19th-Century English School

The Royal Leeds Union Coach

19th-Century English School

The Royal Leeds Union Coach

This late 19th-century oil painting depicts the Royal Leeds Union Coach carrying several passengers as it rattles its way from Newark to Doncaster.


Imagine you’re perched on the back of this horse-drawn stagecoach as it approaches a hairpin turn in the road. The drumming of hooves gently slows as you navigate the bend. A blissful view across a picturesque river appears as you escape into the country. You’ve travelled from the city, thrilled to be one of the first to experience a new road. Together with your partner, you’ve planned a break simply to enjoy the journey.


During the 19th century, trips by stagecoach were quite an event and allowed passengers to undertake cross-country adventures. The Victorian press were particularly excitable when new roads opened and reported on the fervour of willing travellers. In 1822, the Stamford Mercury reported:

“a beautiful line of road, which is inferior to no other road in the kingdom, has been completed between Leeds and Doncaster, running through the ancient and finely-situated borough of Pontefract. To the gentleman, and to the man of business, this road is equally eligible, as it is not only four miles nearer than the old North road by way of Ferrybridge, and entirely free from dangerous lulls, such as that of Went-hill, but it runs along a tract of country exceedingly commanding and picturesque The Royal Leeds Union coach has already run on this road about three months, and she arrives in Leeds more than an hour earlier than she did by the old route through Ferrybridge. The extensive patronage which the Hotels at Pontefract now begin to enjoy, was anticipated some months ago by very great improvements.”

Oil paintings depicting the various operators were popular with the upwardly mobile. They were often based upon earlier engravings.

Held in an ebonised wooden frame with gilt inner border.

Medium: Oil on board
Overall size: 30” x 26” / 77cm x 66cm
Year of creation: c. 1870
Labels & Inscriptions: Auction chalk. Supplier’s stamp from George Rowney & Co. Partially illegible but probably reads: Academy Board For Oil Painting, Prepared By George Rowney & Co. London. Academy boards feature in Rowney’s 1877 catalogue and perhaps as early as 1852.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Frame with some light wear.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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