Speaker's State Coach comes to Arlington

 Nearly unwrapped in its new home here at Arlington © Claire Bolitho (National Trust)

Nearly unwrapped in its new home here at Arlington

Latest update 19.03.2013 13:16

A superb state coach – last used at the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – is on display in our Carriage Museum at Arlington Court in Devon.

The Speaker’s State Coach is a symbol of the power and status of the Speaker of the House of Commons. This spectacular painted and gilded coach – the work of highly skilled woodcarvers – is believed to have been made in 1698 for King William III. It was presented to the Speaker a few years later by Queen Anne. It was used for state occasions, from coronations to jubilees.

Last used by Speaker Thomas in 1981, the coach was sent for conservation work in 1995 which revealed its original, vibrant colours and the detail of its carvings.

Its most recent journey to Arlington Court from the conservators studio in London was completely different to a state occasion. Specialist transporters and expert conservators wrapped this unique cargo with as much care as the finest porcelain. Once there, it took ten men over an hour to move it from the lorry into its new home in the Coach House.

Ana Chylak, National Trust Property Manager said:
'Our historic carriages at Arlington range from those used every day to ones reserved for special occasions, so we are thrilled to be able to display the Speaker’s State Coach. In its restored condition, its detail and decoration are absolutely breath-taking. I know that our visitors are enthralled to see such a wonderful part of our country’s heritage in our collection.'

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: 'The state coach is a magnificent example of an early 18th century carriage and an important piece of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary heritage. Therefore I am delighted that now it no longer has any practical role in parliamentary life it can be passed into the care of the National Trust and viewed by as wide an audience as possible. The carriage museum at Arlington Court, with its extensive collection, was an obvious place for the coach and we hope it will be the first of a series of appropriate exhibition venues around the country where the coach might be seen and enjoyed by the public.'

The Speaker’s State Coach is on long term loan at our Carriage Museum and is expected to remain here until at least 2015.