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 scenarios associated with the transport of mail and people at one of the so-called staging posts at the end of the 18th and start of the 19th century. The models of the employees and passengers appear to have been frozen in time and liable to return to life at any moment.
The post rider service first appeared in Portugal after the Ofício do Correio-Mor (Office of the Postmaster General), which had been in the hands of the Gomes da Mata family for roughly two centuries and came under the control of the state in 1797, became extinct.
In most European countries by that time mounted or foot couriers had already been replaced by a stagecoach service that also carried passengers.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 Superintendente Geral dos Correios e Postas do Reino (General Superintendent of the Courrier and Post of the Realm) . Neto was responsible for writing the “Methodo para construir as Estradas de Portugal” (“Method for Building the Roads of Portugal”) and “Instruções para o estabelecimento das Diligências entre Lisboa e Coimbra” (“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 respective timetables at the hostelries and inns marked with the Royal Arms.
When António Fontes Pereira de Melo headed the Ministry of Public Works from 1852, major changes were made to the system of communications. 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 changes of horse.
Despite the quality of the service provided by the stagecoaches at this time, their demise was inevitable once the locomotive came into widespread use, though they still soldiered on for a while longer as the “Manuais do Viajante” (“Traveller’s Manuals”) of the time attest.
Post rider routes:
– Lisbon to Coimbra
– Vila Nova da Rainha to Caldas da Rainha: 1826-1827
– “Royal Stagecoaches” between Aldeia Galega and Badajoz: 1829-1831
– Post rider and Stagecoaches between Oporto, Braga and Guimarães: 1852-1871
– Aldeia Galega to Badajoz: 1854-1863
– Lisbon to Oporto: 1855-1864
For more information link to the PT version of site