In Europe, from approximately the mid-17th century for a period of about 200 years, the coaching inn, sometimes called a coaching house or staging inn, was a vital part of the inland transport infrastructure, as an inn serving coach travelers (in other words, a roadhouse). Just as with roadhouses in other countries, although many survive, and some still offer overnight accommodation, in general they have lost their original function and now fulfill much the same function as ordinary pubs.
Coaching inns stabled teams of horses for stagecoaches and mail coaches and replaced tired teams with fresh teams. Traditionally they were seven miles apart but this depended very much on the terrain. Some English towns had as many as ten such inns and rivalry between them was intense, not only for the income from the stagecoach operators but for the revenue for food and drink supplied to the wealthy passengers. Barnet, Hertfordshire was one such location and even today boasts an unusually high number of historic pubs along its high street due to its former position on the Great North Road from London to the North of England.
Cock and Bull
A pair of coaching inns alongside the former A5 road or the old Roman road Watling Street in Stony Stratford (Buckinghamshire, England), named respectively 'The Cock' and 'The Bull', are said to have given rise to the term "cock and bull stories." Coaches or the Mail coach would stop in the town on their way from London to the North and many a traveller's tall tale would be further embellished as it passed between the two hostelries, fuelled by ale and an interested audience. Hence any suspiciously elaborate tale would become a cock and bull story. This is a cock-and bull story in itself, however; as there is no evidence to suggest that this is where the phrase originated. The phrase, first recorded in 1621, may instead be an allusion to Aesop's fables, with their incredible talking animals. As this slightly predates coaching inns, the names of the two inns could have been a reference to "Cock and Bull stories" as to encourage the passing of such anecdotes within their doors.
Examples of historic sites of coaching inns in central London include the plaque on the Nomura building close to the Museum of London on London Wall commemorating the "Bull and Mouth" Inn; Golden Cross House, opposite St Martin's in the Fields recalls the Golden Cross, Charing Cross coaching inn.
- Coaching Era, The: Stage and Mail Coach Travel in and Around Bath,Bristol and Somerset, Roy Gallop, Fiducia (2003), ISBN 1-85026-019-2
- Coaching inns. By Anne Woodley.
- Stagecoaches and Coaching Inns. Cottontown.
- Photos of examples of what may be considered coaching inns. geograph.org.uk