The journey to Falmouth from London may seem a long one whether you choose to go by car or train but before you ever think to complain spare a thought for Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere who took 36 hours by post-chaise, making 21 stops along the way to change horses. This historic journey started on the 4th November 1805 and the route was later called ‘The Trafalgar Way’.
Lieutenant Lapenotiere was the Commander of HMS Pickle and he was delivering some very important news as this small ship had been chosen to carry the dispatches back from the Battle of Trafalgar and inform Admiralty headquarters in London of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson’s victory.
It was on the 21st October 1805 when the Royal Navy defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar and on 28th October HMS Pickle was dispatched from the west coast of Spain after waiting for storms to subside so she could set sail to Falmouth in Cornwall. She landed in Falmouth on the 4th November and Lapenotiere then followed the 271-mile coach road to London for the next stage of his historic trip.
While he was delivering the good news of the victory he also brought the sad news not only of Lord Nelson’s death but also of the thousands of men killed and injured at sea. There were 18,465 with Nelson at Trafalgar.
Falmouth back then was the information hub of the Empire as it was the Royal Mail packet station which meant that ships carried mail and messages from the far reaches of Britain’s expanding Empire. For these important dispatches to be delivered quickly, it was the best place for HMS Pickle to dock and for Lapenotiere to start his epic journey to London.
As we plan our trips for this festive season and travel the roads to and from Falmouth, lets spare a thought for HMS Pickle and Lapenotiere’s historic trip in November 209 years ago.