This book examines the road haulage trade in England when it depended on horses and waggons, chiefly through the letters and papers of one of the largest firms which operated between the West Country and London in the early nineteenth century. Other documents extend the coverage of the firm's history from the seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, making it possible to examine how road transport changed during the course of two centuries.
The Russell letters are an extraordinary and unique survival, showing in detail how the firm managed to convey up to six tons at a time in all weathers, how dominated it was by the capabilities and needs of the horse, how reliable its services were, who it served and how important it was to a variety of users. Much new information is provided on the gradual spread of the influence of London, the effect of turnpike roads, the nature of the West Country economy and the role of transport in the regional and national economy. In sum the book provides the fullest account yet written of the road haulage industry from the seventeenth century until the coming of the railways.