Stage Carriage


Furness Vale is a village in North Derbyshire that straddles the A6 Manchester to Buxton trunk road, originally a turnpike.  This story is about the public transport which served that road over the past 200 years.

                              STAGE COACHES

"Heads, heads - take care of your heads", cried the loquacious stranger as they came out under the low archway which in those days formed the entrance to the coachyard. "Terrible place – dangerous work – other day – five children – mother – tall lady, eating sandwiches – forgot the arch – crash – knock – children look round – mother's head off – sandwich in her hand – no mouth to put it in – head of family off – shocking, shocking.
 Alfred Jingle
These are the opening lines spoken by Alfred Jingle in Pickwick Papers by Dickens.  Riding on the top of a stage coach (or outside) certainly had its’ dangers. Whether anybody actually was injured by low arches, we don’t know. There are stories of people being decapitated by low branches but these are probably legends rather than fact. There was certainly a danger of being thrown over the side on rough roads when moving at speed.

Please see the addendum at the foot of this post.
Stage coaches were first developed in about 1640 and were first advertised at the end of the 17th C when the London to York service was inaugurated. Most travellers at this time would ride on horseback or walk (sometimes very long distances). Coaches were the preserve of the aristocracy or merchant classes.
During the 18th C, numerous coach routes were established. At first the appalling state of the roads meant that speeds were low and some routes were suspended during the winter months.  These vehicles were regarded as safe and comfortable and at about a shilling for 5 miles, reasonably priced. To put these fares into perspective, consider that in 1800 a labourer might earn £20 a year although £40 was nearer the income neaded to support a family. A middle income would be £100 per annum. 

In 1754, a "flying coach" service commenced between Manchester and London. This reduced the journey time to just four and a half days.  The fare was 2 guineas; in addition, the driver and guard had to be paid as well as food and lodging.  It is clear that such travel was only for the most wealthy.

One great risk to travellers was the threat of highwaymen.  It's not clear how many were engaged in this activity but their life expectancy was low as many were hanged.  Certain areas suffered more than others; the roads out of London were dangerous and the Peak District was said to be worse than the Wild West. No doubt stories have been exaggerated over the years but certainly many highwaymen were placed in the gibbet at Wardlow Mires. Many highwaymen were ex soldiers who knew of no other way of earning a living.
The building of turnpike roads in the 18th century with their gated toll houses and the improvement in policing saw an end to this crime by 1815. In addition, mail coaches now carried armed guards.
A postal network had been introduce in Britain in 1635. The mails were carried by mounted riders. At each post office these were handed over to the postmaster who would remove any post for his area and hand the remaining letters with additions, to the next rider. This was a slow system which was susceptible to robbers.
John Palmer
John Palmer was owner of the Old Orchard Street Theatre in Bath. He was a regular traveller on the London to Bath coach and in 1782 made proposals to the Post Office for delivery of mail by coach.  This was initially rejected as it was believed that the system could not be improved upon. Undaunted, Palmer took his proposals to William Pitt who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer who allowed him to make an experimental run. In August 1784 the mails left Bristol by coach, arriving in London 16 hours later, 22 hours faster than previously. Pitt was impressed and within a month Manchester was served by mail coach as were 3 other cities. John Palmer was appointed Comptroller of the Post Office and by 1797 there were 42 mail coach routes. 
 The Bath Mail

Mail coaches were initially provided by contractors and were often poorly built. By the early 19th Century the Post Office was operating its' own fleet of coaches built to a standard design, painted black and red with a coat of arms on the door. 
Completion of the turnpikes reduced the journey time from Manchester to London to 18 hours. The average speed was 15mph and horses would be changed at  12 mile intervals, more often in hilly country.  The approach of the coach was announced by the sound of the guard's horn and a change of horses would be waiting at the coaching inns. The changeover took just 2 minutes. There would be two meal stops of 20 minutes each. The guard also announced their approach when nearing toll houses. The gates would be held open as mail coaches were exempt from fees. Other coaches and regular waggons would also drive through having paid an annual fee.

 The Breakfast Stop
 Prior to the introduction of mail coaches, the passengers would elect their stopping places so many country inns would offer a coaching service. The new mail coaches stopped only at scheduled posting inns.
 Fernilee Toll Bar
It was 1804 when the Manchester to Buxton turnpike was opened through Furness Vale. Previously through traffic had followed the old Roman Road between Disley and Whaley Bridge and this would have been the route taken by stage coaches.  The Soldier Dick opened the following year, the license having been transferred from the Posting House at Stoneheads. The village pub never served coaches but the name of the Stoneheads inn suggests that the former must have been a coaching inn.
Buxton Road in Furness Vale would have seen the passing of a number of coaches each day. The frequency varied as routes would be introduced of withdrawn. There would be at least one daily service to London via Buxton although at one period it was necessary to change at Leicester. A Manchester to Sheffield coach travelled via Chapel and at times it was possible to take a Buxton to Liverpool stage. Derby and Nottingham were also served and in addition there were shorter journeys between Buxton and Stockport and Manchester. The coaches then were a familiar sight as they raced along at 15mph. Travel was still not cheap. In 1800 the journey from Buxton  to London would cost 2 guineas inside or 1 guinea sat on top. In addition, the guard and driver had to be paid.   The journey from Buxton to Manchester cost 10 shillings  By 1825 the fare to London is quoted as £10 inside or £5 out.

By 1850, as many as 15 coaches a day passed through Furness Vale and Whaley Bridge in each direction. Mail coach travel was at a peak which was to be short lived.

A more affordable if slow form of travel was also available. It was common for carters to offer a scheduled goods service, sometimes several times a week. Passengers would also be carried, not very comfortably nor quickly but at a low cost. Some journeys covered long distances. Pickford for instance would carry passengers as far a London.
The railway opened as far as Whaley Bridge in 1857.  The last four in hand mail coach continued to run out of Manchester until October of the following year. This was the "Derby Dilly" which followed the route through Buxton and Bakewell. "Dilly" was short for Dilligence, a type of coach. "Derby Dilly" was also a name given to a group of political dissidents of the time.  Although the railways quickly brought an end to most coach travel, a few services continued to operate in the Peak District until the early 20th Century.

Buxton was for many years an important coaching town with many post houses around the Market Place.

The London Road coaches "The Lord Cornwallis" and the "Regulator" climbed up Yeoman's Lane which was in the vicinity of Terrace Road. These both ceased running in 1825 and were both privately owned. The Cornwallis changed horses at the White Hart in the Market Place.. Mr Isaac Whieldon was licensee and part owner of the coach. He was said to have made his fortune at this inn. He lived to be nearly 90 and is buried in Hartington his home village.
The Regulator was owned by Mr Logan of the Eagle in Buxton Market Place and the horses were regularly changed here. In 1814 the snows were so deep that the Commissioners employed men to cut an arch opposite the New Inn so that coaches might pass.
 The Cheshire Cheese 1937
Timothy Swinscoe was a well known Buxton character. Previously an ostler, he took the license of the Cherry Tree Inn in Spring Gardens. He was known as an eccentric character and having had little custom for 4 or 5 days, he spread a bag of wood shavings over the cellar floor, setting light to them. He ran into the street shouting Fire!. This caused much excitement and many people rushed to the Cherry Tree only to find that a joke had been played on them. He was successful in attracting custom though and his takings were better than for a long time. Bradbury's coach "Peveril of the Peak" was upset whilst racing with "The Duke of Devonshire" which belonged to William Lees of Whaley Bridge". The race took place at Cold Springs. Old Timothy who had rather a large nose was on Bradbury's coach which threw him over the wall at the roadside. He was unhurt and on regaining his feet declared that his nose had saved his brains from being smashed out.

The stage and mail coaches depended very much upon the inns, The coaching houses provided a change of horses as well as food and refreshments and also overnight accommodation. Overnight stays were usually comfortable and guests well provided for. The chambermaids made sure of this, perhaps hoping to be well looked after in their turn.

 The Newhaven Inn
After leaving Buxton, many coaches called at the Newhaven Inn on the Ashbourne Road.
Built by the 5th Duke of Devonshire in the 18th Century and originally called "The Devonshire Arms" this inn was at a busy road junction and on the route of numerous stage coaches.  This was at first  bleak location but landscaping and planting soon softened the outlook. The hotel was large and had stabling for 100 horses. It was common for several coaches to be seen together in the courtyard. King George IV spent a night at Newhaven and was so pleased with the hospitality that he granted the inn a licence in perpetuity. The hotel thereafter became a fashionable society destination and was often fully occupied. It was said to be as gay and fashionable as any hotel in the Capital.  Newhaven was especially popular during the Buxton "season", about a fortnight after Whitsun when racing would take place on Fairfield Common. The course was a mile oval and had a grandstand. The Duke put up £100 for a gold cup race. The races attracted much trouble and were short lived ending about 1840. 
 Fairfield Common Racecourse 1825
At Newhaven a large cattle, sheep and horse fair took place at the end of October. All kind of wares were laid out for sale in the adjacent field.
Newhaven is a remote location for such a large establishment and for some years the building has stood forlorn and empty. Now being renovated, hopefully the hotel will have a new lease of life.

There are said to be tunnels leading from the hotel into nearby woodland. It is said that these were used by fleeing highwaymen.


John Greenwood was keeper of the Pendleton Toll Bar on the Manchester to Liverpool Turnpike. In 1824 he purchased a horse and cart and fitted it with several seats. Pendleton was an expanding suburb and home to a growing number of Manchester merchants whose only means of transport was by stage coach. Three of four times a day, Greenwood ran his omnibus to Manchester. The bus would pick up and set down passengers where they wished without the need for advanced booking. The bus was considerably cheaper than the stage coach.

Experimental bus services had been tried in France more than a century beforer but were little more than entertainment for local people and soon ceased. Greenwood's service was therefore the first scheduled bus in the World.  Greenwood soon added Buxton as a daily destination bringing a very early bus service to Furness Vale.
He and a number of competitors soon created a thriving network of bus routes. He died in 1851 and left the business to his son John. This  eventually became the Manchester Carriage and Tramways Company which until 1903 operated an extensive tram network.

Manchester Carriage and Tramways Horse Bus - Museum of Transport, Cheetham Hill 

When the railway opened to Whaley Bridge in 1857, the LNWR provided a horse bus to carry passengers onwards to Buxton. Through tickets were available from Manchester and intermediate stations. The buses would climb up the path between the station building and the Jodrell Arms in order that passengers could board the bus adjacent to the platform. The service continued until the line opened as far as Buxton in 1863.
Last journey of the Cheadle Horse Bus, probably about 1908.
The journey by horse bus had its' dangers.  A news report reads" A rather serious accident occurred near Whaley Bridge on Monday afternoon. A mail omnibus starting from Matlock had arrived at a place where the horses usually stopped for water, on the brow of a hill between Buxton and Whaley Bridge. Whilst it was waiting there, another omnibus, in connection with the railway, came up and the drivers of the two vehicles foolishly joined in a race for the first place. Going down hill, the pace of course was most rapid and a man and a boy were thrown from the top of the mail bus by the rolling of the vehicle. The boy escaped with injuries to his wrist and face but the man it was feared was internally hurt. They were taken to the Jodrell Arms and were placed under medical care.
 John Burroughs seemed to be the most seriously injured and remained at the hotel for nine days. The younger man Silvester Frankel was able to leave after two nights and returned to London. His injuries gradually became more severe and his brain was clearly injured.

Eventually on 2nd December 1863, a case of negligence against the L.N.W.R was heard at the Court of the Queens Bench. Frankel was said to have been "rendered an idiot" by the accident.  The judge hearing the case was reduced to tears at the sight of the unfortunate young man.  Compensation of £2000 was awarded, a very large sum in 1863.
Motor buses started to appear on Britain's roads in the late 19th century. Until the Locomotives on Highways Act came into force on 14th November 1896, legislation had prevented the operation of mechanical vehicles on public roads. The first buses were crude conversions of motor cars or horse buses which had been adapted to operate with a motor. A number of early buses were imported from Germany where development was more advanced. Through experimentation, more reliable vehicles were designed. At first single deck buses were produced, then in 1906, the first double deck vehicles went into production. For a few years buses were difficult to obtain as  almost all production was destined for London.
This early Daimler is seen in London about 1900
It was still to be some time before regular motor bus services reached the roads of Whaley Bridge and Furness Vale.
The British Electric Traction Company had been founded in 1895 to operate electric tramways. In 1905 they launched a subsidiary, The British Automobile Traction Company in order to develop motor bus services.  At the time, many corporations were taking over operation of tramways through compulsory purchase and it was time for BET to diversify.    On 10th November 1913  B. A. T. opened a depot in Macclesfield. This was in King Edward Street in the premises previously occupied by Pickfords Carriers. The building still existed into the 1980's although the bus garage had moved to Sunderland Street in the 30's. A depot in Buxton was also opened in 1913. The first buses were Belsize single deckers but these had inherent chassis problems. They were built by Belsize Motors of Clayton, Manchester. This company had been formed in 1901 and by 1915 manufactured a wide range of cars and commercial vehicles and employed 1200 people. The Buxton fleet was replaced with 34 seat Daimler double deckers. These buses were painted green and cream with the name "British" on gold letters on the side panel. 
                                                                      A B.A.T. Daimler of 1912

A Macclesfield - Hazel Grove - New Mills service was introduced in 1914 although this was suspended at some time during WWI.
                                            A "British" single decker at the Cat and Fiddle

The Stockport to Buxton route commenced in 1921 and from 1923 one bus daily ran via Marple.

B A T developed a network of routes in the Peak District linking Buxton, Hayfield, Glossop, Matlock etc. Buxton had routes to Macclesfield, Sheffield, Chapel, Whaley, Glossop, Leek, Bakewell, Rowsley and Matlock.

FRANK CLAYTON                                                               

The photograph below was taken outside the Co-op in Furness Vale, Yeardsley Lane is in the background behind the bus.
Between 1908 and 1912 Frank Clayton of Offerton operated a bus service between the Thatched House in Stockport  and the Jolly Sailor in Marple via Offerton. As the side boards on the bus name these places it seems likely that this is one of his buses. The destination Buxton is pasted in the window next to the driver. There is no record of any regular Buxton service at that time and this is perhaps an excursion. The bus is parked on the wrong side of the road.  The vehicle is probably a Milnes Daimler, these were built in large numbers from 1906 onwards. The company was formed as the result of an agreement between Milnes and Co of Hadley, Salop and Daimler Motoren-Gesellschaft in Germany to construct motor buses and had no connection with the better known Daimler of Coventry. Milnes were well known as builders of tramcars and horse buses.


In 1906 the Manchester District Motor Omnibus Company Limited was formed by a group of London businessmen. The company office was in John Dalton Street and the garage in Trafford Park.
In March of that year they ran a series of free public demonstration trips from Albert Square.
 The first public services were in Chorlton cum Hardy, Didsbury and Withington, Stretford, Cheadle and Alderley. These were prosperous areas and the residents didn't like the sight of motor buses on their quiet residential streets and soon caused problems. By Autumn 1906 services ceased and the company went into voluntary liquidation.

Manchester District did not operate a service through Furness Vale so the bus in this photo is probably also on an excursion. It is obviously posed for the cameraman and as with the previous photograph, is on the wrong side of the road perhaps to take advantage of the light.
The bus is probably another Milnes Daimler. In the nineteen hundreds this was the most popular manufacturer of motor buses and by 1907 over 600 were in service; the double deck model having been introduced in 1902.

The name of Frank Clayton again appeared in 1913 when in September he applied to Marple U D C on behalf of B. A. T. for licences to run buses between Stockport and Marple with an hourly frequency and between Poynton and Newtown via High Lane and Disley.  A garage at Marple was proposed which would house buses for other anticipated routes. The buses were to be single deckers


Thomas Tilling was another major player in the development of bus services in England.  They had numerous bases around the country including a large presence in London. They were a larger company than British Automobile Traction. Tilling also had an interest in Tilling Stevens, a bus manufacturning company in Maidstone. This was a major bus builder before World War II and suppled many Tilling and B.A.T. subsidiaries.

Tilling and B A T although competitors, tended to co-operate with each other.  In 1923, they launched a jointly owned company, the North Western Road Car Company, each holding a 50% share. The assets of the Macclesfield operation of B A T were transferred to the new company including 50 buses and 22 routes. In 1924 it was decided to move the head office from Macclesfield to a newly built base at Charles Street in Stockport.
 A Tilling-Stevens of North Western
 The North Western Road Car Company was to expand quickly. 1923 saw new routes between Glossop and Marple Bridge, Stockport and Denton and Stockport and Mellor.  In the following year services were introduced in the Saddleworth area to be followed over the next few years by expansion in the Oldham area including the opening of a depot in Crofton Street, Oldham. Also in 1924, North Western took over the operations of The Mid-Cheshire Motor Bus Company of Northwich and in 1926 Altrincham and District Motor Services was absorbed. Garages continued to operate in those towns until the break up of North Western.
GlossopTram 1910
1927 saw the abandonment of tramway operations in both Glossop and Matlock.  These were replaced by North Western who introduced bus services which were later expanded around those towns.  By the end of that year more than 200 buses were in operation over 80 routes.

  Manchester Corporation operated a monopoly of tram and bus routes and to protect this, they refused to licence any competing bus services within the City boundaries. Buses from the country turned round at the tram terminus, presumably this was Lloyd Road in Levenshulme for the Buxton buses.
 The General Strike - Piccadilly Gardens
 The general strike of 1926 effectively broke the monopoly. As replacements for strikebound railways and tramways, a number of small independent operators offered buses to the City from the suburbs. As they sold return tickets and did not pick up passengers within Manchester they did not require a licence from the Corporation.  Although the strike was soon to end, these competitors now had a foothold.  Manchester was forced to set up joint service agreements with other corporations such as Stockport, Oldham, S.H.M.D. Bury and Bolton. By late 1927 these joint services were in operation and similar arrangements were agreed with North Western and Ribble.   In the case of these companies, revenue earned within Manchester had to be paid in full to the Corporation. If you remember travelling on the 27 into Manchester, you may recall being handed a "No Cash Value" ticket in addition to the normal one. This was to record the number of cross border journeys and to calculate Manchester's share of the fare.
From 1st March 1928, some routes were extended into the City Centre.  Revenues earned within Manchester, however, had to be handed over to the Corporation.  That same month, North Western acquired the routes of Tetlow and Collier in the Flixton and Urmston areas


North Western and Ribble now invested £12500 each to purchase a Manchester site for their new joint bus station.  This was close to Central Station at the southern end of Lower Mosley Street. The Bridgewater Hall now occupies part of the site.  The bus station, at first just an open tract of land opened in April 1928. The Buxton and Hayfield services, routes 27 and 28 respectively were extended to the City from that date.

Lower Mosley Street Bus Station was developed throughout the 1930's, new buildings and shelters being added as demand rose.  New operators started to use the bus station, especially other B.E.T. subsidiaries. A network of long distance services was also established providing routes to many parts of the Country.   Wartime brought a cessation of many services but by the 50's demand was rising again and further expansion of facilities took place.

Part of a North Western map showing the extent of services in 1947

 Although the 60's saw a gradual decline in traffic, the bus station remained a busy place. !968 however, saw North Western absorbed into the National Bus Company and rationalisation began.  


 It was November 1969 when SELNEC came into being, having taken over the bus operations of eleven municipalities.  All of North Western's route network within Greater Manchester was taken over by SELNEC from March 1972 and Lower Moseey St closed in March 1973. It was not considered that the remaining part of the company could remain viable.  The garages at Northwich, Biddulph and Macclesfield were transferred to the National Bus Company subsidiary Crosville, the Buxton and Matlock garages to Trent. Other garages such as Wilmslow were closed.

    Buxton Garage 1964

The bus garage in Buxton was on Charles Street, it had opened in December 1963. The site is now occupied by Aldi.  When the garage closed, Trent's operations were transferred to Dove Holes.

1986 saw the deregulation of bus services in the UK with the exception of London and Northern Ireland.   The local bus companies which succeeded North Western were all affected.  SELNEC was rebranded GM Buses.  In 1994 in preparation for privatisation, the company was divided into GM Buses North and GM Buses South. Short lived management buy outs took place in 1996 after which they were sold to First Manchester and Stagecoach Manchester.   Crosville which had taken over from North Western in Macclesfield operated a local service to Whaley Bridge and was privatised in 1988.  Trent which had taken over the Buxton operations was privatised in 1986.

On the privatisation of Crosville, the Macclesfield depot passed first to the Bee Line Buzz Company of Manchester and then to C-Line with a fleet of 47 buses.  C-Line was absorbed by Midland Red North on 1st January 1993. Stevensons of Uttoxeter was aquired by British Bus who transferred to Midland Red North fleet to that operator. Stevensons was re-branded Arriva in 1997.

Buses under these fleet names were all seen on our local roads as a number of services operated out of Macclesfield.  The story of ownership of these buses is even more complex post privatisation and I will avoid adding to the confusion by passing that topic by. They were in effect all operating names of Drawlane Ltd which eventually became Arriva.


Eric W Bowers Coaches Ltd was formed in 1952. As a coach operator Bowers offered excursions from local pick up points and operated school and private hire coaches. After bus de-regulation in 1986, Bowers started to develop a number of local bus routes.

Bowers was taken over by the Centrebus group in 2007. Based in Leicester, this is a fast growing company formed in 2001 with operations in East Midlands, the East of England and West Yorkshire.

In April 2012, Bowers was merged with the Dove Holes operations of Trent to form "High Peak". The new company is jointly owned by Trent and Centrebus although it is effectively operating as a Centrebus subsidiary and the buses will carry the blue, orange and white Centrebus colours.

From the late 50's onwards, as car ownership increased,  passenger numbers declined, a few routes were lost and frequencies suffered. Subsidies supported a number of services but de-regulation did bring some benefits as the new operators were somewhat more go-ahead than the nationalised companies. Many routes now have higher frequency than at any time in the past.
It is mostly evening and Sunday operations that have declined


 Under North Western, the Macc - Buxton service was route No 1. It only ran twice a day with an extra bus on Saturday. By the 70's, this had been withdrawn completely.   When Virgin trains took over Manchester to London operations, they introduced a feeder bus on this route and this proved popular with local travellers and shoppers. It is now High Peak route 58 with an hourly frequency. I have been told by several different people that the North Western bus often used to wait for the scheduled departure time at the Cat and Fiddle.  It was common for passengers  to carry a few treats for the sheep that would regularly invade the bus as soon as it arrived.  It was the conductor's job to chase them off before the bus could depart.

Another route to have improved is  Macc to Whaley Bridge. For decades only 2 or 3 journeys were run. The bus often stood on Canal Street for over an hour waiting its' departure time. This bus now runs every hour and is often extended to New Mills or Disley. 

It is mostly evening and Sunday operations that have declined

Charabancs will have been a familiar sight in the early 20th century. These, usually open topped vehicles were engaged in outings to the seaside or country. They would often be used for works outings or trips by organisations such as Sunday Schools. 

An outing by Chara from Furness Vale
  Charabancs originated in France in the 1840's as horse drawn vehicles and the name means a carriage with wooden benches. The motorised vehicles often had interchangeable bodies and would be converted to a goods vehicle in the Winter months. The name "charabanc" continued in use long after the vehicle had been replaced by more familiar coaches and even today some people will still refer to a "chara".

Taxis have also been based in the village and although they have usually been private cars, they have long been a familiar sight.  Taxi cabs originated in Paris and were introduced to London in 1897 when 75 electric vehicles nicknamed "hummingbirds" after the sound that they made, were introduced. They were unreliable and were involved in a number of accidents because they could not be heard, and were withdrawn by 1900. The first motorised cabs appeared in 1903, a French built Prunel. Several makes were tried including Belsize and by 1906 almost 100 were in use. Soon after, the General Cab Company introduced 500 Renault vehicles. "Conditions of Fitness" were introduced in 1906 and in 1907 the regulations were extended to include the fitting of "taximeters". Motor cabs then became known as "taxicabs" later abbreviated to "taxis". The "taxameter" was invented in Germany in 1890 and was originally fitted to horse drawn cabs.


Author Stephen Jarvis has provided the following additional information:

Hi - I saw that you mentioned Jingle's account, in The Pickwick Papers, of a head being knocked off by an archway. I thought you might be interested in hearing that this incident was apparently based upon a real event, at that same archway: a woman's head wasn't actually knocked off, but she was prevented from leaning backwards by luggage stacked behind her, and the result was that the arch tore her face. She was horrifically injured, and died shortly afterwards. I actually cover this incident in my forthcoming novel Death and Mr Pickwick, which will be published in May by Jonathan Cape of the Random House Group. The novel explores the origins and subsequent history of The Pickwick Papers, and I include quite a lot of coaching scenes. If you are interested, you can find out more at:

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