagons covered by tarpaulin hoods and pulled by six or more horses, had worsened the state of the road. So in 1713 the parishes affected, including Stoke Newington, Hackney and Shoreditch successfully appealed to parliament for the right to set up a turnpike trust; The Stamford Hill trust was formed in 1713 with turnpikes at Kingsland and the top of Stamford Hill.

Hackney Turnpike Trust was established in 1738 for Hackney Road and Cambridge Heath Road, and Dalston Lane followed suit in 1770. A trust for the new Lea Bridge and Lea Bridge Road was formed in 1757. The Lea Bridge was the first bridge across the Lea in Hackney, prior to that it had to be crossed by ferry, several of which operated along the banks of the river.

Other trusts were set up as new roads were built such as City Road in 1761 and New North Road in 1823. The tolls charged depended on the number of horses or the number of wheels a vehicle had. Evasion of the tolls was possible either by charging through the gate or by using side roads. Trusts also took on watchmen and the responsibility for lighting but were always plagued by complaints about charges and delays. One of the reasons for watchmen was highway robbery, which was a big problem in the eighteenth century. The infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin was alleged to have hidden out in Hackney marshes.

In the 1770s the River Lea trustees made Hackney Cut, a channel of water that cut across the marshes to Hackney Wick thereby creating a straighter line that was easier to navigate. In 1820 the Regents Canal opened, linking the Paddington branch of the Grand Junction Canal with Limehouse Docks, passing through Hackney on its way. The horse drawn canal boats could pull 30 tons at a time.

It was during the Georgian period that the New Canal, or Fleet River as it had been known, was paved over by New Bridge Street. The Fleet River was a tributary of the Thames and bordered the City on the west side. Despite being widened, deepened and improved in a £51,000 building scheme, following the Great Fire of 1666, river traffic had not increased and by 1730 it was an open sewer come rubbish tip.

Until the opening of Westminster Bridge in 1750, London Bridge was the only bridge crossing the Thames. Westminster was the first of six bridges built between 1750-1827. As with the River Lea, travellers could otherwise cross the Thames by ferry.

Thames waterman and hackney carriage drivers both had such a reputation for overcharging that map makers began from 1720 to print fares on maps. Hackney carriages were the forerunner of today's black cabs (which are officially still called Hackney Carriages). They were two-seater carriages pulled by two horses, one ridden by the driver.

Sedan chairs were another form of transportation for the wealthy. They were introduced in 1711 and were popular as they could be carried straight into a building, which was useful in wet weather or if one wanted to avoid being seen.

For those that could afford it stage coaches opened up the opportunity to travel further afield, especially as the turnpike trusts began to improve the roads. Between 1790 and 1835 the number of coach passengers travelling between London and Manchester multiplied sixteen fold. For the majority however walking remained the only affordable mode of transport.

Londonís first regular bus service was started in 1829 by man called George Shillibeer. The omnibus (omni means 'for all' in Latin) was pulled by three horses and could carry twenty passengers. The first route was from Paddington, then a suburb, to Bank via Regents Park. The journey took one hour and it cost one shilling and sixpence to sit inside, and a shilling to sit on top. At this price it was still beyond most peopleís means.

The omnibuses were not allowed to pick up passengers in the City until 1832, almost the end of the Georgian period. This was when the monopoly of the hackney carriages ended and a new era of transport began.

Clapton toll gate
A horse drawn carriage attempts to evade the toll at Clapton toll gate, 1820. © Hackney Archives




Mare Street 1740
A wagon approaching Hackney Brook on Mare Street, looking north toward St Augustine's tower, 1740. © Hackney Archives




Thames panorama
A detail showing the Tower of London from an 1831 panorama of the River Thames. Click to see full version and to zoom in on landmarks such as St Paul's Catherdral and St Katherine's Dock. © Guildhall Library
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