The "London & York" Royal Mail Coach

'woven in the York Exhibition, 1879'
in lower left corner of mount

Reference Number:- Sprake Number:- Godden Number:-
st 416 STG186 42c

Early version with short stubby lead horse:-
Image of stage coach with four hourses and passengers
size of picture above:
Card: 4.5inches (11.4cm) deep by 7.5inches (19.0cm) wide.
Silk: 2.0inches (5.1cm) deep by 5.0inches (12.7cm) wide

Slightly later version with normal sized lead horse, and large window:-
Image of stage coach with four hourses and passengers

Also of the later, large version, but with an early Gothic design addition to frame, and "REGISTERED" moved to left, under picture:-
Image of stage coach with four hourses and passengers

Woven on silk:-

Printed at top of card-mount:-


Printed at bottom of card-mount:-


cm deep by cm wide

cm high by cm wide

by Austin Sprake:
STG186 "The 'London and York' Royal Mail Coach commenced running in the year 1706" printed above the silk picture and below it the words "From the Black Swan Holborn London to the Black Swan Coney Street York". This picture, with no rural background, was woven in the York Exhibition of 1879, which fact is often printed on the lower left corner, with Stevens' identification often printed in the lower right corner.

by Geoffrey Godden:
This landscape scene was the first Stevengraph ever to be registered - on 14 May 1879 - also being one of the first two Stevengraphs introduced at the York Exhibition in the summer of 1879. The basic design of the coach-and-four had, however, first been registered by Thomas Stevens on 25 June 1872, when it was incorporated in one of his famous book-markers.

The picture shows the London to York coach drawn by four horses. Within a few months the same picture was reissued under the title THE GOOD OLD DAYS [st260 in this site]. As such, it continued as a popular Stevengraph into the twentieth century.

The point about the change of title is that, at the time of the introduction of these new silks at the York Exhibition, subjects having a local association were chosen - i.e. DICK TURPIN'S RIDE TO YORK [st144] and THE LONDON & YORK ROYAL MAIL COACH [above]. But once the local exhibition was over, titles with a wider appeal were needed; or at least, ones not directly associated with one city. Consequently, the same silk pictures were continued under the unlocalised titles TURPIN'S LAST RIDE [st156] and THE GOOD OLD DAYS [st260].

The examples shown in st420 and st424 are extremely rare early card-mounts which differ in two respects from the normal one shown above.

The basic difference is that the mounts are termed 'Stage Coach' (as described in the Yorkshire Gazette of 14 June 1879), whereas all other mounts describe it as the 'Royal Mail Coach'.

The wording at the bottom left-hand corner of the mount in the first example [st420] reads 'Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879', whereas later versions have the standard wording 'Woven in the York Exhibition' (as above).

The second example [st424] differs from that in st420 in that the wording 'Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879' does not appear at the bottom left-hand corner of the card-mount but the word 'Registered' is printed there. This version may be a very early example made at the Coventry works rather than at the York Exhibition, for general sale to the public.

It is apparent that these two very rare card-mounts are also the earliest issued, for the size of the silk picture is smaller than this later Royal Mail Coach York Exhibition specimen and smaller than the even later runs of the same subject issued under the title THE GOOD OLD DAYS [st260].

Measuring the extreme size of the woven decoration, we find the length of the very early ones to be 4 4/5inches (with a small window-size of approximately 5 inches by 2 inches), whereas the slightly later silk picture of the same subject measures over 5 1/2inches, nearly filling the standard size 6 inches by 2 inches window. The rare first version is therefore nearly an inch shorter in length than the later version.

The main difference can be seen in the appearance of the leading horses - short and tubby in the first case, longer and slimmer in the later, standard, version.

An early version with the standard description 'Royal Mail Coach' and also the 1879 York Exhibition credit is illustrated above, still with the shorter panel and tubby horses.

Some rare double silks have this LONDON & YORK ROYAL MAIL COACH in combination with STEPHENSON'S 'TRIUMPH' [st564] or DICK TURPIN'S RIDE TO YORK [st116]. The double pictures bear the York Exhibition credit [see st4 on this site]. They are rarely found today.

Other comments:
The original design was registered on 14 May 1879, although the back label refers to ROYAL MAIL coach, not STAGE COACH.

The title of the image shown in [st415] is not mentioned by Godden, and as a result, to some extent there has to be conjecture as to the order in which these early titles appeared.

However, from Godden's description above, and the discovery of the title of st415, the order of the different titles would seem to be:

  1. The silk started out with the title ' The "LONDON & YORK" Stage Coach ', and the credit ' Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879 ' printed on the card-mount [st420].
  2. For the general public, the same ' The "LONDON & YORK" Stage Coach ' title was available, but with the credit ' Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879 ' replaced simply with ' Registered ' [st424].
  3. With the discovery of the image of [st415], it would seem that the title was soon changed to ' The "LONDON & YORK" Royal Mail Coach ' with the previous credit ' Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879 ' remaining.
  4. Next, whilst the title remained as ' The "LONDON & YORK" Royal Mail Coach ', it would seem that the previous credit of ' Manufactured in York Exhibition, 1879 ' was changed to ' Woven in the York Exhibition, 1879 ', that is, the image above [st416]. Although the design of the actual silk remained unchanged, the size of the silk increased slightly, and this is evident in the size of the lead horses of these later silks.
  5. Once the exhibition had closed, the old title was short lived, and was replaced after a few months with the completely different one of ' The Good Old Days ' [st260]. The silk remained exactly as before.
  6. The final evolution was to change the actual silk itself to include a winter scene, whilst still retaining the same ' The Good Old Days ' [st264] title. It was this final version which continued into the 20th century.


Back to List of Pictures
Back to Stevengraphs

This page was created on 21 December 2003
Reasonable quality colour image added 15 March 2004, and Gothic border image added 1 July 2006. Stubby horse version replaced with coloured version 24 May 2023

copyright copyright notice of web site