A map of the road from London to Portsmouth
Godalming Museum, ref 1706

 

 

THE LONDON TO PORTSMOUTH ROAD AND THE COACHING TRADE IN GODALMING

This map would originally have been a page in a book and probably dates from the early 18th century. It depicts the stretch of the route through part of Surrey, from Kingston to Milford. The reverse side of the map is entitled, 'The Road from London to Portsmouth' and, at the top of the page, is a table of mileages of various towns (including Godalming) from London. Both this, and the map page give short descriptions of historical figures and features of interest along the route. Guildford is described as being, "... formerly noted for the Cloathing Trade:" and for having produced George Abbott, "Arch-Bp. of Canterbury, who founded here a fine hospital..." The author makes a point of noting the presence of inns in the various towns mentioned - Guildford is described as being, "...very well Accommodated with Inns."

Coaching inns also played a part in the working life of Godalming. It's position mid-way on the route to an important naval and commercal port would have made it a convenient stopping-off point. It would also seem, from the map and descriptions, that there was something of a tourist trade. There were a number of large inns in the town; The Angel; The Great George; the Kings Arms ; the Red Lion and the White Hart dominated the High Street and many other businesses flourished from the coaching traffic through Godalming. Apart from the serving, cooking, waiting and domestic staff employed directly by inns; farriers, stable boys, wheelwrights, harness makers, producers and bottlers of drink, suppliers of cooking ingredients and many others would have benefited from the travellers.

'Pattersons Roads' of 1822 describes Godalming as, "... a market town delightfully situated in a valley on the south side of the river Wey.." and goes on to state, " The chief trade is in the manufacture of worsted for stockings, gloves &c.". With its descriptions of the church, bridge and recounting of the tale of Godalming's infamous inhabitant, Mary Tofts, Patterson's Roads seems to indicate that leisure travel had become something of an established pastime by the early 1800s. The 'lucrative' trade that these leisure, and other travellers, brought about in the town reached its peak, as John Janaway records, in the late 1850s. However, passing custom declined with the building of the railway from London to Havant.

 

Sources:

Patterson's Roads (London, 1822),pp. 22-3.

Yesterday's Town:Godalming
Janaway, John (Buckingham: Barracuda Books, 1987)

Godalming and Farncombe Pubs and Breweries
Janaway, John (Godalming:Ammonite Books, 2003)

 

 

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