The Long and Dangerous Road:

Travel Overland in the 17th Century
Brenna Deutchman

Barbara Blaugdone traveled a great deal, using her faith and drive to spread her message across England and Ireland.  In England, she traveled well over a hundred miles, in Ireland she traveled over two hundred. She also made several voyages by sea. Her travels must have been long and difficult, as she faced not only the everyday dangers of the road but the dangers of persecution and imprisonment as well.

Many Quakers traveled in her time, following Godís will and spreading their message across many miles.  They were not the only ones who traveled by land, however. Merchants and businessmen depended on goods, which were transported to them by farmers, merchant caravans, or ships. Peddlers made their living by travel, selling various goods and buying others.  Wealthy young men often traveled to complete their education, and members of the upper-class visited health spas. 

Mainly, land travel was on foot or in the saddle. In addition to their own two legs, lower classes relied on mules or asses, wagons, and hand carts. The upper class used horses, more elaborate wagons, and carriages. Wealthy or infirm people could also chose to be carried on a litter or a sedan chair, and carts or wagons could also be hired.  Pack animals were used to carry goods and pull wagons. By the late sixteenth century private carriages came into fashion for the upper classes, and lighter, smaller coaches were developed and suspended on straps to provide a more comfortable ride. 

            Travel was generally very slow. Generally, a very good horse could travel between thirty-five to fifty miles a day, and if a traveler were on foot, they could go about three miles per hour.  Wheeled carts, carriages, or wagons were somewhere in between, as they generally depended on teams of horses to pull them, but were sometimes heavily laden and required slower going than a single person on horseback.

Roads were notoriously bad, and many became completely impassable to wheeled traffic during winter and early spring.  Conditions could be hazardous on the road, because of the physical treachery of the roads themselves as well as human hazards.  Roads were often barely marked, making it easy for a traveler to lose their way. Often, they became rivers in the rainy season, also becoming pocked with huge holes and ridges from water and weather damage, making footing treacherous.  Accommodations for travelers, when found, could be unpleasant, expensive, crowded, and flea-infested. Travelers often slept three to a bed. Long days of riding horseback and long nights of semi-alertness could lead to fatigue and inattentiveness, making a traveler easy prey for bandits, robbers, and soldiers along the way.  Many people made their living by stealing from travelers. Traveling could be extremely expensive, requiring equipment, money for lodging, fees for transport like small ferries or other craft to carry them across rivers, food, and money for care of their animals. Weather could also be a problem, and a traveler might have to cross rivers, climb mountains, and make their way over other difficult terrain.

Barbara Blaugdone was a Quaker, and as such, traveling would have been somewhat easier for her. Quakers could travel from meeting house to meeting house, staying with friends and fellow Quakers. When Quakers, including women, felt the call to travel, they were supported with money, horses, nursing care, and hospitality from within the community wherever they went.  If they left their families behind, the meeting at home would oversee their care while they were away.  Travel itself, however, was still hazardous, and Quakers also faced imprisonment and persecution in addition to the other dangers of the road.

Barbara Blagdone was a courageous and determined woman who stepped onto the road with her head held high, walking in the service of God, as she was commanded and called to do. 



Works Cited

Blaugdone, Barbara. An Account of the Travels, Sufferings and Persecutions of Barbara

Blaugdone. London, 1691.

 

Grendler, Paul, ed. Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. 1999.

 

Langford, Mollie. A Brief Historical Account of the Friend's Meeting House Premises    

8 Dec 2004. 14 Feb 2005. <http://www.digitalbristol.org/members/quakers/FriarsFMH.html>