Joseph Edge was aged either 61 or 62 years of age when he set off to walk from Macclesfield in Cheshire to London (a journey of 172 miles) in fifty hours or less in the summer of 1806. Several large bets had been placed on his progress, amounting to upwards of 2,000 guineas.
His first attempt ended in disaster – he set off from the Angel Inn in Macclesfield’s Market Place (it’s now the site of the NatWest Bank) at midnight on Monday 28th July and, eleven hours later, he arrived at Kegworth in Leicestershire (a distance of 51 miles). There he took some refreshment and drank a pint of beer, a bad mistake! The beer disagreed with him and after walking just a short distance further he became very ill and fell to the ground. His expedition was abandoned.
Two days later he was sufficiently recovered to attempt the feat again. At midnight on Wednesday 30th July he once more set off from the Angel Inn, accompanied by two gentlemen in a gig (one of whom may have been Mr Jones, Postmaster of Macclesfield, their purpose being to verify his attempt for the gentlemen who had placed money on Edge being able to complete his mammoth journey in only 50 hours, or not).
He just made it! After walking for 49 hours and 20 minutes Joseph Edge arrived at the designated finishing line, the Swan with Two Necks coaching inn on Lad Lane (now Gresham Street) in London, at 20 minutes past 1 o’clock in the early hours of Saturday 2nd August. A convenient destination, the Swan with Two Necks was where the coach heading out of London to Macclesfield departed from, giving Edge an easy journey home.
Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal – 29th July and 8th August 1806
Sporting Magazine, volume 28, 1806
Wicked William – Principal Departures for London Coaches (1819)
Macclesfield Park, Cheshire by George Stewart, 1866 (via Art UK)