Westbury and District U3A's January meeting heard The Role of the Royal Mail Guard, a talk by Martin Horler

Martin gave a fascinating talk to the group, arriving in full period uniform, and starting his talk by sounding his coach horn. He brought with him examples of the weapons and equipment provided to guards. He described how the postal system developed from the time of Henry VIII into a public mail system which ran to strict timetables along main routes out of London, many of which still exist today.

Because of the threat of highwaymen and footpads, every coach was protected by its own armed guard. Speed was of the essence and this was achieved by changing horses every ten miles and by not having to stop to pay tolls. The guard was fined if the mail coach was late at any of the stops on the waybill.

Martin closed his talk by demonstrating calls on the coach horn. Each call had a specific meaning such as to call passengers to board, to warn other road users to clear the road and to alert ostlers to be ready to change a team of horses.

The next meeting will be on February 11 at 2pm at the United Reformed Church Hall, Westbury. James Holden will speak to members on Wiltshire Gate Lodges. New and prospective members will be very welcome. For membership enquiries telephone 01373 670023.