FORMER journalist John Butterworth presented a fascinating illustrated talk to Vaga Probus on the stagecoach era and its impact on our region.

The development of coaching was inseparable from the creation in the 18th and early 19th centuries of turnpike trusts, whose role was to improve the nation's roads.

Although often provoking violent opposition from locals unwilling to pay tolls, and although often negligent of their duties, the trusts did generally do much to speed up travel.

Coaching inns developed to shelter travellers and provide changes of horses for each stage of a journey.

Among such Ross establishments were the George, King's Head and Swan.

Nationwide, the coaching network brought an economic boom with thousands employed directly or indirectly by the industry.

From the 1780s the magnificent Royal Mail coaches, given priority on the roads, brought higher speeds as did the fierce competition between rival coaching companies.

By the early 19th century the 104 miles from Gloucester to London, taking two to three days in the 1720s, could be completed in nine hours a century later.

Although travel was neither cheap nor always comfortable or safe, coaches and turnpikes had brought about a transport revolution.

The coaching age ended by 1850 with the coming of the railways.

Apart from local traffic, the turnpike network fell silent and the many characters of the era were no more.

Vaga Probus is a men- only group that meets twice a month in Ross.

Visitors are very welcome: please contact the secretary on 01989 218295.