A charge of ‘furious’ driving


In May 1820 Mr and Mrs Lewis were returning home to the Haymarket in London after visiting the countryside. They had just passed the Marsh Gate when the Greenwich stage coach rammed into them from the side. The coach driver was in a hurry and in attempting to pass the couple’s gig he crashed into them, turning them so round so they faced the opposite direction.

The Regency gig wasn’t a particularly safe form of transport – indeed some early forms earned the nickname of ‘suicide gig’ due to the groom’s high riding position.


a Regency gig

When the two vehicles collided Mrs Lewis, who was several months pregnant, was thrown from her seat. The coach driver was brought before the sitting magistrate at Union Hall in Southwark. There Mr Lewis told the court that his wife’s condition was serious and the ‘most fearful apprehensions are entertained for her safety’. The coachman, William Court, was committed to prison for want of bail, to await the justice’s decision in a few days time.

The eighteenth and nineteenth-century capital was a very busy place with all manner of horse drawn vehicles competing for space. The newspapers and caricaturists regularly drew attention to the ‘miseries of London’ or the perils of traversing the city. Hogarth’s etchings shows carts running over children and animals, while the City of London operated a sort of early one way system.

Hopefully Mrs Lewis (and her unborn child) recovered; unfortunately we don’t know because the papers did not follow up their story. As for William Court, his lack of bail suggests he wasn’t a wealthy individual and his desire to pass the Lewis’ indicates his awareness that his job depended on getting people from A to B as fast as possible. One hopes this was a chastening experience.

[Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser , Tuesday, May 2, 1820]



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