As we have seen, entertainers and ecclesiastica thronged the roads in the Middle Ages and later. Horses carried them. Horses were also indispensable for traders, who used their carts to bring goods to the markets and fairs. Alcester had a flourishing weekly market and several fairs each year, these being increased after Elizabeth's reign by an annual 'Mop'. The highways approaching Alcester from Evesham, Stratford and Bromsgrove were busy with carts, crammed with goods. There were alsothose, not traders themselves, who hired out their services to transport goods from place to place: by the l9th century they were called 'carriers' and their names appear in the trade directories of the time.
Each day in Alcester goods left the town and were brought into it by the carriers. One supposes that the shops provided much of the trade. The carriers would be well-known, as would their carts, for they provided an essential service. Thomas Niblett carried on a carrier service from the 1810's to 1830's, collecting his goods and departing from the 'Globe' inn By 1821 (Pigot's Directory) he went to Birmingham only, on Saturdays: by then, he was 55 years old and perhaps had reduced his carrying to a weekend activity A William Clarke had a much busier schedule, carrying to Evesham every Monday, to Redditch and Studley every Saturday and to Stratford every Friday. The presumption must be that a stop-over for the night was made in Birmingham and Evesham. between them, Niblett and Clarke did all Alcester's scheduled carrying at the start of the l9th century
After the l830's other Alcestrians took the places of Niblett and Clarke. In the 1849 and 1850 Directories there were Joseph Hillier, James Calcott, John Hemming and three others named Haines, Coles and Voiles. By now, each day of the week saw carriers going and returning to the town, with their destinations now including Worcester. They set off now, not from the 'Globe' but from their homes in Segs Lane, High Street and Henley Street.
White's l874 Directory is the last date when 'carriers' are shown, by now, only two of them, Calcott and Archer, though they travelled every day. Redditch and Studley were not served, but of course there was a good reason for this; from the l860's the railway had joined Alcester to these places. Calcott, however, still made the journey to Birmingham.
Although 'carriers' died out in the 19th century, an in spite of the railways, there has always been the necessity to transport goods both short and long distances. the carriers gave way in the 20th century to motorised transport entrepreneurs calling themselves 'haulage contractors? or 'hauliers': in Kelly of l928 Frank Hawkins of Church Street and F.W.Jackson of Evesham Street are thus named.
Before the advent of the combustion engine horse-drown vehicles of all kinds were a common sight there were also those styled 'waggoners', doing work locally for the Ragley estate and local farmers - carrying hay and com and timber from the woods. The railway station at Alcester, as at other stations along the line, needed vehicles to transport goods to local people - machinery and coal and probably animals. Before the railways came, coal was transported by wagon from the canal at Tardebigge to Alcester's Gas and Coke Works.
The slow transport of goods through the Middle Ages and up to our own century was a daily sight to our forebears, more essential than the minstrels and as equally important as the archdeacons and preachers. After the turnpikes came in 1753 it became easier, too, with better road surfaces cutting down travelling time but probably sending up costs.
Winter 1990 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1991