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Woodward Academy Quotation Notebook Spring Semester, Second Quarter Huston T. Collings English 8H-2 March 29, 2010 Collings 1 Transportation is one of the most important parts of society today and even five hundred years ago. In Elizabethan England, travel was very basic, just feet, hooves, and wheels on cobblestone streets (Singman 86). Ships were also very important to travel and colonization, for England is an island nation (Time Life Ed.
132). Many towns were put on navigable rivers just to make travel easier because many people in this time used rivers and oceans for transportation and sometimes delivery of goods (Singman 85).
The most important components of transportation in Elizabethan England were land travel, sea travel, and streets. The first, land travel, was not very effective. Usually people had no need to travel, so most travelling was for professional or military reasons; but, during the Elizabethan era, tourism had evolved, and many people started to travel for fun.
Most people would just walk on foot to places nearby. Usually if one was traveling by foot, one would only make about 12 miles per day, and this is why people would use horses. Horses could travel up to four times more than walking alone (Singman 89-91).
If one saw the average English family traveling by horse, the man would ride on a horse; and the women and children would ride on baby horses (Dodd 142).
When people were in a hurry, they would travel by post. To travel by post, people had to rent Collings 2 horses at each post-house set up along their route. If they were traveling alone, they would also have to hire a boy to take the horse back to the last post-house. This was originally meant for royal business only, but many wealthy people liked to ride by post because they could cover up to seven imes more ground than they could with a horse alone (Singman 89). Only the very rich would rent coaches or carts (Dodd 143). This was not a very good means of transportation because the coaches had no springs and made an extremely rough ride with cobblestone streets and unpaved roads (Singman 89). Long rides in coaches were sometimes even described as a “bone-jarring experience [especially] on rough Elizabethan road ways. ”(Wagner 306-307) Since the roads outside London were so bad, coaches were mainly used in London for short distances because the ride was so rough (Wagner 306-307).
One of the very important parts to land transportation was delivery of goods. This was very important to the economy as well as the well-being of the English people because if they did not receive needed goods, they could not survive. Carts could carry massive volumes of goods, but packhorses could only handle about two hundred pounds (Singman 89). Since the roads were very dangerous from highwaymen and footpads, or robbers on foot, many travelled in bands of men with weapons handy to protect their goods (Dodd 145).
Overall, this all shows that land travel was not the best way to travel in Elizabethan England. Collings 3 Next, there was another way to travel for people in Elizabethan England that was much more effective and efficient, sea travel (Dodd 157). In fact, many towns were put on navigable rivers to make travel easier (Singman 85). Although only one fourth of the ships were general merchant and trading ships and the rest were military ships, they still vastly helped England get many exotic goods and more land.
Before anyone did any exploration past the surrounding oceans of England, many told myths that one would be swallowed up by a whirlpool if one sailed past the English seas; and, if one made it past that, one would crash on an island infested with demons. Later, some found that these myths were false, but others still believed them (Dodd 157). During this period, affordable bridges had not been invented yet so the only way to get across the larger rivers, like the Thames, one had to ride “wherries” or boats that carried people across rivers (Singman 90).
In medieval and Elizabethan England, there were few ships that the king or queen actually owned. When they needed to move troops across sea or fight wars on water, the king or queen “collected a navy from port towns that owed [them] ships as part of their feudal service and from merchants who leased [them] their trade vessels” (Wagner 205). Commercial ships of the time would mainly carry a few guns, and war ships were very similar except they were narrower, and some of the larger ones could get much bigger than any commercial ship (Singman 90).
Most ships had three masts, but some could have one or two and were made for trade. There were hundreds of names for different ships including pinnaces, Collings 4 barks, and galleons. A merchant ship of about one hundred feet would have exceeded two hundred tons of carrying capacity. Most English ships were built in England, but some were acquired from abroad by purchase, capture, or legal seizure (Friel). Whenever a person had to travel across seas, there were no passenger ships so one would have to rent passage on a cargo ship.
All ships were very slow if traveling by sail and would only go about four to six knots (Singman 90-91). Queen Elizabeth changed the boats for warfare and made them platforms for large guns instead of platforms for troops (Wagner 206). Life at sea was very hazardous. A person aboard a ship was always at risk of a pirate attack, a Spanish attack, and disease. Bigger ships were much better at surviving an attack because they had more guns and men. As for diseases, every man was at risk. In a ship, there were cabins for senior officers, and normal sailors had to sleep in tight and bad conditions.
In warships there would be hammocks, but this was rare for any other type of ship. Kitchens were deep in the ship, extremely rudimentary, and sometimes known as the unhealthiest part of a ship. They only served salted beef, pork and fish, cheese, pease, a baked vegetable dish made with split yellow peas, spices, and ham or bacon, butter, and hardtack with a mug of beer. Rats were very common on ships even if the ship was kept as clean as it could get. When they died and Collings 5 secreted wastes, they made a horrible smell on board. The kitchen conditions and rats helped diseases spread rapidly (Friel).
Overall, if one was willing to take the risks, sea travel proved to be much more effective than all other types of travel of the time. The last and arguably the most important part of travel in the Elizabethan era were streets. They were known as a right for people to go in the queen’s land. England had no national road system, just hopeful injunctions. Many streets were dangerous to travel on because of the highwaymen and footpads that were on the roads ready to attack (Dodd 140-145). Most streets were just gravel or dirt, but some were paved or cobbled.
Dirt streets would become a sea of mud when bad storms came and made travel extremely hard. Cobbled and paved roads were very rare and mainly found in London. In 1543, the government wanted the streets to become better; therefore, they forced homeowners to pay for the pavement of the streets on which they lived (Picard 30-31). Many of the streets were narrow and crooked and evolved from footpaths in medieval towns. Some were carefully directed, but most were not wide at all. They became very murky at night, and some were lighted but only because of a homeowners concern, not the government.
The street conditions were absolutely horrible, and the only way to get very far was by horse (McMurtry 95-110). On Leicestershire roads, “‘you enter the deep clays, which are so Collings 6 surprisingly soft, that it is perfectly frightful to travelers. ’”(Williams 2-3) Roads were noisome and tedious to travel on and were often just a foul and noyful slough (Williams 2-3). Streets were very hard to keep in an average condition. The English government left upkeep of roads up to a local parish according to the Act of 1555.
Each parish was elected as a volunteer surveyor for a one year term. After the elections, each parish had to work on the roads within his or her area for eight hours a day, four days in a row. Every single owner of land had to fix their carts and keep up with their oxen and horses. Then they had to help the parish and fix up the roads with their own spades, picks, and mattocks, but they were allowed to hire two laborers to help them (Dodd 140). Streets were generally awful and hard to travel on but without them land travel would have been pretty much impossible.
Land travel, sea travel, and streets are the most important factors of transportation in Elizabethan England. Even though land transportation was very basic, just feet, hooves, and wheels, it was important to the Elizabethan lifestyle (Singman 86). Sea transportation was even more important because without it and colonization, America would not have been discovered (Time Life Ed 132). Transportation has been in use ever since the first man could walk and has always played a major role in helping society. Collings 7 Works Cited Dodd, A. H. Life in Elizabethan England. Ruthin: Jones, 1962.
Friel, Ian. “Guns, Gales & God. ” Vol. 60 Issue 1 http://www. historytoday. com/MainArticle. aspx? m=33787. History Today, 2010. McMurtry, Jo. Understanding Shakespeare’s England. Hamden: Archon, 1989. Picard, Liza. Elizabeth’s London. London: St. Martin’s, 2003. Singman, Jeffrey L. The Life and Times of Elizabethan England. Westport: Greenwood, 1995. Time Life Ed. What Life was Like in the Realm of Elizabeth. Alexandria: Time Life, 1998. Wagner, John A. Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World. Phoenix: Oryx 1984. Williams, Penry. Life in Tudor England. New York: Capricorn, 1964.