Commuting - Victorian Style

‘Today’s Commuters, crammed in their buses and trains, probably think at times nostalgically of the time when their grandparents made their leisurely way to work by the old buses. The following piece will probably remind them that there is nothing new in this world, least of all congested travel.’ (Quote from ‘History of London Transport’ by T.C. Barker and Michael Robbins).

In the rush hour, journeys were often unpleasant so long as all but two or three of the passengers had to travel inside. The forms were hard and the straw on the floor often far from clean. A traveller on the New Road route during the evening rush hour one day in 1833 found himself in an omnibus filled with ‘decent clerks, fogged and harmless and going home to their tea’. ‘Here we are’, he commented, ‘in all six and twenty sweating citizens, jammed, crammed and squeezed into each other like so many peas in a pod…’ The Times was moved to print a set of instructions which, if followed, would render omnibus travelling more bearable.

Omnibus Law

  1. Keep your feet off the seats.
  2. Do not get into a snug corner yourself and then open the windows to admit a North-wester upon the neck of your neighbour
  3. Have your money ready when you desire to alight. If your time is not valuable, that of others may be.
  4. Do not impose on the conductor the necessity of finding you change: he is not a banker.
  5. Sit with your limbs straight, and do not with your legs describe an angle of 45°, thereby occupying the room of two persons.
  6. Do not spit on the straw. You are not in a hogsty but in an omnibus travelling in a country which boasts of its refinement.
  7. Behave respectfully to females and put not an unprotected lass to the blush, because she cannot escape from your brutality.
  8. If you bring a dog, let him be small and be confined by a string.
  9. Do not introduce large parcels - an omnibus is not a van.
  10. Reserve bickerings and disputes for the open field. The sound of your own voice may be music to your own ears: not so, perhaps, to those of your companions.
  11. If you will broach politics or religion, speak with moderation: all have an equal right to their opinions, and all have an equal right not to have them wantonly shocked.
  12. Refrain from affectation and conceited airs. Remember that you are riding a distance for sixpence which, if made in a hackney coach, would cost you as many shillings; and that should your pride elevate you above plebeian accommodations, your purse should enable you to command aristocratic indulgences.

Note: See 10 above. The authors could not have foreseen the introduction of the mobile phone!

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