The Norwich Union Mail Coach

On the evening of 14 June 1996 the Norwich Union Mail Coach, in the capable hands of veteran coach driver John Parker, left London's Guildhall on an overnight journey to Norwich to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the last mail coach leaving London. Not only did the feat win a place in the record books. The charity Save The Children benefited by 3,000 - raised from donations collected at public houses along the way.

Teams of four Hungarian Grey horses pulled the coach in relays over the 137-mile route from the nation's capital to the county town of Norfolk. The support team included farriers to attend the horses and the whole entourage had a police escort for the entire journey.

Mail Coach Approaching
Mail Coach Departing

These pictures were taken in London Road, Brentwood, Essex, when the coach and four had climbed the hill after changing horses at The Golden Fleece, Brook Street. Other stops in the Brentwood area included The White Hart in Brentwood High Street, The Green Dragon at Shenfield, The George and Dragon at Mountnessing and The Crown at Ingatestone.

In olden times, the driver would have taken a drink in each of these hostelries but, in the interests of road safety, we hope that he took nothing stronger than a tea, coffee or soft drink.

Taking the mail coach through London's traffic and along major roads to Norwich presented many problems, not least the fact that the mail coach carries only two candle lanterns, nowhere near enough for safety in today's road conditions. The problem was solved by having the coach followed by a car, shining its headlamps under the coach.

Journey's End - the coach and four at rest in Norwich with the Cathedral in the background.

Mail Coach at Norwich