Pack Train

Pack Horse & Fustian Roll Inn Sign Before the enactment of turnpike legislation between 1750 and 1773 English roadways were in a deplorable state. Most roads were rough tracks worn by hoof and foot traffic that became one long mud hole when it rained. England is a wet climate, so roadways were wet much of the time. Most goods and even large quantity industrial raw materials such as metals and clay had to be transported by trains of pack horses since wagons tended to become mired down on England's muddy roads. Many pack ways kept to the heights as much as possible because the good drainage made for drier going.

A pack train was made up of from twelve to thirty horses moving single file behind a mare wearing a belled collar. The collar consisted of a leather body carrying the main bell in the middle with the clapper swinging and striking as the animal walked. The main bell was flanked by four big "rumble" (jingle type) bells with a loose piece of metal inside a pierced globe, which make a continuous sound due to the movement of the horse. The ringing warned other travelers on narrow tracks, where passing would be difficult, and potential customers of the pack train's approach.

Ponies were often used as pack train animals because they were local and cheap and could work with only the rough grass around their stopping places for fodder. Around 1770, the cost of a load carried 22 miles was 8 pence for a 2 hundredweight load (224lbs). A pony can walk at about 3 miles an hour in a 7 hour day with some stops for water. At that rate a pack train would cover 20 miles a day. Some merchants opted for a larger and stronger animal that could carry heavier loads. The Cleveland Bay got its start this way in Yorkshire as the pack animal for peddlers known as a Chapman, so they were called a Chapman horse. Tin, copper, coal, slate and lime as well as wool were carried by pack train to their destinations, often a river or port where the materials were loaded onto a boat for further transport. The materials might be carried in panniers or in bags wrapped in oiled leather to keep out the rain. A laborer earned 16 pence to 19 pence a day and a craftsman 24 pence a day around this time. The pack pony produced half to a third of a manís wage for the independent merchants who owned them.

Packhorse men dressed in a costume distinctive to their profession as small independent merchants who traveled in all types of weather. They wore a grey hodden coat, knee breeches, woolen stockings with garters and a ribbon hanging down from them. Packhorse men were shod in durable clogs. They protected their head with a low crowned felt hat made of felted rabbit fur.

Smugglers also used pack trains of ponies to move their contraband goods. They, of course, traveled at night and without any bell to alert the revenue men to their movements.

The book Angel Rogue by Mary Jo Putney mentions the drove ways along the heights used by cattle drovers and pack trains.

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