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Post Rider Service

9 Julho 2013 - 31 Agosto 2016

Opened in 2004 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the end of the first era of the post rider service (Lisbon to Coimbra, 1798-1804), this exhibition recreates life-size scenes associated with the transport of mail and people at one of the staging posts at the end of the 18th century and start of the 19th. The models of the employees and passengers appear to have been frozen in time and may even return to life at any moment!

The post rider service first appeared in Portugal after the Office of the Postmaster General became extinct. This Office had been in the hands of the Gomes da Mata family for roughly two centuries and came under state control in 1797. By this time, in most European countries, mounted or foot couriers had already been replaced by a stagecoach service that also carried passengers.

It was José Mascarenhas Neto who established the post rider service when he was appointed General Superintendent of the Courier and Post of the Kingdom. Neto was responsible for writing the “Method for Building the Roads of Portugal” and “Instructions for Establishing Stagecoach Services between Lisbon and Coimbra”. In addition to standards of conduct for people and passengers, these regulations established the routes, stops and timetables at the hostelries and inns marked with the Royal Arms.

When António Fontes Pereira de Melo joined the Ministry of Public Works in 1852, major changes were made to the communications’ system. The McAdam method was used for the Lisbon-Oporto road and new French carriages and horses were acquired. The staging posts were also changed to reflect a more homogeneous architectural style and to provide travellers with food and overnight facilities.

In 1859, the journey from Lisbon to Oporto by post rider took 34 hours and 23 horse changes.

Despite the quality of the service provided by the stagecoaches at this time, their demise was inevitable once the locomotive came into widespread use. They did, however, still soldier on for a while longer as the “Traveller’s Manuals” of the time attest.

Post rider routes:

  1. 1798-1804
    – Lisbon to Coimbra
  2. 1826-1831
    – Vila Nova da Rainha to Caldas da Rainha: 1826-1827
    – “Royal Stagecoaches” between Aldeia Galega and Badajoz: 1829-1831
  3. 1852-1871
    – Post rider and Stagecoaches between Oporto, Braga and Guimarães: 1852-1871
    – Aldeia Galega to Badajoz: 1854-1863
  4. – Lisbon to Oporto: 1855-1864

For more information link to the PT version of site


9 Julho 2013
31 Agosto 2016
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