ID: DJG_CRS / Douglas J. Gurton

TitlePublic Transport - the Carriers
AbstractFrom earliest times, Tollesbury had a transport system, be it pack horse, horse drawn litter or horse drawn wagon. Geographically situated on the edge of marshland, with no through road, and placed midway between two important towns, Colchester and Maldon, it was due to the initiative and enterprise of local people, that a horse drawn carrier service was in being early in the last century. According to old records there were regular services to Colchester on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and two carriers on Saturdays. There was a service to Maldon on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and to Kelvedon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The last named service would have been to enable people to board steam trains to London or Suffolk and Norfolk, before the Kelvedon, Tiptree and Tollesbury Light Railway came into being in 1904. At the turn of the century we find that a Mr. Ucal Weavers and Mr. George Anthony, operated the Colchester carrier service, Mr. Richard Collins, Snr., the Maldon service, and Mr Bacon the Kelvedon route. The carrier vehicles were four wheeled, iron tyred, lightly constructed wagons, with canvas and lath hard top, to protect the passengers from inclement weather, who would sit on benches ranged inside on both sides of the vehicle. Straw was provided inside in winter-time to give warmth to the passengers. Parcels would be conveyed at threepence (1p) per item, and stowed underneath the bench seats, in addition the carrier van had a tail-board at the rear for more bulky articles. Some sources say the carriers left the Square (Green) at 8 a.m. for their destinations, and left the "Essex Arms", Colchester, or "Ship Inn" (Fullbridge), Maldon, at 4 p.m. for the return journey home, but I remember them leaving Tollesbury nearer 9-30 a.m. and Colchester 6 p.m.

I would imagine there was no rigid time-table, it was a time of patience and forbearance in those far off days. It was a time of full employment, Tollesbury had practically every profession and trade in its midst, there was no great need to travel, except possibly to market, or matters of legal, surgical, dental and optical importance. Consequently there were never a great number of passengers, except on a town gala day. The gentry and professional men all had their own means of transport as of to-day. The Rev. John G. Buttersby owned a coach and employed a groom-coachman-cum-gardener, Dr. John Henry Salter, dressed in military uniform, with pill-box cap, rode horse back, the farmers and affluent yacht skippers all had their smart horse drawn turn-outs.

Evidently no great fortunes were made by the owners of the carriers, from time to time changes of ownership took place. I well remember a day in early Spring in 1915 travelling in Mr. George W. Osborne's carrier to Colchester, halting ever so often to pick up a solitary passenger or parcel, and stopping at all the recognised places en route, Red Lion, Darcy; Salcott cross roads and Sun Inn, near where Mr. Ponder's renowned pork sausages at 8d (3½p) per pound could be obtained; King's Head, Great Wigborough; Fox and Donkey and Buskins, Layer, where an iron shoe would be put on the nearside rear-wheel for the descent of the hill; splashing through the ford at the bottom (the road was much lower in those days), and alighting at the other side to "stretch our legs" and lighten the load for "Nell" the dappled grey mare to draw the cart up the hill on the other side, only to be halted at Kingsford Park Lodge by a military officer on horseback to allow the troops to march out for Colchester.

Hundreds of soldiers in full kit, came out marching four abreast accompanied by the vociferous cries of the sergeants "Pick 'em up there". One dear lady exclaimed, "Poor dears - they are only boys" - to me they appeared to be men, many with moustaches. The columns of troops went along to Colchester like a huge brown caterpillar and we trotted behind, Mr. Osborne observing "This will make us late". Arriving at the "Essex Arms", Essex Street, about 12 noon, we soon alighted, and were firmly instructed "be here no later than 6 p.m."

A visit to the cattle market did not impress me, I liked the animals but was incensed by the cattle dealers prodding the beasts with their sticks. I felt that I would like to get them in a small cattle pen, and mete out the same treatment to them. Meals could be obtained at The Market Tavern, or the Three Gups Hotel, then next to the Corn Exchange alongside the Town Hall in the High Street, but this was strictly for the adults. I had to be content with a sandwich, whilst the farmers and the like entered the Farmers' Room, a small separate building in the yard of the Three Cups, where the senior member present would preside and carve the joint for the others present. A visit to the Castle Museum was in the vaults or dungeons, the Castle was devoid of roofs at that time. Time passed all too quickly, and it was back to the Essex Arms. "Nell" already harnessed in the cart and ready to go. It is reputed that she was blind in one eye, but knew every inch of the route and all stopping places without bidding. My half-fare was 9d (4p), adult return 1s. 6d (7½p). Mr. Richard Collins, Snr., was the other carrier in those days, and both carriers owned wagonettes and coaches for weddings, etc. Hire of a wagonette for the day was 6/- (30p) and was economical for a family.

There was a draw-back in travelling in a wagonette, as one was exposed to the elements. It was necessary to wrap up warmly, and the provision of canvas backed rug and coachman's umbrella, could make the journeys reasonably comfortable. The coaches or growlers were a different proposition. The cab was well upholstered, and the driver sat outside seated on a box seat at the front. These were used mainly for weddings or funerals. I remember riding in Mr. Collins coach one cold day, my uncle John Henry Gurton had married Miss Annie Sams, and I was accompanying the bride and groom inside the coach. Confetti was not used at that time, but it was customary to shower the bride and groom with rice. I was seated facing opposite the bride and groom when a blue rice bag came sailing through the open window, thrown by Arthur Frost and hit me on the head, I was very distressed and I remember Aunt Annie comforting me. Given the opportunity sometime ago. I searched the Church Marriage Register, and found that the date was 9th November 1910. I was 2 ½ years old. I liked riding in the coaches. Occasionally I had the opportunity to ride in Mr. Osborne's coach to Kelvedon on Sundays to meet down trains from London. When passing the beautiful chateau type house on the Tolleshunt Knights to Tiptree road, I fondly imagined that I was Napoleon fleeing from the battlefield of Waterloo, I had seen a picture at school also the actual coach at Madame Tussauds (unfortunately destroyed by fire 1926). Mr. Osborne never lost his love for horses, although the founder of the firm which bears his name to this day, he never drove a motor vehicle. When he passed away in 1932, aged 60 years, his coffin was borne to the funeral on one of his carts drawn by his old favourite horse.

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Public Transport - the Railway
Douglas Gurton Articles

AuthorDouglas J. Gurton
SourceMersea Museum / Cedric Gurton
Related Images:
 G.W. Osborne proudly sits in his new horse drawn carrier cart which had full length seats each side for potential passengers.
 Caption from back of Osborne's buses from Tollesbury by G.R. Mills.  CG3_025
ImageID:   CG3_025
Title: G.W. Osborne proudly sits in his new horse drawn carrier cart which had full length seats each side for potential passengers.
Caption from back of "Osborne's buses from Tollesbury" by G.R. Mills.
Date:Before 1919
Source:Mersea Museum / Cedric Gurton Tollesbury