Above: A sailing bill for Hay’s Wharf, dated 1798 (Click on image to enlarge to 1024×600).
If you have visited Hay’s Galleria – which is on the north side of Tooley Street– then you will know where Hay’s Wharf originally stood, set up by Alexander Hay. That was in 1651 and from that date the family owned the property and expanded along the riverfront, eventually owning all the wharves between London Bridge and where today’s Tower Bridge stands. The name was still in use in the 1960s but a few years later the wharves ceased to exist. All those wharves have now been redeveloped and few of them remain. Hay’s Dock was also redeveloped in the 1980s and is now known as Hay’s Galleria. However, it is at that site where Hay first started.
The advert dates from 1798 – a time before railways, of which the first one in London started operation in 1836 on the opposite side of Tooley Street, at London Bridge Station – only a few decades later. The advert is for a sailing ship the ‘Sally’ which conveyed goods and passengers from Tooley Street, in London, to locations in Devon and Cornwall, including Plymouth and Plymouth Docks.
Below the long list of destinations, the company makes it very clear that they were ‘Not accountable for loss by Fire – nor for the Danger and Accidents of the Sea, or Navigation of what Kind soever’. The advert goes on to state that ‘The Goods all to be delivered at Plymouth, and forwarded from thence as usual’ which probably means that the sailing ship plied between Tooley Street and Plymouth and a smaller vessel (or maybe a cart) conveyed the goods to the other locations listed.
The advert clearly states that the service was for ‘Goods and Passengers’. Places mentioned include – ‘Falmouth, Fowey, Looe, Oakhampton, Saltash, Tavistock and Truro’. The list ends with ‘and all Places adjacent’ which means that many other destinations were also served.
Near the top of the advert, we learn that the vessel ‘Lies for Twelve working days at the above Wharf’. That might mean that the sailing was once each month or even less frequently than that because the sea voyage would take several days each way and the vessel might also ‘lie’ for 12 working days at Plymouth before making the journey back. Nevertheless, a service of between four to six weeks in frequency would be a good service around the turn of the 1800s.
Of course, a passenger could board a stagecoach in London bound for Plymouth as an alternative but in 1800 the journey by road was very long and tedious. The journey time was around 10 days because the coach only travelled for about 12 hours each day which meant that passengers had to make overnight stops at inns along the route. If they had a large number of goods with them, they would not be able to bring those on the coach. There were strict rules about the amount of luggage that was carried and it was quite a low limit.
In passing, it should be noted that the ship was called the ’Sally’. This is one of the names of the ships that appear on the advert for Griffin’s Wharf which implies that this sailing bill might also relate to the operators at Griffin’s Wharf.
See also: Griffin’s Wharf Sailing Bill – SHOW_THE_WEBPAGE