[Bell Historians] Spreading the news

Peter Rivet peter at B9qBwnvEPRmxZcBmLqjcWbTRTk-C10tgeosKPgEn3dR5TH39weyIRSjDuQvXcHM6oEvDWKWZGWE4jNAidg.yahoo.invalid
Sat Oct 24 20:35:35 BST 2009

This subject is as you say off topic but it's an interesting question.

Generally until the end of the 18th century spreading the news would depend
on how fast somebody could travel on horseback.  However it's worth
remembering that there were other ways of sending messages using beacons.
The oldest identifiable example in Britain is probably the chain of Roman
signal stations following what is now the line of the A66 road between Bowes
and Brough.  But beacons are only useful if you know in advance what they
signify (like an invasion) and the death of Cromwell, or a king or queen,
wouldn't lend itself to this kind of communication.

The first more sophisticated way of sending messages was Claude Chappe's
semaphore telegraph system in France, developed from the 1790s onwards.  By
1794 this was capable of sending news of the successful conclusion of a
siege at Le Quesnoy to Paris, over a distance of 210km, in an hour.  In
Britain the Admiralty noted the usefulness of this and in 1795 it began to
set up its own system, with lines of communication from London to Deal,
Portsmouth, Plymouth and (later on) Yarmouth.  This used a less efficient,
though still useful, system with a set of six shutters which could be opened
and closed in various combinations.  There is a link here with change
ringing in that one account incorrectly credits the shutters as having 720
different settings!  The name "Telegraph Hill" is often found marking the
location of the relay stations though a few of them were on existing
buildings, like the Clock Tower in St Albans.

All these systems were rendered obsolete in the 1840s with the introduction
of the electric telegraph.  There's a detailed account of them in Geoffrey
Wilson's The Old Telegraphs (Phillimore, 1976).

Peter Rivet

  -----Original Message-----
  From: bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
[mailto:bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Sue Marsden
  Sent: 24 October 2009 16:37
  To: bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
  Subject: [Bell Historians] Spreading the news

    This has no obvious bell connections (yet) but can anyone tell me how
  quickly news would have spread in the mid 17th Century? specifically I
  am wondering how fast news of Oliver Cromwell's death would have
  reached rural villages, say 200 miles from London.

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