Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
Available here

By the late 18th century there was a complex network of stage coach routes across the country thanks to the improved road surfaces brought about by local Turnpike Trusts. These privately formed bodies agreed to maintain roads in return for the levying of a charge collected at toll gates or bars.

In 1765 the Redcross Turnpike Trust was established to control the sixteen mile route from Haverhill via Withersfield (the old road not the present one), Horseheath, Linton, Abington and Red Cross Lane near Addenbrookes. There were toll gates or bars (barriers to block off side access routes) at all these places except Linton and Horseheath.

By the early 19th century over 600 coaches a day left London and there were twelve routes radiating from Cambridge, including a service to Colchester and Harwich via Linton.

Numbers 26 and 28, High Street on the corner of Horn Lane had been an inn called the Unicorn from the 16th century, and by 1685 was known as the Red Lion.

It was a huge establishment by the standards of that period. There were seven principal bed chambers, four attics, separate dining and traveller rooms, stables for twenty horses and four carriages and a cellar with a capacity to store 700 gallons of beer. There were also well arranged wine and liquor cellars since this was an up market establishment. The stables and inn yard ran sixty metres down Horn Lane, the area where the red bricked cottages are today.

Linton was then a thriving market town with the third largest corn market in Cambridgeshire so it was quite logical for stage coaches to stop off there three times a week en route between Cambridge and Colchester. At Long Melford passengers could change for London, Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich. Cary’s Itinerary was the timetable bible of the coaching era where you can find all the local coaching routes.

Coaches in those days were all given names, often of a famous person or to denote their speed and comfort. The best known Linton ones were the Marquis of Cornwallis (victorious in India), the Accommodation and the Comet. In 1825 the Comet left the Red Lion Inn at Cambridge (present day Lion Yard) at 8 am and reached Colchester by 3.30 pm, a seven and a half hour journey including stops. Linton was a stopping place for changing horses.

When the Red Lion at Linton was sold in 1825 it made £1,500 at a time when a local cottage cost a mere £50. The inn was the centre of social and political activities. The local magistrates met here as did the turnpike trustees, the poor law overseers and the churchwardens. A notable social event occurred in 1847 when the Ethiopian Serenaders performed here. This American minstrel group had taken London theatres by storm in 1846 and Linton middle class family groups packed out the Red Lion that evening.
The arrival of the railway at Cambridge in 1845 ended the coaching era and the Red Lion became a private dwelling in 1855.