Decline of the Stagecoach in England, 1840s

The sketch below was probably drawn by Sarah Evans, the only daughter of Richard Evans (1797-1859), in about 1847.  Richard Evans, the elder, (1768-1841) had built up the Red Lion Inn in Wolverhampton in the first two decades of the century before handing the prestigious coaching business over to his sons in about 1820.

From 1820 onward the business though came under severe pressures. The premises at the Red Lion were too small and Richard Evans, the younger, carried on a reduced business from the New Hotel from about 1818, as competitors set up in Wolverhampton to match the high standards that his father had first laid down. The pride of the coaching trade was the service from London to Dublin, with one overnight stop in Shrewsbury. The speed and efficiency of the service that Richard Evans, the elder, had been instrumental in helping create, earnt it the name of ‘The Wonder”. It always carried a distinctive yellow and black livery. Far worse fortunes for the business were to come in 1830 though, with the advent of the Railway.  Sarah Evans was born in 1828 and witnessed the disintegration of her families former livelihood at first hand. The sketch and poem encapsulate that decline in a somewhat nostalgic tone.

The far famed Wonder of 1830 compared with that of 1847, drawing and poem by Sarah Evans, 1847

The far famed Wonder of 1830 compared with that of 1847, drawing and poem by Sarah Evans, 1847

The far famed Wonder of 1830 compared with that of 1847

Two Gents a walking in New Street
Near too the Swan’s Approach
It happened that they chanced to meet
The old crack Wonder Coach
One looked the other in the phiz
Think t’was quiz at quas
Saying here’s the Wonder as it is
And there Sir as it was

If you look very closely on the door of the second coach you can see the artist has written the name ‘R EVANS’

One book in Richard Evans’ library was “The Chase, the Turf and the Road” written by ‘Nimrod‘ in 1838. This book is still in our possession and contains the following extract:-

For example, from London to Shrewsbury is a hundred and fifty-eight miles, and the number of horses kept for the Wonder coach is a hundred and fifty. Perhaps, for the length of ground it travels over, this is the most punctual coach at all its stages on the journey at this time in England. It leaves Shrewsbury at a quarter before six, A.M., and arrives at the Bull and Mouth, London, at a quarter past nine, P.M.; and as this was the first coach that attempted to become a day-coach over so great an extent of ground, we are induced to notice one particular team on it, said to be the most superb of their kind, and for the purpose for which they are used, at this time in Great Britain. They are chestnuts, the property of Mr. Evans, of Wolverhampton; and their ground is from that town to Wednesbury, distance six miles. The coachmen of the Wonder also deserve notice for their uniformly good conduct and skill. Their names are Wood (who drives out of London), Lyley, Wilcox, and Hayward.

There is likewise a very fast and well-conducted coach which passes through Shrewsbury, viz., the Hirondelle, from Cheltenham to Liverpool, a hundred and thirty-three miles, in twelve hours and a half! Both these coaches load uncommonly welL


Last updated on 8 December 2023 by E Morgan