Travel from London to Heaton; 1785 and 2019 compared.

Lord Wilton was a regular traveller between Manchester and London, and indeed, elsewhere.  Before he was created a peer in 1784 he was an MP for Lancashire; afterwards, of course, he was still in Parliament, but in the House of Lords.  So travel between London and Heaton was a regular occurrence, and in those times politicians did not receive a salary or expenses but were meant to support themselves out of their own means.

Fortunately for the historian, Lord Wilton kept detailed records of his expenditure on his travels which provide an insight into what long distance travel was  like in the 18th century.

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Below is a transcript of a journey Lord Wilton, along with his wife and daughter, made in July 1785 from London back to Heaton, in a chaise such as the one shown here, (which can still be seen in the stables at Heaton). The journey was made in a series of ‘posts’, where horses were changed for new teams at regular intervals, the distances of which varied according to the terrain.

23rd July   Post horses to Aylesbury, 3 posts, 48 miles          £2  –  19  –  6

24th July    Post horses to Aynho, 3 posts, 37 miles                £2  –  14  –  0

25th July     Post horses to  Farthinghoe, 1 post, 10 miles               14  –  0

26th July     Post horses to Coventry, 3 posts, 36 miles           £2  –  10 –  6

27th July     Post horses to Derby, 3 posts, 43 miles                 £3  – 12  –  6

28th July     Post horses to Leek, 2 posts, 27 miles                   £2  –   0  –  6

29th July     Post horses to Heaton, 3 posts, 35 miles               £2  –  2  –  6

Total expense of Post horses                                                      £16 –  15  –  0

The next set of expenses that Lord Wilton recorded were the ‘expenses of living with my family on my journey down to Heaton.’

23rd July    Breakfast at Uxbridge                                                        7  –  0

Dinner at Missenden                                                £1  –  4  –  6

24th July     Supper and breakfast at Aylesbury                       £1  –  8  –  6

Dinner at Stowe                                                         £1  –  5  –  6

25th July      Supper and breakfast at Aynho                             £1  –  6  –  0

26th July      Dinner and breakfast at Banbury                         £2  –  4  –  0

Dinner at Warwick                                                   £1  –  1  –  0

27th July      Supper at Coventry                                                  £1  –  1  –  6

Breakfast at Atherstone                                                    7  –  0

Dinner at Burton upon Trent                                         15  –  0

28th July      Supper and breakfast at Derby                             £1  –  17  – 6

Dinner at Ashburn                                                             18  – 6

29th July      Supper at Leek                                                          £1  –  1  –   0

Breakfast at Macclesfield                                                 16   – 0

Some sandwiches at Stockport                                         7  –  0

Total expense of living costs on the jourey                             £15  –  9  –  0

The total of travel costs from London to Heaton                   £32  –  4  –  0

How do these statistics compare with travel today?  A rail journey from London to Manchester is about 2 hours 20 minutes; by car it might take 4 hours.  Petrol for a car journey, depending on the model of car, might be £30 to £40.  A rail ticket, if bought on the day, would cost on average (June 2019) £170 per person, (or £510 for a party of three, the number who travelled in Lord Wilton’s chaise).  If you book well in advance and look for offers, travelling at times set by the rail company, the price can drop to less than £40 per person.

That looks expensive in comparison with Lord Wilton’s £32, until inflation over 200 years is taken into account. Using the Bank of England historic inflation calculator, which shows an average of 2.2% inflation since 1785, the £32 that Lord Wilton spent on his seven day journey from London to Heaton is the equivalent of £4,936 in today’s money.