Thornhaughs' town house and communications

Between Plumtree Street and Stoney Street stood the town house of the family of Thornhaugh, who were an old county family. Unfortunately nothing whatever is left of this house, and very few folk seem to know of the association of the family with the neighbourhood. In 1756 John Thornhaugh came into a life tenancy of the Shireoak estates, on condition that he changed his name to Hewitt. He held them until his death in 1787, and his demise brought to an end the male line of the fine old family of which the most distinguished member was Colonel Thornhaugh. This Colonel Francis Thornhaugh was a noble-hearted man, a friend and adviser of Hutchinson, and as brave as could be. His death was very tragic and even romantic, and is described in a poem written by Calvert, the frame-work-knitter poet, who flourished in 1756.

After King Charles had met his death at Whitehall the quarrel between the English and the Scotch Parliament deepened until at last it led to fighting. Troops were raised all over the country by the English Parliament, and the Nottingham Horse were amongst the most valuable body raised. After a series of marchings, the Scots were brought to battle at Preston Pans, where a body of 20,000 Scots were confronted and defeated by 8,000 English; the cause of their defeat being superior discipline and control, which Cromwell had introduced and perfected into the English Army. The Nottingham Horse were foremost in this encounter, and they were led into action by Thornhaugh, who fell mortally wounded in the course of the charge.

Some notes as to communications before the days of canals and railways may be suitably introduced here.

During the whole of the mediaeval period of our history the roads were in so wretched a condition that the only practical means of transport for goods was on the backs of pack-horses, and strings—sometimes containing as many as thirty or forty of these patient animals, their leader wearing a bell round its neck—were common sights in the country. For their accommodation, special bridges were built over streams as time went on, narrow bridges with low parapets that would not interfere with the low-hung loads. The well-known "Piscator's Bridge," in Dovedale, is a good example of a pack-horse bridge. By degrees proprietors of these horses and other charitably disposed folk paved tracks for them to walk along, and traces of these trackways can be found all over the country. There is an excellent specimen near Kirklees in Yorkshire.

By the 17th century, wheels were coming into general use, and huge cumbrous waggons of immensely strong construction were dragged about the country by teams of six horses and more. In addition to conveying goods, these waggons had great baskets slung at their rear for the accommodation of passengers, and their usual rate of progress was three miles an hour, four miles an hour being looked upon as extraordinarily rapid. But the wheels of these monsters played sad havoc with the already dreadful surface of the roads, and all manner of plans were devised to remedy the evil. Instead of improving the roads, our forefathers tried to stop the waggons, and they also introduced regulations encouraging the use of wide wheels, until eventually rollers were tried instead of ordinary tyred wheels. But early in the 19th century came Macadam and his great invention, and thereafter the problem was solved. Travel became more or less a pleasure, and was catered for by the really wonderful English coaching system, which was the envy of Europe. Many refinements, such as the use of springs, were introduced, until by about 1760 a sort of first-class service called the "Flying Machines" were introduced, which covered not less than sixty miles per day, the fare being about one shilling for five miles.

The most comfortable mode of travel, and that most usually employed, was horseback. Some idea of the magnitude of the trade in horse-hire can be gained from the fact that in 1750 four hundred saddle-horses, one for every twenty-nine persons in the town, were kept by the trading classes of Nottingham. Many of these horses could be hired at about threepence a mile, with an addition of fourpence per stage for the post-boy who acted as guide. These post-boys carried bugles, which became a sort of badge of office, and in order to indicate their place of residence the post-boys either hung their bugle outside their house or had a sign representing a bugle painted on the wall, hence the numerous "Bugle Horns" of our day.

Turning to Nottingham, the first regular service of waggons to London was instituted by Richard Sutton, harness maker, about 1725. His waggons started from Silk Mill Yard, Parliament Street, which was about where Norfolk Place now is. By 1750, quite a comprehensive service of waggons radiated from Nottingham. Three waggons set off for London at 2.30 each Tuesday morning, returning on Friday. To York each Tuesday at 3 a.m., returning on Saturday, and services also regularly worked to Leicester, Mansfield, Derby, Melton, Loughborough, Leeds, Sheffield, Lincoln, Boston, and many other places.

For passengers, a coach was started in 1760 between Nottingham and London, taking two days in summer and three days in winter to perform the journey, at a cost of 37/-. This was improved upon, until by 1785 mails left London at 8 p.m. and arrived in Nottingham at noon next day. In 1825 this service was further accelerated, for mails leaving London in the evening proceeded via Bedford, Kettering and Melton, arriving, after fifteen hours' run, at Nottingham at 7.30. They proceeded to Leeds, doing the seventy-two miles run in nine hours. The record run, of which I know, was that achieved by a chaise-and-four bringing the news of the success of the Reform Bill from the "Sun" Office, London. It covered the 125 miles in nine hours.

The "Blackamore's Head," "The White Lion," "The Maypole," and the "Black Boy," were the principal coaching inns, and some trace of their ancient glories still remain. The London coaches struggled up Hollowstone, and as they did so on Sunday mornings the guards saluted St. Mary's Church with "The Old Hundredth" and other hymns on their key-bugles. It is perhaps as well to record the names of some of these coaches, for they must have been familiar favourites to our forefathers. "The Express" and "The Mail" worked the London-Leeds route. The "Lord Nelson" worked to Manchester and Liverpool, via Matlock. The "Dart" to Birmingham, via Castle Donnington and Tamworth. The "Pilot" to Leicester and Loughborough. Many other coaches were running beside these, but these names for some reason have come down to us.

On May 21st, 1791, John Lambert & Company put on to the streets of Nottingham the first Hackney Carriage. It took up its stand in the market each day at 10 a.m., and it carried six passengers. The fares were: to any place within the borough, 1/-; to any church, with a wedding party, 2/6. Within three miles of the town, 3/6. The first regular cab rank in Nottingham was established along Long Row in 1845, while the first taxi started plying for hire on February 17th, 1908.