The Red Rover Re-enactment
In August 1953 the Red Rover Coach and Horses took to the road again, re-enacting 19th Century Coach journey between Southampton and London.
The coach and horses set off from the Stag Brewery, Victoria, the home of its owners Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd, on 10th August and returning on 12th August. Both journeys took about 12 hours. They did the journey twice in each direction. To Southampton on Monday, back to London on Tuesday, and again to Southampton on Wednesday and back on Thursday. Nine horse teams were involved, the changes of horses taking place at inns including The Swan in Alton and The Bell in Alresford . Earlier that year many of the horses had been involved in the Coronation procession.
On board the coach were Mr Sanders Watney and guests. Also present was Harry Love, Coach Guard, now aged over 70. Mr Love had been one of the original coach guards on the same route 50 years earlier and at the time of the 1953 coach journey he was known for supplying suitable music on his coaching horn at the International Horse Show. Following the coach was a car carrying Mr Wells, who was responsible for keeping the coach going, and his tools “in case the whole lot breaks down.”
Our photograph shows the Red Rover passing through Ropley accompanied by hounds and horses from the Hampshire Hunt.
Coaches were first introduced into England by the Earl of Arundel in 1580. Travel was risky in the early days but by the 1820s British coach travel was the envy of the world. In the 1850s coach operators faced competition from the railways and ceased to do business but in 1890 there was a revival by enthusiasts and routes from London to the South Coast were once again travelled by coach and horses. This lasted until the outbreak of World War One.
One of the coaches which ran between Southampton and London was called the “Red Rover”. According to the Hampshire Independent of 27th April 1839, the coach left the Castle Hotel on the Quay at 10.30 am “immediately on the arrival of the Cowes Steamer”.
The Hampshire Independent of 4th March 1843 states that it travelled daily (Sunday excepted) leaving at 8.30 am from Matcham’s Royal Hotel in Southampton, through Winchester, Alresford, Alton, Farnham, Guildford and Kingston to the New White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, and Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London. The return journey departed from the Belle Sauvage at 8.15 am.
The document in the Ropley Archive states that the final journey took place in 1843, the demise of the service being attributed to the coming of the railway.