Spring Semester, Second Quarter
Huston T. Collings
March 29, 2010
Transportation is one of the most important parts of society today and even five hundred years ago. In Elizabethan England, travel was very basic, just feet, hooves, and wheels on cobblestone streets (Singman 86). Ships were also very important to travel and colonization, for England is an island nation (Time Life Ed. 132). Many towns were put on navigable rivers just to make travel easier because many people in this time used rivers and oceans for transportation and sometimes delivery of goods (Singman 85). The most important components of transportation in Elizabethan England were land travel, sea travel, and streets. The first, land travel, was not very effective. Usually people had no need to travel, so most travelling was for professional or military reasons; but, during the Elizabethan era, tourism had evolved, and many people started to travel for fun. Most people would just walk on foot to places nearby. Usually if one was traveling by foot, one would only make about 12 miles per day, and this is why people would use horses. Horses could travel up to four times more than walking alone (Singman 89-91). If one saw the average English family traveling by horse, the man would ride on a horse; and the women and children would ride on baby horses (Dodd 142). When people were in a hurry, they would travel by post. To travel by post, people had to rent Collings 2
horses at each post-house set up along their route. If they were traveling alone, they would also have to hire a boy to take the horse back to the last post-house. This was originally meant for royal business only, but many wealthy people liked to ride by post because they could cover up to seven times more ground than they could with a horse alone (Singman 89). Only the very rich would rent coaches or carts (Dodd 143). This was not a very good means of transportation because the coaches had no springs and made an extremely rough ride with cobblestone streets and unpaved roads (Singman 89). Long rides in coaches were sometimes even described as a “bone-jarring experience [especially] on rough Elizabethan road ways.”(Wagner 306-307) Since the roads outside London were so bad, coaches were mainly used in London for short distances because the ride was so rough (Wagner 306-307). One of the very important parts to land transportation was delivery of goods. This was very important to the economy as well as the well-being of the English people because if they did not receive needed goods, they could not survive. Carts could carry massive volumes of goods, but packhorses could only handle about two hundred pounds (Singman 89). Since the roads were very dangerous from highwaymen and footpads, or robbers on foot, many travelled in bands of men with weapons handy to protect their goods (Dodd 145). Overall, this all shows that land travel was not the best way to travel in Elizabethan England. Collings 3
Next, there was another way to travel for people in Elizabethan England that was much more effective and efficient, sea travel (Dodd 157). In fact, many towns were put on navigable rivers to make travel easier (Singman 85). Although only one fourth of the ships were general merchant and trading ships and the rest were military ships, they still vastly helped England get many exotic goods and more land. Before anyone did any exploration past the surrounding oceans of England, many told myths that one would be swallowed up by a whirlpool if one sailed past the English seas; and, if one made it past that, one would crash on an island infested with demons. Later, some found that these myths were false, but others still believed them (Dodd 157). During this period, affordable bridges had not been invented yet so the only way to get across the larger rivers, like the Thames, one had to ride “wherries” or boats that...