Travel before the coming of the Railways - The London Portsmouth Road

Ref: C3746792

Before the coming of the railways our great coaching roads resounded to the jingle of harness and the sound of hooves. People, horses and oxen were on the move around the clock, only pausing on Sundays. Main roads were alive with activity and drama. This course looks at life on a major road, with particular reference to the London - Portsmouth Road, the link between the capital and the nation's greatest fortress. You will discover not just about life and events on the Portsmouth Road, but also about the sophistication of the national communications network before the railways and what was needed to operate a road system reliant on thousands of horses. Although not all roads were as busy and important as the London-Portsmouth Road certain facilities and features were common to all main roads, these were shaped by the landscape and in turn shaped the landscape. This course will enable you to recognise those features not just on the Portsmouth Road but on old coach routes near you.

Course aim

To understand how the nation's communication system worked before the coming of the railways by reference to the turnpike system and the Portsmouth Road. To identify the facilities essential to a busy route and apply them to an road near you.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Trace the pre-20th century route(s) of the Portsmouth-London Road and contrast it with the present day route
  • Explain the importance of the Portsmouth-London Road in British history. Identify other important routes and explain their particular importance.
  • Describe a number of events and journeys relating to the road and evaluate their importance for local and national history
  • Describe the nature of travel before the development of the railways and use this information to identify features along the Portsmouth-London Road, or a road of your choice
  • Explain how the road network was financed and maintained before the introduction of turnpikes, evaluate the effectiveness of the system and identify reasons why turnpike roads were introduced

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

OS or other maps showing the route of the London Portsmouth Road, or the route you wish to study

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Travel before the coming of the Railways - The London Portsmouth Road


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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